Fresh, organic, home-grown vegetables | Photos by the writer
Fresh, organic, home-grown vegetables | Photos by the writer

Q. I have become interested in gardening because the prices of vegetables are skyrocketing. I watched some gardening videos and read some articles, and am wondering which ones to grow for my family in Sakhi Hasan, Karachi. Which vegetables are easy to grow and require little effort?

A. Firstly, by the time your planted seeds would start producing harvest, the floods and its immediate repercussions might have already subsided, so the prices of fruits and vegetables would also be relatively more in control, because of government subsidies and the import of certain vegetables from neighbouring countries. But, generally, if you sow a seed today in favourable conditions, even then, it will take at least six to ten weeks before you have enough produce to harvest. Every plant needs care and effort. For those who are adopting gardening as a hobby for the first time, I would recommend that you begin with vegetables for which you don’t need to visit plant shops and nurseries frequently. You could opt for vegetables that are readily available in your kitchen, such as green leafy parts of garlic, spring onions, tomatoes, and even herbs like mint and coriander, which can be easily grown.

Q. Two months ago, I planted a small papaya plant that I bought from a nursery in Model Town, Lahore. The plant seemed to be doing well in the beginning, but now its new leaves are curling up. My gardener had planted eggplant near it. Could that be a reason? What can I do to make my papaya tree recover?

A. The papaya plant is very prone to leaf-curl virus and spider mite attack. You need to closely check and monitor the underside of the plant’s leaves. If there are small, white spider-like pests on the undersides of the curling leaves or the presence of webs, then it is possible that the plant is under a spider mite attack. You need to spray it with organic pesticide every 2 to 3 days. You would also need to frequently check the underside of your papaya plant leaves until you are sure that all the spider mites have been removed.

All your gardening queries answered here

If there are no pests present under the curling leaves, then it might be a leaf-curl attack, in which case, the survival of the plant is extremely difficult. In both cases, the proximity of eggplant has nothing to do with curling leaves.

Q. I have received a packet of cauliflower seeds as a present. Can these be sown in Karachi in September?

A. Yes, this is the right time to sow cauliflower seeds. All the best and happy gardening!

Q. I am a passionate gardener in Peshawar, and have grown a number of flowers in my house and at the school where I teach. I want to conduct an awareness webinar for young people in their early 20s, regarding the benefits of kitchen gardening. What would be the most important points that I should discuss with them to generate a curiosity and interest among them?

A. A true gardener should have a connection with any type of plants, be they floral, vegetables, ornamental or even cacti. The three points that you must discuss would be that kitchen gardening entails self-sufficiency, succession planting and organic gardening.

A dying papaya plant
A dying papaya plant

Being self-sufficient means that you need to grow herbs, vegetables or fruit in such quantities that you may not need to purchase these anymore. To become self-sufficient for any vegetable would be difficult, but it is possible quite easily in certain cases. Leafy vegetables such as mint, spinach or plants such as okra and peppers can be grown, especially if you are living in zones 10 or 11 (with minimum temperatures between -1C to 10C) that have only one or two months of winter.

Succession gardening means that once your plant is about to die, its successor plant is already growing to be transplanted in the same spot. It is not necessary for both plants to be exactly the same vegetable or fruit. The idea here is not to let your gardening space go empty for a few weeks to months, and continue getting harvests throughout the year.

Finally, instead of purchasing vegetables, fruits and herbs that are grown with inorganic, chemical fertilisers, organic gardening at home is a much better alternative. The only drawback is that the produce from healthy organic gardening may not look as appealing as that being grown commercially using hazardous, inorganic chemical fertilisers.

Please send your queries and emails to kalishahid@hotmail.com. The writer is a physician and a host for the YouTube channel ‘DocTree Gardening’ promoting organic kitchen gardening

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 18th, 2022

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