Published Aug 26, 2018 07:40am

GARDENING: GROW FOOD INSTEAD OF GRASS

Zahrah Nasir

Q. I have been unsuccessfully trying to grow grass in a garden area that receives just three to four hours of sunlight per day. Can you suggest a type of grass for these conditions? A column on grass types and lawn maintenance in Karachi would be appreciated.

A. Grass needs at least six to eight hours of direct sunshine for a lawn to be successful. It also needs huge quantities of increasingly-precious water — along with a disproportional amount of labour and other inputs — for it to survive. In my opinion, lawns have absolutely no place in a water-stressed society in which countless people queue for hours, irrespective of weather conditions, to get a mere bucketful of this life-sustaining liquid. This is not to say that gardens shouldn’t exist because along with more trees, they are desperately needed in the battle against climate change, but please use water to grow food and not purely ornamental grass.

Q. I have grown bottle gourd in Defence, Karachi. The vine faces south-east and gets the morning sun. The soil and fertiliser are good. The vine is watered by a drip from the neighbours airconditioner. It flowers profusely but the fruit turns black and withers away. Some leaves are also withering and have brown patches. What can the problem be?

All your gardening queries answered

A. Taking full advantage of the neighbours’ otherwise wasted AC water is a great initiative but, unfortunately, it is also the source of the plant’s problems. At this time of the year, the AC is, presumably, in use almost throughout the day so dripping water all the time on to the plant may be fine during the hours of darkness but can be lethal during daytime as direct sun on wet leaves results in damage/leaf-burn. The plant, thus weakened, is protesting by shedding its fruit. Place a large container to catch the AC drips and use the accumulated water to irrigate the plant each evening when the sun is going down.

Q. Please can you name some drought-resistant trees and plants that I can grow?

A. It would help if you provided your location as different plant species are suitable for different areas of our climatically diverse country. Generally speaking though, cacti and succulents — of which there are many different ones with varying growth habits and in many sizes — are largely resistant to drought once established. The same applies to species such as Acacia dealbata (Mimosa tree), Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree), Ginkgo biloba tree, Fan palms and Bauhinia (kachnaar). General drought-resistant plants include: Jasminium shrubs/climbers, Passiflora (passion flower) vine, Osteospermum daisies, Amaranthus, Arcotis, Verbena, Mirabalis jalapa (four o’clock flower), Mesembryanthemum and Portulaca. Seedlings of drought-resistant species do need regular watering until established. For trees, this can take up to three years.

Passion flower

Q. I would like information on growing a fruit garden from seed, with emphasis on seeds to be sown before the end of the monsoon.

A. This subject was dealt with in the July 15 column which you can find in the back issues of the magazine on the internet. Additional information on fruit gardening will appear here over the coming months, so please keep reading this column.

Q. I live in Lahore and am in love with Coleus, Gerberas and lilies. Where can I get lilies that will survive in the harsh climate here?

A. Quite a few varieties of lilies, including Asiatic lilies and rain lilies, do well in Lahore. Bulbs/corms usually appear in garden supply shops during late autumn to early winter when you can go and make your choice.

Q. Is it feasible to grow olive trees in Burewala, District Vehari?

A. Provided that the soil is brought up to a standard specifically suitable for olives and that regular irrigation can be guaranteed, the answer is yes.

Asiatic lily

Q. I intend growing blueberries in Lahore and my research suggests that ‘rabbit-eye’ varieties are best for this location. What do you think?

A. High-bush varieties fruit earlier than rabbit-eye so have more chance of producing a healthy crop before summer humidity potentially causes problems such as mildew. Perhaps you could try a few bushes of each to compare results.

Q. I have looked in two nurseries in Lahore but neither had blueberry plants. Please provide a contact from where I can get them.

A. Sorry. It is not possible for me to name suppliers here. Please look in the advertising section of the paper or do an internet search for local plant specialists.

Q. I planted three orange trees in my small garden in Lahore about seven years ago. They flower well but nearly all the flowers drop off so there is very little fruit. A desi lemon tree has the same problem. Why is this and how can it be prevented?

A. Irregular watering is the most common reason for blossom drop. Water little and often and never allow the soil to completely dry out in between giving water. Spreading a three-to-six inch layer of moisture-retentive mulch around the base of each tree — but not touching the trunk — will help keep the soil damp and will also nourish the tree, as the mulching material rots down/is pulled down into the soil by beneficial insects.

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, August 26th, 2018

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