Q. I have tried to grow lavender many times, both in Lahore and Multan, but it dies in summer. Please let me know if you or anyone you know has managed to grow it from seed to flowering stage. Please share your experience.
A. I have indeed grown lavender from seed to flowering but, cultivating this gorgeous — and very useful — plant in Bhurban is a very different proposition than doing so either Lahore or Multan or, for that matter, in any other plains / coastal region of Pakistan. It has also been
grown, with good success, in and around Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Turbat and even, as I have personally witnessed, in Karachi. It is a matter of selecting a suitable variety for a specific location. Lavender is best grown as an annual plant in locations outside ‘Hill stations’ and should be autumn sown for spring flowering: It is unlikely to survive the intense summer heat and humidity of the monsoon in other areas. The variety I recommend you to try is a hybrid called ‘Lady’: it flowers in as little as four months from sowing the seed.
Restricted space for roots, bad light, harsh weather, poor soil and lack of water are the main factors that affect plant growth
Q. I planted a pomegranate in my garden three years ago. It does bear fruit but the plant itself has not increased in size. What is wrong?
A. It is possible that the plant roots are restricted and, if so, this can cause ‘dwarfing’ or perhaps you purchased a dwarf variety without being aware of it. If, however, this is not the case and the plant roots have plenty of soil depth, feeding the plant, organically please, every couple of months or so, may help it to reach a more ‘acceptable’ height. Presumably the fruit is of a good size as you haven’t indicated otherwise, nor have you mentioned your location which is an important factor when it comes to offering advice.
Q. I regularly grow seasonal vegetables in my kitchen garden. During last winter season spinach did not grow to full size and cauliflowers also remained very small. Would organic stuff improve growth?
A. Applied in quantity, yes, it should. It sounds as if you have had good return — until now — from your kitchen garden but it is essential to keep in mind that you only get out what you put in. Good crops deplete soil nutrients and minerals and these, as you know, must be replaced on a regular basis if crops are to continue to grow well. Organic ‘stuff’ you could add, includes the following: old, well rotted, manure, compost, leaf mould (rotted leaves) and chopped straw (bhoosa) or, as an alternative to compost, you could apply any or a mix of, the aforementioned, as a mulch around and in between your plants.
It is ideal if, when digging your kitchen garden, you include irrigation channels at regular intervals and, if you like, you can fill these with compostable materials like vegetable peels, fruit waste, chopped up weeds before they reach the seed stage, cut grass, fallen leaves, egg-shells, coffee grounds, the contents of used tea bags (not the bags themselves as they take forever to rot). Necessary watering combined with seasonal rain and general weather effects, will, assisted by beneficial insects like worms, breakdown these ‘ingredients’, feeding the soil / plants in the process. Additionally, next time you dig the area, you can mix the residue in and start the process all over again. Feeding soil is an endless task.
Q. Please tell us about fragrant roses — other than ‘desi gulab’ which can be planted in Lahore. I have heard of ‘Double delight’, is it available here?
A. ‘Double delight’, a beautiful and exceptionally fragrant rose, can be found in nurseries in Lahore and Pattoki, as can many other strongly perfumed rose varieties. I suggest that you look around for ‘David Austin’ roses; these are available in Pattoki at least, as many of these are very fragrant and to add to their beauty, are mostly of the multi-petalled, ‘Cabbage rose’ type too.
Q. Quite a few times now I have noted that you mention Calendula as a herb when it is actually a flower. You also say that it can be grown from seed round the year when this simply cannot be possible. I would appreciate an explanation and am sure that your other readers would as well.
A. The botanical name Calendula is Latin — all botanical names are Latin based — and means, quite literally, ‘Calendar’ which, in turn, translates as ‘all around the year’. Calendulas can, I promise you, be grown, from seed, at any time of the year although, depending on localised climatic conditions and care, germination time will vary. These attractive flowers are what is generally called a ‘Flowering herb’: this being a herb with eye-catching flowers as against herbs, oregano for instance, which has flowers so tiny that they can be overlooked.
Q. When should I sow seeds of ornamental grasses in Lahore?
A. Right now would be perfect unless, of course, they are tropical varieties which should then be sown in spring.
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Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 22nd, 2015