Increasingly high temperatures and other ‘extreme weather events’ are part and parcel of global climate change. Along with this, here in Pakistan, an expanding shortage of potable water (for a variety of reasons and not only related to climate) and essential irrigation water for crops are causing problems throughout the country.
In such a scenario, which is more liable to worsen, it is more apparent than ever that the luxury of maintaining a ‘lush green lawn’ should be classified as a crime against humanity. These may sound strong words but, being realistic, all so true.
Historically speaking, lawns were introduced, partly as a status symbol and partly in remembrance of ‘home’ by the British colonisers of the subcontinent. They are not, and never have been, an indigenous feature of Pakistani gardens which, on the whole, have always been more about food than flowers and certainly not about grass.
Because of water shortage the luxury of a lush green lawn is not practical any more
With an ever-burgeoning population, combined with the ever-increasing migration of people from rural to urban areas in search of work and sustenance, the pressure on potable water in large towns and cities has long been intolerable. In addition to this, outmoded irrigation systems, combined with drastically altered patterns of rainfall and a diminishing labour force, is bringing our once fabled agriculture to its knees.
The need of the hour — aside from urgent tree plantation in the battle against climate change — is to use whatever water possible for the production of food, not to waste it on outmoded lawns whose time has long since passed. If householders do not need food for themselves, it can be given away to those in need.
If you have a lawn, have a rethink and redesign your garden area with humanity in mind rather than purely personal aesthetics.
SEED SUGGESTIONS FOR JULY
In the flower department: There are so many wonderful flower seeds to be sown now that making a selection is tough but, as we gardeners already know, when the going gets tough we lose ourselves in sowing and growing. For quick as possible interest and general garden colour, ‘cosmos’ are an excellent choice; especially as there are so many different variations on a theme to choose from, with the fluted and frilly versions, in pure white and delicate shell pinks through to delectable crimsons, topping the ‘must have’ list. Don’t overlook rapid-to-grow, eager-to-flower candytuft for lightly perfumed border edges, to spill out of hanging baskets in a froth of pastel hues. Create some cool with the taller growing, luminous white, hyacinth-flowered candytuft which bursts into bloom in no time at all. Zinnias, in whatever shade and form you fancy, can still be sown this month too.
Some of the slower-growing species, intended to flower from late autumn/early winter right through until the final fanfare of spring, can be sown after the middle of the month and include dahlias, hollyhocks, begonias, scabosia, wallflowers, antirrhinums, Sweet Williams, gazanias, gerberas, carnations, rudbeckia, gaillardia, salvias in various forms, cineraria, geraniums and pelargoniums, members of the echium family and verbascum. From Lahore northwards, you can have digitalis with their gorgeous towers of hanging bells in which bees drowse and faeries play.
In the vegetable garden: If in Karachi, give tomato seeds a break until the beginning of September but go ahead and continue sowing them elsewhere — unless you happen to reside in the cool climes of the far north where sowing tomato seeds is off the menu until next spring. Make a start with autumn, winter and spring cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, calabrese, kale and Brussels sprouts and put in another crop of karela. Continue sowing spring onions, radish, celery, chicory, Swiss chard/leaf beet, kohlrabi and endive, mizuna and lettuce in partial shade. You may also like to prepare beds or large pots/containers for planting potatoes in next month.
Herbs: Blue and white-flowered borage are a pretty and useful annual herb to have and, if happy, they merrily self-seed all over the place to keep on popping up to surprise you. The same goes for flamboyant nasturtiums and all the year round calendulas both of which have become edible flower essentials. Coriander, dill, chives, garlic chives, dill and fragrant basil can also be sown again now.
Tip: Move the seed trays/pots into protected areas when and if monsoon rains threaten to break; the same goes for delicate pot plants as well.
The seed-sowing guide is mainly for gardeners in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi/Islamabad and places in between; other areas of the country may differ.
Herb of the month: Violas (pansies). Hardy annuals or short-lived perennials violas/pansies, sometimes called heart ease, are simple to grow from seed anytime between the end of July to the end of October or during very early spring. Press seed onto good quality, preferably organic, compost in seed trays/pots, sprinkle, very lightly, with just a slight covering of more compost, keep moist but not wet and protect from heavy rain. Transplant seedlings into individual six-inch pots or into the garden proper when they are large enough to handle. The pretty flower-heads, in a wide range of colour, can be used in salads, on sandwiches, as cake decorations and on ice-creams.
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Published in Dawn, EOS, July 7th, 2019