As we enjoy this beautiful spring weather it does bring with it just a little extra work and probably a few worries. Of course we will have already started the almost daily watering but the cool winds that occasionally blow do bring with them invasions of all sorts. Here I want to mention the bugs that seem to come from no where but are often blown in by the wind. The first invasion I mentioned a few weeks ago was the little oval shaped ladybird like bug with just one black spot on each wing that really homed in on the roses. Now it seems to be the turn of many other predators, some of them really destructive, some you really need to search for and others that are destroying the plants before your very eyes which means we must always be on the lookout for the wretches.
There are those undesirables that have just a few choice plants that they go for like black fly that just cakes the tips and stems of the broad beans. Greenfly loves roses and I have found it on the Apple trees. The horned red beetle that is killing off our Palm trees. The little gray butterfly chooses only geraniums to lay its eggs in the leaf joint which, as they hatch burrow down into the stem of the geranium. Slugs and snails, well they get just about everywhere leaving their silvery trail every morning where they have spent the night ruining everything green in sight. A tiny black bug has found its way to the hollyhock destroying all the leaves but fortunately to date has left the flowers alone.
Something of the scale family is already on the bay trees along with its secretions that look just like spoons full of golden syrup dripping onto the lower leaves, this sticky mess won’t take long to encourage Sooty Mildew. And, within the mildew family there are already signs of the white mildew on the grape vine and soon it will be obvious on the tomato plants. This is a white powdery mildew that will really spoil the bunches of grapes.
We all love to see the butterflies but every one of them comes from a caterpillar and where there is one there will usually be a whole family. All this is just for starters, I am sure there are many more predators yet to come so prevention is said to be the best cure. Every gardener has his favourite method of coping with these invasions, a vinegar solution or diluted washing-up liquid. Many of us really hate pesticides but in some cases it is the only method with special products that can be purchased from garden centres or the Co-Op where the sales assistants can usually point one in the right direction. So much is said these days about being ‘environmentally friendly’ and quite rightly so because by poisoning the bugs we are frequently poisoning the bird life as well. Companion plants can be of some help they say the strong fragrances of some flowers keep the predators away.
Marigold and nasturtiums are both easy to grow and rarely do you find them eaten by anything. I have also seen in many a vineyard a rose bush at the end of each row of vines, it must have been planted there for some reason not just the lovely blooms! Strong smelling herbs are good to have around the garden as well, lavender and rosemary bushes make beautiful fragrant companion plants not to forget the sweet basil on the window sill to keep the mosquitoes away. What a negative way to start the day? There must be something in the garden to enhance the day, well we have all the colours of the geraniums, keep dead-heading them to encourage more flowers.
Osteospermums otherwise known as black eyed susan seem to be in flower all year round, cut out what look too long and straggly, you will find all the length of the stem has new little shoots growing, cut back to within these and the whole plant will fill out again. There are always masses of seedlings that have self seeded, give them some space of their own by transplanting out. This plant just loves full sunshine with the flowers opening up every day, they really do fill in a border and take very little looking after. Oleander shrubs are coming into full flower do remember that although not exactly poisonous its sap can be an irritant to sensitive skin. Datura shrubs, especially the Frosty Dawn variety are in full flower, this is a shrub that takes root easily from a simple cutting just stuck into the ground. The datura is a poisonous shrub so be very careful when handling it but well worth while having in the garden.