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Canberra Today 18°/22° | Monday, December 6, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Rats, there go the lemons and it’s not the possums

Lemon damage by rats… to deter rats clear clutter and give them nowhere to hide and breed. Photo: Jackie Warburton

Gardening writer JACKIE WARBURTON  noticed a lemon problem, blamed the possums but really it was rats!

I SUSPECTED possums had peeled lemons hanging on the tree, there was possum poop around and I blamed them, but two very good friends in horticulture told me it was rats doing this damage. 

Jackie Warburton.

I have rats in my garden, too, and I see them when the grapes are ready. Just about everyone else has rats around as well, but they just don’t see them. 

The most common pest rat in Canberra would be the brown rat or black rat. To deter rats from finding a home in your garden, clear clutter and give them nowhere to hide and breed. They are destructive when they settle in and hard to get rid of. 

Knowing what species of rats that they are in the garden will help with an eradication method. There are native rats such as Rakali or water rats around Canberra. They are non-invasive, endemic rats and are an attractive mammal. So, identification of what you are going to get rid of will ensure we can still have native mammals around and get rid of pest rats. 

MULCHING garden beds after good rain will be beneficial for keeping the moisture in the ground for the warmer months ahead. 

I use different mulches for different garden beds because of its uses. In my main cottage gardens, I like to use coarse forest litter as it allows the water and air to help break it down slowly. 

There are finer forest litter products that can be used for pots and smaller courtyard gardens, but it will break down quicker. Once it has broken down it turns into humus, which is a dark organic material that forms in soil as plants and animal matter decay and is the very beginning of good soil structure for plant growth.

AS the soil temperature warms it is a terrific time to get some early seeds in the ground to get going, then repeat the same seeds in a few weeks’ time to extend your yield and try to prevent a glut of the same produce at one time. 

Seeds that can be sown now directly into the soil are root vegetables and big seeds such as zucchini, silver beet and beans. 

Sowing carrots can be a little tricky because they are so little. When sowing, mix some coarse sand with the seed, and this will help with even distribution of the seeds and can be thinned out in a few weeks’ time. Cover lightly with soil and water in. 

Keep carrots weed free and in their own space. When they get bigger mulch around them with a light mulch. Carrots are relatively quick growing and are ready in around 12-16 weeks after sowing and are a good garden starter with children. Carrots need full sun, well dug and stone free soil, and plant them where winter brassicas were, such as cabbages, bok choy and kale. 

MOST native shrubs flower over winter and into spring. Now’s the time to be tip pruning natives that have finished flowering to promote a bushier growth habit and become dense before the summer heat hits. 

Spring is also a good time to prune native grasses to stop them from becoming congested in the centre and give them a good clean out and cut back quite hard. Fertilise with native fertilisers and water well. 

Rhododendrons… putting on a show. Photo: Jackie Warburton

MOST of the perennial shrubs and trees will be flowering and putting on a show. Azaleas and rhododendrons are looking spectacular. 

Most cottage plants will need pruning after flowering and as a general rule only prune a third at the most to keep their shape. Hedging will start now as well, and I prefer pruning a little but often to get a good quality hedge. 

There are many different hedge choices for Canberra and with the good rain we’ve had, it would be a good time to put hedges in before mid-November. If planting in summer, they will need a lot more care and have a higher risk of going into stress. The optimum time for planting evergreen hedges is in autumn. 

jackwar@home.netspeed.com.au

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Jackie Warburton

Jackie Warburton

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