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Controlling Pests and Diseases

Use a garlic spray on the leaves to discourage munching. Dispose of them as your conscience permits.

Garlic Spray Recipe – The natural Insecticide

Garlic is effective against a wide range of diseases and insects at different stages in their life cycle (egg, larvae, adult). This includes ants, aphids, army worms, caterpillars, mice, mites, as well as fungi and bacteria.

Spray Option 1

Blend 100 grams of grated and crushed garlic cloves, 0.5 litres of water and 10 grams of soap (Use potash based soft soap that is used for washing dishes and not the modern washing powders that contain caustic soda which will harm plants). Mix well. Strain the mixture through a fine cloth. Dilute the solution in 5 litres of water.

Mix the solution well before applying to the affected plants. Use as a spray or sprinkle using twigs or grass tied together to form a whisk. For best effect, use the mixture immediately.

Spray Option 2

One whole garlic bulb, Two cups water, Four litres water. Combine in blender the entire garlic bulb and two cups water, and blend on high speed until garlic is finely pureed. Put in storage container and set aside for a day. Strain out pulp, and then mix liquid with one gallon water in sprayer. Spray tops and bottoms of leaves thoroughly. Apply about once a week, and after a rain.

Can’t find the pest that is damaging your seedlings?

Roll up some corrugated cardboard amongst the tubes. Leave over night - You may find illusive bugs have taken refuge in the corrugation of the cardboard.

Pests

A pest is a plant or animal whose behaviour interferes with the success of other species.

This includes slugs, snails, caterpillars, cutworms, grasshoppers, birds, aphids. ALL require immediate treatment. Basically, whatever pests you have in your garden are likely to turn up on your seedlings.

Watch your seedlings for signs as well as the insects themselves. Signs include holes in leaves, and top leaves rolled up or joined together. Bare stems and skeletonised leaves are extreme symptoms.

However, not all insects will cause damage to your seedlings; some are beneficial as they prey on others. Good insects include ladybirds, wasps, bees, praying mantis and some other bugs.

Ants

Ants can often co-exist without too much effect on the grower. Ants are considerable scavengers who prey on things for the liquid food which they feed to those in the nest.
They often form a symbiotic relationship with aphids, and generally represent a threat to other insects rather than plant-life. They may affect plants by disturbing the soil around the roots during the process of building their nests, but this is rarely cause for concern.

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Aphids

Small sap-sucking insects which cover new shoots and cause distortion. Many species of aphid exist and most plant species can play host to this pest. 
They also present a threat as they are capable of transmitting viruses which can then have a detrimental effect on plant-life.

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Birds

Some bird species pose a problem to new seedlings through their tendency to nip them or pull them out of the pot. Firmly bound bird netting or wire will be most effective in preventing this. Other bird species can actually be of assistance as they feed on insect pests and help pollinate plants.

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Caterpillars

Loopers stand up on the stems pretending to be other stems. They also rely on colour to prevent detection. They will be red brown to look like the stem of a River red gum or green to match the leaf.

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Crusader bugs

Crusader bugs suck sap from tops of seedlings and the top of the plant dies. Shoot tips wilt due to piercing-sucking action of the bugs The remains of the plant usually recover and grow bushy. This is not an issue for shrubs but will destroy the shape for trees.

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Cutworm

Cutworms are brownish grey grubs (larve) 2-3 cm long hatched from eggs that the parent moth has laid in the soil.

Cutworms incubate during winter, they become active and begin feeding as the weather warms in spring. They remain hidden in the soil and feed at night. The cutworm gnaws off seedlings just above ground level. They drag the top of the seedling underground to feed, so it is unusual to see the cut off part of the seedling lying around. They will move to another tube when food supply is scarce.

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Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats are small flies that will infest decomposing organic matter, including in potting mix. While adult fungus gnats are only a pesky nuisance in the same way house flies are, their larvae can cause significant damage by chewing the roots of seedlings.

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Grasshopper

Insects under drought stress will be forced from their natural feeding grounds to your seedlings. On a positive note, grasshoppers’ droppings enrich the soil and thus the seedlings by returning nutrients as fertilizer to help them grow.

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Possums

Possums leave tell-tale signs of their damage to vegetation – leaves appear stripped from the plant. They are common rural and urban pests and can sometimes be found asleep in the hollows of large trees even in highly urbanised areas. When trying to prevent them, keep an eye on the telephone wires - these are the possum highway around your house.

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Rats and mice

Rats and mice may do more than make you jump - when the breeding population outstrips the food supply your seedlings are prime food source. Look for the pellet-shaped poo around and in the devoured seedling tubes to detect the presence of rats.

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Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails will hide between tubes and boxes, so you need to look and remove them. Signs are chew marks and snail trails, and they are a common offender.

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Webbing Caterpillar

Webbing Caterpillars are grubs that encase themselves in a web-like structure consisting of foliage and droppings and can cause severe defoliation. Leptospermum and Melaleuca are plants that are most affected by these insects.

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Diseases

Collar Rot

Seedling stem rots just above soil level.

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Damping off

Seedlings will wilt, look weak and fall over at the base due to the same rotting of the seedling stem that causes collar rot.

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Frost

Frost can occur on nights with very low temperatures and can severely affect the health of a seedling. On nights when a frost is predicted cover the plants - ensuring there is no contact with the foliage - to protect seedlings from possible death.

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Myrtle Rust

Myrtle Rust affects species in the Myrtaceae, which includes those belonging to Eucalyptus, Callistemon and Melaleuca. Myrtle Rust has only recently been detected in Australia along some parts of the Eastern seaboard and has the potential to severely affect our native species and our nursery industry. It is thought to have originated in Melbourne, and seems to pose an increasing problem as time goes by.
Myrtle Rust produces large amounts of powdery yellow or orange-yellow spores on the plants that have been infected. The fungus causes spots on leaves and eventually leads to curling and shrivelling of its leaves. This often kills new growth.

If you find Myrtle Rust infecting your seedlings please consider reporting it to the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

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Phytophthora

Phytophthora is a group of fungi which cause a number of problems for plants through activity in the soil. These include collar rot and damping off. It’s difficult to diagnose phytophthora accurately without relying on laboratory tests and you can confuse it with a number of other non-disease problems, such as drought stress. Phytophthora may also cause leaves to develop brown patches at the tips and margins and the yellowing off and dying back of foliage.

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Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a common problem, particularly for eucalypts. It will appear as a whitish or purple powdery substance on the leaves and stems or brown spots on the leaves. Advanced attacks of powdery mildew will damage young emerging leaves and eventually kill the plant.

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