Rooting Edible Plant Cuttings in Water

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Plants which can take can root in water can be propagated very easily from cuttings. All you need to do is leave the cuttings sitting in a glass or a jar of water in a location with indirect light. Not all plants can be rooted in water though. Learn which ones can be – I’ve posted the new DIY article under the menu DIY Instructions – Rooting Edible Plant Cuttings in Water

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Citrus Nutrient Deficiency Yellow Leaf with Green Veins

citrus-leaf-green-vein

One of the most common nutrient deficiencies seen on citrus is the yellowing of the leaf with dark green veins.

  • Yellow leaves with dark green veins on older leaves indicates magnesium deficiency, and is corrected using Epsom salts (Magnesium sulphate).
  • Yellow leaves with dark green veins on young leaves indicates iron deficiency, and is corrected using Iron Chelate.

Citrus are heavy feeders and are prone to nutrient deficiencies in autumn when they’re fruiting heavily and maturing their fruit, and magnesium deficiency is a common occurrence with citrus during this period.

Magnesium deficiencies can occur also when the soil pH is too acidic (pH 5.5 or lower) but this is rather uncommon in Australia as this phenomenon occurs in acidic sandy soils where magnesium leaches readily.

When magnesium deficiency first appears in citrus, the yellowing of the leaf between the green veins begins at the tip and edges of the leaf, and moves down towards the leaf stem (petiole). With prolonged deficiency, these areas can turn completely yellow, leaving a dark green inverted V-shape at the base of the leaf.

Iron deficiencies tend to occur in soils that are too alkaline, as a high soil pH makes the iron in the soil less available to plants. High soil pH conditions are a more common occurrence, as heavy applications of garden lime or mushroom compost (which is loaded with garden lime) can make the soil excessively alkaline. In addition to using iron chelate in the short term, such conditions are best corrected in the long term with the application of sulphur to lower the soil pH.

 

How to Differentiate Magnesium Deficiency from Other Nutrient Deficiencies

Magnesium (Mg) is a secondary macronutrient which is mobile in the tree,  it is readily translocated from old leaves to new growth, so  magnesium deficiency occurs only on mature leaves which were previously normal and healthy in appearance. Magnesium deficiency symptoms can appear on branches bearing a heavy crop, but not on other branches on the same tree with little or no fruit.

The micronutrients Iron (Fe), Zinc (Zn), Manganese (Mn) and Copper (Cu) are all immobile, they are not translocated from old leaves to new growth, so the symptoms of these micronutrients deficiencies only develop on new growth.

By looking at which stage of the leaf growth the nutrient deficiency occurs, we can easily rule out the unlikely cause. Having said that, it’s also entirely possible for a citrus tree to have both an iron and magnesium deficiency at the same time, and in such cases, we treat for both.

 

How to Use Epsom Salts to Treat Magnesium Deficiency

You can buy Epsom salts (Magnesium sulphate) from a garden supply centre or garden nursery, and it’s exactly the same Epsom salts that you can purchase from your supermarket and use in your bathwater for a relaxing hot bath, so either can be used for correcting magnesium deficiency.

  • For fruit trees and large shrubs, apply 20g (4 teaspoons) of Epsom salts (Magnesium sulphate) per square metre (square yard), spreading evenly around the drip line of the tree or shrub, then water in well. Wash off any granules that have landed on plant foliage. Also, don’t apply any closer than 10cm (4”) to stems or trunks.
  • Others recommend dissolving 10g (2 teaspoons) of Epsom salts (Magnesium sulphate) in a litre of water and applying at a rate of 1 litre per square metre of garden bed with a watering can.
  • For a quicker result, some gardeners apply Epsom salts as a foliar spray. Dissolve 10g (2 teaspoons) of Epsom salts (Magnesium sulphate) in a litre of water and spray over the leaves. Some sources discourage application onto foliage, as the amount of magnesium that can be absorbed through the leaves is quite limited, and a magnesium foliar spray may burn the leaves.

Applications of Epsom salts can be repeated monthly.

Repeat applications may be necessary as the form of magnesium in Epsom salts is highly mobile in soil and washes out easily.

