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GARDENING: ‘ARE ALL MY VEGETABLE PLANTS DISEASED?’

January 21, 2018

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Minimum grass, maximum flowers
Minimum grass, maximum flowers

Q. The leaves of all my vegetable plants have haphazard white lines: I believe it is a disease. My other plants do not have it. This has been going on for two years now, even the spinach has it. I am not getting any torai or bitter gourd because of it. What shall I do?

A. The problem is leaf miners and not a disease. Leaf miners are the larvae of what look like small black flies. These flies inject their eggs into the tissues inside the leaves of a wide variety of plants and trees, the eggs quickly hatch into larvae which tunnel away inside the leaves, munching as they go. These tunnels are marked by distinct, randomly curving, whitish coloured lines. They particularly love spinach, chrysanthemums, pumpkins/squash and aubergine leaves. The simplest method of control is to squash the larvae, as soon as you see them right there inside the leaves. In case of a heavy infestation, weekly spraying with organic neem oil is recommended. Heavily infected leaves/plants are best removed and disposed of in the garbage bin not in the compost where they will breed and multiply.

Q. I love Champa trees and would like to know how many varieties are available, especially the fragrant ones. Information about plants related to Champa would also be appreciated. I live in Lahore.

Your gardening queries answered

A. Champa, Gulchin, frangipani or, botanically speaking, Plumeria are gorgeous and their fragrance stunning. There are two recognised main species, Plumeria rubra and Plumeria obtusa and two more, Plumeria stenophylla and Plumeria pudica whose status is disputed. Plumeria rubra is the most common variety here in Pakistan and, through selective breeding, can be found in colours ranging from pale pink to deep cerise, white, cream, apricot, yellow and red; some gorgeous bi-colours are also now making their appearance. Plumeria rubra is the most fragrant species of all. Plumeria obtusa, a faster growing and hardier species, is only found in white and shades of pink. Gulchin/champa belongs to the Apocynaceae family and has no relatives to compete for its stunning glory.

Q. I live in Islamabad and have a problem with the Korean grass in my garden: I am really worried as I spent a lot of money having it put in eight months ago but some portions of the lawn are not growing well.

A. After eight months your lawn should have settled in nicely but, obviously, this not the case. The problematic areas may be due to soil imbalance, incorrect drainage, insect infestation, lack of sunlight — a lawn needs at least six hours of sunlight each day to thrive — or a whole host of other issues which, unfortunately, cannot be resolved without full, detailed, information. It could be that an application of pelleted organic fertiliser (instructions on the packet) is all that is necessary and is worth a try. If not, then please provide more information on which to base an analysis.

Q. I would like to know which indoor plants can easily be grown in Rawalpindi, with emphasis on those that help breathing problems or sinus infections.

A. Spider plant (Chlorophytum), Snake plant (Sanseveria) and Money plant (Pothos) are all said to help and are easy to grow.

Q. What is your opinion about the information on YouTube gardening channels?

Pretty apricot blossom
Pretty apricot blossom

A. Some of it is quite fascinating and sometimes the information is relevant and helpful but a high percentage of such videos are not made for the Pakistani market but rather for countries in which climate and soil is far more plant-friendly than is the case here.

Q. I want to keep some indoor plants under the stairs in my home in Karachi. The area only gets slight daylight, one corner doesn’t get any and not much air either. Please guide me on how to do it and what to grow. I have already prepared a big iron tub for planting in.

A. Snake plant, English ivy, Money plant, Peace lilies and a selection of ferns may be suitable but success is not guaranteed as the vast majority of plants do need some sunlight if they are to survive.

Q. I need advice about our large office lawn in Khuzdar, Balochistan. Previously the top layer of soil was removed and plastic mulch was laid down with new, good quality soil on top of this. Twice we planted grass but it failed due to the weather and a shortage of water. Now we want to try again and are thinking of sowing American grass but do not know if it will tolerate the weather here or if some other kind of grass is better. Is winter feasible for sowing grass? All advice appreciated.

A. Laying plastic beneath the soil was a major mistake: it prevents drainage thus encouraging fungal and other root diseases and could — aside from lack of water — be the reason for previous failures in establishing a lawn. The best grass for Khuzdar is desi, if you can get it as transplants in very early spring. If you depend on seed, then opt for either Dacca or American grass for early spring sowing in your location. Otherwise, lawns being a waste of precious water and time, why not establish a fruit orchard, under-planted with seasonal flowers/vegetables instead; this would be attractive, productive and far less troublesome than a lawn.

Q. Would you kindly guide as to where one can find seeds of the herbs named in the article “In shady places” which appeared on November 26, 2017? I really wish to get started on planting them.

A. Check your local seed supply shops and nurseries, plus, search online for a Pakistan-based source.

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 21st, 2018