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Potted plants - going batty for guano


ONE of the nice things about living in Cambodia is all of the balconies and the beautiful tropical plants.

Potted plants completely transform any space and are good for the spirit and the soul. They should be fertilized every month, and here are some helpful hints on how to do it properly.

Fertilizer can be bought at most garden centers around town. There are a number of shops past the airport on Highway 6 on the way to Sihanoukville and on Route 6A across the Japanese Bridge on the way to Siem Reap. The most convenient however, is on the east side of Central Market.

While you can purchase Miracle Grow-type pellets from China for your plant, I strongly recommend that you don't, as the components are unknown. Bat guano, on the other hand, is home grown, as it were, and 100 percent organic, straight from Cambodia!  

A small sack will set you back somewhere between 700 and 1,000 riels, while a big bag costs between 3,000 and 5,000 riels.

Bat guano is well-known for being an earth-friendly fertilizer as well as being excellent for the health of plants. Its primary ingredient is nitrogen, which is good for both the healthy green of the plant and its root growth. This is especially important for newly potted or re-potted plants. It also contains phosphorous, which is good for flowering plants, and potassium, which helps promote strong stems.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when fertilizing is that applying fertilizer directly to the plant itself is not good - in fact it can burn and even kill the plant - so keep the fertilizer away from the body. Because guano floats, the best thing to do is to dig a trench around the outside of the stem about three to seven centimetres deep, depending on how big the plant is.

For smaller plants (table sized), scatter about two tablespoons into the trench; for larger plants use up to a half cup. Fill in the trench and water the soil immediately. It is a good idea to spray and wash off the leaves of your plant at the same time as you fertilize as clean capillaries will help the plant draw up nutrients from the guano.

Shortly after fertilizing, your plant should appear perky and green - a vision of health. If, however, the leaves are yellow, it could mean that either you have over-fertilized or not watered enough. If the leaves are crispy then you definitely need to water more. If you feel you've watered enough and the leaves remain yellow, then you have over-fertilized.

The key things to remember are to keep the fertilizer away from the plant's body and that a little fertilizer goes a long way.

Now, check out your thumb. I hope it's green! 



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