GARDENING: ‘CAN I GROW LAVENDER IN ISLAMABAD?’

Published August 9, 2020
Juicy orange| Photos by the writer
Juicy orange| Photos by the writer

Q. Is the Islamabad climate suitable for lavender and can it be grown indoors next to an open window? What time of year does it flower and how often does it need watering?

A. Lavender can be grown in Islamabad — seed sown in early autumn for spring flowering — but it is an outdoor, not indoor, plant. Its water requirements vary greatly depending on the time of year and on soil conditions, but basically it thrives in relatively dryish conditions.

Q. We live very close to the sea in DHA, Karachi. I have tried my best to grow kurry patta but failed each time. The neighbour has lots in their garden and the trees are doing well. I even got a sapling from them and planted that but it also died. What is the problem?

A. Your neighbour obviously knows the secret of successful kurry patta cultivation in your location so I suggest you ask them and follow their instructions to the full.

Q. I live in Karachi and have a five-year-old date palm that I grew from seed. It fruited last year but the dates did not ripen. This year it has lots of young dates but is shedding some every day. It is in full sunlight and I do water it but have not given it any manure. Could lack of manure be the problem?

A. Young date palms, as yours is, naturally shed a high percentage of their fruits as the tree has not yet developed the strength and energy needed for it to carry a heavy crop through to maturity. The tree should attain its full potential by the age of seven to 10 years when, with a heavy top-dressing of old, well-rotted, manure in spring and autumn (with six months in-between) combined with regular irrigation, especially when the tree is developing fruit, crops will, hopefully, be trouble-free.

All your gardening queries answered here

Q. I understand that it is advisable to apply compost, as a fertiliser, to vegetables every 20-25 days. Can manure be used instead if we are out of compost?

A. Compost is a soil conditioning, long-term, slow-release, plant food which is dug/mixed in to the vegetable bed prior to sowing seeds or to transplanting seedlings. It can also be used as weed suppressing mulch, in-between/around established vegetables, perhaps once or even twice during their life cycle. Compost is not applied as a fertiliser every 20-25 days and neither is manure. Manure is, like compost, dug/mixed into the soil prior to seed sowing/transplanting seedlings so is applied, at the very most, twice a year to a particular patch of ground.

Kurry patta
Kurry patta

Q. Can I plant cherry trees in F.B.Area in Karachi?

A. Sorry, the climate of Karachi is not suitable for cherry trees.

Q. Do fig trees require a big area or can they be planted in a small space or large pot? 

A. Fig trees can be huge with a massive root spread, but they can also be kept to the size of a large bush by keeping their roots restricted, combined with judicious pruning, by growing them in a very large clay pot. Figs whose root space is restricted often bear heavier crops than those growing in open ground. The roots of fig trees are exceptionally strong and fast growing. They easily penetrate building foundations and underground water tanks, etc., so fig trees should never be planted close to a building or wall, etc.

Delicious figs
Delicious figs

Q. The skin of our pomegranates is rupturing when the fruit is only one to two inches in diameter. Please suggest a remedy. We live in Islamabad.

A. The problem is caused by incorrect irrigation. If the soil around a fruiting pomegranate tree is allowed to dry out and then the tree is heavily watered, it takes up this water far faster than the developing fruits can cope with, causing them to split. Regular watering, from blossom set right through to harvesting the mature fruit, is the answer.

Q. What is the best way to get rid of fruit flies?

A. Please refer to this previous column for answers: ‘How do I get rid of fruit flies?’ published on January 5, 2020 in this newspaper.

Q. I planted a mausami tree two years ago in my Lahore garden. It is finally beginning to fruit. What steps should I take to ensure that the fruit remains healthy, is juicy and grows to a large size?

A. Keep your eyes open for any sign of pest/disease and treat, organically please, immediately. Pay strict attention to hygiene around the tree, keeping the soil clear of any fallen leaves/twigs and weeds, which may all harbour unwanted problems such as pests/spores of fungal disease. Ensure that soil drainage is good. Feed the tree — with organic compost/organic liquid fertiliser/organic manure as soon as the first blossom appears, and maintain regular irrigation from blossom to harvesting. Additionally: remove suckers regularly and keep the centre of the tree free of unwanted growth so that air circulation is unhindered.

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

Published in Dawn, EOS, August 9th, 2020

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