Having watered the young stock with lime water yesterday and given all the new transplants some seaweed solution, I went out to check on everything this morning. My imagination is probably too vivid, but those plants did appear to look happier. I will continue the lime water and seaweed solution next week and then do another pH test on the mix in the little pots. I feel quite hopeful that I have the solution to the problem.
The potting out seems to be never ending at the moment. There are so many pots of rooted cuttings waiting to be separated. The weather is cooling fast so I need to get them into their pots as soon as possible. Next week promises to be warmer and sunnier so hopefully all will work out and the plants will have a fighting chance.
There are seeds popping up in pots. It really is exciting when germination takes place. Some seed that I had give the hot water treatment to, I had forgotten about. When I â€˜foundâ€™ them some had sprouted. I had intended potting them directly into their individual pots but lack of time dictated the one pot and separate them later.
I have discovered why my new Correa rootlings were not growing as they should. Other plants which like alkaline conditions were just sittting also, despite the warm weather we had. My potting mix is not the pH it should be. It is way too acid at pH 5.5. It was only after hearing the tale of woe of another grower that the ‘penny dropped’ and I realised that my problem was probably the same. A pH test on the offending mix proved that it was the same problem, although not as low as his was. He thought that Azaelias would have done excellently in his mix.
Solution? Keith watered his pots with lime water made with a teapoon of lime in a standard watering can. He had to do this four times altogether before the pH was an acceptable 6. I have had to do the same. I have also added a cupful of lime to a wheelbarrow load of the potting mix for new seedlings and cuttings. It goes against the grain to do this when the soil pH is 9+! However if it solves the problem in the potting mix and I get the growth on the plants then it is worth it. It has been so disappointing to see the losses and the unthrifty new plants. I was certainly thankful to be alerted to a new scenario for my nursery.
I have always been interested in using methods to deal with insect pests and diseases that did not involve toxic chemicals. Although, what is meant by that can be debated. After all when making sprays from such things as rhubarb leaves, which are poisonous, am I making a toxic spray or not?
Using pest plants seems to be a good vengeance on them. Also using readily available Australian native species seems to be good sense. Eucalyptus has long been used as a remedy for many ailments of humans. I came across the use of Casuarina (or Allocasuarina) needles to make a fungicide which is good for damping off fungus in seedlings, and black spot and powdery mildew on plants. Use any available species. These trees are often used in windbreak and border plantings.
One recipe is 10 grams Casuarina needles to 2 litres of water, boiled for 20 minutes. Stand to cool. Make this solution up to 10 litres with additional water and stir well. Strain through cheese cloth so that it will not clog the spray nozzle. Spray over and under leaves, and around the soil beneath the plant. This much will spray 100 square metres. See this ABC Gardening Australia Fact Sheet of a few years ago for other details.
ABC TV’s Gardening Australia programme on the weekend had a session on controlling pests in the garden. It was good to see the recommendations demonstrated, rather than just being talked about. The presenter used an old toothbrush to scrape scale from the stem of plants, when there are not many insects to deal with. The other treatment was a homemade oil spray which smothers scale and kills the insects.
The recipe for this is 2 cups vegetable oil, 1 cup pure liquid soap. Whip together with a ‘stab’ type mixer or in a food processor until it is white. Store in a screw cap bottle, labelled with the contents. To use this, mix 1 Tablespoon of the solution in 1 litre (2 pints) of water and spray over the scale. Do not spray when the temperature is 30C or above as plants could be burnt.
Scale is carried around by ants, so deal with the ants in the garden as a first step to controlling scale on plants.
Aphids are another pest which ruin the growing tips of plants, and destroy flower buds. For strong stemmed plants, spraying a jet of water onto the leaves will dislodge the insects.
I am trying to find more suitable methods of dealing with insect pests in the garden than using some of the nasty sprays that are available.
The Xerochrysms (Bracteantha, Helichrysm) mentioned before come in a variety of colours. The small hybrids range through shades of pink, yellow, gold, bronze and shades of wine red
One that I have begun to grow I bought in as â€œRed Hybridâ€, the result of breeding, and the seeds come true to colour. I would say that the seed of the flowering plants in the home garden may produce some surprises which I will know about soon! These daisies do interbreed and throw back to originals, but are fun to sow and grow on because of the diverse colourings.
Fertilisers suitable for Australian native plants promote good growth in these plants. In general, Blood and Bone types, and slow release granules are recommended, but I suspect that any good organic fertiliser would do the job with these too. As with most gardening, taking the time to prepare soil, add fertiliser and make decisions about watering will bring the best results.
The main pests seem to be green caterpillars which you donâ€™t find until great chunks have been eaten out of the leaves. Remove by hand if you can find them, rather than resort to sprays. I have also found at certain times of the year that aphids gather on the growing tips. These will distort the flower buds if you do not do something to control them.