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Citrus trees

Last updated 05:00 21/02/2014

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Citrus trees: February to March is time for the last application of a balanced fruit tree fertiliser before the cold weather sets in.

If we feed too late, it promotes young soft growth that is then prone to damage later. A final dressing of magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) in April is beneficial in helping harden growth and making foliage a deep green colour.

Citrus benefits from regular year-round monthly sprays of copper to prevent several fungi attacking fruit and foliage.

Once the summer heat and dry has passed and the trees are not under stress it's also a good idea to give all citrus two to three sprays of evergreen-strength spraying oil, four to five weeks apart. This keeps away problems like scale, woolly aphid, spider mite and leaf roller caterpillars, ensuring your tree is off to a clean start for next summer. Organic alternatives for the above are neem oil or granules, pyrethrum or horticultural soap sprays. Veges: Make sure you are regularly watering crops like potatoes, tomatoes and capsicums. The odd light showers we are getting can be deceiving when it comes to getting moisture deeper into the root zone. Lack of moisture can result in potatoes having all tops and little tubers, plus capsicums and tomatoes with small, leathery skinned fruit. Soaker hoses combined with mulch assist greatly at this time of year.

Flower garden: Perennial petunias and verbena may be starting to look a little stretched and spindly after exhaustive spring and summer flowering. If yours are looking a little tired, now is the time to give them a good trim and topdress with a non-burning, slow-release granule fertiliser to encourage a fresh flush of blooms.

Amaryllis or hippeastrum bulbs are nearing the end of their flowering season. This is an important time if you want them to flower again next year. Firstly, remove any seed pods that are setting but leave the stem to die down naturally. Place the plant in its pot in a sheltered, semi-shady position, feed regularly for the next two months and continue regular watering. Some time from mid to the end of April, stop all feeding and watering and place pots on their side in a dry, cool place for winter dormancy to take place. It is most important that hippeastrums have this rest period and gather nutrients from their leaves and they dry off in readiness to produce these huge, gorgeous blooms next summer.

These tips have been supplied by Adrian McLeod and his crew at Fairfields Garden Centre, on the outskirts of New Plymouth.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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