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Gardening: Putting down roots

June 10, 2012

Q: I have grown a number of herbs at my home. These include mint, coriander, basil and parsley, but lately I have noticed serious pest infestations on most of them and it is retarding their growth and causing the plants to shrivel. Aphids are the main problem but I have also noticed very small, almost microscopic and dust-like scales which I have never seen before. I don’t want to use chemical pesticides on them since they are for consumption. I would appreciate it if you could give me advice on the natural methods of eradicating these pests or any available bio-degradable pesticides that are not toxic to humans.

A: The easiest organic way of getting rid of aphids is to spray them either with soapy water, garlic water or hell-fire sprays.

For soapy water spray just add a decent measure of pure soap, or as pure as you can get, to warm water and spray with this, ensuring that it gets underneath the leaves as well as on top. Repeat daily for three to seven days by which time the aphid population should have been brought under control. Garlic water spray is made by putting a quarter kilo of whole garlic cloves in a litre of water and bringing it to a boil; simmer for 15 minutes then leave to stand for 12 hours. Strain through fine muslin cloth and spray in the evening in the same way as for soapy water spray. The garlic can be reused at least three times before it loses its potency.

Hell-fire spray is made by putting a quarter kilo of green chillies through a blender, adding the processed chillies to a litre of water in a clear glass or plastic, sealed container and standing it in direct sunlight for three to seven days after which you strain and spray as for garlic spray. When spraying hell-fire — even when making it — wear gloves and keep your eyes covered as it burns! Such treatment should also clear your plants of the other problem mentioned but if not, please let me know.

Q: I am having a problem with white flies ruining my green chillies. What can I do?

A: Please refer to the previous answer.

Q: I am very fond of gardening but am new to Karachi, having spent most of my life in Bangladesh and U.A.E. and I do not know what should be planted when here. I need information about basic skills like soil and manure preparation (artificial and natural) and watering methods. I hope you can help.

A: The simplest thing for you to do is to read this column every week and to pay special attention to the column appearing on the first Sunday of each month. This one gives a run down on jobs to be done in that particular month of the year. For additional gardening information, it is suggested that you go through previous columns which are easy to locate on the internet.

Q: I live in Sea View and have some plants grown in pots such as honeysuckle, Rangoon creeper, jasmine, alamanda and China rose. The plants look healthy; new shoots appear as do new leaves but for the last two years they haven’t flowered. They flowered before this. Kindly help.

A: One of two things is the problem; you are either overwatering/overfeeding your plants so that they are producing lots of new growth but no flowers or they are in desperate need of sustinence/repotting.

Q: We have four alistonias in our garden and they are approximately 30 years old. They were perfect until last year when they grew bunches of long bean-like things on their branches. The trees look ugly because of this and, to make things worse, these beans have split and the house is full of brown fluff lying about. What happened to them — are they growing old and withering?

A: Your alistonias are in perfect health and are doing what comes naturally. They have flowered and produced seed pods which are now opening to let the seeds fly free. Count yourself lucky to witness this miracle of perpetuation of the species.

The following is not a question but a wonderful letter which came in from a foreign lady finding it difficult to adjust to life in Karachi:

“When we came to live in Karachi we rented a small portion in a bungalow where I have space for plants. I planted many things, some in pots, and they grew fast and spread into the porch. I was really amazed and proud of myself. The birds came building nests and had their babies there. They are so sweet and I feel that they love me too.

My plants have become part of my life and when I get bored I come out onto the porch to see them. The happiness I feel cannot be expressed. When I water them, arrange them and even talk to them, I feel good and fresh. All depression and tiredness is gone. I love my plants and they love me.”

Please continue sending your gardening queries to Remember to include your location. Answers to selected questions will appear in a future issue of the magazine. This takes time. The writer will not respond directly by e-mail. E-mails with attachments will not be opened. Please note: The writer’s garden is not open to the public.