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Planning Retirement Online

Your Gardening queries - 15


Mary Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?        

With silver bells and cockle shells,                    

And pretty maids all in a row....                     


If only gardening were as simple as that little nursery rhyme. But it isn`t, so we are putting some of the solutions here to problems you have written to us about, so everyone can have the benefit.


Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife.  Click here for previous editions of Gardener`s Diary.


This month`s gardening problems  - July  2004    

 Q: Julie has a greenfly problem: I have a small yard in an inner city area which I have filled with plants in  pots.  The problem is, I am absolutely infested with greenfly - almost every plant in the yard is covered in a thick layer.  This includes lavatera, clematis, tulips (which are just dying off) mint and many others.  I have tried removing them manually with a tissue and squirting them with soapy water, but this is not keeping them under control, although I am doing it daily. The clematis are starting to look spindly, although the other plants don't look damaged yet. My neighbours across the road and next door also
have lots of potted plants in their yards but they are not affected!  I
also have pots at the front of my house which have become absolutely
covered, yet right next door my neighbour's plants are fine!  Can greenfly
be attracted to a particular house?  Have you any other solutions?
Please help!  It has taken me 2 years and a lot of money to get all the plants
I wanted, and I don't want them all to die off.

A: I should imagine you bought an infected plant to begin with. I bought some winter pansies last autumn that seemed OK, but in the spring they were found to be covered in aphids.

I could say use a spray on them that is specifically for killing aphids, but
the `thinking` about these sprays has altered in recent years.

It is now thought to be better to let nature take it`s course and revert to
a natural `balance`, because when you use a spray to kill the aphids you
also kill the `good guys` such as ladybirds (ladybugs) that eat the aphids..
Also the aphids themselves eventually become immune to all these sprays and
evolve into bigger species.. Birds will also pick off the aphids to feed
their young, so we are depriving them of food by spraying..

In my garden I have been practising this for about three years now and am
finding that the aphids are now virtually non-existent, the ladybirds are
back and the birds are busily feeding their young.

However, on balance...

If you have a small inner city yard, the area is more likely to attract a
greater aphid population with the scarcity of green space. You have also
invested a lot of time and money on your yard and it seems as if you are
losing the plants anyway, so I think you should spray... Use a safe bug gun
spray, in cool, dry conditions, either morning or evening. Repeat after the
recommended time..

Q: Sandra says: The foliage on my potatoes has wilted and after digging them up I found tubas wet and rotted

A: Without knowing precisely where you live or what the problem looks like, I am just sending you a website address, that will hopefully help you to define what has gone wrong.. There are so many things that could have caused the problem, ranging from bad seed stock to bacterial infection, or even infestation..


Take a look at this website to see if it answers your question; I hope you can solve the mystery.


Q: From Jennie: I have several conifers all quite healthy but one has developed a bluey/green bloom on the edges of the leaves, on closer inspection these are tiny soft mites.  The problem is that these are being blown onto the other plants.  Can you identify these?  Can you suggest how I can get rid of them?

A: They sound like aphids to me and the cure really depends on how big your infected conifer is.. If the tree is small enough, spray it with soapy water, but if the tree is too big for that, hose it down as fiercely as you can, repeating this treatment until it is clear of aphids.. They will be feeding off the new growth and the attack will subside as the summer progresses.. Again, if the tree is small enough you will be able to buy a spray specifically for the job..

Q: Wendy asks: My tulips have bloomed and now the petals are all gone.  Do I cut the stem down or just leave as is? 

 A: You can either dead-head the tulips and leave them in the ground until the foliage dies down, or do the correct thing and lift them and store them in a dry place until the foliage has died down.  Re-plant them before next December.. 

Q: Emma in Melbourne asks: I bought and planted a wisteria tree in my garden around 6-8 months ago.  We no longer want the wisteria as its going wild and for that particular spot in our garden, its not going to work.  My parents love it and have the perfect spot for it so we said they could have it.  The only thing is my dad thinks that the wisterias can only be moved for replanting certain times of the year to prevent the tree from dying.  Can you please advise when and how this can be done?

A:  Your dad is quite right.. Move the wisteria when is has lost all its leaves for the dormant winter period.. If wisterias don`t shed their leaves in your warmer climate, then wait until the coolest part of the year. Its only a young plant yet and won`t have grown very big roots. You may have to chop through any roots that have spread too far.

Follow the guidelines below when transplanting and it`ll be fine.

  • Prune it well before transplanting

  • Soak its roots thoroughly before digging up

  • Add some good compost to its new location

  • Keep it well watered until established

  • Feed with liquid feed

  • Keep it pruned for the first season after moving

Q:  Mike has a problem with tree roots: I have two mature maple trees in my front garden about 18 years old, both in good condition. But I have one problem, one of the trees has a couple of shallow roots both about 6 inches in diameter,> whilst they look unsightly in the lawn they are playing havoc with my lawnmower. Can I remove these roots by cutting and digging out without damaging the tree and if so what time of year is considered best for this operation.

A: You risk killing the tree if you chop off the smaller roots, as you will see
from reading the article on this website:-

I`m afraid it is a dilemma for you. You could try irrigating that part of
the lawn to encourage the roots to grow downwards instead of upwards for
their moisture and nutrients. Take out some cores of earth, fill the spaces
with grit and keep this area soaked with a liquid fertiliser and you will
find in time the roots will decide to grow downwards..

I have never tried this, but it is what the books recommend.

Previous editions of your gardening queries: 

Edition 1

Edition 2

Edition 3

Edition 4

Edition 5

Edition 6

Edition 7

Edition 8

Edition 9 

Edition 10

Edition 11

Edition 12

Edition 13

Edition 14




Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife.

Click here for previous editions of Gardener`s Diary..  



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