Q. What is that white stuff on my guava tree in Karachi? It looks like clumps of cotton. The leaves of my plants are also covered with whitish spider webs which are badly affecting growth. Is there an environment-friendly treatment for these conditions?

A. Your plants are suffering from a serious attack of spider mites and the guava tree is infested with woolly aphids. The solution for both is the same. Mix 1 dessertspoon of liquid soap in one litre water and spray over and under the leaves with it each evening for three days, carefully wiping away spider webs and clumps of aphids when possible, and disposing these in the bin. Repeat three days of spray on a weekly basis until no sign of pests remain. If the soapy water treatment doesn’t work, try boiling up a handful of whole, unpeeled garlic cloves in one litre water and let them simmer for 10-15 minutes. Leave to stand for at least 12 hours, then strain and spray. For an even stronger spray, use finely chopped green chillies instead of garlic cloves. If opting for chillies, protect your eyes and hands and avoid spraying in windy weather. None of the aforementioned harm plants but pests hate them.

Q. How can I stop red ants from eating the roots of my plants? I don’t like killing things unless it is cockroaches.

A. Ants, irrespective of colour, do not eat plant roots. The problem is that these industrious creatures excavate their tunnels or make their nests amongst plant roots thus allowing too much air into the soil for plants to thrive. Encourage the ants to migrate elsewhere by making up a bucketful of potassium permanganate (pinky) to wash fruit and vegetables, and pouring this on the ground/soil they are inhabiting. Ants do not like pinky and will hopefully move elsewhere.

Tradescantia can grow in low light
Tradescantia can grow in low light

Q. Which vines/climbers can I grow in my Hyderabad garden? The weather here is quite dry and hot with minimal rain.

A. As long as soil is correctly prepared and nourished and you stick to a regular watering regimen, you can grow a huge variety of vines and climbers, including the following: Bougainvillea, tecoma (trumpet vine), allamanda, antigonon (Sandwich Island creeper), beaumontia grandiflora, bignonia venusta (golden shower), petrea volubilis, solandra maxima, thunbergia grandiflora, quisqualis indica (rangoon creeper), potato creeper, passion flower and jasmine.

All your gardening queries answered here

Q. I want to plant tabebuia, Cassia Nodosa and jacaranda in my garden for their flowers and shade. Will they survive the weather in Multan? If not, please suggest some other flowering trees that suit this climate.

A. As long as the trees you mention are properly cared for and heavily watered, especially when young and getting established, they should be perfect for Multan. Watering is essential especially during the extremely hot summer.

Solandra maxima
Solandra maxima

Q. Which compost is good for all kinds of plants and trees, and particularly lemon trees?

A. Homemade, organic compost mixed in a 50/50 ratio with fully rooted-down animal manure is the ideal compost and mulching material for all kinds of plants and trees. Lemon trees will enjoy this mix too but adding some organic bonemeal and lots of banana peels would make it even more beneficial.

Q. We live in Karachi and eight months ago moved to an apartment bringing 25 pots of plants with us. The only place for the plants is on a windy, fourth-floor balcony that faces north-west. The plants only get sunlight for about 30 minutes just before sunset. After a month or two, my plants gradually began shedding their leaves. We tried keeping them inside the apartment but it didn’t help. What have we done wrong and what can we do to save my plants?

A. Sadly, the only thing you have done wrong is to expect your plants to thrive in completely unsuitable conditions. For your plants to survive you need to give them away to people who can provide them growing conditions similar to those in your previous home. To grow anything on your windy, low-light, balcony, you need to enclose it with something like clear perspex/glass windows and to focus on a range of plants that will grow in very low light, such as snake plants, money plants and tradescantia.

Q. Where can I get plants or seeds to grow berries in Lahore?

A. It would have helped if you had said which kind of berries you wish to grow as some species are not suitable for Lahore. With this limited information, all I can suggest is that you ask around your local nurseries over the winter months when some kinds of berry plants are available or do an internet search for a Lahore-based supplier.

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, October 24th, 2021

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