Friday, December 24, 2010


- Posted by Zeal Property Maintenance P/L from iPad.Composting

What is composting?
Composting is nature’s own recycling program. In time, organisms will break down the ingredients listed below into rich, dark crumbly compost - nature’s own nutrient-rich fertiliser.

How does composting work and how long does it take?
Natural composting, or decomposition, occurs all the time in nature. Home composting generally takes two months or more. The more you turn and mix the contents - adding air in the process - the more rapid the composting action will be.

The right conditions include
the right ratio of nitrogen to carbon - equal amounts of ‘greens’ (kitchen scraps) for nitrogen and ‘browns’ (fallen leaves and woody material) for carbon
the right amount of water (feels like a damp sponge)
good drainage (to remove excess moisture)
enough oxygen (turned often)
What can you compost at home?
Vegetable and fruit scraps
Fallen leaves
Grass clippings
Finely chipped branches
Used vegetable cooking oil
Tea leaves, tea bags
Coffee grounds
Vacuum cleaner dust
Egg shells
Sheets of newspaper
Paper bags
Shredded paper
What can’t you compost?
Metal, plastic, glass
Meat and dairy products (attract rodents)
Large branches
Plant bulbs (need specialised treatment)
Droppings of meat-eating animals (e.g. dogs)
Grubs in your compost?
Sometimes in compost bins there are many segmented brown grubs. These are the larvae of the beneficial Soldier Fly. They are not pests, nor will they cause health problems.

Mulches can prevent up to 73% evaporation loss and they are one of the cheapest and easiest ways to make the most of water in the garden.
The best mulch is a well-rotted compost which will also improve the soil structure and stimulate the biological life of the soil. Place the mulch away from the trunk to prevent collar rot.
Do not apply mulch more than 75-100 mm in thickness or water may not easily penetrate into the soil.
Sylvester the Digester
At the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney we have one of only a few VCUs - Vertical Composting Units - in Australia. Our VCU, nick-named ‘Sylvester the Digester’, will help us lead the way in responsible recycling to help save our environment. Sylvester is an insulated, weather-sealed unit that processes organic waste and turns it into a nutrient-rich compost. We are turning our green ‘waste’ material into a high quality mulch and soil conditioner.

Sylvester is filled with fresh waste, water is added, then the waste is transferred to the top of the unit to descend through a temperature gradient from 85ºC to 45ºC. The high temperatures ensure elimination of pathogens and weed seeds. Sylvester is at work 24 hours per day, seven days a week. The time required to make the final compost product is around two to four weeks.

Monday, November 29, 2010


This article is written for those who have a problem with their cycad plant, want to avoid the common maladies of growing cycads or would like general sago palm care tips. In this article we discuss the problems that we’ve seen frequently and advise as to potential remedies that seem to help. It is meant to stimulate the reader into inspecting his plants for yellow leaves, brown tips, rot, etc., and coming up with therapeutic modalities for his plants. The better one gets at this, the better grower he will become.

What’s Wrong?

Inspect your plant

In growing cycads, it is very important to make a habit of looking at your plants. Inspection is key to good growing of cycads. They will usually demonstrate to you that they have a problem. However, it helps to know what to look for while inspecting. This can lead to your diagnosing the problem, or at least let you know something is wrong.. Once you establish what the problem is, you can set out to solve it. Described below are some of the things that you can look for while inspecting your cycads. Be aware that different climatic areas may see different problems than we've seen here in Southern California. However, most of the problems discussed below are quite universal to all growing areas. The problems of insects and pests is not dealt with here and will be discussed in a future article.

Encephalartos transvenosus, suspected of rot.

Bottom rot on Encephalartos caudex.

You see visible rot on your caudex or roots: Sometimes one might see rot on the trunk of a cycad. Or, you might see it on inspecting a caudex in pumice that you are trying to root out. Obviously, this requires you're bare-rooting the plant to inspect the roots and base of the caudex. Unfortunately, rot can hide and be deceptive, even starting in the most hidden, deepest roots. With rot, the first thing one notices is that the caudex or root tissue is soft. Rot manifests itself as a dark tan to brown/black color in the caudex or trunk . Rotting roots tend to be soft, darker colored, and lacking secondary roots coming out. This is opposed to light, fleshy healthy roots . Usually the rot involves the lower caudex in it’s subterranean area or the roots. Rot can cause cycads to decline or possibly die if it is not addressed. If you find rot on your caudex, use a sharp, sterile cutting tool (knife or saw) to remove the rot. Cut the rot away until you have only hard tissue that is whitish or light tan in color. Note: in some cases you may not find whitish or light tan tissue; in such cases, cut back to hard tissue. Be careful, if you cut the caudex too much you risk the plant dying. If the rot is on the roots, one needs to individually remove involved roots, dissecting up to clean, healthy tissue. Below are guidelines to the treatment of rot after you've dissected it away.

Encephalartos longifolius, with crown rot forming multiple heads.

Caudex rot on Encephalartos showing soft tissue.

Rooting hormone brand Take Root; a combination of root stimulant and fungicide.

