With cooler autumn weather on the horizon — although it may not seem likely as October can get fairly hot — it is time to get to serious grips with sowing winter and early spring seeds, as well as to give thought to where to place those additional trees and shrubs you intend to plant in a few weeks time as your contribution to a greener, hence more environmentally sustainable, Pakistan.
It is also the perfect time to rebel against those societally acceptable monsters generally referred to as ‘lush green lawns’— replacing these time, money, labour, water and, all too often, chemical consuming horrors with organically grown food crops, fruit trees and the like. The time for pussy-footing around the oft ‘sensitive’ subject of lawns is — as last summer proved — absolutely gone as gardeners must get water-wise and do their bit to work towards alleviating catastrophic climate change as much as they possibly can.
Judges of the annual spring gardening competition in Karachi and other places in the country, too, need to wake up on this emotive subject and stop awarding the much coveted ‘Gold Medals’ to those cultivating destruction rather than renewal — and in with air-cleaning trees, preferably fruit trees or those with other sensible uses, with shrubs, with vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, bee and butterfly attractant flowers and in with organics all the way. Sensible gardeners have observed the spin-off horrors of chemical interventions and have, or are in the process of doing, switched over to purely organic growing practices. These are good natural ‘medicine’ for the environment, for wildlife and indeed for all life including that of human beings who, until relatively recently, thought absolutely nothing of poisoning everything, including the very air we breathe, in the name of ‘instant chemical solutions.’
Homily over for today, let’s move on to take a look at lawn replacement options, some of the seeds to be sown this month and ideas for trees and shrubs to source for winter planting.
It is both a simple and eminently sensible idea to replace small lawns with cemented, concrete, tiled or otherwise paved areas with preference being given to the use of natural stone paving slabs or natural terracotta tiles over ‘harsh’ cement or concrete. Admittedly, all of these can be ‘hot’ but if gaps are left, here and there all depending on the size of the area, shade trees can be put in and will, in time, make a wonderful difference.
Alternatively, if the area is too small for a tree or two, leave spaces for small growing beds in which to plant vegetables, herbs or flowers of your choice. Easy to keep clean, useful as outdoor seating / eating areas, replacing thirsty lawns with something like this, saves an inordinate amount of precious water, labour and therefore money too.
Larger lawns can be divided up into potentially productive orchards, under-planted with seasonal vegetables, flowers and herbs with paved seating / picnic spots judicially placed. Such re-designed areas, once established are liable to be far more useful than lawns on which no one is permitted to walk!
Vegetable and herb seeds for sowing now — unless you happen to reside in cooler, upland areas of the country where winter weather can be very cold indeed — include winter and spring cabbage, cauliflower, green onions, broccoli, calabresse, Brussels sprouts, beetroot, carrots, turnips, rutabaga, tomatoes (these may need protection on winter nights anywhere north of Karachi), mustard, giant red mustard, mizuna, lettuce, endive, spinach, Swiss chard / leaf beet, kale, potatoes, peas, beans, broad beans, celery, Chinese and Japanese salad greens, winter radish, onions, coriander, mint, chives, garlic chives, lavender, rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, parsley, sage, fennel, dill, nasturtiums, chamomile, oregano, marjoram, thyme, watercress, borage, calendulas, lovage and try some kala zeera (black cumin) seed too.
Edible flower wise and in addition to the calendula, nasturtiums, lavender and chamomile mentioned above, put in some pansies and violas, dianthus (pinks), bellis, pelargoniums — often called geraniums, and a goodly amount of old-fashioned wallflowers, in as many colours as you can find and yes, all of these are perfectly edible as long as they are 100 per cent chemical free.
Flower seeds to sow for essential bee and butterfly nutrition are: sweet Williams, sweet sultan, cornflowers, old-fashioned, perfumed petunias, antirrhinums, annual chrysanthemus, stocks, lobelia, poppies (of all kinds, colours and sizes), godetia, alyssum, ageratum, nigella, verbena, coreopsis and, in the second half of the month, larkspur and early sweet peas.
Bulbs and corms to put in at the end of the month include: Nargis, Dutch iris, Dutch hyacinths, tulips, anemones, rannunculous, crocus, sparaxis, Asiatic and Oriental lilies, grape hyacinths, freesias, daffodils, amaryllis, begonia, arum lily, cooperanthes, Madonna lily, hemerocallis, hymenocallis, tuberose, zephranthes and gladioli.
Pot grown trees, vines / climbers / ramblers and shrubs to purchase now in readiness for winter planting include: every kind of fruit tree you can find as long as they are suited to your localised climatic and soil conditions; grape vines, passion fruit vines, kiwi fruit and purely ornamental vines / climbers / ramblers such as jasmine, climbing / rambling roses, Sandwich island creeper, tecoma and anything else which catches your fancy.
Ornamental and flowering shrubs such as roses, plumbago, panix, poinsettia, lantana, frangipani, hibiscus and jatropha can also be brought home now but, please ensure that you do have space to put them in the ground — or in suitably large pots / containers before investing your hard earned cash!
Pot grown trees / shrubs can be purchased all year round but should really, in our harsh climate, be left in these pots / containers until the relative cool of the winter months come around when they are less likely to fall victim to transplantation shock. ‘Bare rooted’ trees, vines / climbers / ramblers, shrubs, should only be bought, for immediate planting in prepared ground / pots / containers, over the winter months.
Additionally, if you are aiming for huge, show size chrysanthemums, it is important to keep up the onerous task of disbudding — removing all except the main flower bud as soon as they appear.
Cut right back — even stop if you like — watering your roses as this gives them a much needed rest, for two to three weeks, before you treat them to their winter pruning, after which you should give them a good, organic feed, to encourage strong re-growth and flower formation. Do not, please, perform the unspeakably cruel practice of exposing their roots for a couple of weeks or so as this unnatural act does not help them one bit and it is a wonder that the poor roses survive such ‘shocking’ treatment at all!
Please continue sending your gardening queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 4th, 2015