Posts Tagged ‘ insects ’

Shothole Borer Beetle – an Ecological Tragedy Gogga of the Month Shot Hole Borer Beetle

Posted on: April 12th, 2021 by Cassidy No Comments

Life is a Garden has some essential information to share this month. The shot hole borer beetle, known also as Euwallacea fornicates, is a huge threat to South African biodiversity and our gardens are certainly no exception. From the 80 species of trees under attack, 20 of these are reproductive hosts for this most gagga gogga, and with so many trees in SA and in private gardens, the threat is closer to home than we may think. Here’s some must-know info to help save our trees!

 

How the shot hole borer operates

This invasive bugger from Asia is black in colour and smaller than a sesame seed (about 2mm long). Shot hole beetles dig tunnels in the trunks and branches of host trees where they then lay their eggs. The female beetle carries a fungus (Fusarium euwallaceae), which she spreads through these tunnels, which then becomes food for both larvae and adults.

 

What happens to our trees

The fungus spread inside tunnels completely disrupts the flow of water and nutrients of trees. Simply put, infected trees begin to die from the inside as the larvae hatch, digging through what’s left of the tree, and spreading more deadly fungus that causes trees to basically die from malnutrition. These beetles move a kilometre per week, rapidly infesting and reproducing.

 

Identifying an infected tree

Look out for signs of possible infestations by inspecting the trunks and branches of your trees and those in the surrounding area. Symptoms may vary across tree species, but here are the tell-tale indicators to take note of:

  • Multiple round 1mm wide entry-holes, similar to paper punch holes.
  • Dark, wet staining, oozing, and thick gumming around suspicious holes.
  • Streaks of white powder, sugar volcanoes, or fine sawdust coming from trunk/branch holes.
  • Wilting trees and dead branches.
Best course of action

Sadly, there is no known insecticide that is effective against the Shot Hole as they drill so deeply into the wood. We can only be proactive by preventing the spread of the beetle and removing the environment that allows them to reproduce. In other words,

  • Start a watering and fertilising regime for your trees to make them as healthy as possible to withstand an attack. If a tree is strong enough, it can flood borer tunnels with gum or sap.
  • Call in an arborist to advise if the tree is a valuable investment tree on your property.
  • Any dead wood infested with shot hole borer beatles should be covered with thick plastic before moving. The moving of infested firewood is one of the biggest pathways to spreading this invasive species. Chip and solarise infected wood on site.
  • Notify your neighbours and create awareness so that everyone is on board and informed.
  • Report infected trees here: clinic@fabi.up.ac.za

 

Did you know?
  • 300+ Trees have had to be removed in JHB North.
  • Shot hole borers love certain trees more and will always head to their favourite six species. This means that the most affected tree species are: London plane, Boxelder, Japanese and Chinese maple, English oak, and Liquidambar. Monitor these species closely in your garden and remove them as soon as branches begin to die.
  • These six trees are regarded as target species for the shot hole borer. Once the beetles have colonised these trees with thousands of offspring - and the trees begin dying - the shot hole borers spread to nearby trees which are then infested.
  • Country-wide surveys found that several fruit trees (including peach, olive, grapevine, guava, and fig) have been infested in urban areas.
  • Indigenous tree species such as coral trees, wild olives, yellowwoods, and Natal figs, are the most threatened.
  • Judging by the destruction in Knysna, as well as the rise of beetles in Sandton (one of the world’s largest urban forests with over 10 million trees), the shot hole could well be one of South Africa’s largest ecological tragedies of all time.
  • The shot hole is currently infesting over 200 tree species from 28 plant families.
  • These beetles are transported by humans through moving infested firewood – so burn or chip the wood and place it under plastic for six weeks in full sun (known as solarisation).   Never move infested wood unless it is under a thick plastic tarpaulin. Otherwise, beetles fly off the back of a bakkie and infest all properties along the route to a garden dump.

 

Our country is one of the world’s largest biodiversity capitals and host to 299+ species of mammals and 858+ species of birds. These animals depend on our trees as a source of food and shelter. Check if you have any of the six targeted tree species in your garden and keep monitoring them closely.

Why your veggies need friends Companion Plants

Posted on: February 16th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Sweet Pea, companion plants

Companion planting means growing certain plants close together for their mutually beneficial effects, such as pest protection or growth enhancement. Bedding besties allow you to have your cake AND eat it – your desired harvest flourishing gogo-free and eco-friendly with little other effort required from you. Mother Nature is clever like that – she knows what’s up. Here’s what to plant and reasons why your veggie needs a bestie. Life is a Garden, let’s optimise yours!

 

Reinventing the veggie patch

We often think of a veggie garden as produce sown in neat rows, exposed soil, and clear of any other plants not on the menu. Well, it might just be the time to revise this idea. There is so much to benefit from including other herbs and flowers to the veggie garden, which take care of pest control, weeds, water evaporation, poor soil conditions, composting, barren spaces and of course, pollination. Consider the idea of a starting a “mixed masala patch”, if you will, and let’s venture beyond the concept of a “vegetables-only” party.