General guideline in the treatment of tissue rot:

1) After you have cut away the rot (trunk or roots), soak the plant in both a fungicide and root stimulant. First soak your plant in a fungicide, like Daconil, for 30 minutes. Always follow manufacturer's instructions about usage and safety on any chemical. Next you will want to soak your plant in a root stimulant, like DipN’Grow, vitamin B1 or B complex (most liquid root stimulants will work), for 30 minutes. The reason why I recommend soaking the plants for 30 minute intervals is because it allows the caudex to absorb both the fungicide and root stimulant into its tissue
2) Sprinkle a powder root stimulant, like Take Root, onto the base of the caudex and/or the root(s).

Pure pumice.

3) You should now seal the cuts with an agricultural tar. This assists in keeping the cut surface clean and also helps to protect from future rot. Melted wax preparations can also be used.
4) We use new clean pumice (or scoria) to re-establish the plant. It is a dry medium and you are less likely to incur rot or other problems. This typically means submerging the treated area of trunk or roots directly into the pot of pumice. If pumice is not available, coarse sand can work. Use a pot that is not overly large for the caudex.
5) The time it takes to reestablish your plant can be three to six months or even longer. Failure will be evidenced by the progression of the rotting tissue and failure to establish leaves or roots. You may wish to bare root the caudex for inspection from time to time. One must repeat the cycles above if rot is rediscovered.

Caudex that hasn't done anything in a long time.

The top of your caudex is soft
This is an ominous sign. It usually means the caudex is in the process of or about to collapse and die. It is usually due to rot and the plant is usually near death. One would typically see the leaves turn brown and fall downward . They may shrivel. On grasping and pinching the crown of the caudex, it will be soft and compress inwards. It might actually collapse beneath the pressure of the fingers. This often means the demise of the entire plant. If the softness to touch is minimal, quickly treat the crown with a drenching of fungicide, and repeat on a regular basis. If the crown is collapsing, one can dissect away the crown of the caudex until healthy tissue is found. Often this is unsuccessful. The mechanics of doing this are discussed elsewhere, but one would be working from the top of the caudex downward. If one is lucky, new suckers will emerge from this dissected level and the plant will survive. More often then not, this plant is bound for the garbage can and is terminally ill.

Encephalartos, rotted and collapsed caudex.

E. transvenosus, inspecting caudex for rot and noting softness to the crown of the plant.

E. transvenosus, rotted caudex. Note it falls apart with ease. This caudex is dead.

An unrooted caudex does nothing
We’ve found that a healthy caudex can take anywhere from six months to two years to establish adequate roots for survival. Some species are faster than others. For instance, Encephalartos horridus established quite quickly while Encephalartos inopinus gets roots much more slowly. Sometimes the latter will even throw leaves prior to establishing roots. This certainly makes one apprehensive, but it is not always a fatal observation. However, sometimes months and years go by and nothing happens; no roots, no leaves. The first thing to do is to inspect the caudex. Feel it in your hands. Is it firm? Is it still heavy in the hand? Does it feel light? Firmly press the sides of the caudex. Does it collapse somewhat, especially toward the crown? When a caudex goes bad and visual inspection shows nothing, rot is often most evident near the crown of the plant or sucker. Are the cataphylls loose? Pull on them gently. Do they easily pull out? Try float testing the caudex. Unobserved central rot can make the caudex float. If everything seems OK and you find nothing, all you can do is place the sucker back in pumice and wait.
A rooting caudex throws leaves before it roots
This is always a worrisome problem. It is never the ideal scene, but sometimes happens and can still result in a healthy rooted plant. We always like to see vigorous roots before a throw of leaves. This can occur just because of the natural cycle of the offset. Let’s say it was about to throw leaves and you removed it for propagation. It will continue to leaf out regardless of being removed. Other times it happens six or twelve months after sucker removal and yet before rooting. In either case, it poses a risk to the new caudex. It is generally agreed that there is a risk of desiccation and death of the caudex as the leaves lose water and the caudex has minimal ability to absorb water without roots. Also, the leaves don’t have a nutritional flow except from the caudex. The throw of new leaves might have used up the energy reserves of the caudex.
Once observed, the problem is what to do. Remember to inspect for and treat any rot. One may treat with fungicide and certainly place the caudex back in pumice. But, what of the leaves; remove them or leave them in place? There is no perfect answer for this, but most growers would remove all or part of the leaves thrown. In actual fact, usually these leaves will abort soon after throwing and seldom do they persist as healthy leaves. Sometimes the collapse of these leaves is rapidly followed by a collapse of the caudex. Yet, if they survive, could they not be able to offer some photosynthesis and creation of energy? For this reason, some would say remove all of the leaves except a few and cut those remaining leaves in half. Once repotted back into pumice, carefully avoid watering the crown on such a plant.

Encephalartos caudex showing crown rot, evident as soft scales near the crown pull apart.

Encephalartos, healthy caudex but no roots and no leaves as of yet.

New leaves shorter than new ones.

