Bindiis are perhaps the most common cause of distress in summer outdoors activities, as their sharp, spiny seeds cause great discomfort.
However, young Bindii plants may not be easily recognised as the plants that will later develop into the summer problems.
Small, ferny green patches that appear in lawns from now on are the young plants. Various methods of treatment are available and the winter months are the ideal time for these to be carried out, before the sharp seeds have formed.
Lawns that are cut low will encourage the formation of bindiis, while leaving the mower blades at a higher setting will encourage the grass plants to grow and choke out the bindiis. If the area of bindiis is not too large, then digging out the plants by hand will be the most successful.
Sprays can be applied to help eradicate the plants. While commercially available chemicals can be used, an environmentally friendly solution can be made by dissolving two tablespoons of iron sulphate in 4.5 litres of water and spraying the solution on the plants.
Cauliflowers are a very popular vegetable but they are perhaps one of the more difficult ones to grow.
However, most problems encountered in their growing, result from incorrect preparation prior to planting. The first requirement is that the plants are grown in rich, deep soil, and, secondly, that they are grown without interruption to their growth. Regular watering is also a necessity.
The addition of well-rotted compost or manure prior to planting, so that the soil becomes firm, will create good growing conditions.
The addition of lime if the soil is too acidic is necessary. A general fertiliser can be applied over the soil. It should be raked gently into the surface rather than being dug in, thus helping to maintain firmness in the soil.
Cauliflowers seedlings should be placed about 75cm apart. Quick-growing crops such as lettuce or leaf-salad vegetables can be planted in between the cauliflowers.
Applications of leaf fertilisers will ensure the plants maintain good and strong growth.
Caterpillars and aphids are two of the more common problems experienced when growing cauliflowers. Regular observation of the plants will enable better control and young caterpillars can be removed by hand.
The placing of marigold plants in the garden will attract helpful insects that will help to control aphids. Spraying using a pyrethrum-based spray might be necessary to reduce a severe infestation.
Harvesting should commence with smaller heads to avoid a glut of produce.
Two flowering bulbs that are often confused and misnamed are snowdrops and snowflakes. These plants grow very well under other shrubs, such as magnolias and camellias, where they contribute very well to the winter scene. The flowers first appear in the early winter months, producing their white flower heads that hang gracefully from their stems and move gently in any breeze.
Small green markings on the edges of the petals distinguish snowflakes and add to their appeal. They are the more commonly available of the two varieties of bulbs, but are a most worthwhile addition to the winter garden. They are more suitable to warmer areas than snowdrops which prefer colder areas.
Snowdrops have dainty white bell-shaped flowers, with three more prominent outer petals that cover inner petals that also have a green edge.
Their long, strappy green foliage is also quite attractive. Snowdrops / snowflakes are very hardy plants and will generally reappear each year in late autumn; especially if they have been planted in a cooler section of the garden. They also grow very successfully in containers.
Tomatoes can usually be purchased as semi-advanced seedlings. However, it is also possible to raise plants from seeds. This method will allow a wider range of choice of variety. Seeds sown now will produce plants that will have fruit in early to mid-summer.
Seeds sown now will probably benefit from being grown indoors in the early stages, in order to avoid colder temperatures that would slow their growth. Sowing the seeds in a seed raising mixture that has been placed into a smaller container, such as a recycled yoghurt container, will allow for ease of movement.
If "biodegradable" containers are preferred, these can be made by wrapping empty toilet rolls in paper, filling them with soil and then placing them into a plastic container such as an ice-cream container.
When it is time to place the plant into the ground or a large pot, the whole container can be placed into the soil, where the toilet roll wrapper will eventually decompose into the soil. The containers can be placed onto a window sill, where they will receive warmth and light.
Two or three seeds should be placed into each pot. When the plants have started to grow, the weaker plants can be thinned out to allow the other seedling to develop into a strong plant. Once the container is full of roots, the plant can be moved into a slightly larger container.
As the pots become too large to remain on the window sill, they can be moved to a sheltered, warmer position outdoors. This might be against a sunny, north-facing wall or fence. It is important to remember to keep an adequate supply of water up to the plants so that they do not dry out, causing the tender, young roots to burn.