 

How to Use Iron Chelate to Treat Iron Deficiency

Iron chelates are compounds made up of iron attached to an organic (carbon-containing) molecule to make it usable by plants, as plants can’t absorb elemental iron or simple iron compounds very easily.

You can buy iron chelate from your garden supply centre or garden nursery, it comes as either an iron-lignosulfonate chelate or an iron-EDTA chelate, it’s always in a small bottle and isn’t cheap, but you only need a small amount with each application.

To correct iron deficiencies, iron chelate is mixed with water and  applied as a foliar spray over the leaves, or as a soil drench, watered in around the roots. Follow product instructions for how to apply, how much to use and when to best apply.

Applications of iron chelate can be repeated every 2-4 weeks.

In warmer weather the leaves should green up within a week, if not, reapply as necessary.

 

Similar But Reversed Leaf Symptoms

If the symptoms are the opposite of the one’s discussed here,  then see the the article – citrus leaves are green with yellow veins for an explanation.

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Rainbow Roses Aren’t Real!

rainbow-rose

Rainbow roses, real or fake? As a person who works in the horticulture industry, I couldn’t help but notify fellow gardeners about this matter.

There are quite a number of retailers in China selling Rainbow Rose seeds, and what a scam this is…

I’ll get straight to the point. There is no such thing as rainbow roses, it’s just a florists trick done with long-stemmed white roses and flower dye, which you can do at home!

Florists use powdered flower dye to change the colours of flowers, but food dye (food colouring) will still work, just maybe not as well though…

 

Making rainbow roses

You will need:

  • White long stemmed roses
  • Narrow vases that can sit very closely together, use three or four depending on how many colours you wish to use
  • A sharp knife to split the rose stem
  • Powdered flower dye (available from florist supply stores) or food colouring, use three or four colours such as red, green, blue or yellow

To make rainbow roses:

  1. Mix the flower dye with water according to the instructions, fill each vase with a different colour.
    (If using food colouring, add enough into water so the colour is quite dark.)
  2. Place the vases close together.
  3. Cut off a small piece of the end of the stem at an angle, so it can absorb water more easily.
  4. Using a sharp knife, split the rose stem lengthwise into three of four parts, approximately the length of the vases.
  5. Place each split stem into its own vase of flower-dye coloured water.
  6. Leave the rose with its split lower stems in the flower-dye coloured water until the right colouring is achieved – this may take anything from hours to a few days depending on how vibrant you want the colour to be and the type of dye used!
  7. Trim off the split section of the stem and then place the ‘rainbow rose’ in a vase of clean water

It’s really quite simple, the flowers take up the coloured water by capillary action and the dye gets deposited in the petals, white flowers are used to show the colours better.

 

Don’t believe everything you hear…

So now you know, if you see any absurdly unnatural coloured flowers, they’re just dyed! This trick is done with many other flowers too, not just roses.

The important lesson here is this. Don’t buy seeds for very rare or unusual plants (even ones that really do exist) from overseas sellers! The seeds may not be from the actual plant, or they may be too old and not be viable any more. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Rare plants are just that, rare! Only buy from reputable sellers who deal in plants and seeds.

Caveat emptor – Latin for "Let the buyer beware".

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The Proper Use of Lawn Alternatives

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Don’t want a lawn? Lawn alternatives are suitable for low–traffic areas where the plants won’t get trampled on too heavily, or to fill the gaps between pavers.

What lawn alternative plants do very well is form a nice thick mat which is quite effective at suppressing weed growth to almost zero. They also provide a more visually interesting option to plain old grass.

Some lawn alternative plants will flower, bringing in swathes of colour to the garden in brilliant fashion.

lawn-alternative-creeping-thyme-coccineus
Coccineus Thyme (Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’) in flower covering a French drain

 

Common Misconceptions about Lawn Alternatives

Working in the garden nursery industry part-time, I often meet people who ask about lawn alternatives, and then when I question them about what area they wish to cover, I get answers such as 100 square metres (over 1,000 square feet)! What they’re intending to do is replace a huge expanse of lawn with a lawn alternative. So, what’s wrong with that?