Leaves are shorter than normal
If your leaves emerge shorter than they did the last time, there can be a few problems:

a) If you are acclimating your cycad (working it out into sun), the new leaves may be shorter than those which flushed in a shadier environment. This is not a problem; your cycad will grow out of it.
b) If this is the first throw of a recently established sucker or a recently transplanted cycad, short leaves can occur. This will change with successive throws.
c) A throw of leaves in the coldest part of the winter can stunt their length. You might see this on a recently imported and established caudex whose "biological clock" is set to another hemisphere.
c) Leaves emerging shorter can also be an indication of a cultural problem. This could be nutritional requiring treatment with fertilizer or microelements. It could be from a poor soil mix or poor soil aeration. Or, it could be a symptom of caudex or root rot. If you think it is indicated, carefully remove that plant from its pot and wash away the excess dirt with a hose. Inspect the roots or caudex for rot. With a plant in the ground, gently rock the cycad to see if it is loose in the ground, suggesting root rot. You can also check the trunk of your cycad to see if it is soft in exposed areas. If rot is found, treat as described elsewhere in this article.
Keys to good culture.

How to avoid problems

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It might even be that it’s worth many pounds of cure with cycads. Below are some simple rules to follow.


This is one of the most important things you can do. Follow the guidelines mentioned previously and practice observation, especially watching for problems or failure to thrive. Usually you can find the problem and fix it.

Growing the right cycads

Growing the right cycads for you area is important. This will involve your talking to someone or doing a little research on your own, but it can make a huge difference in your garden. You will find that some cycads want a tropical environment where some want a dry one. Fortunately for us in Southern California, we can grow most cycads. Our limitations here are with those cycads with the most tropical demands. If you live in a temperate or colder area, tropical Zamias might prove impossible without a greenhouse. You might also find that South African species of Encephalartos grow better than those from Central Africa. Also, very humid climates such as in Miami or the Tropics might find arid growers like Encephalartos horridus prone to rot. This might require special preventative cultural techniques. For the greatest chances of success, get species right for your area.

Drainage, drainage, drainage

Regardless of your soil type, always maintain good drainage. The soil should never be waterlogged. Sand, pumice and gravel help promote drainage. Very fine sand, leafy organic material and clay-type topsoil slow it down. If it is impossible to offer good drainage in the garden, mound up you cycads above the soil line so you can control the water content of the soil.


Either make or amend you soil to create good drainage. See our article on cycad soil for specific formulas. Remember that the organic components of cycad mix can break down, resulting in “muck” at the bottom of the pot or an impediment to drainage. Repotting is the remedy for this problem. This is important for container culture. In the garden consider amending with sand. If you can’t buy or obtain materials for a good cycad soil, think about using a cactus and succulent mix. These might suffice.

Adequate sun

We have seen many promising cycads stall because they have lost their sunlight. This is usually the result of competitive more rapidly growing plants. If a species wants sun, remember to maintain it. Loss of sun will lead to a plant that just sits there and doesn’t do much of anything.


Fertilizing is an important part in growing any plant. The key is to know what kind, how often and how much you should fertilizer you should use. We recommend using a slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote, using an N/P/K ratio that is 3-1-2 or 3-1-3. An example of a good fertilizer might therefore be 18:6:18. You should fertilize once every three to four months, depending on your formulae and release rate. I always recommend that you use a little less fertilizer than what is suggested on the bag because you don’t kill plants with too little fertilizer, but you do with too much.


Watering is an important part of growing cycads, because there’s hardly a cycad that likes to have wet feet. Get use to inspecting your garden soil or the soil in he containers. Don’t let it stay too damp. Drying out near the surface is preferable on most species. Typically, watering frequencies for temperate weather is about once, or possibly twice a week during hot weather. During the winter, once every week or two is usually adequate. For desert type environments, adjust the frequency depending on the soil moisture content. For tropical environments, try to avoid conditions where the plant and soil are continually damp. Mounding might be necessary. Or, overhead shielding during the rainy season might be needed. Also, regardless of where you are, water the garden or container soil, not the crown of the plant. Repetitive watering of the crown will lead to rot. This means that frequent overhead sprinklers can be a problem. Ground bubblers on timers can be great for the cycad garden. This also explains why climates with daily monsoon seasons can lead to difficulties with some species.


In a greenhouse environment, ventilation to provide adequate air movement around your cycads will help prevent mold and rot. Stationary oscillating fans or intake/exhaust fans can help accomplish this. Poor ventilation often causes mold and scale problems in the greenhouse.

Prophylactic treatment

Get into the habit of inspecting your plants. If you see fungal problems or rot, treat it early. Fungicides can also be used prophylacticly to avoid problems if you are anticipating them. This would especially apply to plants grown in a humid greenhouse.

Oscillating large fan in the greenhouse.

In this article we have covered many of the basics in protecting your cycads. The great thing about it is that cycads really do not take much maintenance at all. You could say that they almost thrive on neglect. Just be careful when you water, don’t fertilize too much and make sure that your cycad is in a quick draining soil and has adequate light. If you do the things discussed above, you should become a successful cycad grower.

