Review

Caring for plants and gardens

Autumn is here, lovely! Now is the time for planting winter annuals such as marigolds, salvias, Iceland poppies and phlox (beautiful cat’s whiskers in reds, whites, pinks and purples). Buy bulbs from any nursery – there’s a good one in King Street, Newtown, another in Alexandria – and plant in pots. As a general rule of thumb, dig to double the width of the bulb. Buying from a nursery may cost a little more, but you often get better quality plants and, of course, advice from someone who really knows about gardening.

Lime tree leaves infested by leaf miners. Photo: Andrew Collis
Lime tree leaves infested by leaf miners. Photo: Andrew Collis

I’m aware that some readers enjoy growing fruit trees. A few basic tips. Remove any leaves that appear eaten or affected by fungi, viruses or pests. Those white squiggly lines on a leaf are a trademark of leaf miners, insect larvae that hatch from eggs deposited between the upper and lower surface of leaves. The hungry larvae munch their way around the leaf, leaving a telltale white trail or tunnel.

Leaf miners can be very difficult to control because they hide inside the leaf. Luckily, leaf miner damage is mostly cosmetic, but here are some tips for controlling them: pick off and destroy any affected leaves and leaf miner larvae; grow your fruit trees and veggies organically, without the use of sprays or chemicals that could upset the balance of beneficial predator insects; keep your plants healthy and well-watered, so they can recover from the infestation (and the necessary leaf-plucking); keep your garden clean and free of weeds or debris that can harbour insects and diseases.

Next month I’ll address the challenge of gardening in small spaces like window sills and balconies.

Au revoir,

Chris

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