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Rockmelons, lemons and nectarines

Courtesy of Yates

Homegrown rockmelons

Delicious rockmelon sown during spring will soon be ready to pick. It's time to harvest your rockmelons when the stem begins to break away from the fruit. You'll be desperate to taste your beautiful melons, however the best flavour will develop if the fruit is left to mature for a few days after picking.

If your rockmelons are not quite mature, then continue to keep the soil moist and feed each week with a fast-acting fertiliser like Yates Thrive Flower & Fruit Soluble Plant Food, which is a complete plant food that's rich in potassium and phosphorus to promote fruit development.

Keep a watch for downy mildew and leaf spot diseases on rockmelon leaves. When watering, gently water the soil rather than the leaves, which can help reduce the spread of disease.

Luscious Lisbons

Lisbon lemons (Citrus limon “Lisbon”) are thought to have originated in Portugal and are large cold- and heat-hardy trees that produce heavy winter and spring crops. Sometimes called Yen Ben, they're a popular variety in New Zealand with thin-skinned, juicy and highly-acidic fruit.

Being a sizeable tree (growing up to 8m tall and 4m wide) Lisbon is a great citrus for a large backyard. For smaller gardens, look out for dwarf-grafted Lisbons which reach a more manageable 3m and can be grown in a medium-to-large pot on a sunny balcony or deck.

When planting a new Lisbon lemon out in the garden, choose a spot with well-drained soil that receives at least six hours of sunshine a day, and enrich the soil in the planting hole first with some Yates Thrive Natural Blood & Bone. This promotes increased soil organic matter content and water-holding capacity, in addition to providing the new tree with gentle slow-release organic nutrients as it establishes. For potted citrus, choose a pot with good drainage holes (a 40-50cm pot is ideal) and fill with a good-quality potting mix. Keep new citrus trees well-watered as they settle into their new home.

For established citrus, it's important to keep deep-watering and feeding during late summer, as autumn and winter fruit are continuing to develop. Moisture and nutrient stress can adversely affect the quantity and quality of the harvest, so it's well worth devoting extra care to your citrus at this time of year. Feeding is as simple as diluting two capfuls of Yates Thrive Citrus Liquid Plant Food into a 9L watering can and applying over the root zone each week.

Sweet sugary sap that's flowing through citrus plants is a magnet for sap-sucking pests like scale. Scale insects can be brown, white, pink or grey and appear as small, raised bumps along leaves and stems.

Sometimes the scale are hard to spot themselves, however if you see sooty mould developing on the leaves (a black ash-like film) or ants moving up and down the stems then they're indicators of a sap-sucking insect pest like scale.

Regular sprays of Yates Conqueror Spraying Oil, on both the upper and lower leaf surfaces, will help keep scale under control. This is certified for use in organic gardening, so is ideal for gardeners wanting to control pests organically.

Citrus deficiencies

Citrus can be prone to several micronutrient deficiencies, including manganese and zinc. Symptoms of these two deficiencies can be quite similar.

Manganese (Mn) plays a role in plant processes like photosynthesis. A manganese deficiency shows up as paler leaves with darker veins, usually in younger leaves. Leaves stay their full size, compared to reduced leaf size in zinc deficiency.

A main symptom of zinc deficiency is smaller leaves, often clustered together, on shorter stems. Leaves can also be mottled, with pale areas appearing in between the veins. Zinc plays an important role in plant growth hormones and stem elongation, which is why zinc deficient plants can be stunted.

Yates Citrus Cure Zinc and Manganese Chelate is a combination, fast-acting liquid that helps corrects both zinc and manganese deficiency. Applied as a foliar spray, it delivers micronutrients directly to the deficient leaves for faster results.

Summer nectarines

Nectarines are an absolutely delicious smooth-skinned summer stone fruit that come in both yellow and white-fleshed varieties. They can be used in trifles, tarts and crumbles, grilled on the BBQ and tossed into a salad, made into jams and salsa and, of course, eaten delightfully fresh and juicy.

If you've been enjoying supermarket-bought nectarines over summer, consider growing some of your very own. You can grow nectarines at home if you live in a climate where you receive enough “chilling hours”. So, nectarines are best suited to areas with cool or cold winters, however there are some varieties that will bear fruit in warmer areas.

Nectarine trees vary in size from medium-height trees down to dwarf varieties that grow to around 2m tall and wide, which are perfect for smaller gardens and growing in pots. In addition to delicious fruit, nectarine trees also have pretty blossoms in spring. They need a spot with at least six hours of sunshine a day and well-drained soil (or a medium sized pot filled with good quality potting mix).

It takes a lot of energy to produce all that delectable fruit so applying some Yates Thrive Natural Blood & Bone around the root zone every eight weeks between spring and autumn will both provide the tree with gentle organic nutrients as well as helping to improve the quality of the soil.

Particularly while fruit are maturing, keep the soil around nectarine trees moist. Applying a layer of mulch, like bark chips or straw, over the root zone will help conserve soil moisture.

Nectarine trees are most commonly available in winter as bare-rooted plants. Choose a variety that's suited to your climate. Nectarines are self-pollinating, which means they don't require another tree to be able to set fruit. However, if you adore nectarines you could think about growing a few different varieties that set fruit at varying times over summer. Plant tags will give you an idea whether it's an early, mid or late-fruiting variety. A few dwarf varieties won't take up too much space and just imagine picking your own amazing nectarines all through summer.

LISBON LEMONS: Commonly called Yen Ben in New Zealand, Lisbon lemons are a thin-skinned, juicy and highly-acidic fruit.