The beautiful gardenia flower sends a waft of perfume to passers-by.
The beautiful gardenia flower sends a waft of perfume to passers-by. Igor Zhorov

Gardening: Blooms in time for Christmas

ROMANTIC that I am, I adore gardenias. And, right now, there's been a lovely bloom of these bushes across the area which is typical of the plant. They should put on a show right up until Christmas.

The beautiful, creamy white flowers last about three days in a small vase but, left on the bush, they perfume the area in which they grow and send a sweet waft of scent skywards. Their glossy, green leaves, combined with their flower, makes them a favourite with plenty of gardeners, not just me.

Gardenias do best in a warm, humid climate and a slightly acidic, well-drained soil.

The bush will grow to between one and three metres and makes a great hedge or just a showy shrub. You can even grow them in a pot, as long as you keep up regular feeding and make sure their roots don't get sodden.

In our Northern Rivers' heat, it's best to choose a spot for them that offers a little shade. Continual, searing sun will take its toll and they need to be watered well, especially when flowering. Mulching around the roots to keep them cool and not too dry is also a good idea.

In spring, before they flower, you can give them a good feed with a bit of dynamic lifter. In fact, feeding them every three to four months if you can is the way to get the most out of them.

If your gardenia suffers from yellow leaves, treat it with an all-purpose fertiliser and a good watering.

We'd love to know how you treat garden problems like pests without chemicals.

Write to helen.hawkes@northernstar.com.au.

Citrus scale

Scale are sap sucking insect pests that come in a range of shapes, colours and sizes from large white or black and lumpy to pink, grey or brown and flat. Citrus are prone to scale infestations, with the insects depleting the plants of valuable nutrients. Scale excrete a sticky sweet substance called honeydew, which attracts sooty mould and ants, so if you see either of these in your citrus, you could have scale.

Scale insects can be controlled with regular sprays of white oil or Yates® Nature's Way® Citrus & Ornamental Spray, which smothers the scale insects living underneath their waxy coating. It works via contact, so it's important to ensure thorough coverage, including along stems and underneath foliage where scale often hide.

Credit: www.yates.com.au

Crisp & crunchy celery

Celery sticks provide a healthy low carb accompaniment for dips, can be thinly sliced in salads and stir fries and used in stocks, soups and juices. Growing celery at home is easier than you might think and December is a great time to start sowing celery seed. Yates® Celery 'Green Crunch' has long, bright green stringless stalks which can be picked singly as required - you don't need to harvest the entire bunch at once. Seed can be sown direct where it is to grow or raised in trays of Yates Seed Raising Mix and transplanted after around 8 - 10 weeks.

Before sowing seed or transplanting seedlings into a sunny vegie patch, mix some dynamic lifter into the soil, which adds valuable organic matter and encourages earthworms and beneficial soil microorganisms.

Growing tip: celery can also be grown in pots on a sunny balcony or courtyard.

Credit: www.yates.com.au



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