The weather still seems unsettled, typical for spring weather. Though by the calendar spring is nearly over, in contrast to last year many spring flowering plants and blossoms have flowered up to weeks earlier that other years.

Blossom trees such as flowering cherries and many fruit trees have finished flowering and now have fruit set and developing. Later flowering fruit trees such as apples are just finishing their flowering now. Other major gardening delights are the rhododendrons which, while some have finished, other varieties are only just coming into flower. A favourite of mine, Azalea Mollis still has varieties flowering now too. The rose section of the garden centre is looking spectacular, with so many varieties now in bloom.

Gardens need constant attention, especially if you have a new or young garden that you are trying to establish. Keep a watchful eye on the weather and if there is a dry spell make sure all the plants are well watered. Seeds and young seedlings also need watching carefully. Weeds unfortunately appear almost daily at this time of the year. If you can control them now it can save a lot of work later; remember that old saying "one year's seeding creates seven years' weeding".

Watch out for pests and diseases. If you can take action to control them when they first appear, the likelihood of a population explosion of these harmful little critters is reduced. Start spraying potatoes and tomatoes to control the devastating potato/tomato psylid. If you wait to see damage it will be too late, as the psylid injects a bacterial pathogen into the plant which once infected can't be treated. The psylid is easily controlled which prevents the opportunity for infection. For more information visit www.springvalegardencentre.co.nz

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Two products have been certified for control of the tomato/potato psylid — Yates Mavrik and Yates Success Ultra. Both are effective and can be used on many other vegetables, fruit and ornamentals for the control of a wide range of insect pests including, caterpillars, aphids and whitefly. Yates Success Ultra also is the best control available for codlin moth.

I have noticed my recently planted out brassicas are being eaten. At first I thought it was slugs and snails busy looking for things to devour, easily treated by spreading out slug bait regularly. It turns out that they have been attacked by birds. A recent product in the garden centre is a new bird scare tape. This tape produces a high frequency hum that birds can detect but humans can't. Another practised method is to hang DVDs or other sparkly items which reflect light scare the birds. I also use wire netting cloches that we have in the store over my newly planted seedlings to protect them from damage.

Bugs
Keep an eye on your roses for both pests and diseases. Look out for aphids, caterpillars, scale, red spider mites and thrips. Common diseases include blackspot, mildew and rose rust. The use of Yates Supershield helps to control these problems. If you notice rose buds going brown and rotting it is quite likely to be botrytis (brown rot) — a weather related fungus. Prevent by spraying with Grosafe Freeflow Copper or any spray that controls botrytis and downy mildew. An effective systemic spray is Yates Rose Gun Advanced. Call in and ask at the garden centre if you want more advice.

Corn
Corn is a productive crop that grows easily in Whanganui. Seeds should be sown now directly into the soil, these will be ready for harvest between mid February and March. Corn are heavy feeding plants: Before planting I recommend mixing Ican Organic Vegetable Food into the soil and then side dress regularly as the plants are growing. Corn is best planted in blocks rather than rows as this significantly improves the rate of pollination.

A highly recommended corn variety to grow is Tender Sweet. Its reviews live up well to its description: "Extra tender, and full flavour. Very tender husks that do not get stuck in your teeth. Strong germination and vigour, high disease tolerance and early maturing. The best corn variety available".

Tender Sweet is part of a range of seeds called Chefs Best, distributed by Ican. This brand has been developed by a group of independent garden centres with the aim to put quality and value first, addressing the issue that we are in an age where price is often pushed lower at the compromise of quality.

Garden experts have carried out extensive trials and sought advice from vegetable seed specialists in New Zealand and internationally, to find the best varieties for the home gardener. The group of independent garden centres have chosen 15 of the very best vegetable varieties, selected for superior taste, improved pest and disease resistance, increased vigour and yield. In addition they are consistent and reliable.

Other seeds from this range that can be sown now include beans, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, radish and carrot.

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Have a great week!
Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre.