ARTICLES FROM JULY 2010 to APRIL 2009 to

JULY 2010

TIME TO PRUNING ROSES

GETTING ORGANISED FOR SPRING

A VEGETABLE GEM

SOIL FERTILITY

NEW SEASON FRUIT TREES

JUNE 2010

DAY LIGHT HOURS INCREASING

POTATO TYPES

NEW SEASONS POTATOES

ANOTHER NEW GARDEN PEST

MAY 2010

CITRUS TREE PROBLEMS

CITRUS TREES

STRAWBERRY TIME

NEW ZEALAND CRANBERRY

APRIL 2010

NEW ROSES, NEW SEASON

LAWN PESTS

CALCIUM & MINERALS

FROSTS AND WEEDS

MARCH 2010

MORE ON FRUIT

FRUIT FOR YOU

SPRING BULBS

GARDENING AND HEALTH

FEBRUARY 2010

LOOKING AT LAWNS

GARDENING IN FEBRUARY 2010

IMPROVING YOUR CROPS AND GARDENS

HOUSE PLANT and CONTAINER CARE

JANUARY 2010

GARDENING BITS AND PIECES

FRIENDS OR FOES?

WEEDS

A NEW YEAR

DEMEMBER 2009

SEASONS GREETINGS

SOME TIPS FOR CURRENT PROBLEMS

BIG TOMATOES AND BOLTING

DECEMBER GARDENING

NOVEMBER 2009

MORE ON THE TOMATO/POTATO PSYLLID

CHRISTMAS IS COMING

CUCUMBERS MORE THAN A FOOD

BUXUS DISEASE

OCTOBER 2009

LONGEVITY

NEEM PRODUCTS ARE THEY SAFE?

LABOUR WEEKEND PLANTING TIME

ROSES IN THE SPRING

SEPTEMBER 2009

VIGILANCE PAYS DIVIDENDS

GARDENING AND HEALTH

STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT

NEW THREATS TO GARDENERS

AUGUST 2009

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

GARDENS NEED BORON

TOMATOES FOR THE NEW SEASON

FRUIT TREES FOR YOU

JULY 2009

CHECK LIST FOR SPRING

PRUNING ROSES AND FRUIT TREES

ROSE PLANTING TIPS

A WET WINTER

ASPARAGUS & PRUNING

JUNE 2009

A GARDENING BOON; CONDY’S CRYSTALS

WINTER SOLSTICE

PLANNING YOUR FRUIT TREES

COMING UP ROSES

MAY 2009

STRAWBERRIES AND HYDROCOTYLE

WHAT TO PLANT AT THIS TIME

CONTAINER PLANTS

HEALTHY GARDENING

ABOUT THE POTATO/TOMATO PSYLLID

APRIL 2009

AUTUMN GARDENS

WATERING AND OTHER AUTUMN ASPECTS

SPRING BULBS

LAWN SOWING TIME


Next set of articles


TIME TO PRUNING ROSES

It is about that time of the year when gardeners oil up their secateurs, put on their gloves and go out to do battle with their thorny but well loved roses.
Just how you go about pruning your roses is really up to you, but the most popular cut is to prune somewhere above the third or fourth outgoing buds. This will create a champagne-glass shape which means that the inner part of the rose will receive adequate light. Some in growing buds can be rubbed out to prevent the centre of the bush becoming too congested.
If you prune low to second outgoing buds, you will end up with strong new growths which will bear fewer flowers, but better blooms. If you prune high, say to the fifth or sixth outgoing buds, you'll end up with a denser bush with a lot of flowers.
Pruning climbing roses is a somewhat different affair.
Assuming you don't want a rambling rose which grows where and how it wants, you need to shape your climbing rose to form a framework of main branches along a wall, a fence, or over an archway.
The aim is to have the new season's growth sprouting from this framework and producing the much-wanted floral display, but to get to that stage requires careful training and selective pruning.
After planting your climber, let the branches grow and tie them to the support over which the rose is growing, to cover the desired area.
A reader recently asked me how many plants he should buy, and how far apart he should plant them, when putting in Dublin Bay climbing roses to create a solid "wall" along his fence line.
I replied that the normal distance apart would be one metre, but it would be his subsequent pruning and control which would determine how thickly the lower part of the floral structure would grow.
For example, I explained, take the lowest buds and train them sideways to fill in the space between the rose plants.
Take the next buds at about 30 degrees, then 60 degrees, then 90 degrees until each rose has a fan-like structure from which each year's new shoots will grow.
Once the wall is nicely covered, it is simply a matter of cutting back or tying in those growths extending too far from the wall.
Once you've established the basic framework of the climber, the only pruning needed is to remove any branches which have grown outwards and detract from the desired effect, and remove any dead wood, spindly growth or dead branches.
Over time, replace the old main branches with new ones which you have trained during the season to become part of the framework. Your work during the growing season of a climber consists more of training and tying back than anything else, as the branches will grow quickly from new shoots in the spring and summer period. The chances are, they will initially grow away from where you want them, but all you need do is tie them back to the framework.
Then in winter, you can remove them if you want to prevent the framework from becoming too congested, or you can leave them in the framework and remove older branches instead.
It is really important to remember to never cut a climber down as low as you would a bush rose.
Climbers treated in this fashion can revert back to bush roses.
Always leave a few branches of a metre or more in length, even when doing a hard cut-back such as might be the case when you're repairing or painting the wall or fence.
I remember some years back a prominent rose grower criticised an article that I wrote about using hygienic practices when pruning roses or other plants. His retort was you did not need to take any special care when pruning several roses, one after another.
My answer to this is common sense and logic. If an aphid can travel from one rose to another and transfer a virus or disease then the jaws of a pair of a pair of secateurs are a lot bigger than the jaws of an aphid! Whatever rose you are pruning, and whatever technique you use, there are some invaluable tips you should adopt for the post-prune process. First, you must spray each rose with Liquid Copper immediately after pruning to protect the wounds.
Don't, however, prune on a cool moist day as silver leaf disease is likely to be air borne in these conditions. It is also crucial to keep in mind that viruses can be transferred from rose to rose, so make sure you spray copper onto the secateurs after pruning each rose.
Alternatively, use methylated spirits. The latter is even better than the copper in providing protection. Simply fill a cup almost full of the meths, and dip the partly open blades into the cup, making sure all the cutting edges are well soaked prior to moving onto the next rose.
In a nutshell then, pruning consists of cutting back the rose, spraying the remaining canes with Liquid Copper, and then dipping the secateurs blades into methylated spirits. Then move on to the next rose and repeat the procedure.
Thats all fairly simple isn't it? But lets give a few extra tips.
Take your bottle of Liquid Copper, (it has the great advantage of already being liquid so there is little risk of blocked jets in the middle of a job) and double the normal amount (which is 3.5 mils to a litre of water) to 7 mils per litre, add in one ml of Raingard so the spray stays on, rain or shine for up to 14 days.
Mix up and place in a trigger sprayer and use this spray after pruning each rose to cover the wounds. Once made up the spray will keep for sometime but you need shake the sprayer well as the copper will settle.
When using Raingard or its spray on frost protection cousin, Vaporgard, you must remember that these are films which set on the areas sprayed, to obtain their benefits.
This means that after you have finished spraying with these aids, that you should flush and spray some clean water through your sprayer, otherwise the residues left will set and block up the jets.
Hot water is best to use for this purpose and spray the water till it runs clean.
If on the other hand you forget to do this simple task, then when you come to use the same sprayer again and find that the jets are blocked, you need to dismantle and clear the jets with a bit of fine wire and soak them in methylated spirits.
Choose your day to prune carefully, it should be after a few days without rain with sun and wind to dry the soil and air. This is very important as the deadly silver leaf disease favours entering fresh wounds when the air is moist and cool.
In areas where silver leaf disease is a major problem extra care should be taken. It is also a very good practise in the spring, after a reasonable amount of new foliage appears, to give the roses a couple of sprays, a month apart, with Perkfection.
This builds up the immune system of the rose and can allow a rose to recover from the disease if it is not too far advanced.
It also protects against a number of other diseases as well, through fortifying the rose’s immune system. Two weekly sprays of Magic Botanic Liquid with Mycorrcin added will greatly assist the health of your roses. Neem Tree Oil can be added for pests such as aphids, scale and possums.
If early in the season when the new shoots are out and we have a cold snap you can protect the delicate shoots with a spray of Vaporgard.
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GETTING ORGANISED FOR SPRING

