Figs | Photos by the writer
Figs | Photos by the writer

Q. I have a fig tree in my garden in DHA, Karachi. It is nearly always full of figs but they are small and never ripen. Please advise what to do to help them ripen.

A. The tree is suffering from stress. When a fig tree is stressed, it does not have any energy to spare for developing and ripening fruit; it needs whatever strength it can muster to fight for its own life and fruiting becomes non-essential. The two most common reasons for fig tree stress are a lack of water and/or a lack of nutrients. Water the tree at least three times a week and apply a top dressing of old, well-rotted, preferably organic, manure/organic compost two to three inches deep around but not in direct contact with the base of tree trunk — every three months and, in time, your tree would regain its health and begin to produce and ripen its fruit as normal.

Q. Six years ago I planted a Gulmohar tree outside my garden gate in DHA, Karachi. Initially it gave beautiful flowers but it hasn’t flowered at all for the past two years and has shed most of its leaves due to the persistent wind.  Kindly suggest how to make it green and flowerful.

A. The tree isn’t at all happy with either its growing conditions or the wind. It would have been bursting with energy when you first planted it and the soil contained a certain amount of nutrients, and this allowed it to settle in and flower. Over time, however, it has run out of both energy and food, plus, the wind has depleted it, too. Feeding it — the same as for the fig tree in the previous answer — may revitalise the tree. If the tree is too far gone to make a comeback, I suggest that you take a stroll around your neighbourhood to see which attractive trees are doing well and, in the appropriate season, replace your Gulmohar with a sapling of one of those.

Fire blight on a mango tree in the foreground
Fire blight on a mango tree in the foreground

All your gardening queries answered here

Q. I need your help in making a comprehensive, seasonal growing chart for Karachi.

A. This column contains a monthly planting guide on the first Sunday of each month. It would be a relatively simple matter to compile such a chart from these either over the months to come, or by looking at back issues of the magazine on the internet.

Q. I am having major problems with my apple orchard. Some trees have died and all the others are very sick. Trunks and branches are weak and turning black, leaves blacken and fall off, and some trunks are cracked with sticky stuff oozing out. Please tell me which pesticides I should use to eradicate the disease and make the trees healthy again.

A. Oh dear! This sounds very serious. From the description you have given it is highly possible that a disease called fire blight is the major culprit. Fire blight is a notifiable disease. You must contact your local department of agriculture immediately and they will take the necessary action. Fire blight has the capacity to totally wipe out orchards, quickly spreading from one orchard to the next. The disease spores are carried by wind. In addition to fire blight, your weakened trees are also suffering from gummosis (the sticky stuff oozing out). Gummosis usually strikes when soil drainage is poor. Officials from the department of agriculture will take the matter in hand. Please, this cannot be stressed enough, contact them immediately.


Q. I need information about growing lavender in Bhakkar District.

A. Please do an internet search for Nature Talk: Luxurious Lavender — July 19, 2009. You will find full information about lavender cultivation there.

Q. My two compost bins are full and I don’t have space for any more but I feel guilty about throwing compostable waste in the garbage bin. Is there any organisation in Karachi that collects such vegetable waste for composting purposes?

A. There used to be such an organisation but, to the best of my knowledge, it ceased operation some time ago and I haven’t personally heard of another one in Karachi. I can only suggest that you contact your local Horticultural Society and ask them. Sorry that I cannot be more helpful.

Q. I understand that both mitti and bajri are types of river sand but that they cannot be used in place of each other. I find this confusing. Is there another name for the mitti sold for growing plants by nurseries and is there also a different name for the bajri that is also used in construction?

A. You are confusing me too! Neither mitti nor bajri are river sand. The Urdu word for sand is rait or reet. The mitti sold by nurseries for growing plants in is usually a mixture of sweet earth and old manure. The bajri used in construction is gravel/small stones/stone chips excavated from river beds. The only times that bajri is used in the garden is in creating drainage or occasionally, in making cacti/succulent gardens and in laying footpaths.

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, March 22nd, 2020