This post was going to be full of Zen like calm as we ran through the things that need tidying up as we end summer. That was before I discovered this tiny white fly and the bugger is eating my Ficus (weeping fig). I had to resort to international detective work to find out what it is, and it turns out if I’ve got it, then it is coming to bush near you very soon.
We will deal with the Zen stuff at the end of this post, but let’s get on with this fly emergency; I wish I had a pole to slide down, or at least a siren.
27th September, Things I have been doing lately:
🥊 Dealing with the fig whitefly: Yup that is what it is. After searching through the internet and talking to gardeners in the US, I have identified it as the fig whitefly (Singhiella simplex) which comes from the Order Hemiptera which also includes Aphids. Evidently it is relatively new to the US where it is destroying weeping figs just for fun and leaving large parts of Florida gardens completely bereft of their ficus hedges.
I discovered the little blighter purely by chance. I have two Ficus weeping figs, one is a smallish bush and the other is more tree like. Anyway, the small one started shedding its leaves quite dramatically and at first I thought it was an irrigation problem; but as they don’t need much water I was perplexed. Then I thought it might have been accidently hit by some wind borne weed killer as I had been spraying gravel near it. To help it recover from what I thought was weedkiller I was just applying a watering can full of feed and pushing back the leaves to get to the roots I was suddenly engulfed in a cloud of very small flies. It was only then that I twigged (plant pun) what was wrong. The clever little sod hides on variegated weeping figs, but because of its colour it sticks to the white part so you can never see it.
The fig whitefly has up to three egg laying periods in a season and the immature stage sits under the leaves not moving and sucking the life out of the leaves. Although there are some natural predators, not enough to deal with its astounding birth rate, so if you want to stop it you have to spray or drench the roots. If you want my advice go out and shake your Ficus now and I bet the little blighters are there – this could be a new dance craze, called doing the Ficus shake. See the picture below of my poor Ficus, you have been warned.
🍇 Trim back grape vines. Although it is not time for the big grape vine cut back, you can make the plant healthier by cutting back any lower sucker type growth close to the ground. This has the benefit of not only making the plant look tidier, but also it ensures that its energy is going into the vines that will fruit next year. The first picture below shows one of our small vines that needed tidying, the second picture shows it showing off its legs like some hussy.
🌳 Trim suckers off the trunk of Californian false peppers. The False pepper is a lovely tree and we have lots of them in my area of Spain. But I have mentioned in previous posts that to keep it tidy you need to do a big cutback every 2 or three years and take off more or less all the branches and just leave the trunk. This then encourages the weeping willow effect that is so lovely. The drawback in this is that once you cut off the branches, then twice a year you need to cut off the suckers that swarm from the trunk. This is very easy as they are soft and pliable and can easily be removed quickly by a hedge trimmer. The first picture below shows the tree before trimming whilst the second shows it with what looks like designer stubble.
🍊 Trim suckers off the trunk of citrus trees. Talking of suckers, you should never give them an even break; I have used this rather lame joke in previous posts, but I believe in recycling. Anyway, at this time of year your orange and lemon trees will start to sucker like crazy. You will see bright green little shoots starting out all over the trunk of your trees. You need to take these off as they will take away the energy that you need to get your fruit ripe. Wearing gardening gloves, just pull the sucker down against the trunk and it will come away in your hand. If you have left it there too long and it has gone a darker green, then you will need to use secateurs to remove it. The picture below shows me in action removing a sucker.
👃 How is your Dame de Noche. If you have followed my advice in previous posts about when to prune your plant for best flowering; and I am sure you have, then you should have a magnificent flush of flowers that scent late summer barbecues. If you didn’t follow my advice then you are currently looking at a very uninspiring green lump of bush, and it’s your own fault. See the picture below of my Dame de Noche in late flower’ I am encouraging “petal envy”.