Lemon Tree Woes with Citrus Leaf Miner and Gall Wasp

If you have been following along, you may know that I have not been a very good lemon tree gardener.  This is lemon tree number five, and as you can see, it is already having issues and is not yet an adolescent.

I called in some experts (ha ha!), well I asked some of my Facebook friends, who confirmed for me that it was the Leaf Miner that I was looking at.  After doing further research, it seems that this is exactly what it is and it is requiring some drastic treatment.

I need to cut off all of the affected leaves (which appear to be most of the new leaves plus some of the older ones) and spray it with oil.  I have stumbled on a great green oil that will not affect the good bugs, the Eco Oil, which is an Australian product (yay!!) on the Green Harvest site (this is a great site to stumble on if you are looking for green products for the garden).

Having not used any sprays, poisons etc in my garden so far, this suits me just fine as the benefits of it are that it will kill the bug but not be dangerous in any way to us as it is made of edible, safe products. This is what the Green Harvest site had to say about it:

Eco-Oil BFA Organic
Eco-Oil is a registered miticide/Insecticide. It is a botanical oil that contains canola oil, eucalyptus oil, melaleuca oil and several surfactants. Surfactants help the oil stick to the leaf. It controls pests by contact, so complete coverage of plants is important. For best results spray at the first sign of infestation. Repeat application may be necessary. Eco-Oil controls citrus leafminer, scale, two-spotted mite, aphids, whitefly and various sap-sucking insects. Oil sprays should not be used at temperatures above 35°C. Do not apply to plants suffering heat or moisture stress. Application rate is 5-10mL per litre of water.
How does it work?
When eco-oil is applied directly onto an insect, including aphids, mites and whiteflies it blocks the breathing holes and prevents the carbon dioxide from being expelled from the body. This effectively smothers the insect. When eco-oil is applied to citrus leaves it prevent the nocturnal citrus leafminer moth from landing and laying her eggs into the leaves. Both the smell and the oil layer left by the spray deters the moth.

Material Safety Data Sheet

Benefits of using eco-oil
  • eco-oil has no significant impact on beneficial insect numbers
  • under sunlight eco-oil dissipates faster than petroleum-based oils, resulting in less risk of phototoxicity
  • there is no withholding period when sprayed on edible crops
  • there is no chemical residue left on plants
  • no protective clothing needs to be worn
  • it smells better than petroleum-based oils
  • it is manufactured in Australia using Australian grown canola oil, which helps support Australian farmers

So, with no further ado, I will be ordering this, and beginning the project of Save Lemon Tree Number Five.

When I snipped off the affected leaves, I did notice that there were a couple of beginnings of gall wasp swellings on the tree as well, so these have been snipped off.  I know that it is really hard to keep under control living in such a high density area, however, I would feel negligent not doing my bit.  It's the little things that make a lot of difference.

Reduce Carbon Locally

This weekend we decided to have a our own little 40 hour carbon reducing time/reconnecting with each other again time.  We were also really hankering for more of a simple time, missing the outdoors.  The boys put up the tent with the Big Guy, and I set about organising the fire pit on top of the grassy area.

It was beautiful to sit around the fire that night, looking at the fire and the stars, remembering different places that we had been camping around Australia and stories that people had told us.  It was a great way to connect. we used the solar lanterns from the garden as our lighting.  It felt relaxed and peaceful.

Breaky was slow cooked on the fire (fuel by sticks and hardwood in the backyard), as was lunch the next day.  There really is something to be said for just slowing down a little.

On Sunday night, Mr 12, the oldest, told me that he was much more relaxed sleeping in his sleeping bag and tent than in his bed.  This may become a more regular event!

Getting rid of the Deadwood

There comes a time in every garden’s season where one needs to just get out there and have a good look through to see what is really going on in there.  For us this happened just a couple of weeks ago.  It sort of happened by accident as we had a number of boxes to take to the green waste (we had missed the monthly council pickup by moments due to a great deal of mismanagement) and thought we may as well fill up the car since we were going.  So what began as a “let’s just do a little bit more of a tidy up since it has been nearly a month”, ended up being a massive four hour clean-up of discovery.

Looking around we found that lost behind the green beautiful bushes, were some dead trees!  We had forgotten to look up obviously for some time, time enough for a couple of wattles to die.  I put the 4 boys onto the job while I set about trimming the unruly Cassia hedge.  It has really been the star of our garden from the moment that I planted it.  It lasted through the drought with barely a drop of water, whilst still giving flowers, and then when the drought broke, it continued to bloom and grow.  While I perched precariously on my wobbly stool with secateurs in one hand and pruning saw in the other, I did begin to notice the vast difference between the two sides of the garden.  One hedge on one side was low and thick, and the one that I was hovering over was tall and woody at the top and slightly thicker at the bottom, but certainly heaps taller than the other side.  I had a completely lopsided hedge!  

