If you have seen this in any of your fruit, then you know without a doubt you have rats playing in your garden. They prefer a healthy diet of 3 fruit and 2 veg a day!

Over the winter months rats will be looking for a nice warm spot to keep warm and safe, this will probably be in your shed, the roof cavity or inside the walls. The first call to action is to reach for the rat baits and hope this is effective in dropping the numbers before they breed up.

The major problem with many rat baits is they cause secondary poisoning to many native animals and birds and of course our pets. It’s our responsibility to select the right bait that protects native wildlife and our pets by educating ourselves on using the right kind of baits.

Rat and mice poisons are called rodenticides and have been around for a long time. The new second generation rodenticides have a much longer lasting affect causing secondary poisoning on the animals that eat the rodents. The reason for this is the entire rat becomes poisonous making it fatal for the birds and mammals that encounter tainted rodents.

Owls are particularly prone to secondary poisoning. Edith Cowan University senior lecturer in wildlife biology Robert Davis said hundreds of species were harmed or killed every year by secondary poisoning. “In one of our studies, we found over 70 per cent of southern boobook owls have toxic levels of poison in them,” he said.

Unfortunately, secondary poisoning is widespread throughout ecosystems around Australia and have been detected in several species such as bobtail lizards, snakes, and dingoes and birds of prey.

In the first generation or older style rat baits like Ratsak and Racumen, the only portion of the poison that remains is the poison that is left undigested in the rat’s stomach, usually a very small amount.

When rats and mice ingest second-generation rodenticides like Talon, Bromakil, Tomcat — the whole rat becomes poisonous, when this is fed to baby birds, or eaten by wildlife it has a devastating effect.  Native wildlife has no capacity to deal with these types of poisons and nor does your dog or cat.

Please read the label on mice and rat bait before you purchase it, choose baits that have an ingredient called coumatetralyl or alternatives like Yates rat sack naturals.

Top Tip: Avoid products that contain brodifacoum, often referred to as second-generation bait

Here at Hort with Heart we have maintained our philosophy of developing environmentally sustainable products that work with nature not against it.  We have always believed in equal opportunity and creating positive change in people lives. In order to reduce our carbon footprint we have made the decision to have all our labels and packaging carried out here in Perth. Therefore, Hort with Heart are very pleased to be working with Activ who provide meaningful employment for people with disability.

We have been so happy with our relationship with Activ not only the quality of work supplied but the attitude and enthusiasm that the employees have shown to date. We strongly recommend other businesses to consider Activ in providing their unique services and supporting people with disability to increase their independence.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, nurseries and rose growers have been inundated with photos and specimens of roses that are suffering from all sorts of symptoms which include:

  • Silvering of the leaf surface.
  • Curled and distorted leaves with bronzing on leaves, stems and new shoots.
  • Grey to black markings on flowers often showing a ring of scarred tissue around the apex.
  • Flower buds reduced in size, have a brown colouring and fall off before development.
  • Flowers are paler in colour with a brown tips.

The culprit causing the damage are Chilli Thrips known as Scirtothrips dorsalis, a tiny insect less than 2mm in length. These thrips have a punch and suck action, they puncture a hole in plant cells and suck up the sap, this is what causes the mottled effect on the leaves and brown scarring on the rose buds.

Chilli thrips are most active in spring, summer and early autumn if it’s warm and dry. This is their preferred weather and ideal for breeding. Thrips are hard to see with the naked eye but if you get a plain sheet of paper and tap the leaves or flower you may see them moving on the paper. The life cycle of Chilli thrips is complete within 15 days and includes egg, 2 instar larval stages, prepupa, pupa and adult. Eggs will hatch between 2-7 days.

These pesky little insects are polyphagous; meaning they will feed on many different plants. They are now a widespread pest found in Pakistan, Japan, the Solomon Islands, Australia, South Africa, Israel, the Caribbean and America.

Before you reach for the systemic insecticide its worth knowing that they have many predators like lacewings, ladybirds, predatory thrips and predatory mites. Thrips like to be dry and undercover, so spraying the underside of your roses with a blast from the hose will help dislodge them.

An organic alternative is Nature’s Way Vegie and Herb spray or Natrasoap but gardeners will need to reapply it every two weeks. Pyrethrum is also effective as a direct contact spray. Some rose growers have resorted to Baythroid, Conguard, Confidor, or Imidacloprid but remember systemic sprays with Imidacloprid will be absorbed throughout the plant including the pollen, when bees collect the pollen they die.

