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July 2023

Dear Tanya…

Thank you for being the gracious host and allowing us to view your beautiful gardens. The day was just perfect as always and your staff went above and beyond to assist us in getting my dad around the gardens even to the areas that were not accessible with his wheelchair – they made a plan for him and he was super grateful he could see everything. He has asked me to please email you to enquire what the little border plant was that you had in the garden outside your veranda area, he says it was a brilliant blue flower which was quite small in size.

He is looking for the name so he can purchase some. If you could assist that would be helpful. I have tried showing him pictures of various plants and don’t seem to have much luck. Looking forward to your next open garden. Kind regards, Charmaine Ballard

Dear Charmaine,

I am delighted that you and your dad enjoyed the garden. I have attached some images what plant I think it could be. If I still am not getting it right then we will keep trying:

* Angelonia comes in many hues – it’s small and compact about 30cm in height and flowers on and off throughout the year.

* This little guy, the forget-me-not (Myosotis) has just self-seeded itself all over the garden. You can purchase packets from most garden centres.

* Blue star (Isotoma) is not readily available in KwaZulu-Natal. In fact, I bought those in a seedling tray and carried them as hand luggage on the aeroplane from Jo’burg.  

Hope this helps, Tanya

What is this bug all over my veggie patch and how can I get rid of it? Shaakirah Denton

Dear Shaakirah,

You have a real bug – in fact, it’s called a green vegetable bug! It’s also known as a stink bug or shield bug, because of its distinctive looking shield shape. And the name stink bug is given because, as a defence mechanism, they secrete a chemical that, of course, stinks!

There are over 102 different species of the stink bug family which are found in southern and central Africa and many of these are actually an edible delicacy in places like Malawi and Zimbabwe! I for one, am not really too excited about eating them, but rather interested in what they are eating, much like you.

The eggs of these bugs are hard and become ‘glued’ to the plants. They hatch in about 18 days into what we call nymphs. These little wingless guys molt, and after 4 cycles end up to what you now see on your tomato.

They have strong mouth parts which they use to pierce the flesh of plants and suck up the sap and juices – this obviously causes physical damage to the fruit and plant which can result in the fruit rotting. These guys love squashes, green peppers, beans, melons and you guessed it, tomatoes.

Now, how to get rid of them: I would go with physical removal rather than spraying, as these guys are also a food source for other wildlife – birds especially. Early morning is best to go and catch them when they are at their most sluggish. Hold a jam jar under the fruit or the leaf and if you touch the bug, most of the time they fall off into the jar.

They are smart little guys because if they sense danger, they drop off the fruit, land on the ground and scurry away. I am afraid, this is not one of those times that you can catch them and then set them free somewhere else – they will simply return.

You have to squash them between your fingers. Drop the squashed ones around the plants on the soil as this serves as a warning to other stink bugs to stay away. I also recommend planting lavender, calendula and borage around your plants as these will attract other predators and also act as sacrificial plants. Finally, if you have to resort to spraying, I would recommend a Neem-based spray such as BioGrow Bioneem, Ludwig’s Insect Spray or Makhro Organicide.

Happy catching, Tanya

My Salvia ‘Mystic Spires’ have developed curled leaves which I don’t know how to treat. What is the cause and how do I go about treating them, please? Mike Clancy

Dear Mike,

The curled leaves could be one of two things:

Have you recently sprayed any herbicides or insecticides? The damage could have been caused by (my gut feel) a herbicide.

Whitefly love salvias under stress. Check out the undersides of the leaves for any physical signs of these little critters. If there is nothing there, they may have moved on. Inspect the plant early morning as this is when they are still rather docile. Agitate the leaves a bit and if there are whiteflies you will see them starting to move and fly off.

If you find whitefly, I would recommend the following: prune the plant back by 50% of its current growth, reduce watering to once a week and spray with Makhro Organicide, ensure that you spray on the undersides of the leaves as well. Finally, a plant under stress, like your salvia, always needs a bit of a boost – much like us when we are ill. I would recommend giving it a few teaspoons around the base of the plant of Kyno Shrub, Flower & Fruit. This will not only give the plant nitrogen, phosphates and potassium, but also a good boost of essential trace elements.

Happy gardening, Tanya

My Evolvulus ‘Blue my Mind’ performed stunningly right through summer. Now they are looking sad and dull as the weather has turned. Can I cut it back to encourage new growth or must I replace them. I have 6 plants in biggish pots which were planted at the beginning of last summer and in full sun. Another pot of evolvulus close by, is still looking good. We are located in Hermanus in the Western Cape. Hoping you have some helpful advice for me. Regards Alyson Kessel

Hi Alyson,

In my mind you could not have chosen a better plant! Evolvulus ‘Blue my Mind’ is an incredible plant.

Through selective breeding, the smart plant gurus have managed to ‘create’ a plant that outperforms the original evolvulus with gold medal Olympic status. We have several in the garden and in pots and they are real winners. Tough, they never stop flowering, and all they need is a good pruning every now and then.

But back your ‘sick’ ones. With plants in pots always check the drainage first – has the drainage hole got clogged by any chance? Check this when watering, if you notice the water damming up then tilt the pot slightly (you might need to call a friend for this exercise) and use a dowel or short short metal rod to push into the drainage hole and clear it.

Also note that plants in pots always need more food. The plants are restricted and cannot send their roots out further in search of nutrition. As a general rule, try to feed your pots every 4 weeks. I would use Kyno Shrub, Flower & Fruit and follow the easy instructions on the back of the bag to determine how much. This will most certainly perk them up and give them the much-needed nutrition that they need in order to make them continue flowering and looking their best.

Do also check the level of the soil in the pots – after a while, the potting soil will compress and ‘sink’. I would advise that you gently loosen the soil around the plants with a hand fork and top up the pot with compost. And yes, do give them a light trim. Don’t remove more than half of the leaf growth or this will stress them out now with the cooler temperatures.

All the best and happy gardening, Tanya

Send your questions to using the subject line Kynoch’s Dirt Diaries.

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