With a swapping of tools, after a little bribing because for some unknown reason the kids had ended up with the really great long reach snippers and the hedge trimmers, I got right into it in a way that would make Edward Scissorhands proud.  Before we knew it, there was no space for hedge regrets.  It was cut; short and sharp.  Matt and I stood back and assured ourselves that it was all ok, it was just like a really short haircut, it would be much better in a couple of weeks, just a little woody right now.  We vowed to come back at it with the hedge trimmers on a weekly basis to “thicken it up”, get the sideways, internal growth happening.  Inside, I am just crossing my heart, and my fingers and toes…  I hope that it all works and that I didn’t cut so much that that bushes think that have been killed (eep!). 

The thing is about these plants is that they are hardier than people realise, and mostly don’t mind a prune.  Most native plants actually are able to be pruned and shaped, just like other plants.  It is possible to have an “ordered” or slightly ordered garden with natives; they don’t always have to be left in their natural state.  In their natural state they would actually have animals pushing past them, and people and weather breaking bits off.  This is the natural pruning, so it is ok to take it into your own hands and give your natives a good prune, they will be more likely to thicken up rather be straggly.  It is also a great idea to clear out the dead sticks and branches; it gives you a chances to see what is going on with the health in the garden.  When we pull out the dead trees, we found borer in them.  It is a different borer to what is found in furniture; however, I will now be on the lookout for them in other plants.  This is a reminder to me that I need to fertilise more and water more.  Borer attacks trees that are under stress, suffering malnutrition and have a lack of water.  In my front yard (where these trees were) I have not tended to water a great deal as the plants (all being local native plants) don’t really need it to survive.  Well, now I know, need it or not for survival, there was obviously a need, and I must get water to that area on a regular basis, along with the Seasol (this seems to work well with the natives). 

So that is my work cut out for me, sorting out my watering issues, filling in the gaps, keeping that hedge in line and the continual vegie patch!  The lawn has been keeping me very busy too.  I am now down to a fortnightly trimming (can’t really call it mowing when I am using a whipper snipper), and it is so lush that I can lie on it!  I now understand that whole lawn pride thing that people get.  I have suddenly got it, especially since I planted each tiny little plant into the ground by hand (how many years ago now?)!  For those who are interested, Lemon Tree V still lives, although I did note today that there is an ugly leaf thing going on the very top leaves.  I am going to have to pull it off and visit Russell and Deb at Kensington Garden Centre to get help before I end up looking for Lemon Tree VI!

I am stuffing my face with basil, tiny tomatoes and zucchini at the moment! Hooray for summer harvests! Til next time, happy gardening! 

My KeepCup is a Keeper

For Christmas this year I got a really ace present, one that I have been really wanting for ages, in fact, ever since I first saw them in the first design market when they popped out a couple of years ago, but, being a bit of a non-consumer, I didn't buy it, yet.  I didn't really have a need for it, but it was gorgeous and a really clever, clever design.

The best bit was that it was the brain child of Melbournites, people from my town!  The KeepCup.  Now everyone has one and they come in so many different colours and sizes, even corporate's have got in on the secret.   For those who don't know what the KeepCup is, it is a reusable barista standard takeaway plastic BPA free cup for coffee (and tea etc for those who are not partakers in the caffeine tradition) reducing the need for the takeaway foam or paper cups that so many people use (and are not able to be recycled).  It comes with a lid (you are able to choose the colours if you wish) and plug (to stop your coffee spilling out as you run for the train) and a band that gives you the choice to circle the type of coffee type you like so you don't even have to speak to your barista!

There are so many reasons that Abigail and James Forsyth (a brother and sister team) have got the formula right with the KeepCup and for those out there who have a great sustainable or environmental product, it is worth looking up and taking notice.  They have made something that beautiful, that people want and need.  It is a product that incredibly usable, without any hippy feel to it.  They are not marketing to the people who are already carrying their bags to the supermarkets.  They are marketing to those who haven't even thought about the environment yet which gets people who are not necessarily thinking about it, starting their journey towards a better environment.  This is a really important thing to think about.

All that being said, I love my new KeepCup, it is white, pink and purple and keeps my coffee warm until I am ready to drink it (flat white, strong and no sugar please).

DumboFeather Magazine, another fantastic thing to come out about the same time, have had Marc Whiteway do a beautiful interview with Abigail which I found to be very insightful.  It really is worth a watch if you have the time. 
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