Pot luck for Christmas

Potted plants make bright and long-lasting gifts at Christmas. Seedlings that are planted out now into attractive pots will make good growth during the coming weeks.

GOING POTTY: Stuck for a Christmas gift? Potted plants are a great option.

GOING POTTY: Stuck for a Christmas gift? Potted plants are a great option.

Herbs used in this way will provide an attractive, as well as most useful gift. Parsley, basil, sage, oregano and different varieties of thyme will provide different leaf shapes, colours and textures. Pots that have been developed specially for use with herbs will allow the plants to spread over the edges.

Pots containing brightly-coloured annuals such as petunias are also ideal to use in this way and would be most suitable for well-lit porches, courtyards or front verandahs.

Dwarf marigolds, pansies or impatiens would also be suitable choices for pots.

People who can no longer enjoy the basic tasks of gardening, due to disability, will then be able to enjoy the bright colours displayed in these pots. Residents in hostels and nursing homes will appreciate the efforts you have made.

Seedlings should be planted into a premium potting mix as this will help to ensure prolonged flowering. Water saving crystals that have been added to the soil mixture will assist with water retention, thus reducing the frequency of watering required, particularly during periods of hot temperatures.

PEST BUSTERS

A survey of the average home vegetable gardener, asking them to name the main pests in their garden, would probably include slugs and snails in most lists. These pests attack young, juicy fruits and vegetables, particularly strawberries, and can cause considerable damage in a very short time.

The traditional treatment has involved the use of snail baits that have proved very toxic, sometimes fatal, to family pets such as dogs, not to mention the danger to young children.

Gardeners can use traditional baits in ways that minimize the risk of danger to children and pets. Baits can be placed into containers such as margarine containers, with holes cut around the outside. The lid can be securely fixed to the main container, which is then inverted and placed onto the ground. The snails will be attracted to the baits and enter the container.

However, over recent years, much more environmentally friendly and non-toxic products and methods of control have been developed, including:

* A margarine container can be half-filled with beer and placed near plants that are attractive to snails.

* A mixture consisting of 40g of flour and 5g of sugar can be added to several cups of warm water and then formed into baits.

* Eggshells can be crushed and placed to form a protective barrier around susceptible plants. Sawdust can also be used as barriers as slugs dislike moving over it.

* Plants that are lime-tolerant can have a mixture of equal parts of lime and salt sprinkled around plants, using a mixture of equal parts of lime, bran and soot.

* Bran that has been scattered around the garden will attract slugs so they eat it and then die. Snails are also attracted to the bran and can then be easily collected for disposal.

Creating an environmentally friendly garden that is attractive to native animals, especially blue-tongued lizards, is an effective way to help control snails. Shelters for the lizards, in the form of pieces of down-pipe, tubes or other similarly shaped items can be placed underneath plants and along fence lines.

Strawberries should be harvested regularly as this will also help to control damage from snails.

CONTROL APHIDS 

Aphids are capable of much damage and inconvenience in the home garden. They will appear as small, shiny rather plump insects that cover new plant growth and flower buds. Their numbers will often be quite extensive.

Aphids prefer milder temperatures and come in a range of colours. They cause damage by piercing the young, tender plant material that is prevalent at this time of the year.

Then they proceed to suck out the juices from the plant, leaving young stems very wilted. They also produce a sweet, sugary substance that creates a film over parts of the plant. This sticky film is the breeding ground for black sooty mould.

By feeding on the young plant stems, aphids can result in the plant stems becoming distorted or failing to open properly. Because of their movement from one plant to another, aphids can be responsible for transferring virus diseases from diseased plants to healthy ones.

When attempting to control and destroy aphids that have invaded the garden, several factors need to be considered.

For small numbers, they can be squeezed from the plant tips and destroyed. Larger numbers can be removed by spraying the plant with a sharp jet of water.

Aphids have several natural predators and the encouraging of these will reduce numbers. Ladybirds, hoverflies and other friendly insects all feed on the aphids. Because of this fact, the use of non-or low toxic sprays is preferable. Confidor is absorbed into the plant’s system, remaining there for a reasonable amount of time. This means that as the aphids suck the plant juices they are also absorbing the material that is toxic to them. As it doesn’t require frequent re-applications, this spray will cause minimal damage to aphid predators.

geoffh.gardening@gmail.com

Maitland and District Garden Club

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