February 15, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

The rains this week were timely, even though there has not been sufficient to bring moisture levels back up to normal. But as far as container plants and the vegetable garden go, it is more efficient use of water to keep those levels up now rather than to let it all become bone dry again and then start watering. A little often is much better than a lot occasionally.

  • If you feel you must and haven’t yet done so, spray for thrips on rhododendrons – those nasty leaf sucking critters that turn the leaves silver and weaken the plant. An insecticide is required – ask at your local garden centre which ones are recommended for home gardeners. But unless it is a pretty special variety, we advocate avoiding spraying. Open up around the plant to allow more light and air movement. If the plant is really suffering, dig it out and replace it with a healthier option. Not all rhododendrons get thrips and some get them much worse than others.
  • The same can said for roses. If you want to avoid the need to spray, take a critical look now at which ones in your garden look good and which ones don’t justify their place. I am afraid Burgundy Iceberg is destined for the burning heap here whereas all the Flower Carpets, the rugosas, Sparkler (white) and a few others whose names I need to locate again are still looking just fine.
  • Our onion crop is non existent this year (after a brilliant harvest last year) but others who are more successful will be harvesting them as the tops die down. Onions need a cool, well ventilated situation to store well.
  • We are at least picking green beans but sadly the heritage variety, Borlotto Fire Tongue, does not cut the mustard. Heritage may equal old and unmodified but does not necessarily equal tasty and tender. These are stringy darned things that we won’t be growing again. The modern varieties are cropping better and taste better.
  • At least the rain this week makes it easier to start planting some winter vegetables, especially those varieties started from seed – brassicas (except brussel sprouts – too late now), carrots, spinach, silver beet and salad veg.
  • Keep melons watered well. Watch out for aphids and white butterfly, especially on brassicas.