- Posted by Zeal Property Maintenance P/L from iPad.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

lace Mites

Azalea Lace Bugs - fact sheet
The Azalea Lace Bug (Stephanitis pyrioides), an insect originating from Japan, is a signicant pest of azaleas and rhododendrons in many regions of the world where these plants are cultivated. The bug especially attacks plants growing in sunny, exposed situations.
Symptoms of lace bug attack
The feeding activity of every stage of the lace bug life cycle produces a widespread grey-whitish/silvery mottling on the upper surfaces of the leaves, similar in colour but coarser in texture to that caused by spider mites. Adult and juvenile lace bugs feed on the undersurfaces of azalea and rhododendron leaves. The mottling is usually so severe that leaves that have been attacked are permanently disfigured. Leaves will die and fall from the plant well before their time. Sticky brown patches or ‘varnish’ (excretory products of the lace bugs) appear on the undersides of the leaves. The Azalea Lace Bug is widespread throughout Australia.
Life cycle
The lace bug has at least two (and possibly four) generations per year in Australia. Adults reach 4-6 mm in length. They have clear, heavily veined wings - hence the insects’ common name. Juvenile lace bugs are wingless, spiny, have long antennae relative to their body length, and have a black and tan mottled colouring giving them an overall dark appearance.
There are probably five nymphal instars. Nymphal moult skins often remain stuck to lace bug varnish on the undersides of leaves. Lace bugs overwinter in the egg stage, hatching when conditions improve for them in the sping. Eggs are inserted into the mid-vein on the underside of the azalea or rhododendron leaf as they are laid. They have a brown protective covering which hardens on contact with air.
Lace bugs are particularly difficult to control. There is currently no known effective biological control agent (e.g. a parasitic wasp). There are some pesticides that are registered for the control of this pest.

Call 1300 882 787
Servicing the Blue Mountains
and Western Sydney
ACN 127 048 015

- Posted by Zeal Property Maintenance P/L from iPad.

Curl grubb

General information
Scarab beetle larvae, also known as white curl grub (or cockchafer in southern states), are a serious lawn pest. The signs of infestation are easily confused with other pests, diseases and disorders in turf and present as a general yellowing, then browning, followed by the death of lawn.
Pest characteristics
In subtropical areas, lawn injury is commonly seen from November through to January. The most common causal agent is African black beetle (Heteronychus arator), although a number of native and non-native scarabs look similar and produce comparable damage. These include pruinose scarab (Sericesthis geminata) and Argentine scarab (Cyclocephala signaticollis). If in doubt, have the pest formally identified.
Third instar African black beetle larvae grow to 20-25 mm in length before pupating in the soil. They have an orange-brown head capsule. Oval-shaped, shiny black adults, 12-15 mm long, emerge during February, feeding on stems just below ground level. They are less active through winter and mate in spring after the female has reached sexual maturity.
Only one generation is produced each year. Deceptively, different larval stages are sometimes found in the soil. This is mainly due to eggs being laid at different times.
Correct names
White curl grub, scarab beetle larvae, lawn beetle larvae or cockchafer are the correct common names for the juvenile stage of lawn beetle. However, white curl grub is sometimes incorrectly referred to as 'lawn grub' and 'witchety grub'. 'Lawn grub' is a colloquial term for surface-dwelling caterpillars such as sod webworm, army worm and cutworm, which become moths. The true witchety grub is the wood-feeding larva of two families of giant Australian moth.
White curl grubs have a characteristic 'C' shape and three pairs of legs. They live underground, protected by soil. Animals such as magpies, crows, wood duck and other carnivorous birds, bandicoots and even foxes enjoy this food source. Damage from animal feeding can be the first indicator that the insects are present.
Some white curl grubs are parasitised by the yellow (hairy) flower wasp (Campsomeris tasmaniensis) in southern Queensland. This 30 mm-long hairy wasp with yellow and black banding on its abdomen can also act as an indicator of the presence of beetle larvae.
The late second instar and third instar phases of the beetle’s lifecycle are the most damaging to turf. These larger larvae are voracious feeders on roots and underground stems. The adults also feed on turf, but cause much less damage.
What often differentiates white curl grub damage from other types of lawn dieback, such as that caused by drought or water repellent soils, is that the lawn starts to slip or roll up like a carpet. If this symptom is detected it is time to bring out a large corer or shovel and dig for beetle larva.
A problem infestation is generally regarded to be 25 or more white curl grubs per square metre. If fewer larvae are present, healthy turf is likely to outgrow the minor damage it will sustain. Under heat and drought stress, the problem may be exacerbated by poor rates of regrowth and smaller numbers of larvae can cause significant damage.
Host range
African black beetles establish in a wide range of grasses including green couch, blue couch, soft leaf buffalo grass and kikuyu. The insect has a broad range of dietary preferences and larvae will attack, among other things, strawberries, pineapples, potatoes and grape vines.
Control measures are most effective when insect activity is monitored. One way of doing this is to moisten a hessian bag or piece of carpet and place it on the lawn overnight. In the morning the adults can be collected and disposed of. Check for adult beetles from late spring to early summer when egg laying commences.
It is thought that garden lighting may be helpful in attracting and detecting adult beetles. However, this may have the unwanted side effect of increasing egg laying activity in adjacent lawn areas. Turning off unnecessary garden lighting may reduce pest numbers.
Biological controls
Some householders encourage carnivorous birds into their garden to control the pest. However, if the white curl grub problem is severe, bird feeding can cause extensive damage in its own right. Free range poultry will also keep pest numbers in check.
A bucket of soapy water made with a biodegradable detergent can be poured onto affected areas, encouraging the larvae and beetles to move to the surface where they might be picked off by birds.
Effective control of later larval stages is only achievable with insect killing nematodes, known as entomopathogenic nematodes (ENs). They are active only against specific soil-dwelling insects, safe to handle and safe for plants. These nematodes were commercialised in 1999 after extensive research by the CSIRO Division of Entomology in Canberra.
ENs for African black beetle are raised in a laboratory and shipped in a dormant state. When received, the ENs must first be hydrated in water, and then lightly stirred to avoid settling. The suspension can then be watered onto a pre-moistened lawn. This needs to be done in the late afternoon because ENs are sensitive to the sun’s ultra-violet rays.
Upon release, the nematodes sense their target, move to it, and enter their prey through openings in its body. They then release bacteria that feed on the inside of the larva. The bacterium nurtures the nematode population, which builds up to the point where the larvae dies, rupturing to release a new generation of ENs into the soil.
Chemical control
Read garden chemical product labels carefully prior to purchase. Make sure the product is registered for use on home lawns for lawn beetle. There are three stages of the lawn beetles’ lifecycle for which a chemical may be registered. Use the chemical on the correct part of the lifecycle, strictly following the directions on the label.
Chemical control measures are most effective on newly hatched larvae. The presence of adult beetles is a cue to check the soil for early stages of the lifecycle, which are vulnerable to imidacloprid (Confidor) and thiamethoxam (Meridan) applications.
The organophosphate, chlorpyrifos (various lawn beetle and lawn grub formulations), is registered for the control of lawn beetle larvae and adults. In practice, the chemical is only effective on larvae if it infiltrates the soil and reaches the insect. It does not work well on larvae with high body fat. In addition, chlorpyrifos is highly toxic to the user and needs to be handled with caution.
Prior to treatment, water the lawn well to bring the larvae closer to the surface. Penetration of chemical will also be enhanced by mowing, then raking out thatch, before treatment.
The adult beetle is easier to control. Other chemicals registered for the control of adults have the active ingredients beta-cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, cyfluthrin (Baythroid) and diazinon (Pennside). Synthetic pyrethroids (such as bifenthrin and cyfluthrin forms) are safer to handle than organophosphates such as diazinon and chlorpyrifos. Pennside has been micro-encapsuled, reducing its toxicity to users.

