FAQ: Garden Problems - Richgro
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FAQ: Garden Problems

We all know what the seeds look like: tiny brown, with a long, vicious spike. I often meet desperate garden owners in mid-summer, looking for bindii control, because their lawns are so infested with bindii seeds, that their little ones can’t play there.

Let’s take a step back: Soliva sessilis, known as bindii, or lawn burweed, is an annual weed from the daisy family. As an annual its lifecycle is like any other annual plant’s: it emerges from a previous year’s seed, grows, flowers, and produces seeds before it dies.

Trying to control it with a herbicide in summer, after it has already developed its spiky seeds, will not meet with success: the weed is already at the end of its life cycle, and the seeds are already there. A weed killer will not magically dissolve the seeds, and killing dying plants is pointless.

If your lawn had problems with bindii last summer, you will need to take action in winter or early spring, when bindii weed emerges and flowers. Bindii has small feathery leaves reminiscent of carrot foliage. If the infestation is low, spot-treating the young, emerging plants with a targeted shot of Richgro Beat-A-Weed may be all that’s needed. You can also try manual weeding, by pulling plants out by the root as they start flowering.

If last year’s bindii infestation was serious – which means lots of spiky seeds in the lawn, long term treatment with a broad leaf herbicide suitable for your lawn type may be required. Richgro Lawn Feed & Weed applied in early spring, as your lawn wakes up, provides good control of bindii. So your little ones can tumble on the lawn all summer.


Happy gardening,



Richgro horticulturist

Birgit Daller is a horticulturist and garden designer, and the owner and creative head of Art of Green Landscapes & Design.

Here are a few things you can do, to reduce the pest burden in the garden over the summer months:

  • Keep your garden weeded. Pests prefer hiding (and mating) where the weeds are high, so don’t let them take over your garden.
  • Have summer-flowering plants in the garden, to attract beneficial insects and birds. Daisies, lavender, and sunflowers, and Australian natives like eremophilas, scaevolas and westringias are easy to add to an existing garden. If you have ample space in your garden, consider planting larger shrubs like lilly pillys, Radermachera ‘Summerscent’, or hibiscus.
  • Deadhead flowered plants for repeat flowering throughout the summer, to add more attraction to beneficial insects
  • Companion plants like marigolds, nasturtium, or tansy can help keep vegetable pests under control.
  • If you have problems with fruit fly, net your fruit trees as soon as they have set fruit.
  • Consider thinning out heavily bearing fruit trees. Fewer fruit on the tree usually means larger, sweeter, higher quality fruit. Thinning also avoids breakage of heavily laden branches, makes pest control more manageable, and – critically – there are fewer places for pests to hide.

Happy gardening,



Richgro horticulturist

Birgit Daller is a horticulturist and garden designer, and the owner and creative head of Art of Green Landscapes & Design.

Apply a deep layer of mulch in spring to help control weeds, and if/when weeds do sprout, eliminate them early by pulling them up or spraying them with a weedkiller.

You can identify pest damage in one of two ways:

  • You see the insect.
  • You see the damage it causes.

Refer to our problem solver section for images of pests.

Another option is to take a sample of your damaged plant to your local nursery for assessment.

Pre-emergent weed control

Forever battling weeds – that’s a large part of every gardener’s story. Whether you weed by hand, with herbicides, or even steam – what if you could avoid them growing so prolifically in the first place? There is no magic bullet, unfortunately, but let’s look at some strategies that help reduce the weed burden over time.

Weed your garden regularly

The best thing you can do to keep weeds down is to weed your garden regularly. This may sound like duh advice, so let’s explore the concept of a weed seed bank: most soils contain a reserve of viable weed seeds on the soil surface and scattered throughout the soil profile. This weed seed bank consists of both new weed seeds recently shed, and older seeds that have persisted in the soil from the previous six to seven years. Pulling out weeds as they emerge from the soil lessens the number of dormant weed seeds over time. Letting weeds flower and seed increases the weed burden in your garden for years to come.

Choose products for your garden carefully

A certain amount of incremental weed burden is unavoidable – wind, floodwaters, and birds are the main culprits here. But to reap the rewards of all the hard work you are putting into reducing the weed seed bank in your garden, make sure you do not introduce more with contaminated inputs. The false onion weed that I am wrestling with in our garden was imported with low quality compost. Nursery stock often displays flourishing weeds. If you love taking walks, check pants, socks, the soles of your shoes, and your dog’s coat and paws for burrs and seeds when you come home.

