Garden Talk: A Mixed Plate

, posted in Grow

By Zahrah Nasir

Q: Is it possible to grow strawberries in Karachi? If so, where can I get the seeds or plants? Which month is the best for sowing the seeds or putting in plants? I need to grow them in pots so which fertiliser should I use?

A: People have been cultivating strawberries in Karachi for quite a long time now — since the early 1960s I believe. It would be easier for you to purchase plants rather than start from seed; and plants should be in the nurseries now. Plant one plant per 10-inch clay pot and use a growing medium comprising 25 per cent river sand (not saline sea sand), 25 per cent sweet earth, 25 per cent old, well rotted, organic manure and 25 per cent organic compost. The plants will enjoy a liquid feed of organic seaweed or some other form of organic potash — you can mix wood ash with water and apply this if you like — when flowering and fruiting from February onwards.

They also need copious amounts of water when flowering and fruiting but the pot must never be allowed to become waterlogged or problems will arise. Drainage is very important for strawberries so please pay attention to this when potting the plants; laying a few pieces of broken pot, at angles, over the hole in the base of the pot before adding any soil will help greatly.

The pots should be placed in full sun during the winter months and moved to partial shade when the hot weather returns. When planting your new strawberry plants, ensure that the crown, i.e. the centre of the plant, is just level with, not below, the soil level as, if it gets covered, the plant may die.

Q: I went to a nursery in Faisalabad and asked for pansies, nasturtiums, dianthus, phlox, sweet sultan, verbena, godetia, linaria, asters, etc. but the people looked at me blankly. Please tell me the local names so I can try again.

A: All I can say is that your nursery people are not up to the mark! The majority of bedding plants such as these do not have local names but are sold by the names you have given above. The only other option, if you don’t have easy access to an alternative nursery, is to simply walk around and make your own choice.

Q: My papaya tree is fruiting for the first time but the fruits drop when they are small in size. What can I do?

A: I suspect that your watering regimen may be at fault. Watering must be done lightly and often, not a huge flood all at once. If the soil is allowed to dry out in between watering and then a heavy watering is done, the tree gets a shock to its system and sheds fruit in protest. Alternatively, if the tree has set far more fruit than it has the strength to ripen, it will shed some and keep those it feels able to ripen satisfactorily.

Q: I live in Karachi and my terrace gets a minimum of eight hours of daylight. Is this suitable for growing godetia in pots? If so, then what is the local name of these so I can ask for them at the local nursery?

A: Your terrace sounds to be the perfect place for growing godetia in pots over the winter and into the spring months. I’m afraid that I do not know of any local name for godetia but, if you use a decent nursery, the staff should be familiar with the name. However, if they are not, wander around the nursery and identify the plants for yourself. If you are not certain what they look like then please search the internet for a photograph first.

Q: Is there any species of lathyrus which is permanent in Lahore? Will the true perennial lathyrus tolerate the Lahore summer?

A: Lathyrus rotundifolius, the ‘Persian Everlasting pea’ should suit your requirements. This heat tolerant species has flowers in shades of pink to purple and is an absolute delight to the eye. Lathyrus latifolius may succeed if grown in a partially shady locations, encouraging the plants to climb up the trees is a good idea. Lathyrus latifolius are available in white, pink, red and pink and white bi-coloured forms.

Q: Kindly confirm which varieties of Lillium are adaptable to hot climates like Lahore’s. I am not happy with oriental and Asiatic lilies in this regard. Is there any variety of Lillium which can be kept in the ground during summer instead of having to be dug up and stored?

A: You might like to try Lillium bulbiferum var. croceum, otherwise known as ‘Fire Lily’, Lillium candidum the ‘Madonna lily’ or a Lillium formosanum variety, which can all, with care, be cultivated from seed. I am surprised that you are not happy with either Asiatic or Oriental lilies which, please note, do not need to be dug up and stored but can be left in the ground all year round.

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Published on: 02/10/2013

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