Well, firstly, it will cost a fortune! Most lawn alternatives don’t come in seed, so you need to buy small plants in tubestock, and you’ll probably need to plant around four per square metre (around one every two square feet) to get good coverage and a reasonable fill during the growing season. They’re not intended to cover areas the size of small sports playing fields!

Sometimes, the reason people consider lawn alternatives is because they don’t want to mow or maintain the area. In this respect, only the flat and lower growing lawn alternatives can be left unattended, the taller ones often need clipping at the end of summer to keep them tidy. 

Secondly, what would anyone do with such a large area that can’t take heavy traffic? Consider how often you would need to cross such an area, and if it’s the most direct route to another garden feature or entrance/exit. Grass can take abuse, even grazing from animals. Lawn alternatives can’t, they’re plants with stems, and if the stems break, you end up with dead bits, that’s inevitable.

Lawn alternatives are an alternative to a lawn, as are garden beds, ponds, pavers, stone toppings, or concrete surfaces, they’re something (much nicer) that you can put in place of a lawn. They are not lawn substitutes!

If you want a hard wearing surface for your young children to play sports on, or for your hyperactive dogs to run around in endless circles all day long out of boredom, then you probably want a regular lawn (and a dog walker).

garden-lawn
Way too big to use a lawn alternative! Think through your reasons…

What if you really do want a lawn alternative, what’s the best way to plan your garden area?

 

Correct Planning for Lawn Alternatives

There’s a wide choice of lawn alternatives to suit different locations. Some prefer moist soils, others prefer shade, some cope with hot and dry conditions, so be sure to match the lawn alternative plant to your location and soil conditions.

Lawn alternatives used here in Australia include:

Exotic plants

  • Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii)
  • Lawn Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
  • Lawn Clover (Trifolium repens & others)
  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
  • Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri)
  • Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum varieties and other Thymus  species)

Native plants

  • Kidney Weed (Dichondra repens)
  • Common Pratia (Pratia pedunculata)
  • Alpine Pratia (Pratia puberula)
  • Native Violet (Viola hederacea)

 

Begin by assessing the area, how much sun will it get? If it will be exposed to hot, scorching afternoon west sun in summer and get very dry, then the only choice is usually a creeping thyme of some sort. Similarly, if the soil is being sucked dry by the roots of a nearby tree and there’s a lot of sun, then consider using a creeping thyme as a lawn alternative.

And before you ask, no, creeping thymes are not edible, they have a slight aroma but the oil content is too low for culinary use. They’re bred for flowering and a dense groundcover growth habit, not flavour!

 lawn-alternative-creeping-white-thyme
Creeping White Thyme

 

There are many varieties of creeping thyme, some grow completely flat, such as Coccineus Thyme (Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’), while others grow taller and need to be clipped regularly, typically after flowering, to keep them tidy.

lawn-alternative-coccineus-creeping-thyme
Coccineus Thyme (Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’) grows very flat and copes with hot, dry conditions. here it’s growing up into a crack in the concrete!

 

Water is a major consideration when selecting lawn alternative plants. Is the location shady or is there part sun? Moist? Part sun to full sun and moisture will give you the most options for lawn alternatives. If you want to increase the options available, consider watering regularly or installing irrigation.

In moist areas that are quite shady, Native Dichondra, aka Kidney Weed (Dichondra repens), and Native Violet (Viola hederacea) do quite well.

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Native Violet (Viola hederacea) beginning to flower

 

Alpine pratia will cope with full sun to part shade as long as the soil stays fairly moist. It has delicate pale blue star-shaped flowers, whereas Common Pratia (Pratia pedunculata) has white flowers.

lawn-alternative-alpine-pratia
Alpine Pratia (Pratia puberula) is a very flat gowing ground cover which fills nicely between pavers

 

Corsican mint also required full sun to part shade, and good moisture. It is completely flat growing with very small round leaves, and does have a bit of a minty aroma.

lawn-alternative-corsican-mint

 

Some lawn alternatives such as Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) are frost sensitive, so they may not look the best and die back a bit during winter. Frost tender lawn alternatives do better in protected areas where frost doesn’t gather, so don’t plant them in low lying areas at the bottom of a slope or a wide open area where frost will hit from directly overhead.

