Pest & Disease: 5 tips to control woolly aphids the organic way

Continuing on last week’s theme of fluffy bugs, I’m taking on the woolly aphids this week – here’s how to protect your garden and summer crops from pesky pests the organic way.

What are woolly aphids and what are they doing to my garden?

Did you know that there are more than 4,000 types of aphids worldwide? The woolly aphid is just one of these, but they seem to be everywhere right now – so let’s get cracking!

Woolly aphids are white and fluffy and often look like blobs on your trees, but when you take a closer look and get your hands in there, you will find lots of tiny white threads which, if you pull apart, reveals the aphids sheltering underneath. Woolly aphids generally appear on older trees and also on trees that have suffered stress, too much shade, not enough food or lack of water.

woolly aphid 3
Woolly aphids

How do I know if I’ve got a woolly aphid problem?

Woolly aphids are particularly fond of apple and pear trees, often laying their eggs in the cracks of bark or damaged wood. They can form bubbles in your young wood and if you cut this bubble you will see thousands of eggs inside, which can then split to form cankers on your trees.

After the summer months, these damaging pests can move down to the roots of your trees where they can create untold damage out of sight from your vigilance.

What damage do woolly aphids do in my garden?

Aphids are known for their power to suck the life out of your plants. Not only will they weaken and destroy plants, they can also spread disease as they go. They secrete honeydew which in turn attracts ants and wasps, who feed on the sugary substance. Sooty mould will more than likely grow on the honeydew.

Over the past few years, I have had a few clients battling with these insects and, sadly, no matter what we have done, the tree has not recovered, as the infestation is so big and most of it unseen.

What can I do to control woolly aphids in my garden?

You can try to remove these pests with your fingers or a stick, squashing them as you go, which creates a real sticky red mess, but usually they will reappear in a week or two.

There are a few things you can try like EnSpray 99 and Pyretherum, but I find these only keep the population at bay.

Tip #1: The best preventative is to plant your tree well in the first place – mulch around the outside, plant with beneficial plants underneath it, and keep your soil and plant in optimum health.

Tip #2: Planting nasturtiums in your garden, somewhere away from your fruit trees, can act as a sacrificial crop, with woolly aphids infesting these plants instead and keeping them away from your trees. When the nasturtiums die back from infestation, carefully remove the plant and burn or dispose of wisely.

Tip #3: Members of the allium family, like onions, garlic and chives, can help repel many aphids and planting alyssum and borage around your garden will help attract beneficial insects that will eat up thousands of aphids a day.

Tip #4: In the summer months, plant a barrier of marigolds around or nearby your trees as the smell will repel woolly aphids.

Tip #5: The best advice I can give here is to keep your plants at optimum health, inspect them thoroughly when buying them and plant beneficial and sacrificial plants in your garden.

Good luck and happy gardening!

 

Header photo credit: Gardeners World

 

Pest & Disease: 3 tips to control passion vine hoppers the organic way

Over the past weeks, I have seen a lot of fresh bugs and insects around, which is a great reminder to remain vigilant – so let’s take a closer look at a these over the coming weeks so that you know how to protect your garden and summer crops from pesky pests the organic way.

Where did all these passion vine hoppers come from anyway?

The passion vine hopper can be prolific in our gardens and people often remark that, all of a sudden, there are so many – where did they come from? The passion vine hopper only lays one load of eggs a year. The eggs can be laid from February onwards and can overwinter as eggs on host plants.

Nymphs hatch in late spring when the weather warms and then they grow into adults in the summer months and usually stick around into winter, depending on your climate. A good cold snap can put an end to the adult cycle and kill the eggs too.

lacewing egg
An egg ready to hatch

What damage do passion vine hoppers do in my garden?

Both the nymphs and the adults attack new young growing shoots, feeding on the sap of the plants, thus destroying new growth and causing damage to the plants. September to April is their biggest feeding time, so in turn this is the time that the most damage is caused.

