I have just finished reading a gardening magazine produced for the English market. In the questions section a readers said that she had been advised by a friend to put banana skins around her roses. She lets them rot down naturally. Another friend chops them into small pieces and lets them rot down, and another liquidises them and waters them onto her roses.

All swear that the results show that bananas make a good fertilizer. The expert advises them that bananas are high in potassium and increase the size of blooms, increase the scent, increase the colour of the hips, and make them last longer. Sounds like the answer to many of our prayers.

Use of chemicals

There is one very important point I want to make about spraying plants against pests and diseases. It is one of my Golden Rules. Whatever you do, don’t get into the habit of spraying plants routinely to control pests and diseases you may have, or may get. Spray only when you have something to control, otherwise you will end up with very serious problems. The reason for this is that pests and diseases become resistant to every chemical you use when you don’t really need to use them. Plants that have become weak due to damage are particularly susceptible, in much the same way as the weakest animal in a herd will become prey to predators.

Some people take the view that the weakest should be allowed to go, but if you have a plant that is the only one of its kind in your collection, most of us will try to save it. I certainly would.  Apart from carrying out good plant husbandry, mulching to aide drainage as well as water conservation, pruning out dead or diseased shoots, ensuring the plant in question receives the best light appropriate, and protection from wind, you will have to keep a careful watch out for signs of pests and/or diseases. If there isn’t a problem don’t try and fix it.

Mealy bug and scale insects are particularly damaging, and often the best way of killing them is with the fingers. This also applies to attacks of greenfly or blackfly. Providing you do it gently.

It is not uncommon for one to get rid of poor specimens of plants and trees which may not have inherited any of the good characteristics of its parents. Although we humans don’t have a lot of choice about the characteristics we receive from our parents, we do have plenty of opportunity to influence the plants we have. For generations gardeners have tried to improve the plants we have by breeding. We have tried to improve yields of crops and flowers, and augment disease resistance by crossing and back-crossing species, sometimes with remarkable success.

Now science has developed quicker ways of improving plants – of doing something that the early gardeners and farmers took years to do. What we did fifty or more ago was just called plant breeding. Now the same process is called genetic engineering. It’s more or less the same thing, but because the process has become far quicker than it used to be, the less informed have become hysterical about it. Well in time I expect it will all settle down. Until next week may your God go with you wherever you may be.

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