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Should hard-shelled seeds be boiled prior to sowing?

Should hard-shelled seeds be boiled prior to sowing?

Q. Which plants are suitable for growing in the garden area outside my house in Defence, Lahore? Should I go for big trees, climbers or shrubs? Kindly give some guidelines and include local names so that I can easily find the plants in nurseries around here.

A. When it comes to planting trees, one needs to consider factors such as soil depth, garden width, proximity to roads and the presence of overhead or underground cables, water and sewage pipes. The roots of trees — the larger the tree, the deeper and wider the spread of its roots — can cause major damage to roads, pipes, and the foundations of boundary walls and buildings.

Providing that soil depth is sufficient, and if you’re looking for flowering trees, relatively small trees such as Persian lilac and Indian lilac may suit your needs. You should also be able to find a good range of evergreen trees at your local nursery.

Shrubs may be a better bet for you than actual trees — there are so many to chose from that it is difficult to suggest species without knowing your preferences. Personally, I suggest easy-to-manage shrubs such as Hibiscus, Plumbago, Tabernamontanae, Chandni and Russelia with its stunning display of blazing vermilion, tubular flowers.

Climbers/creepers naturally require suitably strong support and, if this is available, then, yet again, there are many species to choose from with Bignonia venusta (Golden shower), Bougainvillea and Tecoma grandiflora (Trumpet vine), topping the list.

Q. Can Moringa oleifera be grown in Karachi and, if so, where can I obtain seeds?

A. Yes, it can. Seeds can be difficult to find but you may be able to get some at a Pakistan-based online retailer. However, some nurseries have, due to recent and increasing demand, started stocking Moringa oleifera saplings to cater for the winter tree planting months.

Q. I have a mature mango tree in my garden in Clifton, Karachi. It fruited well in previous years but last season it didn’t even flower. Please tell me what to do.

A. Mango trees are quite notorious for having a mind of their own and it is not unusual for mature trees to suddenly decide to take a year off from flowering or fruiting. Commercial mango growers often feed their trees, in very late winter/ early spring, with potassium nitrate to encourage flower and fruit formation. Being an organic gardener, I do not recommend chemical inputs, I would much prefer to allow the tree to bear fruit when and as it wishes but, the decision, of course, is yours.

Q. Is horse manure a good fertiliser for plants? If so, how should it be used and to what extent?

A. Horse manure contains a reasonable amount of nutrients for your plants, lots of fibre to improve or maintain soil structure and usually contains far less weed seeds than buffalo/cow manure.

It must be completely rotted down before being used in the garden. As with all manures, in its fresh state, it is very strong and likely to burn the plant’s roots. Old, well-rotted, horse manure can be spread as mulch, be dug into the soil during the preparation of beds for the sowing of vegetable or flower seeds, or in beds which are to be used for transplantation purposes.

Horse manure makes an excellent ‘compost tea’ and is a great addition to the compost heap. My own grandfather, who was my first gardening teacher, swore by horse manure for everything, especially for his much-loved roses which, as a result of a top dressing of three to four inches of fully rotted horse manure in late autumn, were prize-winning beauties.

Q. I am trying to grow trees and flowers from seeds in Lahore. I need to know how to sow the seeds, how deep to bury them, how often to water. Whether to keep them in sun or shade and if I should boil hard shelled seeds prior to sowing?

A. Never ever boil seeds please — you will kill them!

As for your other queries: Seeds of different sizes and species have their own specific germination requirements regarding depth of sowing, watering, sun/shade and so on. Please submit a detailed list of exactly which species of trees and flowers you wish to grow so that I can provide suitable advice.

Q. I am having problems with my rose plants in Islamabad. New leaves curl up and die and flower buds die before opening. Why is this happening and what should I do about it?

A. There are a number of reasons — both fungal and pest infections — which can cause leaves to curl and bud death in roses. In the absence of more details, I suggest you try pruning. Dispose of all visibly-damaged stems, leaves and buds in a sensible manner and away from your garden. Then spray the rest with neem oil. If this doesn’t resolve the problem, please contact me, with information on any visible pests, and I will make further suggestions. Good luck! n

Please continue sending your gardening questions to [email protected] Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 11th, 2016

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