One month out from the shortest day and you can start to feel the beginnings of spring which is just around the corner. The long term weather forecast for August and September is for warmer than normal weather, which means a very good possibility of a early spring.
We have in the past couple of years tended to see a neat spring beginning and then the weather turning to custard during the October/November period but coming right later in December or early January.
The key then is to get started early with your vegetable and flower crops so that they can establish while conditions are good and be better to face any adverse weather conditions later in the season.
There are a number of things you can do to establish plants quicker in either open ground gardens or in containers.
For instance in the planting hole, place a few sheep manure pellets, a level teaspoon of Rok Solid and a level teaspoon of Gypsum. This should be applied to any seedlings planted out then water them in with a solution of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) at the rate of 20 mils per litre of water.
The products suggested greatly assist strong root development thus quicker growth.
If you have grown the seedlings yourself or purchased them from a garden centre in punnets then there will be root disturbance when you separate them for planting. This sets back seedlings and causes them to lay down on the ground for days after transplanting out.
Eventually they pick themselves up as they grow a new root system. You can greatly reduce this problem by spraying the seedlings with Vaporgard a couple of days before separating out. This takes the stress off the damaged roots; helps the plant gain more energy from the sun; protects the foliage from chilling winds, frosts, pests and diseases.
This simple spray can save you days and give good protection to your new plantings.
Always soak the seedling’s punnet in a tub of water prior to transplanting it reduces root damage.
One of the biggest problems for early gardens in the winter/spring period is chilling winds, if you remove or reduce this factor then plants will grow 2 or 3 times faster.
Cutting the base off clear plastic bottles and then without the cap on, place them over plants, which will give your new plants their own little hot house. The 2 litre juice bottles are the best for this but 2 litre cordial ones are not too bad. Ensure you push the cut base well into the soil so they do not blow off in the wind.
Windbreak can be used around gardens to also assist in better establishment where it is not practical to place bottles over every plant.
If you want to germinate seeds such as peas, carrots etc in open ground you need some heat to assist, otherwise the seeds are likely to rot in the wet cold ground.
To do this make a trench about 120mm wide and a similar depth; fill the trench with freshly cut grass clippings and pack down till the trench is two thirds full of mowed grass.
Over this, place a nice layer of fine or sieved soil, a sprinkling of Rok Solid and Gypsum.
Next sow your seeds along the row and spray them with a solution of MBL. Cover the seeds with nice friable soil and leave for the decomposing grasses to heat up the soil and aid the germination.
You can add sheep manure pellets or BioBoost, Neem Tree Granules and animal manures to the grass layer for more goodness and protection from pests.
You need to keep the row moist during the period of germination and establishment but not wet.
Once you have a good strike of new foliage appearing you can further assist their development by spraying the tops with Vaporgard. Later once the plants are showing good establishment start a 2 weekly spray program using MBL and Mycorrcin. These two products will also not only speed up growth but will produce stronger, hardier growth too.
While you are about it don't forget to spray your strawberry plants at the same time, the Mycorrcin will help to achieve ripe fruit earlier, give you a longer fruiting season and a increase in return of between 200 to 400%. Spray two weekly.
Once your roses start to leaf up apply the same spay to them as well for better results this season.
It is the time to start germinating seeds for the coming season. If you have a glasshouse or similar then you are in the box seat for getting your own germinated seedlings established before planting out.
You can germinate any suitable seeds indoors where it is warmer but as soon as you have a show then the tray must go out where it will receive overhead light. No good on a windowsill as the light is coming sideways and the young plants will stretch to the light making them weak. The more they stretch the greater the likelyhood of them dampening off or been useless.
If you have the right equipment, heat pad and glasshouse you can germinate and grow on the likes of tomatoes, capsicums, cucumbers, egg plants etc.
Now here is an interesting thing, you know those tomatoes that are sold in supermarkets that are on trusses. Nice uniformly sitting apart on their stalks?
Well last season about mid autumn I established a new raised garden and a self sown tomato plant came up. It grew rapidly and was one of the strongest tomato plants that I have seen for some time.
Later it set fruit and lo and behold the fruit had that distinct truss formation like the ones in the supermarket. It was too late in the season for the fruit to ripen and the plant was lost to the cold been in the open.
I figured that we had purchased some of those truss type tomatoes at sometime, some of the seeds ending up in my worm farms with the kitchen scraps and then the vermicast been added to my raised garden and the seed germinating. Because of the novelty of the trusses and the super strong growth of the tomato I went out and purchased a truss tomato and have taken some of the seeds to plant up this season to see how they will go.
You might like to do the same. A point about tomatoes is that they always tend to come true to form even if they are hybrid breed.
Another tomato that I am going to germinate now is a Russian one called Silvery Fir Tree a cold loving dwarf growing tomato that produces heaps of small to medium size fruit for a very long fruiting period.
I had great success with them a couple of seasons back growing in large 20 litre buckets and 45 litre containers. Its one where you do not remove laterals, just feed it well and let it grow.
You should find the seed packets in Garden Centres that stock Niche Seeds.
It is also about the time to start off kumera tubers in trays to sprout for planting out later on.
Just pick up a few kumera from your green grocer (any colour) and layer them in moist sand in a suitable tray (about150mm depth)
Yams are another one that you can start off in small pots in the glass house at this time for planting out when all signs of frosts are past.
There is lots to do so get cracking
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A VEGETABLE GEM

Recently while shopping at one of the local ‘Fresh’ stores I came across a new vegetable in the produce department that was called Earth Gems(TM). The vegetable looked like small potatoes crossed with a yam and came in colours from whitish, yellowish, dark red and light yellow with red spotting.
The 500 gram bag that the tubers were in told me that they were grown under license from Crop & Food NZ by Halfords in Feilding.
The bag described the Earth Gems as “vibrant exotic colours making them the perfect choice for entertaining- as a garnish, entree or the main attraction. The crisp taste sensation is ideally boiled rather than baked. The texture being like fresh new potatoes (peeling not required) high in vitamin C; and to try them sliced, shredded, grated, mashed or served whole.
The bag did not say what the actual botanic name of the tubers was so I rang Halfords and asked. I found that Ulluco (Ullucus tuberosus Loz.) is the botanic name for Earth Gems, so then onto the Internet to find out a bit more. (The following is off web sites)
Ulluco (Ullucus tuberosus Loz.) is a traditional staple food crop grown in northern Argentina to Venezuela at elevations between 2,400 and 4,200 metres. As one of the "lost crops" used by the Incas it is still grown and eaten today, mainly by subsistence farmers. It is largely unknown outside South America.
In South America Ulluco was probably brought into cultivation from the wild in the central Andes of Peru and Bolivia in about 5500 BC.
The Incas cultivated a wide variety of root crops including Ulluco, which became less important as they were forced to grow European vegetables after the Spanish invasion in 1531.
Ulluco is a compact, potato-like herbaceous annual crop which produces below ground auxiliary stolons which enlarge to form terminal starchy tubers. The tubers are smooth and spherical with waxy skins, between 2-10 cm across, or curved and elongate, and between 2-15 cm long. A wide range of bright skin colours is produced both between and within cultivars, including white, yellow, orange, red, magenta, or green. Tubers may also be spotted or even candy striped.
In South America Ulluco are most often boiled, shredded, grated, mashed, pickled, mixed with hot sauces, or used to thicken soups and stews with meat and other vegetables.
They are used in a number of traditional dishes including soups in Ecuador, olluquito con charqui (with meat) in Peru, and ají de papalisas (with peppers) in Bolivia. Contemporary dishes incorporate cooked Ulluco tubers in salads, and the leaves are also eaten in soups and salads.
Cooked Ulluco tubers have been reported as having a smooth texture and a slight earthy taste, and others describe the flavour as mucilaginous and similar to okra.
Ulluco have recently been introduced into New Zealand from South America and are being evaluated as a potential new addition to the range of vegetables consumed in this country. This tuber has the potential to be popular with New Zealand consumers. Because of the large variety of colours, they can be sold as a mixed blend rather than as a uniform product.
The skin of Ulluco tuber is soft and does not need to be peeled before eating. The white to lemon-yellow flesh has a smooth silky texture with a nutty taste. A major appeal of Ulluco is its crisp texture, which remains even when cooked. Ulluco tubers are reported to have a long shelf life.
ULLUCO (ullucus tuberosus) is a perennial plant, but grown as an annual in temperate regions. The plants are almost exclusively propagated by tubers, same as potatoes..
The tubers are best started off in small pots in the greenhouse or on a windowsill, making sure they have plenty of light and water. Plant the tubers some 2-5 cm deep, depending on tuber size (bigger tubers can be deeper planted).
The best time to start them is late winter early spring. A bit like yams or potatoes the tops can be damaged by frosts. Grow them on in pots and then plant them out once all danger of frosts are past.
The plants don't grow tall (up to 30cm)but spread out, so space them about 20-30 cms apart.
Ulluco will grow steadily throughout the summer, tubers only begin forming from about March, when daylight hours are shorter than 12 hours. From then you will see tiny stems forming in the axils of the leaves.
These stems will be heading directly to the soil. When they reach and penetrate the soil, tubers will be formed at the end of the stems.
Care should be taken as the stems and attachment points are very brittle. If the tubers are exposed to light, like potatoes they will turn green (some varieties are green anyway) so you may like to keep the forming tubers covered with a little compost sprinkled.
Try to keep the plants frost-free as the tubers only reach their full size in May or even June.
If you decide you like Ulluco tubers as a vegetable you may wish to have a go at growing some yourself.
Follow the instructions above but I would keep them in pots until about early November and then place them out into a sunny area of the garden in fertile, friable soil.
To get them to start fruiting (forming tubers) about the end of January or early February cover the plants with a tarp or suitable cover to shorten their daylight hours. Do this later in the afternoon say about 5pm (with daylight saving been in force) then when the sun goes down remove the cover.
Do this for a couple of weeks or more until tubers are formed then don't bother.
The tubers will keep on growing once initiated and you will be able to harvest earlier.
This will help gardeners in areas where a early frost may happen and also you will likely get larger tubers to eat. The Earth Gems in my bag were only about 2-4cm long and about 2cm wide.
I have eaten the Ulluco tubers both raw and boiled. Raw they are crisp but to my not great taste buds a bit bland and maybe like a mild radish. Boiled they certainly have a flavour like a baby beetroot and like they say still nice and crisp.
Sliced or grated raw/cooked they would be good in salads especially the coloured ones.
The Earth Gems are available in Supermarkets and Green Grocers in some areas in New Zealand, buy a bag and try them for yourself and maybe if you like them you could try growing a few tubers as a new and different vegetable.
Other root crops to try this season would be yams either red or yellow varieties and jerusalem artichoke the later maybe a bit hard to find the tubers, I have seen them occasionally in green grocers and garden centres.
A member of the sunflower family they are tall growing, very hardy, grow well in waste areas and the tubers are harvested when the tops die down in the winter.
Use Neem Tree Granules when planting any of these root crops to protect them from insect pests.
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SOIL FERTILITY

