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Growing dreams real

January 03, 2016

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White mulberries
White mulberries

‘You only get out what you put in’ are words that all gardeners should have engraved on their hearts, on the back of their hands, on gardening tools and — preferably in foot high letters — inscribed on a clearly visible surface, a wall perhaps, which they see at least a dozen times each day.

These few words, with their monumental meaning, are words we gardeners, no matter how experienced we happen to be, tend to forget now and then — but we must not — for they are the foundation of successful gardening.

Beautiful gardens or rooftops / balconies, etc, absolutely overflowing with gorgeous flowers, mouth-watering vegetables, fruits and delectable herbs, do not — unfortunately — create and maintain themselves. Each and every single step of the way is paved with hard work, sweat, dedication and love, spiced up with inspiring horticultural adventures, in the daily outpouring of passion as dreams are grown into reality.


The cold, gray winter days are a perfect time for New Year’s resolutions and a pledge to grow green and ‘do-over’ your garden


If you do not provide suitable growing conditions, seeds and plants fail to thrive.

If you fail to sow seeds correctly — and at the right time for the species — they will not grow and neither will they flourish if soil / compost is not to their individual taste.

If you get the preceding right but fall down on daily maintenance, such as weeding and watering when necessary, then everything goes to waste. Leaving everything to a mali can, undeniably, have the same disastrous results, with, all too often, otherwise avoidable, financial loss incurred too.

Gardening, especially so in our increasingly fickle climate, is not something to merely indulge in when the mood takes you. Plants, like humans, need generous amounts of tender loving care on a daily basis and will suffer, perhaps fatally, if they do not get it.

It may be that — all depending on the size of the area under cultivation of course — an hour a day will suffice to tend all that requires tending but, on the whole and with few seasonal exceptions, this one hour cannot be ‘saved up’ and used as, for example, three hours every third day: this does not work — especially not during hot months when plant life depends on daily watering.

If you do not allocate the time, put in, along with required additions of nourishment, etc, regular hours of what should be enjoyably rewarding work, your garden will not bless you with good results.

All of the above may be perfectly obvious to some readers — although there is no doubt that a reminder does not go amiss — but is perhaps not so obvious to the many new gardeners who have joined our satisfyingly swelling numbers. I am truly delighted to observe, new urban gardeners, of all ages, joining ‘our clan’ with the heartfelt aim of nurturing our environment, indeed our planet, back to ‘green’.

Growing green — meaning using purely organic (chemical free) methods — is of the utmost importance in the ongoing fight against what is now clearly obvious ‘Climate change’.

Red geranium
Red geranium

Pakistan ranks as one of the countries most at risk from human-caused climate change, all one has to do is to think of just how much our weather patterns have altered over recent years to see the inherent dangers of this. Longer and more intense periods of heat and crippling drought, erratic monsoons with, when and if it falls, rain tends to be — to put it lightly — both excessive and destructive.

‘You only get out what you put in’ speaks volumes about climate change, too. Humankind, human-cruel, human-thoughtless, human-shortsighted, call us what you will, are, as a direct result of the shocking materialism practised on a global scale, responsible for poisoning our world almost to the brink of extinction. We have polluted it in so many horrific ways and now, understandably, our dangerously out of balance world is fighting for survival and it is up to us to lay aside materialism, denounce all that is unnatural and to go green in every conceivable way possible: organic gardening being one such way.

Let us all, gardeners old and gardeners new, join hands and work together towards healing ‘Mother Nature’ and, in the doing, also heal ourselves.

This, being a ‘New Year’, is the perfect time to begin.

And now, having made — one hopes — our New Year’s Resolutions, let’s take a look at garden tasks to be undertaken this month:

Vegetable seeds to be sown this month — either in prepared seed beds / in their growing bed or started off in seed-trays / pots for transplanting into prepared ground / larger pots, when established — include the following: lettuce, radish, spring onions, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, leaf beet / Swiss chard, mustard mizuna, giant red mustard, endive, mesclun, ‘orach’, sweet corn, French beans, runner beans, pole beans, the latter in Karachi only this month. Tomato seeds will need protection from cold until well-established and ready to be transplanted into their final growing position / pot / container. Towards the end of the month and only if chilly nights have finished or if you can start them off under cover / in cloches and, again, only in Karachi and immediate vicinity, try a few ‘tindas’, pumpkins, courgettes / zucchini. In the last week of the month only, a few ‘karelas’, in hope of a very early crop, can, undercover, go in as can a few, experimental, aubergines, capsicums and cucumbers.

Herbs / spices to sow / plant in January and especially in Karachi and immediate environs, plus, the coastal belt as a whole: ginger, cumin (‘zeera’), borage, lovage, watercress, thyme, oregano, marjoram, lemon balm, lemon mint, apple mint, peppermint, green mint, nasturtiums, calendulas, agastache, chives, garlic chives, chamomile, rosemary, ajwain, dill, aniseed, coriander, feverfew, tarragon and, with protection if needed, chillies.

Flower seeds: Larkspur, cornflowers, violas, pansies and, in the last week of the month, sunflowers and zinnias.

Trees / shrubs / vines: continue planting all types of trees — with the emphasis on fruit / nut trees please — this month and on until the end of February. Suggestions, but please check their suitability for your own location, are: apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, apricots, black mulberries, white mulberries, mango, loquat, guava, ‘chico’, ‘sharifa’, ‘lassura’, star-fruit, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, lychee, pecan nuts, walnuts, almonds, ‘falsa’, grape vines, passion fruit, kiwi fruit and a huge selection of ornamentals.

Other tasks this month:

  • Continue pruning and tidying up dormant shrubs / creepers and climbers, taking cuttings of suitable species in the process.

  • Cut back ‘poinsettias’ if they have finished flowering, take cuttings at the same time.

  • Take cuttings of carnations, ‘fuchsias’ and geraniums.

  • Spread straw beneath strawberries to kept fruit out of direct contact with the soil.

  • Explore seasonal offerings in local nurseries.

  • Get to work on dreaming your dream garden real.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to zahrahnasir@hotmail.com. Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 3rd, 2016