Pest-proofing and plant names

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - BAR­BARA SMITH

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

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