Q: Are the following suitable for growing in Karachi and, if so, when should the seeds be sown: Sweet pea mix (Lathyrus odoratus), Statice mixed (Limonium sinuatum), Helichrysum monstruosum, Aster ostrich unicum and Dahlia decorative.

A: This wonderful collection of seeds will all grow in Karachi I’m happy to say and, all going well, should put on a gorgeous spring show if planted before the end of October. The sweet peas will need rich soil — adding lots of old, well rotted organic manure/compost should do the trick — and something to climb up. The dahlias too will benefit from rich soil conditions but the other three are not so fussy. Both statice and helichrysum make long-lasting dried flowers if harvested when in full bloom and hung upside down in a cool, airy place to dry. Sweet peas are best sown directly where they are to flower, the others can be started off in seed trays/pots and then planted out when they are large enough to handle. The dahlias may require some support. Happy gardening!

Q: I live in Malir and have a problem with my coconut tree. It sets fruit but they fall off in four to five days. I gave DAP but there is no improvement. What should I do?

A: Regular irrigation is extremely important for coconut trees so I hope you are paying full attention to this. Small amounts are often better than a large amount of water all at once. If the soil dries out completely when fruit is in its early stages of growth, the nuts are liable to drop off. They will also drop if the trees receive lots of water following on from dry root conditions. As a nourishing feed you might like to burn some dried up coconut palm leaves and spread this high potash ash around their roots. Water in the Malir district is saline enough without adding any more salt but, for an extra boost, you could add either fish meal or fish bones and heads to the soil close to the tree roots. If none of these things help, please get back to me for further advice.

Q: The amaltas tree in my Delhi garden does not flower though its trunk and leaves are lush and healthy. What can I do to make it bloom?

A: Perhaps you are caring for your tree too well. Too much water and too much feeding will result in lots of green growth without any flowers whatsoever. Try starving your tree for a couple of months in late winter and see if this encourages it to flower. Hopefully it will.

Q: I want to learn about vegetable gardening and would like you to recommend a suitable book please.

A: I’m afraid that I am not able to make such a recommendation but, instead, suggest that you perform internet searches on the specific vegetable varieties you want to grow, including Pakistan in the key search words will help, and take it from there plus, keep reading this column of course! If you desire any further help please don’t hesitate to ask.

Q: I read in one of your articles that I can grow carrot tops to produce seeds. How do I do this and how long will it take as I think it is almost time to plant carrot seeds in Karachi. I asked one of my science teachers at school but she didn’t know.

A: I am delighted that you are getting interested in gardening and even considering producing your own vegetable seed. This is a great start.

Select a very fresh carrot, not one that is drying up, preferably with a little green showing at the top. Slice the top half-an-inch off (perhaps you should get your parents to do this for you as we don’t want you to cut yourself), place this on a saucer of wet cotton wool and put it on a partially sunny windowsill. Keep the cotton wool damp at all times and keep your eye on the carrot top.

After about a week or so it should start doing two things: 1. Making new shoots from the top.

2. Forming tiny white, hair-like roots around the base. Let it grow like this for three to four weeks and then, very carefully so as not to damage the roots, plant it in a pot of soil leaving the top part fully exposed. Keep it watered and in three to four months it should flower and about six weeks after that the seeds should be ripe enough to harvest. This is such a long process that you might find it easier, just this once, to buy carrot seeds for sowing right now. Do keep up the good work and ideas though. We all have to start somewhere and you are doing tremendously well.

Q: I planted tomato seedlings in Karachi but while the plants grow green and tall they do not bear any fruit. What am I doing wrong? I did the same in Los Angeles and was successful but not in Karachi.

A: I suspect that your plants are not getting all the sunshine they need. Try again in a sunny location and keep your fingers crossed.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to zahrahnasir@hotmail.com. Remember to include your location. Answers to selected questions will appear in a future issue of the magazine. This takes time. The writer will not respond directly by e-mail. E-mails with attachments will not be opened. Please note; the writer’s garden is not open to public.

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