Grass under my feet

Published August 9, 2015
Healthy grass bordered with ‘Russelia’ shrubs
Healthy grass bordered with ‘Russelia’ shrubs

Q. I hired a new gardener and he told me that my grass was full of some yellow plant so the sand / soil need to be replaced. It looked alright to me even though it wasn’t being given enough water; yet I had the soil / sand dug out and replaced with new. Then he said that the soil / sand looked too black but I think this was due to the manure mixed in. My garden is all dug up and in a mess. Can I sieve the old sand / soil, add the new manure / soil / sand and put it back or do I have to replace everything yet again? Is the old sand / soil totally useless? It is costing so much and my garden looks like a desert.

A. Oh dear! It sounds like your new gardener is going all out to ‘impress’ you with his knowledge and has gone completely overboard in doing so. It would have made far more sense for him to simply weed out the invading plant — if there was one — and to initiate an immediate, regular, watering regime to green up the grass. This, however, plus the addition of plenty of organic compost / old, well-rotted, organic manure, would have meant lots and lots of tedious work: I am not saying that his proposed alternative is any easier but he may have considered it so. Stop spending money unnecessarily, mix the old soil / sand with plenty of organic compost / organic manure, have it relaid and reseeded / planted with grass, water regularly and replace the gardener with one who has some sense.

Q. What type of ornamental grasses can be grown from seed in Lahore and where can I get the seed from?

A. There are many such grasses which are eminently suitable for the Lahore climate and soil conditions: far too many to list here. I suggest that you do an internet search, mentioning the height and colour preferred and take it from there. You will find such grasses, especially of the ICarexI family, in various shades of blue, red, brown and interesting variations of green. The seed is unlikely to be found here so you will need to import it from a reliable source.


Ill-informed gardeners can sometimes needlessly increase the work and cost


Q. I have been trying to grow lettuce as filler in my big plant containers since last October but keep failing. I first sowed the seeds direct and later tried soaking seed overnight in water but still nothing germinated. Please guide me about the timing and other conditions for growing lettuce.

A. Lettuce seed can be sown all around the year providing that it is sown in a partially shaded place in summer and full sun over the winter months. There is absolutely no need to soak it first. Soil should be in good condition, preferably with plenty of organic compost / organic manure mixed in. Sow the seed, very thinly, just underneath the soil surface and no more, keep watered, thin out if needed. It could well be that the soil in your pots, depending on how long since it was replenished, has run out of essential nutrients, is too compacted for seedlings to break through or that existing plants are taking all of the light and water away from the lettuce seeds, thus preventing germination.

Lettuce is good for inter-planting
Lettuce is good for inter-planting

Q. I would like detailed information about Vermicomposting please. My intended purpose is to use the organic fertiliser for plants and the earthworms as poultry feed. Is there any local expertise or experience here?

A. A wonderful idea on the surface but your poultry will not be able to survive solely on ‘excess’ earthworms and would need other feeding too: any ‘excess’ earthworms would be better released directly into the garden soil where they can work at improving it. I will, however, write a detailed column on the plus and minus points of vermicompsting in our climate in the not too distant future. Please be patient until then.

Q. What is the Urdu name for lavender and where can I buy the plants in Karachi?

A. Known as lavender in English and botanically as ILavendulaI, there is, as far as I am aware, no actual Urdu name for this imported species of very useful, medicinally, aromatically and culinary, plant. I do not know of a reliable source for these plants in Karachi but you may be able to locate seeds in time for sowing during mid to late autumn.

Grapes to dream on / Photos by the writer
Grapes to dream on / Photos by the writer

Q. I have planted lots of grapes and want to plant more. Can you please tell me which variety is best?

A. In order to provide correct information on relevant grape varieties I first need to know your location. Climatic and soil conditions vary tremendously throughout our huge country and different grape varieties are suited to different regions. This is also true of many other plants which is why I always ask that people include this vital information when submitting gardening queries.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to Izahrahnasir@hotmail.comI. Remember to include your location. The writer will not respond directly by e-mail. E-mails with attachments will not be opened.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 9th, 2015

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