Adult passion vine hoppers are about 6mm long and have triangle wings with a slight pattern that are see through. Passion vine hoppers have 3 pairs of legs and 2 pairs of wings hence that is why these insects are such good jumpers and can fly very quickly. Adults only take 2 weeks to mature and when dusk arrives, this is when they mate. They also lay their eggs in the late afternoon/evening, when the cooler part of the day arrives.

The female tends to lay its eggs in dead plant matter and garden stakes, but will also lay its eggs in the midribs of new young plants. The eggs are laid in neat rows. When the nymphs hatch, they feed straight away on new young shoots.

The nymph has five stages of development and the most common one we observe is when they develop their fluffy bums. When touched these jump so quickly, but miraculously seem to land on a plant nearby. Have a look under your plant leaves for clusters of these fluffy bum nymphs.

The adults have very sharp piercing mouth parts, which are pushed into the tender part of the plant and then they suck the plant juices out. Any excess juice is secreted as honeydew that puts a coating on the plants’ leaves. This coating can then cause sooty mould to grow, thus suffocating your plant, and the plant leaves may also appear sticky.

lacewing adult
An adult passion vine hopper

How do I control passion vine hoppers in my garden?

Controlling these insects is extremely hard, unless you can spot where they lay their eggs.

Tip #1: My biggest tip is observation – check your plants regularly by looking underneath leaves and between young shoots for any signs of eggs – then you can remove the leaf they have laid on.

Sometimes, we can be fooled into thinking there is nothing to be done in the garden but, in these times, I recommend going around your garden and checking cracks in the bark of your fruit trees and looking on the underside of leaves for eggs and bugs. Another good way to spot these is if your leaves are all curled up – then you can pretty much guarantee that something is happening on the underside of the leaf.

Tip #2: A good way to start your control of these pests is to grow plants that attract predator insects such as borage, alyssum and lavender. By planting these beneficial plants, it attracts the right kind of insect that will pray on the nymphs and eat them. These insects are hard to kill as they move so quickly, so it’s helpful to leave it to their natural-born predators. Nature always has a way.

Tip #3: I use a potent organic combination of EnSpray 99 oil and Liquid Kelp – my secret weapons! Spray in the evening, as these pests are much less active then. I spray under all leaves and over every part of the plant, as they seem to be everywhere. I also recommend spraying the air before the plant, as they jump or fly straight away. I repeat the spraying weekly until the infestation becomes less.

It is all about breaking the cycle and reducing the numbers. Good luck and happy gardening

How do I get my garden to produce all summer long?

Two products I absolutely love and rave about are my Fruit Optimise and Flower Optimise. Continuing my focus on products I wholeheartedly recommend, why and how to use them, I want to chat a little about these today.

You can’t put a value on the beauty and abundance of nature – to be able to look around and enjoy the riot of vibrant spring and summer flowers blooming in your garden, or to harvest your own juicy fruits and vegetables, grown with organic love.

When avoiding chemicals in the garden, there are a few things that can get in the way of success – from pesky pests, damaging disease and wild weather to a sheer lack of time to dedicate. Sometimes Mother Nature needs a little helping hand to send her on her way to success and these natural products are the best way I have found to do this in my three decades of gardening.

What is Flower Optimise and why should I use it?

Flower Optimise is not only very helpful in your vegetable garden and for your fruit trees, but for all your flowering annuals, perennials and roses too.

This product is full of natural growth hormones and energising minerals. It will create better blooms with more intense colour and help flowers to mature earlier and usually greater in size. It can also increase flowering capacity after a fruit set, where more flowers are needed, i.e. on beans. If applied to vegetable and fruiting plants, it will also increase the nutrient value of the product – giving you a more nutritious harvest! Yum!

