Q. Every summer monsoon and spring season, I try to plant trees and take care of them until they can survive by themselves. I have been successful most of the time. But I am currently facing a real challenge. I have spotted a place that has very saline soil and want to plant trees there. Can you please suggest suitable, local tree species, for the hot region of Larkana and which will grow in saline soil? I really want to plant trees in this spot as it is an otherwise abandoned area that, if there are trees, can be a habitat of birds and wild animals. I am a 16-year-old student from Larkana.
A. Congratulations on the wonderful work you are doing to save the environment and provide habitat for our indigenous birds, insects and animals. Tree species suitable to plant in the spot you have in mind include the following: Thorn tree — Mesquite — Prosopis juliflora, Casuarina equisetfolia, Jungli badam — Terminalia catappa, Tamarix aphylla, Acacia modesta — Phulai and Acacia nilotica. If you have a problem finding saplings, ask at your nearest forest department. Additionally, please ensure that the spot you plan on creating your newest haven on is freely available to use. It would be heartbreaking if, after all your work, an irate landowner had all the trees pulled out.
Q. I would like to know if I can plant pomegranate trees in Islamabad. Can I plant one in a large pot, and if so, how should I care for it?
A. Pomegranates do well in Islamabad and can be grown in very large pots or other containers, as long as there is a drainage hole in the base. For pot cultivation, it is best to ask the nursery for a pomegranate variety with a bushy, rather than a tree, growing habit. Soil should be of top quality and have plenty of organic compost/organic manure mixed in, plus a small percentage of river (not sea) sand mixed in to help maintain drainage. Burying a few rusty nails, iron ones, in the bottom of the planting hole, along with a chunk of absolutely clean (boiled first and then cleaned is best) cow bone, will help provide the plant with the basic minerals necessary for long-term health and growth. Be careful never to allow the soil to completely dry out at any time of the year: watering at least three times a week in hot weather and just once a week in winter should be enough, but do make allowances for extreme heat and for periods of rain.
All your gardening queries answered here
Q. Could you please guide me on how to grow rosemary in a plant holder/pot in Karachi? I also need to know where I can get the plant from.
A. Rosemary can be a difficult plant to track down in Karachi, but seeds are often to be found in seed stores. Sow the seed, (this month is fine) just under the surface of top quality, preferably organic, seed-sowing compost in seed trays or clay pots. Keep the compost damp but not wet, as too much water will rot the seeds. Germination can take from 10-40 days, so be patient please. When seedlings are about two inches tall, transplant into individual 10-inch clay pots filled with good quality soil mixed with organic compost/organic manure. Water lightly about three times a week in the evenings, but never allow the plants to become waterlogged or they will die. Rosemary enjoys lots of sunshine and, once established, needs watering just a couple of times each week at the very most. The high humidity in Karachi can cause problems with rosemary, so it is also important that the plants are in an open space where air circulation is good.
Q. I reside in a 10th floor apartment in Karachi. It faces north and south west, and gets lots of morning and evening sun, plus lots of wind. I want to grow a plant that will act as a privacy screen on the balcony. What is suitable at this height and in these wind conditions?
A. All I can think of for you to try is Clerodendrum inerme — possibly, and incorrectly, known as dum dum to nursery waalas. This fast growing, evergreen shrub is often used as hedging and is fairly sun, wind and salt tolerant: important factors given your location. It bears small white flowers during the summer months and should be trimmed if you want it to form a hedge shape. Try a couple of plants, in medium to large pots, and see how they get on before investing in more.
Q. My plant pots are infested with ants which keep throwing the soil out. In which natural way can they be gotten rid of?
A. Submerge the full plant pots, up to their rims, in a bucket or bowl of water. Leave for about 30 minutes, lift out and allow to drain. The ants should have drowned. Scatter cinnamon powder around the cleansed pots of plants to deter ants from moving back in.
Q. I would like to grow grass on the walkways in my large garden. Between Korean, American or Dacca, which type would be best, and can it be grown, directly, from seed?
A. Much depends on the area of this climatically diverse country you live in. Without this knowledge it is impossible to give precise advice but, if a guess is acceptable, then always select Dacca grass and plants/by the square metre, not from seed.
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Published in Dawn, EOS, September 27th, 2020