 

Friends with benefits

Although we’re going for a “mixed masala patch”, it should be mentioned that not all plants like each other, and some can be pretty picky about who they bunk with. Your GCA Garden Centre guy will be able to advise you on the best buddy for your baby, but for now, here are some general friends of the veg with no-strings-attached benefits:

  • Natural pest controllers: Plants such as lavender (for fleas), basil (for flies), citronella grass and rosemary (for mozzies), as well as chrysanthemum (for spider mites), repel a variety of insects owing to their essential oil compounds and deterring scent. You can sporadically plant these in and around the veggie garden as long as they are in close range of the greens.
  • Essential pollinators: Your harvest needs the bees and they need us. Create a flower border around your veggie garden and bring in the friendly flyers to pollinate and spread seeds. Try marigolds, alyssum and cool-season vygies, as well as allowing all herbs to come to flower. Remember to include a freshwater source for our helpers with a way to get in and out too.
Lavender
Basil
Citronella Grass
Chrysanthemum
Marigold
Alyssum
  • Soil structure activists: Champion companion plants also help improve poor soil conditions by adding lacking nutrients. Comfrey (Symphytum) roots break up heavy clay and create channels for aeration and better water absorption, while also releasing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium into the soil. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a valuable compost heap activator, while also stimulating the soil’s nutrient value as leaves fall off and decompose in the veggie patch (it also has pretty white flowers, yay!).
  • Beauty filters: Veggies on-the-grow are already such a lovely sight, as is each one of the above-mentioned budding besties. For super-charged gorgeousness + pollination benefits + insect repellent power, try cosmos, nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), sunflowers, and sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus). Make space for these beauties in preparation for spring/summer planting.
Comfrey
Yarrow
Cosmos
Nasturtium
Sunflowers
Sweet pea
Autumn flings

As mentioned earlier, some plants are incompatible while others are the perfect match. We’re helping gardeners avoid any regrettable flings this autumn by equipping you with a swipe-right (good), swipe-left (bad) companion planting guide. Here is a list of greens to sow now to get you started on your bedding romances. Cool-season vegetable seedlings are also available at your GCA Garden Centre.

  • Carrots

Swipe right: Basil, chives, lettuce, onions, and peas.

Swipe left: Broccoli, cabbage, dill, fennel, and potatoes.

  • Swiss chard 

Swipe right: Beetroot, beans, cabbage, celery, and green peppers.

Swipe left: Grapes, potatoes, and sage.

  • Beans

Swipe right: Beetroot, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, and maize.

Swipe left: Dill, fennel, and all members of the onion family.

  • Celery

Swipe right: Beans, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, and tomatoes.

Swipe left: Nothing, this one’s easy.

  • Cabbage

Swipe right: Beetroot, celery, chives, dill, and onions.

Swipe left: Mustard plants, strawberries, tomatoes, and grapes.

 

With Mother Nature in your corner, a couple of flowers in your hair, and fragrant herbs by your side, companion planting is made simple and super effective.  Avoid harsh chemicals and keep your garden’s eco-system flourishing and beneficial to the entire food chain. Reinventing the veggie patch is easy when you choose the best friends for your farming-fam goals. Remember, dear green fingers, Life is a Garden, so create yours with consideration.

Companion Plants
Companion Plants
Companion Plants
Companion Plants

When plants eat insects, where do they go? A carnivorous plant dissection experiment for kids. When Love Bites

Posted on: January 14th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Do plants have stomachs and teeth? How are they able to catch prey like other carnivores if they can’t run? And when they catch insects, where do they go? These are mind-baffling questions indeed and certainly worthy of a little hands-on investigation! Scientists, biologists, and creepy-crawler lovers, are you ready to find out what happens when love bites this February? Eeeeew!

Did you know?

Carnivorous plants, also known as insectivorous plants, are those which get their nutrition by catching and digesting insects. How cool is that? Carnivory in plants is owing to centuries of evolution, driven by pure instinct to survive in areas with nitrogen-poor soil. There are over 600 known species of insectivorous plants around the world, time to get yours!

The deadliest devils

Here are a few carnivorous contenders that will make the perfect dissection specimen.

  1. Sundew: These bad boys exude a sticky substance that attracts and then traps insects and other small prey. Their meal is quickly swallowed by a web of tiny tentacles and digested by enzymes within the plant stems and leaves.
  2. Venus Fly Trap: One of the most popular meat-eaters with trigger-sensitive, dangerous jaws! They use sweet nectar to attract their prey and then with interlocking teeth, trap their victims. Digestive enzymes get to work as the plant absorbs a lovely nutritious soup.
  3. American Trumpet Pitcher: This cleaver funnel-like plant hunts using a pit-fall trap. Insects are attracted by a nectar-like secretion on the top of the leaves. Unlucky for them, the nectar is poisonous, sending their intoxicated bodies tumbling down the funnel.
  4. Tropical Pitcher Plant: Similar to the beastie above but more sack-like in appearance. They too attract insects using sweet intoxicating nectar. Prey slip on the rims of the plant, falling into a pool of death and soon drowning inside a sticky acidic liquid. The horror!
Sundew, carnivorous plant, kids diy, school experiment
sundew, carnivore plant, diy, experiment
Venus fly trap, carnivourous plant, diy, experiment
Venus fly trap, carnivorous plant, dissecting
American Trumpet Pitcher, carnivorous plants, dissecting, experiment
American Trumpet Pitcher, dissecting carnivorous plants
Topical pitcher plant, dissecting carnivorous plants
Tropical pitcher plant, dissecting carnivorous plants

Experiment essentials:

  • A carnivorous plant
  • Crickets or similar small insects and a container to catch them in
  • Scissors
  • A sharp knife
  • Magnifying glass
What you need, experiment, dissecting carnivorous plants
Insects, dissecting carnivorous plants

The dissection process:

  • Approach your plant with caution, bringing your prey as a peace offering. Know what method your plant uses to hunt and eat so that you can position your insect in the right place.
  • Once you can see that your plant has taken the bait, give it about an hour and then, off with its head!
  • Cut the plant close to the base using a pair of scissors.
  • Use your knife to make a sleek slit down the plant, from leaf/flower top to the bottom of the stem. Open it up gently with your fingers.
  • Grab your magnifying glass and check out that exco-skeleton! You should be able to see the insect remains nicely (and a few other unfortunates down there too).

A meaty-must-know: Make sure you know how your deadly devil likes their soil so that you can home them for good and keep adding to the collection. They flourish in “poor” moist soil with some acidity that activates their instinct to source nitrogen from insects.