The soil we garden in, is the result of a buildup over thousands of years of organic matter broken down by the soil life (Soil Food Web) and their dead bodies.
Foliage from plants such as leaves, along with dying plants have fallen to the surface of the soil to rot and be broken down by a vast range of soil dwellers from worms to microbes.
Added to this is the droppings of insects, birds and animals along with their dead bodies to build a great fertile soil which plants will not only thrive in and be very healthy.
Just over a hundred years ago man decided to change the order of things and instead of using natural materials to maintain the fertility of his soils he opted to use the then new ‘man made’ fertilisers.
Superphosphate made from reactive rock phosphate broken down with acids so it is available to plants broke the natural cycle of life.
The acids harmed the soil life including the worms, crops were direct fed which was completely unnatural for them.
They grew still, in fact they grew faster than previously but they also grew weak and sickly and became a target for every disease and insect pest under the sun, having lost their ability to naturally defend themselves. (Mainly caused by forced growth and insufficient minerals and elements in a natural balance)
To protect crops numerous chemical sprays were invented which helped for a time until the pests/diseases became resistant to each chemical treatment.
Each treatment not only worked to control the problem but also increased the damage to the soil life. This further weakened the health of the plants and a vicious circle occurs of ongoing damage with reduced health.
Animals and humans eating the crops do not obtain the health benefits that the plants should have and thus they in turn become less healthy and more vulnerable to disease and pests/parasites.
If you have really healthy soils/gardens, then there will be a great numbers of worms present in the moist soils. Worms will not be found in dry and parched soils and if your tap water contains chlorine then you will never build up good worm populations when your watering with chlorinated water.
You will not have healthy soils as the chlorine is put into water to kill bacteria and its bacteria in the soil that we want for a natural soil food web.
If you want good healthy gardens this coming season you have to do a few things, stop using man made fertilisers and chemical sprays. Instead use natural foods that will fed the soil and build up the soil food web.
These includes animal manures, blood & bone, composts, garden lime, dolomite, gypsum, liquid manures etc. Stop using chlorinated water in your gardens by either standing the tap water for periods of time in a suitable container or by simply placing a 10 micron carbon filter in the hose line from the tap.
There are a number of products that can speed up the transition back to healthy soil such as Rok Solid, Ocean Solids, Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) and Mycorrcin.
You can purchase sheep manure pellets or Bio Boost for a base food and then look for other manures locally. The best of these is chicken manure as it is free of weed seeds and has the highest NPK values which are about 16 to 30% nitrogen, 13 to 25% phosphate and 9 to 18% potash. (depends on whether it is layer manure or Broiler/turkey litter) The later tends to have more urine and higher NPK values.
Most gardeners will have poultry farms nearby except for the bigger cities where you may have to travel some distance to find one. For instance one poultry farm just a few kilometers outside of Palmerston North on Milson Line, has big bags of dry poultry manure for only $4.50 each.
If you are fortunate to have your own chickens then by having a concrete floor in the hen house where they roost at night makes collection of the manure easy.
The manure can be used in several ways; spread over bare soil and then covered with purchased compost so you can either plant or sow directly into the compost.
Placed directly into the planting hole with some soil over it so the plant’s roots will venture down into this rich mass.
Placed in a plastic rubbish tin with non chlorinated added to make a liquid manure which after a few weeks of stirring is further broken down by 1 part to 10 parts non-chlorinated water and then applied to gardens and foliage.
Manures are also added to green matter in a compost bin in layers and then turned till ready to use.
This vastly improves your compost and can also reduce the weed seeds in home made compost if turned frequently to obtain a good heat.
Horse manure from stables can be found in some areas especially where racing stables are.
Horse manure, cattle manure, sheep manure and pig manure are also excellent for gardens but can obtain weed seeds dependant on what the animals have been browsing.
If used to make liquid manure and if the resulting liquid is strained through a fine sieve before adding to the other 10 parts water this should be relatively weed free.
Other animal manures have a NPK of fresh approx; cattle 6.0:3.5:8.0
Pig 7.0: 7.0:5.0
as slurries Dairy 3.0:1.2:3.5
Beef 2.3:1.2:2.7
and Pig 4.0:2.0:2.5
These can vary dependant on what the animals are eating and the amount of moisture in the material.
It is easy to see that poultry manure has the highest values and was the reason that it has been the traditional preferred garden manure for many years.
(Besides that in years gone by most households kept chickens.)
High Health begins in the soil and this applies to not only the plants that grow in the soil but to all the food chain. The only alternative is the food chain from the ocean and as the ocean is mineral rich that food chain is very healthy except for the pollution that has occurred since the industrial age.
Gardeners have two aspects they are endeavouring to achieve, the first is great, healthy looking plants such as their roses, the second is a bounty of healthy home grown produce.
Nether of these goals will ever be achieved to your full satisfaction until you achieve healthy soils.
The alternative is spending a lot of money and time on man made fertilisers and rescue sprays and never winning.
The natural way works out to be far cheaper and your efforts are well rewarded.
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NEW SEASON FRUIT TREES

Its this time of the year that new season fruit trees are available from garden centres and it is also the best time to plant them, as they have the rest of winter and all of spring to establish before they hit their first summer. I love fruit trees and other fruiting plants, having gathered a nice collection of various types, over a period of time.
When choosing what fruiting plants you are going to grow it is important to select the types of fruit that you and your family most enjoy and then to pick the cultivars that are most suitable and productive for your locality.
It is a waste of time buying say an apricot that needs a cold winter followed by a warm spring if these climatic conditions don't exist in your region.
It is better to buy one that bears well without a real winter chilling.
A number of fruiting trees require a suitable pollinator to obtain good crops, which means you need to buy two different cultivars to ensure that you have a good fruit set.
Now days we can find plums for instance that have a double graft, meaning that two varieties of plums will be produced on the same root stock. The varieties chosen for the grafting will often be the pollinators, so only one tree is needed but two types of plums will be harvested.
For a time some nurseries were producing triple or more varieties onto the same root stock. These were more difficult to produce and often one graft would fail in preference of the other two.
Even if the 3 did take nicely it would mean some complicated pruning to ensure that the 3 parts preformed equally and in many cases one would ultimately fail. I not sure if these multi-grafted trees are still available and in many ways they can be a waste of time and effort.
Even with a twin graft one has to monitor the two aspects to ensure both are growing equally well without one superseding the other.
In the likes of apples and some other grafted fruit you may have the choice of the type of root stock such as MM106 etc. The root stock type will help determine the ultimate size of the tree and thus the amount of fruit it can bear. These are MM106, 4 to5 metres MM793, 3.5 to4 metres and EM9 2.5 to 3m.
The later is also referred to dwarfing root stock. This can be a great advantage for people with smaller sections.
Some types maybe labelled ‘Self Fertile’ which means you have no need for another tree as a pollinator.
Others may have their name on the label along with recommended pollinators. These are important aspects to consider when you are buying any fruiting tree.
Self fertile will produce good crops but better again if there is a second suitable cultivar or the same species planted nearby.
Another tip, because of the lack of feral bees in parts of New Zealand, if you plant your fruit tree down wind (prevailing wind) of your pollinator, you will likely have a better fruit set due to pollen being breeze carried.
Having a small section myself, I now grow any new fruit trees as container plants.
There is many advantages to this, you can grow many more trees in containers than you could ever grow in open ground. The containers restrict the root system making for smaller trees, no matter what root stock they are on. Smaller trees are easier to manage, spray, and been in a container, less loss of nutrients from leaching.
Crops are smaller but minimal wastage, as you tend to eat all the fruit produced.
They are easier to protect from birds as the fruit ripens. If you move house you can take your fruit trees with you without too much of a hassle.
For those that are interested in this method here is how I do it. Firstly choose the largest plastic rubbish tin you can find. (About 76 litres or more) Avoid black plastic ones, as they can cook the roots if in strong direct sunlight.
Drill about 40-50mm wide holes in the sides of the bin about 100 mm up from the bottom for drainage. This leaves an area at the base, for surplus water in the summer.
Some of mine I partially dig into the soil and if I want the roots to enter into the soil I will place about 4 holes 40-50mm wide in the bottom as well as 4 at the cardinal points on the sides. (If you move you can easily wrench the tree and container from the ground) I have used this part buried method, for my citrus trees and passion fruit vines to avoid root rots in winter.
Now for a growing medium to fill the containers, don't waste your money on potting mixes as they lack the long term goodness that a tree needs. Instead use a manure based compost. There are organic mulches and composts available from most garden centres, that are made of bark fines, composted with animal manures.
Add to this a few handfuls of clean top soil, mixed or layered through. I also add in worm-casts and worms from my worm farm. The worms help keep the heavier composts open and also supply a continuous source of nutrients. You can if you like add in sheep manure pellets and blood & bone.
Plant up your tree so that the soil level is about 100mm below the rim of the container.
This allows for easy watering and feeding. I mulch the top of the mix in spring with old chook manure and apply Fruit and Flower Power (Magnesium and potassium) once a month during the fruiting period.
Other foods can be applied as needed such as Rok Solid and sprays of Magic Botanic Liquid.
If the roots are not allowed into the surrounding soil, you will need to lift the tree out of the container every 2-3 years and root prune by cutting off the bottom one third of the roots with a saw. New compost and a bit of soil is placed in this area vacated and the tree put back in the container. This is best done in winter when the tree is dormant.
As mentioned before, garden centres now have their range of fruit trees in. If you cant find a particular specimen there, have a look at http://www.diacks.co.nz/fruit.html on the net.

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DAY LIGHT HOURS INCREASING

The Winter Solstice was on June 21 at 18:46 (6:46pm); this was when the Sun was at its most Northerly point in the sky. At the middle of the day on June 21, it reaches its lowest altitude, from the Northern horizon, for the year.
Which means that the longest night is June 21/22 and the shortest day is June 21 and from then, slowly the amount of sunlight per day increases till 21st December.
It takes a bit over a month or so before you start to notice a difference, on the other hand plants notice the difference very quickly and start responding to the increasing length of day light hours.
A new cycle is beginning in the garden and a new gardening year has started.
It is now time to start those gardening tasks, so you are well prepared for the coming spring.
Plant out your garlic and shallots about now for harvesting on the longest day (which is traditional).
Purchase the certified seed potatoes that you are going to plant as your first crop and lay them out to green up the new shoots.
New Season roses are in, so any new ones should now be purchased and planted out.
Deciduous fruit trees and fruiting bushes are either in or not too far away from arriving at your local garden centre as are the new season’s strawberry plants.
I picked up my new season strawberries this week and they are 3 new and interesting varieties;
Strawberry Baby Pink ™ Producing stunning beautiful pink flowers followed by small to medium red fruit with sweet traditional flavour. Large bunches of berries ripening over a long period.
Habit - Compact strong growing strawberry. Size - Give these small to medium plants close spacing. Pollination - Self-fertile. Unknown if short day, neutral or long day type.
Strawberry Sundae ™ Large red fruit with excellent flavour. Firm red flesh in an oval shape.
Habit - Suitable for Northern and Central districts. Vigorous growth habit. Size - Give these vigorous plants wide spacing. Pollination - Self-fertile. Short day type - flowers are initiated by short day lengths.
Harvest - Fruit ripen 20-35 days from flowering depending on climate, with light crops in early summer followed by a main crop in December - January. Yield is average.
Strawberry Temptation™ Medium bright red shiny fruit with excellent flavour. Pale firm flesh. Habit - Compact strong growing strawberry. Tough and resilient in relation to pest and diseases. Size - Give these medium plants close spacing. Pollination - Self-fertile. Only NZ bred Day Neutral strawberry which means they will set fruit regardless of how long or short the days are making this an ideal fruiter national wide. Will extend the North Island season. Harvest - Consistent high yields of berries ripening over a long period from October to March.
I am going to make a new planter box to be attached to the top rail of my iron fence, this will extend the planter box that is already in place and double the number of strawberry plants.
The three varieties of strawberries should be available in most garden centres in red cell packs of 4 plants supplied by the nursery with the trade name of Incredible Edibles.
While you are picking up your plants for the coming season you may wish to consider planting up some other berry fruit. There are a number to choose from such as raspberries etc, all of which I find are best grown in 45 lire containers unless you have a lot of room.
The container grown berry plants are easier to manage and the plants are trapped which means they cant take over a garden.
Here are a few ideas of what is available:
Berry Delight™ Mouth watering large dark rich red fruit with a delicious boysenberry/loganberry flavour. Habit - THORNLESS, heavy cropper. Size - As a bramble this plant forms a great screen and can be cut back the following winter. Pollination Self-fertile. Harvest - Harvest when fruit turns dark red and are easy to remove in December and January.
Raspberry Aspiring: Large dark red conical firm fruit. Excellent flavour. Habit - The divine raspberry grows as a bramble on upright canes. Covered with rose type leaves, simple small white flowers are followed by luscious sweet delicate fruit. This is the prize that causes eager berry lovers to flock to pick-your-own patches. A strong and productive plant, which spreads fast and is one of the easiest of all to grow. Size - Canes are vigorous with a high number of strong upright canes. Dormant canes are dark brown with few spines. Pollination Self-fertile. Harvest - Summer and Autumn dual cropper. Summer fruit are on last years canes where winter chill is adequate. Autumn fruit produced on the top 10-20 buds of new canes.
Raspberry Ebony Small firm rosette of dark black berries. Easily removed when ripe.
Size - 1m to 2m high cascading purple/black canes with no spines. Needs attaching to wires for support. Pollination Self-fertile Harvest - Crops from December to February.
Raspberry Ivory; Medium firm yellow-golden fruit. Easily removed when ripe. Size - Vigorous upright canes about 1.75m high. Pollination Self-fertile. Harvest - Crops from December to April. Main crop February to March.
Raspberry Waiau Light medium red, very large fruit easily removed when ripe. Size - High number of semi-upright vigorous canes. Must attach to wires to avoid damage. Dormant canes are light brown with grey blooms and soft spines. Pollination Self-fertile Harvest - Summer fruit. Grown in northern, central and southern districts.
Boysenberry Brulee ; White flowers in early spring are followed by large firm conical dark purple black berries.Habit - Moderately vigorous mostly spineless canes. Size - 1.5 x 3m Pollination - Self-fertile. Insect and bee pollinated. Harvest - Crops in December to January with heavy yields under the ideal conditions. Fruit are ready when they are easily removed.
Gooseberry Invicta : American gooseberry about 1.2cm round fruit. Green when ripe, covered in pale hairs. Habit - Erect stems covered in thorns. Vigorous growth under good conditions, resistant to mildew. Can live for 15-30 years. Deciduous plant that forms small, rough, thin green leaves with 3-5 lobes.
Size - 1-1.2m tall and 1-1.2m wide. Pollination - Self-fertile. Inconspicuous strings of small green with pinkish petals that open in early spring. Pollinated by insects, bees and the wind but climatic conditions will affect self-fertility. Harvest - Matures early to mid-summer.
If planting in a container use a good compost with animal manure added.
Apply Fruit and Flower Power each month till harvest and spray foliage with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) With your strawberries spray the plants every 2 weeks with Mycorrcin, it will increase the returns by 200 to 400%.