Keep a dense plant cover at all times

One plant every two or three square metres not only looks sparse in a garden, but also provides space, sunlight, and nutrients for weeds to germinate in the spaces between. The denser you plant, the less favourable the growing conditions for weeds. If you are planning to fallow your vegetable garden for more than a few weeks, sow a cover crop of green manure, to suppress weeds, and to add nutrients and organics to the soil.


Mulching naked soil also suppresses weeds, among other benefits. Especially with finer organic mulches, make sure they are of good quality and don’t introduce fresh weed problems into your garden.

Use a weed mat

And lastly, water permeable weed mat also suppresses weeds. If the weed burden in your garden is great, it is possible to plant into holes cut into the weed mat. Good quality weed mat should last for a few seasons before it shreds.

As you can see, smart garden planning, diligent weeding, and quality horticultural materials go a long way to help reduce weeds in the garden over the years.

Happy gardening,



Richgro horticulturist

Birgit Daller is a horticulturist and garden designer, and the owner and creative head of Art of Green Landscapes & Design.

Try covering the soil surface of your potted plants with a layer of sand, which dries out quickly and discourages egg hatch.

Not overwatering or not watering too often will also help. Water your houseplants only when the soil surface has dried and the pot has become noticeably lighter.

Look for laying moths, dropped fruit, and sawdust and webbing on nuts.

Pick up and destroy fallen fruit as they’re likely to have larvae developing in them.

Once the hot weather comes around, many gardeners find themselves in a bind: the garden needs watering, but no matter how much of it you pour on your plants, they still look thirsty and unhappy. The water literally just sits on the surface, or creates runnels through the soil layers and disappears. The root zone of your plants remains bone-dry.

So what causes soil to become hydrophobic, or water-repellent?

As organic matter (in particular native leaf litter) breaks down, waxy residues are left behind. Normally these waxes are broken down by the microbes in your soil. But as summer temperatures soar, this process stops: soil temperatures rise, the soil surface dries out, and microbial activity slows right down. The waxy residue left over from this uncompleted process then sits on the soil surface, and starts coating soil particles in the top layer of your soil. And this coating repels water.

The logical question then is how to get rid of this waxy coating? There are two answers to this question. Once the waxy coating establishes, you are in reactive mode.


  1. Soil wetter
    A good quality soil wetter like Ezi-Wet Liquid Soil Soaker is the best first aid. It breaks through the dry, waxy soil, so water can penetrate into the root zone of your plants.
  2. Robust plants
    Select plants that don’t mind water-repellent soils. Your local native plants probably have evolved to go dormant when it’s very hot and dry. Mediterranean plants like lavender, rosemary, and salvias thrive in the heat, as do many desert plants.


Ongoing good gardening practice is key

Prevention is better than cure and hence a better strategy is to control hydrophobia is to keep the soil microbes active, so they keep breaking down the waxy residues. Hot dry soils don’t have active microbes, but cool, moist soils do.

Work a few handfuls of compost into your topsoil after a good rain. Compost such as Black Marvel Garden Compost feeds the microbes in your soil and decomposes into humus, a soil carbon with amazing moisture retention properties.

A layer of mulch also helps retain soil moisture. Don’t leave your soil naked, especially as you are going into the drier periods of your climate zone.

The most important ingredient for moisture and microbe retention is shade. Plant a tree. Or ten. A tree canopy is by far the best way to avoid hydrophobic soil.


Happy gardening,



Richgro horticulturist

Birgit Daller is a horticulturist and garden designer, and the owner and creative head of Art of Green Landscapes & Design.

This will depend on the damages and the type of insect. Generally a broad spectrum natural insect spray such as Richgro Beat A Bug should do the job. Ensure application direct to the insect.

Gardeners in Australia welcome every single drop of rain. I have heard stories of spontaneous street parties at the end of a drought. After it’s been raining for a while, though, some of us wish it would stop. Dense clay soils especially swell up and develop into a sticky slippery mess.

Clay lawns are prone to dollar spot or other fungal problems during wet periods. You can treat these with a good fungicide like Richgro Mancozeb. But very often the fungal infection is a symptom of poor drainage.