I have had clients trialling this on their roses and hibiscus this year and they have reported better stronger blooms, longer flowering periods and many more flowers. I have done a trial on my lilies this year with great results, the ones I sprayed with Flower Optimise, EM and liquid kelp have had more buds and bigger flowers than the ones I didn’t spray at all. In fact the other ones are at least a month behind and are still not in flower! Also I have had great success with beans, cucumbers, pumpkins and zucchinis where it appears to produce more female flowers increasing fruit production, also I have increased my flower set on my olive trees.

How do I use Flower Optimise?

Dilute into water as per the ratio on the bottle and either spray directly onto your plant or simply water into the soil around it. The best time to apply is a couple of weeks before bud burst and throughout flowering to encourage new flowers to bloom early. By using this regularly, you can keep your plants flowering and producing all summer long instead of them having a couple of crops before dwindling to end of their life.

Flower Optimise can safely be mixed with EM (effective microorganisms), liquid kelp and even ENSpray 99, remembering to add the oil at the end – so you can be efficient with your time!

So how does Fruit Optimise work then and why does my garden need it?

Fruit Optimise is made up of natural growth hormones, kelp, fish and amino acids. This combination helps to improve the root structure of plants, it enhances the plant’s mineral levels and you get a bigger vegetable or fruit.

It is a growth elixir for your fruit and vegetables – especially when you first transplant leafy crops like spinach, lettuce and rocket and in the following weeks until maturity.  Fruit Optimise is great for creating high Brix levels in your plants and in turn creating good complex carbohydrates in your food, which everybody needs. This wonder product not only nourishes your plants then, it also nourishes you!!

How do I use Fruit Optimise?

Use regularly, by diluting to the ratio on the bottle and also spraying onto the plant or watering into the soil, just like Flower Optimise.

I use fruit optimise combined with EM and kelp for all round health and growth. Spraying weekly when first transplanted (leafy veg) and at fruit set after flowering for everything else. One thing to note is that Flower and Fruit optimise must be used separately, as they nourish at a different point in the plant’s journey.

If you’re keen to try these products, you can find them here on my website.

If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me directly.

Happy gardening!

 

Kelp – What is kelp and how will it help my garden?

Over the next few weeks we are going to dive a bit deeper into the products I always recommend and why. For all of you that have emailed me on this subject, here are the answers you need.

Seaweed or Kelp can provide your plants with over 70 mineral, enzymes and vitamins, thus creating one of the most valuable soil conditioners there is. Healthy soil is the key to bountiful harvests, healthy production and strong cell structures in plants. What goes on below the soil is essential for plant growth.

I like to think of the sea as the liquid garden of the world, which in turn can provide so many goodies for our soils and plants. Kelp helps stimulate the soil’s bacteria which increases the fertility of the soil by creating humus and moisture retention.

How can kelp support my seed growth?

Soaking your seeds in EM (effective microbes) and kelp increases seed germination and gives your plants the best start possible, for maximum results. A soak in these rich and nourishing liquids will give your plants, fruits and vegetables a higher nutritional value and will help the root systems of your plants develop well. It also increases the plant’s resistance to pest and disease and can help increase resistance to nematodes.

How do I use kelp in the garden?

The application of kelp can be done in many ways. You can collect the kelp fresh from the beach and put it straight in the garden and cover with mulch, or you can add this to the compost pile which also needs to be covered with a layer of mulch. This is really important to get the most value from your kelp – it prevents it from drying out and aids the quick breakdown, as seaweed does so very quickly.

Top tip: I get a lot of questions about rinsing the salt and sand off of seaweed, and whether this is important. I find this unnecessary and have never done so over the past 30 years. A liquid tea can also be made from fresh kelp, and a recipe for which I have shared in this week’s newsletter. If you’d like to receive the recipe too, sign up to my newsletter and then send me an email and I’ll make sure it reaches you.

What if I don’t have access to a beach?

If you don’t have access to fresh kelp, you can purchase liquid kelp. It’s an elixir of life and can be added to the base of your plants around the drip line; you can put it through your irrigation system; or use it as a foliar spray. By using kelp on your plants, you will significantly increase their root growth.

