Q. We are facing problems in growing tomatoes in the area of Dera Murad Jamali, Balochistan. Seed was sown at the end of July, but the crop was not ready even by the start of December. This has been happening for the last three years, despite giving lots of nutrition, regular spraying and irrigation. Could the problem be due to the seed? And could you suggest seeds that will be successful?

A. Changing your seed supplier is not the answer but changing the variety of tomato you grow may very well be the way forward. Some varieties of tomato are ready to harvest within 50 days of being transplanted out from seed beds to their growing place, while others can take as long as 100 days or even more. You haven’t mentioned which varieties you have tried, but I strongly suggest that, when buying seeds for your next potential crop, you select varieties that are ready to harvest between 60 and 80 days after being transplanted.

Q. I am a new gardener living in Attock, and last October, I planted bulbs of gladiolus, paperwhites, ranunculus, anemones, freesia, belladonna lily and amaryllis. All were planted, in 14-inch pots, at their appropriate depths, according to internet research. I used a mix of garden soil, cow manure and sand. They are kept in a south facing location, get full sun and weekly watering. The paperwhites have done well, but the gladioli, freesias and anemones, after an initial period of growth, seem to have stopped, which is worrying. The ranunculus were all doing well but died off in the rain. The belladonna lily (I only purchased one bulb) hasn’t grown at all, but has not rotted away either and the same goes for the two amaryllis. I also planted some hyacinths and tulips in December but am now worried that I did this too late. Finally, I placed two hyacinths in special bottles, water about a quarter of an inch below their bases but am still waiting for them to send out roots: they are in a cool, dark place indoors to speed them up. How long do they take to send out roots and how do I top up the water?

Bi-coloured wranunculous
Bi-coloured wranunculous

A. With the rise in temperature, by now the gladioli, freesias and anemones should have picked up and begun growing again, if not developing flower buds. The drainage hole in the base of the ranunculus pot must have become blocked, hence the waterlogging and rotting away of the corms. Both the belladonna lily and the amaryllis need warmer temperatures than the aforementioned bulbs and corms to germinate so, hopefully, they are doing so now. But, if not, leave them be. Don’t overwater and, fingers crossed, they will pop up and surprise you eventually. The late planted hyacinths and tulips should still grow but their flowering period will be very short as, by then, temperatures will be higher than they like. Hyacinths grown over water generally begin sending down roots within two to four weeks at the very most. To top up the water in the bottles, gently lift the bulb aside and pour additional water in without, if possible, getting the bulb wet. The most important tip I can give you is to be patient. Plants take time to grow.

All your gardening queries answered here

Q. A friend sent me your article about matka irrigation and I need to know if this will be successful in Gwadar area, at an altitude of 530m above sea level. The soil is a dry combination of clay and small pebbles. The area is basically desert with just a few wild keekar trees. Can you guide me how to proceed?

A. If you can please explain exactly what you want to achieve I will be able to offer specific advice but, generally speaking, matka irrigation combined with a certain amount of soil replenishment, should bear results.

Glowing red tulips | Photos by the writer
Glowing red tulips | Photos by the writer

Q. Is growing potatoes, in straw or hay in a potato tower, as productive as growing them in the traditional way?

A. Speaking from personal experience, the answer is no. But, on the positive side, growing potatoes in towers or barrels allows those who do not have actual garden space to produce some vegetables in their yards, etc.

Q. My lawn, in Clifton, Karachi, is a combination of Dacca and American grass. What is the best time to apply manure to it and how much manure per square yard do I need?

A. A top dressing of well-rotted, preferably organic, animal manure (not chicken manure), mixed with sweet earth at a ratio of 50/50 should be applied over the whole lawn, to a depth of half an inch to three quarters of an inch thick — in either February, March, June or July.

Prior to spreading the mix — do this with a rake, breaking up any lumps and removing any stones as you go — it is wise to ‘spike’ or otherwise aerate the lawn to help the new soil and manure settle in to place and for the new goodness to be quickly washed down to nourish the grass roots. A heavy watering immediately after spreading the mix is beneficial. Water the lawn as normal thereafter. Sorry, but I am hopeless at maths so do not know how much manure and soil per square yard this works out to.

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, February 14th, 2021

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