Insect, life is a garden , dissecting carnivorous plants
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants

This experiment is loaded with opportunities for exploration, discovery, and independent learning for the hungry young mind. Inspire your child to get in the garden and show them how awesome the natural world can be. Caring for a carnivorous plant is like having an exotic pet and requires much more attention than your average pot plant. Investing in one of these for the kids is a fantastic long-term project with countless “oh my word, it just ate a… coooool!”. #TeamGreenIsWinning

Carnivore plants, dissecting

Dragonflies in the garden Eco Warriors Dragonflies

Posted on: November 30th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

You know summer’s in swing when the dragonflies come out to play! These glorious goggas are in fact not dangerous at all and are actually superb pest controllers with a most captivating twist. Watching these elegant insects dance around the pool is such a lovely sight indeed! Let’s discover more about this curious creature.

So why are they called dragonflies?

According to Romanian folklore, St. George went to battle and wounded a dragon while fighting on his horse. His horse was then cursed and turned into a giant flying insect, which is why ‘dragonfly’ translates to ‘devil’s horse’ in Romanian. Cursed horse or not, all we know is that the dragonfly is far from doomed and only adds value to gardens everywhere. They live on every continent but Antarctica and are welcomed for their helpfulness and grace.

A dragonfly feast

These superb hunters help to keep the fly and mozzie population in check by grabbing them with their feet and then munching away during flight. Dragonflies are excellent fliers – they can fly up and down or hover like a helicopter. Most other flying goggas don’t stand a chance against this agile hunter. A single dragonfly can eat between 30 to 100 mosquitoes in a day! There’s certainly no need for bug spray with these guys around.

Homing a magic dragon

Dragonflies need a fresh water source for the female to lay her eggs. She does this by dipping her abdomen into water immediately after mating. If you don’t have a swimming pool, they would appreciate a little water feature or birdbath too. Dragonflies are harmless to human’s and they do not bite or sting. Besides being excellent insect hunters, they are also a very important food source for other predators such as birds and fish. Just like the frog, the appearance of dragonflies in the garden is an excellent indicator of the overall health and balance of your ecosystem.

There really is no need to sho away these gorgeous goggas! They bring such lovely summer vibes to the backyard and are only there to help us out. All they ask in return is for a little fresh water and perhaps some more admiration from us all. They are a valuable part of the food chain and reward us with less mozzies and more pool party amazement! Thanks guys!

Scale on Aloes White scale invasion on Aloes

Posted on: June 30th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

White Aloe Scale is a pesky and resilient species of armoured scale insect. This means that they produce a hard outer coating covering the body, which protects them from external influences such as diseases and pathogens.

Identification

If your Aloes have small grey ridges or bumps forming on the leaves it probably indicates an infestation of scale insects. They seldom kill the plants they infest, but nonetheless, are definitely not a problem that will go away on its own.

What this means for your plants

They attach to the plant and suck the juice, damaging the vitality of the succulent and causing discolouration and stippling. If left untreated, aloes will begin to lose vigour, ending up covered in what a appears to be a white, fluffy waxy deposit.

Suggested Action

Take a picture or sealed sample to your local GCA Garden Centre and allow them to recommend a spray that will not burn the tender, succulent Aloe leaves. For scale insects on other plants, spray with a recommended organic spray dilution.

TIP: Avoid spraying the soft, new leaves of ferns and tree ferns as some sprays can damage them.

scale on aloes

For more information on insects and other visitors click here or join the conversation on Facebook #lifeisagarden.

Gogga of the Month – Spiders This month, we’re all about celebrating spiders!

Posted on: May 28th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Spiders

This month, we’re all about celebrating spiders! When we think about these little arachnids in our homes, some of us tend to resort to certain squishing tendencies. Spiders in the garden, however, are a different matter and they have an important job to do (besides creeping you out). In the garden, it’s best to allow them to go about their business undisturbed, as their main job is to keep your garden pests in check., Most garden spiders are a means of pest control but there are some which are harmful to plants such as red spider mites. For the most part, these guys are great!

World Pest Day will be held on June 6, to help spread awareness on the importance of eco pest control.

Identification:

Spiders are arachnids ranging from scorpions, mites, and ticks. Spiders come in all shapes and sizes. Generic spiders have eight small eyes, closely grouped with eight legs. Most spiders that we see during daylight hours are unlikely to cause harm to humans.  They prefer gardens and grassy areas, anchoring their webs among twigs and stems.

Signs/Symptoms:

In the garden, spiders create flat webs between plants, across garden paths, along with windows or even door frames. The size and shape of spider webs vary across species. Some webs are orb-shaped, while others are funnel-shaped.

What does this mean for me/my plants?

Overall, garden spiders are very beneficial because they help keep insect populations in check. Spiders in gardens serve a predatory role, eating only insects that eat plants. Therefore, spiders are harmless to your garden and in fact, sustain the health and lifespan of your garden. However, their large orb webs can be troublesome to people near walkways, gates, or windows.

Suggested Action:

Suggested actions include World Pest Day, Catching Spiders and safely relocate spiders. Carefully consider if it's necessary to kill the spiders in your garden as they aid in eliminating the various harmful insects that reside in your garden. If it's an issue of bites or an uncontrollable fear, you could consistently remove spider webs to encourage the spiders to move on from your garden. Additionally, you could reduce their food supply, forcing them to migrate.

 

Gogga of the Month

For more information on insects and other visitors click here or join the conversation on Facebook #lifeisagarden.

Cypress Aphids Gogga of the Month

Posted on: March 30th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

The Cypress Aphid is a sap-sucking insect that infests the stems of some hedging conifers in early summer. Cypress Aphids can reproduce quickly and can cause severe damage and harm to trees, shrubs, and plants. The life cycle of the Cypress Aphid is complex. Cypress Aphids are most active in April to June.

