GARDENING: THE ORCHARD PARADISE

Published November 7, 2021
Apple blossom time
Apple blossom time

A healthy, well-balanced, organic orchard is a place of magical mystery. There is birdsong, bee buzz, butterflies, and jewel-bright flowers glistening in green shadow with an aroma blending all that is sweet, both in and on the earth.

A chemically maintained orchard on the other hand, may look good at a quick glance, but is completely devoid of environmental essence. Apart from its chemical-saturated trees and fruits, it is sterile and soulless and we will dwell no further on it here.

Rangoon creeper
Rangoon creeper

An orchard, as our ancestors understood so well, is not simply an area of ground on which fruit trees have been planted. It is also a place for family picnics, romantic liaisons, reading, artistic endeavours and other solitary pursuits. Think Mughal gardens and exquisite miniature paintings of the Persian school, often depicting orchards and activity in the gardens around the fruit trees, and you will understand just how much more there is to an orchard than its trees.

It’s surprising how many people are under the impression that it is not possible to create a garden, be this for cultivating flowers, vegetables, herbs or all three, in orchard-shade, when the exact opposite is true.

There are basic rules to follow, of course, such as not digging deeply in areas close to tree trunks, which may disturb or damage spreading tree roots. Gardening in an orchard is beneficial to all that is grown there, while feeding and watering garden-beds automatically feeds and waters the fruit trees.

Orchards can offer a micro-climate and environmental adventure all of their very own. They are to be treasured and physically enjoyed, not just to be looked at from afar

The birds orchestrating their songs from tree branches devour bugs and mosquitoes and their droppings fertilise the earth below. Bees flit from fruit blossom to flower-bed to herb-bed and back again, pollinating as they go and, as a well-balanced garden/ orchard always has seasonal pollens and nectars for the bees, they thrive and perform the essential task of pollinating. This ensures the fruit and vegetable crops are good and that all is well in the natural world.

Orchard hideout
Orchard hideout

Creating an orchard garden cannot be done overnight; it takes years for trees to grow. You need time to figure out which plant species is happy where, according to light and shade and other weather-associated patterns. And in which spot a pond, table and chairs and other features will most perfectly fit.

With the winter tree-planting season in the offing, this is the perfect time to design and begin creating a magical garden orchard all of your very own. Don’t forget that, in the process, you will be helping to save our planet and all the incredible life forms on it.

Orchard veggie bed ready for planting
Orchard veggie bed ready for planting

Seed sowing suggestions for this month:

The flower garden: Sow every kind of annual poppy you can find seeds for, Californian poppies and Shirley poppies being amongst the most common and, sown direct in the garden or in pots/containers, the simplest to grow. Sweet peas can still be sown, but the sooner the better. Then there is larkspur, Queen Anne’s lace, ageratum, wallflowers, sweet Williams, sweet alyssum, tagetes, sweet sultan, cornflowers, mimulus, bidens, nemophila, godetia, antirrhinums, violas, pansies, Virginia stocks, ten-week stocks, salvias, clarkia, bellis, hollyhocks, annual chrysanthemums, asters, coreopsis, gaillardia, salpigloss, flaxseed and lots more.

Bulbs and corms: Asiatic and oriental lilies, Dutch hyacinths, grape hyacinths, Dutch iris, miniature iris, tulips, daffodils, crocus, buttercups, sparaxis, cyclamen, anemones, freesias, ornamental alliums and, hopefully, some new introductions in the stores/ nurseries too.

The vegetable garden: Broad beans, peas, sugar peas, petite pois, winter red and pink radish, black winter radish, French radish, radicchio, endive, winter lettuce, cos lettuce, pak choy, mustard, mustard mizuna, giant red mustard, garlic mustard, turnips, turnip greens, cauliflower, lots of different kinds of cabbage, including red ones. Brussels sprouts, purple-sprouting broccoli, green-sprouting broccoli, calabrese, curly kale, kale, red Russian kale, scarlet kale, black Italian kale, chopsuey greens, spring onions, onions, carrots, beetroot, kohl rabi, rutabaga, leeks, Swiss chard/ leaf beet, celery, spinach, garlic, potatoes, Chinese cabbage, mesclun mixes and both mixed Chinese and Japanese salad greens. In Karachi, tomato seeds can be sown in sheltered spots but will need protection at night and on chilly days.

Flowers and herbs flourishing in orchard shade | Photos by the writer
Flowers and herbs flourishing in orchard shade | Photos by the writer

The herb garden: Fast growing types of lavender, rosemary, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, apple mint, peppermint, green mint and any other kind of mint you can find. Parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano, lemon balm, nasturtiums, watercress, arugula/ rocket, dill, aniseed, chamomile, calendulas, chervil, chives, garlic chives, coriander, cumin and, in Karachi only, various kinds of basil in warm, sheltered spots.

Climber of the month: Quisqualis indica or Rangoon creeper. This very fast-growing, perennial creeper scrambles up and over walls, garages, pergolas and trellises at the speed of light, and must be pruned back hard in January. Easily multiplied from cuttings, suckers or by layering from mid- to late spring or during the summer monsoons, it flowers on and off for most of the year. It is at its floriferous best during the hot weather. The lightly scented flowers appear in bunches, hanging downwards, starting out white and altering to pinky-red the next day. Happy in sun or shade and not at all fussy about soil type, as long as the soil is well drained, this simple-to-grow creeper is an invaluable addition to any garden.

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, November 7th, 2021

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