Balmy days are upon us once more and how better to spend them than out there in ‘garden-land’ where there are flowers to fuss over, vegetables and herbs to eat, yet more seeds to sow, climbers and shrubs to prune and ground to be prepared for planting additional trees, shrubs and other assorted perennials over the rapidly approaching winter months.
Unlike gardeners in more northerly climes, we in Pakistan are — with the exception of our own Northern Areas, of course, as these are subject to bitterly cold, often snowy, winters — blessed in being able to garden all year round.
November, as autumn races towards winter weather of a temperature range that would be classified in Europe as ‘high summer’ for example, is in many respects, a kind of spring. As it is now that we sow many of those introduced, annual species to brighten our gardens and titillate our taste buds through winter to what can be considered our second spring. As springtime is often viewed as the most beautiful time of the year, we, with two springs, are privileged indeed!
However, the bugbear, an ever increasing one I am sad to say, is that of availably of water and wise use of whatever shrinking amount can be spared for irrigating plants. Besides, on top of so many other ‘climate change’ related issues, it must be awarded the priority it needs if our gardens are to continue being productive which, in turn, means essential changes in what have become ‘traditional’ gardening plans.
Zahrah Nasir advises her readers to replace imported plants with climatically suitable indigenous varieties
The number of introduced, mainly European origin, seasonal flowers, should give pause for thought as the majority are very thirsty species which are not, realistically speaking, suitable for cultivation in a country like ours which is suffering from severe water shortages and the same must be said for those criminal monstrosities known as ‘lush green lawns’.
It is interesting how lawns came to be: once upon a time, in that little island which managed to colonise so many other countries around the world, the ‘landed gentry’ got fed up of looking out of their mansions to see nothing but fields populated with grass eating creatures such as sheep cows and for the very wealthy, deer. The fact that these animals were edible, suggested that rich people still needed to grow their own food, as did those lower down the social ladder. This, of course, was just not on, therefore, grazing animals were banished from sight and it became fashionable to have vast expanses of grass — lawns — for which, naturally, a gardener had to be employed to cut.
Over the period of time, lawns became a major ‘fashion statement’ for those who could afford the luxury and who had the water necessary for their upkeep. Come colonisation, lawns came too and — although no longer fashionable in their country of origin — they continue to make their original ‘wealth’ statement right here which, given our deteriorating climate situation, is a grave error and the same goes for associated beds full of climatically unsuitable plants.
I realise that it is pointless asking you not to grow thirsty plant species and am well aware that lawns, much as I personally loathe them given the circumstances, are, for now at least, here to stay but please do give some deep thought to both of these subjects and replace imported plants with climatically suitable, less thirsty, indigenous varieties instead. This really does make sense: as does installing rainwater harvesting systems and gray water systems for garden use.
Now on to jobs for this month: if you have seedlings, sown over the last couple of months or so, to transplant out into the garden proper or to be transplanted into larger pots / containers then, irrespective of whether they are flowers, herbs or vegetables, as long as they have reached the four to six leafs stage give this priority as success rates can decrease if seedlings get too large and too thin as happens if they are close together. Transplanting seedlings is a simple task as long as you take your time over it.
Tips for transplanting
— Prepare the ground / pots that the seedlings are to be transplanted into before removing the seedlings from their seed trays / pots / beds.
— Ensure that soil / compost is free of stones / lumps / weeds, etc. and lightly water it before putting in the transplants.
— Handle the seedlings with great care as they are fragile and easily damaged.
— Planting holes should be deep enough for seedling roots to be, delicately, spread out without being squashed into a ball.
— Firm down the soil / compost around the transplants with your fingers only — using foot pressure to firm soil down is done only around shrubs and tree saplings, not tender seedlings.
— When done, water lightly and not with force.
— Transplanting is best done in the evening so that seedlings have all night long to settle into place and drink their fill of water before the sun comes up next day.
— Water seedlings, again in an evening, daily until they are established after which, depending on species, watering can be reduced.
Vegetable and herb seeds for sowing this month include the following: seasonably suitable cabbage, cauliflowers and fast growing varieties of broccoli / calabresse, Swiss chard / leaf beet, spinach, pak choi, Chinese cabbage, red cabbage, chopsuey greens, giant red mustard, mustard mizuna, kale, radish, spring onions, peas, beans, turnips, beetroot, carrots, potatoes, celery, chicory, endive, rocket / arugula, spring onions, onions, rutabaga / swedes, lettuce, parsley, borage, lemon balm, watercress, aniseed, coriander, dill, chamomile, chervil, chives, garlic chives, calendulas, nasturtiums, marjoram, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, lavender and various mints, plus, in the south of the country only, basil and tomatoes if you can give them some night time protection when temperatures threaten to turn a little chill.
Flower seeds to sow but do take water considerations into account before buying and planting seeds: sweet peas, larkspur, tagetes, Queen Anne’s lace, poppies, ageratum, alyssum, candytuft, Virginia stocks, stocks, sweet Williams, sweet sultan, mimulus, clarkia, godetia, antirrhinums, wall flowers, violas, bellis, hollyhocks, salvia, cornflowers, etc.
Bulbs: Daffodils, tulips, narcissus, crocus, Dutch hyacinths, grape hyacinths, sparaxis, freesias, anemone, allium, Dutch iris, iris, etc.
Elsewhere in the garden: it’s time to take out your secateurs to prune vines, overgrown shrubs and those wonderful roses of which I shall share more in a couple of weeks time.
Divide overcrowded perennials such as day lilies and hosta.
Mulch and feed fruit trees and shrubs and get to grips with first deciding on locations and then preparing planting holes for the additional trees you are going to put in next month!
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Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 1st, 2015