Identification

Cypress Aphids are often yellowish-brown to orange-brown, varying from their back to their thorax, they have blackish markings. The entire Cypress Aphid is covered with fine hairs; with a body length of 1.8 mm to 3.9 mm. They often tend to congregate in bunches, making them easy to identify.

Signs/Symptoms

During summer, yellowing shoots will appear. Often by late summer, many of these shoots will be brown and dead. The lower parts of the clipped hedges are frequently more severely affected than the top, with the dieback not entirely pronounced. A black powdery layer of sooty mold may grow on the shoots and foliage. Although damaged hedges can recover, it will be a slow process.

What does this mean for me/my plants?

Cypress Aphids often attack trees, and hedges that are not cared for or pruned during the growing season. Cypress aphids also produce copious amounts of honeydew, a sweet, sticky material that covers the branches and foliage. This material provides a medium for the growth of sooty mold, a black-colored fungus that covers the foliage, and which can interfere with photosynthesis. Additionally, these Cypress Aphids may carry viruses or bacteria, infecting pants and are considered one of the most destructive pests in any garden.

 

Suggested Action

Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for the best expert advice on Systematic Poison. Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Earthworms our ‘green’ heroes Gogga of the Month

Posted on: February 19th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

This month we are celebrating the slimy, yet satisfying, work of the earthworms in our garden! They are phenomenal, little green heroes, who are responsible for healthy soil and happy plants. These guys are so much more than just fish bait and by setting a colony loose in your garden, both the worms and your soil are certain to thank you for it!

Earthworms are also known as “Nature’s ploughs”, and they are essential in adding nutrients into the soil. They digest organic waste matter and magically turn it into compost. Okay, maybe not magically, but definitely very efficiently! Furthermore, earthworms have a unique chemical in their digestive system known as drilodefensins. This enables them to break down even the most poisonous plant leaves. They are a vital part of our ecosystem because they convert large pieces of organic matter into micronutrient-rich humus.

 

Nature’s plough, the earthworm, breaks down the soil’s structure and promotes higher levels of nitrogen, phosphates and potassium. This is all the good stuff your plants need to be happy and healthy. Earthworms can also digest and process contaminants, such as pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics found in animal manure. Some chemicals can even be decomposed and released as clean nutrients for plant growth. Other harmful chemicals will remain in the worms gut, preventing it from spreading. As you can see, earthworms are champions in cleaning up contaminated soil and turning polluted areas into sustainable habitats.These little burrowers actively influence the composition of the soil. As they move around under our feet, they displace microbes and spread the good bacteria, moving these nutrients from surface level to deeper down into the soil. Their tunnelling also improves the drainage of the soil, which means that water will be absorbed better, thus preventing runoff and erosion. The earthworms underground also improve aeration, making it an ideal habitat for other soil-dwelling organisms too.

Through their continuous dedication in combating infertile soil, earthworms have undoubtedly earned the title as our garden heroes. If you decide to liberate a colony from your local pet or tackle shop, be sure to not leave them on top of the soil where they are exposed to direct sunlight and may be preyed on by birds. Be kind and dig a few trowel-deep holes every square meter or so. Add a little water and natural compost, followed by a few earthworms in each hole, and tucked in with a little dirt. Be sure to regularly supply organic material, such as mulch and grass clippings, for them to work on – they are natural workaholics after all.

 

For more insight on creating the right conditions for earthworms in your garden, speak to your friendly GCA Garden Centre staff member. Happy gardening!

Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

 

March in the Garden Happy autumn and a merry March, maintenance month!

Posted on: February 18th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Happy autumn and a merry March, maintenance month! It’s time to prepare those beds for some annual autumn planting and sow them seeds for the new season. Get busy in the garden and give your seedlings a nutritious head start.

You should work in about 3 to 5cm of compost into the soil, as well as, a handful of bonemeal or superphosphate per square metre. This will ensure that plants have all the nutrition they require to get off to a great start. Give your soil nutrients so that the plants in your garden have the ability to become strong and healthy. Use a general fertilizer like a 2:3:2 or one that contains more potassium such as 8:1:5.

 

What to Sow

Autumn means it’s time to start sowing winter and spring flowering annual seeds. Some of our favourites to sow now are:

Sweet Peas: Their seductive fragrance in the garden or as cut-flowers in the home is like no other. The seed is generally available in mixed colours, which are a gorgeous mix of mostly pastel colours, for both dwarf and climbing varieties. The climbing Sweet Peas will need a sunny spot with supports to climb up – like a trellis, fence or an arch. Sweet peas will be happiest with their roots are in cool, moist soil, so it is a good idea to plant low-growing annuals in front of them to keep the roots shaded, mulching will also work well. The secret to fabulous Sweet peas starts with the soil preparation. Dig over a trench of soil, next to the supports, to the depth of a garden fork and add plenty of compost and preferably manure too. Add a handful of bonemeal or superphosphate per square metre, also sprinkle a handful of Dolomitic or Agricultural lime per running metre and dig it in. If possible, use a pencil to make holes and drop them in at the correct depth, then close them up to shut out the light. Keep the area well watered.

Tips: Soak the seeds in water overnight before planting to soften the seed covering. Sow at about 2 weekly intervals for a longer-lasting show of flowers. To encourage bushy growth, cut off the tips of plants only when they are about 15 to 20cm tall (and not sooner). Don’t forget to feed your plants regularly.

Pansies: Are a winter and spring flowering favourite for the sun. Their colourful blooms are available in a wide range of single and bi-colours. They can be used as massed flower borders, in pots and window boxes or as fillers between spring-flowering bulbs. Pansies typically have large and medium-sized blooms while their smaller flowering “cousins” Violas have dainty little flowers. The larger flowers are showy and suited close to entertainment areas or pathways. The medium-sized Pansies and Violas often have more flowers and are a hit when used as a massed display in the garden.