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POTATO TYPES

Last week we talked about the new seasons seed potatoes from the South Island (Cause they are best in my opinion) and promised to give you a list with specifications of the seed potatoes that would be available this season.
When choosing what types of seed potatoes to buy you should consider the following: Select types that have been successful for you in the past.
Select types that are most suitable for the way you cook your potatoes such as baked, mashed, chipped etc. Finally select types that you like the flavour of most. Generally speaking, home grown potatoes will have a much better flavour and hold together better when boiled than commercially grown ones. (There are a few exceptions to this)
1st Early

Cliff Kidney Maturity: Approx 80-90 days Tuber Shape: Kidney Skin: White Flesh: White General: Waxy potato good for boiling, salads, casseroles & soups with excellent flavour.
Jersey Bennes Maturity: Approx 80-90 days Tuber Shape: Oval Skin: White Flesh: White General: Waxy potato good for boiling, salads, casseroles, soups and mashing.
Liseta Maturity: Approx 70-80 days Tuber Shape: Long oval Skin: White Flesh: Creamy yellow General: Firm cooking waxy potato ideal for boiling, salads, casseroles, soups & roasting. High yielder.
Maris Anchor Maturity: Approx 90-100 days Tuber Shape: Oval Skin: White Flesh: White General: Excellent as an early boiling potato, also suitable for roasting.
Rocket Maturity: Approx 60-70 days Tuber Shape: Oval Skin: White Flesh: White General: Great boiling and roasting potato.
Swift Maturity: Approx 60-70 days Tuber Shape: Round Skin: White Flesh: Cream General: Waxy potato ideal for boiling, salads, casseroles & soups. High yielder.
2nd Early

Allura Maturity: Approx 80-90 days Tuber Shape: Round oval shape, shallow eyes Skin: White bright skin Flesh: White. General: Lovely tasting potato. Great boiled, roasted and as wedges or chips. Very versatile and suits all cooking requirements. Holds firm on cooking. Very high yielder.
Chippewa Maturity: Approx 80-90 days Tuber Shape: Round Skin: White Flesh: White General: Excellent cooking potato good for boiling and roasting.
Heather Maturity: Approx 80-90 days Tuber Shape: Long oval Skin: Purple blue Flesh: White General: Waxy potato ideal for boiling, salads, casseroles, mashing and roasting. Excellent flavour.
Ilam Hardy Maturity: Approx 70-80 days Tuber Shape: Oval round Skin: White Flesh: White General: Floury potato ideal for mashing, baking, roasting, chips and wedges.
Karaka Maturity: Approx 80-90 days Tuber Shape: Oval Skin: White Flesh: White General: Great all round cooking potato with excellent flavour. High yielder.
Merlin Maturity: Approx 80-90 days Tuber Shape: Round to oval Skin: Yellow, red eyes Flesh: Cream General: Great boiling potato. High yielder.
Nadine Maturity: Approx 80-90 days Tuber Shape: Round Skin: White Flesh: White General: Waxy potato good for boiling, salads, casseroles, soups.
Osprey Maturity: Approx 90-100 days Tuber-Shape: Oval Skin: White with red eyes. Flesh: Cream General: Good for all purpose cooking. Stays firm, great to microwave & roast. High yielder.
Pentland Dell Maturity: Approx 80-90 days Tuber Shape: Long oval Skin: White Flesh: White General: Good cooking.
Purple Heart Maturity: Approx 80-90 days Tuber Shape: Oval and shallow eyes Skin: Deep purple and smooth Flesh: Purple toned General: Great for salads, boiling and microwaving Health: Strong in antioxidant benefits.
Purple Passion Maturity: Approx 70-80 days Tuber Shape: Oval long shape, shallow eyes Skin: Purple Flesh: Cream to very pale yellow General: Excellent cooking qualities great for boiling and chipping. Holds firm on cooking.
Main Crop

Agria Maturity: Approx 90-100 days Tuber Shape: Long oval Skin: Cream Flesh: Yellow General: Floury potato suitable for boiling, mashing, baking, wedges and great for chips. High yielder.
Desiree Maturity: Approx 90-100 days Tuber Shape: Round Skin: Pink Flesh: Cream General: Good for all general cooking, great to microwave.
Moonlight Maturity: Approx 90-100 days Tuber Shape: Round oval Skin: White Flesh: White General: Good all purpose, cooks well as a boiling and chipping potato. High yielder.
Red King Maturity: Approx 100-120 days Tuber Shape: Oval Skin: Red Flesh: White General: Good all round cooking potato with excellent flavour.
Red Rascal Maturity: Approx 90-100 days Tuber Shape: Oval Skin: Very red Flesh: White General: Floury potato that is a good all purpose cooking. Suitable to be grown organically.
Rua Maturity: Approx 100 days Tuber Shape: Round to oval Skin: Fine white Flesh: White General: Good all rounder for roasting and boiling.
Van Rosa Maturity: Approx 90-100 days Tuber Shape: Round Skin: Very red Flesh: White General: Good all purpose potato, great for boiling and roasting
Look for the bags of seed potatoes that say ‘Grown in South Island’ if you cannot find the variety you want at your garden centre then ask them to obtain it for you.
As there are so many types, a garden centre may only buy in the most popular varieties for their customers but as they are re-ordering regularly, then they can obtain your special ones when they re-order. (till a variety runs out for the season.)
For the information on growing and the control of pests from last weeks article you can find it now on our web pages.
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NEW SEASONS POTATOES

