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Riding the winter season wave

MANDARINS are in season during the cooler months, providing sweet and juicy pre-packed parcels of goodness. Imperial mandarins are the first to ripen, followed by puffy skinned and easy to peel Emperors. Growing these two different varieties at home will give you months of delicious fresh mandarins and dwarf varieties only grow to around 2m tall, so don’t take up much room. You can also grow dwarf mandarins very successfully in pots. Find a sunny spot that receives at least six hours of sunshine a day and use a pot that’s at least 40cm in diameter, filled with good quality potting mix.

Mandarins, particularly when grown in pots, require lots of nutrients to promote healthy growth and a great harvest. Yates Thrive Citrus Liquid Plant Food is a complete plant food that has been specially formulated to provide citrus with the nutrients they need — nitrogen for lush green leaves, phosphorus for strong root development and potassium to promote flowering and fruiting. Apply Thrive Citrus Liquid Plant Food every week while mandarins are still on the tree and then start feeding again in early spring when new foliage and flower buds start to emerge.

Scale control on deciduous fruit trees

Scale insects are sap-sucking pests which can deplete deciduous fruit trees, such as apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines and figs, of important sugars and nutrients. This can affect plant health and fruit yield and also scale attract the fungal disease sooty mould, which lives on the sticky sweet honeydew that scale excrete.

Scale insects can lurk along the trunk and stems of deciduous fruit trees. They can be black, grey, brown, white or pink and look like small raised bumps. Some scale insects can also be white and fluffy, so they have a very varied appearance. It’s easy to help break the scale life cycle by spraying deciduous fruit trees during winter with Lime sulphur. Spray all stems and the trunk thoroughly after leaf fall but before new foliage emerges. This will help give fruit trees a scale free start to spring so they can concentrate on giving you a fantastic harvest.

And if you’re planting a new deciduous fruit tree at your place, improve the soil in the planting hole with some Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver and Plant Fertiliser. Dynamic Lifter is a rich source of organic matter to promote great soil health and provide the newly establishing tree with gentle slow-release organic nutrients.

Rosy relations

Strawberries are in the same plant family (Rosaceae) as roses, apples, pears and stone fruit. That is one impressive family tree.

If you love eating fresh strawberries or using them in irresistible desserts like cheesecake, pavlova and trifle you’ll be familiar with how expensive they can often be to buy in the supermarket and how quickly they can turn to grey mush once you get them home. So, it’s time to try growing your own strawberries so you can have these delicious berries right at your back door.

Strawberry crowns or runners can be planted during July in cool and temperate areas. In warmer zones look out for potted strawberries to plant during winter.

If you’re planning a berry patch it’s important to choose a spot that is well drained and enrich the soil first to create the best growing environment. Before planting your strawberries into a sunny position, mix some certified organic Thrive Natural Blood and Bone into the soil. It’s a concentrated blend of blood and bone with added New Zealand seaweed, which helps improve soil quality and water holding ability and encourages earthworms and beneficial soil microorganisms. Strawberries are also a perfect potted plant and look fantastic in hanging baskets, strawberry pots and troughs.

Keep the new strawberry plants well watered and once new growth emerges, start feeding each week with a complete plant food such as Thrive Strawberry and Berry Fruit Liquid Plant Food. It contains a balanced blend of nutrients which will promote healthy green leaves, encourage a strong root system and lots of juicy berries.

Mulching around strawberry plants with lucerne or pea straw not only helps to keep the soil moist, it will also lead to cleaner berries.

The winter garden can be fabulous and full of colour! Here are some colourful plant ideas to brighten your garden in July.

Camellia Volunteer

Large, ruffled deep pink-red flowers edged in white makes Camellia Volunteer from Anthony Tesselaar Plants one of the most beautiful camellias. Bred in New Zealand by Mark Jury, it was a chance seedling that was named to honour volunteers.

Flowering from May to September, Camellia Volunteer has attractive and dense dark green glossy foliage and grows to around 2m tall and 1.5m wide. It looks stunning on its own in a garden bed or container or can be trimmed into a fabulous flowering hedge. It does best in a partly shaded position ,however, will tolerate full sun if kept well watered and can be grown in cold, temperate and sub-tropical climates.