I case you’re wondering, Brahmi is also known as Memory Herb, it’s a well known medicinal herb from Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine that has been used for over 3000 years as a nerve tonic and memory-enhancing herb. It’s traditionally used by students to help with learning and memory recall and by older people to prevent memory loss, and dementia and maintain brain health.

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Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) as a lawn alternative, also a medicinal herbal plant

 

Planning Access

Once you’ve selected the correct lawn alternative for your location, the next step is to plan access across it if required, as lawn alternatives don’t handle heavy traffic.

If the area is a thoroughfare which you need to cross to access a garage, garden shed, barbecue area, gate, entrance/exit  or other such place, then you need to plan for a path. Paths can be made of pavers, stepping stones, crushed rock toppings, mulches and various other landscaping materials. The great thing about paths is that they stop you getting wet or muddy feet in winter and prevent wear and tear on your lawn alternative area, so it stays looking good all year round.

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Common Pratia (Pratia pedunculata) around pavers in a shady, moist front garden that gets mainly morning sun

 

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Lawn Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) growing around more formal concrete pavers. Lawn chamomile can grow taller and needs occasional clipping to keep tidy.

 

When designing paths, keep in mind that they don’t have to be straight as a ruler, they can be curved to add visual appeal to a garden. Conversely, don’t make paths too wavy and undulating as people will then take the most direct path to their intended destination – if they can walk straight across they will!

Give some thought to the type of paths that will suit your garden, and the areas that they will need to link together. A little bit of preplanning will go a long way to prevent lots of issues in the.

 

The Problem of Too Much Space

We now know that you can’t just take a huge lawn area and substitute a lawn alternative instead of grass and expect to use it in the same way. So how do you fill a large expanse of land?

I would pose the very same question to any gardener planning on having a huge lawn. Why do you need a very large lawn? Consider the mowing and maintenance. Will a smaller lawn do? What function will the lawn serve, and how big will it need to be for that purpose?

How do we fill a large space? The solution is exactly the same in both cases – don’t turn a huge space into a monoculture of one thing, either lawn or lawn alternative, do multiple things with the space and add more appeal and functionality to a garden.

Reduce the area that needs to be covered with lawn or a lawn alternative by:

  • Planting useful fruiting or shade trees
  • Planting ornamental feature trees
  • Adding garden beds, and growing either productive or ornamental plants
  • Adding a garden pond, arbor, gazebo or other useful or interesting garden structure

These are just some possible ideas, essentially you can do anything with a garden to suit your personal tastes!

 

In Summary…

Lawn alternatives are a nice feature to include in a garden instead of having more lawns. They’re not substitutes for lawns, as lawns have their place and purpose. They are an alternative, a different choice in the way you use your garden space.

Lawn alternatives can be used to fill a space with plants that are much more attractive and much lower maintenance than grass, and as an alternative to having lawn if you don’t use (or like) lawns. Let’s be realistic here, many people have lawns because everybody else does, it’s a strange cultural custom, and that’s not a good reason for having a lawn!

With careful selection of the right plant for the right place, and the intelligent use of paths through an area, lawn alternatives can be used successfully in a garden and provide many more benefits than a plain old grass lawn does.

If you want to have an appropriate sized lawn that serves your purposes (other than creating a mowing and maintenance task each weekend) and a lawn alternative area in another part of the garden, then go for it, as both lawns and lawn alternatives are both viable ways to fill areas of garden space!

Get creative, and build a garden that you can enjoy!

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Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – July

It’s July, Midwinter has arrived! As all of Nature’s energies turn inwards, and life comes to a standstill, we finally have a chance to rest and reflect too. This month temperatures will hit their lowest for the year, rain will fall for half the month, and the windiest time of the year in Melbourne begins.

There are still a limited range of seeds to sow, and lots of opportunity for winter pruning, relocating deciduous plants and planting new ones!