When should I apply kelp in my garden?

The best time to spray your plants or water your soil is early in the morning or evening, when the sun is not so fierce, as the liquid will be absorbed quicker at these times. When spraying, apply to the top and bottoms of the leaves until the liquid drips off and also spray the stem.

If you are using liquid kelp on big fruit trees, I find the best way is to water the drip line of the tree and spray the trunk if the branches are too high to reach. The kelp will get absorbed through the trunk.

I find that by spraying your plants through the whole cycle of their growth, from seed to full production and beyond, that pests and disease are less likely to attack, as your plant and root system are healthy.

When buying plants from an outside source, I would recommend soaking the seedling in a bucket with kelp and spraying the plant all over as more and more pests and disease are being spread by plants bought from nurseries or garden centres, due to the stress they suffer during this initial growth from seed.

I recommend using kelp once a fortnight and maybe weekly in times of stress.

Remember that kelp can be added to all the fertilisers available on my website.

Happy gardening!

 

What you need to know about the recent extremes of weather in your garden

Happy New Year and welcome to a very HOT January.

By now, your summer garden will be growing at a rate of knots. Interestingly, I have noticed that the weather pattern this summer is about a month behind compared to last year. December last year was beyond hot and many people struggled to keep up with the growth, maintenance and watering of their summer garden. People on tank water were struggling with enough water for themselves, let alone their plants and, in turn, the plants suffered.

This season’s December had a lot of weather extremes, with the biggest lightning storm I have ever seen, intense tropical rain, flooding, hailstones the size of peas, snow and wind. Phew! That kind of weather can cause tricky things to happen in the garden, like early blight, stunted or slow growth, black aphids, plant damage and no drying time for garlic.

Now let’s look at the positives this weather pattern has brought to our gardens.

The rain has enabled our soil to harness enough water to give our young seedlings sufficient moisture to their root systems, enabling good growth. It has enabled us to mulch our soil while it is still moist. And it has filled our water and garden tanks to the brim – I have so much gratitude for this. Also the rain has prevented many pest eggs hatching and made the laying of such eggs difficult – keeping pests down in a natural way.

The heat has enabled our plants to grow quickly, especially the tomatoes and chillis. It has enabled fruit to form without blossom end rot.

The huge  electrical storm was very beneficial for our gardens, as it creates oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere and lands on our gardens as nitrates. After this occurs, you will see greener and more colourful growth.

The wind has kept pests at bay preventing them from landing and laying eggs on our plants, in turn, creating less infestations. In particular, well-ventilated citrus will have less white fly eggs this year, in stark contrast to the huge infestations of last year. The wind also keeps the humidity down, which is perfect for growing tomatoes free from blight and the zucchinis and pumpkins free from the fungus of powdery mildew.

For those of you who had snow, this may not have been beneficial for all your plants however, it would have been beneficial to kill off that first hatching of pests and disease.

I find it is always good to look for the positives in the weather and get prepared for all eventualities.

Remember after a bad spell of weather, it is always good to give your plants a feed of Effective Microorganisms, Liquid Kelp and worm juice. These will all aid in a healthy cell structure and repair any damaged caused by these weather extremes.

I have an exciting competition coming up, as I’m back for the new year and raring to Grow Inspired, so sign up to my newsletter to find out more.

 

Happy 2019!

Summer Solstice: What you need to know and what you need to do

This is my last blog of the year. I would like to express my gratitude to you, my readers, and give thanks for all your Knowledge Bed questions, as I so love to hear from you regularly and to have the opportunity to contribute to your gardening expertise. While I take a break, please keep your questions coming in as I will be banking them and answering them in the New Year.

It is a special time of year today – the summer solstice. But do you know why?

What does summer solstice mean in the garden?