Call 1300 882 787
Servicing the Blue Mountains
and Western Sydney
ACN 127 048 015

- Posted by Zeal Property Maintenance P/L from iPad.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Coicheli Michelia

Michelia figo
(Port wine Magnolia)

DESCRIPTION – An attractive evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves that slowly grows to its maximum height. It is an old favourite for many people because of it highly scented yellow-purple flowers that are produced during Spring, early Summer and Autumn.
CULTURAL - Michelias, a relative of the Magnolia, prefer a moist, fertile and well drained soil that is slightly acidic so when planting it helps if the position has been prepared that way. A warm, sunny aspect is best, though they do tolerate partial shade. We advise an annual application of good quality fertilizer in Spring, and mulching and watering during the drier months especially when the plant is establishing itself.
LANDSCAPE USE – Most famous for its small flowers-their strong sweet scent will drift about in the air so it is a great one for planting around entertaining areas or close to the home.

- Posted by Zeal Property Maintenance P/L from iPad.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spring has arrived

This year is fantastic with blooms everywhere. The recent rain and heat has brought out a flush of colour. I especially enjoy the pastel hues of the azaleas and the rich colour of the camellias.

As we work around all the areas of Sydney our staff are spreading Greenlife and various fertilizers across gardens to give organic nutrients to help plants sustain their bloom. Should you wish to call us we are waiting to respond to your needs.

- Posted by Zeal Property Maintenance P/L from iPad.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Myrtle Rust

Plant material sampled from a cut flower/foliage producer in NSW has been
confirmed as Uredo rangelii (Myrtle rust). This is the first time this fungus has
been found in Australia and is identified as a disease of significance in the
Nursery Industry Biosecurity Plan.

The Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests (CCEPP) has agreed
that further survey work is required around the infected property. Trace forward
and trace back actions are occurring to find other possible incidents of this plant
rust. Infected plant material has and is being treated with fungicides to contain
the infection on site while further surveys are undertaken.
This is the first known identification of the Uredo rangelii (Myrtle rust) on Agonis
flexuosa (Willow Myrtle), a species native to Western Australia but planted widely
across Australia as an ornamental. Once more is known about the extent of
spread of the rust, a response plan will be considered by the CCEPP.
Myrtle Rust:
This plant disease is closely related to the fungi causing guava rust, which is
also known as eucalyptus rust, and part of a complex of rusts that infect the
Myrtaceae family of plants which include many Australian native species.
Rusts are highly transportable. Their spores can be spread via contaminated
clothing, infected plant material, on equipment and by insect movement and wind
These types of rust affect commercial plant growing operations and native
ecosystems. The response is being managed in consultation with state and
commonwealth environment agencies.
Industry Response:
The NGIA has agreed to distribute this Pest Alert nationally to encourage the
nursery industry to inspect your crops/stock and on-site vegetation for signs of
this rust disease. A fact sheet with photos of the disease and information on
identifying and reporting the disease is attached for industry to quickly detect any
further infected sites across Australia.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Azaleas in the Landscape

Azaleas in the Landscape

Azaleas and Camellias have very similar growing requirements and are the perfect companions in home gardens whether they are suburban, country, courtyards or simply pots on balconies. Azaleas are easily grown in pots as specimens, hedges, mass planted or grown as a standard.


