GARDENING: GREEN SENSE | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

GARDENING: GREEN SENSE

Pakistan Press Foundation

In the fascinating world of gardening, new years come and go in flashes of inspired seed ordering, planting and sowing in lovingly prepared gardens and pots, interspersed with floriferous and edible bounties of the multitude of rewards harvested as each season rolls by. Each season, we plan and dream of more munificent rewards for our labour of love.

Suddenly, the new year is upon us and we have a gardening year bursting with untold opportunities spread before us in open invitation to grow and produce like never before. New Year’s resolutions to green up our planet, rescuing the climate in the process, have obtained a priority we simply cannot ignore.

Every single one of us — from apartment dweller to house owner to farmer — must join hands to transform our own immediate living spaces into productive paradises in which all sorts of plants are able to thrive and multiply as nature intended. That is, to provide nutritious, chemical-free food, floriferous pleasure and priceless cool sanctuaries in which bees, butterflies, birds and other forms of wildlife can recolonise and reclaim their former glory.

One plant, one clay pot, one home at a time can bring about a green revolution

It all sounds very grand, even over-ambitious when we look around the cement, concrete and tarmac greyness which has, over the years, pushed nature aside — but it isn’t. Not really. Let’s face it, air-purifying, oxygen-generating greenness is desperately needed if our home environments are to remain habitable for any length of time.

We cannot, much as we may want to, rush out and plant trees in the hope of reducing searing summer temperatures overnight. That particular illusion has had its allotted span of frenzied activity, much of it, sadly, wasted by lack of knowledge about which trees to plant where, combined with lack of water to keep the young trees alive until their root systems are developed enough to survive.

This year, with tree planting madness behind us, is the time to take things at a slower, more sensible, ultimately more productive pace, and to get greening up right and to ensure that it is sustainable, too.

Every single one of us, no matter how small one’s home is, can find space for a single clay plant pot or a single hanging basket, in which to grow just one single plant — be the plant edible, flowering or purely ornamental. And not just plant but to tend to its daily needs, giving it recycled water when it is thirsty, providing it chemical-free sustenance when needed and enjoying its living company all along.

Just one single plant per person or per home, when multiplied by the over 200 million of us currently estimated to live here, is an awful lot of plants producing a surprising amount of oxygen on extremely little, especially if recycled, water.

One clay pot, one plant, one home at a time is an eminently sensible way to begin; just imagine how much greenery we can grow if we join hands and grow green together.

Over the coming weeks and months, we are going to explore sustainable, chemical-free growing for all kinds of spaces and places, catering to the vagaries of our hugely diverse country and climate in the process.

Meanwhile, for both new and established gardeners, here is your regular, first Sunday of the month, sowing and planting guide.

In the vegetable garden: Cabbage, cauliflower, calabrese, lettuces in a wide variety of shapes, forms and colours. You can also grow that great all year round stand-by Swiss chard/leaf beet, mustard greens, mustard mizuna, giant red mustard, bok choy, spinach, spicy mesclun, endive, radicchio, chicory, round red radish, long white radish, orange, pink and even black radish, too. Then, in Karachi and other coastal areas, dwarf beans of many kinds, moong beans, runner beans, pole beans and French beans.

Sow root vegetables such as fast-growing varieties of carrots — do try to get the indigenous purple ones if you can — beetroot, turnips and potatoes.

Lots of spring/green onions are essential and, if you can provide a sheltered, sunny spot, try some tomato seeds but you will need to provide them with protection at night and also shelter them from any chill winds which may still blow.

Towards the end of the month and under cover, try a few karela, cucumber, pumpkin, courgette and tinda seeds with a pot or two of chillies and capsicums for good measure. Experimentation is always good to try.

Herbs and spices: Zeera, tarragon, coriander, chives, garlic chives, feverfew, rosemary, borage, lovage, watercress, ginger, ordinary mint, apple mint, spearmint, thyme, lemon balm, oregano, marjoram and masses of colourful, pepper-flavoured nasturtiums.

Trees/shrubs/climbers: After checking available garden space, head to your local nurseries to see what they have on offer. This being the middle of the winter-planting season, you should be spoilt for choice!

But do think ahead about tree/shrub size at maturity, the depth its roots may go and if there is a possibility of underground pipes or overhead cables in the way.

In the flower garden: Pansies, violas, petunias, antirrhinums, stocks, candytuft, larkspur, Californian poppies, godetia, gypsophila, corncockle, cosmos, flax, phacelia, dahlias and even sunflowers can, along with many more, all be sown this month.

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. Commercial enquiries will be ignored.

Dawn