Kitchen sink remedies

Gardeners are always looking for simple ways to treat problems so here are a couple that you might like to try.

1: Petal blight is a constant source of frustration for people who love camellias. I’ve written about the problem before but at the camellia show in Tauranga at the weekend heard of a “remedy” that may be worth trying.

Sprinkle soap powder (laundry powder) underneath the camellia, the theory being that it kills the fungus (Ciborinia camelliae) before it can release its spores (upwards) to continue its life cycle on the flowers (which take it back down to the soil when they drop).

Petal blight on a camellia. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Long-time camellia grower and breeder Ailsa James believes it’s worth a try, although notes that if your neighbours have infected plants it will keep blowing over the fence. She has also heard that there is an onion fertiliser in Germany that kills the fungus but  it’s not available in New Zealand.

2: Once you’ve pruned your roses this year, mix up one-quarter of a teaspoon of Condy’s Crystals (potassium permanganate) to a litre of water and spray the branches and surrounding soil – the idea being that this is a mild steriliser. You can also spray the foliage when it emerges. Wally Richards has written extensively on its use, not just for roses but in cases of brassica club foot too (a stronger mix is suggested for that).

Please note that this mixture will be very purple and may stain clothes (it did come off my hands, where it had turned brown, after a few washes).