Get in first before aphids bloom


Being a good spotter is half the battle in solving gardening problems.

Gardeners who keep their eyes open as they go around their gardens can spot problems as they begin to happen.

One of the best times to do this is when you are hand watering plants with a soft shower wand; while the right hand is holding the hose, you can fold back leaves with your left hand and check for pests or problems. Some problems are seasonal and come in cycles, and knowing these cycles also makes you aware to be on the lookout for them.

Aphids are in season at the moment and they can be found on your roses and some other plants.

On the roses they will be around the new growths and the flower buds. If you leave them, their populations will quickly build up and this will likely diminish the flowering display. Aphids suck the sap of plants and in doing so remove the plants' energy, resulting in poorer growth, twisted leaves and damaged flowers. Aphids are not hard to kill and if you have only a few roses you may simply run your fingers over the pests and gently squash them without harming the plant.

For those with a lot of roses, it is better to use a safe spray to knock them over, such as Key Pyrethrum.

Use it late in the day just before dusk; make up say 5 litres of spray using 5 millilitres of Key Pyrethrum, 25ml of Neem tree oil and 50ml of Magic Botanic Liquid.

The pyrethrum is a quick knockdown that should kill off most of the aphids within a day. The Neem tree oil will aid in the control of any missed, or new aphids arriving during the next week. This natural oil will also aid in the reduction of diseases such as black spot, rust and mildews. The Magic Botanic Liquid will also assist in keeping the roses free of diseases, supply extra minerals to the foliage and aid in the health of the plants.

The reason for spraying near dusk is that pyrethrum is quickly broken down by ultra-violet light, in fact within a couple of hours, if sprayed earlier in the day.

At dusk it is going to be active all night till the next day.

Now that your roses are coming into bud and flower, start applying about a teaspoon of Fruit and Flower Power every four to six weeks. The potassium aids in flowering and the magnesium aids the deep green of the foliage.

In fact any other plants that are coming into flowering or setting fruit will do better with a small regular dose of these two minerals.

Tomatoes will be doing well if in a sheltered, sunny spot. Those out in the open will be much slower to grow because of the weather and cold snaps.

I have kept my tomato plants in containers in the glasshouse, waiting for the weather to settle before starting to put them outdoors.

When I decide it is time to put them out I will, a couple of days beforehand, give them a spray all over with Vaporgard.

This hardens the plants up and stops any transplant shock.

Tomatoes in containers must be given adequate water to prevent the compost from drying out, if not you will get blossom end rot which is that black patch on the bottom of the fruit.

Removing laterals on tomatoes can allow diseases to enter the plant, which will often result in losses.

If botrytis enters the tomato where you remove a lateral or leaf, then it will cause a rotting on a branch or on the trunk. The plant begins to wilt and the wilting progressively gets worse till a branch or the whole plant is lost. There are two rules you must follow when removing laterals (side shoots) or leaves, do not do so when the air is moist as moist air carries the disease spores.

Next; as soon as you remove a lateral, spray the damaged area with a squirt of liquid copper.

You can make up the copper in a small trigger sprayer and as long as you give it a good shake before using each time it will keep well.

Strawberries planted in winter should be doing well by now and if they are first-year plants, still a bit on the small size, you should remove some of the early flowers so the plants can grow bigger before you let them fruit. Spray the strawberry plants every two weeks or so with Mycorrcin. This simple, natural spray feeds the beneficial microbes, which will not only keep the plants healthy but can significantly increase your crop yield.

Problems? Phone me on 0800 466 464 or email

The Southland Times