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It’s a bug’s life during winter


Each year during winter I am surprised how many bugs decide to visit, many of which may have been hiding and are now exposed as trees defoliate, exposing underplanting.

No doubt, as a result of recent rains, the snails are prevalent – they love freshly planted vegetables.

This year, many gardeners, encouraged by the time being spent at home, have planted herbs and vegetables for the first time. 

Part of the secret of elimination of snails is to throw pellets under nearby shrubs where they live a few days prior to planting. 

This then introduces a new problem, although some brands indicate they are dog and cat safe, always read the fine print. 

I find a simple method is, after your furry friends go in for the night, place the pellets on old saucers or lids around the garden bed and take them in before the dogs and cats go out in the morning.

Scale seems to be quite a problem this year, especially on dwarf box, camellias and lilypillies. 

This should be sprayed with Malathon and White Oil, remembering to work under the leaves which is where most scales have attached. 

A good indicator that a plant has scale is stickiness and black sooty mould. 

The mould is a fungal disease carried by the ants when they climb the plant to suck on the discharge from the scale.

This sooty mould is as damaging as the scale as it covers the leaves restricting photosynthesis and should be treated with Copper Oxychloride or Mancozeb plus. 

Each problem should be treated separately and sprayed every 10 days until new growth is clean.

Although the winter rains are much needed, it can reveal drainage problems – if there is clay underneath the bed and its holding water, there is a great liquid clay breaker which is easily applied.  

Dolomite sprinkled around will help sweeten the soil, especially for roses which are already looking sad – don’t prune yet, wait until July or early August and when they are pruned spray with Lime Sulphur to clean up any fungal spores and give protection to the rose for a few months.

Lawns will definitely need work when spring arrives but for now apply lime as it will also sweeten the soil and combat the soggy soil.

Back to the bugs – azaleas should be checked for spider mite. Although barely visible to the naked eye, there are indicators of invasion. 

Leaves speckled with yellow, bronze or silver are a good warning. Although systemic sprays are needed, these are often difficult to find, but there is a new granular available which is merely shaken around the base of the plant and watered in which I am finding extremely successful.


  • Check with your local nursery to see which deciduous trees are in 
  • Keep an eye on indoor plants that may be feeling the cold against a 
  • It is wise now to stop fertilising indoor plants – they like a rest 
    during winter

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