By far the best way of controlling any pest or disease is prevention, spray roses in September when Chilli thrips are in their early stages of development before they grow into plague proportions.

Top Tip
Don’t use any oil-based sprays when temperatures are above 32 degrees as the leaf tissue on plants may burn.

There is no such thing as an indoor plant – they are all rain forest plants and like to have lots of other plants to grow among, so pack as many plants close together as possible and create your own rainforest indoors.

Most indoor plant deaths are caused by overwatering, neglect or incorrect light levels. Group plants together and mist them 3x per week to increase the humidity and give them some friends to be with. All indoor plants will need to be fertilised in spring and summer with a liquid fertiliser such as Home Grown Tonic every 2 weeks and a slow release fertiliser, EcoInside at the beginning of September, December and again in February.

Never move indoor plants in the direct sunlight to give them a boost, they won’t stand the shock, the leaves will burn, and they usually die back. Do, however take them into the shower and give them a nice cool down, leave the shower running over them for 2 minutes. This will leach out any accumulation of salts from the fertiliser and wash off any dust particles that coat the leaves and prevent transpiration.

The Darkside
If you have an area that has very little light there are only a few plants to choose from, but there will need to be some source of natural light. You can have a couple of the same plant potted up and just rotate the pots every month, so they recondition themselves.

  • Aspidistra – Cast Iron plant, the all-time indestructible indoor plant with wide, deep green leaves.
  • Prayer Plant – Calathea, these plants close their leaves up at night, they have a deep purple underside of the leaf and striped green and white on top.
  • Sansevieria – Mother-in-law tongue, the best place for these ugly things is in a dark toilet space, don’t know why they have made a resurgence. If you must have one of these use the shorter, lighter types.

Medium light. Dieffenbachia, Fatsia, Fittonia, Peperomia, Philodendron Congo, Scindapsus, Kentia palm.
Bright light – either direct light through windows or a conservatoryAnthurium, Bromeliad, Cissus, Cyclamen, Dracaena, Ficus, Cyperus, African violet, Spathiphyllum, Schefflera – umbrella tree, Rhaphis palm.

Think about the intensity of light and the duration for your plants, plants with variegated leaves or colour usually require lighter. Low light levels result in elongated stems, weak spindly growth and browning off on the edges of leaves. A room with low light may be increased with the use of mirrors or full spectrum grow lights.

The interior of most houses is dry, particularly when air conditioners or heating is on. Group plants together and spray mist them every second day to increase the humidity around the leaf tissue.

Indoor plants hate large fluctuations in temperature, ideally it should be between 15- 20 degrees during the day and not drop below 7 degrees at night.

This depends on the season, the type of plant, the potting mix, the position of the pot and the size of the plant. The plant will usually tell you when its thirsty, some plants prefer watering from the bottom-up others like from the top down. Do some research on where your indoor plant originates to get an idea how much water it would like.

Ferns require watering every day, but succulents and waxy leafed plants less often.

Spring and summer are the main growth periods for indoor plants. All indoor plants will need to be fertilised in spring and summer with a liquid fertiliser such as Home Grown Tonic every 2 weeks and a slow release fertiliser, EcoInside at the beginning of September, December and again in February.

Do not over feed though with high NPK fertiliser as this will encourage weak growth.

This is best done in spring and summer with fresh potting mix and in a slightly larger pot. Be gentle with the root system unless its fleshy and thick and requires pruning

Common Pests
Mealy bugs, cottony cushion scale, aphids, whitefly, fungus gnats, leaf nematode, grasshoppers, caterpillars.

Common Diseases
Grey mould, crown and stem rot, rust, bacterial spot, pythium and powdery mildew

Perfect lawn is the number-one goal for many home gardeners.

Lawn is not necessary in all landscapes but it has an important cooling effect around a house and provides a place for kids, pets and adults to play. If shady trees are planted in or on the boundary of lawns the cooling effect is even greater.

We don’t need vast amounts of lawn around our houses but we certainly need some to offset the urban heat island effect that hard surfaces and lack of public open spaces are creating. Green spaces entice us outdoors to live a healthier and less stressful lifestyle.

The most important factor in growing a good lawn is preparation. If you do the right prep and select the lawn type suitable to your conditions it shouldn’t use any more water then your garden beds. I know lawn has a water-guzzling reputation but it’s just not true.

