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Oh no, it is the dreaded Dendrobium beetle! This is a common pest of potted and shade house orchids, but as you can see, will also attack orchids grown in tree forks or other naturalistic settings. Beetles and their larvae destroy new leaves and stems of orchids, so control them if you can. Squash them by hand (like I did this one) or try using any organic chewing insect control (Spinosad, diatomaceous earth, molasses drenches etc).

Mite Damage on Citrus
Take a close look at your citrus blooms (these are from a Minneola tangelo) and you may observe some distorted flowers and developing fruit. These blooms have been affected by bud mites (most likely Eriophyyes sheldoni). Sulphur or oil sprays can be used as a preventative, but once flowers and young fruit have been affected the damage is already done. Pick them off if you like. Fruit typically still develops, but will be distorted.

Silver Leaf Desmodium -  (Desmodium uncinatum)
Here is another introduced pasture legume that has become a weed problem in gardens and bushland areas. It grows incredibly quickly and flowers and seeds prolifically. You will see it covering the soil and growing up trees as a dense climber. The small, flat seeds stick to your socks and clothing. You really are best to remove it by hand. If you try to spray it with a herbicide like glyphosate, the vine will die, but the seeds will drop to the soil and before you know if you will have another crop to contend with. If you have grazing animals (sheep, goats, a cow), you could feed it to them as it is high in nitrogen. Avoid putting it in the compost as the seeds are problematic, but you can soak it in water and use the nutrient enriched liquid as a liquid fertiliser.

Creeping Indigo - Indigofera spicata
This legume weed was introduced for agricultural use. It fixes nitrogen in association with common soil bacteria.  It has a long tap root, spreads like a mat, and is a prolific seed producer. It is a common weeds of lawns. Common lawn chemicals are registered for the control of this weed (MCPA/Dicamba), but I prefer to dig it out so that you remove all the seed pods at the same time. Burning with fertiliser is another option.

I have been asked to identify some lawn and garden weeds on ABC radio recently. Identifying weeds from verbal descriptions is always difficult, so I will post some names and images of some problem weeds here in the hope that you might see the one troubling you.

My favourite weed control method is burning. I do this with a gas powered flame weeder or by using fertiliser. To burn weeds with fertiliser simply apply a concentrated fertiliser directly on top of the weeds (without watering in). The weeds will be burnt out completely in just a few hours, after which any remaining fertiliser can be watered into the lawn/garden.

Question of the Week
I have three citrus trees. But it seems only one has an infestation of stink bugs. I've tried picking them off with a gloved hand and snipping of entire branches. Is there anything I can spray? from Mary
To control adult stink bugs (or bronze orange bugs), spray with neem oil by aiming the spray directly at the insect. Another option is to use an old vacuum cleaner to dispatch them at arm's length. In future, it will help to recognize the various stages of the lifecycle. It is likely that your tree was infested several months ago. Control the eggs and immature stages by spraying each season with oil. Eco- Oil or any other botanical oil in fine for this. This will also control scale, mites and aphids. Without treatment your stink bugs will spread to all your trees next year.
more pest information....

Blue Cycad Butterfly
The cycad blue butterfly has become an increasing problem for gardeners over the past decade. This small butterfly lays eggs in the centre of the plant, often prior to the emergence of the new fronds. The new fronds either fail to emerge or are permanently ruined by the chewing of the slug-like larvae. The presence of ants on cycads is often an indication of the presence of larvae on the undersides of the fronds. Any organic products that control caterpillars (including molasses and spinosad sprays)

will control this pest, but must be applied before the larvae being to chew the new foliage. Correct timing is essential. I prefer to cover the centre of each plant with a small section of soft, green, mosquito netting, prior to frond emergence. Tuck it loosely over the centre of the plant leaving room for the new fronds to gradually push it off as they mature. Covering with ting keeps plants free of larvae and once the fronds become hard they are immune to attack. If you are not prepared to go to this effort consider an alternative plant. Zamia furfuracea (a close relative of the cycad commonly known as the cardboard palm) is immune to attack from the cycad blue butterfly.

Lawn Grub
Everyone is being hit by lawn grub. Remember that lawn grub is not one insect but the name gardeners apply to a range of beetle and moth larvae that attack the roots and stems of grass. These insects have been busily laying eggs all during the drought. The eggs did not hatch because there was no grass for them to eat. Once the rain came multiple generations of these insects all hatched at once into grubs that attacked lawns. The lovely orange wasps flying over the grass are now frantically trying to provide biological control by laying their eggs into the lawn grub larvae.

If your lawn is already brown, there is no point spraying. The damage has been done and the insects will have moved on. The chemical sprays used for lawn grub are toxic. If you choose to spray a 'still green' lawn remember that you will kill not only the grubs, but also beneficial organisms including earth worms. You should also be aware of keeping children and pets off the lawn immediately after spraying.

The lawns were brown during the drought and recovered. It is now brown due to lawn grubs, but will recover. It is all part of nature's cycle.

              


Other articles of interest:

Seed-saving:
When buying seeds look at
where and how the seed
is stored and packed....

 

Edible Ornamentals
My Top Ten:

 Kangkong (Ipomoea aquatica)
 is an aquatic plant popular
in Asian cuisine, in fact you
 have possibly eaten it
 unknowingly in vegetable
based dishes. If you have a
 pond or water feature you
 can grow kangkong....

Propagation Notes
Native Plants W/Shop Notes
Lawns W/Shop Notes
Citrus Guide
School Planting Guide
Soil pH Plant List
NEW FEATURE!
Ask A Question
 

Save Your Back
Increasingly popular with new gardeners is the no-dig or sheet mulch gardening technique.  In no-dig gardens, layers of organic material are built up on the top of the soil, rather than dug into it.  Lucerne is usually used as the main component of the no-dig garden, but you can mix in other high nitrogen materials such as grass clippings and sappy green prunings with animal manure and compost.  This will make the lucerne go further.  Straw, sugar cane or some other high carbon material is used as a mulch on top of the garden.  No dig gardens can be built on top of the soil or any surface, even concrete!

Ingredients:
To build a no-dig garden 2m x 3m you will need:
Four bales of lucerne
One barrow of compost
One barrow of manure
One bale of straw/cane straw
Wet newspaper

Method:
Slash or mow any existing lawn or weeds.  Water the area well and spread some gypsum if your soil is heavy clay.  Lay down a thick layer of wet newspaper, overlapping it well.  Alternate thin layers of the lucerne, compost and manure, watering as you go.  When you have a nice thick layer almost knee high and all your nitrogen materials have been used up, spread the straw/cane mulch over the top to form a mulch layer.

Leave for at least two weeks before planting, re-wetting if necessary. Covering the bed with plastic will ‘cook’ the layers and help them to break down more quickly.

To plant the no-dig garden create small pockets within the lucerne layer and fill with compost or potting mix.  Plant seeds or seedlings into the compost pockets, drawing the straw mulch layer back in around the plants.  Leafy crops such as silverbeet, spinach and lettuce grow well in no-dig gardens as do tomatoes, melons and pumpkins.  Avoid planting root crops in no-dig gardens for several seasons until a good depth of compost has accumulated.

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