Cloeme a great plant bug catcher
PLANT MORE CLEOME
Cleome are one of the best ‘‘catch plants’’ for attracting green vege bugs away from your beans and tomatoes. They are tall (around 1.5m), robust flowers that don’t seem to be too badly affected by the bugs if you pick them off regularly. Their botanical name, Cleome spinosa, gives a warning, so watch out for the prickly stems. The thorns on mature stems can easily pierce a gardening glove. As well as their bug patrol duties, cleomes are worth growing for the pink, mauve or white flowers as they bloom for months – right through to late autumn. Sow seeds (from Kings Seeds) directly the garden or in trays in spring. Grow in full sun or semi-shade. I plant mine close together (25cm) and let them grow tall and slim at the back of the border. You’ll get more flowers on stockier plants if they’re planted 50cm apart and you pinch out the growing tips when the seedlings are 6-10cm tall.
The best time for hunting green vege bugs is first thing in the morning when they are sluggish. As cold-blooded insects they need the heat of the sun in order to warm up enough to move quickly. Knock them into a jar of soapy water or stomp on them when they land on the ground.
MAKE YOUR OWN DIY FLY TRAP
I know flies have a useful role to play in the great circle of life, but I would rather they weren’t circling round my kitchen. The first blowfly of summer buzzed in last week so it’s time to refresh the fly traps. A female blowfly can lay 150-200 eggs at a time and around 2,000 eggs over the course of her lifetime. Hopefully, disposing of flies in early summer will cut down the numbers in the coming months. For the past two years I’ve used a McGregor’s Bye Bye Bugs Fly Trap from Bunnings. The supplied bait is a smelly brew that attracts the flies but is non-toxic. The flies can get in the holes in the lid but can’t fly back out. They eventually die and fall into the liquid. The water level needs topping up when it dries out and the traps need to be emptied when they start to fill up. When the supplied bait ran out, I used a mixture of yeast, a little sugar and some warm water. After a couple of days building up a stink it worked just as well as the commercial product. Other ideas for bait include a small piece of meat or rotting fruit, and dog or cat poo – if you have a particularly strong stomach! The base of the old trap was cracked but luckily the top fitted a jam jar so it’s been pressed into service for another year.
I’ve made a couple of new DIY versions too (pictured). Cut across a plastic fizzy drink bottle about one third of the way down from the top. Add the bait of your choice into the bottom section. Invert the top. Use a hole punch or a heated metal skewer to make holes for a handle. Thread fine wire or string through the holes. Hang where flies tend to congregate – usually in sunny, sheltered spots – but where the smell won’t bother you or the neighbours. Make another trap to use inside. Bait with red wine, fruit juice, apple cider vinegar or a piece of banana floating in water. Add a drop or two of detergent and place the trap by the fruit bowl. That cloud of fruit flies hovering over your ripening fruit will be lured to their doom.
GROW GRAFTED EGGPLANTS
Grafted eggplants are worth their weight in gold. They are a tropical plant and need 3-5 months of warm weather to produce a decent crop. It’s too late to start eggplants this season (sow in August next year) but there are grafted plants in garden centres now. Grafted plants, where a regular eggplant has been attached to a vigorous rootstock, grow and fruit faster, meaning they can be grown in climates where they’d otherwise be marginal. Although the plants are more expensive, the harvest is vastly better in quantity and quality. Grow in the sunniest, This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz most sheltered spot in the garden or plant in pots where soil will be warmer than in the garden. Keep well watered. Eggplants have large leaves that lose a great deal of moisture through transpiration. If plants suffer from lack of water, fruit can turn bitter and the stressed plant will be more vulnerable to pests. Feed weekly with tomato fertiliser and stake firmly to support the fruit.
WATCH OUT FOR THE WIND
Last weekend in Auckland was particularly windy – even in my usually sheltered garden. I rigged up a temporary shelter for young tomato and cucumber plants with clear polythene sheeting but this was only a temporary solution for a particularly bad day. On a sunny day it could get too hot inside and the foliage could burn where it is touching the polythene. The most effective wind protection doesn’t trap the wind with a solid barrier – it slows it down and disperses it.
A slatted fence or a trellis with a climber growing up it is a better long-term solution and so are hedges. In a garden that is regularly blasted by wind, keep the soil about 20cm below the top of raised beds. The bed itself provides protection for plants while they’re establishing.