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Gardening: Sunny days

August 05, 2012


Q. Three years ago I bought a lemon tree and planted it in a large pot. Despite adding organic manure every two months, the fruit falls off and the leaves remain a semi-green throughout the year. The same applies to my motia and chambeli. The flowers smell nice but the leaves are not the right shade of green. What can I do? The lemon tree was repotted once. Previously I was using well-water but now I use water discharged from the air conditioning unit. The plants receive sunlight after 12 o’clock noon.

A. The problem sounds two-fold. Firstly you are over feeding as there is absolutely no need to add organic manure every two months. The type of organic manure you are using must be deficient in nitrogen and essential minerals/nutrients, especially iron and potassium, which is why the leaves of all your plants are suffering. Secondly, your plants are not getting enough sunlight to photosynthesise properly. To remedy the situation you need to repot them all in a top rate mix of sweet earth/organic compost and then there will be no need to feed them further for at least 6 months. When repotting please ensure that the drainage holes in the base of the pots are kept clear by placing pieces of broken clay pots over them. This prevents the soil from blocking necessary drainage otherwise water-logging could potentially be a problem too. You must also move them to a location where they get at least eight hours of sunshine per day if possible.

Q. My tomato plants flourished last year but despite a lot of work this year, the flowers fell off without setting any fruit. What could be the problem?

A. The problem could be insufficient soil nutrients, incorrect watering or lack of pollination. Before sowing more tomato seeds prepare some top quality soil/compost and after sowing  pay special attention to watering. Water only in the evenings, never allow the soil/compost to fully dry out but do not over water either. If you are in the bad habit of using chemical sprays,  please stop as these toxic substances kill pollinating insects and create problems with fruit set.

Q. Are there any winter flowering fragrant plants for Lahore? I have thought of daphne, mahonia and wintersweet but do not know if they will flower here. The only species I can come up with is dombeya but it is not fragrant enough.

A. The most reliable one I can think of is jasminium scandens which is smothered in highly perfumed, glowing white flowers throughout January and February. An easy to cultivate, fast growing shrub, it is absolutely delightful when in full bloom.

Q. I reside in Karachi and one area of my garden only gets partial sunlight. Can I grow grass there? If not then what plants can I grow?

A. Grass may be problematic, therefore I suggest that you visit your local nursery and request them to show you an assortment of shade loving plants which are suitable for your localised soil and climatic conditions. It is difficult for me to list suitable species here as I do not know what height of plants you would prefer to have.

Q. Can I grow apples in Karachi?

A. No. Apples are temperate zone trees and not at all suitable for the climate in Karachi.

Q. I am growing roses in pots in Karachi. They remain fine for 4–5 months but then a cobweb type fungus appears and the leaves turn yellow and fall. I used pesticide but it didn’t work. The plants are well ventilated and get sunlight for 4–6 hours. Please advise.

A. This is not a fungus but the fine webs of spider mites. These troublesome mites can appear at any time of the year but tend to be more numerous in dry weather than in humid conditions. They are often immune to chemical sprays. The most effective method of dealing with them is simply to brush away the cobwebs and spray your roses with warm water in periods when natural humidity is low.

Q. Is it possible to grow mint from cuttings?

A. Yes. Mint is easy to propagate from cuttings. The most successful method is to stand the cuttings in water inside a clear glass jar/vase until roots have formed and then carefully plant them in pots of good soil/compost until the new plants are well established. After this you can either keep them in pots or transplant them out into the garden.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to Remember to include your location. Answers to selected questions will appear shortly in a future issue of the magazine. 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.