How can I protect my plants, especially the more delicate ones, from burning on heatwave days?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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).