Azaleas grow best in acid soils - pH 5.5 - that have a high organic content and are fully at their best when planted into soil that has been enriched with organic matter so that the roots are able to move out freely and soil moisture is retained for longer periods.

Azaleas will grow and bloom in quite open positions, providing watering is adequate. Semi-shade positions under high trees which provide protection from the hot midday sun will give better blooms, a prolonged flowering period and less fading or scorching of blooms.

Planting positions are indicated in the catalogue pages listed in the menu on the left.


Deep planting will set back the surface-rooting Azalea and must be avoided. This is a major cause of unhealthy plants and promotes root rot.

Dig the planting hole twice as large as the root ball and to the depth of the pot.

Improve soil with organic matter or special camellia mix or aged cow manure.
Soak plant before removing it from the container.
Firm down soil at base of planting hole before placing plant on top. This ensures the plant does not sink after planting.
Ease out roots around the root ball with fingertips.
Ensure top of the potted plant's soil is level with existing soil, if not the plant is too deeply planted and will need to be lifted out and more soil added to the base of the hole.
Water well.
You may wish to construct a small collar around the root ball so water is able to be held and allowed to soak in slowly during the plant's settling in period.
Extra care, especially with watering, is required if planting during the hotter months.

Azaleas suffer badly if left to dry out, particularly during the summer periods when temperatures are more extreme. Watering systems are a good investment as the microsprays apply the water directly to the root area.


Azaleas are light feeders and care should be taken not to over feed. For best results a liquid fertiliser such as Aquasol® should be used every four weeks between September and March at the recommended rates on the pack. In addition, Osmocote Plus® may be appied in early Spring and Autumn.

Always water well before applying fertiliser.
Always read the instructions before using.
Never apply more than the recommended rates given by the manufacturer.

Pruning of Azaleas is best done in October-November. Vigorous growers can be cut back quite heavuily. Slow growing Azaleas should only require a light trimming or pruning back. Stray growth which pushes up through the main plant should be pruned back to 10cm below the plant's canopy to promote shorter bushier shoots.


Before spraying:

Do not mix different sprays.
Only use the spray if recommended for the purpose.
Be sure you have a problem. Do not spray unnecesarily.
Read and follow the directions on the pack.
Wear protective clothing.
Spraying is best carried out in the cool of the day (late afternoon).
Lace Bug

A small winged insect that is found on the underside of leaves during Spring and Summer. Damaged leaves appear silver on top and usually have a dark spotty underside. Control is necessary to ensure healthy plants. Confidor® is effective and four single sprays in early October, December, February and April will keep the lace bug under control.


Almost invisible to the naked eye, these small translucent insects of spider-like appearance cause a tan discolouration to the leaf surface and malformation of new growth. Check with your local nursery if you feel you have this insect as only specific Miticides are effective. Kelthane is currently being used to control this pest.

Leaf Miner

Invisible as the small insect tunnels through the leaf leaving a silvery trail before exiting. Take some foliage to a nursery to confirm. 'Pest Oil' is an effective control during the active time only.

Petal Blight

Seen only during the flowering season. Flowers tend to become brown and mushy and hang on the bush. Spraying must commence before the flowers open out for the best control. Bayleton is the most effective fungicide at present and as it is a powder it must be mixed and used for each spraying.

azalea classification

The continual introduction of excellent new intermediate hybrids has made the old classification of evergreen Azaleas under the headings of Indicas or Kurumes appear obsolete.

The small flowered Kurumes are being replaced largely by hybrids of sounder constitution and with somewhat larger flowers which are so much easier to remove when spent.

We are therefore grouping for growth habit:

LARGE GROWING SINGLES which are basically back row or specimen plants of height or ample dimensions.
  browse Large Growing Singles catalogue  

MEDIUM GROWING SINGLES or SEMI-DOUBLES which are second or front-row plants of intermediate or spreading growth habit. Some varietal variation of flower size will be noted in this group and the semi-doubles are mainly of the "hose-in-hose" (flower within a flower) type.
  browse Medium Growing Singles or Semi-doubles catalogue  

These cultural notes are intended as a guide only.


Pest Oil Insect Control Spray is based on petroleum oil, it works by smothering insects. It can be used on all stages of scale insects but has the greatest impact at the 'crawler' stage. The 'crawlers' emerge at a different time depending on the type of scale but most emerge in the December to February period.

Correct scale identification and timing of the spray will improve the impact of any oil spray. Oils generally have a low impact on beneficial insects. A big advantage of this new generation Pest Oil is the low application rate at 5ml to a litre, so the product goes a long way.

