Garden Update #6 – Feb 2014

As I mentioned, I haven’t done any gardening to speak of since November – so once again, I’ve found myself with a very overgrown and weed-infested garden.

And because I also haven’t written anything for this blog since then, I only remembered to take “before” photos once I was halfway through the clean-up. How quickly we forget!

Grass, Rhoeo Edging, and Heliconias

The grass has spread from the beds into the paths, and some paths have all but disappeared as the rhoeo edging has flourished with all the rain we’ve had:

Grass-covered path

Weeded rhoeo to the right, and grass-covered rhoeo to the left

Narrow path

When you turn the corner at the end, there is actually no visible path

Unweeded bed

Overgrown bed

Once I finish weeding, I’ll be reshaping the paths by pulling out a lot of the rhoeo. I’ll use some of them to replant areas where the rhoeo has died, or been eaten by snails:

All chewed up

All chewed up

The heliconias are also migrating into the path – I’ll dig those out when I tackle the rhoeo.

HeliconiasMealy Bugs, Pawpaw, and Frangipani

One thing I did do, was to continue weekly spraying for mealy bugs with Amidor, and other than the frangipani and pawpaw which were both way too tall to spray, all plants are now free of it.

Last week, I decided to cut the pawpaw tree down to about 5 feet to make it more manageable.

Mealy bugs

Mealy bugs

Chopped pawpaw

Pawpaw trunk

There are already signs of new growth around the trunk.

I tried “drenching” the frangipani with Amidor, which involves pouring the diluted Amidol on the ground around the tree. It gets absorbed by the roots, gets into the tree’s sap, and kills the mealy bugs when they suck on the leaves.

It didn’t work, as the frangipani is underplanted with bromeliads, and not enough of the Amidor penetrated the soil.

Square Foot Garden

The final thing that fell prey to the mealy bugs were my vegetables – nearly everything got infested with it, and as I didn’t want to spray edible plants with poison, I pulled it all out.

At the moment, I’ve only got oregano, mint, thyme, spring onions, and strawberries left, and have been using the bed to propagate cuttings instead.

After I poison the grass and weeds that are growing in it, I’ll get out my seeds, and start from scratch.

So sad!

So sad!

Dracaena Marginata

I also cut the these down to about 4ft – they had grown too tall and were hidden in the frangipani tree. Also, they were covered in sooty mould, as is everything else under the frangipani. To quote The University of California website:

Sooty molds don’t infect plants but grow on surfaces where honeydew deposits accumulate. Honeydew is a sweet, sticky liquid that plant-sucking insects excrete as they ingest large quantities of sap from a plant. Because the insect can’t completely utilize all the nutrients in this large volume of fluid, it assimilates what it needs and excretes the rest as “honeydew.” Wherever honeydew lands—e.g., leaves, twigs, fruit, yard furniture, concrete, sidewalks, or statuary—sooty molds can become established.

Bloody mealy bugs!

I’ve got the tops of the dracaenas soaking in a bucket of water in the hope that they’ll root, and I can replant them in the driveway bed. I’ll also have to wipe the leaves individually with warm, soapy water to remove the sooty mould.

Again, bloody mealy bugs!

Dracaena trunk

Pruned dracaena – it should sprout a lot of new growth soon

Dracaena

Dracaena “cuttings”

Sooty mould

Sooty mould

I’ve transplanted a third dracaena from a pot to the driveway bed – I took three 4-inch cuttings from a friend’s plant a couple of years ago, rooted them in water, planted two in the ground and the third in a pot.

The ones in the ground were over 8 feet tall before I chopped them back, and the one in the pot might be 2 feet tall if it’s lucky. Huge difference!

Gardenia

I’ll be moving this to a new spot, as it’s growing over the path:

GardeniaI don’t know whether it will survive the transplant, but if it doesn’t, I’ve got a lot of cuttings on the go.

And having it closer to the house means that the perfume might drift up to the patio. Lovely!

Mulberry Tree

I had a lot of mulberries – but as I had to spray the tree with Amidor, I didn’t get to eat a single one!

After a recent visit to the Bagatelle Shopping Centre, and seeing these planted all through the carpark:

Tibouchina

Close-up of the flowers

I’ve decided to replace the mulberry with a tibouchina tree.

They’re gorgeous!

Vaneron Garden Centre in Trianon sell them, but at rs4500 for a 1.5m tree, I think I’ll shop around for a better price! So if you’ve seen them elsewhere, please let me know.

Anyway, that’s it for now – just a bit more weeding to do, and then I can move on to more interesting things.

I couldn’t work out how to start writing this blog again after Alf died, so almost didn’t.

Now, I’m glad I did – it’s brought a sense of normality back into my life, albeit in a small way.