Recently I was talking to a leading seed potato supplier from the South Island and found out that the new season’s certified seed potatoes were now coming available through garden centres.
In fact I also learnt that the specialist growers of seed potatoes now days do one big planting a year and when the crop is harvested and graded, the seed potatoes go into cool stores which prevents them from sprouting. This means that certified seed potatoes can be available all year round (unless a variety runs out before the next crop)
Having potatoes n cool store for a period of time is both a good thing and a bad thing.
It is good in so much as once the potatoes come out of the cool store to warmer temperatures, they will start to initiate sprouts and if you find the bags of seed potatoes with the beginnings of sprouts at your garden centre, you have a good buy.
The other side of the coin is if these bags of seed potatoes sit in the warmer conditions too long the sprouts will develop and grow long and weak, easy to break off when handling and not a good buy.
It has been noted that in some chain stores where the staff do not rotate seed potatoes in the bins and put fresh stocks on top, that the bags on top can be great and underneath the bags are too far gone to be of any value planting. A novice gardener not knowing better could buy these potatoes with big sprouts, plant them and have a poor harvest months later. Not good.
I find that certified seed potatoes from the South Island growers are more likely to produce good harvests than North Island grown ones. Why? This is likely the harsher conditions in the South Island which mean less pests and diseases. The same also applies with fruit trees which I would rather buy a South Island grown tree compared to a North Island one. The South Island ones take off, coming to warmer conditions in the North Island and always appear more hardier.
So when buying your seed potatoes look for bags that say grown in the South Island and for potatoes that have not sprouted much.
Then you simply take your seed potatoes home place them with their little sprouts up, in a wooden tray and put in a frost free situation that gets direct sunlight such as a glass house, under a car port or on a porch. They can sit there for weeks as they ‘green up’ with the sprouts growing and harding up.
When you plant out is dependant on frosts which will affect the exposed foliage if unprotected and hit.
Once the sprouts are firm you can further speed up the growing by covering the potatoes with moist untreated saw dust or damp sand. The potatoes will quickly form roots and then you can plant out.
If you do this ensure you check the potatoes every few days as it does not take long for them to root up too much and damage can happen when you separate them.
As seed potatoes are planted deep (because the new potatoes will form up the stalks and in a sense, the deeper, the more potatoes) they are covered over as the foliage comes through which protects them against frost. This is repeated and then later mounded so there can be a good period of time that frosts will not affect the potatoes as the foliage is covered by a thin layer of soil.
Later you can spray the foliage with Vaporgard for frost protection and use covers as well if need be. The potatoes are going to be slower growing till the ground warms up. Never dig a deep trench and cover completely over, in the early part of the season, as the seed potatoes are likely to fail and rot out.
Dig a deep trench by all means but just cover the seed potato with soil and repeat as it grows upwards.
There is also another great advantage of growing very early potatoes and that is less chance of damage to the crop from insect pests.
The Hadda beetle which looks like a ladybird but different colouring and the potato psyllid which is very difficult to spot but will prevent the tubers from growing bigger than marbles if allowed to get a hold.
There are other pests also but these two new ones are the worst by far.
When you plant out your seed potatoes place about a tablespoon of Neem Tree Granules under each potato along with what ever other manure/fertiliser you like to use. (My preference is Neem Granules, sheep manure pellets or Bio Boost, a teaspoon of Rok Solid and about half a teaspoon of BioPhos along with a tablespoon of Gypsum.) Later on when you have finished mounding up the potatoes then is the time to sprinkle some more Neem Tree Granules onto the soil surface near the tops and give the tops a occasional spray of Neem Tree Oil all over.
Later in the season as summer approaches and with later crops, the sprays of Neem Oil should be increased to say weekly or two weekly. Weekly for late crops planted say December onwards and repeat applications of the Granules every 6 weeks. Note, the same pests like tomato plants too so do not plant any tomato plants near your potatoes and treat the tomatoes likewise with the Neem products.
You will find also that there are three categories of seed potatoes which are 1st Early such as Swift Maturity: Approx 60-70 days Tuber Shape: Round Skin: White Flesh: Cream General: Waxy potato ideal for boiling, salads, casseroles & soups. High yielder.
2nd Early such as Ilam Hardy Maturity: Approx 70-80 days Tuber Shape: Oval round Skin: White Flesh: White General: Floury potato ideal for mashing, baking, roasting, chips and wedges.
Then there is Main Crop such as Rua Maturity: Approx 100 days Tuber Shape: Round to oval Skin: Fine white Flesh: White General: Good all rounder for roasting and boiling.
The difference between early and main crop is the maturity times not that they should be planted early or later. You can plant Rua early and say Swift late in the season (which is not a bad idea anyway)
The type of seed potato you buy and plant should be ones that suit your cooking and eating needs.
For instance what is the point of growing a potato that is best for baking or chips when you just about always mash your spuds.
If you are going to store potatoes for winter make sure that the type you grow is a good keeper.
Home grown potatoes will taste superior to most commercial grown spuds; they also often hold together better when boiling. Note even with potatoes suitable for boiling you should not over boil and don't have the temperature up too high, they are best lightly boiled or even better steamed.
There is also the health aspect about growing your own potatoes as you control what chemical sprays and fertilisers are used or not used.
With commercial growers that are not organic certified, you can expect their potatoes to contain a percentage of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides along with man made fertilisers to force growth and reduce nutritional value. With the new pests mentioned potato growers are spraying their crops every 7 to 14 days and that is a lot of poison.
I found out recently that coloured potatoes have added health benefits and one of the best ones of these is Purple Heart Maturity: Approx 80-90 days Tuber Shape: Oval and shallow eyes, Skin: Deep purple and smooth Flesh: Purple toned General: Great for salads, boiling and microwaving Health: Strong in antioxidant benefits.
Next week I will supply you with a list of all the different types of seed potatoes available this season to the home gardener from the South Island.
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ANOTHER NEW GARDEN PEST

There is a new to New Zealand beetle which comes from the South Pacific commonly called the Hadda Beetle. The first public notice of this beetle was in February 2010 when a entomologist with a close association with MAF Biosecurity New Zealand spotted a Hadda Beetle in Dove -Myer Robinson Park, along Tamaki Drive and the Auckland Domain in Auckland while walking his dog.

It was then reported ( From the Internet) :
David Yard, MAF Biosecurity New Zealand Response Manager, says the beetle causes distinctive damage to foliage.
“The species are found throughout Asia and the Pacific region and are foliage feeders that feed on solanaceous crops including potatoes, tomatoes, and aubergines plus beans and capsicums.
“The leaf surface is scraped away leaving irregular windows or parallel strips. This feeding damage gives leaves a distinctive “lace-like” appearance which is quite visible. Both adults and larvae feed on the host plants.”

Although similar to the common lady bird, Hadda beetles have some distinctive differences.
Hadda beetle larvae are about 7 mm long, and pale yellow in colour with black spiny hairs. The adults are 7 10 mm in size and yellow/ orange coloured with around 26 black spots on their backs. (End)

Now as a matter of interest I am sure I had a couple of calls this summer from gardeners who said they had found some beetles in their gardens that looked a lot like ladybirds but with different colouring.
I cant remember which areas of New Zealand the gardeners were calling from but I would suspect that the distribution of the beetle is much greater than thought.
This was highlighted from another recent report which said; ‘In March this year MAF Biosecurity announced that eradication of the Hadda beetle would not be feasible. Investigations have found the beetle is widespread across central Auckland and the maturity of the beetles indicates that it may have been in New Zealand since 2006.’
A female Hadda beetle lays about 300 small cigar-shaped yellow eggs in clusters of 10 to 50 on the under surface of potato leaves or other host plants.
Eggs hatch in about 5 days into small, yellow grubs, covered with hairy spines.
The grubs feed on the lower epidermis of leaves and are full grown in 7 to 18 days.
The pupal stage lasts 5 to 14 days.
It was in the Dominion Newspaper this week that I read an article about the Hadda Beetle and thus alerted me to the pest.
If you goto http://www.nba.org.nz/docs/hadda-beetle-fact-sheet.pdf you will find some excellent pictures of the beetle, the grubs and the damage patterns on foliage from their feeding.
Also if you find a Hadda Beetle in your garden then call MAF Biosecurity on 0800 809966 to inform them.
This new threat follows on from the other recent problem which is the potato/tomato psyllid that attacks the same family of plants. During feeding the psyllid releases a toxin which affects the development of the potatoes or the fruit of tomatoes.
Thus instead of having a good crop of nice size tubers at harvest you find a number of marble sized potatoes that are already re-shooting. On tomatoes the fruit also are very small.
Now with the Hadda Beetle coming along to strip the foliage of potatoes, tomatoes and other plants then greater care will have to be taken of these crops.
Early season crops are likely to be less effected as the pest populations have not built up till later in the season. Late crops will therefore suffer the greatest damage.
I suggest the placement of Neem Tree Granules in the planting hole of all host plants and also sprinkling the same every 6 weeks on the soil surface in the plant’s root zone.
Back this up with a spray of Neem Tree Oil once or twice a month.
Spray for total coverage of the foliage and add Raingard to the spray.
This keeps the Neem Oil active longer and prevents washing off or been diluted with watering or rain. It will not be long now before the new seasons certified seed potatoes become available so don't forget to protect them.
Talking about protection it looks very much like our Indian Summer has reached its end and the cold times of winter are at hand.
Frost or cold sensitive plants should be protect with a spray of Vaporgard over the foliage which gives reasonable frost protection down to minus three for about 3 months within 3 days of application.
Great protection for the occasional frost but when two or more frosts are going to occur, nite after nite then additional protection must be applied such as frost cloth, sacks or newspaper.
A word of warning, do not prune roses or fruit trees when the weather is cool and moist.
The dreaded disease, ‘Silver Leaf’ is in the air when its cool and damp and if you open up your roses or fruit trees then they can be affected.
Moss and liverworts love moist conditions so at the first sign of them spray with Moss and Liverwort Control.
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CITRUS TREE PROBLEMS

Many gardeners have a lemon tree and likely one or two other Citrus trees so now is an opportune time to look at the problems that can occur.
Insect problems include;

Aphids, usually clusters of black or green insects on young leaves. Spray with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum to control. Also sprays of Sunlight yellow bar soap lathered up in warm water.
Mealy bug, often the presence of black, sooty mould will be the first noticed signs. Small, mealy insects found in protected cavities. Spray with Neem Tree Oil and sprinkle Neem Granules under the tree and water in to kill the root mealy bugs..
Scale, poor growth, pale dehydrated leaves will be noticed. Fruit will be small and dry. The cause is hard scale-like insects on woody and green stems. Scale numbers build up in dry seasons, spray with Neem Tree Oil over summer months.
Leaf roller caterpillar, leaves tightly rolled and foliage and surface of fruit eaten. Spray with Neem Tree Oil as needed from October to March.
Soft wax scale, snow white, soft scale likely sooty mould present. Treat as Scale.
Thrips, show as silvering of foliage and fruit. Black spots of excrement maybe seen especially under leaves. Spray with Neem Tree Oil spray from November to March.
Spider Mites, leaves go yellow and hydrated. Minute insects under leaves. Common in hot dry weather, spray with Neem Tree Oil or Liquid Sulphur spray.
(BUT NOT THESE TWO PRODUCTS TOGETHER)
Whitefly spray all over with Neem Tree with Key Pyrethrum added late in the day. Repeat every few days till under control.
Lemon tree borer, tree shows poor growth, are dehydrated and branches die.
Holes found in branches and sawdust indicates presence of borer.
Remove infected wood where practical and burn, sprinkle Neem Tree Granules under the tree, Wrap felt pad soaked in Neem Tree Oil around base of trunk or affected branches.
It is a good idea to fill in the borer holes with an acyclic paint. This prevents adults entering the holes and laying more eggs. It also means that it is easy to detect new holes and further problems. DISEASES;

Citrus brown rot, fruit develops brown rot and drops from tree. Prune out lower branches of tree to increase air circulation, spray with Liquid Copper and Raingard.
Verrucosis/scab, Irregular, grey, scabby, wart-like growth on fruit or stems.
Spray with Liquid Copper at monthly intervals.
Brown Spot, spots on leaves, fruit and stems of mandarins. Common in damp weather.
Spray with Liquid Copper, prune dead material and burn it.
Melanose, small dark, red-brown spots on leaves and fruit, often merging. Skin may crack. More common on older trees in warm humid weather. Prune off dead twigs and branches. Spray with Liquid Copper at monthly intervals.
DEFICIENCIES;

Lack of food, pale small leaves, Mulch with an animal manure based compost and blood and bone. Sheep manure pellets, Bio Boost or Break Through are very good also.
Lack of Iron, light green leaves fading to pale yellow or white. Veins remain green. Apply mulch and Sulphate of Iron.
Zinc, new leaves small and narrow, growing close together. Spray foliage with Matrix Reloaded and apply Ocean Solids to the drip line.
Magnesium, older leaves yellow from outer edge and yellow area between the main veins on younger leaves. Spray foliage with Matrix Reloaded and sprinkle Fruit and Flower Power under tree to the drip line.
GENERAL;

