September in the garden

by greenfingers

mrgreen sml

Scale Insects
Scale Insects

This month lots of plants may need reviving after the long, hot and unusually humid summer. By the end of the month temperatures should begin to drop as the Coptic Winds come through the island again.

Scale insects and mealy bugs are related (160 species of scale insects and 30 species of mealy bugs), so there will probably be some of each in your garden. keep your eyes peeled for these pesky bugs, A major difference between scale and mealy bugs is that mealy bugs remain mobile during their lives, while scale females usually lose their legs, making them immobile.

Mealy bugs on Hibiscus
Mealy bugs on Hibiscus

Scale insects are divided into two families – soft scale (Coccidae) and hard scale (Diaspididae). First signs could be ants running along the stems feeding on the honeydew. The female in some species of soft scale insects can reproduce without the aid of a male.

Mealy bugs (Pseudococcidae) breed on hibiscus plants, verbenas, pelargoniums, osteospermums, daturas and brugmansias. They are covered in a whitish ‘mealy’ wax which protects them and are about 3 to 7 mm long. Hot humid weather increases their populations as their development is dependent on temperature.

Mealy bugs have high reproductive capacities and breed multiple generations in a year and they have the potential to become resistant to pesticides very quickly.  Use the finger and thumb treatment to squash the bugs first of all if the infestation is light, as using this method ensures that they are killed outright.

Alternatively you could mix 60 cc of Citrole with 10 cc Pyrinex in 5 litres of water and spray with this mixture every two weeks or more frequently if your plants are badly infested.

Citrus leaves may be showing iron and zinc shortages. A network of veins on a very pale leaf can be treated by adding 2 dessertspoons iron chelate to 10 litres of water which should be watered in around the base of the tree. Zinc shortage shows by the young leaves becoming whiteish-yellow. Spraying the leaves with a level dessertspoon of zinc chelate in 5 litres of water until it runs off, should solve this problem. Tomatoes can suffer from what is known as ‘blossom end rot’ during this month, which is caused mainly by irregular watering. A dose of Epsom salts, (Magnesium sulphate), should keep any further damage to a minimum.

Lablab is a most interesting climber, a tender perennial, which originally came from the tropics of Africa.

Laplabs flowers
Laplabs flowers
Laplab seed pods
Laplab seed pods

It has many common names such as Egyptian Bean and Chinese Flowering Bean, but is mostly known as the Hyacinth Bean Plant, making it seem like a vegetable, which is used in some places. Once established it is drought tolerant and will grow in full sun, but beware as it can grow to over 6 metres. It needs a sturdy support structure on which to grow, as the weight of a mature vine can make it easily topple from any lesser support. There is no doubt that it would easily cover a wall or fence in just one season.

When the seeds germinate either in a pot or in the ground the emerging plant looks like any kind of bean plant.

It has trifoliate leaves and eventually rosy-purple, slightly fragrant flowers which will appear in long hanging racemes, which are very attractive to insects. Later these flowers will be followed by bright pink-purple seed pods, which when young can be cooked and eaten. Young leaves can be added to salads and the flowers are also edible. However, dried seeds are toxic, so do not attempt to eat them – just collect them to grow into new plants next season. Lablab is an attractive plant which does not seem to have any disease or insects problems, it just needs space!

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