Q. I have grown some lychee trees from seeds, and the saplings are now four to five inches tall. Will they survive in Karachi and what growing conditions do they need?

A. The trees will grow in Karachi but they are highly unlikely to produce a crop of any decent size. Temperatures over 38 degrees C cause the fruit to split and summer temperatures in Karachi these days far exceed this. Give them a try if you like, but also keep in mind that they require vast amounts of water during hot weather.

Q. What, exactly, are organic fruits and vegetables? If I sow seed from a regular tomato from the market and never spray any pesticide on it or feed it with chemical fertiliser, can I call the resultant tomatoes organic?

A. Organic fruit and vegetables are those grown from certified organic seed in land which has also been certified as 100 percent organic and, therefore, completely free of even a single trace of any chemical contamination whatsoever. Buying a tomato from the bazaar, extracting its seeds and growing them without the aid of chemical fertilisers or any other chemical interventions will give you chemically free tomatoes but, scientifically and legally speaking, they will not be organic and cannot, under international law, be sold as such. Land has to go through a complex and stringent certification process, this for at least two years and it includes regular inspection by highly trained professionals, before it can be considered for organic certification and before any fruit and vegetables being grown on it can qualify as organic produce.

Q. I have a 30-year-old coconut tree in Karachi. How many kilos of manure should I give it and how often in the year? Also, can you provide the same information for fishmeal please?

A. Apply at least 10 kilogrammes old, well-rotted, organic manure/homemade organic compost around, but not in direct contact with, the trunk every three months on a continuous basis to keep the coconut palm in good health and maintain its fruiting capacity. Please give three to five kilogrammes of fishmeal every four to five months (but do not apply at the same time as manure/compost).

All your gardening queries answered here

Q. Can tulip bulbs be planted in Lahore now?

A. Yes they can.

Juicy tomatoes | Photos by the writer
Juicy tomatoes | Photos by the writer

Q. My pomegranates are attacked by insects before they are fully ripe. These insects ruin the fruit and the seeds inside become black. How can this be resolved?

A. I suggest that you take a look at the column in the following link, as fruit fly is the problem. https://www.dawn.com/news/1525838/gardening-how-do-i-get-rid-of-fruit-flies.

Q. Someone gave me a packet of Cerinthe major atropurpurea seeds to try in my garden in Rawalpindi. When should I plant them and do they like a sunny or shady spot?

A. These are one of my favourite winter/spring flowers and I have grown them in my own garden for years. Also known as Honeywort, bees and other insects adore them. Cerinthe major atropurpurea thrives in both full winter/spring sunshine but does well in light shade too. The plants can grow as much as two feet high in our climate and the stems benefit from some support.

Cerinthe major atrapurpurea
Cerinthe major atrapurpurea

Q. I planted a Gul Mohr sapling in DHA, Karachi, about two years ago, but it hasn’t yet flowered. It is fed annually with manure mixed with soil. I see other small Gul Mohr trees in the area in flower. What is wrong with mine?

A. Plants, like humans, are highly individual and some take longer to reach the flowering stage than others. This species can actually take five to 10 years before starting to flower, so be patient please.

Q. I want to grow blueberries on the outskirts of Islamabad. Is this possible and, if so, where can I find seeds or plants?

A. Blueberries — Vaccinium spp are successfully being grown, on a small scale, around Islamabad, Abbottabad, Mardan and other areas, where the soil is highly acidic or where a specialised, acidic soil, one which is also high in natural humus, has been provided. Tall growing blueberry species need moist conditions, more than medium and dwarf ones. Ordinary tap water can kill these plants, as does brackish water or water from an area where lime is present. They should only be irrigated with rainwater or naturally acidic water and, during the growing season, they are very thirsty plants. Plants can be purchased, in specialist Islamabad and Lahore nurseries, over the winter months.

Q. I want to grow asparagus and need to know how to do this.

A. Asparagus isn’t very difficult to grow but, without knowing in which part of our climatically diverse country you wish to cultivate the plants, I cannot be more specific. I suggest that you re-submit your question and this time include your location.

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, Octoberr 25th, 2020

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