Things to Do This Month:

  • Plant deciduous trees, shrubs, vines and cane fruits. Wait till spring for planting citrus.
  • Divide existing perennials and plant new perennials.
  • Protect plants that are not frost-hardy in frost-prone areas. Frost-tender plants in pots are more vulnerable as roots are above ground, wrap pots of plants with plastic bubble-wrap or hessian.
  • Install windbreaks, such as the plastic tree guard sleeves, around newly planted evergreens.
  • Prune deciduous fruit trees (not apricots, best to prune these in late autumn when the leaves start yellowing, during dry, preferably windy weather to prevent diseases entering the pruning cuts). To prune fruit trees, first cut away any dead or diseased wood, then cut away any branches growing inwards towards the centre or crossing other branches (to prevent rubbing and bark damage), and finally, prune tree to shape using the appropriate technique for that species.
  • Prune deciduous shrubs (and it’s rose pruning time in July too!)
  • Finish pruning grape vines and take hardwood cuttings from these for propagation.
  • Finish pruning currants and gooseberries and take hardwood cuttings from these for propagation.
  • Apply organic fertiliser to fruit trees at the end of July, so that the slowly released nutrients will become available when the new growth commences.
  • Spray peaches and nectarines to protect against leaf curl fungus. Use lime sulphur or a copper fungicide at the bud swell stage (just before the buds begin to open) but before pink bud stage or colour shows. It is too late to spray once flowering occurs.
  • If you use horticultural glue bands on tree trunk to prevent winter insects crawling up the tree to lay their eggs, now is the time to replace the glue bands with new ones.
  • Relocate any deciduous plants (trees, shrubs, vines) or herbaceous perennial plants growing in the wrong place in winter. (Evergreens can only be moved in autumn and early spring, where they have time to regrow roots – remember, they retain leaves in winter which transpire and lose water!).
  • Sow seeds from berry producing trees and shrubs. Stratification (exposure to cold) over winter will break seed dormancy.
  • Some perennials can be propagated from root cuttings, which can be taken through winter.
  • Continue propagation of hardwood cuttings which began in autumn – prune off 30cm long shoots of current season’s growth, cut off the soft growing tip, cut off the bottom end below a bud, and dip end into rooting hormone. Make a ‘slit trench’ by pushing a spade into soil and rocking it back and forth. In clay soil, add some coarse sand for drainage. Put cuttings in so 2/3 is below the soil, and press the soil down around them. Cuttings will root and be ready to plant next autumn.
  • Continue planting strawberry runners and shallot bulbs.

 

Vegetables and Herbs to Sow:

Sow in July   Harvest (weeks)
Beetroot ds 7-10
Lettuce ds 8-12
Mustard greens d 5-8
Onion ds 25-34
Peas d 9-11
Radish d 5-7
Shallots d 12-15
Snow Peas d 12-14
Strawberry runners d 11
Strawberries (seed) s 12 months

Key:
d = sow directly into ground
s = sow in seed tray
ds = sow directly into ground or seed tray

Download printable PDF version of Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – July

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Product Review – Ryset Fruit Protection Bags

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Are birds and possums plundering your fruit trees and vines just before your fruit ripens?  Many gardeners try netting the whole tree, but sometimes that proves too difficult. If you can’t get a whole tree or vine under netting, there’s a simpler solution – just net the fruit!

Ryset Australia has a range of pest deterrent and bird netting products, including these wonderful Fruit Protection Bags, which I was given by a local garden nursery to review. This product is a large 30cm x 30cm (12” x 12”) large drawstring bag made of commercial insect exclusion netting, which slips over the fruit to be protected. The mesh is fine enough to keep insect pests out too.They come in a bag of ten, and each bag is large enough to protect most fruit and vine crops.

 

fruit protection bag

The top and bottom edged are securely stitched and the drawstring is made of black plastic cord which is not affected by water, and easy to untie.

As you can see, the mesh is quite fine so it will also prevent insects from getting to your fruit, including fruit flies which are common pests in the more subtropical and tropical climates. As an added benefit, fruit bats cannot get tangled in the fine mesh either, it’s perfectly safe to use where they may be present.