Summer solstice traditionally was a time to harvest garlic and still may be for many of you. For me, the only garlic I have had any success growing has been elephant garlic which is very mild and a member of the leek family. For some reason, this hasn’t been affected by the dreaded rust or black aphids this year. Living in an area of high humidity, no frost and tropical rain, growing big crops of garlic isn’t a possibility anymore.

Top Tip: If you are pulling your garlic out on the longest day of the year, be mindful to snap dry it quickly. Pull it and leave it resting on the ground for the day; trim roots and remove dirt and any infected leaves; hang it up to dry in a cool, dry, airy place and be mindful to watch for mites in the root zone before storing.

What should I be doing at summer solstice?

Summer solstice gives us the most daylight hours in the span of the year and, winter solstice, the shortest number of daylight hours in the year. I take notes at these times of the year to watch where the sun is and where my shade is, and plant accordingly.

This is a great thing to know for your own garden as, in the summer, there are a number of things that like to grow in the shade like rocket, coriander and lettuce. Cucumbers, squash and zucchinis will benefit from part shade after the midday sun as, if these are in the full sun all day, they will collapse their leaves to protect themselves which, in turn, can put them under stress.

If you have enough water, a last planting of the season can be done, provided a good mulch is placed around them. I tend to plant in the evening after the air has cooled, which enables the plant a good start in the ground with the cool of the night air. Plants that like the full sun are tomatoes and chillis, capsicum, basil and eggplant.

Remember when watering in this heat that early is best, and apply to the root zone and not overhead, as this will cause pest and disease to come. This is because the water will still be on the plant by the time the heat is in the sun and can fry the leaves, weakening your plant and attracting pesky bugs.

Feeding is another essential element this summer, as our plants pump on the growth and bear lots of fruit. If you have beans and tomatoes on your plants and want your plant to produce all summer long try this…

Top Tip: As the new buds begin to form, spray with Flower Optimise every two weeks, as this has all the nutrients needed to keep your plants productive all summer long and keep the flowers coming for abundant harvests. I’ve put this on special offer this week, to help get your gardens on their way!

Liquid Kelp is also another essential ingredient to keep the plants strong and healthy over the summer months. It increases the strength in the cell structure of your plants and help keep pests away. Remember healthy soil and healthy plants won’t attract disease.

Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a fresh-picked produce New Year.

Pest & Disease: What’s Eating my Potatoes?

This week’s blog has been inspired by the many questions I have had on pests and disease on potatoes.

There are a fair few things that can affect potatoes and their leaves. Let’s look at some of them here.

What is causing the holes in my potato leaves?

Small Holes

Adult flea beetles can feed on the potato plant leaves and stems and can cause small holes in the foliage. It doesn’t usually affect the plant’s productivity or growth, but could cause a problem later on in younger potato plants. This is because when their eggs are laid and then hatched, the larvae can feed on young potato tubers. The adult can lay eggs in the cracks of the soil near the base of the plant. They can overwinter under leaves or in grass. The larvae like to feed on the stems that are under the surface and on the tubers, which creates pimple-like lumps on the potatoes and when the potato is cut you can see small like tunnels.

What’s my solution?

Ways to prevent this happening can be by piling lots of mulch up around the potatoes and removing weeds and leaves from the edges of the beds. Also, make sure you rotate your potatoes every year to help prevent pest and disease build up. Remember that potatoes are a soil conditioner, so are great for breaking in new beds.

colorado
The Colorado beetle

Large Holes

Large holes in potato leaves can be caused by the Colorado beetle. These beetles lay yellow eggs on the underside of your potato leaves. When the larvae hatch they are hungry and can destroy plants very quickly, causing large holes in your potato leaves. They can easily strip a plant of its foliage and attack flowers as well.

What’s my solution?

These beetles are very hard to control however, my advice would be to inspect your plant and pick off any leaves with egg clusters underneath and scatter buckwheat seeds in between your potatoes. The buckwheat will attract beneficial insects that will deal with these bugs in a natural way. I also highly recommend companion planting your potatoes with beans to help with this problem.