Primulas: Fairy Primroses, (Primula malacoides), are still a favourite for winter and spring flowering colour in the shade. They have dainty, tiered flowers and are available in white, lavender, rose, pink and a darker pink/purple. White primulas will brighten up shady patches the most and show up well in the evening.

Sow, sow & sow: Calendulas, (Calendula officinalis) have edible “petals” that look super sprinkled on winter soups. Iceland poppies are available in stunning mixed colours – choose cultivars with strong stems for windy gardens. A few others include; alyssum, Livingstone daisy, godetia, schizanthus, stocks and snapdragons for the sun and lobelia for semi-shade and foxglove ‘Foxy’ for semi-shade to shade. (Tip: Before sowing always check the sowing time on the back of the seed packets for your region’s best sowing months).

What to Plant

Garlic: There is nothing better than cooking with fresh produce from the garden and Garlic bulbs are available in garden centres at this time of year. Simply prepare a sunny bed with compost and a plant starter and plant the individual cloves about 10 to 15cm apart and about 3 to 5 cm deep, making sure that the pointy side faces upwards. If your soil has poor drainage then plant them in raised beds or even containers. Garlic wards off many pests with its pungent smell and is, therefore, a great addition to any veggie garden. (Garlic is not well suited to very humid, hot areas of the country).

Pelargoniums: Bush geraniums, (Pelargonium x hortorum), and ivy or cascading geraniums, (Pelargonium peltatum), are still some of the “jewels in the crown” of our indigenous plants even though they have been heavily hybridized. Geraniums are one of the most rewarding garden plants and are ideally planted in containers on your patio in a sunny to semi-shade position. Geraniums love to be moist but not wet. Give them a weak but regular, (preferably weekly), liquid feeding.

What to Spray – to protect your happy place

Amaryllis caterpillar/worm: Keep a lookout for wilting leaves or flowers on any of the lilies like arum lilies, amaryllis, agapanthus and clivias. Inspect the plants by pulling the leaves open to reveal the “middle” of the plant above the bulb - the Amaryllis worm is normally easily spotted in this area if they are the culprit. They may be between the epidermal layers of the leaves or openly chewing close to the base of the leaves and flower stalks. The base of the leaves will also become slimy, smelly and pulpy. Ask your local garden centre for a recommended spray.

White grubs: The adult chafer beetles lay their eggs in the lawn and the grubs that hatch feed on the lawn roots and underground stems. The lawn or leaf blades start to wither and die in patches. If you want to confirm your suspicions, you should be able to easily pull up pieces of lawn and see the large, fat white grubs curled up in a c-shape. Ask for advice at your garden centre and treat as recommended

What to Pick

Roses: Roses are prized cut flowers. Hybrid tea roses have the longest stems and are great for picking, especially when a long stalk is preferred. Fragrant roses add that extra sensory dimension too.

Inca lilies, (or Peruvian lily): Also known by their botanical name of Alstroemeria, Inca lily blooms are best harvested by firmly holding the flowering stem close to the base and twisting the stem as you pull it upwards. This will help the detach the flower from the underground stem and promote further growth and flowering.

Bedding besties

Snapdragons: Most snapdragons, (Antirrhinum majus), are either slightly or moderately scented which is great if you like to cut flowers from the garden or one can place them close to the home. Snapdragons love the sun and varieties range from tall, (over 60cm tall which may require staking), or as short as 15cm for the dwarf ones, and come in a range of beautiful colours and colour mixes. They are long-lasting in the garden and will grow through our mild winters and flower into spring.

Blooming babes

Calibrachoa: This is a trendy treasure that has yet to be discovered by many gardeners, calibrachoa, (Calibrachoa ‘Goodnight Kiss'). This is a trailing plant, that gets covered in hundreds of small bell-shaped flowers that are quite dazzling. They are the first choices for planting in containers and hanging baskets for gardeners that have had them before. Although sun-loving, in very hot areas they will do better in a semi-shade. They are available right now in shades of violet, blue, pink, red, magenta, yellow, bronze and white as instant colour plants in pots and hanging baskets. They can be pinched back for a time to time to encourage bushy growth and more flowers. 

Tip: Feed calibrachoa with a liquid fertiliser regularly to encourage healthy growth and flowering.

Rose care

Roses are simply spectacular in autumn! To ensure quality blooms into the winter, continue with regular preventative treatments/spraying for black spot, beetles and bollworm. As the days get shorter, the roses start to go dormant and withdraw food from their eaves. To compensate for this and to provide enough food for new growth and flowers, fertilize with rose food – your local GCA garden centre will advise you on the best option. Regular watering is very important if there is insufficient rainfall.

Water-wise 

One of the best ways to save water in the garden is to hydro-zone the plants in your garden. Hydro-zoning means that you position plants in the garden, or in containers, according to their water requirements so that we do not use any more water in any hydro-zone than the plants positioned there require. We, therefore, group all plants that like the most water together and these are commonly known by your garden centre staff as 3 drop plants, those that require a medium amount of water 2 drop plants and the water-wise, low water requirement plants as 1 drop plants. Where possible keep the 3 drop zone to a minimum – perhaps around a swimming pool or entertainment area, and in the same way make the 1 drop zone the largest area of your planted garden, (since paved areas effectively constitute a 0 drop zone). There is no better time to start than today – have fun and save our precious water.

Inland gardening

Compost: Compost is the equivalent organic gold to the garden! With all the autumn leaves combined with the vegetable kitchen waste, it is a great time to start your compost heap now. Lightweight and easy to use compost bins are readily available at your local GCA garden centre, to fit even the smallest of gardens. Ask for compost accelerator at your garden centre and add this to the various layers of compost being added.

