Variable weather deters pests

WALLY RICHARDS
Last updated 07:46 14/12/2012
Damaged leaves
Fairfax NZ
CONTROL PATROL: Check leaves for pest damage and get on top of the problem before it becomes out of control.

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The year has rolled around quickly and we are very nearly in the middle of growing season with just over a week to the longest day.

It has been an interesting season with most areas having ample rainfall and even a few summery days before chilling down again.

Roses have bloomed well in many areas, even if there has been some disease damage as well as weather damage to the foliage.

While the variable weather increases the possibility of disease problems, it keeps pest-insect problems low. Likely the weather will improve early in the new year and that will be when these insect populations will start to multiply.

Wandering around your gardens have a good look at your plants for any sign of pest or disease problems starting to happen. Look under and over the leaves and check for holes in the leaves also. If there are holes in leaves of plants such as beans, citrus, roses, feijoa, blueberry etc but no sign of any pests then likely it will be beetles feeding, and more than likely the grass grub beetles.

I wrote recently about two methods of control, the light trap and spraying the affected plants in the early evening when the beetles are feeding. Spray them with key pyrethrum and neem tree oil combined. This spray can be used anywhere you find pest populations starting to build.

Check other plants including nearby weeds and if pests are found, spray them also to stop reinfestation. Every pest killed now means between 30 to 300 fewer to deal to later.

Tomatoes ripe The season has been fairly good to me and in the last week of November I was able to eat my first ripe tomato from a Russian red plant in a container outside. The early crop of potatoes has matured with excellent-size tubers thanks to the protection Neem tree granules gave the plants against the potato psyllid. I have a second crop halfway to maturity and will be interested to see how these will fare. Where the psyllids are a problem it is not a good idea to plant a late crop unless you want to do a lot of spraying.

Flower time Winter/spring flowering plants are likely to be finishing so it's time to lift and tidy up the plots, refresh the soil with manures and compost before planting summer annuals.

Spring bulbs should be lifted, dried carefully (out of sunlight) and stored in an airy situation for replanting in early autumn. Only lift when the foliage has died back to a reasonable degree, as the leaves produce energy for the bulbs to give them the power to flower well for you next spring.

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Earlier plantings of gladioli and liliums should be budding up well and start flowering soon.

Keep them free of thrips and aphids with sprays of neem tree oil.

If you want a instant good show of colour then purchase a number of colour spots, that's the term used for annuals that are flowering in about 10cm pots and are well on the way to maturity. They will put on a great show if fed with the likes of manure and blood and bone.

Younger plants in punnets can be placed in between the colour spots.

Container tree When planting fruit trees in large containers make sure that the trunk is in the middle of the container. The room between it and the rim is an ideal place to plant salad plants, such as lettuce, parsley, radish, beetroot, spring onions, onions, dwarf beans etc. Not only does it make the space productive but it also helps retain moisture in the container.

Which brings me to the second point - a tree or shrub is normally conical in shape which means the outer leaves will guide rainfall to the area called the drip line, which is where the feeder roots are.

When we place this tree in a container, it is likely the foliage will divert rain water outside of the container with only a small amount actually wetting the mix. Even after a good period of rain you may have to water your more established containers as they will be fairly dry.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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