Weevils

Hi, my name is:

Weevil

Describe yourself: At just about any stage of my life cycle, I freely admit to being no super model. I am most easily distinguished by my large “snout”, a protrusion at the front of my head not shared by other bugs. We can vary in size from 7mm to 12mm and depending on our species, we can be a range of colours. My gorgeous larvae are also easily identified through their distinct brown heads and legless, light brown to white bodies.

Hobbies: As a youngster I love spending my time under the soil munching away on your plant roots! But, as I mature my tastes change and I adore hanging out on the green stems and leaves of plants, scalloping their foliage and making a real mess. Oh, and my mate, the black vine weevil hangs out under bark, feeding and ringbarking your plants!

Likes: Ornamental plants but especially vegetable crops.  I love beetroot, carrot, potato strawberry, cabbage, broccoli and lettuce. Larvae of the fruit tree weevil will happily munch the roots of a range of fruit trees including pears, citrus, apples, figs and apricots. The black vine weevil enjoys a range of vines....as the name suggests, and has a real taste for olive trees.

Dislikes: Hygienic gardens, crop rotation, plants that are healthy, happy and not stressed.

You'll know you've met me when: Young plants can be ringbarked, roots munched away and the foliage scalloped. You can often see me as an adult moving up the stems and trunks of plants after pupating in the soil.

Old School Control Methods: Hideous chemicals applied in the afternoon to knock out night-crawling weevils. Nasty!

If you want to dump me, you could try to:

    • We weevils are difficult to eradicate from a garden bed but crop rotation is a useful tool. If vegetable weevils are present plant peas and beans as your winter crop to starve us out.  Avoid planting root vegetables such as carrots and beetroot if you really dislike us.
    • Ensure susceptible plants brought into the garden do not contain weevil larvae and, should you be giving plants away, be just as cautious about passing us to your friends.
    • A once-off forking over of garden beds when larvae are present may help to eradicate us.
    • Place pieces of plastic sheeting around the base of infested trees and shake. The weevils will fall from the tree and can then be collected in a bucket and drowned.
    • Introduce some chooks, ducks, or even guinea fowl to the patch.  These guys will make short work of weevils.
    • “Band” susceptible trees with greasy hessian sacks, aluminum foil or horticultural glue.  This traps us adult weevils on our way up the tree, and interrupts our breeding cycle.
    • Ensure plants are not water stressed, as this makes them more attractive to us weevils.

Red Spider Mite

Hi, my name is:

Two-spotted Mite (or Red Spider mite to my friends)

Describe yourself: Well, my closest relations are spiders, but don't let that put you off! I'm TINY (about .5mm), greenish-yellow and look good in spots (two big black ones on my back). I change things a little in autumn when I look good in red - in line with the season.
Hobbies: Man, I suck... and suck, and suck! I enjoy spinning webs, and hanging out on the underside of leaves in a big group.
Likes: Heaps of fruit trees (I go crazy for apple and peach trees), veggies (especially cucumbers, capsicums, tomatoes and beans), and I adore roses, berries, azaleas and marigolds. Hot, dry weather, with low humidity really gets me laying eggs! And violet patches are a good spot for taking my winter break.
Dislikes: Predatory mites, green and brown lacewings, predatory thrips, spiders and parasitic wasps. I despise home made veggie oil soap mixes or store bought alternatives.
You'll know you've met me when: Your leaves look mottled or bronze - especially on the top. If I have been around for a while, and breeding up a storm, the leaves might even fall off! If you look underneath the leaves, it's a bit of a mess - we're an untidy bunch! Have a look for my webs, so you don't confuse me with thrips!

Breaking up ain't hard to do... if:

  • Evict me with predatory mites... they're easy to attract, especially if you use compost, manures or mulch your soil! They love this stuff. You can even import them like mail order brides!
  • Drench me with a forceful jet of water in the early morning for 3 consecutive days.
  • Suck me off the leaves - using a vacuum on low suction. Yep, some people actually do this!
  • Spray me with a home made garlic or chilli soap. Or use a store bought insecticidal soap and target the undersides of the affected plant leaves where I usually like to shelter.

Photographs:

Pic 1: www.mumsanddahlias.com
Pic 2: www.thewaterwisegarden.com
Pic 3: www.ces.ncsu.edu Desc: Typical Mite damage on foliage


Healthy Soil - Boring But Important

Soil... most people just think of it as dirt, something to grow a few plants in, and maybe something to play in when you are young. Now, before you nod off or skip to a more exciting article, consider this: "Would you dig a hole in your backyard, throw in your wallet, cover it up and walk away?" If the answer is no... read on. If the answer is yes, I have several holes at my place I have prepared earlier!

Some people reckon soil is boring, and that it may be, but it's darned important! Healthy soil is a living, breathing organism, vital for the health and well-being of our precious plants out in the garden. And just as we feed and nurture our plants, so must we feed and nurture our soils. But what determines a healthy soil, how do we achieve it, and how will it benefit us, as gardeners? This is the first in a series of articles on soil, so brace yourself for the thrilling world under our feet!

What is a healthy soil?

Firstly, lets' talk about what soil actually is. Technically, it is the thin layer of material that covers the earth's crust. It provides plants with support, mineral nutrients, water and air. Soil is derived from the weathering and breaking down of parent material (rocks), with the addition of varying types and levels of organic matter. The amount and type of organic matter in the soil, coupled with the original parent material, determines the structure, nutrient content and behaviour of the soil. All very important factors to understand when planting out a garden.

Most Australian gardeners are presented with quite poor soils. These are a result of housing and urban development, overworking, previous chemical practices, poor watering practices and so on. In addition, much of the soil in our urban and suburban spaces has been bought in from elsewhere, relocated as it were, with gardeners facing a bit of an unknown quantity when they venture out the backdoor.

But, as we know, the most important factor in a healthy garden is healthy soil. This basically means that your plants can only be as good as the soil they grow in. If you have an exhausted soil with no nutrients your plants will struggle, and may starve to death.

If you have light sandy soil, your plants may not get enough moisture and will probably die of thirst.

If you have heavy clay soil, your plants will not get enough drainage and will probably drown!

Soil is full of life and it needs some of the same things which animals and plants need to survive, like air, water and nutrients. We can not easily see all the activity going on in the soil but we can smell it and feel it to get a sense of its health.

Healthy soil smells sweet. It's loose, well drained and rich in organic matter. Air and water move freely through the soil because air space exists around soil.

Healthy soil will have about:

  • 24% air
  • 25% water
  • 45% minerals
  • 3-5% humus
  • up to 1% living organisms

(Humus is the dark organic material that is the end product of composting).

But what if your soil is not healthy and your plants are not performing? Fear not, we have the answer!

How can I make my soil healthier?

To have lovely healthy plants, you need healthy soil... and to have healthy soil you need the following important ingredients:

  • Compost
  • Moisture
  • Mulch
  • Good drainage