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The ‘Thugs’ of Winter Garden

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Beautiful Gardens of Doon-46

By SUNITA VIJAY

Winter as a ‘dormant season’ has a positive flip side when it comes to garden. It is the time when plants show no signs of growth. The only escalation one can see is in the annuals, which grow profusely. The war against the invaders seems to end temporarily during this time. With not much work to do except for taking care of growing annuals and settling the worn off chrysanthemums for the next season, the garden seem to be a quiet place. As we look forward for a pleasingly noisy and vibrant spring bloom, we must be prepared for the sudden attack from the dedicated pests who are vehemently preparing themselves silently with an army of soldiers to wipe out our plant kingdom as soon as the spring provides them with the suitable warmth to bounce back with full force. A clever gardener is one who can convert adversity in one’s favour and a harsh phase of chilly winds and biting frost into a boon. The simplest thing to do is to expose the broad spectrum of pests to frost, and the cold and hungry beaks of probing birds.
Flush them off with a jet wash
Overwintering pests congregate in warm places. Be observant and jet flush all the branches with a neem oil spray that show sign of pest eggs, fungus, virus or any other disease. It will suffocate many and wash away others. Many types of mites and aphids will be eliminated due to this winter wash and a plant will be free of many problems that may weaken its system.
Scratch and turn the hard soil to promote grubbing
Turning the soils of the bed, area under the shrubs, bushes, trees and unused area in the garden will expose the grubs to the frost during night time. The already energy-less pest and insects will not survive the frosty nights. It will be a great respite to the annuals and plants as they approach spring as there will be less attackers.
Feast them to the hungry birds
Turning the soil, combing the upper layer will disturb the insects that are planning to expand their family during this time. They will be exposed to the hungry insectivorous birds who too are facing food crises during this season. Try to welcome bird friends as they will become part of a healthy food chain and relieve the gardener of pest worry. It will indirectly check the use of harsh pesticides later when spring walks in.
Weed the beds and grass
Weeding the barren beds, removing weed from under the bushes and shrubs will devastate the habitat of many nefarious pests that are planning to attack our leafy veggies, small saplings, seedlings in our kitchen garden, annuals and indoor plants.
Top the upper layer with compost
Top-dressing the soil with about 3 to 4 inches of compost will make the plants strong and healthy. A healthy plant can fight the pests, insects and diseases with ease.
Keep the yard clean
Regular cleaning and removing the waste material, left over debris, broken pots, weeding will prevent the insects to use it as their winter abode. Insects and bugs do not have a very long life. Constant intervention and disturbing their abode will reduce their number drastically; indirectly help in reducing the use of chemicals to eliminate them and supporting the ecological balance.
Disinfect your pruning shears and tools
Clean and disinfect all your tools and shears. You may not require them during winters but storing them dirty may be hazardous when they will be in use in spring. Wash them. Apply neem oil or mustard oil or machine oil before keeping them to temporary rest.
Continue the fight against these colourful invaders
Not one, but there are many opportunist invaders that do not rest even during winters. Many have adapted to the extreme climate. Use the following techniques:
• Green aphids may nibble away the soft new shoots of pansies. Black aphids love to destroy the ornamental plants. Spray of eco-oil will help.
• Snails, slugs and grubs are on rampage in winter as well as in autumn. One may use beer trap as mentioned in the previous article.
• Caterpillars may play havoc in the kitchen garden. Black spots may appear on roses. Spray soap solution.
• Mould and fungus may thrive in damp and moist patches in the garden on stems, under the grass and on other plants. Spray with soap solution or a suitable fungicide or you may use a solution of Baking powder to get rid of all of the above problems.
A gardener can never rest. To create a fulfilling, picture-perfect result, one needs to work an extra hour and go an extra mile to conquer the enormous army of these tiny ‘thugs’ who strongly believe and practice the Latin phrase ‘Vedi, Veni, Vinci’ and may devastate the most loved area of the house.