Soaking rains one week and drying winds the next - the vagaries of spring weather can certainly test gardeners.
In the vegie garden, try to keep soil moisture fairly constant. If plants go dry-then wet-then dry, it will cause them to grow in stops and starts and they may wilt, drop their blossoms or leaves, or the fruits may not form properly. Under watered vegetables can taste bitter or be woody, while overwatered ones can be just plain tasteless.
Spring is also when many pests begin to make their presence felt in the garden.
Protect leafy greens from birds, especially the sparrows, with netting.
Set baits for snails and slugs and maintain vigilance throughout the warmer months, especially during wet or humid conditions.
Look for, and squash, any caterpillars on grape vines.
Check the back of leaves for whiteflies.
More gardening with Dar:
Watch for cutworm activity. These plump, smooth caterpillars, up to about 40mm long, cut the stems of plants, particularly seedlings, so that the plants fall over. Usually, if you scratch the soil near the damaged plants, you can find them curled up in a defensive position.
One method of prevention is to put "collars" made of toilet paper rolls, metal cans, paper cups and the like, around individual plants and pressing those about 2cm into the soil.
You can also dig the soil thoroughly before planting to kill any hiding cutworms, or dig around damaged plants.
Some parasitic wasps and predatory damsel bugs, shield bugs, carabid beetles, ladybirds and lacewing larvae feed on cutworm eggs and larvae. Encourage them by having nectar bearing flowers in the garden for them to feed on.
Find the caterpillars at night and drown them in a bucket of soapy water.
Mulch plants with oak leaves, crushed eggshells, damp wood ashes, or other skin irritating physical barriers.
You can also try pushing a small stick or toothpick into the ground right alongside a seedling so the cutworm can't wrap itself around the stem and chomp on it.
If you are planning on growing chokos, melons or sweet potatoes this season, you need to get them in the ground by the end of November so there is enough time for them to grow and ripen.
The Armidale Garden Club's last meeting for 2021 is on Thursday November 25 in the Uniting Church Hall, starting at 6:30pm with a Christmas Barbecue.
Everyone is welcome.
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