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Red day lily | Photos by the writer
Red day lily | Photos by the writer

Q. Can olive trees be successfully grown in Islamabad and, if so, which variety is best for the local climate?

A. Yes they can be. Please ask at the Arid Agriculture University, Murree Road, Rawalpindi or at PARC Islamabad about the best variety to grow.

Q. I have been searching for information about growing olive trees in Swat where winters are cold and frosty. I found some information that said Swat was alright for olive cultivation but I am still not sure whether to proceed. What is your opinion please?

All your gardening queries answered

A. Olive trees do not tolerate frost or snow so, in my opinion, are unlikely to be productive in your area. Some research reports do indicate that they can be cultivated in Swat but, presumably, this means in frost-free locations only. I suggest that you ask the Peshawar Forest Institute for further information.

Q. Please guide me on olive plantation in Swat. I want to plant the variety which will fruit in four to five years’ time.

A. Please see the previous question and answer.

Q. Three years ago I divided up the day lily plants growing outside the northern wall of my home and planted some of them along the western front wall. The transplants flowered well the first year but have not flowered since. I am distraught as those on the northern side continue to flower beautifully. Both locations have the same amount of shade and sunlight and were fed with the same amount of compost in early spring. What can I do? I reside in Lahore.

A. The two locations may receive the same number of hours of sunlight and shade but do so at very different times of the day. The floriferous day lilies on the northern side are actually enjoying cooler growing conditions than the transplants on the western one and this is the most-likely problem. The fact that they flowered well the first year means nothing. They had accumulated enough energy and ‘flower power’ to carry them through a certain length of time before being transplanted from the northern side where they were happy. They have now had time to adjust to their new, warmer location and to rebuild their strength. Please allow them another year to adjust as although they are easy to grow, day lilies can also be very temperamental. If they refuse to flower next season then it will be time to move them back to the northern side of your garden if you can find space.

Baby pomegranate
Baby pomegranate

Q. We have a three-year-old pomegranate tree in Hub, Balochistan. Last season it gave just one small fruit and is flowering again now. A friend said not to expect much in terms of size and taste of fruit. Can you make some recommendations to improve the yield? We also have falsa and guava trees in the same garden and need to know when is the best time to add nutrients for best results in terms of fruiting.

A. Tree health, fruit production and fruit quality, basically depend on soil conditions, regular irrigation and on localised weather conditions. Whilst there isn’t much to be done — besides providing windbreaks/shade as and when needed — about the weather, soil improvement and its maintenance need to be done throughout the year with irrigation as necessary. The best — long-lasting — soil ‘foods’ are those that are 100 percent natural, such as old, well-rotted, organic manure, organic compost with compost teas for additional boost and the use of mulching materials such as grass cuttings, fallen leaves, bhoosa, etc, to aid moisture retention and to feed the essential organisms and insects working hard to keep the soil alive. Irrespective of your soil type and its current state of health, all the aforementioned should be used on an ongoing basis, and an extra helping of top quality, organic manure/compost should be given just when fruit blossom is beginning to form. Good soil care practices, along with regular irrigation, should ensure tree health and maximise fruit production and quality.

Q. I have orange, guava, fig and lemon trees in my garden in Multan. The problem is that the guavas fall off the trees when still very small and the fruit on the other trees does not ripen properly nor tastes good. What can I do to ensure that all the fruit grows well and tastes delicious?

A. Please see the previous question and answer.

Q. Can soursop/graviola be grown in Karachi? Where can I obtain its saplings?

A. Graviola (Annona muricat) requires a far wetter climate than Karachi has to offer. It may grow but is highly unlikely to thrive.

Q. My Lahore garden has a Cestrum nocturnum plant in a place which receives indirect sunlight the whole day. It is shaded by an Alstonia tree which has bumps on its leaves. The Cestrum nocturnum used to bloom nicely but for the last two years its leaves have curled up and no flower buds appear. No pests can be seen with the naked eye — just some webs. How can I improve its condition?

A. The seemingly-insignificant webs give the game away. Your Cestrum nocturnum (Queen of the night) has a spider mite infestation. This is causing the leaves to curl and has depleted the plant to the point where it is too weak to flower. Regularly spray in the evenings with garlic spray, chilli spray or one of the neem oil sprays available these days. This should wipe out the mites fairly quickly. Feed the plant well to help it recover, plus, cut out any dead or diseased twigs and thoroughly clean up any fallen leaves, etc. around the plant base as these may harbour more mites. The ‘bumps’ on your Alstonia leaves has become a problem for this species throughout the country and has no cure.

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

Published in Dawn, EOS, July 22nd, 2018