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Of fruits and herbs and all else in between

Of fruits and herbs and all else in between

Q. I want to grow Physalis and Kiwi fruit. Can you please guide me where to get the plants?

A. Presumably you wish to cultivate edible rather than purely ornamental Physalis in which case Physalis peruviana or Cape gooseberry is the best choice. This perennial species, originating in tropical South America, is surprisingly hardy and the yellowish-orange fruit is tangy yet sweet. It enjoys well-drained soil rich in organic matter, lots of sunshine and needs regular watering. Easy and fast to grow from seed, this should be sown during late spring; it will crop in its first year and is relatively pest and problem free. The plants will need supporting to keep the fruit — encased in a papery lantern — off the ground. Quite a few people grow it in Karachi so I suggest that you ask your local Horticultural Society about a seed or plant source. Otherwise you will have to source seed via the internet as local seed stores do not stock it.

Kiwi fruit Actinida chinensis have become increasingly popular in recent years and vines — unless you find a self-fertile variety you will need both male and female, one male being sufficient for 15 female vines — are available, by bus / post from Lahore. Kiwi vines grow rapidly and can, unless kept pruned, be huge. They require very rich, well drained soil in a sheltered, sunny spot and must be given extra strong support right from the word go. They will need watering daily in hot weather.




Since it is against the magazine policy, I cannot give you the names / contacts of sellers in this column. Please look in the advertising section.

Q. Last week I bought some pot plants from a nursery in Hyderabad. At that time all of my plants were doing perfectly well. I water them daily and they get ample sunlight. Now one of my cauliflowers is infected with white spots all over its leaves. I am very worried about it as it is attracting lots of bugs like mosquitoes, bees, flies and other insects. How can I get rid of this infection and the bugs?

A. It sounds like the cauliflower has developed White blister / White rust which is an unsightly fungal disease that attacks members of the huge Brassica family, especially if they are being grown in overcrowded conditions. The disease could have been carried on one of your recently purchased plants but I suspect that its appearance at this juncture is simply coincidental. The best remedy is to remove the infected plant completely and dispose it of, sensibly, well away from your garden. This disease should not, however, attract flies, etc. so perhaps there is another reason for this but, please note, bees are not insect pests: without bees — and other beneficial insects — the vegetables / fruits and everything else you grow, will not be pollinated and your crops would be reduced to zero.

Q. I have a packet of Italian basil seeds and want to grow them in a clay pot. Please tell me when to sow them and how deep. I shall keep the pot on my balcony where there is plenty of sun. How often should I water and how long will it take to grow? Can I use the leaves in Thai curry? Is it the same as tulsi? When I grew American basil it was different than tulsi.

A. You can sow them right now! Use top quality, humus rich, organic soil / compost and ensure that the drainage hole in the base of the pot remains unobstructed: bad drainage results in water-logging and loss of seedlings / plants. Sow the seed just under the soil / compost surface, being very careful to sow very few seeds per pot. Seedlings germinate quite fast and, once they are large enough to handle, transplant to a maximum of three seedlings per 12-inch clay pot: Some would say just one plant per 12-inch pot but three gives a more productive result. Water lightly each evening unless the soil / compost is still damp from the previous day when no water will be necessary. When seedlings reach four inches in height, carefully nip out the tallest growing shoots to encourage side shoots to form: this makes the plants bush out and produce more leaves. There are literally hundreds of different varieties of basil, each slightly different. Italian basil is not tulsi nor is Thai basil but it can be used in the same way although the taste will differ.

Q. I want to create a small vegetable garden in my back yard and would like to know which vegetables are easy to grow during June and July.

A. Start out with chillies, tomatoes, cucumber, spinach, radish and lettuce and then watch out for this column on the first Sunday of each month when planting suggestions are made.

Q. We have just moved into our new home in Lahore and want to create a rose garden. Can we plant roses now or should we wait until later in the year?

A. Pot grown roses can be transplanted at any time but, personally speaking, I strongly suggest that you wait until late autumn and use the months until then in preparing the ground, designing the layout and, if you like, on gathering pot grown roses, on site, so that you have them ready for planting when the time comes. Haste is not a good idea when intending to create something very special: take your time and mull things over so that you are sure to get it right.

Q. Can we give plants a dilute solution of potassium permanganate as it has plant essentials?

A. Not recommended.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to [email protected]. Remember to include your location — this helps in resolving issues. The writer will not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, May 24th, 2015

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