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Canberra Today 8°/9° | Tuesday, May 17, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Beware the slug that loves to eat leaves

Pear and Cherry Slug… can defoliate a tree in just a few days. Photo: Jackie Warburton

The Pear and Cherry Slug can defoliate a tree in just a few days, writes gardening columnist JACKIE WARBURTON.

Jackie Warburton.

THE pest also known as the black sawfly or Caliroa cerasi, attacks pears, plums, peaches, cherries and some ornamental trees. 

The adults lay their eggs in the leaf, which become the slug-like larvae and, after feeding on the leaves, they drop to the ground and dig into the soil before appearing again as adults and repeating their life cycle. 

Keep the leaves as dry as possible and avoid overhead watering to prevent the larvae (slugs) from moving around the tree. Diatomaceous Earth sprinkled around the base of the tree in spring will help as well. Squish as many as you can with a gloved finger. 

WHITE Cabbage Moth (Plutella xylostella) and Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae) are a problem around brassicas (cabbages, broccoli, bok choy and turnips) and also feed on tomatoes, sunflowers and tobacco as well. 

Cabbage Moth decoy… deterring other butterflies and moths from settling in due to competition for available food. Photo: Jackie Warburton

While unrelated, they share the same habits, cause similar problems and are dealt with in similar ways. Adult cabbage moths are 10 millimetres long and a mottle grey in colour. The more familiar Cabbage White Butterfly is larger at around 40 millimetres and has white wings with small black corner spots. 

There are many ways to keep these butterflies and moths at bay and decoy plants such as alyssum can help and decoy products like the one pictured work as well by deterring other butterflies and moths from settling in due to competition for available food. 

A good holiday activity to get the kids involved in the garden can be cutting out white butterfly shaped weatherproofed cardboard, placing them on a wire and sticking them into the ground around the plants to be protected. 

JANUARY is a hot time in the garden and it’s important to keep the weeding and watering to the early mornings or evenings when the temperature is cooler.

PARSNIPS can take from 120-180 days from seed to root and are well worth growing given how expensive they are. 

They are delicious for soups, roast dinners and puree in the winter months. Plant them in a well-drained, rich soil with a pH of six or above and add garden lime if needed. Make sure the garden bed has not had too much compost or manure added to prevent forked roots forming. 

Space them 20 centimetres apart and be patient, they can take a few weeks to germinate. Plant companions for parsnips are peas, lettuces, rosemary and sage. Companion plants help each other grow. They maximise the ground space and more produce can fit into a small space. 

Sowing of brassica vegetables can be done now. Brassicas like lime in their soil, so a sprinkle of dolomite lime a few weeks before planting will help sweeten the soil. Using crop rotation, they can be planted where you have had leafy greens and legumes. 

BLUEBERRIES are beginning to ripen and should be left on the bush for as long as possible to sweeten. Individual fruit will ripen at different times, so periodically pick the fruit to give other berries more room. 

Now’s a good time to remove any dead, damaged or crossing-over branches in the bush to increase airflow. 

MOST natives and shrubs are propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings, and they are mostly taken in late summer and early autumn. Semi-hardwood cuttings are the most common method of propagation and a very cost effective way of growing a garden. When taking cuttings of shrubs, do it in the cool of the day and ensure planting material has not flowered.

Here are some tips for growing cuttings: 

  • Stem length around 75-100mm directly below a leaf node. 
  • Trim a third of the leaves off the stem from the bottom up.
  • Make a 20mm slice at the bottom of the stem. 
  • Dip cutting into honey, Vegemite or hormone-rooting gel.
  • Place in a potting mix, water and keep sheltered. 
  • Keep moist and roots should form in around 4-8 weeks.


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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Jackie Warburton

Jackie Warburton

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