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Rosemary | Photos by the writer
Rosemary | Photos by the writer

Q. I have pot-grown jasmine in Islamabad. It has been with me for one year now and grown 30 cm tall, but the single flower bud it grew this spring withered and fell off before opening. The plant gets enough sunlight, water and compost. Is Islamabad weather not suitable for jasmine or is there some other problem?

A. Jasmine flourishes in Islamabad when correct growing conditions are provided. Try repotting it in a much larger, preferably clay, pot using new sweet earth mixed 50 percent earth, 25 percent river sand/silt, 25 percent organic compost/old, well-rotted, organic manure and place the pot in a sheltered position where it receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Water in the relative cool of the evening, every other day, but do not overwater. Overwatering kills more plants than pests and disease. The plant should begin growing strongly fairly quickly, and hopefully, will smother itself in blossom as a thank you for years to come.

Q. Are the conditions in Islamabad suitable for growing mint and coriander? If so, can these be grown in plant pots? Can they both be grown from seed and how to take care of them?

All your gardening queries answered

A. Mint and coriander grow well in Islamabad and are perfectly happy in suitably sized clay pots, placed in partial shade over the hot summer months. Coriander seed is sown just beneath the soil/compost surface, watered each evening and grows rapidly. Sow fresh coriander seed every couple of weeks or so to maintain a continuous supply. Mint can be grown from seed but it is much easier to either buy plants from a local nursery or look for pieces of mint with roots on when purchasing bunches of fresh mint in the bazaar and plant these. Mint also needs daily evening watering throughout the hot weather.

Q. I have grown a rose bush in a pot on my terrace in Islamabad. It gets regular water and compost but even though the main stem is over 70 cm long with side branches, it hasn’t flowered. The pot is in a semi-sunny spot. What is wrong with it?

A. It could be that you inadvertently bought a climbing or rambling rose rather than the bush type you wanted — this would explain the growth. Alternatively, if it is a bush rose, then it may have been overpowered by the desi rootstock it is probably grafted on. If it has reverted to being desi, it will eventually flower and the lovely blooms are liable to have a powerful fragrance. If possible, move the pot into a slightly sunnier location, then wait and see what happens over the winter/spring months.

Sunset rose
Sunset rose

Q. Which variety of tomato is best to grow in Lahore for good production all-round the year? I want to start some from seed and would appreciate some guidelines.

A. Please refer to the column of September 16, 2018, which details all you need to know about growing tomatoes. It can easily be found on the internet.

Q. I have a Thai grapefruit in my Lahore garden. It is watered once a week and dried manure was used as fertiliser last December. The tree was full of flowers and fruit in February and March but everything dropped off and leaves turned brown too. What happened and what is the solution?

A. Watering once a week when a grapefruit tree is in flower and producing fruit is simply not enough. Grapefruit trees, like most fruit trees, need watering every other day from flowering right through until all the fruit is harvested. Sadly, it sounds like your tree has died of thirst.

Juicy grapefruit
Juicy grapefruit

Q. Can rosemary, lavender and thyme be grown in the Karachi climate?

A. Autumn-sown thyme is no problem and, if moved into partial shade, can survive the summer too. Rosemary is best treated as an autumn-sown annual as it rarely survives the summer humidity in Karachi, and the same goes for lavender — but opt for varieties that can be had in bloom within six to eight weeks from sowing the seed.

Q. Which fruit trees are best for planting in DHA Karachi?

A. It all depends on how close to the sea your garden is and if it is protected from direct sea breezes or not. Papaya, date palms, jungle-jalebi, jamun, banana, cheeku, sharifa, mango, figs, lemons, guava and even grapefruit have all been known to succeed if conditions are right for them.

Q. I live in Karachi and have planted fully grown zinnia flowers, bought from the nursery, in my garden. The zinnias are planted between okra and tomato plants. I have noticed the zinnia leaves are being eaten by insects. Can you kindly suggest an organic spray I could use to kill the insects as I do not want to harm the adjacent okra and tomato plants?

A. Any of the following: warm soapy water — made using unperfumed soap that is as pure as possible — organic neem spray mixed following the directions on the bottle — as the mix varies from brand to brand — and either garlic spray or hell-fire (chilli) spray made from the recipes provided in this column quite a few times.

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, June 9th, 2019