Gardening | Keeping your geraniums free of rust | The Maitland Mercury

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Geraniums are hardy, reliable plants that usually provide extended periods of flowering. However, without regular maintenance plants can become straggly. Although geraniums are generally disease-free plants, they can be affected by rust. This is a fungal disease that appears as yellow areas on the upper surface of the leaves. Brown, black or orange markings will be evident on the corresponding undersides of the leaves. Apart from these markings causing an unsightly appearance on the leaves, rust will lead to deformation and withering of the leaves. They will fall off the plant prematurely. Leaves that fall to the ground will then assist in further spreading of the problem. RELATED CONTENT If left untreated, rust can eventually lead to the plant dying, particularly if it is a less robust variety. Diseased leaves should be removed by hand and disposed of with the general garbage. Pruning back diseased stems will encourage healthy, new growth. An application of a general fertiliser will soon bring the plant back to a healthy state. A fungicide will be required for complete treatment of the problem. Garden centres should be consulted for suitable products. Repeated applications may be necessary, depending on seasonal conditions. Regular inspection of plants and immediate action when symptoms become evident will maintain healthy, productive plants. Citrus trees that are growing in our predominately clay-based soils may develop signs of mineral deficiencies, particularly through the warmer months. Mineral deficiencies will generally appear as abnormal or mottled colourings on leaves including a yellowing of the general leaf area while veins remain a deeper green colour. Zinc and magnesium deficiencies are the more common forms in citrus trees the home garden, although deficiencies in nitrogen, boron, phosphorous and manganese may also occur in other plants. Zinc and magnesium are required in appropriate quantities in order for the proper functioning of chlorophyll. Proper root growth, plant nutrition, reproduction and optimum crop growth are all dependent on balanced levels of minerals. The fastest way in which to rectify deficiencies in citrus trees is through the use of a foliar feed. This involves applying feeds to the leaves of plants so that it is absorbed rapidly into the plant’s system. The use of zinc-coated nails, nailed into the side of a tree, will provide the tree’s zinc needs over the coming years. A foliar feed, as described by Peter Cundall, can be applied to citrus trees as well as leaf vegetables and can be prepared in the following manner. A 10-litre bucket of water should be almost filled with water. To this should be added; 1/2 cup of fish emulsion, 1 cup of seaweed concentrate, 3 teaspoons of zinc sulphate and 3 teaspoons of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate). This mixture will supply nitrogen, through the fish emulsion and micro-elements present in the seaweed concentrate. As this mixture is very concentrated and would cause severe damage to plants if applied in this form, it must be diluted prior to application. One part of the mixture should be added to ten parts of water. In fact, it is important to use the solution at a weaker rather than a stronger concentration. The solution can then be sprayed over and under the foliage of citrus trees as well as leafy vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower and silver beet. If the mixture is to be applied to plants such as tomatoes and zucchinis, the plants should well-matured plants. Plants should be thoroughly watered before and after an application of the foliar feed. Late afternoon, during the main growing season is the preferred time. Applications should be made every 3-4 weeks. Unused concentrate can be stored in child-proof containers, ensuring that it is heavily diluted before application. Potassium deficiency in plants will become evident as a yellowing of leaves. It can affect the plant’s sap flow as well as the formation and flavour of fruit. Potash, which provides potassium in a soluble form, should be mixed at a rate of half a teaspoon in 4 1/2 litres of water. Mix thoroughly then apply to the root area of plants. Planning for displays of flowering bulbs should be done now, as different varieties are available to flower over an extended period. Freesias, jonquils and daffodils, which can flower as early as June, should be planted first. Snowflakes, Dutch iris, anemone and ranunculus then follow. Hyacinths and tulips can be planted by May, producing flowers in spring. If planting bulbs in pots, the use of a good quality bulb-planting mix will assist in the production of a beautiful display. Group pots together, or place them in strategic areas of the garden where the flower colours will be most effective. Bulbs should be placed into a well-drained position that receives sun for at least half the day. Bulbs generally are planted to a depth that is twice their width. After an initial watering the plants can be left until the leaves begin to appear, unless the soil appears very dry. Cold-climate bulbs such as tulips and hyacinths can be placed in the crisper section of the fridge for 4-8 weeks, prior to planting. Label the bulbs and use a calendar to remind you when to plant them.

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