Soil: You will need to get the soil right. If you live in sandy soil you will need to incorporate clay, loam, compost, wetting agent and slow-release fertiliser like Grow Safe. If you live up in the Hills you will need to build the soil profile but don’t use any clay.

Wetting agent: its imperative you use a wetting agent and retainer use Soak Up its important for your lawn’s health.

Mowing: If your lawn is subject to heavy water restrictions and may experience drought-like conditions, then the lawn mowing height should be increased. This will allow the lawn leaf and thatch layer to insulate the soil against heavy water loss from evaporation and the end result will be greater lawn health — using less water, as summer progresses.

Regular mowing is needed in summer — healthy lawns will benefit from fewer weeds and more green leaf with less invasion of the grass into surrounding garden beds.

Liquid fertilising: Using the Lawn Love every month delivers nutrients directly to the leaf blades and is absorbed immediately. Lawn Love will help your lawn become less suitable to disease attack.

Granular Fertilising: Lawn is probably the most over-fertilised plant in your garden. People throw it around like chook food. If your lawn is established, it doesn’t need phosphorus. If you have done the preparation when laying the lawn, it should only need to be fertilised at the beginning of spring, summer and autumn. Use Grow Safe fertiliser, you only need one handful per square metre. If you use more it goes straight into our waterways. The other important thing to note is the more you fertilise, the more you have to mow.

Beware the thatch: Watering a heavily thatched lawn will waste a lot of water. The water just sits on top of the thatch and evaporates before it goes into the soil.

Lawns should be de-thatched (verti-mowed) whenever is necessary and done so in the spring.

Varieties such as buffalo or kikuyu can be mowed much lower at the beginning of spring instead — as an alternative to vertimowing and to reduce thatch.

Seven favourite lawn varieties for WA gardens

1. Sir Walter Buffalo
This is one of my favourite lawns after two big dogs and a family that hammers my back lawn. It’s been trouble-free and looking great for 10 years now.
Sir Walter is a soft-leaf buffalo with deep roots, a low thatch habit and a tight growth sward. It stays greener throughout summer and winter and is disease resistant.
Another benefit is that it has proven shade tolerance so this makes it ideal for small courtyard areas and under trees.

2. Sapphire
Sapphire is a very soft-leaf buffalo that is about 17 per cent finer than other soft-leaf buffalos when it is mature.

It’s one of the more frost-tolerant lawns, coping with -10C. in winter, so is a good one for inland and down south. It is a deep blue-green colour, grows well in dappled shade, is drought tolerant and out-competes weeds.

3. Palmetto
Palmetto is a soft-leaf buffalo variety with great shade tolerance. Like Sir Walter, it is drought-tolerant and maintains its deep green colour throughout the year.

It’s a good lawn for kids and dogs alike and outruns any weed competition.

4. Empire Zoysia
You may know Zoysia by the name of Empire or Empress grass. A fantastic drought-tolerant lawn, it has a soft leaf shaft, making it a great lawn for small children.

The downside of it is that it has a slower growth rate than other lawns and takes a long time to recover if you have a few kids and dogs. The upside is that it requires much less frequent mowing.

5. Envy
A beautiful soft leaf-lawn that is known as Queensland blue (Digitaria didactyla), Envy is a very soft dense grass with a beautiful blue-green colour.

It needs full sun and does well in coastal areas with high humidity but doesn’t thatch up like couch. It is slower growing and less invasive then couch but not as drought-tolerant as the buffalo types.

6. Kenda and Village Green
This is Pennesetum clandestinum, which is a sterile form of kikuyu that does not produce viable seed, eliminating the problems with seed dispersal into native bushland. Both types manage to survive the winter better and produce a dense rhizome growth, making them more drought tolerant.

This is a good turf for dogs and kids.

These lawns will need full sun and are practically indestructible, surviving neglect and extreme heat.

7. Matilda Buffalo
Matilda is a soft buffalo lawn with its own unique strengths and characteristics which separate it from the other soft-leaf.

Matilda is a semi-dwarf buffalo lawn, which simply refers to Matilda having finer and thinner stems and stolons, a trait which is unique among the better-selling and better- quality buffalo lawn types. The leaf width is narrower than common buffalo and Sir Walter, and wider than sapphire, with a leaf width approximate to palmetto.