From the nursery

Compost tea: Sort out the ingredients and clean out equipment thoroughly to start the fortnightly applications as foliage emerges.

The beneficial micro-organisms compete on the foliage and in the rootzone for space, which can reduce the risk of disease pathogens getting established on crops. The brew has many other benefits on crops so experiment this season if you are new to it.

Root damage: Check for root damage on container-grown stock, particularly with the cold snaps we have had this winter. In some cases, plants may not show any symptoms until they start to put on new growth, which could be as late as April. Check the roots of random plants in a batch during the dispatch period to avoid customer complaint. Tetrazolium is an indicator that can determine if a root is alive or not.

Adelgids: These are an often forgotten pest of conifers. They produce a white, fluffy mass on the needles of pines, junipers and Cedrus. While they do little harm to the trees, they are the source of so-called "pineapple galls", which can disfigure otherwise good trees. Spray any signs of this pest with Dursban WG, Hallmark WZT or Gyro and include a wetting agent to get good penetration of the pesticide.

Rust mites: Malus, plums, ash and Sorbus aria can be sprayed with Dursban WG, Hallmark WZT or Dimilin Flo to control rust mites and other bud-damaging mites.

Biological control: Predator programmes should be started now for whitefly, aphid and western flower thrip. Check which aphid you are seeing as the selection of the right predator is important to achieve success. Sticky traps should be distributed around now to monitor the pests present on your crops.

Heater damage: Unvented direct-fired oil heaters can create a build-up of sulphur dioxide, while propane fired heaters can cause ethylene build-up in the structure. Both can result in damaged foliage of young plant material. Open your tunnel doors or glasshouse vents, even if it is only for half an hour a day to bring about an air change in the structure. Direct-fired heaters should be checked regularly for efficient operation.

Warm days: The early shooting of growth means that cutting material of protected herbaceous plants and shrubs is maturing now and will need to be either utilised or cut off and allowed to break again rather than let get too long and leggy.


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