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Belmont Garden Diary: December

Updated: Jan 21, 2023

Urban Gardening with Chris Kulczycki

Get your garden Summer Ready - and fight fruit fly!

December is the last month to prepare for our hottest stretch of summer through January and February. The best way to do this is with mulch. Mulches come in various forms, though the best types for a productive garden are ones that decompose and build the soil beneath over time.

Coarse woodchip mulch is best to use on paths and beneath fruit trees. It is cheap, and even sometimes free to obtain, lasts a long time once laid, and retains moisture the longest. When used on paths, it creates a water-permeable surface and reduces the chances of over compacting your soil over time. On the vegetable garden a lighter mulch such as hay, straw, or similar works best. Depending on what I am growing, a thin layer of compost can also be dusted over the soil surface before applying the mulch. The lighter structure of hay or straw allows smaller plants and seedlings to grow without the risk of being accidentally smothered by larger woodchips.

Another important task through spring and summer is to protect your fruit from fruit fly. Although fruit fly is prevalent throughout the year, it is most active in the warmer months and tends to do the worst damage to fruits and fruiting vegetables that mature during these months. Preventative action requires a team effort by everyone in the community to help break the lifecycle and stop the spread of this pest.

The same applies to any targeted fruit, which may remain on the tree. I collect these fruits and either microwave or freeze them, before adding it to the compost. Alternatively, you can capture the fruit in a suitable resealable vessel and leave it in the sun for a few days to solarise. In both cases, the fruit fly larvae and eggs will be neutralised. As an additional benefit, you also retain the nutrients contained in the destroyed fruits which you later reuse in your garden through the composted material. If you had thrown the fruits away, you would have lost all the water, fertiliser, and effort you initially put into growing the spoiled produce.

Trapping is an additional method to help control fruit fly populations, which will migrate into your backyard. Both commercial and home-made remedies take advantage of a fruit fly’s requirement to consume protein in its lifecycle. Hanging traps among the trees in your garden will attract fruit flies which will drown within the traps. There are various recipes online to prepare homemade versions of the liquid lure for your traps.

Another way to control fruit fly is through exclusion. Exclusion can be achieved by either covering a fruit tree entirely with exclusion netting or with exclusion net sleeves/bags, which come in assorted sizes. You can also make your own if you are handy with a sewing machine.

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