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 half-filled with beer and placed near plants that are attractive to snails.
A mixture consisting of 40g of flour and 5g of sugar added to several cups of warm water and then formed into baits.
Eggshells can be crushed and placed to form a protective barrier. 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.
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 under plants and along fences.
A DIFFERENT PEST
Scale on citrus trees is one of the more common pests that appear now. The gardener may not be aware that the sucking insects have attached themselves to the branches and leaves until they notice a trail of ants on the plant.
The scales exude a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew that is attractive to ants. The ants assist in spreading the scale over the plants in order for them to produce more honeydew.
Honeydew also leads to the appearance of a sooty mould that is actually a black dusty fungus. It will soon will soon appear on leaves and stems. If allowed to remain,, the sooty mould will stunt plant growth.
Therefore, removal of the scales is necessary for the control and removal of sooty mould.
Small amounts of scale can be removed by scraping the stem and leaves with a toothbrush. However, larger infestations will require spraying with oil, which will suffocate them.
Make the oil spray by blending two cups of vegetable oil with one cup of pure liquid soap, and mix it until it turns white. Dilute one tablespoon of the emulsion to one litre of water and spray all affected areas thoroughly. Do this during mild weather, because if it' s hot it may burn the plant's leaves.
Aubergines, or eggplants, are one of the less-frequently grown vegetable. However, they grow well in home vegetable gardens, producing a good supply of the familiar deep purple fruits.
Seeds may be sown in seed trays and planted out in about 5 weeks.
Seedlings should be planted out into soil that has been enriched with compost. The soil should have begun to warm up before eggplants are planted out.
Plants may require staking as the heavy fruits may cause the plants to fall over.
When harvesting, the use of scissors or a sharp knife is recommended to avoid damaging the stems.
Eggplants can be grown successfully in the same vegetable bed as beans, capsicum, lettuce and thyme. They are relatives of tomatoes and, as such, have the same soil requirements. Avoiding planting them in gardens where tomatoes have recently been grown would be good planning. Planting them near potatoes should be avoided.
Traditional eggplants are the deep purple varieties. However, they are also available with fruits in a range of colours including pink, white, green and lavender. Lebanese eggplants produce long, skinny fruits. They are very easy to grow and make good specimens for pot or container growing. Because they produce small fruits they are quicker to harvest.
Many different types if irises are available for the home garden, some suiting particular situations and growing conditions.
The variety that will be flowering soon is known as the bearded iris, so named because of the shape, structure and appearance of the large petals that hang down from the main part of the flower.
The flowers are very regal and yet delicate in appearance, with beautiful colour combinations available in named varieties.
Irises grow from rhizomes, forming dense clumps of foliage in the shape of fans of sword-like leaves.
Bearded iris must have the rhizomes exposed to sun for extended periods of time for flowers to form. Plants growing in shade will usually fail to flower.
Propagation is usually by division of the rhizome when plants are dormant.
Maitland and District Garden Club