Pomegranate | Photos by the writer
Pomegranate | Photos by the writer

Q. I have not had much luck with indoor plants. I have big planters and, ideally, would like big plants that can survive with little or no sunlight. Is this even possible? Please make some suggestions.

A. Money plants, trained to grow up poles covered in moss, meet your requirements and are simple to care for. Other suggestions are: Maranta or prayer plant, snake plant, dieffenbachia, dwarf schefflera (up to 3 feet tall), parlour palm, ponytail palm and dracaenas in a variety of colour combinations.

Q. Some stray cats are using the potted plants on my balcony as a bathroom every night. I have tried a number of options to barricade the balcony and have sprayed disinfectant and vinegar, but nothing keeps them away. Please help.

A. Unfortunately, cats can be a major problem wherever there are plant pots around and, as you have already discovered, deterring them can be difficult. The most effective way of preventing them from digging in your flower pots is quite simple: cover the soil surface, all around the plants, with stones. If flat ones are used, you can get artistic and make attractive patterns with them. Gravel or stone chips are an alternative to actual stones, but you would need to make the layer fairly deep to prevent the cats from digging through it. The use of stones/gravel/chips also suppresses weeds and helps retain moisture which means that pots do not have to be watered as much as when soil is exposed to sunlight. If none of these solutions appeal, you could erect some kind of strong support frame around the area of plant pots and cover with netting at night, removing it during the day. Sprinkling chilli powder on top of the soil in the pots is claimed to be effective against cats, but it would have to be renewed regularly and the same applies to spraying the area with citrus or peppermint oils. In my opinion, covering the soil surface with medium-sized stones is the best.

All your gardening queries answered here

Q. Can you recommend dog-friendly manure for garden and flower beds? I have a 2-year-old Labrador and he loves to eat anything and everything.

Homemade manureless compost
Homemade manureless compost

A. The only manures/ fertilisers that will not poison your dog are animal and poultry manures, which he is snacking on. Another option is 100 percent organic compost but, unless you’ve made it yourself, there is no telling if animal/ poultry manures are included in the mix. The most sensible thing to do is to train your dog not to eat it. This will take time and patience, but it really should be done. Additionally, discuss your dog’s food menu with your vet, as the dog may be missing a vital mineral that is found in animal/ poultry manure.

Q. We have two pomegranate trees in our garden. This year, both plants were full of fruit but, after the monsoon rains, all the fruit is rotting and falling off. There seems to be some greyish-coloured stuff on the ends of the fruits before they fall off the trees. What is the solution?

A. The problem is a fungal infection called botrytis. It is very common when growing pomegranates in an unsuitably humid climate. The only successful treatment is to use a copper-based fungicide. Please use one that is suitable for organic growing, meticulously following instructions given on the bottle.

Q. When watering my money plants today, I noticed some white-coloured mites on them. Is this okay or do they need to be removed? If the latter, then how?

A. White fly often attacks money plants and it is good that you have spotted them before they get out of hand. To eradicate them, simply wipe them off using a sponge dipped in warm soapy water or, if the plants are large, mix one litre warm water with one dessertspoon dishwashing liquid and use as a spray. Repeat every three or four days until all the pests have gone. 

Q. I would like to know how to care for monstera deliciosa/ Swiss cheese plants, please. I recently bought some and water them on alternate days. I live in DHA Phase 6, Karachi.

Dieffenbachia
Dieffenbachia

A. Swiss cheese plants enjoy plenty of bright light but are best kept out of direct sunshine during the hottest part of the day. In our climate, they flourish in partial, but not total, shade. They delight in humus-rich soil, which should be well-drained. Watering on alternate days is fine for the warm and hot months, but reduce this to no more than twice a week, in your location, during the winter. A foliar feed of balanced liquid fertiliser, preferably organic, once every three months, will help keep your plant/s in tip-top condition. During periods of low humidity, lightly misting the leaves with warm water is highly beneficial, and helps prevent them from splitting.

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, September 26th, 2021

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