Advances in oil technology mean that this oil can be used all year round without damage to plants, up to a temperature of 35°C. Pest Oil will control: red, white wax, pink wax, black, soft brown, grapevine, San Jose and oyster shell scale; two-spotted spider mite, aphids, white fly and mealy bugs.

Pest Oil is the first registered non-toxic control for citrus leafminer; it works by forming a protective film on immature leaves, which the adult leafminer moths avoid.

A Landline program on the ABC reported a trial mixing 1% oil with Bt to give excellent results against Heliothis.

Two-spotted mite

Two-spotted mite

Two-spotted mites are tiny creatures (about the size of a full stop) that damage plants by feeding on the chlorophyll in the leaves. They are yellowish-green with 2 large dark spots on their back. In autumn they turn reddish-orange, hence their other common name, red spider. The first symptom that your plants are under attack is usually a white spotting on the surface of the leaves. In heavy infestations the mites remove nearly all the chlorophyll and the leaves turn yellow and drop off.  Mites secrete a very fine, silk-like webbing which protects the mites from enemies and contact with chemical sprays. Two-spotted mite feeds on a wide range of plants, particularly cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicums, beans, roses, orchids, strawberries, berry fruits and apple and peach trees.

Suggested Organic Strategies:

  • Common organic practices such as making compost, mulching the soil and avoiding chemical insecticides help to encourage predatory mites, a major predator of two-spotted mite.  A healthy garden will have a resident population of predatory mites to keep pest mites under control.

  • Try a high pressure hosing in the early morning, 3 days in a row.

  • An unlikely pest control device is a hand held vacuum cleaner! After vacuuming, tip the contents immediately into a plastic bag and place in the freezer for a few hours.

  • Keep your plants healthy by feeding, mulching and watering.

Stamen_ Detail of flowers

Stamen one of the four basic parts of a flower . The stamen (microsporophyll), is often called the flower's male reproductive organ. It is typically located between the central pistil and the surrounding petals. 

A stamen consists of a slender stalk (the filament) tipped by a usually bilobed sac (the anther) in which microspores develop as pollen grains. The number of stamens is a factor in classifying plant families, e.g., there are 5 (or multiples of 5) in the rose family and 10 in the pulse family. In most flowers the stamens are constructed so as to promote cross-pollination and to avoid self-pollination; 

e.g., they may be longer than the pistil or may be so placed in relation to the pistil (as in the mountain laurel and the lady's-slipper) as to prevent the pollinating insect from transferring the pollen of a flower to its own pistil. 

There may be differing maturation times for the stigma of the pistil and for the anther. In some plants there are some flowers (staminate) that bear stamens and no pistil and others (pistillate) that have a pistil and no stamens; these flowers may be borne on the same or on separate plants of the same species. In some highly developed flowers, especially double ones, and in some horticultural varieties (e.g., the geranium) the stamen may be modified into a sterile petallike organ.


Pythium root rot is a common crop disease caused by a genus of organisms called Pythium. These are commonly called water moulds.Pythium damping off is a very common problem in fields and greenhouses, where the organism kills newly emerged seedlings.
This disease complex usually involves other pathogens such as Phytophthora and Rhizoctonia. Pythium wilt is caused by zoospore infection of older plants leading to biotrophic infections that become necrotrophic in response to colonization/reinfection pressures or environmental stress, leading to minor or severe wilting caused by impeded root functioning.
Pythium in turfgrass
Many Pythium species, along with their close relatives, Phytophthora species are plant pathogens of economic importance in agriculture.Pythium spp. tend to be very generalistic and unspecific in their host range. They infect a large range of hosts, while Phytophthora spp. are generally more host-specific.
For this reason, Pythium spp. are more devastating in the root rot they cause in crops, because crop rotation alone will often not eradicate the pathogen (nor will fallowing the field, as Pythium spp. are also good saprotrophs, and will survive for a long time on decaying plant matter).
It has been noted that in field crops, damage by Pythium spp. is often limited to the area affected, as the motile zoospores require ample surface water to travel long distances.
Additionally, the capillaries formed by soil particles act as a natural filter and effectively trap many zoospores. However, in hydroponic systems inside greenhouses, where extensive monocultures of plants are maintained in plant nutrient solution (containing nitrogen, potassium, phosphate, and micronutrients) that is continuously recirculated to the crop, Pythium spp. cause extensive and devastating root rot and is often difficult to prevent or control.

 The root rot affects entire operations (tens of thousands of plants, in many instances) within two to four days due to the inherent nature of hydroponic systems where roots are nakedly exposed to the water medium, in which the zoospores can move freely

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cliveas just separated and potted up.

It’s marvellous to have plants in your garden that just flower year after year with almost no maintenance - one such plant is the Clivea.

Cliveas are beautiful plants with lush green straplike leaves all year round. But when they come into flower, they show off stunning displays of burnt orange to cream flowers that look absolutely magnificent.

In the garden, Cliveas are extremely easy plants to grow. They just need the right conditions.

Cliveas love shaded areas and do very well below trees and under large shrubs. They love a well drained soil, so when planting, dig in Searles® Real Compost.