Garden Update #5 – July 2013

Passionfruit Vine

It’s alive!

It survived the transplant (I love the tropics!) – most of the leaves fell off, and some branches died, so I pruned those off, together with any that were growing away from the wall. I’ve tied the remaining branches onto the mesh for now, but will remove the ties once more tendrils grow.

passI’ve also mulched it with leaves from next door’s Coeur de Boeuf tree (soursop) as I haven’t made it to the beach to collect seaweed yet. I’ve kept the mulch well away from the stem to avoid stem and root rot.

Pawpaw Tree

It started dying back due to the white mould (which apparently is a widespread problem in Mauritius at the moment), so Alf cut the top off (as I couldn’t reach it):

Topped pawpawand covered the cut with a plastic bottle:

Protected trunkThe pawpaw trunk is hollow, and if left uncovered, will fill with rainwater, causing it to rot.

We continued to spray, and look what’s happening:

New growthI don’t know what this new growth is – I’m hoping that it’s leaves and flowers as opposed to major branches. Not sure – will wait and see.

I also don’t know what to do about the top – surely we don’t leave the bottle on forever? Does it close up? Branch out? More waiting and seeing, I guess.

Bamboo, Cordyline, and Daylilies

After tying it up, I’ve decided not to prune the bamboo (sorry Asmi – no cuttings yet!) as I like the way it looks and moves in the wind:

BambooAir can now circulate properly, and the cordyline that was buried underneath can get rain, sun, and space to grow.

BambooUnlike the daylilies, which were getting crowded out by the rhoeo:

DayliliesI’ve since moved them to the mulberry bed, as they need room to spread, multiply, and eventually give me lots of free plants.

Mulberry Tree (Mure)

White mould strikes again!

A lot of the leaves fell off, and the new growth at the top of the branches was distorted.

I pruned off about 5 feet as even Alf couldn’t reach to spray the tops of the branches – it’s a much more manageable height now at about 6 feet, and hopefully, this will also cause the tree to branch out as it was pretty straggly.

Mulberry treeWhen I googled “pruning mulberries”, the information was too general and contradictory: only prune when the tree is dormant (doesn’t happen in the tropics – it’s evergreen here), prune off 1/3, don’t prune, only prune branches growing into the centre. Arrgh! No details of where on the branch to prune or other things I need to know.

Google’s great for a lot of things, but when we lived in Perth, I would always borrow gardening books written by experts from our local library, rather than spend hours online with not much to show for it.

Anyway, I just guessed and made the cuts above buds that were facing away from the centre of the tree. Don’t know what the buds are. Leaves? Branches? Who knows. So again, will wait and see.

Mulberry treeRuellia Hedges

I’m having one final go at these, and if it doesn’t work this time, I’m planting something else.

Many of them have died (I don’t know why), so I have a lot of gaps.

Others are growing horizontally or unevenly.

They still don’t look like a hedge – maybe I should have planted them closer to each other.

Anyway, I’ve pulled out the dead ones, and pruned the rest back hard.

I selected about 20 straight cuttings (about 1 foot long) from the bits I pruned:

Ruellia pruningsstripped off the lower leaves (so the leaves don’t rot and turn the water slimy):

Stripped stem

Yep, that’s dirt under my fingernails!

and stuck them in a jar of water with a few drops of Seasol added (to strengthen the plants and help them root):

Cuttings and dodosThey will have rooted in a couple of weeks at which time I’ll fill the gaps, and also replace any existing plants that are misbehaving.

I hope it works this time as I really like the plant, and I really, really like hedges.

Oh, and did you notice the sad state of our dodos?

We haven’t had workers around for a while, so I forgot to move them from under the tap before Joselito washed out the tile adhesive bucket.

The good news though, is that I had to repaint and varnish them after the painters covered them in housepaint, so I already know how to mix the right shade of green.

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta look on the bright side of life!

Garden Update #4 – June 2013

Passionfruit Frame

It’s finally up! Yipee!!!!

The delay has been due to the bottom length of wood – it was warped so kept falling off the wall, despite Alf’s best efforts to screw and nail it on.

Then, our ex-builder, Joselito, came a-visiting, and worked his magic. What a star!

Because everything here is built with hollow breeze blocks, you really need someone who knows how to work with them.

Alf and JoselitoHe ended up drilling bigger holes in the wood and wall. He then inserted chips of wood into the holes, along with the wallplugs, and bolted the wood to the wall, chiselling lumps out of it, so he could countersink the bolts.

So now we know for next time!

Though, if there is a next time, I think we’ll just pay Joselito to do it. It took him ages, and would take us forever!

After filling all the holes and gaps with Woodfiller, sanding it back, and touching up the paint, I stapled wire mesh to the frame:

Gaps

Thank God for woodfiller – not even close!

