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Double petunia
Double petunia

Q. I would love to grow all the beautiful flowers you suggested for the upcoming winter months in Karachi. The problem is that while petunia, dahlias and roses are easy to find, ranunculous, nemophila, calendula and many more are not. Please let us know where to find the seeds or the plants or provide links to online forums where we can buy these and other varieties of plants.

A. Ranunculus corms (these are like bulbs) and an increasingly wide range of flower seeds, including ‘Calendulas’ can be found in garden supply stores during the autumn months. These are also sold as seasonal pot plants in many city nurseries, as are countless other gorgeous flowers. I understand your frustration in sourcing the flowers you would like: seeds for all those mentioned in this column can be found in outlets in Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad and sometimes in other locations as well. There are online seed sellers and plant suppliers operating in Pakistan now.

Q. What is compost tea and how is it prepared and used?

Answers to your gardening queries

A. Compost tea is made by soaking small amounts of ‘in process’ compost in water. Compost tea is not fully decomposed but is in the final stages of decomposition. Once it is mixed with water, a small amount of molasses (obtained from sugar mills) can be added which encourages the mixture to ferment, thus creating a nutrient mix high in beneficial bacteria. This can be sprayed directly on soil or on plants and is excellent stuff.

Q. In a previous column, you mentioned that sprays are washed away by rain, heavy dew and watering. How does watering the soil wash the spray away?

A. It sounds as if you are one of the extremely few gardeners who does the correct thing and waters the soil not the plants themselves. Please continue to do so and unless it rains or the dew is heavy, the spray will remain on the plants without being washed away. The majority of gardeners erroneously water directly on to their plants which is not a practice I would advise.

Q. Are Goji berries and wonder berries both names for the same fruit?

A. Yes, they are. Goji berries, botanically known as Lycium barbarum go by quite a few common names with wonder berries and wolfberries being just two examples.

Q. I live close to the sea in Clifton and my garden gets a strong sea breeze most of the time. Are there any recommended plants, vegetables, fruits or flowers for these conditions?

Glorious rose Amber Queen
Glorious rose Amber Queen

A. Avoid plants with soft or delicate leaves and opt for those with thick, fleshy/rubbery leaves instead as this type of leaf is far more tolerant of adverse weather conditions than fragile ones. As an example, forget lettuce and grow cabbage instead.

Q. The leaves of my jasmine plants get eaten by something – I don’t know what – and their growth is hindered. How can the problem be resolved and what are the best companion plants for jasmine?

A. Mix up some ‘hellfire spray’ which is made from ground-up, hot, green chillies and spray the plant with that around sunset, repeating as necessary until whatever it is stops eating the leaves. Jasmine enjoys the company of chives and garlic chives, plus garlic itself as all of these help in keeping the jasmine pest-free. Plumbago is also beneficial for jasmine and so are hostas.

Q. Please share your thoughts on outdoor cultivation of vegetables and fruit in the heat and humidity of Jeddah. Ideas on developing and maintaining a small lawn would also be appreciated.

A. Karachi suffers humidity levels similar to Jeddah, although Jeddah has much higher temperatures. I suggest you follow the Karachi planting guide (published in this column on the first Sunday of each month).

Ensure maximum protection for your plants from direct sun, especially during the afternoon heat. With adequate shade and copious amounts of water each evening, you can eventually create a productive garden in your home. Give the lawn a miss though, the high cost of maintaining it, along with the amount of labour and intensive watering it would need, are just not worth the effort.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to Remember to include your location. Answers to selected questions will appear in a future issue of the magazine. This takes time. The writer does not respond directly by e-mail. E-mails with attachments will not be opened.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 9th, 2016