Citrus trees are pruned only in summer by removing total branches from within the frame work of the tree to open the tree up and allow for better air circulation. Do not trim off the ends of branches as this causes further branching and a denser tree.
Citrus trees are mulched in spring. Beware of mulches in winter that prevent wet soil drying out and causing roots rots. During flowering and fruiting periods apply Fruit and Flower Power once a month. This will create fruit with great flavour and ample juice.
WINTER TIME

Lemon trees can be grown throughout New Zealand in home gardens, but in some areas, which are more exposed than others, some little tricks are needed.
Most home gardeners know about protecting young citrus trees from air frosts with a tent of clear plastic or sprays of Vaporgard.
Gardeners can be tricked in winter by lemons and other citrus fruits which grow quite yellow or orange, appearing to be ripe. But usually the white pith is thick; lacking in juice the fruit can be dry. Sheer cold will turn green fruit a bright yellow/orange in some conditions on some soils.
Give the plant more warmth -- because there is some warmth in the low winter sun if it can be trapped -- and the fruit will ripen better.
An almost total plastic enclosure, making a small glasshouse round the trees, is worthwhile if the gardener is serious about ripening fruit in midwinter. At the price of horticultural plastic these days it is not an expensive option either.
But clear plastic on the soil round the tree, out beyond the drip line, will also make a tremendous difference to the growth of the tree.
The clear plastic allows the sun's rays, weak though they be, through to warm up the soil and then traps that heat so that the tree roots get the benefit of it.
Weeds should be eliminated first, before pinning down the plastic. If the gardener prefers organic methods, boiling water will kill surface weed seeds without harming the tree roots if not applied too liberally.

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CITRUS TREES

Citrus trees are valuable plants for anyone’s garden, not only will they supply you with a bounty of fruit every year; they are also an attractive, highly scented tree.
In fact I cannot think of another fruiting plant that has such a delicious perfume when in flower.
Citrus trees are a long term, fruiting tree that you have to have a bit of patience with, for the tree to reach a good size and then you have ample fruit to harvest every year.
We tend to stress the need for ample food and moisture for citrus trees, but often gardeners will say that they have a citrus tree which they never provide these requirements for at all and the tree looks healthy and green, producing ample fruit most of the year.
I have seen such trees and can only assume that their roots have tapped into a good supply of food and moisture, under ground and need in the time being, no help from the gardener.
Maybe it is as a result of not using any citrus, water soluble fertilisers and that the soil life is therefore in abundance, making all the humus and food the tree needs.
Water soluble fertilisers kill the soil life creating the tree’s dependence on these chemical foods for its sustenance. A tree that is thus dependant will often have problems of disease and pests requiring rescue sprays and protection spray programs. It is a fact, we can cause the problems and then pay for it.
Citrus trees hate wet feet and are a killer of them in wet times.
I have seen mature trees that have survived years of life succumbing to root rot in a particularly wet winter or if there has been a change of water run-off, due to alterations on a property.
The ideal planting place for a citrus is in free draining soil where it is very sunny and yet some protection is offered from prevailing winds.
If you have a wet area where you wish to grow a citrus tree then you can do what I have done in the past, plant the tree into plastic rubbish tin that holds about 70 to 100 odd litres.
With a saw drill, drill 50mm holes in the base of the container and on the sides up about 12cm and 25 cm from the base. The number of holes should be 5 in the base (one in the centre and 4 at the cardinal points nearer to the bottom rim) at the 12cm level drill 4 holes which will be in the middle of where the cardinal point holes are at the base.
At the 25 cm level 4 holes that line up to the cardinal base holes.
You dig a hole in the desired spot, deep enough to bury your plastic rubbish tin half into the soil.
The holes you have cut will allow the roots of the tree to grow out into the surrounding soil in time, yet much of the tree’s roots will be above the ground level, inside the container, and these roots will not get too wet at any time. I have 3 citrus thus growing in an area that gets really wet in the winter and they are all doing well after about 9 years in this area.
A big plus for this system is that if you move house you can lift your citrus trees with relative ease and take them with you. The trees will not get as big as ones planted in open ground, which can also be an advantage for smaller sections.
The disadvantage is the trees take a bit longer to produce good size crops.
If using this method fill the container to planting height with a friable compost and top soil mix, (two thirds compost and one third soil mixed well together)
Place sheep manure pellets, blood and bone and a sprinkling of Epsom salts on top of the compost. Place the citrus tree removed from its nursery container on top of this.
If the roots have become a mass, with spiral roots at the base of the nursery container then with a pair of secateurs cut the spirals at the cardinal points about 20mm deep. This allows new roots to develop quicker.
Back fill the sides with the same mix ending up with the base of the trunk about 6cm from the top rim of the container. This makes it easy to water in the summer.
If planting into existing soil dig a deeper and wider hole than needed and use a similar mix of compost and soil to line the hole and back fill.
What food to feed your citrus? I give my established trees a good dose of old chook manure, in the spring and later in summer along with a monthly sprinkle of Fruit and Flower Power. Drenches of MBL and Mycorrcin to the soil occasionally and spray to the foliage of the same.
An annual sprinkle of Rok Solids and Ocean Solids around the root zone for additional elements completes the program.
You can give them sheep manure pellets and Blood and Bone as an alternative to the chook manure, applied spring and autumn.
Cover the products with a layer of good compost then water in with the MBL and Mycorrcin.
A healthy citrus tree should be free of disease problems but if a disease appears give the tree a couple of sprays of Liquid Copper.
Pests can include scale, aphids, white fly and spider mites and a couple of sprays of Neem Tree Oil should fix them.
Mealy bugs also, along with some Neem Tree Granules in the root zone to take out the ones in the soil. Citrus borer are a problem but these can be controlled by soaking some Neem Tree Oil (not diluted) onto a strip of felt and wrapping it around the trunk.
Place some plastic food wrap over the felt and pin it in place with drawing pins.
(It is also a great method for control on rhododendrons and camellias for thrips.)
Sprinkle some Neem Granules over the root zone that will help too in both cases.
Another point with Citrus, if there is any chance of your existing trees getting wet feet, then a couple of sprays of Perkfection in the autumn will help prevent losses.
Lime trees are the most difficult to grow in cooler areas so in these areas grow them in a container above the ground so they can be moved to a sheltered frost free area in winter.
Keep the mix on the dry side in winter.
If you purchase citrus that are supposed to be fairly free of pips then do not plant a lemon tree any where near them as the cross pollination will make your pip free fruit full of pips.
The lemon tree should be on the other side of the house down wind (prevailing winds) from your other citrus trees.
Citrus trees are often grafted onto root stock to make them more resistant to diseases.
All citrus will grow on their own roots without grafting as long as they are in free draining areas.
Citrus will grow from cuttings of soft to semi firm wood in summer. Layering is an easier method for propagation if you have an existing tree.
Pips will germinate and produce seedlings which will bear fruit in years to come. I had an uncle (Jack Franks since passed on) who had a wonderful citrus grove that he had raised from pips.
Citrus trees given the right growing conditions are fairly free of problems and the fruit you can grow from them will be very beneficial to your health. (More next week on citrus)
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STRAWBERRY TIME

May is the traditional month when new seasons strawberry plants become available in New Zealand. The nurseries that grow the plants lift them once the autumn rains have moisten the soil sufficiently, then they are distributed to garden centres.
In seasons when the growing beds remain too dry then the plants are not lifted till later, making for late plantings.
I find that the sooner you can get your new strawberry plants into their new beds the better results you have the first season.
Gardeners with existing beds of strawberries will likely have a number of runners that have rooted in nicely, these can be used for new season plants..
If the existing strawberry bed is not congested with old and new plants; that there is ample room still for all the plants to grow and produce, then you can get away with not lifting the runners or only lifting those that are too close to existing plants.
Strawberries are easy to grow and can be grown in open ground or containers.
In open ground the most practical way is to make a bed with wood surrounds 16 to 20 cm tall and have a hinged frame over the bed that has either plastic bird netting or wire netting over the lid.
The whole frame needs to only sit on the soil so it can be moved if required.
If using tanalised timber for the surround then after cutting to size paint all the wood with a couple of coats of acrylic paint.
Strawberries can be grown in troughs about 16 to 20 wide and as long as required.
Special strawberry planters made from clay or plastic are not very good and your results are likely to be poor. (Thats the types where plants are placed in holes around the container as well as on top.)
Polystyrene boxes with holes in the bottom are also ideal containers for good crops if they have a rooting depth of 15cm or more.
The growing medium should be a good compost such as Daltons or Oderings to which you can add untreated sawdust and a little clean top soil or vermicast. (Worm casts from a worm farm)
A mix of about 75% compost, 20% sawdust and 5% vermicast is good value.
Mix the above in a wheelbarrow then place a layer of the mix 5 cm deep in the base of the trough or container. Now sprinkle a layer of chicken manure, some potash, BioPhos, Rok Solid and Ocean Solids.
If you do not have chicken manure available use sheep manure pellets and blood & bone.
Cover with more compost mix to a depth suitable for planting your new strawberry plants.
A similar process can be applied to a open bed with a frame, though the frame height may need to be taller than previously suggested.
Ensure that the soil at the base of the frame is free of most weeds and then place a layer or two of cardboard over the soil. This will help prevent weeds from coming up in the bed, then fill as suggested.
There are a number of different varieties of strawberry plants available to the home gardener, sometimes the older varieties such as Tioga and Redgaunlet (both are hard to come by now)and the newer varieties such as Chandler, Pajaro and Seascape.
The varieties of strawberries available in New Zealand has been limited in the past when compared to overseas but now some more types are available to the home gardener through the work of a New Zealand nursery under the name of Incredible Edibles.
These include; Strawberry Baby Pink ™ Producing stunning beautiful pink flowers followed by small to medium red fruit with sweet traditional flavour. Large bunches of berries ripening over a long period.
Habit - Compact strong growing strawberry. Size - Give these small to medium plants close spacing.
Pollination - Self-fertile. Unknown if short day, neutral or long day type.

Strawberry Camarosa; Large to very large medium dark red fruit. Firm medium red flesh with excellent flavour. Conical shape.
High resistance to wet weather. Habit - Suitable for Northern and Central districts. Vigorous growth habit.Size - Give these vigorous plants wide spacing.
Pollination - Self-fertile. Short day type - flowers are initiated by short day lengths.
Harvest - Fruit ripen 20-35 days from flowering depending on climate, with light crops in early summer, followed by a main crop in December - January. Yield is very good.