The other day someone also told me of a spray they use with basil leaves. Crush a handful of basil leaves and soak in water over night. Strain and add a teaspoon of oil and spray onto the leaves. I imagine it is the volatile oil in the basil that the beetles don’t like. Give it a try and let me know how you get on!

Preventing the spread

My final tip is that, if you have used mulch around your potatoes and have experienced a pest problem and but want to use this mulch elsewhere in your garden after harvesting, my advice would be to spread it out on a tarp and look to see if you have any beetles present. Then catch and crush these beetles. You could also spray the mulch with EnSpray 99 then reapply somewhere else. However, if your mulch is infested with beetles, there will most likely be eggs there so burning is the way to go.

Happy gardening!

Pest & Disease: 4 tips to rescue tomatoes from the problems caused by rain

What a difference in weather to last year’s lead-in to summer…! This time last year, we were battling with the incredibly hot, dry weather and now we have the opposite with heavy rain, snow in some parts and strong winds. The intensity of this rain followed by warm, humid sun can have devastating effects on our tomato plants.

Problem #1

If you planted your tomatoes early and have lots of tomatoes on your plants by now, this heavy rain can cause their skins to crack and split open.

Tip #1

It is best to thoroughly check your tomatoes and remove any split ones, as these can drop onto your garden and attract fruit flies among other pests.

Problem #2

If your tomatoes have flowers at this time of heavy rain, this can cause blossom end rot on your fruit. This is a spot at the end of the blossom where the tomato is formed that has been soaked by the water from the rain. Importantly, this can actually also be caused by overhead watering – so do take care.

Blossom end rot can be indicative of a lack of calcium in the soil and also occurs in capsicums, cucumbers and melons.

Tip #2

As your tomato starts to grow, you will notice a brown patch appearing on the bottom of the fruit. It will increase in size as the tomato grows and cause rot in the fruit. Take care to remove any tomatoes you see this rot on.

However, this is not a disease – just a problem that is caused by either rain or lack of calcium absorption.

Problem #3

Calcium is essential for development in tomatoes. When the soil’s moisture fluctuates from too dry to too wet, this can limit your plant’s ability to absorb this vital mineral – this is why mulching is essential.

Too much nitrogen in the soil can equally prevent absorption; or if the pH is too high or low. Tomatoes like it around pH 6.5.

Tip #3

I find that if you have a good balanced soil with good humus and a good mulch you are generally ok.

To support growth and maintain calcium absorption, it is important to keep a good moisture level in your soil. I tend to only water my tomatoes once or twice a week and water at the root and not overhead.

When I grew up, my dad used to put a clay plant pot in next to each tomato and this was where it got watered. By doing this it took the water down to the roots where they were cool under the soil and prevented evaporation. Usually, I find the old methods are the best.

Problem #4

With all this rain and warmth, your tomatoes will have pumped on the growth and seem to be getting taller by the day! They will need support and control to grow successfully – but take care.

Tip #4

A few things to remember are never tie or remove leaves in the wet. Tie your tomatoes on a dry day with either soft cloth or stretchy string and remove leaves for added airflow on a dry windy day as this will heal the plant quicker.

Happy tomato gardening!

To mulch or not to mulch? My top four sources that are safe to use in your garden

Thanks for your many questions on mulching the garden – you have been asking what to use and, most importantly, what is safe to use out there.

To me, mulch is so important in the summer months as it helps retain the moisture in the soil and keep plant roots from drying out, enabling them to go deeper into the soil to get their moisture. The question these days is what mulch is safe to use, with the heavy use of pesticides on crops.

hq-lightroom-presets-2160-unsplash

I can personally recommend the following four sources of mulch:

Leaf mulch is a layer of either shredded leaves or leaves that have been collected from a previous season and allowed to partly break down. These will enrich your soil in many ways.