WoodfillerStaplesThe mesh comes in 3 foot widths, so as our frame is over 5 feet high, I had to join 2 lengths of mesh together:

MeshI finished it all off with painted wooden beading held on by small tacks, then painted the tack heads to stop them rusting.

TacksThe beading will stop the mesh from falling off when (not if, but when!) the staples rust. The combination of humidity and salt air guarantees that.

It also looks nicer.

Finished framePassionfruit Vine

Passionfruit vine

Before transplanting

The passionfruit vine is in place: I dug a large hole, replacing the rubble-filled soil with compost, and the topsoil we bought, and watered the passionfruit thoroughly with Seasol (seaweed extract) as it helps reduce transplant shock. I’ll also be giving it a deep soaking everyday, and mulching it with seaweed.

I used some of the rocks I dug out of the garden to make an edging so that we don’t trample all over the roots and damage them further. I can remove the edging down the track (though what I’ll do with the rocks is another thing!).

Rock edgingI don’t know whether it will survive. It’s been in the raised bed for about 9 months, and the roots had burst through the container it came in, and grown into the soil. They had spread pretty far, and although I tried not to damage them, I did.

To compensate for the broken roots, I pruned it back very hard.

It’s looking pretty sad.

If it lives, I’ll tie it to the mesh until it starts climbing on its own.

If it dies, we’ll be heading back to the nursery at Labourdonnais for a new plant.

But as this is Mauritius, and plants do their own thing here, I’ll just wait and see.

Transplanted passionfruitPot Stands

OK, explain this to me – metal doesn’t stretch, and plastic, tiles and grout don’t shrink – so how did the pot stand and pot go from this:

Stupid pot standto this:

Magic pot

?????????????

I went to remove the pot so that I could work on the stand, but it was stuck – I can’t get it out!

It was much too big for the ring before. What’s going on? I’m completely baffled!

Maybe we have fairies living at the bottom of the garden.

Very, very weird!

I’m probably going to have to knock some tiles off to get it out.

Anyway, I’ve finished the other stand – I tried using a wire brush to remove the loose paint and burgeoning rust, but didn’t find it very effective, so I used coarse sandpaper, which worked really well.

Pot standPot standPot standAlf’s thinking is, that as long as the rust is well covered by the paint (thereby stopping air from getting to it), I won’t need to use rust converter, or primer.

So I didn’t – I don’t need much encouragement to save myself a lot of work!

After a quick wipe, I gave it three coats of purple paint (very time-consuming!).

I’m not sure whether I like the purple – it’s a bit much. I may end up changing the colour.

Purple standOther than that, it’s a huge improvement. I’ll keep an eye out for any breakthrough rust.

I’ll also be making mosaic tiles to stand them on, to keep the feet out of wet sawdust.

Anyway, one down, and one to go.

Once I get the pot out!

White Mould

Everything’s growing well with the exception of the pawpaw, chili hibiscus, and some of the Madagascan frangipanis, which all got badly infected with white mould.

Mould

Chili Hibiscus

Mould

Mould

This is after a few days of treatment

It looks disgusting, and deforms and kills the leaves, and if left untreated, ultimately kills the plant. And it spreads.

Because the pawpaw tree was too tall for me to reach (and it was soooo disgusting!), Alf kindly removed most of the leaves, and sprayed everything with a mixture of milk and water (1:3 parts), re-spraying every couple of days. We used fresh milk as opposed to UHT.

It seems to be working – it’s certainly killing the mould – but we’ll have to wait and see whether the plants survive. Both chili hibiscuses have already died.

Alf will keep spraying the other plants with the milk solution until there is no sign of mould left, then I’ll spray with Seasol to give them a bit of a health boost.

I also promise to be more vigilant in future, and to spray at the first sign of mould. Amen.

So all in all, it’s been a productive month, seeing an end to some of the projects that have been sitting around unfinished for the past year or so, and a start to others.

And best of all, I can now start work on the raised bed, and move the pile of soil that’s been sitting in the driveway for months! Finally!

Grass

The idea I had about using hessian as a weed mat has gone by the wayside – when we came back from Perth, as expected, the grass had all grown back.

But what I didn’t expect, was to find that it had grown through the small holes in the astroturf!

Seriously?

If it can grow through astroturf, I’ll have no chance with hessian!

So I’m back to the poisoning option, with one difference:

A friend told us she did a similar thing back in Scotland, but instead of using a paintbrush, she put on rubber gloves, then a sock on top of that, dunked her hands in the poison solution, and wiped it over the grass.

Quicker than the paintbrush, and hopefully, less splashing of poison onto the surrounding plants.

I’ll definitely be raiding Alf’s sock drawer and giving that a go. Thanks, Linda.