Q: Our garden just outside Islamabad was recently infested with little red beetles with black spots; we think these are known as ‘Ladybugs’. As we prefer not to use any chemicals, especially after reading your comments on the matter, we literally swept them off the plants and out of the grass and then deposited them in a plastic bag and put them in the garbage. This was a very time consuming task and we had to do it repeatedly. We get this problem every year and would like to know if there is a simpler way of dealing with it.
A: Aaaaaaagh! No two ways about it…you, my gardening friends, are guilty of murder! I am shocked and horrified that you are not aware that Ladybugs or Ladybirds as they are also called, are one of the most beneficial insects you can possibly have in a garden. These harmless beetles save you a great deal of trouble by meticulously and thoroughly devouring any aphids that happen to be around. They can clear your garden of greenfly, whitefly, blackfly and other nasties in no time at all so really are a gardener’s best friend. Count yourself lucky to have them around. Many other gardener’s envy you this seasonal plague.
Q: I live at Hawkesbay, Karachi, and grow croton and jasmine in my garden. The stems and leaves of the jasmine are covered with a milky white, gum like substance which, over a period of a month, has damaged the whole plant and it is now moving on to the croton. I have used different kinds of pesticide but no result. What do you advise?
A: Sounds ominously like you are having a massive aphid attack of one kind or another and these pesky blighters can be difficult to control at certain times of year when the weather is favourable for them. I suspect that in spraying your plants you did not spray underneath the leaves which is often where these sap sucking insects hide out and lay their eggs. Instead of using noxious chemical concoctions to get rid of them try good old soap and warm water spray, ensuring that every single leaf, above and below, is treated. Repeat this harmless spray at weekly intervals, in evening is best, until the problem is under control.
Q: I want to grow Aquilegias in my garden in Abbottabad. Are they suitable? When should the seeds be sown and how long will they take to bloom?
A: Yes, You can grow these beautiful plants in the shady areas of your garden; they are perfectly at home underneath trees as long as the soil is reasonably rich. Sow seeds in September for flowers the following spring.
Q: I have a couple of mango saplings, one each of ‘Chaunsa’ and ‘Sindhri’. I bought them from a local nursery in Clifton, Karachi. They were about three to four feet tall and healthy enough when I planted them in my garden. To my dismay, they both seem to be unhappy in their new home and are slowly dying after shedding all of their leaves. There aren’t any signs of fresh leaves sprouting from their branches. I water them regularly. When consulted, the nursery man advised me to increase watering so I have made a circle of raised soil all around their stems so that they can take more water. Is this going to work or is the nursery man giving wrong advice?
A: For once, I am happy to say, the nursery man has given sound advice. To assist the saplings to regenerate you might like to give them a feed of liquid, organic fertiliser once a week until they spring back to life.
Q: We live in Saddar, Karachi, and have planted coriander, mint, lemon, green chillies, garlic and okra in our apartment balcony. While they seem to grow and thrive very well, one issue is very disturbing and that is spider webs. This area seems to have a lot of spiders — they are never ending, even inside our home we need to remove them every week. They initially infested the lemon plant and then spread to the others despite using hell-fire spray and another type of spray we got from Empress Market. How can we get rid of them once and for all?
A: It’s amazing how problematic spiders can be but it should not be too difficult to control them on your balcony. The first step is to wipe off all traces of webs from your plants with a damp sponge. Next, move all of your pots aside and wash the floor and walls down with a strong disinfectant solution. Replace the pots, keep your eyes peeled for the next attack and repeat the process until, after a month or so, the spiders and their webs will, hopefully, have vanished.
Q: Please send pictures and a price list of your plants. A: Sorry. This is a private garden not a nursery.
Please continue sending your gardening queries to firstname.lastname@example.org 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 the public.