Tips: Avoid adding any plants that are diseased or pest-ridden, as well as weeds with seeds or seed heads on them. Lawn clippings should be thinly layered between other layers of waste otherwise they will rot and form a slimy mess in the bin.

Lift and divide

Its time to lift and divide summer flowering perennials. Here are some examples of the most common ones: agapanthus, wild iris, (Dietes bicolour and Dietes grandiflora), penstemon, campanulas and asters. Most perennials start to decline in vigour from being too close to one another after several seasons of pushing fresh outward growth and therefore require division, (normally only once in 3 to 5 years), to “refresh their vigour or growth. Simply cut the foliage back by about two thirds, lift them carefully form the soil and then divide them by hand or by using two garden forks, (back to back). Split up into fresh, healthy-looking clumps and plant them in well-prepared soil that has compost and a plant starter so that good root growth is initiated. Water well.

Coastal gardening

Cut back all summer flowering perennials that are looking tired. Pay attention to salvias, daisies, lavender and fuchsias.

Frangipani, (Plumeria rubra), grows well in full sun in the tropical and subtropical areas of the country. If you are looking for that tropical island feel in your garden, this small tree will certainly give “the look”. They withstand drought and bloom profusely from late spring through summer and into autumn. There is a wide range of beautifully coloured flowers that are richly fragrant. They are easy to grow and little attention, flourish in almost all soil types.

Hot tip: It may still be too hot to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Good advice would be to buy them while they are available and store them in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator and plant out when the weather cools down in a month or two.

For more gardening tips and information, visit Gardening trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Red Spider Mites Gogga of the Month

Posted on: January 27th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Summer is in full swing and the intense heat combined with the under-watering of certain plants, (like roses), are ideal conditions for Red Spider Mites (Tetranychus urticae). Also known as two-spotted spider mites, they are small arachnids related to spiders that cause damage to your plants

Identification

To identify them you will need to look out for white/yellowish spots/patches on their upper leaf surface. These spots multiply and the leaf becomes more yellow with the outer edges of the leaf staying greener. This is an indication of the increase in mites sucking on the underside of the leaves. Later leaves may drop off, and in severe cases, tiny web-like strands can be seen on the plant. Turn the leaf over and by using a magnifying glass you will notice a few, (or many), very tiny adult mites moving around. If in doubt, take a few sample leaves into your local GCA Garden Centre to identify the pest. Make sure that the sample is carefully sealed in a zip-lock bag.

What does this mean for me and my plants?

If the mite infestation isn’t too severe, you can keep them at bay by regular deep drenching and watering often. Use a thick mulch of peanut shells, pine needles, bark or crushed apricot pips to retain moisture in the soil for longer and help keep your plants cool in the hot Summer sun.

Suggested Action

Spider mite populations can build up tremendous numbers and can decimate your plants in a very short time if the conditions are right and left untreated. Certain recommended oils are best used to spray on the underside of the leaves in order to suffocate the pest and these can be bought at your garden centre. Tip: Do not apply oil sprays in the heat of the day. For more tips and useful advice, visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre.

Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for the best expert advice on the best method of use to get rid of this pest. Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

 

Leaf Miner Gogga of the Month

Posted on: January 6th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Leaf Miners are the larval (maggot) stage of an insect family that feeds between the upper and lower surfaces of leaves. Their highly visible tunnels can often reduce your crop value. 

Description

Leaf miners tend to be non-descript black flies. The flies do not directly cause damage to the plant; instead, it is the larva of these flies that causes the problems — they createwhiteyellow squiggly lines in the leaves. This is where the leaf miner larva has bored their way through the leaf. Leaf miner damage can also appear as spots or blotches. 

What does this mean for me and my plants?

The larvae burrow into leaves and eat the soft inner tissue, leaving yellow, white or brownish tunnels in the leaf. The tunnelling result can damage and restrict plant growth, reducing flower and fruit production. The larvae of some species chew through stems, seeds or roots. Host plants include apples, beans, cabbage, citrus, coffee, cucumbers, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, tomatoes and other shrubs.

Suggested Action

 Once signs of leaf miner are evident, treat the plant with a suitable insecticide. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for the best expert advice on the best method of use to get rid of this gogga. Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Pesky Psylla Gogga of the Month

Posted on: December 2nd, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Citrus trees provide a bounty of health benefits as well as beautiful sweet-smelling flowers, that compliment your garden space be it small or big. However, these tree’s may sometimes look unsightly as a result of the psylla pest, whose infestation results in the swelling (forming of bumps) on the upper leaf caused by the presence of the psylla underneath the leaf.

Description

The adult psylla is light yellow and is similar in size to an aphid with transparent wings. Their bodies are pointed with an oval-shaped abdomen. Psylla may be found on the edge of young leaves and shoots where they lay their yellow eggs which cause cavities in the leaf tissue, appearing as bumps on the upper surfaces.

Identification

Yellow eggs on the edges of young leaves accompanied by swelling bumps on the upper side of the leaf are a sign of psylla infestation. In the case of severe infestations, young growth can be severely malformed as a result of psylla activity.

What does this mean for me and my plants?

Citrus pyslla cause yellowing of the leaves, as well as malformed fruit. Half the side of the fruit may not develop normally and remain small, resulting to deformed fruit. If the plant is not seriously infected the leaves may turn yellow and the growth maybe stunted. Serious infestation can have dire consequences and may even lead to the tree dying. 

Suggested Action

The tree should be treated with a registered systemic insecticide. The instructions on the pack must be followed.

Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for the best expert advice on the best method of use to get rid of this pest. Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

 

Be aware of the Christmas/Brown Beetle Gogga of the Month

Posted on: October 31st, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Christmas beetles are seasonal and are generally active during the warmer months, especially during the festive season. A sure sign that it is officially summer, is when the Christmas beetle is in sight. This centimetre long, brown, nocturnal insect is harmless to humans. However, they enjoy lacing the leaves of roses, Dahlias and other flowers.

