Warmer weather has encouraged azalea plants to burst into their bright blooms that form a significant part of the spring garden landscape.
However, gardeners can sometimes be disappointed when they see their blooms turning brown and papery before they have reached their full colourful display. The blooms shrivel and remain on the plant for several weeks, creating quite an unsightly spectacle.
This phenomenon is caused by a fungal disease known as petal blight. The first sign of the disease is the appearance of brown or transparent spots on the flowers that may be mistaken for water damage to the petals.
The disease is spread by windblown spore and once the symptoms have been identified it is too late to prevent the damage it causes.
The main effective way to control the disease is through the use of regular spraying, using an azalea fungicide. Spraying should be commenced as soon as the flower bud begins to show colour and needs to continue until flowering is complete.
Petal blight spreads rapidly under certain weather conditions that include high humidity and rain. While recent and current conditions have not included rain, watering practices can cause similar conditions.
Overhead watering should be avoided as this will leaves water in the surface of the leaves and petals and, when combined with higher temperatures, can lead to a rise in humidity levels around the plants.
Chives are members of the onion family, along with shallots and garlic, and form a valuable addition to the vegetable or herb garden. Plants of chives also form an attractive addition to the ordinary garden, producing clumps of bright green, cylindrical leaves.
Pink, purple or white flowers, in a 'pompom' style, are also features.
Plants should be placed in fertile, moist soil in a sunny or semi-shaded position. If grown from seed, the soil temperature should be over 19 degrees for germination to take place. Otherwise larger clumps can be divided, lifting and replanting the smaller clumps of plants 10-15cm apart.
Plants growing in cooler areas may die down in winter but new shoots will soon appear during spring. Stems can be harvested as required, or the plant's stems can be reduced to about 3cm in height four times in a year.
As well as growing chives in the garden, they also make good specimens for pot culture, placing them in an area where they can be easily accessed.
For a more informal garden, plants of chives can be combined with ornamental grasses and lower growing perennials.
Succulents are mainly grown for their colourful foliage which can be quite ornamental and create dramatic landscaping effects when mass planted in the garden or in containers.
They are some of the most water-efficient plants that a gardener can include in their garden as they require very little watering, even in the warmer summer months.
An additional benefit from many succulents is that they produce bright, showy flowers, often in late winter and early spring. Some flowers cover the plant in a mass of colour, while others produce taller stems that feature bell-shaped flowers, often in the colours of red, yellow and orange.
One particular group of succulents that is in full bloom now is the kalanchoe.
Kalanchoes produce flowers in red, orange, white, yellow and pink. Once the bright flowers have finished, a dead stalk will remain. This should be removed from the plant. Kalanchoes perform best in a soil that is free-draining.
They make good specimens when grown in pots, but they are also most effective when used as garden borders.
Carrots that are grown in the home garden will have a more intense flavour that those bought from retail suppliers. Carrots are a very versatile vegetable to grow, being suitable to be eaten both raw and when cooked. It is a hardy root vegetable that grows well in deep cool soil.
The young grass-like plants take about three weeks to appear. Seeds may be sown in rows, or broadcast over the garden. Mixing radish and carrot seeds will indicate where the area sown. The area selected for sowing carrot seeds should not be over fertilised as this may produce split toots.
Carrots should be sown in different areas each year for four or five years, in order to reduce the incidence of disease.
Carrots may also be grown in containers that are more than 30cm in depth.
Young carrots may be harvested as they will be sweeter in flavour. This will also allow other carrots to grow to a larger size. The first carrots will be ready for harvest between 60 and 75 days.
If successive crops are planted every couple of weeks then the harvesting time will be extended.
Because of the small nature of carrot seeds it is easy to overplant the seeds. Small plants may need to be removed at germination in order to allow sufficient room for the mature plants to develop.
As seedlings appear, mulch can be applied in an effort to maintain even moisture levels, as well as reducing weed germination and development.
Moisture levels should be maintained of possible. A sudden application of water my result in splitting of the roots.
Because the small, thin feeder roots on carrots are easily damaged, weeds should be removed by hand. The crowns of carrots should be covered with mulch or soil until harvesting.