Deciduous trees, particularly deciduous fruit trees, should receive some attention at this time of the year. Once they lose their leaves it is much easier to examine the trunks and stems for any damage that may have occurred from attacks by different insects.
Loose leaves and bark should be removed from around the base of the tree, as well as branch junctions. This will assist in removing insects that may be harbouring in the loose material.
Any damage by borers will be quite evident as trails of a sawdust-like material on the bark's surface. The material should be removed, leaving an indentation in the bark as well as a hole. The borer will be in the bark and can be removed by a number of methods.
A piece of flexible wire can be inserted into the hole, locating and destroying the grub. A spray can also be applied to the hole, which can then be sealed with putty or a similar material.
A mixture of lime sulphur can be sprayed to all the surfaces of the tree as this will clean up spores, as well as providing a nitrogen supplement.
A comprehensive copper spray can be applied to all deciduous plants in the garden, even fruit trees that have not fully lost their leaves.
Mealy bugs and scale, which typically gather in the loose bark and can survive there over the winter months, can be removed with white oil.
ON THE MOVE
May is a good time of the year in which to move plants that may have been planted in a position that has not been ideal for growth, or plants that need to be moved because of garden redesign or building projects.
Plants that are moved now will benefit from the soil that is still warm enough to encourage the growth of new root structures, before the colder weather of winter becomes established. Shrubs such as azaleas and gardenias are ideal for this treatment, while smaller conifers may also be transplanted now.
Prior to removal of the plant from its original position, a trench should be cut around the plant in order to sever the main root system. Roots should be cut through cleanly. Removal of some the plant's outer branches will assist the plant to compensate for the severing of its room system. Spraying the plant's foliage with Stressguard will reduce water loss as this chemical has anti-transpiring properties.
The new area selected for the plant should be dug out to a volume of about twice the width and depth of the plant. Once the plant has been placed into its new position, a good quality soil mix should be placed around the root system, and the soil should then be watered in well to assist in the removal of pockets of air. Soil wetting products, such as crystals, should then be watered over the new area of soil.
Cymbidium orchids will soon be showing the early stages of flowering spikes, if conditions have been favourable for the production of these spikes. Flower spikes will appear from near the base of the leaves. They might be mistaken for new leaves, but they will soon begin to thicken and change in appearance.
The flower spikes will become quite heavy as they develop and so it is advisable to insert thin stakes as supports while the spikes are new. The stakes can be pushed down into the pots.
Snails are one of the main problems with orchid spikes as they will chew at the young, developing buds. Baits can be placed under covers so that the snails can access the baits, while animals are prevented from doing so.
Plants that have developing spikes can be safely moved out of the shady areas and placed into a position of full sun until spring. Once the flower buds begin to reveal their flowers, the pots can be moved indoors for short periods so that the flowers can be enjoyed. Placing the pots outdoors for a day or two will help the plants from suffering from the indoor atmosphere.
Another way to enjoy the flowers indoors is to cut the spike from the plant and place it into a vase. The smaller buds will continue to develop until all have opened.
Bindiis are one of the main problems that affect summer lawns. The sharp prickles that invade the sole of footwear, as well as causing sharp pain to bare feet are actually the seeds of the plants.
The threat of these plant pests will soon be evident when small, ferny, bright green growths appear. These look nothing like the resulting problems. The colder months are the ideal time in which to eradicate the plants as they will soon flower and set seed. Once the seeds have formed the prickly seeds will remain, even if the plant dies. It will also mean that new plants will grow in the following year.
Bindiis usually grow in impacted soil, so aerating the soil will assist to reduce the number of plants. A garden fork can be used for this purpose. As the weather warms in spring, the lawn can be fertilised.
Chemical sprays are also available for the control of bindiis, but care should be taken in the selection of the sprays as some can cause considerable damage to adjacent shrubs and plants.
Select bare-rooted fruit and deciduous trees that have a good shape, pruning them back before planting them.
Although plant growth will slow down as the weather gets cooler it is still necessary to remove weeds as they take valuable nutrients from the soil.
Try growing some camomile and lemon grass, as well as mint and lemon balm, which are best grown in containers as they can spread.