Identification

Christmas beetles have a vibrant brown colour with the larvae white and C-shaped, similar to those of flower chafers and stag beetles. The adults emerge close to the Christmas period.

Signs/ Symptoms

By the time you see the Christmas beetles, they are at the end of their life cycle. They love to feed on rose and tree leaves (especially eucalyptus), leaving a zigzag cut in their midst, shredding them as they go on their feeding frenzy. The adults lay 20 -30 egg during November to January preferably in compost heaps or well-composted beds. The larvae live in the soil for almost a year feeding on decaying organic matter and plant roots.

What does this mean for me/ my plants?

Christmas beetles feed on most plants and are a serious threat to your garden.

Suggested Action
An organic pest control method to deter beetles from chewing on your plants place a lamp near your garden bed with a bucket of oily water underneath the lamp. The switched-on lamp will attract the beetles away from the plants, and towards to light, they will then drop into the water below.

Alternatively, place a bug zapper close to the garden bed. You can also treat your compost, soil with a dusting powder which can be watered into the ground.

Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for the best expert advice on which products to use to get rid of this pest. Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

 

October in the Garden Celebrating Gardening

Posted on: October 1st, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

With the 20th of October being ‘Garden Day’ and October being ‘Rose month’ – what an opportune month to celebrate gardening!

Rose month

Your roses should be producing their first flush of perfect blooms and the sun is still not too scorching – allowing the blooms to last longer. Spring is also the ideal time to select and plant new rose bushes in your garden. These are some of our favourites:

  • Ingrid Bergman POULman unfading red
  • Memoire KORfuri   unspoilt white, fragrant
  • Zulu Royal DORient mauve, fragrant
  • King David TANmarsal bronze
  • South Africa KORberbeni golden

Pop in to your nearest GCA Garden Centre for more inspiration and supplies.

 

What to Sow

As soon as the soil warms up in mid spring, you can start to sow all your summer veggies, including beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes. Two of your main “must haves” for your summer salads are cucumber and celery.

  • Cucumber seeds should be sown in composed enriched soil in a sunny site. When flowers start forming, feed with potassium-rich organic fertiliser. Support plants well so they can climb upwards, even when the cucumbers get large. This also protects the cucumbers from slugs. Harvest /cut the cucumbers off the plant when they are still quite young, avoiding the skin becoming hard. Regular harvesting encourages a more continuous production of
  • Celery needs rich, moisture-retentive soil which is achieved by digging in plenty of compost. Sow in shade or semi-shade. Feed weekly liquid feed in mid to late summer. Plants should be spaced 20cm apart and kept moist. You can cut stems frequently as required.
What to Plant

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) - one of the easiest and most rewarding bulbs to grow, amaryllis produce showy, trumpet-shaped blooms that add a flamboyant touch to your garden or home. Often referred to as the Christmas flower because they typically bloom around five weeks after being planted (during the warmer months). For this reason, amaryllis make a wonderful gift at Christmas time and can also make gorgeous centre-pieces for the Christmas dinner table.

Amaryllis do well in most soil types, provided they get sufficient drainage. Plant in a sunny or semi-shade position and for the best results, give your amaryllis some bulb food every two weeks. These beauties are perfect for pots, and can be planted in groups in your garden.

As they retreat into dormancy at the end of the warmer months, you can decrease watering and leave them in the soil throughout the various seasons. Do not stop water them until all of their foliage has receded.

Star Flower or Egyptian star cluster (Pentas lanceolata) - a fast-growing, small to medium-sized herbaceous shrub with light green foliage. Pentas comes in a variety of colours, including pink, red, mauve and white. The beautiful flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds and make great cut flowers. The shrub grows quickly in full sun or semi-shade and vary in height but the modern hybrids are lovely compact bushes, growing +-100cm tall and +-30cm wide.  Plant them into rich, well-drained soil. Cut off the dead flowers regularly to encourage re-flowering or continuous blooms.

What to Spray

There are many types of broadleaf weeds that can get their roots into your lawn. Clear out and control weeds in lawns, by using a selective broadleaf weed killer that is safe for use on established lawns.

  • Aphids are rife on new growth, they feed on the sap of most garden plants and are usually found in large colonies on the new growth tips, flower buds or on succulent foliage. They are particularly prevalent during early spring and into the summer season, sucking the sap from plants and causing malformed flowers and foliage. They can be controlled with one of the numerous different insecticides registered for use on these pests.

Chat to a specialist at your nearest GCA Garden Centre for advice on the various products available and what would work best for your needs.

What to pick

Growing your own veggie garden is both fun and rewarding. Ready for harvest in October are: asparagus, broad beans, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, lettuces, rocket, spinach (Swiss chard) and spring onions. The perfect ingredients for some very tasty and creative summer salads and veggie dishes. If you don’t have your own edible garden established yet – it is never too late to start.

Rose Care

It’s not hard to see why October is “Rose month” as you enjoy your roses in all their glory.

Water deeply at least once a week - for roses to flourish it’s best to water them twice weekly giving them 15mm of water each time.  Roses that were fertilised in mid-September should be fertilised again in mid-October or early in October if September was skipped. This encourages root activity and new leaves and flowering stems to sprout. Only use the recommended amount of granular rose fertiliser.

To prevent aphids, bollworm, thrips, powdery mildew and black spot, spray fortnightly with the correct organic spray.

For quality blooms, disbud hybrid teas by removing side buds out of the leaf axles beneath the terminal bud. Remove spent blooms; not only will your rose bed look tidier; this also encourages the production of new quality stems. If you’d like long stemmed blooms for the house, don’t cut more than half of them on a bush.