Here are a few things you can try if you are battling clay conditions:

  • Use a grass that is suitable for clay: buffalo has a robust root system that copes well with sticky clay
  • Keep the soil slightly moist year-round, if possible. Dried out rock-hard clay soils are difficult to revive.
  • If you are watering your lawn, water in the morning. Experiment with breaking up irrigation times. For example, if you are watering for 12 minutes, you could break it into 3 x 4 minutes, with 10 minutes between, to give the soil a better chance to absorb the precious water.
  • Aerate your lawn when it is actively growing, ideally in spring, ideally every year.
  • Apply Richgro Gypsum – also called clay breaker. It improves drainage and aeration of dense soils. The calcium content of gypsum also acts as a nutrient for the lawn. Apply at a rate of 1 kg per square metre, ideally straight after aeration. Very dense clay soils may need several application of gypsum per year.

It won’t happen overnight. But with a little patience you will reap the rewards of a clay soil: clay holds nutrients and water, and buffers dry spells much better than sands.

Happy gardening,



Richgro horticulturist

Birgit Daller is a horticulturist and garden designer, and the owner and creative head of Art of Green Landscapes & Design.

Could be a few things: soil, feeding, watering, time of the year. Refer to our “how to grow” section on fruit and citrus to ensure all the boxes are ticked.

Also a good article “How to grow citrus trees with lots of fruit?” by our brand ambassador and gardening expert Charlie Albone.

Also did you plant at the recommended time of year? The weather may be too hot or too cold for your specific plant.

Most likely could be powdery mildew, which is a fungal disease. Ideally take a sample to your local nursery for proper assessment.

You can trim off the leaves that have the most powdery mildew and apply an appropriate fungicide (do check the label to ensure that the product applies to your type of plant and for proper directions).

If you notice larvae in your vegetable garden, you will need to turn over the soil and hand remove. If they present in small numbers, you will probably find that they won’t do a lot of damage to your vegetable plants. There is no product we can recommend that will kill the larvae of the black beetle (curl grub) in a vegetable garden situation. Hand removal of this larvae is the best option.

Citrus are heavy feeders and need a supply of nutrients to grow healthy and produce delicious fruit.

You will need to feed the plant regularly – Ideally follow the directions on the fertiliser bag. As a recommendation we suggest to feed during early Spring (August/September). Mid-Summer (December/January) and Autumn. Do not feed while they’re in flower otherwise you’ll have a lot of leaves and no fruit.

If your soil has a healthy population of earthworms, then you may find small mounds of soil or mud balls on your lawn. These mud balls are the castings which have passed through the earthworms the previous night and have come to the surface as tunnels that are created below the surface of your lawn.

Yellowing leaves on camellias can have many different causes:

  1. Most likely your camellia is hungry. As an acid-loving plant, camellias don’t tolerate alkaline or limey soil, as they cannot extract enough nutrients from it. In spring use an acidic fertiliser, such as Plus Rose, Azalea & Camellia Fertiliser, to make the soil or growing media more acidic, and a few handfuls of Black Marvel Garden Compost, to top up organics. And at Christmas time give them another feed.
    If you live in an area with very alkaline soils, it’s going to be difficult to lower the pH enough to keep your camellias happy. In such situations it is best to keep camellias in pots, with an acidic potting mix designed specifically for plants that require soils of pH 6 or less to thrive.
  2. With regards to watering, not enough water during the summer months can lead to problems such as weak buds and compromised flower quality. Regular deep watering is very important to keep your camellias happy. It is also a good idea to keep roots cool and moist over summer. If they are in the ground, adding mulch will definitely help.
  3. On the other hand, camellias don’t like wet feet. Make sure soils are well-drained, as waterlogging can lead to root decay. Waterlogging is especially common in container grown plants where the potting media loses structure over time. Timely repotting avoids this.
  4. Camellias also like a sheltered morning sun position, away from hot, drying winds.


With these tips your camellias will thrive and hopefully put on plenty of blooms for you.

Happy gardening,



Richgro horticulturist

Birgit Daller is a horticulturist and garden designer, and the owner and creative head of Art of Green Landscapes & Design.

Hydrophobic soil occurs when a waxy residue builds up on the soil particles resulting in it repelling water rather than absorbing it. It is a common issue in Australia, with the hot climate and unreliable rainfall which negatively impacts soils. You can identify hydrophobic soil by watering it. If the water is pooling around your garden bed or running down the side of pots, this is a good indication and it is time to apply a soil wetter.

To help break up the waxy layer, applying a soil wetter such as Richgro Ezi-Wet will make sure the water is absorbed by the soil and getting to the roots of the plants.

Wetting agents bond both with water and with the organic coating on the soil or sand particle, thus allowing the soil or sand particle to become wet.