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GARDENING: GROW WISELY AND SAVE WATER

January 07, 2018

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Flower of the month Larkspur
Flower of the month Larkspur

Environmentally-sustainable gardening is going to be the ‘name of the game’ from now on as we are already knee deep and fast sinking in a rapidly expanding climate change mess: a mess of humankind’s making.

We all have contributed — the majority continue to do so — to make this humongous mess and have forced nature to the point where we have to take a stand and fight back. The fight has only just begun: extended droughts, heat waves like never before, massive forest fires, floods have occurred in the past few years. These ‘extreme weather events’ are no doubt just a tiny foretaste of catastrophes to come.

Excessive consumption, excessive materialism, excessive exploitation of our natural world continues unabated yet the majority still refuse to read the writing on the wall.

Climate change and water scarcity calls for environmentally-sensible gardening

For us in Pakistan, water is an increasing worry. There has never actually been enough water to go round and this is now clearly evident in not just city locations but in the failing agriculture sector too. Agriculture has always been the country’s backbone but without sufficient water what happens next could be very nasty indeed.

In a changed climate, the art of home gardening must change too. We gardeners need to produce more, top-quality, chemical-free food and achieve this by using as little water as possible. We need to stop concentrating on wasteful water practices such as ‘lush green lawns’ and the planting of overly thirsty, inedible ‘exotics’, concentrating instead on fruit, vegetables, herbs and even examine the feasibility of permissible backyard poultry and meat production.

We, as gardeners, need to get real, wise up and help our world survive and, over the coming months, this column will attempt to be an environmentally-sensible guide.

Beetroot
Beetroot

January planting guide

Vegetable seeds to sow this month: Lots and lots of deliciously crunchy cabbage; dreamy white or violet-hued cauliflower; lettuce in all its shapes, colours and forms; You should also grow rainbow-hued Swiss chard/leaf beet; feathery mustard mizuna; spicy giant red mustard; mesclun; spinach; frilly endive; round and red radishes, white and long radishes, and velvety black radishes. Moong beans, French beans, runner beans, pole beans, dwarf beans (the latter are suitable to grown in Karachi and coastal areas right now).

Other options include fast-growing spring onions, beetroot, turnips and fast-growing types of carrots. In warm spots, where there is nightly protection from the cold, tomatoes are worth trying.

In the second half of the month and under cover, try growing a few tindas, pumpkins, courgettes/zucchini, karelas (bitter gourd), cucumbers, capsicums and chillies.

Herbs and spices: Cumin (zeera), tarragon, feverfew, rosemary, coriander, chives, garlic chives, borage, lovage, watercress, ginger, ordinary mint, apple mint, spearmint, thyme, lemon balm, oregano, marjoram and as many different-coloured nasturtiums as you can get your hands on. As well as being so useful in the kitchen, nasturtiums brighten up the garden to no end, drive pests away and invite beneficial insects in.

Wild mix | Photos by the writer
Wild mix | Photos by the writer

Trees/shrubs/climbers: This being the height of the winter-planting season, for those of you with trees, shrubs and climbers in mind, head off to your nearest nurseries and browse to your heart’s content: there is a dizzying variety to choose from. Please, however, do ensure that you have plenty of suitable space to plant everything you wish to take home and remember to think ahead of its size/width/root depth at maturity and give these the necessary consideration prior to spending your hard-earned cash.

In the flower bed: Go wild with a mixture of larkspur, cornflowers, godetia, Californian poppies, corncockle, gypsophila, flax, cosmos and phacelia,. Spread these flower seeds in prepared soil and put on an incredible, fast-growing, show.

Then there are pansies, violas, petunias, antirrhinums, dahlias, Virginia stocks, candytuft and, right at the other end of the height spectrum, masses of sunflowers to sow. In the southern parts of the country, the ever-popular, bright and breezy zinnias can be grown towards the end of the month.

Flower of the month: Delphinium consolida, commonly known as larkspur, is a lovely member of the Delphinium family and is an easy-to-grow, spring garden must. Best sown directly where it is to flower, its seed scan be sown just under the soil surface from as early as October on through until the end of January.

Reaching a height of 10 to 36 inches,depending on the variety, larkspur comes in stunning shades of blue, lavender, pink, magenta, cream, white and scarlet. Flowers may be single or double. They thrive in ordinary soil and enjoy both full sun and light shade. Larkspur is a long-lasting, border beauty and also makes excellent cut flowers and is highly recommended.

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

Published in Dawn, EOS, January 7th, 2017