As usual, asnwers to three gardening questions were given in yesterday’s instalment of the Root Awakening column. The first question asked why there were ants around a basil plant which also exhibited the drying of leaves. I suspect it could be an infestation of small sucking insects such as aphids, mealy bugs and white flies that may feed on young, emerging shoots. Attacks by these pests can cause new growth to die back.
Note that the presence of ants are a signal of a prevailing aphid infestation as they are attracted to the ‘honeydew’ secreted by aphids. Spray with neem oil or white summer oil to eradicate aphids. You may need to cut back some growth to reduce the pests before spraying.
The second question was about the appearance of flying insects in mangoes. It is likely to be a case of fruit fly attack. These insects lay eggs while the tree is flowering. One can help to reduce the incidence of attack by constructing a fruit fly trap using a plastic bottle. Burn several holes in the middle of the bottle using a heated screw driver. Inside the cap, dangle a cotton bud soaked with fruit fly attractant (available from major nurseries) and fill the base of the bottle with some water. Add a little cooking oil to cover the water surface to prevent mosquito breeding. Fruit flies attracted to the fruit fly attractant will visit the plastic bottle via the small holes burnt into it. Some will be trapped and drown inside the small amount of water found at the base of the bottle.
The final question dealt with the lack of fruits in a tall chilli plant. Note that chilli plants usually start to fruit when they are about 3 months old, depending on the variety as well as growing conditions. It is vital that a plant is able to receive sufficient direct sunshine (for about 4 to 6 h daily) so as to prevent the stems from etiolating.