For some, increasingly dense living in city environments means we have less access to nature. Cities and councils are becoming more proactive about establishing green areas and habitats for public use, recognising the mental, emotional and physical benefits of living in nature.
In Australia, we are blessed with wide open spaces and a diverse environment. Where possible we encourage you to explore with your family and connect with the amazing environments we live amongst.
The following are suggestions we've found beneficial and hope that you will too.
Encourage your child to sit quietly in the garden and look at the ants, the bees and all the insects. By looking closely at the ants scurrying around, finding food and carrying it back to their nest, children learn so much about life. The more you observe insects the more you understand about caring for the environment, collecting food, flying and living with nature.
Appreciate the beauty of flowers
Show your child the flowers, the different shaped petals and the beautiful colours and have them touch and smell each of the flowers. This builds an appreciation of nature and brings an awareness of their senses.
Look at the different plants
Walk with your child and show them the different shaped leaves, the variety of colours, and the different swirls on the branches.
Lie on the grass and look at the clouds
This is fun and relaxing. When you look at the clouds you can often see shapes of animals, people and all types of things. Have fun with it; play guessing games of what you can see.
See if you can move the clouds. Point your finger to a cloud and focus on the tip of your finger with the intention that it makes a hole in the cloud. Concentrate, watch and wait to see what happens.
Climbing trees does not have to be dangerous, nor does it have to damage the tree. By climbing trees children learn to take calculated risks about what is and isn't possible. Tree branches are wonderful places to sit as nature has a special way of making you feel happy. As an adult you will know which trees have safe, large branches and are easy to climb and you can stay nearby to ensure your child's safety.
Seasonal Pests & Diseases that may attack your garden
AUTUMN Pest & Disease Alert
With temperatures easing many pests and diseases reappear ready to attack our plants. In particular keep an eye out for the following problems:
• Aphids, whitefly and mites – these sap suckers can be quickly controlled with either eco-oil or eco-neem sprays.
• Powdery Mildew - extremely common at this time of year as summer crops wind down. Spray with eco-fungicide to extend the harvest period.
• Rust - another common fungal problem right now on annuals (like snapdragons and beans) and tired perennials after their summer flowering (like geraniums). Remove infected leaves and spray with eco-fungicide.
• Lawn Armyworm - in warmer climates this pest can still be around so watch for rapidly developing bare patches where the caterpillar has eaten the grass during the night. Treat with eco-neem and apply eco-seaweed weekly to boost lawn recovery.
WINTER Pest & Disease Alert
Pests are usually a bit quieter in winter but there are still a couple of things to watch out for:
• Leaf Curl on stone fruit trees: This fungus causes new leaves to blister, curl and prematurely drop which weakens the tree and reduces yield. Apply a copper spray at bud swell to prevent the fungus entering into the tree. Once the disease has entered there are no fungicides to control it but applications of eco-seaweed can alleviate stress in the tree. Apply additional organic fertiliser so as the tree has enough nutrients to build replacement leaves.
• Citrus Gall Wasp: Cracked swellings (galls) on branches are the clear sign of citrus gall wasp and must be pruned off no later than August. If left unpruned wasps will emerge in Spring and lay eggs on the new growth. Destroy the prunings.
• Control weeds: Common weeds can act as shelter and food for pests which helps them survive this tough period. When Spring arrives you’ll have a stack of pests ready to jump from the weeds onto the new shoots of your garden plants. So get weeding to reduce pest problems later on.
• General Cleanup: Plants which often have pest and disease problems, like roses and fruit trees, will benefit from a couple sprays of eco-oil combined with eco-fungicide in mid and late winter to help reduce future problems.
SPRING Pest & Disease Alert
At this time of year pest numbers really explode with lots of tasty new growth on offer. Check plants regularly and always use organic solutions which won’t harm beneficial insects like bees and ladybeetles. Here are a few things in particular to watch out for:
• Scale – juvenile scales, known as crawlers, usually emerge in the second half of spring. At this stage they are yet to develop their protective scale shell and are easy to kill with a thorough spray of eco-oil.
• Aphids, mites and whitefly – these sap suckers weaken plants, spread diseases and cause sooty mould to develop. Spray with eco-oil for easy control.
• Fruit Fly – this is a very difficult insect to control so start early for best results. Use a combination of eco-lure traps and the eco-naturalure bait spray to keep fly numbers low and minimise fruit damage. For very susceptible crops (like stone fruit) consider bagging the fruit.
• Caterpillars – clusters of black droppings and holes in the leaves of plants means caterpillars have arrived. Remove by hand (if you can find them) or spray with eco-neem.
• Snails and slugs – these guys love new growth and young seedlings so protect them with beer traps (change the beer regularly), copper tape or iron based pellets. After rain walk around the garden collecting snails as another way to keep numbers under control.
• Anthracnose – poor fruit set on mango and avocado trees, along with black spots on fruit and foliage, is due to this fungal disease. Spray with copper from flowering until harvest to keep anthracnose at bay.
• Powdery mildew – as many winter annuals (ornamentals and edibles) slow down now they are especially vulnerable to powdery mildew. Extend their life (and your enjoyment) by spraying with eco-fungicide.
SUMMER Pest & Disease Alert
As ever there are numerous pests and diseases ready to attack our plants during summer. Here are some common ones:
• Two-spotted mites – these mites suck sap out of a very broad range of plants with the leaves left washed out and grey. They love hot weather and can kill plants if not treated. Spray with eco-oil or eco-neem.
• Fruit Fly – If you haven’t already hung an eco-lure trap then do so straight away and if flies appear in it start applying the eco-naturalure bait spray. Remove any fruit which has already been stung.
• Citrus Gall Wasp - newly forming galls are now visible and should be cut off. This allows for new shoots to grow without galls as the adult wasps will have mostly died off by now.
• Whitefly – these sap suckers love tomatoes, beans, potatoes and other edible plants. Spray early with eco-oil as whitefly breed quickly and can rapidly reach plague proportions.
• Lawn Armyworm – From mid-summer onwards the armyworm can rapidly defoliate large patches of lawns. Drench lawns with eco-neem to prevent further damage and then feed to encourage new growth.
• Curl grubs – these pests feed on the roots of plants causing dead patches in lawn and wilting or stunted plant growth in garden beds and pots. Dig around the soil and drench the soil with eco-neem if curl grubs are found.
• Fungal problems – common diseases like powdery mildew, rust and black spot can attack a wide range of plants through summer. At the first sign of outbreak remove badly infected leaves and then spray thoroughly with eco-fungicide.
• Citrus Leafminers – distorted foliage with swirly silvery trails is the classic sign of leafminer infestation. Spray new foliage regularly with eco-oil or hang the eco-CLM trap. Remove badly damaged foliage.
• Leaf Curl: if your stone fruit trees were badly affected by this fungal disease then rake up all fallen leaves and spray with copper to reduce spores on the branches. Spray again at bud swell.
• Citrus Leafminer: in warmer regions new growth on citrus is still susceptible to attack by the leafminer. Protect by spraying with eco-oil or hanging the eco-CLM Trap.
• Lily caterpillar – this caterpillar appears in clusters and does severe damage to cliveas, crinums, hippeastrums and other lilies. Spray quickly with eco-neem to minimise the damage.