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Sustainable gardening

October 11, 2015


Organic fruit and vegetables
Organic fruit and vegetables

Q. I want to develop a vineyard but have no idea how to proceed. What are the pros and cons? What variety of grapes do you recommend? Should I get the vines from Quetta? My location is Mauza Sariach which is about 30km from Kalma Chowk, Lahore.

A. First and foremost, this can be a very costly, time and labour intensive, undertaking all depending on the size of land involved and it will be three to five years before you can expect any financial return at all. Then there is the matter of the land you have available for this purpose. Not all land is suitable for grape growing: soil conditions must be perfect, drainage excellent, lots of water readily and reliably on site and much, much more. Enterprise must, of course, be encouraged but it is also of extreme importance that full appreciation is given to everything involved and — providing that land, etc. is suitable — you will need to be very dedicated and hard working indeed. Personally speaking, I have doubts as to the soil and climatic suitability of the area in which you wish to create a vineyard and I strongly recommend that you contact Faisalabad Agricultural University and Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi for full guidance as to all of the details involved. I am not aware of any existing vineyards in your area but there are successful ones in the vicinity of Simly Dam and it would be a good idea to arrange an educational visit there if you possibly can.

Q. You advise against using chemical sprays but what should we replace them with? My mali insists on using chemical pesticides every single month.

A. Replace them with organic sprays and organic practices of course. Recipes and advice on these have been given in this column on numerous occasions. Teaching your mali about organic principles and getting him away from reliance on chemicals will do him a great favour as, no doubt, once he understands and sees that organic methods work, he will utilise them not just in your garden but elsewhere too and, in turn, this will be another step towards a sustainable future for all.

From water and energy conservation to waste reduction and smart seed-sourcing, there are infinite

ways we can make our practices more sustainable

Q. My mali says that I have to change the soil in all the beds. Is this a frequent practice? My previous mali did this two years ago. If so, where do we get the new soil from? When is the best time to do this? What care should be taken when it is done and where do we get the mulch, compost and new earth that you always recommend?

A. Soil needs to be correctly cared for and continuously replenished through the judicious use of organic compost and organic mulches if it is to remain fertile: This is especially true in the close to the sea area in which you live. If this is done and done continuously, then the soil remains fertile and you should have success with your plants — providing they are also watered properly. If the soil is in poor condition, thus lacking in essential nutrients, your mali may be correct in his observation. If this is the case, then the ‘operation’ is best done when the beds are relatively empty and before new seeds are sown / seedlings put in, for the following season. Care must be taken not to overly disturb the roots of any perennial plants / shrubs / trees in the vicinity. New earth can be purchased from local nurseries. Compost can also be purchased from some nurseries and from garden supply stores but select organic please: it is far better if you can make your own organic compost at home. Mulch cannot, as such, be bought — you must make / collect your own.

Gorgeous grapes / Photos by the writer
Gorgeous grapes / Photos by the writer

Q. Which is the best month to sow corn in Karachi?

A. March – April.

Q. After reading this column on a regular basis, I want to grow vegetables at home. Where can I get the seeds from?

A. Garden supply stores — and some nurseries — have vegetable seeds for sale and you can also find them in Empress market. Good luck with your growing.

Q. I have imported rose seeds from China and want to grow them in my garden in Mardan. How and when shall I germinate them please?

A. Rose seeds can be very difficult to germinate and I wish you the very best of luck in this. You haven’t mentioned the exact species unfortunately but, generally speaking, rose seeds need to be ‘stratified’ before sowing. The stratification process involves sealing them in a small plastic bag / container, placing them in the freezer for four to six weeks, thawing them out and then sowing them, just under the surface of top quality compost. I suggest sowing just half of them initially — after stratification of course — and returning the remaining seeds to the freezer for another four to six weeks before sowing them. This way you have two chances at success. The sowing of rose seeds, in your area, can be done from late November through until the end of March. After sowing, keep the compost just slightly damp, not wet or the seeds / emerging seedlings will rot and the seed tray / pot in full sun. Once seedlings are three to four inches tall, they can, very carefully, be transplanted into individual 10-inch pots for onward growing. Germination is erratic and can take anywhere from six weeks to six months. On the approach of hot weather, place the seed trays / pots / seedlings in partial shade.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to 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 11th , 2015

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