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The Weekend Australian - Life - - GARDENING - HE­LEN YOUNG

How can I pro­tect my plants, es­pe­cially the more del­i­cate ones, from burn­ing on heat­wave days?

JB, MEL­BOURNE

Wa­ter the soil thor­oughly on morn­ings of forecast hot days, as dam­age is much worse when the soil is dry. Mulch also helps main­tain soil mois­ture and tem­per­a­ture. You can wa­ter dur­ing the day, too, but wa­ter the soil, not the fo­liage. Cover vul­ner­a­ble plants with shade­cloth or an old sheet, us­ing clothes pegs to at­tach to branches or stakes. Even a beach um­brella will work. Anti-tran­spi­rants such as DroughtShield put a light poly­mer coat­ing over the fo­liage, re­duc­ing wa­ter losses from the leaf pores. It’s also good for seedlings and lasts for up to 90 days.

In my densely planted veg­etable gar­den, I use Tomato and Veg­etable Dust, but the la­bel says not to use it on cu­cum­bers. Why is that?

BOB LEATCH, ADE­LAIDE

This prod­uct con­tains three in­gre­di­ents (spine­toram, sul­phur and cop­per oxy­chlo­ride) to treat cater­pil­lars, mites and var­i­ous leaf fun­gal diseases on toma­toes, broc­coli, zuc­chi­nis and other veg­eta­bles. Cu­cum­bers and rock­mel­ons can be a lit­tle sen­si­tive to the sul­phur, po­ten­tially suf­fer­ing burn­ing of fo­liage or fruit.

Our young dwarf lemon had a dozen fruit un­til a white gooey sub­stance formed at their bases, caus­ing them to yel­low and die. Ants seem to eat the white goo. Any sug­ges­tions?

JOHN OWEN, BY EMAIL

Both mealy­bugs, pic­tured, and var­i­ous scales can clus­ter in the pro­tected ar­eas at the base of fruits. As sap­suck­ers, they ex­ude sticky hon­ey­dew that at­tracts ants seek­ing it as a food source. If it’s fea­si­ble, wipe off the worst of it wear­ing a dis­pos­able glove be­fore spray­ing thor­oughly with Na­ture’s Way Cit­rus and Or­na­men­tal Spray, or PestOil or Eco-Oil.

My gar­den is lit­tered with fallen leaves and bark from nearby gum trees. How can I use them?

JOHN TAY­LOR, SYDNEY

Eu­ca­lyp­tus leaves con­tain tan­nins and oils that can in­hibit the growth of other plants, but th­ese dis­si­pate when com­posted. Shred­ding bark and leaves with a mower or chip­per speeds de­com­po­si­tion. Add to the com­post, mixed with other in­gre­di­ents such as lawn clip­pings and veg­etable scraps, or stock­pile for a few months, keep­ing moist, be­fore spread­ing on the gar­den.

Send your ques­tions to: he­leny­oungtwig@gmail.com or He­len Young, PO Box 3098, Wil­loughby North, NSW 2068. Web­site: he­leny­oung.com.au. The best ques­tion for Jan­uary wins a set of five el­e­gant, mag­netic vases for your din­ing ta­ble, worth $72.95 from In­de­pen­dence Stu­dios (is­gift.com).

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