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September 09, 2018


Pumpkins & squash | Photos by the writer
Pumpkins & squash | Photos by the writer

Q. I reside in Faisalabad and would like to know where I can get Goji berry plants from.

A. Few nurseries, if any, stock Goji berry plants but this indigenous species is simple — and fast — to grow from seed. Buy a packet of sun-dried Goji berries — totally unprocessed ones — from a store selling specialties or health foods, carefully extract the seeds and sow those. This is best done in early spring. This is exactly how I grew my initial plants, later multiplying them through cuttings.

Q. I have mint growing in a large clay pot in my garden in Defence, Karachi. However, the soil in the pot has lately become infested with ants. How can I get rid of them without harming the mint?

All your gardening queries answered

A. There are two purely organic ways of doing this:

Mix 200 ml of pure liquid soap — one without perfume or colouring — per four litres of water and thoroughly soak the plant pot soil with this. It should kill the ants. Do keep some of the mixture aside in a clean spray bottle, so that you can spray any escapees. Leave the pot for about an hour and then, to be certain that no ants remain, completely submerge the plant pot, with just the mint sticking out, in a bucketful of this same mixture. Leave for 30 minutes and any remaining ants will drown. Remove the pot from the bucket, allow to drain for an hour or so and then pour in lots of clean water to flush the soap residue away. The mint will not be harmed.

Repotting the mint in a new pot with completely new soil is the other option. Lightly sprinkle cinnamon powder around your plant pots and, once every couple of weeks, sprinkle a little on the soil to deter reinfestation. Ants loathe cinnamon!

Q. After reading about pumpkins in the past column, I decided to have a go at growing some, along with squash, in my garden near Charra Pani on the way to Murree. They have done incredibly well but I have just one question to ask: how do I know if the pumpkins are ripe enough to harvest for winter storage?

A. Congratulations! The thick green stems that attach pumpkins/squash to the vines, slowly lose their colour — eventually turning yellowish or brownish — as the fruit ripens. The fruit is ready to harvest once all signs of green have faded from the stem.

Q. What kinds of plants are suitable for planting in a green belt in Wah Cantt at this time of the year and which seeds could be sown there at present?

Pretty comfrey flowers
Pretty comfrey flowers

A. As long as you have permission from the relevant authorities to plant in the green belt and are prepared to perform regular maintenance, including watering, then I suggest that you visit your local nurseries to see which pot-grown— not bare-rooted at this time of year — small-sized trees or medium-sized shrubs they have for sale and make your selection. Flower seeds for sowing this month were listed in last week’s issue of the magazine, which can be easily found on the internet.

Q. Where can I get comfrey plants and avocado seed?

A. Comfrey plants are not generally available in nurseries. It is best to grow them yourself from seed purchased from a reputable seed supplier via the internet. Avocado seed is simple: buy a ripe avocado in the market and grow the seed extracted from that.

Q. Which varieties of miniature plants are suitable for growing indoors and how should they be cared for?

A. It depends on the amount of natural light the plants will receive inside the house, and whether the room/s they are in are air conditioned or not. It is impossible to make recommendations without this information. All I can do is to suggest that low-growing succulents are a possibility and need little care.

Q. I want to plant neem trees outside my house in Hayatabad, Peshawar. When is the best time of year to do this?

A. From the end of November through until the end of February.

Q. I made the mistake of watering all of the leaves on my Raat ki Rani plant as well as the soil around it. As a result, all the leaves have fallen off and the plant is bare. What can be done to encourage leaves to grow again? I live in Abu Dhabi.

A. Continue to care for the plant and, in time and if it decides to, leaves may sprout again. Plants can be surprisingly resilient.

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

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 9th, 2018