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GARDENING: SEE THE WOOD FOR THE TREES

March 04, 2018

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Gazania | Photos by the writer
Gazania | Photos by the writer

Every other day one comes across disturbing news items such as the following: protected walnut trees among 1,300 trees destroyed in Chitral, over 600 fully grown neem cut down, timber mafia strikes again, alleged irregularities in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government billion tree tsunami project reduced the number of saplings planted to just 180 million over four years, and so on. Sadly, it becomes apparent that no matter how many trees well-intentioned private citizens and NGOs plant, a larger number are either being cut or vanish in paperwork, before being planted at all. It clearly spells out that our meagre forest cover which is a horrifying 1.1 percent is in danger of disappearing completely.

This is not to say that we gardeners should shrug our shoulders and walk away from planting as many trees as we possibly can, we must lead the way out of our own gardens into the localities where we live and work. We must physically plant trees, maintain and protect them and we must pressurise local and regional authorities to follow suit.

Therefore, dear gardeners, let’s start off this month with ‘Plant a tree’ at the top of our ‘to do’ list and then go out there and get it done.

Planting trees is one of the easiest and most sustainable ways to positively affect the environment

MARCH SOWING SUGGESTIONS

The flower garden: For those who dare, opt for an extra floriferous summer in which golden yellow is the dazzling key. Sunflowers of every possible height, in single, double and multi-frilled forms can be used to make a never to be forgotten impact, no matter the size of your garden. Add all the interesting shades of oranges and lemons found amongst tagetes, marigolds, gazania calendulas, coreopsis and selected strains of zinnia and a golden dream is inevitable. Those preferring a broader colour spectrum can get creative with amaranthus, celosia, portulaca, petunias, verbena gompherena, cosmos and the surprising number of other summer annuals sneaking into the market.

Clivia
Clivia

Flower of the month: Clivia miniata (Kaffir lily) is native to South Africa. These fleshy rooted perennials make excellent pot or garden plants, generally flowering from February to April or May. Happy in eight- to 10-inch pots of rich, well-draining compost, they enjoy dappled light/partial shade and should never be placed in full sun which, in hot weather, burns their glossy, strap-shaped leaves. Propagated, after flowers have died back, by root division or easily grown from fresh seed, these gorgeous flowers can be orange, red, yellow or cream and are long lasting on the plant. Water lightly and only re-pot when/if the existing pot becomes very overcrowded.

The vegetable garden: Climbing beans, dwarf beans and bush beans can all be sown this month. Seasonal, fast growing varieties of cabbage and cauliflower are a good bet as are Ladies fingers, cucumbers, aubergines, lettuce, radish, mooli, Swiss chard/leaf beet, green onions, capsicums, pimentos and lots of sizzling chillies. Tomatoes are, of course, an absolute must; I would suggest smaller fruited and cherry tomatoes outnumbering large/beefsteak varieties as, in the hot weather to come, smaller tomatoes often out perform their larger fruited cousins. If you have the room, run riot with pumpkins, both trailing varieties as well as busher ones: not only are they highly ornamental but often highly prolific too. Summer squash, spaghetti squash, tinda, lauki, kakri, courgette/zucchini, bottle gourds and fascinating snake gourds can all be sown with, for good measure, a drum or two of potatoes whose home-grown flavour is impossible to beat. Climbing cucamelon, grown exactly like cucumbers, is well worth a try as their delightfully crunchy, grape-sized fruit — which resemble miniature watermelons growing in bunches — is a tangy addition to salads and cold drinks. Being new, it is fairly eyebrow-raising as well!

Cucamelon
Cucamelon

The herb garden: Having just finished sowing seeds of 15 different kinds/colours of nasturtiums, advocating sowing masses of these useful medicinal/culinary herbs is very much on my mind, especially as bees and other beneficial insects also love them. So climbing, sprawling, medium tall, dwarf, bush nasturtiums in yellows, plums, purples, oranges, reds, apricots, pinks, creams and whatever other colour range and growth habit you find, is highly recommended. Coriander, basil, borage, calendula, lemon grass, lemon balm, plecanthrus, savoury, chives, garlic chives, agastache and chamomile can be sown with, in the shade only now, thyme, oregano and marjoram. You can also start off some ginger and turmeric: the easiest way being to plant pieces of root that have already begun to sprout.

The fruit garden: Melons — both sweet ones and watermelons — are traditionally sown from the middle of this month. Fast growing Chinese gooseberries can be sown now and should fruit in late summer and you may like to try propagating pineapple or two from otherwise discarded fresh pineapple tops which, if they do well, should repay you in fruit in 18 months to two years’ time.

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, March 4th, 2018