Q. The leaves of my two Raat-ki-Rani plants are curling, drying and dropping. The plants are kept under green netting and watered regularly in this very hot weather. Please suggest a remedy suitable for Larkana.
A. I strongly suspect that the culprit is hot wind on wet leaves which is causing the leaves to first curl up in protest before drying out and dropping off. If you are spraying the leaves/plants with water — possibly under the mistaken impression that you are doing them a cooling favour in the desert heat — please stop. Water only the soil around the plants without getting the leaves wet and this should hopefully resolve the situation.
Also ensure that plants protected by green netting still have sufficient air circulation and are not packed too closely together otherwise they are liable to develop mildew/fungal problems along with insect pests. Having sufficient air circulation does not mean leaving them open to actual wind.
Q. I live in Karachi and last year I got some Croton plants from a nursery and planted them in the ground under the shade of some small trees. The problem is that they stubbornly refuse to grow taller. Since the last one year they have given very few new leaves and are hardly a foot and a half in height. Every seven days I feed them phostrogen in water, but there is no visible result. Please advise what to do to get lush and luxuriant Croton plants.
A. They are not at all happy in the shady spot selected for them. Quite irrespective of the phostrogen, it sounds like they are starved of nutrients which may well have been completely used up by the trees. You could try to vastly improve the soil and mulching the plants where they are, or transplant them to a new location in nutrient/mineral-rich soil/compost later in the year to meet their growing needs.
All your gardening queries answered
Q. I have a seven-year-old Gulmohar tree in my garden in Defence Phase 6, Karachi. The problem is that it produces lots of buds but they fall off before blooming. The tree is growing bigger all the time but just doesn’t produce the glorious flowers I planted it for. What is the solution?
A. Patience please. These gorgeous trees can take as long as 10-12 years to settle into a successful flowering pattern. It is not uncommon for flower buds to drop off immature trees. There is nothing you can do except wait it out. Hopefully it will reward you with a stunning show in years to come.
Q. I have purchased Gaillardia, Zinnia and Maximus seeds to grow in Karachi. When should they be sown, what environment do they like and which compost mix do they require?
A. Gaillardia can be sown almost around the year in Karachi although germination is not always so good during very hot weather. Zinnia seed does best when sown between March and July. Both of the aforementioned flower species enjoy lots of sun and normal to rich soil/compost.
Once the plants are fully established they are fairly drought-tolerant, especially the Gaillardia. As for Maximus, this is a puzzle. It seems that you have only provided a part of the actual botanical name, maximus being Latin for maximum/large. Without the full name it is impossible to advise.
Q. My pomegranates fall off the tree and rot inside. What spray can I use as a remedy?
A. At what stage does the fruit fall and is there any visible evidence of an attack by insect pests? Without full information it is not possible to suggest a solution.
Q. The green chillies in my garden produce lots of flowers but they fall off without producing fruit. What is wrong?
A. Lack of water or too much water given all at one time is the most common reason for this to happen. Regular watering — not flooding — in the evening is the solution.
Q. When is the best time to grow rosemary, thyme and Romaine salad in pots in Karachi? What kind of soil do they need and where can I get the seeds?
A. All of these seeds are best sown from late September through to the end of January for optimum results, although Romaine can be sown on until the end of March. Ordinary garden soil mixed with good quality, preferably organic, compost/old, well-rotted manure (70 percent soil, 30 percent compost/manure) is ideal. Seeds should be available in seed supply shops during the sowing season or look for a Pakistani seed supplier on the internet.
Q. I want to cultivate olive trees in my Quetta garden. Please provide full advice as I am eager to see olives on the bough.
A. Please refer to the January 17, 2016 issue of Eos, available on the internet, in which this subject was covered.
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Published in Dawn, EOS, September 10th, 2017