Q. Climate change is adversely affecting the ecosystem in upper Sindh. Plantation cover is decreasing while disease in animals and plants is more frequent now. Sadly, it seems people do not understand the benefits of plants. I want to initiate a green movement advocating planting of trees and gardens to try and alleviate the matter. The problem is that I am a student of history not of botany. Therefore, I need advice about obtaining material explaining which trees and plants are suitable for growing in the area around Village Abdul Qadir Chachar, Kandhkot, Kashmore. Easily grown trees and plants would be the best to start with, as well as information on how to grow and care for them. This region does have fertile land: lots of wheat and rice is grown while barley too used to be grown.
A. This is a wonderful undertaking and I wish you a great success. Contacting your local department of agriculture, forestry department and the Horticultural Society of Pakistan would be a good way to begin as, between them, they should be able to provide all the necessary information and perhaps help out by donating trees, plants and seeds too. Our country needs many more caring people like you. Fingers crossed that you get all the support you need and that other people join your laudable project.
Q. I have two, three year old Thevetia nerefolia trees of different colours, in large containers. During the recent hot days, the leaves on the top and sides of the trees have been burnt. How can I rectify the situation, please?
Growing more trees and plants is the best way to mitigate climate change
A. The leaf burn could, possibly, have been caused by scorching winds or by a combination of early morning dew closely followed by a hot wind. Nothing can be done to alter the already burnt leaves: the trees shed them and then replace them in time. It is surprising that this happened as this species is tolerant of hot, dry conditions.
Please note: all parts of Thevetia nerefolia are lethally poisonous, this includes the sap and smoke from burning any leaves or wood.
Q. I have received some packets of hollyhock seeds from the Netherlands. The instructions on the packets say to sow the seed directly in the garden from early spring through until summer and that the plants will then bloom the summer of the following year. I am not sure how to proceed as growing conditions in Larkana are very different than in the Netherlands. Advice please.
A. In your location, hollyhock seed is best sown in September/October for flowering the following spring. Sow in seed trays or pots of good quality soil or organic compost, initially keeping the seed trays/pots in a partially shady location as autumn weather can be very hot. Keep the soil/compost damp, not soaking wet and germination should be fairly quick. Once seedlings have developed four to six leaves, transplant, one seedling per 7 to 10-inch pot. Plant out in their final growing position in December or January and remember to provide them with suitable support if it is a tall growing variety.
Q. Do roses and other pot or container grown plants need daily watering during the hot days of summer?
A. As a general rule, yes they do. Watering in the evening is recommended.
Q. I live in Karachi and my pineapple plant is at the fruit-development stage. The fruit is very small and I need to know how to ensure that it grows to a big size.
A. Feed, once or twice a week, with a seaweed-based, liquid organic fertiliser for best results.
Q. We bought a farm in Malir three years ago. There was a mature grapevine climbing over a tamarind tree. It was necessary to untangle the vine from the tree. The vine was then encouraged to grow over a shed we built next to the tree. The problem is that the vine, which bore purple grapes for the previous owners of the farm, has not fruited. I hard pruned it one winter, gave goat’s blood to its roots and have tried everything I can think off but it still refuses to fruit again. Please help.
A. The vine obviously resented being disturbed. Prune back each winter, trim any excessively weak, sappy, green growth on and off over the summer months, mulch and feed during spring, irrigate in dry weather and, above all, be patient with it please. Hopefully it will reward you in time.
Q. I planted an Acacia nodosa a year ago in my garden in Islamabad. The stem of the plant is extremely fragile. What should I do to make it stronger?
A. The stem needs fastening to a strong support until the sapling matures enough to support its own weight. Please be careful not to damage its root system when inserting a support e.g. a wooden post. I am a little confused about the botanical name provided. Acacia nodosa is not included in any of the plant lists I am aware of. Perhaps you mean Cassia nodosa? Irrespective of its name, the solution is the same. n
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Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 14th, 2016