Q. We often purchase pot grown plants whether they are in bloom or not: these may be seasonal plants or otherwise. Can these plants, be they in bloom or not, be transplanted / re-potted at any time of the year?
A. It is quite normal for seasonal plants that are in bloom, as purchased from nurseries, to be transplanted into larger pots / containers or directly into the garden as soon as they are brought home and, with care, the majority survive any shock. Perennial plants which are in bloom, are best left undisturbed, in the pots they were bought in, until after they have finished flowering; otherwise they suffer badly and some may not be able to summon up enough strength to get over having their roots disturbed at this, for them crucial time.
Q. For the second year running, I have bought kadoo seedlings from the National Agricultural Research Council in Islamabad. I do not know which variety of kadoo they are but I like them. The plant does beautifully and starts fruiting in abundance. The problem this year is, once the fruit reaches four to six inches in length, it starts turning yellow, then shrinks and falls off. The soil was fed with buffalo dung and the plants are watered after 5pm. The garden area receives good sun and is well drained.
Answers to your queries about potted plants, growing hyacinths, pineapples and tomatoes
A. Soil, water and sun conditions sound ideal for kadoos to thrive. The problem sounds like one of pollination. Quite often, an un-pollinated flower sets fruit which, exactly as you describe, begins to develop and then gives up, shrivels and drops: the rot starting from the flower / blossom end. A lack of pollinating insects / bees, possibly due to use of chemical interventions in and around the locality, may have interfered with or killed off these necessary insects; it is sad to say that this problem is increasingly common.
The only immediate solution is to hand-pollinate your kadoos. Just after dawn, when the kadoo flowers are fully open, carefully pick a long-stemmed, open male flower and dust its pollen onto the stigma (the protruding bit in the centre) of a female flower. Female flowers have a baby kadoo behind the flower itself instead of a long stem. This should do the trick. If chemicals are not being used in your location, next season plant lots of bee attractant flowers / herbs to try and entice beneficial, pollinating insects to your garden.
Q. Is polyfarming practiced in Pakistan and is the government giving any subsidy or training regarding this technique?
A. Yes it is, and the technique is gaining popularity. Check with your local Ministry of Agriculture office for relevant information.
Q. I have a piece of land near to Bhurban, Murree. The land is rocky with few trees or plants. What types of trees, shrubs and plants can I grow?
A. So many that you will be spoilt for choice! Depending on the size of the land area and suitable soil pockets in which to plant them, top of the tree list just have to be apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots and cherries, first for their gorgeous blossom and secondly for their delicious fruit. For shrubs and climbers you may like to try ‘Hydrangeas’, all varieties of roses, ‘Clematis’, grape vines, hardy passion fruit for both flowers and fruit, stunning honeysuckle and many more.
A massive range of flowers, both seasonal and perennial can also be grown with ease but, do remember that they will need watering, regularly, during late spring and in the long autumns when the weather can be very dry. Take note of which flowers are being grown in gardens around you and then go plant shopping. Enjoy creating your garden.
Q. I want to grow Hyacinths in Karachi. Where can I get bulbs / seeds and how best to grow them?
A. Hyacinths are best grown from bulbs and these are usually available, from garden stores, during October, November and even into December. Plant these, one per seven to 10-inch pot or a few in a decorative container, to a depth of one inch below the surface of top quality, organic, compost, ensuring that the pot / container is free draining, keep lightly watered and in natural light and, come early spring, you will get your floriferous, highly perfumed, reward.
Q. My tomato plant gave just five, average sized tomatoes and then stopped. The flowers dry out and there are some white things on the stems and leaves, plus, ants are there too. Please tell me what to do.
A. The plant was attacked by aphids which ants, being highly intelligent insects, are farming for their own use as food. Next time, at the first sign of an aphid attack, spray your plant/s with either ‘garlic water’ or ‘hell-fire spray’; recipes for these have appeared a number of times in previous columns.
Q. I have a pineapple plant which is two years old. How can I make sure that it produces good fruit?
A. Feed well and feed often. Pineapple plants need lots of iron, magnesium and seaweed extract is also ideal. Unlike most plants, pineapples take in much of their nourishment through the surface of their leaves: feeding them with a liquid solution is recommended. Soil must be well drained and, once established, pineapple plants do not need much water as their leaves drink humidity / dew via the atmosphere. n
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Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 24th, 2016