Seagrass – If you are lucky, like me, and live near a beach that dumps this on your shores, it is a fantastic free source of mulch. I’m not sure where the name seagrass came from, but it looks very much like fresh cut grass clippings in appearance. Seagrass has hardly any nitrogen content but is full of minerals and especially high in boron, which is great for olive trees.

Organic straw seems to be a hard mulch to get hold of these days, so when it is available I buy 5 or 6 bales, which will last me the season. Organic straw can be expensive however, if you compare it to the bags of pea straw available in the shops, it is actually extremely good value as the quantity of a bale is 10 times more than a bag of pea straw.

Home grown beans or peas – I usually let all these plants go to seed and die off in my garden and then I break down all the stems etc. and mulch around my plants.

arnaldo-aldana-203173-unsplash

Why should I bother to mulch?

Mulch is such an important part of gardening as it protects the soil from drying out; it keeps the roots of your plants cool in the hot summer months and protects them from soil splashes when the rain is heavy. It also keeps the weeds down – bonuses all round!

Top tip: One thing to remember is not to mulch right up to the stem. It is advisable to leave a space around the stem of each plant – otherwise you can suffocate the air flow and create a great environment for breeding pest and disease. This is also a great space to water your plants directly in the early hours of the morning.

Remember your fruit trees too – mulch can protect them from the dreaded weed-eater nicking the trunk and also to keep their roots cool, especially surface feeder roots like lemons and citrus trees.

My advice when buying mulch would be to only buy organic. Ask yourself what the pea straw has likely been sprayed with, considering commercial peas are prone to a lot of diseases. Fungacides are used, the dreaded Roundup is used between the rows and they are probably grown from chemically treated seed!!

Your garden deserves better and so do you!

Happy gardening

Pest & Disease: Five ways to prevent rust on your plants

What causes rust on my plants?

Rust is a fungus that is spread by wind, which affects a variety of different plants including garlic, onions, silverbeet, beetroot, roses and leeks.

Rust starts on the foliage of plants and spreads by leaves touching each other or by the wind blowing the spores from one plant to another. Before you know it, your whole crop or plant is affected by rust!

The most common causes of rust is moisture in the air or soil, or from planting your crops too close together, so that there is not enough airflow. Rust is a force of nature and can’t be controlled in the way some people like to think it can. If you live in a cold area, you are likely to escape this dreaded fungus. However, a mild winter will enable spores to remain rather than being kept under control by the cold.

rust
Rust

What damage does rust cause on my plants?

Rust can destroy your whole crop if it gets a bit of momentum. When I see the first signs of rust, I am ruthlessly quick to pull the plant out and salvage what I can to eat. I then burn the rest. If left in the ground, this disease will spread from one plant to the other.

Occasionally, even this fails and the rust will still infect your whole garlic crop; while your onions stay safe – another mystery of nature! Rust is specific to its own crop so garlic rust won’t spread to your roses and vice versa.

If your crop is nearly ready for harvesting, you can remove most of the leaves to try and help the disease slow down. Remember to wash your hands and gloves afterwards just to be doubly sure not to spread the bacteria.

garlic

How can I prevent rust from developing on my plants?

There is NO fail-safe way to successfully control rust, however there are some actions you can take to minimise the risk of rust.

Tip #1.

Water in the morning and not at night, as the water will sit there all night until the heat of the day, which will give the rust spores time to take hold.

Tip #2.

Water at the base of the plant and not overhead. My recommendation would be no overhead watering for any plants during spring/summer.

Tip #3.

Give your plants room to breathe and try not to overcrowd them by planting too close. Good airflow is the key.

Tip #4.

Rotate your crops, or resign yourself that some things you just can’t grow in your area, climate or soil type – humidity and clay soils are definitely high on this list (sorry Waiheke!). If you have space, I strongly urge you to wait seven years before you put the same plant in the infected spot.

Tip #5.

Sterilise your tools to prevent spreading the disease from one plant to another. Also wash your hands or gloves after dealing with plants contaminated with rust.

Good luck and long may your garden continue without rust!

Happy gardening