Time to prune and com­post

SPECIES CON­TROL

Weekend Witness - - Arts - JEAN MITCHELL Gar­den notes

MI­AMI — U.S. sci­en­tists are plan­ning to scale up de­ploy­ment of lab­o­ra­tory-bred in­sects to battle in­vad­ing plant species that threaten to throt­tle parts of Florida’s eco­log­i­cally frag­ile Ever­glades wet­lands.

The plant and seed-eat­ing bugs, which in­clude moths, mites and wee­vils, act as bi­o­log­i­cal con­trol agents — ba­si­cally en­vi­ron­men­tal game­keep­ers — against the in­vaders.

They are to be pro­duced in their hun­dreds of thou­sands at a new re­search lab­o­ra­tory planned jointly by the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (USDA), the U.S. Army Corp of En­gi­neers and the South Florida Wa­ter Man­age­ment District.

— Reuters. PRUN­ING can be a tricky sub­ject in the gar­den. If not done the right way or at the right time it is of­ten still more ben­e­fi­cial to plant growth than no prun­ing at all. Prun­ing is done for sev­eral rea­sons; it is ba­si­cally cut­ting back, cut­ting down or cut­ting out, but it is also to keep the plants in bounds. It is done at dif­fer­ent sea­sons de­pen­dent on the plants, shrubs and trees need­ing this at­ten­tion.

Around the sub­urbs at present the very large trees car­ry­ing big colour­ful blooms in shades of pink and li­lac are the Kapok trees. These are gi­ant for­est trees and are not rec­om­mended for home or small town­house gar­dens. Their in­va­sive strong roots can cause con­sid­er­able dam­age to plumb­ing and foun­da­tions.

En­joy them where they of­fer them­selves for view­ing in many of the large and older gar­dens around the city.

This is as good a time as any to give the gar­den a gen­er­ous layer of ma­nure, com­post or leaf mould. Many sea­soned plants have been pulled up re­sult­ing in spaces around the plant­ing ar­eas and in the borders. The soil in these spaces needs to be well dug over and well bro­ken down. Then the feed­ing of or­ganic mat­ter gives gar­den plants the nec­es­sary el­e­ments as it is ab­sorbed into the soil, but plays no part in con­di­tion­ing the soil as the or­ganic ma­te­rial does. In na­ture, in wood­lands and forests and in copses of trees this feed­ing ma­te­rial comes from the trees them­selves. Sea­sons’ worth of leaf fall, fruit fall and blos­som fall gather and slowly de­com­pose with rain and dew and be­come valu­able food for all that grows around. Sur­pris­ingly, there is no un­pleas­ant smell from this de­com­po­si­tion and for­est floors are associated with sweet smelling at­tributes.

At ear­lier times of home gar­den­ing it was ev­ery gar­dener’s pride to have a com­post heap; heap was al­ways the given name, but the com­post mak­ing was done with care and in a proper man­ner. This pro­duced bar­row loads of healthy or­ganic food for the gar­den. There was, how­ever, also a very smelly method of mak­ing liq­uid ma­nure for feed­ing plants. The un­pleas­ant odour came from a sack of chicken ma­nure placed in a large drum which was filled with wa­ter. To get the proper re­sult, this needed to be stirred of­ten and it was only the flies that found this smell in­ter­est­ing. This liq­uid ma­nure di­luted in wa­ter cer­tainly made the plants grow.

A trip into town re­vealed the Greyling Street liq­uid am­bers quite ad­vanced in their beau­ti­ful glowing au­tumn colours. Re­gret­tably the street is not fully lined with these gi­ant trees as it once was; some of the “wow” fac­tor has gone. For­tu­nately the Boom Street Jacaran­das still give a won­der­ful “cathe­dral” feel as they meet in the sky above the road. Travel down from Peter Ker­ch­hoff Street to Chief Al­bert Luthuli Street and en­joy this ex­pe­ri­ence now while the trees glow in their au­tumn tinge. Do the same short trip in Novem­ber es­pe­cially with storm clouds above and en­joy the pur­ple pa­rade. Gi­ant old trees are a gift and they de­serve re­spect. •At Tan­gle­wood Nurs­ery, Hil­ton, a prun­ing demon­stra­tion will start at 10.30 am to­day. There is no charge. Vis­i­tors are asked to take fold­ing chairs and sun hats. The talk will be held no mat­ter the weather. All wel­come. For fur­ther in­quiries, phone 033 343 4203.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

A Kapok tree in bloom.

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