22 Nov 2020


Pears | Photos by the writer
Pears | Photos by the writer

Q. Can moringa trees be grown in Peshawar and, if so, where to get saplings or seeds?

A. Yes they can. Saplings should be available in local nurseries over the winter months.

Q. I intend on creating a new garden in DHA V, Islamabad, near Rawat. The land is hard, rocky and the soil is reddish. It was originally a hill that has been flattened out. Two areas will be lawns but both of these are currently buried under construction debris, floor grinding chemicals, etc. How deep do these areas need to be dug to bring them to life? What proportion of soil is needed for good results and which is the most drought resistant variety of grass to grow? Additionally, please suggest some fragrant, non-messy, flowering climbers, vines and fruit trees. Their local names would be appreciated for ease of purchase at the nursery. My routine is hectic and I need to keep garden maintenance to a minimum, but still want a beautiful end result.


A. Have as much of the construction debris and chemical residues removed from your garden site and disposed of, legally, as is possible. Then have the area levelled. Only after doing this should you begin creating a garden and lawns. You will need to purchase good quality top soil to have spread on top of the cleared and levelled area. Do not mix the new soil with the existing, very poor and possibly now contaminated, soil beneath. Lawns require a minimum depth of four inches of soil — preferably six inches — to have a chance of succeeding. Dacca grass, either grown from seed or laid as turf, is a suggestion but extensive lawns need a stupendous amount of maintenance and water. Therefore, if you really must have such criminally wasteful features, please keep them small. Orchards, under planted with flowers and vegetables are a more feasible, practical, and very beautiful option. Fruit trees need a soil depth of three to four feet in which to get properly established. Don’t panic though, as this doesn’t mean buying three to four feet of quality top soil for the entire orchard area. The area as a whole should have six to eight inches of new top soil in which to grow a wide variety of plants and shrubs with, at suitable intervals (this varies depending on species), deep planting holes dug out for trees, the old soil/stones in them being taken away and replaced with new soil. Fruit trees to grow include: figs, peaches, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, pears, nectarines, apricots, plums, mangoes, pomegranates, persimmons, guavas, grape vines, passion fruit and kiwi fruit. Plus pecan nuts, avocadoes, almonds and olive trees are worth trying as well. For fragrant, flowering climbers, there are jasmine, honeysuckle, roses, Beaumontia grandiflora, Porana paniculata (bridal creeper), Stephanotis floribunda (creeping tuberose) and Wisteria sinensis.

All your gardening queries answered here

Q. I am a 14-year-boy and gardening is my hobby. I live in Malir Karachi and bought a grafted chilli plant which has multi-colour chillies including blue, orange and green ones. Are these edible? And please suggest how to best take care of the plant?

A. Rainbow chillies, as they are often called, are perfectly edible, but may not be as nice to eat as regular ones. They can also be incredibly hot so please handle with care! Your plant will need special care over the winter and will have a better chance of surviving chilly spells if brought indoors, on a sunny windowsill, and kept there until temperatures rise in the spring. Water only when absolutely necessary during the winter months. Top up with organic compost in spring and cut back any dead or diseased growth before putting back outside. Tended carefully, the plant — chillies are actually short lived perennials — should last a couple of years or even longer.

Q. We have a herb called gulgul in Hunza. It is used to perfume incense. Recently though, I have seen people using it as green tea. I have limited knowledge about plants but gulgul seems like some sort of fungus that grows on pine trees. Can you confirm if it is edible or not?

A. I think that there is a little confusion here. In the local Burushashki language of Hunza, gulgul is one of the two words, the other being supandur, used for incense. The word guggul is probably what you mean. Guggul being the Burushashki name of a small, resinous shrub/tree whose botanical name is Commiphora mukul and which is known as Indian myrrh in English. The resinous material extracted from guggul is widely used in incense making and, due to a range of medicinal properties, is used, mainly by hakims, in herbal remedies, some of which are drunk as a form of tea.

Q. Can olive trees be grown in Azad Kashmir? Where can we get comprehensive advice on this subject and if growing olives is feasible? And where to get saplings from?

A. Olive trees are now being grown on a commercial basis in Azad Kashmir and established trees are reported to have fruited well this year. I suggest that you contact your local agriculture department for detailed growing information and for a source of specific varieties suited to your location.

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, November 22nd, 2020