Strawberry Chandler; Small to very large medium red fruit. Firm light red flesh with very good flavour. Conical shape. High resistance to wet weather.
Habit - Suitable for Northern and Central districts. Multi-crowned growth habit.
Size - Give these multi crowned plants medium spacing. Pollination - Self-fertile. Short day type - flowers are initiated by short day lengths. Harvest - Fruit ripen 20-35 days from flowering depending on climate, with light crops in early summer followed by a main crop in December - January. Yield is very good.

Strawberry Sundae ™ Large red fruit with excellent flavour. Firm red flesh in an oval shape. Habit - Suitable for Northern and Central districts. Vigorous growth habit. Size - Give these vigorous plants wide spacing.Pollination - Self-fertile.
Short day type - flowers are initiated by short day lengths. Harvest - Fruit ripen 20-35 days from flowering depending on climate, with light crops in early summer followed by a main crop in December - January. Yield is average.
Strawberry Supreme ™ Very large bright red fruit. Very firm red flesh with excellent flavour. Conical shape. Good resistance to wet weather. Habit - Suitable for Northern and Central districts. Moderately strong growth habit.Size - Give these small to medium sized plants close spacing.
Pollination - Self-fertile. Short day type - flowers are initiated by short day lengths.
Harvest - Fruit ripen 20-35 days from flowering depending on climate, with light crops in early summer followed by a main crop in December - January. Yield is very good.
Strawberry Temptation™ Medium bright red shiny fruit with excellent flavour. Pale firm flesh.
Habit - Compact strong growing strawberry. Tough and resilient in relation to pest and diseases. Size - Give these medium plants close spacing.
Pollination - Self-fertile. Only NZ bred Day Neutral strawberry which means they will set fruit regardless of how long or short the days are making this an ideal fruiter national wide. Will extend the North Island season.
Harvest - Consistent high yields of berries ripening over a long period from October to March.
To enhance your strawberries and increase the crop yields by 200 to 400% drench the bed with Mycorrcin after planting and repeat again in a couple of months time. Then spray the plants with Mycorrcin every two weeks till end of season.
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NEW ZEALAND CRANBERRY

A few years ago I purchased a fruiting plant called ‘New Zealand Cranberry’ and potted it up into a 45 Litre container using compost and animal manures.
The following year the bush rewarded me with a small crop of delicious red berries.
After my NZ cranberry having been in the 45 litre container for a few seasons I recently potted it up into a 100 litre container which was made from a 200 litre plastic drum cut in half.
For those that are interested to know how I pot up fruit trees for great results, here is how;
Ensure that your container has adequate drainage which may mean drilling holes in any container not designed for growing plants such as rubbish tins and drums.
Use a saw drill that is going to make holes about 30mm across. These can either be made in the bottom of the container or on the sides just above the bottom (say about 40mm up) This later drainage means that when watering, there can be a layer of water in the very bottom of the container, which would help in the summer when the water needs are much higher.
You could if you wish at this stage place some stones in the bottom of the container to ensure better drainage and if you live in an area that is wet in the winter, good drainage is important.
I then fill the bottom third up with a purchased compost such as Daltons or Oderings.
Next a layer of animal manure is spread to the depth of about 30mm. Chicken manure is best as its weed free but any other manures would be fine.
If you do not have access to animal manure then spread sheep manure pellets plus blood & bone over the base compost. Sprinkle a little more compost to just cover the manure and then sprinkle a scoop of Ocean Solids and a scoop or two of Rok Solid and about a teaspoon of BioPhos.
If you have either gypsum or dolomite then sprinkle about a tablespoon of either or both.
Now cover this with more compost till you reach the right level for potting up your specimen tree.
The height of the base of the tree should be about 50mm lower than the rim of the container leaving this area as a trough for easy watering.
Backfill the container with more of the same compost.
If you are using a larger container such as 100 litres (half a drum) then you can plant seedlings of lettuce, spinach or silverbeet around the edge of the container between the sides and where the root ball of the transplanted tree is.
I usually grow a few vegetable plants in my large fruit tree containers.
Then when back filling I would leave an area of about 10cm below the top of the transplanted tree around the rim and then place a layer of chicken manure or similar in this area before finishing off with the compost, then into this area, seedlings can be planted.
With or without planting seedlings around the rim I finish off with a sprinkling of Neem Tree Granules and Bio Boost pellets (also called Break Through) and about quarter a teaspoon of OrganiBOR.
Watered in with a solution of Magic Botanic Liquid and you have given your new plantings the best start to live in their new container.
Back to my New Zealand Cranberry which is actually not a cranberry at all but the name it goes by in New Zealand. It is a Chilean Guava or Myrtus ugni (Ugni molinae) which is part of the same family as Feijoa and Guavas - Myrtacean.
The real Cranberry is a vaccinium and is part of the same family as blueberries - Ericacean.
The bush or you could call it a small tree is only about a metre tall with a similar spread making it a perfect container specimen. (they can get up to 3 metres but it is unusual)
Chilean Guava is an upright bush growing to about 1 metre tall and in autumn is covered in small aromatic red berries. The birds do not bother with them which is a great plus with any fruiting plant.
The Chilean Guava was named after Juan Ignacio Molina (1737-1829). It has been known by botanists and gardeners since 1844.
Indigenous to Chile and Bolivia, it bears fragrant, purplish red, berry-like fruit. These are edible and are eaten raw or made into jams and preserves. The plentiful small, bell-shaped flowers are pink or white with prominent stamens, which are carried in the leaf axils.
The berries have a delicious flavour and are aromatic, with a taste like strawberry. The fruit is about 15mm in diameter. Its leaves can be a substitute for tea and the seeds, if roasted, are a coffee substitute.
The Chilean Guava can be grown as a low hedge or potted up in a nice tub as a feature plant. They are tolerant of some trimming. It has small, shiny, dark-green leaves which are tinged with red when young.
Best in a cool climate and a moist soil and they need plenty of water in the summer period, although once established, they will be more tolerate to dryness.
You can purchase this evergreen fruit tree from your garden centre or if you have one or access to the tree or fruit, grow your own.
Growing seed: soak overnight, and then sow in a good potting mix.
Plant out individual seedlings into pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least the first winter. In spring, or early summer, plant them out into a permanent position after the last frost.
Cuttings can also be grown. Pot them up in autumn and keep them under cover, planting them out in spring. The plant can also be propagated by layering.
Like its relation the Feijoa it has little or no disease and pest problems so another big plus for this excellent fruit tree.
I really like the idea of propagating this tree to grow as a hedge and all you would need to do would be to raise a number of seedlings, pot them on till a nice size for planting out and then plant them about 30 to 50cm apart down a row or around the edge of a mature garden as a break.
The foliage and flowers are attractive plus you would have berries to eat.
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NEW ROSES, NEW SEASON

It will not be too long before the new season’s roses become available in your local garden centres.
So how do you go about selecting your new rose? Well, outside of making your choice on the bases of flower type, colour or fragrance, the main thing to look for is a rose with four strong canes growing outwards at the cardinal points.
If you can't find that, the next best thing is one with three strong canes growing at well-separated points from the centre.
But, rest assured, all is not entirely lost if roses with either one or two strong canes are the only ones available.
Given a season or two of good care, and with a little selective pruning, you can bring these roses back to the potential enjoyed by those which had four good canes to start with.
Another thing to check before making your purchase is that your rose has a reasonable-sized root system. Again, you're more likely to find this in a garden centre than in a supermarket or chain store rose, where root-pruning is more likely to have been done in order to get the plants to fit into the display sleeves.

Keep this saying in mind: "You pay your money, and get exactly what you pay for".
If you buy bare-rooted roses, you heel them into the ground as soon as you get them home.
If you can't do that immediately, place them into a bucket of water for a few hours, and then heel them in. "Heeling in" means making a hole in the ground and putting all the bare-rooted roses together in this hole, then covering their roots with moist soil.
They can sit like this for a few weeks if need be, as long as the soil is kept moist.
When your new roses are in containers, or in planter bags, simply put them somewhere handy where you will remember to water them. It is vital to keep the planting mix moist.
When you plant out your new roses, remember to plant them far enough apart to allow you to work on them easily when they are mature plants.
It should also be in a very sunny position, as roses will always do poorly in shaded or semi-shaded situations. Ideally, avoid planting in an area where water tends to sit for extended periods during the wet season.
If you really want to plant there, make raised beds.
Now, whether you have heavy clay soil or light sandy soil, the following planting procedure can be used. Dig a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as you need, then take half of the soil you have removed and mix it (about half and half) with a good animal manure-based compost.
Line the bottom of the hole with this, bringing the level right up to where you want to plant the rose. In heavier soils, it is best to plant the rose slightly higher than the surrounding soil level, so that it does not remain wet around the crown.
In light, free-draining soils, plant the rose a little deeper than the surrounding soil, so the rose is in a bit of a hollow. This makes for easier watering, and any rain will flow into the hollow, thereby keeping the soil moist.
If you're putting your new roses into containers, plant so that the base of the rose's trunk is an inch or two lower than the rim, for the same reason.
Your ideal container mix for roses should be compost, with about 20% top soil mixed in. It's a complete waste of time using potting mix, as it dries out too quickly and is more expensive.
The next thing to do is to sprinkle the following mixture into the bottom of the area you have created for planting - one tablespoon of Rok Solid, a handful of sheep manure pellets, perhaps a handful of blood and bone, a tablespoon or two of dolomite or gypsum, and a level teaspoon of Ocean Solids.
Then sprinkle over this a little more of the planting mix - just enough to cover the products. Now, sit your bare-rooted rose on the top of this, and carefully back-fill the hole, adding a handful of the mixture at a time.
Once you've covered the roots, you can add more of the soil mix to bring the level up to the height the rose was in its original container.
This is probably just above the top of the roots.
Then gently firm down the mixture, while ensuring that the rose is positioned so that it is coming straight out of the ground, and not at an angle.
You aren't planting a fence post, so there's no need to tramp down the soil and damage the roots. If you do need to put in a stake - as is the case with standard roses - these should be hammered into the ground before you even start putting any mixture into the freshly-dug hole.
You also need to ensure that the stake is on the prevailing wind side of the hole, so that the rose will be blown away from the stake, and not right into it.
There are a range of suitable stretch-type ties which can be used to secure the rose to the stake.
After you have planted your new roses, water them in with MBL.
You can prune your rose about a month after planting - perhaps in the middle or towards the end of winter. Do this before the rose starts to shoot.
Simply cut the strong canes back to two to four out-going buds.
There's no need to remove any weak canes at this point; the roses were half-pruned by the nursery before they were lifted, and were sprayed then with Lime Sulphur.
Spray your pruning cuts with Liquid Copper before moving onto the next rose. It is also sensible to spray the blades of your secateurs with the same product, or with methylated spirits, between roses to make sure you don't transfer any diseases from one plant to the other.
It is very important to keep the soil moist during the first year that the new rose is in the ground. After that, it doesn't matter quite as much.
The more foliage your new rose generates during that first year, the stronger your root system will be.
So don't cut flowers for indoor vases during this crucial first year.
Dead-head the flowers by all means, without removing any leaves. Once that first year is over, you can treat the plant as you would your older, more established roses.
The shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures of autumn herald in a time when your roses will start to ready themselves for winter. As is the case with other deciduous plants, roses absorb the last of the goodness out of their leaves before the latter turn yellow and speckled.
This is all a perfectly normal part of nature's cycle, and the change brings with it a host of nature's cleaners - diseases - which get to work on converting the spent leaves to organic matter. It's quite pointless to try and fight against this process, but you can take steps to reduce the chance of these diseases carrying over to affect the next season's roses.
May is a good time to cut your bush and standard roses back to about half their amount of growth.
It is worth remembering, however, to cut the roses back only on a warmer day when there is less moisture around.
Problems such as silver leaf disease favour cool moist weather to do their airborne worst on a rose.
An easy gauge on how much to cut goes as follows - a bush about a metre tall should be cut to about half a metre, and any dead wood and spindly canes should be removed at the same time.
Always remove the cut material and clean up the area around the rose before moving on to the next one.
Then spray the remaining canes with a solution of Lime Sulphur, and if the soil is clear of other plants, spray the soil as well.
Lime Sulphur burns off any foliage that is still on the roses, and at the same time burns out any disease spores and insect pests planning to overwinter on your bush.
But beware! Lime Sulphur can stain walls and the like, so if there is the remotest chance that the spray will drift to more than just your rose bushes, drape an old sheet over whatever you don't want to get stained.
Once that's behind you, your roses will be ready for their real pruning, which takes place somewhere in July or August.
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LAWN PESTS

