New England gardening: Insects can help keep those pests under control

Beneficial: Insects like the lacewing have an important role to play in your garden.
Beneficial: Insects like the lacewing have an important role to play in your garden.

There are a couple of reasons you might not want to cut back your perennials and grasses just yet.

Firstly, you don’t want to accidentally stimulate new growth during an unexpected warm spell during winter.

More importantly, the finished flower heads can be an ideal winter home for a lot of beneficial insects. Beneficial insects use rough vegetation to either over-winter themselves or lay eggs to be hatched next spring.

Those eggs will hatch before aphids and other pests appear. The adults from this first round of eggs will lay their eggs in time to control the aphids then later on thrips, spider mites etc.

By cutting back all that rough vegetation now, you are limiting the opportunities for those beneficial insects to help your garden in the spring.

Early winter jobs

  • Very last chance to plant your spring flowering daffodils, jonquils, tulips, hyacinths, freesias, ranunculi and anemones. If you have some still in the packet, it’s time to get them in the ground this weekend!
  • If you have ordered bare-rooted deciduous shrubs or trees, your nursery will soon be letting you know that they have arrived in store. To give your plants the best chance of succeeding, prepare the holes in advance for planting. Make the holes about twice as wide as the spread-out roots, but no deeper. Incorporate some well-composted manure or organic matter and leave it to decompose. Don’t add any fertiliser at this stage.
  • Insulate garden taps and exposed pipes to prevent freezing and burst pipes.
  • Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs and climbers, ideally just after the leaves have fallen off. eg buddleja, escallonia, forsythia, weigela, grapevines, jasmine, honeysuckle.
  • Don’t let camellias and other winter flowering shrubs get too dry and water them if necessary to help ensure they have a good flowering season. Japonica camellias prefer some shade to protect the winter flowers and stop the leaves scorching, as well as protection from morning sun in frosty areas. Thus they are sometimes planted in locations where rain doesn’t always reach reliably, eg under eaves, and they can benefit from additional water when flowering.

Remember, the Armidale Garden Club meets on the fourth Thursday of each month in the Uniting Church Hall. This month’s meeting is Thursday, June 29 at 7.30pm in the Uniting Church Youth lounge.