 

grapes in insect netting bag

To use, just slip the bag over a bunch of fruit or berries (such as grapes), pull the drawstring firmly to close the top off, and tie with a shoelace knot.

 

Where can you purchase this product? Ryset is a wholesaler which supplies the retail garden and professional agricultural industry, so for home gardeners the best place to purchase Ryset’s products is from your local garden nursery.

In Melbourne, Bulleen Art & Garden Nursery sells a range of Ryset netting and fruit protection products, for online purchases nationally in Australia you can also order from The Diggers Club or from Greenharvest.

 

Product assessment

Ryset’s Fruit Protection Bags are an affordable solution for protecting fruit from pests such as birds and possums. The insect exclusion mesh which the bags are constructed from is quite strong and you definitely can’t tear the material by hand.

This solution is very cost effective, so having lots of individual bags is not a concern. The Ryset Fruit Protection Bags come in bags of ten for around five dollars, so they’re only fifty-cents each! I’ve used mine over many seasons repeatedly and they are still in excellent condition, and since they’re out in the elements only during fruiting season, they should last many years.

So far, I have tested this product on apples, grapes, persimmons and plums. You can easily wrap the bag over a bunch of apples, fitting nearly half a dozen in each bag, if the apples are growing close enough.

When it comes to protecting grapes, I’ve found that birds are quite intelligent. If you don’t pull the drawstring tightly and leave it fairly loose, they will pick out the grapes one by one so the bag slips down to reveal more grapes! After discovering this and properly tightening the drawstrings, I managed to cover around 50 large bunches of grapes and stopped the birds getting to them.

With my grapevines, I also discovered that rats and mice can climb very well. One of my grapevines runs under the eaves of the roof, around 3m (10’) high, screening my west wall from the hot summer afternoon sun, and I spotted a pair of rats and some mice climbing all the way up. They also chewed through the fruit protection bags, rodents can chew through most things, but luckily they only ruined two fruit protection bags before I resorted to other solutions to control them…

In my garden we have possums, fruit bats and birds, including rainbow lorikeets (small parrots). The possums and parrots did not try to get through the fruit bags, their presence was enough to deter them . My dwarf almond tree and a dwarf loquat tree were always stripped clean by rainbow lorikeets, and using the fruit protection bags saved the whole crop last season.

Working part time in a garden nursery, I get to speak to a lot of gardeners, and one person told me that when the rats chewed holes through the fruit bags, the opportunistic possums forced themselves through the hole, opening it up further to access the fruit inside. I guess nothing is foolproof when you’re dealing with intelligent animals that are capable of learning.

I’m sold on this product, I personally have stocked up on these Fruit Protection Bags as they’re cheap and reusable, and I cover my fruit and grapes before they are mature enough to be appealing to the garden pests that seem to be increasing in number year after year!

In Permaculture, we’re always focussed on energy efficiency and minimising the use of non-renewable resources. As a handy tip, here’s a Permaculture way of using this product! When you have trees that crop at different times throughout the year, you can simply move the bags from tree to tree. As you harvest from one tree, this frees up the bags to cover newly growing fruit on the next tree. This means you don’t need as much of these nifty bags as you might think, a point appreciated by sustainable gardeners out there.

I’ve also found that these bags are great at ‘catching fruit’ that naturally falls from the tree, minimising wastage. It’s easy to see a ripe apple in the bottom of the bag hanging from the branch, preserved in pristine condition, ready to eat! When fruit falls and hits the ground, it’s often damaged, and when fruit falls unnoticed it’s usually attacked by snails overnight as it lays on the ground.

Incidentally, if these bags don’t seem large enough for your requirements, Ryset also makes a 30cm wide x 90cm (1’ x 3’) long sleeve with drawstring ends on each side to cover whole branches, and they also make preformed tree covers 2.4m x 2.8m with a door on the side, all made of the same material. Stay tuned, I’ll also asses these products in upcoming reviews.

 

In summary, Ryset Fruit Protection Bags are a very cost effective and sustainable way to protect fruit from pests such as birds and possums! They’re reusable, easy to deploy, and easy to remove. They also protect fruit from insect pests, making them quite versatile, delivering multiple benefits to gardeners. These great little bags have now earned their place in my range of tools for protecting my produce from pests, and I can wholeheartedly recommend them!

