Q. For a cou­ple of years now my dahlias have been in­vaded by ear­wigs. How can I get rid of them?

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Q. My le­mon tree has very few leaves on it. It’s planted in a large con­tainer and is about five years old. It hasn’t been frosted and it’s shel­tered from wind. Do le­mon trees nor­mally lose their leaves over win­ter?

A. No, they don’t. Le­mon trees are ever­green, so your tree is telling you it’s not happy. It’s prob­a­bly hun­gry. Cit­rus are gross feed­ers, so when nu­tri­ents are in short sup­ply, their leaves of­ten turn yel­low, drop off or sim­ply don’t grow.

Any fer­tiliser that was in­cor­po­rated in your pot­ting mix when you orig­i­nally planted it will have long since been de­pleted. Pot­ted cit­rus need a reg­u­lar feed­ing regime.

Wait un­til spring, then ap­ply a slow-re­lease fer­tiliser and give your plant a monthly feed of liq­uid fer­tiliser too. A. Ear­wigs tend to hide away dur­ing the day – of­ten within the petals of var­i­ous or­na­men­tals, in­clud­ing dahlias, zin­nias and chrysan­the­mums – and come out at night to feast on them. In my gar­den, too, the ear­wigs take up res­i­dence in my dahlias.

The best so­lu­tion is to pro­vide another home for them. Turn a small flow­er­pot up­side down (I like the small ter­ra­cotta ones), stuff it with straw or shred­ded pa­per and place this on top of a gar­den stake that’s po­si­tioned be­side your dahlias. Fill sev­eral if nec­es­sary and place them around the gar­den. The up­turned flow­er­pots make an ideal hid­ing spot for ear­wigs dur­ing the day. Leave them for a few days then go out dur­ing the day and see if they’ve taken up res­i­dence. Then drop them into hot soap wa­ter. You can also smear the top part of the dahlia stems with pe­tro­leum jelly or some such, be­fore the buds open, to keep the ear­wigs away from the blooms.

Q. My chives are very slow grow­ing and seem to at­tract black aphids. What can I do?

A. The black aphids are usu­ally a sign of wa­ter stress. Chives need wa­ter to keep them grow­ing well. You can sim­ply blast the aphids off with a spray of wa­ter. Do that if they ap­pear again and even­tu­ally they’ll get the mes­sage – so long as you keep wa­ter­ing your chives reg­u­larly.

Chives can also be fed with a fer­tiliser that’s high in ni­tro­gen to get them off to a good start. You can sprin­kle blood and bone around them or use a liq­uid fer­tiliser. Each year I give my chives a liq­uid feed late win­ter/ early spring, sprin­kle blood and bone around them and let them grow. I feed them again only after the clump has been en­tirely har­vested. Once that clump has been har­vested I move on to the next. They don’t usu­ally need any fur­ther feed­ing, but if yours are still look­ing sad, you could give them another liq­uid feed.

Visit Jane’s blogs: flam­ing­petal.co.nz and sweet­liv­ing­magazine .co.nz

Need feed: Le­mon trees are hun­gry feed­ers.

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