GARDENING: Falling leaves reveal all

Deciduous trees, particularly deciduous fruit trees, should receive some attention at this time of the year. Once they lose their leaves it is much easier to examine the trunks and stems for any damage that may have occurred from attacks by different insects.

Loose leaves and bark should be removed from around the base of the tree, as well as branch junctions. This will assist in removing insects that may be harbouring in the loose material.

BUG BITES: Winter is a good time to examine the trunks and stems of deciduous fruit trees for any damage that may have occurred from attacks by different insects.

BUG BITES: Winter is a good time to examine the trunks and stems of deciduous fruit trees for any damage that may have occurred from attacks by different insects.

Any damage by borers will be quite evident as trails of a sawdust-like material on the bark’s surface. The material should be removed, leaving an indentation in the bark as well as a hole. The borer will be in the bark and can be removed by a number of methods. A piece of flexible wire can be inserted into the hole, locating and destroying the grub. A spray can also be applied to the hole, which can then be sealed with putty or a similar material.

A mixture of lime sulphur can be sprayed to all the surfaces of the tree as this will clean up spores, as well as providing a nitrogen supplement. A comprehensive copper spray can be applied to all deciduous plants in the garden, even fruit trees that have not fully lost their leaves. Mealy bugs and scale, which typically gather in the loose bark and can survive there over the winter months, can be removed with white oil.

CHEMICAL CLEAN

Gardeners who use chemical sprays in their gardens can accumulate a variety of chemicals that have been purchased to deal with a wide variety of situations. These can include pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, in addition to the spraying equipment used to dispense the chemicals.

Older products will often contain poisons that have been superseded by newer, safer products that generally have a low toxicity or have an organic base. Containers should be checked for use-by dates and those that have reached their limit should be disposed of. In general, they will have lost their effectiveness in controlling the problem for which they have been developed. Any containers that are leaking should also be disposed of. However, it is important to consider the method of disposal, as simply placing the chemicals in the rubbish bin may contribute to contamination of the rubbish disposal area. The local council can be contacted to determine safe disposal options.

Spraying equipment can be cleaner and checked to ensure they work effectively. It is important to have one piece of equipment that is used solely for weedkillers. Using the equipment for the application of other chemicals may result in small amounts of residue being present, causing unwanted damage, or even destruction, to plants.

PRUNE TIME

Hydrangea bushes are one of the delights of the summer garden when they become covered in large, flowering heads in shades of pink and blue. The traditional, old-fashioned varieties grow to large bushes, while newer varieties are usually more compact, often with more unusual flowers.

Because of the differences in growth, pruning methods for hydrangeas vary according to the actual type of bush and its growth habit.

Older varieties can grow quite tall, so they can be pruned harder than other plants. As with most plants, any dead canes should be removed at the base of the plant. The remaining canes can be cut back to a pair of buds, as this will be where the flowers will be produced from in summer. However, if the plant has become very large, it may be beneficial to be more vigorous in an attempt to rejuvenate the plant. In this instance, the canes could be cut back to about a metre from the ground. This will encourage the production of new shoots from the base. However, these canes will take two summers to produce flowers, but the overall result will be a more manageable, productive plant.

Modern, smaller growing varieties generally only need to have the old, dead flower heads removed from the canes, cutting them back to a pair of plump buds. 

Some gardeners prefer to prune their hydrangeas in February, once the summer flowering has finished. In these cases, pruning now will mainly involve the removal of any dead canes. These should be cut off at the base of the plant. However, any canes that did not produce flowers in the last season should not be pruned back as they will flower next summer.

THE VEGE GARDEN

CHOP: Pruning methods for hydrangeas vary according to the actual type of bush and its growth habit.

CHOP: Pruning methods for hydrangeas vary according to the actual type of bush and its growth habit.

Broad beans grow easily from seed planted out now. However, the pods will not form until the weather starts to warm up in spring. It is preferable to pick the pods when they are young and tender. Once harvesting has finished, the plants should be dug into the soil as they will add nitrogen to the soil.

Plants that are commonly grown as spinach are often actually silver beet. Traditional English spinach is much more tender than silver beet, which has large, crinkled leaves that are more strongly flavoured. However, English spinach can be difficult to grow if the weather becomes warm. A “Perpetual” form of silver beet, which is more like spinach in growth and flavour, is now available. Its name comes from the plant lasting for more than one season.

The monthly meeting of Maitland and District Garden Club will be held on Friday, May 27, in the Masonic Hall, Grant Street, Maitland, commencing at 7.30pm. The guest speaker will bring information about bees in the garden. Visitors welcome.

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