Deep Green rating for the “Ryset Fruit Protection Bags” is 5 stars!

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If you are interested in submitting a product for review, please contact us via email at deep_green@optusnet.com.au , thanks!

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Citrus Yellow Veins on Green Leaf in Winter

citrus-leaf-yellow-vein

Are your citrus leaves turning green with yellow veins in winter?

When gardeners see this colour change in their citrus leaves, they often wonder if this is due to a nutrient deficiency, and if so, what they can do to fix it.

 

Leaf Chlorosis

The abnormal yellowing of leaf tissue is called chlorosis, which is caused by a lack of the green pigment chlorophyll which is essential for photosynthesis.

Leaf chlorosis can be caused by various factors, plant nutrient deficiencies being one possible cause. Other possible causes include poor drainage, damaged or compacted roots and high (alkaline) soil pH.

 

Yellow Vein Chlorosis

When your citrus tree leaves displays yellow veins while the rest of the leaf remains a normal green colour, this condition is referred to as yellow vein chlorosis.

Usually, yellow vein chlorosis occurs during the autumn and winter period due to reduced nitrogen uptake by the roots from the soil in low temperatures. Citrus tree nitrogen uptake is generally lowest during dormancy, it increases during flowering and reaches its peak during fruit set. It doesn’t matter how much nitrogen fertilizer is present in the soil, it is less available to the citrus tree in cold weather and as such the tree displays the signs of nitrogen deficiency.

Nitrogen is classed as a mobile nutrient, which means that plants and trees can move it from one part of their structure (leaves and branches, etc.) to another, away from places where it’s no longer needed and into new growth.

Since the nitrogen in the soil is less available in the cold seasons, citrus trees will mobilize nitrogen reserves from older tissues, redirecting them during the spring flush into new leaves and flowers. When part of the nitrogen of the leaf is translocated back into the tree because of inadequate nutrition, the result is yellow-vein chlorosis.

 

When It’s Not Nutrient Deficiency

Keep in mind that yellow vein chlorosis can also be caused by girdling of branches, roots, or the tree trunk itself. Girdling (ring-barking) is the removal of a strip of bark right around a branch or trunk of a woody plant.

Look for obvious signs of physical damage to branches or the base of the trunk at soil level. Bark may be eaten by pest animals such as rodents (rats, rabbits, etc.) or damaged with powered gardening equipment such as line trimmers. Damage to the roots may occur due to root rot from waterlogged soils. Check drainage during the wet seasons and keep mulch away from the base of the trunk to prevent collar rot.

How do you distinguish whether the problem is related to girdling or cold weather nutrient deficiency? Unlike nutrient deficiency related yellow vein chlorosis, this type of damage will also cause leaf drop, fruit drop, dieback, and possibly the eventual death of the tree.

 

Treating Yellow Vein Chlorosis

If your citrus tree has cold weather induced yellow-vein chlorosis, what can you do?

Ideally, nothing! If you’ve been feeding your citrus at the right times of the year, typically at the start of spring and autumn at the very minimum (or as per the feeding directions on the fertilizer packaging) and you’re using a balanced fertilizer, then the tree will take care of itself when the weather warms up and it can better access the nitrogen available in the soil. Let Nature do the work, that’s the Permaculture approach!

If you’re obsessing about doing something, then you can use a foliar fertilizer which is sprayed on the leaves, where it’s absorbed directly. It’s the quickest method of getting nutrients into plants. Foliar nutrition is useful in condition where the tree’s ability to take up nutrients is decreased and it needs the extra nutrition, such as prolonged periods of drought, wet conditions or cold weather.

 

References:

University of Florida, IFAS Extension – Publication #HS876, Citrus Problems in the Home Landscape, Mongi Zekri and Robert E. Rouse

University of Florida, IFAS Extension – Publication #HS-797, A Guide to Citrus Nutritional Deficiency and Toxicity Identification, Stephen H. Futch and David P. H. Tucker

University of California, Davis – California Fertilization Guidelines, Citrus

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