Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


My dwarf kowhai Sophora sp. has for the second time this season come under the voracious attack of a small caterpillar. This wee beast if left unchecked will completely demolish the foliage of the entire tree! I only noticed this while walking past the skeletal remains of leaves already devastated. As my tree is small, all that was required was a search for the culprits, not too easy as they are like most successful pest they are well disguised, long thin with pale green and darker spots along their length. With a larger specimen, a spray with an organic pesticide ought to do the trick, better this than to suddenly find your tree nude! If it has been completely devastated, your tree should survive, sprouting from latent lateral buds. This pest is known as the kowhai moth and is indigenous to the genus, what the moth looks like, I have no idea!

It is this time of year when we must also be vigilant with recently planted specimens, if they are to survive until the rain in autumn. Mulching can help with maintaining water in the soil, coupled with deep watering rather than short squirts with the hose. I can see, even from my window here, my lemon needs a good soak, the tell tale pale leaves indicating a probable attack of mites. These wee insects (rather arachnids) will take advantage of a plant under stress from lack of water, as will thrips. So until these shrubs are fully established a close eye is the best bet and deep watering to encourage the roots to grow deeper and not be left prone to sudden drying on the surface. As with many things, keeping the plant as healthy as possible is the best prevention. Another point would be to plant things best suited to the dry spells of summer we experience here.

As with the shrubs, my vegetable garden now has a good layer of pea straw mulch around. I have ceased to do any watering as we no longer have enough to go around. The tomatoes are still ripening, and with the mulch seem to be quite happy, any vegetables are good. The runner beans are also producing well despite the lack of water. As for every thing else, it will be chopped up and put into the compost as it dies down in the drought. Here’s hoping we will have some rain before autumn.