Visit your local GCA for advice on the best products to use to meet your needs.

Garden Day

On Sunday, 20 October 2019 we will celebrate Garden Day. Instead of working in your gardens – this is a day to put down your garden tools, invite family and friends around, relax and celebrate your garden with them. Flower crowns are a beautiful way to celebrate your garden.  Making and wearing the fun and colourful accessory is a great way to show off your garden blooms. Pick a few flowers from the garden and make your own flower crown.

Inland Gardening

(Gauteng, Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)

  • Before you know it, December will be here – start preparing your garden now for all your holiday and festive season needs.
  • Clean out water fountains and ponds and ensure you unclog the impeller on your water feature pumps.
  • Check that your irrigation system is working effectively. Unclog nozzles and filterers, and replace any pipes or heads that need replacing. You don’t want to be rushing around last minute before you go away in December to ensure your watering system is working!
  • Plant additional veggies (like beans, sweetcorn, tomatoes, celery and cucumber) so that you have a good selection and enough to feed your family and any visitors over December. Sow more parsley, chives, basil and coriander seeds in your herb garden.
  • Look out for insects such as aphids, mealy bugs and whitefly on soft new growth and control with the correct insecticide.
  • Tidy up garden containers by pruning shrubs and specimen plants to maintain a round shape. Plant some bright red bedding begonias around the stems and these will give you a great splash of festive colour in December
Coastal Gardening

(Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)

  • Snails and slugs are more than likely sneaking out of their hiding places at night and eating seedlings and young shoots in your gardens. There are a number of ways, including traps to keep these guys from destroying your plants. Chat to the experts at your local GCA Garden Centre to find a solution that best meets your needs.
  • Inspect all members of the lily family such as agapanthus, crinum, clivia, nerine, amaryllis and haemanthus for lily borer. They are most active at night and can be treated with insecticides.
  • Clean up container plants and top dress with mulch, crushed peach or apricot pips or pebbles to keep the soil moist between watering.
  • Plant tropical fruits such as lychees, mangos and bananas.

Celebrate your garden this summer. For more gardening tips and information, visit Gardening trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Bring health and life to your garden Garden paradise

Posted on: September 30th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Contribute your own little piece of Eden to the Earth and invite the buzz, whir and tweet of some colourful little guests that will appreciate it as much as you do. The beautiful colours and scents that attract these special creatures are also a treat for your own senses.

Edibles in your Garden

Cape Gooseberries (Physalis edulis) is a quick-growing annual or perennial fruit plant that originates in South America. It has been grown extensively in many parts of South Africa for the little golden berries that are produced in abundance, on bushes that can reach a height of about 1m.

Gooseberries are a worthwhile fruit to grow in your garden as they are excellent for making jams, jellies, desserts, chutneys and wine.

Grow them from seed, in almost any, well-drained soil – they even cope with poor or impoverished soils. Position them in full sun in an open, exposed area where the plants can literally grow wild. You can grow them all year round in frost-free climates.

 

Bedding Besties

For summer colour in abundance, Nemesia (Nemesia strumosa) and Twinspurs (Diascia integerrima) make the best of indigenous friends.

Nemesia (Nemesia fruticans) - The flowers resemble little snapdragon flowers and are dusty-pink or mauve or even whiter in colour - decorated with bright yellow. Used mostly as a flowering bedding plant and as an ornamental pot plant. Various colour forms are available from specialist nurseries.

Plant in well-drained soil, enriched with compost in a sunny position.

Twinspurs (Diascia barberae)- a dainty little perennial plant originating from the Drakensberg mountain range. It produces numerous upright stems growing to 30cm tall. The tubular flowers are rich salmon pink in colour. They grow best in full sun and look spectacular in rock gardens, especially tucked into joints and cracks between large rocks.

Birds and insects

Encouraging birds, bees and butterflies in your garden is a great way to nurture an environment that supports biodiversity. These creatures are crucial pollinators in our eco-system and every small haven created for them ensures a better future for our green and wild life.

The way to attract these pretty creatures is to make sure your garden has a ready supply of what they love and need. And think variety: the bigger the variety in your garden, the more varied your inhabitants will be.  This includes plants, rocks, nesting logs, water features and even rich soil.  Boost your soil with nutrients (Chat to the professionals at your local GCA Garden Centre for advice on the best products to use). Happy soil + happy plants = happy garden visitors.

Celebrate your garden this summer. For more gardening tips and information, check out whats trending in the garden or join the conversation on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/lifeisagardensa.

Steer clear of Whiteflies Gogga of the Month

Posted on: September 26th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Whiteflies can be a menace in the garden. These flies are close relatives to aphids, they are both sap-sucking insects. It is essential that you steer clear of them.

Symptoms/Signs

These pests are capable of two types of damage to your plants namely; direct and indirect.

1) Direct: Theses pesky pests will suck all the juices and nutrients from your plant. This will lead to the yellowing and premature falling of leaves, severe infestations can be fatal to the plant.

2) Indirect: Adult whiteflies are known for spreading diseases from sick plants to healthy ones. Whiteflies also secrete honeydew like their close relatives' aphids. Honeydew is a sticky substance which eventually becomes dark due to a fungus called sooty mold. The sooty mold will stop light from filtering through to the leaves which will have fatal consequences for your plants.

What does this mean for me/my plants?

In the case of direct damage, the plant will be sapped of all its nutrients and eventually die! The sooty mold will spread to the leaves of the plant. This makes it hard for the leaves to receive sunlight, this makes it very hard for the plants to make their own nutrients!

Suggested Action

Plants can be treated with a registered systemic insecticide. The instructions on how to use the insecticide will be on the pack.

Visit your local GCA – Garden Centre for more tips and advice on how to deal with whiteflies. Click here to find your nearest GCA  https://www.lifeisagarden.co.za/category/garden-centres/