Ask Vasili: The dirt

Ask Vasili: The dirt


tips, tricks & advice

Vasili answers your burning backyard questions

Hi, Vasili. My father is trying to grow zucchini in his veg garden. The plant grows well but when the zucchini starts to grow it grows only about 5–8cm then it starts to rot where the flower grows from — either with the flower on or off. Any ideas about this problem? Many years ago he grew them well but it’s only in the past four years that this is happening. Many thanks Anthony, Carlingford, NSW

Hi, Anthony. It sounds like there aren’t enough bees to help set pollination so he will need to manually pollinate them himself. (Take the male flower and pollinate the female flowers.) The male flower grows off a long stem whereas the female flower grows off the end of the fruit. He will need to do this early in the morning. Pick a male flower and peel back the petals to expose the stamen, then go to each female flower and lightly rub the stamen onto the centre of the female flower to pollinate. — Vasili

Gia sou, Vasili. We have a nectarine tree that is covered in little black insects. Can you please be kind enough to give us advice on what to do to save the fruit? Thank you. Dimitrios

Hi, Dimitrios. It sounds like your tree is being attacked by aphids. You can hose them off, which will cause them to fall to the ground and once aphids fall off a plant they can never get back on again. Otherwise, you can spray them with a homemade oil spray (see above) or apply Eco-oil. — Vasili

Dear Vasili. I have a problem with my citrus tree. It has beautiful green leaves and it flowers profusely but when it sets fruit it drops them all before it has a chance to grow them. What am I doing wrong? Alfonso Centurino

Hi, Alfonso. Make sure you are not overwatering the tree and keeping the soil moist all the time. Too much moisture will definitely cause fruit to fall off any tree. You may also need to apply a couple of handfuls of dolomite around the base. This will provide calcium and magnesium to the soil, which are essential nutrients for all plants, helping to strengthen the little stem that joins the flowers and fruit to the plant. Cut the watering and apply dolomite every six months. — Vasili

Hi, Vasili. I was wondering if you would be able to help me with a cure for what is wrong with my lilly pilly hedge. The leaves are covered in what looks like black soot. Also, do you know why I would be getting a lot of greencoloured flies and European wasps hanging around the hedge? I have checked and I do not have a wasp nest in the hedge or on my property. Caroline Timms

Hi, Caroline. Judging from the pics you sent it looks like you have a bad case a scale, which causes sooty mould to develop when left untreated. You will need to control the scale by making your own oil spray or you can apply Eco-oil every 10–15 days. Three applications should control the scale from spreading but unfortunately the sooty mould will still be there. Use ??? Cleansal ??? (garden soap) to clean this up. Spray it on the plant and leave it for a few hours, then hose it off. You may need to do this two or three times for it to clean the mould. Best of luck. — Vasili

Homemade oil spray
1 cup oil (olive or vegie)
1 handful chopped garlic
1 handful chopped chilli
1 litre water
1 teaspoon organic soap

Mix and place in a pot, bring to the boil, strain and allow to cool. Spray the tree weekly.