As well as azaleas and rhododendrons, camellias prefer an acidic soil that’s rich in organic matter. Camellia Volunteer should be watered regularly while it establishes ,however, it will be relatively drought tolerant once established.

If required it can be lightly pruned after flowering.

Camellias can be fed each spring and autumn with Thrive Granular azalea, camellia & rhododendron plant food and in areas with alkaline soil (soil pH greater than 7), apply some Soil Acidifier Liquid Sulphur to help reduce the soil pH and make it more acidic.


Sunsatia is a stunning range of long-lasting annual nemesias from Proven Winners that combine the very best attributes of different nemesia species. Sunsatia are extra vigorous, develop more (and larger) flowers over a longer period and have an excellent bushy- branched growth habit. There are beautiful colours available to suit almost every colour scheme.

Some of the Sunsatia varieties include:

* Cherry on Ice – stunning two-toned scarlet and white flowers

* Quince – buttery yellow

* Granada – crimson red flowers

Sunsatia are sun lovers and do best in a frost-free, wind-protected spot that receives at least six hours of sunshine a day. Growing to 25cm tall and 35cm wide they’ll provide several months of colour when planted in a well drained garden bed and are also stunning in containers on a sunny patio or balcony.

To help keep Sunsatia looking fantastic keep the soil or potting mix moist and lightly trim the plant back to remove any spent flowers. This will promote bushier growth and an even longer flowering season.

Cymbidium Orchids

If you’ve always wanted to grow an orchid but doubted your gardening skills, then cymbidiums are the orchid for you. They are one of the hardiest and easiest to grow of all the orchids and make the perfect potted plant.

They flower predominantly during winter and early spring, so really come into their own during July and bring gorgeous colour into the coldest months of the year. Cymbidiums produce multiple showy spikes of flowers ranging in colour from gorgeous green through to white, cream and yellow, pink and burgundy. Potted cymbidiums can be brought inside for a few weeks to show off their flowers and spikes can also be cut for a vase (they last for weeks).

Here are some easy tips to help you get the best out of your cymbidium orchid:

* Choose a warm, frost free spot with dappled light. Harsh afternoon sun can burn leaves and too little light will reduce flowering. Having a potted cymbidium allows you to move it around to take advantage of the best position.

* Cymbidium orchids are native to Asian tropical forests and mountainous regions, where they often grow up in the tree canopy. They require really good drainage, so should be planted in a very well drained spot in the garden or a pot with good drainage holes filled with coarse orchid potting mix. Potted orchids should not be left sitting in a saucer of water – it will rot their roots.

* Feed cymbidium orchids each week with Yates® Thrive® Orchid Liquid Plant Food from spring through to autumn. This specially formulated orchid food provides the right balance of nutrients to promote green healthy leaves and lots of stunning flowers.

Winter is rose care time (and there’s still time to plant!)

Proactive rose care

There are a few simple rose care steps to take throughout the year, to help keep roses looking fabulous.

During winter, there are 2 important rose jobs, which will reward you with healthier roses and more flowers during the warmer months.

1. Pruning – winter pruning, when the roses are leafless, is the ideal time to completely remove any dead stems (which are usually grey) and then cut all the remaining healthy stems down to around knee height (apart from standard or ‘lollipop’ roses). If you have time, prune each stem to just above an outward facing bud. If you’re time poor or a bit unsure, then take no notice of the buds! You can even use hedge shears or loppers rather than secateurs. It’s better to prune roses than not at all.

2. Spraying with Yates® Lime Sulfur – once the rose is pruned, it’s a great chance to spray leafless rose bushes with lime sulfur, which is a smelly but very effective way to help break the rose pest cycle. Used at the higher ‘winter rate’, Yates Lime Sulfur will control scale insects (pictured left), which are lying in wait on rose stems during winter, ready to infect new spring growth. Breaking the pest cycle during winter will help give the rose the best possible fresh start in spring.

Pruning tip: if you live in a really cold area, delay pruning until August as pruning can stimulate new leaf growth which could be damaged by frosts.

Mandarins (above) are in season. Growing them at home will give you months of fruit.