7 | Maintenance

2 Sep 2020
by Francois

No doubt your plants are happy and growing well. You have spent a lot of time and effort to give them the best possible chance to thrive and reward you with gorgeous flowers. However, mother nature isn’t one to be underestimated and provides us with plenty of challenges to overcome if we want to have a bounty of beautiful flowers. You might think that you have already done enough and yes, you certainly have, but in this case it is worth going the extra mile… There are three more things that require some attention – none of them are difficult and if they are done frequently, they will not take much time at all.

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Weeding – It is important that your flower beds and surrounding areas are kept free of weeds. There are multiple reasons for this:

  • Weeds take water and nutrients from the ground leaving less for your plants
  • All plants interact with the soil via their roots – there is an enormous amount of biological activity and exchange of nutrients and metabolites between the roots, organisms and soil at any given time. Weeds have a specific activity and effect on the soil that is different from the plants we grow and it is therefore not an interaction that is beneficial for us as it makes the soil less ideal.
  • Weeds attract insects! Insects are not all bad, but some are. And those insects feed on our flowers and plants and, more importantly, spread diseases.

Mulching – there are a couple of ways that you can get rid of weeds. The most common ways are either physically removing them or spraying them with herbicide, which is not ideal. Luckily there is a much more environmentally friendly way which also feeds your soil at the same time. Mulching is basically layering material on top of the soil in between the existing plants. This layer usually consists of either compost, shredded bark / dried leaves, saw dust, pine needles, paper or a combination of any of these. The reason that it works to keep weeds away is that it blocks the sunlight from reaching the unwanted newly sprouted seedlings or might even inhibit their germination all together. After a while, the mulch layer will start to break down and naturally feed your soil too. Just keep an eye on it and top it up as needed.

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Pest control – Any plant that is infested with insects or disease has to direct a lot of energy towards fighting it off, which leads to flower production standing still. Always be on the lookout for pests, pest damage visible on flower petals and diseases that are starting to appear on plant leaves, plant stems or flower petals. This means that you will, every now and then, need to have a close inspection of plants and flowers. Insects aren’t always easy to spot immediately, they sometimes hide at the bottom of leaves or inside flowers and some hide inside the soil are only active during early morning hours or on overcast days. Newly transplanted seedlings and newly germinated seeds are especially prone to attack by insects because their growth is fresh, green and juicy. During rainy times slug and snails are very active and VERY quickly destroy newly germinated seeds. Worms do this as well. Therefore, when sowing new seeds, and the weather has been wet for a couple of days, special precaution needs to be taken a couple of days before the seeds start to germinate. This means that you will need to put down slug pellets. 

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Disease control – Consistently wet soil and high humidity is a perfect breeding ground for pathogens such as downy mildew. Although some plants and varieties are more prone to disease than others, all plants are attacked and can succumb to pests and disease if not careful. It is also important to keep your beds and surrounding area clean of all plant debris at all times. Debris includes all plant material that is not growing anymore, i.e. all the leaves, branches, and flowers that are cut off and deadheaded. The reason for this is that as plant material is dying, they exude specific substances that attract insects and they also become a harbor for diseases which can then spread to surrounding plants.

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There is nothing more devastating than seeing your favorite flowering plant succumbing to insect or disease pressure – especially after you have put so much effort into ensuring they are healthy and happy. In fact, this is why we put in all this effort – strong and healthy plants are much better equipped at fighting off pests and diseases than other plants, so it is really in our best interest to do things right from the start. However, sometimes things do go sideways, but don’t despair, we have you covered! Below are a couple of tips you can apply to give your plants the best possible chance to not become infected.

  • Ensure you space your plants according to recommended spacing guides
  • Wherever possible, use drip irrigation instead of overhead sprinklers. If you have to use overhead sprinklers for watering, make sure that it is done at the start of the day so that the foliage has enough time to dry before the evening.
  • Don’t water on wet and rainy days, especially not with overhead sprinklers
  • After the seedling stage, the top 3-5cm of soil should always dry out first before watering again.
  • Air movement between plants is crucial to ensure that diseases like mildew don’t take hold.
  • When you spot any insects, immediately remove them, either by hand or by spraying them off with a strong blast of water or with insecticide.

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GOAL 4 | KEY TAKEAWAYS
* Regular maintenance is key to keeping your plants disease and pest free and producing over the whole season
* Keep weeds in check as they harbour unwanted insects
* Insects are potential vectors for diseases.
* If you act swiftly when you spot disease or pests, more often than not your plant will recover completely, depending on the disease – for some diseases there is no cure and the plant needs to be destroyed immediately before it can infect neighbouring plants.

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