Q. My banana plants used to fruit profusely but, this year, they appear stunted and have not fruited well. My present plants are off-shoots of an original plant which was planted five to six years ago. In the early years, the fruits were bigger and better but, last year, the bunches were small and the fruits were also small and thin. Is there a remedy or should I change the plants?
A. The productive life of a banana plant is four to six years, so your original plant does need to be replaced. Depending on the age of the grown-on off-shoots, these may need replacing too. Any off-shoots less than three years old can be treated to a heavy dose of old, well-rotted, preferably organic, manure once in every three months. Banana plants require lots of nourishment and plenty of water to remain healthy and produce decent sized ‘hands’ of fruit.
Q. I have a very well grown avocado tree at my house in Islamabad. It fruits in May and June but the fruits blacken and fall off after a few weeks. The leaves also wilt but I don’t see any infection on them. Due to the prevailing weather in Islamabad, the tree gets plenty of sun and water. What can I do to improve the health and fruit of the tree? I don’t use any chemical or special manure for it.
A. The tree is probably water stressed. Avocado trees need an inordinate amount of water to remain healthy and bear decent-sized fruit through to harvest. The rainfall in Islamabad is far from enough to support an avocado tree. A mature avocado, from seven years of age and onwards, needs at least 30 litres water daily over the winter months, and as much as 175 litres daily when flowering and fruiting. This species is shallow-rooted and the roots do not seek out water sources on their own, hence the need for heavy irrigation, the cost of which results in high prices for the fruit. Avocado trees cannot tolerate being over-watered either so please ensure that drainage is good. A top dressing of rotte-down manure mixed with organic fish meal should be applied at the first sign of blossom formation and again when fruit begins to set.
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Q. I have purchased an avocado sapling from an Islamabad nursery. It is about 75cm tall. Please guide as to what mix of soil and what size of pot should be used for transplanting.
A. Avocado trees like a sandy loam soil which drains freely. It is best to plant the sapling in the ground rather than transplant it to a larger pot, as the less the delicate root system is disturbed, the more chance the sapling has of surviving.
Q. I reside in North Nazimabad, Karachi, and my guava tree fruits well but the fruit gets infested with worms before ripening. Can you suggest a remedy please?
A. Please refer to the column dated January 5, 2020 which is easily found on the internet on the following link: https://www.dawn.com/news/1525838
Q. I planted a fig tree two years back and it has grown quite a bit and provides fruit but blackish flakes are appearing on its bark. They appear to be concentrated on the top just before branches start. Is it some kind of disease and, if so, what is the cure, or do I not need to worry? I live in Lahore.
A. It sounds like the tree is developing a fungal infection. Possibly, it is caused by high summer humidity. A simple organic cure is to brew up one litre of chamomile tea, allow it to cool, remove the tea bags and then mix in six teaspoons of vinegar. Spray this solution on all affected areas of the bark. The mixture will not harm the tree. If this fails to do the trick, paint a very thin coating of pure coconut oil directly onto the flaky areas and, hopefully, this will resolve the problem.
Q. My lemon tree gets perfect care and fertiliser but the lemons are very small with lots of seeds in them. The tree has been there, in my Lahore garden, for ages now and the maali says it should have produced normal yellow lemons but they remain small and green.
A. It is unlikely, given the care you say it already gets, that the situation is going to change. It could be that the variety of tree is different from ‘normal lemons.’ Or, just a thought, does it receive plenty of direct sunlight? If in a shady spot, the lemons will not reach maturity. A lemon tree requires direct sunlight for at least eight to 12 hours each day for it to produce good quality fruit.
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Published in Dawn, EOS, August 30th, 2020