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The lawn wars continue

April 27, 2014


Well-fed roses
Well-fed roses

Q. I had fine grade Dhaka grass planted in my lawn in Lahore for many years but it got badly infested with weeds. It had to be removed, along with six inches of top-soil. I am planning on laying new grass but cannot decide between Korean and American. What is your suggestion please and what can I do to keep it weed free?

A. Grass — as in ‘lush green lawns’ — is definitely not, my favourite subject. Plus, the horrendous fact that you felt the need to remove a full six inches of precious top-soil when ripping out your previous lawn enforces my personal opinion against the existence of such wasteful expanses of green. Both Korean and American grass are imported luxuries for which there is absolutely no need.

If you really must have a lawn — think of the cost, time, labour and tremendous wastage of water involved — then, after replacing the top-soil, opt for a climatically suitable indigenous species please and weed it, by hand, on a regular basis. Alternatively, if the area is simply for entertainment purposes, pave it instead. If it is properly done, it will last for years. Even better though, transform the area into an orchard and plant vegetables, herbs and edible flowers beneath the trees and incorporate footpaths and sitting spots into the design. The latter will be far more rewarding and, once established, will need even less maintenance than a wasteful expanse of grass! No offence intended but…think about it please.

Q. What is the best kind of grass to grow on the outskirts of Islamabad at an altitude of 2,200 feet and when is the best time to re-plant a lawn in Changla Gali at an altitude of 8,600 feet?

A. Indigenous varieties and as local as possible in both cases. Please also refer to the previous question and answer.

Q. I want to grow a guava tree in a flower bed. I have purchased a huge, ripe guava for this purpose. Should I bury the whole fruit or just the seeds?

A. Guavas grow easily — and quite quickly — from seed and can bear fruit when just two years old. In nature, the ripe fruit drops and the seeds are automatically, and over a period of time, fertilised by the rotting fruit itself but, to make it easier and to keep ants at bay, I suggest that you remove the seeds and start them off in clay pots. Plant one seed per seven-inch clay pot of decent quality, organic compost mixed 50/50 with sweet earth, sowing the seed just half an inch deep. Place the pots in partial shade, keep them watered but don’t drown them; germination should take place within two to six weeks at the very most. Plant out the strongest seedling when it is about six inches tall and give the rest away to friends.

Q. When should fuchsia cuttings be taken?

A. This very much depends on in which region of the country you happen to reside. Generally speaking though, spring in cool areas, early winter in hot spots. The cuttings are best taken before the plant comes into flower or immediately after flowering finishes.

Q. I live close to the sea in Karachi and have an enclosed, earth courtyard. The walls are solid except for one which has ornamental holes for ventilation. The courtyard gets sunshine for a few hours each morning. I grow palms, ferns, assorted green plants and have a ficus tree. I now want to plant a creeper on the wall with ventilation holes. Please suggest something suitable.

A. Presumably you have considered Bougainvillea but, due to its rampant growth, would prefer something else: You could opt for evergreen Alamanda with its trumpet-shaped, yellow flowers; Pothos aurea — Money plant; Rhyncospermum jasmonoides — Star jasmine with its delicately perfumed flowers; Tecoma grandiflora — Trumpet vine with its stunning terracotta blooms or Thunberga grandiflora with heart-shaped leaves and brilliant blue flowers. Alternatively: Opt for something edible and cover this wall with fast growing, climbing, rambling Tori or Loki.

Q. Which seasonal flowers can be sown in Lahore now?

A. You still have time to sow Amaranthus, celosia, correopsis, cosmos, portulaca, lots and lots of sunflowers, zinnias by the score and in all the colours of the rainbow; and if you have some dappled shade, then more petunias too.

Q. What kind of manure is most suitable for roses?

A. Roses absolutely adore well-rotted horse manure if it can be found. Otherwise donkey, goat, cow, buffalo — in that order — are all good if, that is, they can be sourced organically, which is becoming increasingly difficult these days due to the use of antibiotic and hormone injections on animals. If any of these are not available, then lots of top grade, homemade, organic compost if you can prepare it; if not you can buy organic compost.

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