One great aspect of Cliveas is that they don’t need much watering. Cliveas will actually grow very well in dry conditions, but some watering will produce their best growth and flowers. A good deep soak once a week will be sufficient for brilliant colour & growth.

To keep them a lovely deep green & really bring on spectacular flowering, fertilise regularly with Searles Flourish® Soluble Plant Food.

As cliveas grow, the slowly multiply into numerous plants. They can be easily dug up and divided and then replanted into similar areas within the garden. Cliveas truly are easy plants to grow and look magnificent when in flower.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What is Diatomaceous earth and How is it Used?

Diatomaceous earth is not really an "earth". It is a product made from the fossilized remains of microscopic shells created by one celled plants called Diatoms. These plants inhabit all the waters of the earth. Some of these deposits shifted to dry land. There are different grades of Diatomaceous earth that are used for different purposes. Only use fresh water, FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous earth for humans or animals. Food Grade Diatomaceous earth is also called Fossil shell flour.

Diatomaceous earth is used as an insecticide. Its fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects' exoskeletons, which causes them to dehydrate. It's often used instead of boric acid to control and eliminate a cockroach infestation. It's used to control insects in grain storage, and also to get rid of ticks, fleas, aphids, silverfish, bed bugs, red spider mites, and other insects in the home. Use it as a barrier against slugs and snails. Diatomaceous Earth is pure organic so it won't harm the soil, earthworms, or any animals that eat the insects that came in contact with it.
Use Diatomaceous earth outdoors in the garden, on the lawn, and around the foundation of your home. Use it in storage sheds, in your attic, basement, and under your house, To prevent termites, sprinkle in wood chips, mulch, and in dark damp areas.  Put it in the walls around insulation when building or renovating a home.
It's beneficial as a soil additive, adding nitrogen to the soil. Diatomaceous earth can retain over 6 times its weight in moisture and will release it as the plants need it.

Diatomaceous earth will also kill beneficial insects, so avoid using it where beneficial insects may stay.


Diatomaceous earth can be used as a filter medium, especially for swimming pools. It is used in chemistry under the brand name Celatom or Celite to filter very fine particles that would pass through or clog filter paper. It is also used to filter water in fish tanks, in making beer and wine, and to filter syrups and sugar.


Because of its absorbency, it's a great product to use for cleaning up spills, and it's even recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to clean up toxic liquid spills.


Diatomaceous earth is approved by the US Department of Agriculture as a feed supplement. It's used on organic vegetables and in grain storage.  That white powder wash you see on organic vegetables and fruits is probably Diatomaceous earth and it is safe to eat.  Diatomaceous Earth is used in grains, rice, oats, beans and other grains for protection from insects.  
It keeps fly larvae from developing in manure. Mix it with feed for chickens and turkeys. It makes their shells harder, dries droppings quickly and reduces odors.


Diatomaceous earth is often used in hydroponic gardens, which is a way of growing plants with mineral nutrient solutions in water rather than using soil.
It is also used in potted plants People who grow bonsai trees use it as a soil additive or even pot a tree solely in Diatomaceous earth. It retains water and nutrients while draining fast, similar to vermiculite and perlite.


Only use FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous earth (Fossil shell flour). Other grades are harmful.Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth Fresh Water (Fossil Shell Flour) is totally natural and organic and listed with OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute).
The Food and Drug Administration considers Food Grade Diatomaceous earth - generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

Human Uses for Fossil Shell Flour

As far as I can determine, there are no studies or research to prove Fossil Shell Flour is beneficial to humans, but there are many testimonials. It is suggested to mix 1 heaping tsp. with a glass of water or juice on a daily basis.
FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous earth (Fossil shell flour) is believed to eliminate parasites, stop arthritis, clean your colon, reduce cholesterol levels, regulate bowl movements, stop diarrhea, pull heavy metals form the bloodstream, and much more. In Europe, it's used to strengthen hair, bones, teeth, skin and nails.


Do not put Diatomaceous earth in a microwave.
Because of its absorbent qualities, your hands can become dry if you don't wear gloves.
If you have asthma or some other lung ailment, wear a mask or make sure you're not around any moving air.
Diatomaceous earth is drying to the eyes, so don't handle it when you or your pets are down wind of it. If you use it on your pets, put a towel over your pet's head to protect its eyes.
Don't give Diatomaceous earth to very small pregnant animals such as cats and guinea pigs.
Don't continually feed it to babies or small animals. Diatomaceous Earth can be fed on a continuous basis to larger animals and livestock.
The flux-calcined form of diatomaceous earth contains a highly crystalline form of silica. The sharpness of this version makes it dangerous to breathe and you should use a dust mask when working with it.
If you sprinkle Diatomaceous earth in your carpet to control fleas or other insects, don't use very much. Because of its powdery substance, too much may clog your vacuum cleaner.
Don't use pool filter grade diatomaceous earth around animals. It can poison or kill them. Only use food grade (fossil shell flour).
Diatomaceous earth is an interesting and beneficial product. You can do a search on the internet for places to buy it. Make sure you buy FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous earth (Fossil shell flour) for human and animal use.