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Wally Richards – getting your flower gardens ready for autumn

Well gardeners, its mid February already and the last month of summer, not that it has seemed much like summer for most of us over the last couple of months, but that’s the weather for you.

Now is time to look around your annual flowering plants in containers and gardens to see what is going to be ok for the next few months, what can be spruced up and what needs to be replaced.

Annuals that have being flowering for sometime that have past ‘their use-by date’ should be taken out for replacement.

Annuals such as Petunias and Impatiens that have given a good show, but now are getting a bit leggy and scraggly should be trimmed back with a good pair of scissors. If you want to retain some colour or flowers, then rather than have a gap, before they re-flower again, selectively cut back. This means cutting back the outside of the plant and leaving the middle part flowering. Later when the outside is starting to flower again then cut back the middle. Or maybe do half the plant now and the other half later. Use whichever method suits you best.

It is important to feed all the flower plants that you do this to, to bring on the new growth, so use blood and bone with sheep manure pellets, side dressed to to give them a boost. A faster booster would be to dissolve some nitrogen or chook manure in water and water this around the root zone.

Now is also the time to look at the autumn flowering plants that are currently available through your local Garden Centre.

Chrysanthemums called Mini Mums are now in and these young plants will quickly grow and flower over the next few months. Ideal for containers, both indoors and out, as bedding plants and for cut flowers. Chrysanthemums are not an annual so you will have years of pleasure from them.
Pansies for Autumn are also now in and there is a tremendous range to choose from. Give them a more shaded situation at this time, whether in pots or in the garden and remember to keep them moist. They are very quick to mature and flower so you will obtain a great show in no time. Dried Blood under the pansies at planting time also helps the plant establish quickly and gives a lovely dark green foliage, less susceptible to mildew and brighter coloured flowers.

Seedlings of polyanthus and primulas are now coming available and these should be planted out over the next couple of months for winter flowering.

FRUIT TREES
Citrus trees are fairly free of most disease problems and a twice yearly spray of Liquid Copper normally keeps them clean and healthy. Scale and mealy bugs are the two pests most likely to attack citrus trees, if this happens one or two sprays of Neem Tree Oil should sort them out.

Citrus tree borer can destroy a prize citrus tree over time. One gardener gave me his answer to control the pest and that is to soak an inch wide strip of felt with a solution of Neem tree oil and water 50:50 and wrap the felt around the trunk or the branch that has the borer. Use drawing pins to hold secure and cover will food wrap. Leave on for 3-4 weeks and then remove. Exit holes in the tree should be sealed with a coat of paint as it is these holes that allow the females to enter the tree and lay more eggs.
Fruit trees, with silver leaf, if not too bad at this time, can be saved by a few monthly sprays of Perkfection. Its always a pity to lose a fruit tree so save them, or protect them from this otherwise fatal disease. Fruit trees or roses (which are also prone to silver leaf disease) but are not showing any silvering will also benefit from a couple of sprays of the same product each year.

Plum, pear and cherry trees may have the black cherry slug eating the leaves at this time and a spray of Liquid Copper with Raingard will stop them in their tracks. If you allow too much damage to occur to the foliage you will reduce the size of your crop next season.

PESTS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Mites (spider mites) have been especially bad this summer and many plants including roses may have bad infestations right now. The mites are very small and hard to see as they often just appear as dust-like particles on the foliage. Being spiders, sometimes they are noticed by the very small webs they weave. Discoloured foliage is a good sign they are present but unfortunately by the time the foliage is damaged they have got a real hold on your plant. They are unlikely to kill the plant but they certainly cause a lot of damage and it can set back a good plant, and may take a year to recover. One or two sprays of liquid Sulphur will sort them out.

Thrips are also another microscopic insect and like wise, are very active at this time. You will certainly notice them on your gladioli if you haven’t been spraying for them.

Check also your beans, Camellias, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, tomatoes, cubits, strawberry plants and other ornamentals. Use sprays of Neem Tree Oil to control.

Caterpillars will be into your cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli about this time, maybe also the loop caterpillars on tomatoes and corn. Neem Oil can be used to control them and sprinkle Neem Tree Granules on the soil beneath the plants for longer term control.

If you can keep the pests under control and prevent them from building up too greater numbers, then your plants and gardens will be the better for it.

VALENTINES DAY
It will be Valentines day on the 14th and a good time to give your loved one a living gift to celebrate the occasion. There is a good selection of roses available from the mini-roses which are always very popular
through to the red carpet rose.

Red roses are the traditional flower for Valentines day but there is no need to only keep to tradition as there are a number of lovely, living gifts of plants that are more than suitable to celebrate the occasion.
Take for instance Paradise Red, a member of the family, New Guinea Hybrid Impatiens, with their extra large red flowers which are ideal as an indoor pot plant or excellent for sheltered patios.

A house plant maybe the order of the day as these can be grown in your loved ones office or home.

Then of course there are Gardening Gift Vouchers that along with a Valentine Day card will appeal to everyone. If you have a number of people you wish to give something to for Valentines Day then either mini-roses or colour spots are going to fill the bill and not make a hole in your bank account.
Just remember that for a suitable living gift for the occasion you cant go past your own local Garden Centre and if no one sends you a Valentine’s gift, then treat yourself to a plant of your own choice

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