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Bribie Island- is Green and lush again!

Bribie Island- is Green and lush again!

Just wonderful to have a few more days of constant rain here on the coast again. The grass is green and thick everywhere now. It’s hard to believe we were in a drought situation only a few months ago and what was once- a dry and crispy lawn, is now so thick and damp, that cutting it now will test the stamina of the mowing machine and the person pushing it indeed. And, not to mention- how tiring it is- working in these hot and humid conditions too. So there is lots to catch up on- in the patch and I have noticed lots of pest and weed pressure about the place locally, partly due to all the new succulent flushes of foliage becoming irresistible to hungry insects looking for a safe haven to breed and conquer, which can be a real challenge to treat (as most remedy applications just wash away) especially, when you have been dancing in the garden, between rain squalls- like myself, the last few days trying to catch up on all the necessary maintenance activities.

Pests to look out for- Mealybug infestations on Hibiscus, Cordylines and strappy plants such as Crinum (spider lilies), Agapanthus and most house potted plants. Mealybugs gather en masse and tend to cluster around the growing tips of foliage and flowers where they suck all the sugars from the leaves and stem and by the time when infestations are noticed, the colonies resemble clumps of cotton wool. Usually there are ants running up the stems and leaves, which tend to farm the sugary excretion (called frass), which the ants use to feed their own colonies. The ants work in a symbiotic relationship with most sap sucking pests as they offer protection, in exchange for removal of the sugary excrement. Control: Organic and Cultural. Best to remove the badly infested infestations by pruning away and also using a hose to target a strong stream of water to dislodge your unwanted critters and clear the leaves and flowers and stems as best as you can. When your plants are dry to touch you can apply eco-oil or Neem oil and coat the leaves, flowers and stems thoroughly- to try and discourage the pests and ants. Pyrethrum is particularly good at discouraging ants and can be applied to the soil around your plant also. When plants have been badly attacked and weakened, they will certainly benefit from a fertiliser and a foliar and soil treatment of seaweed to assist in recovery. And now that the soils are damp, the plants will respond well. However there may be other predatory insects feeding on your- target pest, such as ladybird beetles and their larvae- for example; the small black ladybird beetle with a brown head- Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, referred to as the- Mealybug destroyer, lays her eggs among the cottony areas of mealybugs and when their larvae emerge, each single larvae can consume up to 250 mealybugs or scale insects, before finally pupating. The problem is that most people do not recognise them and confuse them as mealybugs as they moult and leave threads of cottony larval skin, which is often confused- for the actual mealybug pest presence, and as a result, reach for the pest control option before understanding that its natures biocontrol- masterpiece at work. I have created a short 15 second video and uploaded on my Facebook page if you would like to see what the (Mealybug destroyer) looks like : - for a visual reference.

Now is a great time to replace the lost nutrients that may have been washed out of the topsoil from heavy rainfall lately too. Composted manures such as cow or chook, are great in small doses, and if crumbled into fines, onto the soil surface- sparingly, or spread onto lawns, will be beneficial to building the organic layer up over-time. Also adding some controlled release, manufactured landscape fertiliser, will be beneficial for most landscape plants but for some Australian native plants from the (Proteaceae family), fertilisers with low phosphorous may be needed, especially- Grevillea’s and Banksia, as these plants have adapted to thrive in poor, phosphorous deficient soils with their specialised proteoid root system, so too much phosphorous or manure based fertilisers may be toxic to their sensitive root systems and cause death to the plant. Stay tuned- The Happy Horticulturist.

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