Rockvale Stone & Garden

First frost on Monday night, February???
Because of this years Summer rain, trees, Shrubs and plants will continue to put out new growth while the ground stays warm and moist – here’s hoping for Summer continuing into Autumn and Autumn continuing well into what should be Winter.
My wheelbarrow has been busy this week – with so much growth the cutting back seems endless. Any plant or bush that has finished flowering needs cut back to where the new growth is starting to appear.
Hebes finish flowering and make seed very quickly. Cut all those seed heads and stems off – the bush will look bare but will soon push out new growth and stay the size you require it to be. Photinia bushes and hedges trimmed now will reward you with new bright red foliage in April / May.
Roses will be enjoying the bursts of rain – but with the sun so hot at other times, the ground and roots become dry, roots drying out between waterings will respond with yellowing leaves, -rust and black spot. Don’t be alarmed – these are usually old leaves, but will soon spread to new leaves if left. Remove them before they fall and spread disease into the ground – even if it means removing most of the bush – new leaves will soon take their place. Roses should continue budding up and flowering for many more weeks.
Buddleias, ( the butterfly bush) tall thin arching branches with grey/blue leaves and lavender, purple or pink long narrow flower heads: cut them back almost to the ground when they have finished flowering. They grow back very quickly and are best grown at the back of a border.
Garden centres are full of lovely bedding plants and Shrubs right now. Read labels regarding where to plant – sun/shade. With shrubs frost tolerance is important – I have noticed some tender Shrubs not suitable for hard frost areas on offer – they look nice but have probably been grown under cover and would not cope with frosts if planted out in the open – in pots under cover they should be ok.
The evidence of grass grub will soon be noticeable in tree shaded area. The adult brown beetles tend to lay eggs under the trees they feed on. There was an absence of product for a couple of years, but I see there are choices back on the market. Eggs of the NZ grass grub are laid in the soil during Summer – normally hatching after about 2 weeks. The small larvae feed on the grass roots, infested grass dies off leaving a dead mat. The grubs can feed about 15 cm below the soil surface but right now they should be only 5cm below. Control of the grub requires getting insecticide to this level in the soil. Treatment is most effective from Feb to March. This has been a strange fruiting season – my Raspberries flowered, started to fruit then stopped in the early stages. Apricots were few compared to last year – as were the Strawberries, Apples and Quince. Late Peach & Walnuts are plentiful, but my Grapes have succumbed to powdery mildew again. I am going to try this organic method which is said to be fast, inexpensive and backed by science.
Mix 1 part whole milk and 9 parts water and thoroughly spray affected plants. Spraying in full sun works the best. Spray once a week, but don’t spray more often than that because it can cause another kind of mould to grow on your plants. This technique was developed specifically for Zucchini by a Brazilian scientist named Wagner Bettiol, www.sciencenews.org/blog/food-thought/dairy-solution-mildew-woes. Bettiol’s research triggered an organic gardener and vintner, David Bruer to try the milk mixture on his vineyards. And guess what? It worked there too! I am sure this method would be best applied just as leaves open, but I have given my Grapes, with fully grown leaves a good drowning with this mix and now await results.
Keep planting all vegetable plants in rotation…if you now have a space where root veg were growing, fill it with leafy veg and vice versa. Any spaces you have vacant, fill with a green crop – Wheat, Barley, Oats, Blue Lupin or Mustard seed. Dig into the soil before it flowers. The humus created from a green crop is about the very best thing you can do for tired soil.
Cheers, Linda.

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