Pest-proofing and plant names
RAT-PROOF YOUR GARDEN
I’ve been blaming the blackbirds and thrushes for decimating my tomatoes but it seems that rats are in residence too. My son’s girlfriend spotted a brazen rat making off with a whole tomato and managed to photograph it when it came back for more. There’s been some tunnelling activity in the compost bin as well. I prefer to set traps as they kill instantly rather than use baits, which cause a slow death by dehydration. Peanut butter, bits of fat or cooked meat are recommended baits. Place traps under cover out of reach of children and pets. If you use poison, a refillable bait station will keep the bait secure and free of moisture. Keep replacing bait until there’s no more activity. The compost bin is the plastic, Dalek-shaped type and it’s time the contents were turned. I’ll rat-proof it by moving it to a new location with a layer of chicken wire under the base and across the ventilation holes.
MAKE YOUR OWN PLANT LABELS
In the February issue of NZ Gardener magazine, Pat Beerpoot of Red Beach described her ingenious permanent plant name tags and I just had to make my own. Cut off the top and bottom of an aluminium drink can with scissors, flatten it out and then cut tags to any size you like. Watch out as the metal edges can be sharp. Trim off the sharp corners for safety. I blunted and smoothed the edges with a diamond tool sharpener. Punch a hole with a nail, skewer or hole punch. Press firmly with a blunt pencil, ballpoint or old knitting needle to indent the plant names. (I used a black felt tip as well so the names showed in the picture.) Loop a wire through the hole and attach loosely to the plant. Remember to check the wires a couple of times a year so they don’t become too tight and dig into the branches or trunks. Use longer pieces of wire or weed mat staples to support labels in the ground.
KEEP CONTROL OF EARWIGS
The thick layers of mulch in my garden are an earwig paradise. I try to live with them as they do predate aphids, mealy bugs and small caterpillars. Diatomaceous earth is effective for keeping earwigs away from strawberries and young seedlings. But when there’s a population explosion I take action by making my own trap with crumpled newspaper inside an upturned flower pot. Earwigs cluster in the newspaper, which can be stamped on, burnt earwigs and all, or shaken into a bucket of soapy water.
In Shawna Coronado’s new book, 101 Organic Gardening Hacks I found a method I hadn’t seen before. Mix together 1⁄ cup water, 3 tablespoons
2 soy sauce and 1 teaspoon molasses. In the evening, dig a hole in the area where the earwigs are attacking your plants and sink a small, shallow container in the soil so the top is level with the ground. Pour in the mixture and gently add vegetable oil over the top of the liquid so it forms a very thin layer. Bear in mind that earwigs are attracted to moist areas so dampen the mulch before setting the trap. Count the corpses next morning!
KEEP A TIGHT REIN ON YOUR AGAPANTHUS
Labelled a weed in the Auckland region, the cheerful blue flowers of agapanthus are still a visible part of the landscape. Opinions are divided. Gardeners who are pro-agapanthus point out that it’s extremely hardy, grows on inhospitable clay, is salt-tolerant, very low maintenance and its fleshy roots stabilise steep banks. The anti camp say these attributes are what make it weedy. One can look at agapanthus as being very good at suppressing weeds but pure stands of agapanthus reduce biodiversity by excluding all other species. It is a prolific seeder. Seeds are blown short distances, drop down banks or get transported by water. Rhizomes spread when soil is moved or plants are dumped. Ideally you should try to grow lowfertility or sterile varieties and at the very least dead-head spent flowers of fertile plants near at-risk areas before the seeds have ripened.
DEAD-HEAD PERENNIAL FLOWERS
Trimming off spent flowers neatens up daisies, dahlias, osteospermums, wallflowers, penstemons and other perennials that are looking tired. You will often get another flush of flowers. Leave alone those you want to save for seed or those seedheads that look attractive in their old age such as poppies, nigella, sedums, honesty, teasels and grasses.
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