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Welcome to New Zealands Plant Portal. Wally Richards Weekly Garden Tips & Advice.

Gardening Articles for week ending 19th APRIL 2008
Written by Wally Richards.

Every now and then a gardener will come up with a gem of an idea that will naturally solve some gardening problem.
A few months ago I happen to be talking to a green keeper, (Ray) from up north about a couple of gardening problems that he had, and during the conversation he mentioned a product that came from Australia that he was using on his bowling greens.
The product consisted of Eucalyptus oil and Tea Tree oil along with natural plant foods in the form of manures and seaweed/fish extracts.
Ray told me about how he is using the product on his greens to give fantastic control of grass grubs, black beetles, root nematodes and porina caterpillars.
In the past Ray had been using various chemical poisons which he detested as the residue of these poisons would be left on the greens for bowlers to not only get onto their footwear but also onto the bowling balls which of course are been handled. Unless the bowlers washed both hands, clothes and footwear they would be tracking home substances that are not good for their health.
This new natural product was going to overcome any health aspects but how would it go controlling pest insects in the greens?
Ray told me it was magic and did a far better control than any of the chemicals had ever done.
Ray also cited a case where some fellow green keepers, up his way, were having problems with porina caterpillars in their greens. They firstly used diazinon at normal strength and the caterpillars just laughed and kept on munching. So then they applied the same poison at 3 times the recommended rate and still a number of porina survived. So Ray gave them a few litres of this natural product which they applied. The result was a complete control of the porina from one application.
The product is applied at the rate one 1 litre to 25 litres of water to cover 50 square metres of lawn.
(Diluted at the above rate; 200mls to 5 litres of water applied to 10 square metres of lawn)
After application the lawn is further lightly watered with the hose or a sprinkler to wash the oils off the grass and down into the top 6 to 10cm of the lawn. It is there that it does its job.
Often lawns are the home of garden slugs which emerge out of the soil and thatch to invade our gardens during moist times. The product knocks them out also.
Worms will happily live underneath the oil layer in the top soil without any known adverse effects.
Worms that are near the surface when applied may not fair so well.
During a more recent conversation with Ray I found that these oils will control other soil insects such as eel worm, centipedes, root mealy bugs etc. Even the likes of earwigs and slaters can be given the old hurry on if they are causing problems.
Being a bit of an experimenter I obtained a bottle of the product and mixed it at 10 mils to 250 mls of water in a trigger sprayer and went hunting for bugs on leaves. I found some whitefly, (adults and nymphs) caterpillars and leaf hoppers on the backs of some leaves. Sprayed them and the leaves and checked the next day to find dead whitefly and a caterpillar that was a funny yellow colour, still alive but fairly sick.
The manufacture informed me that the oils act as an irritant to the pests and they succumb as a result.
Imaginative gardeners may find this product an interesting tool in assisting in the control of some pests such as wire worm in the soil by treating the area a few weeks before planting (say) their new seasons potatoes. The product is only recommended for lawn use and should only be used for the control of pests in the lawn areas. Used for any other purpose is not recommended but being two natural oils I cannot see any health concerns as you are not likely to spray over any food crops and eat them without first washing as normal.
Being a oil based product, it can of course burn foliage and grass if sprayed in sunlight.
For lawn applications it is recommended to use early in the morning or late afternoon and washing in with the hose, the oils off the foliage and into the soil.
My research on the net indicates that Eucalyptus oil is toxic, but in weak solutions is used medically with warnings of possible toxic effects. (uses inhalers and medications)
Tea Tree oil should not be taken orally as it can be toxic in this form also. (Also used in various medical preparations externally)
The product’s label states ; ‘Do not feed grass clippings to animals and birds’ which would apply to the first or second mowing after application to a lawn area.
If you have pets that eat grass then make sure you water the oils off the grass after initial application before allowing the pets to roam the lawn.
Mind you the oils are only in the following strengths; Eucalyptus oil 10g/L and Tea Tree oil at 2.5g/L and then they are going to be further diluted at 1 litre concentrate to 25 litres of water and further reduced when washing into the soil off the grass’s foliage. Bearing these precautions in mind the possible harm to pets and birds would be very minimal.
This Australian product is called Professor Macs 3 in 1, been a natural lawn pest insecticide, lawn food and wetting agent. For lawn fertilising it is used at any time of the year at 100mls to 2 litres of water to cover 10 square metres. This rate will in fact assist a little in the control of lawn pests as a sort of top up after the initial application rate.
The wetting agent aspect will assist in drier times for the prevention of ‘Dry Spot’ in lawns.
This is when the soil dries out and surface tension prevents the rain or your watering from sinking into the soil.
Noticed often as a brown area with nice green grass around it.
Professor Macs 3 in 1 is becoming available now through garden centres (ask for it by name) in a one litre container and also in a 2 litre container that you snap your hose onto, to apply easily to 100 square metres of lawn area.
From my conversations with Ray, the green keeper and his absolute phrase for this natural product I can see it being a fantastic boon for those gardeners that want a great lawn without the need to use harmful chemicals. A neat Green product.

Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz

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