There are 4 insect pests that can damage your lawns, grass grubs, black beetle grubs, porina caterpillars and root nematodes.
Birds will often give you a clue to the presents of three of the above by digging up patches of lawn to expose the grubs or caterpillars for a nice feed. The birds can do a lot of damage as they forge and help remove your problem.
You can also lift sections of your lawn to observe what is under the soil eating at the roots of your grasses. If a number of grubs are found in a square foot then it is worth while to apply a suitable control.
You are likely, after checking several areas of your lawn, to find that certain areas contain the biggest populations and thus reduce the need for treating the whole lawn.
Areas which have been a problem in the past and areas where there is light shining at night such as street lights, security lights or light from un-curtained windows, are places where the largest populations of grubs are likely to be found.
Root nematodes are very small and often the home gardener will not be aware of them in a lawn area. The nematodes suck on the roots of the grasses reducing the luster of the grass otherwise not causing the damage and death of grasses that the other 3 pests can do.
You may only come to realise that you had root nematodes a few weeks after applying a control, when you see a greater vigour in your lawn.
The black beetle grubs are generally only found in the North Island and the further north you are the greater the problem.
The adult beetle starts off as a rich chestnut colour, but soon after changes to a glossy black. It is about 15 mm long, with the male usually slightly smaller than the female.
The eggs are usually found singly; they are about 2 mm long and ovoid, swelling to an almost spherical shape before hatching. The larvae which are similar to a grass grub larvae, but larger than that of the grass grub, reaching about 2.5 cm when fully grown.
The head is light brown, and the body greyish or creamy white except for the hind end which appears black.
The damage done in lawns by black beetle is very similar as damage by grass grub, severe infestations of either grub causes the lawn to brown off, and can be rolled back like a mat owing to the complete destruction of the root system by the larvae.
The tubers of potatoes and kumaras are bored into by the black beetle larvae, and the aerial parts are destroyed below ground level by the adult beetles. Black beetle outbreaks are worse with higher than average spring and summer temperatures.
Black beetle has only one generation per year, but it is quite common to find life stages out of phase with the main generation so that all life stages may be found in the soil at any time of the year.
The usual cycle is for adult females to lay 7-10 eggs in the soil from late September, most egg laying occurring from late October to late December. Larvae develop through three instars over the summer and pupate in February-March.
New adults begin to emerge from late February and feed actively for a few months.
Adults overwinter in the soil, emerging in spring to start feeding again and to lay eggs.
Porina caterpillars live in a burrow in the soil and emerge in the early evening to feed on the base of the grasses and other young plants.
It is not uncommon after planting out young seedlings to find that they have been chewed through near the base leaving the tops to wither on the ground. You may notice holes in the soil which are the entrance to their borrows.
There is a very simple treatment for porina and that is to mow your lawn and apply Neem Tree Oil as a spray or through a Lawn Boy at the rate of 15mls per litre of warm water applied late in the day.
You are trying to get the oil solution to the base of the grasses where the caterpillars are going to feed.
That evening when they chew on some Neem coated foliage they will stop eating forever and starve to death over the next few days.
Unfortunately this surface treatment will not effect grubs and nematodes feasting on the roots. A greater drench of the oil would be needed to get it down into the soil and a stronger solution would be needed.
You could try say 50 mils per litre applied to moist soil through a Lawn Boy or watering can then lightly water the area to force the oil down deeper. A repeat a day or so later with another light watering would likely take the oil deeper still.
Another non-chemical control comes from Australia called Professor Macs 3 in 1 for Lawns.
It is a combination of eucalyptus and tea tree oils with a organic plant food and wetting agent.
It comes in a 2 litre container which you snap on the hose; turn on the hose to full pressure and when in place lift the little stopper on the container and the water passing through the applicator sucks up the contents at a ratio of 1:25. The two litres will treat 100 square metres of lawn.
When the container is empty you refill it with water and do the same over the area to force the oils down into the lower root zone. Not harmful to worms as they will go down deeper.
Effective up to about 6 weeks of control dependant on rainfall or watering.
The treatment will clean up all the lawn pests.
The above treatments are safe in regards to children playing on the treated lawn and likewise pets and wild life.
Chemical treatments are not safe and if used, the treated areas should be no go areas for children and pets till such time as the residue toxicity has dissipated.
The best and most toxic chemical treatment for the home gardener goes under the names, Lawn Pest Control or Pyrifos.
It is a granular chemical that is applied at 2 grams per square metre through a Scotts spreader and then watered down. The 500 gram pack treats 250 square metres which makes it good value for the price.
If you don't mind using a chemical and you do not have children or pets to worry about then it is a option for you, otherwise stay with the non harmful controls as previously mentioned.
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CALCIUM & MINERALS

Calcium is the fuel that feeds the microbes in our soils, allowing their numbers to increase in the billions, when soil conditions are congenial. (Moisture, temperature, decaying matter, etc)
Calcium keeps the soil alkaline, which is the most common state for all plant life except for the species which have adapted to acidic conditions.
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth most abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust.
Calcium is also the fifth most abundant dissolved ion in seawater by both molarity and mass, after sodium, chloride, magnesium, and sulfate.
Calcium is essential for living organisms, particularly in cell physiology, where movement of the calcium ion Ca2+ into and out of the cytoplasm functions as a signal for many cellular processes.
As a major material used in mineralization of bones and shells, calcium is the most abundant metal by mass in many animals.
Calcium is available to the home gardener in a number of forms, garden lime, hydrated lime, dolomite, gypsum, crushed egg or sea shells and bone flour.
The importance of calcium and its influence in the gardens cannot be under estimated as I have learnt over the years of gardening.
Every now and then a gardener will approach me with a problem that basically is; the garden shows little vigour, plants don't grow well as they used too, even though I feed them and tend them well.
I ask a simple question when did you last lime the garden? The answer is invariably, ‘not for years’.
Thus they are told to lime the soil with a quick acting soft lime and a few months later they contact me to say it worked.
Garden Limes sold come in two forms, powdered lime from limestone which is a hard, gritty lime that can take up to 10 years to break down and become available to the soil life and plants.
Then there is soft lime that comes from either sea shell deposits found in the hills or chalk which is a type of limestone in a powdered form; these limes when placed between moist fingers and rubbed has a soft, smooth texture and becomes a slurry quickly.
This makes it quickly available to plants and soil life soon after it has been broadcast.
Garden lime increases the alkalinity of the soil and should not be used near acid loving plants.
It is vital to spread it over decomposing organic matter such as mulches of cut green crops and into compost bins. A sprinkling now and then into your worm farm is a great advantage especially if you place citrus peelings into the bin.
Calcium hydroxide, traditionally called slaked lime, hydrated lime, slack lime, or pickling lime, is a chemical compound with the chemical formula Ca(OH)2.
It is a colourless crystal or white powder, and is obtained when calcium oxide (called lime or quicklime) is mixed, or "slaked" with water.
It can also be precipitated by mixing an aqueous solution of calcium chloride and an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide.
It is also a fast acting lime with a burning effect.
Used in aiding the decomposing of bodies and other organic materials. Great in compost bins. If used on the garden there should be a reasonable rest period before seeds or seedlings are planted out.
Dolomite is a naturally occurring material containing 39% magnesium carbonate (of which 11% is elemental magnesium) and 57% calcium carbonate (of which 24% is elemental calcium). It is sourced from Golden Bay in the Nelson region and is ground to a yellow-brown powder.
Primarily used for dairy farming as both a magnesium source and liming source. It is also used in some horticultural situations where magnesium and calcium inputs are required.
Dolomite is often used as a source of magnesium, as the availability of the magnesium is increased, relative to Magnesium Oxide, by its finely ground nature. It is also pH neutral so can be used anywhere.
Gypsum (calcium sulphate di-hydrate) is an abundant natural mineral. It originates from the drying out of ancient seas and is quarried (or mined if deep) in many parts of the world. Gypsum does not occur in New Zealand. Winstone imports our gypsum from Australia.
Gypsum enjoys a growing application in agriculture and horticulture. It is used as a 'clean green' soil conditioner and also as a fertiliser. Gypsum has an advantage over certain other minerals, being pH neutral.
Gypsum is particularly useful for treating heavy (clay) soils where it is used to improve the soil's texture, drainage and aeration. Gypsum also has applications in the remediation of soil that has been damaged through compaction (heavy stock, machinery), in the recovery of sub-soils exposed by earth movement (contouring, slippage) and in soils affected by salinity (estuarial berms, dairy effluent).
Gypsum is an important natural source of calcium and a number of other elements all of which are of great benefit to our soils and plants. Below is the chemical analysis of Gypsum:

NB: Quantities are stated in ppm unless otherwise specified: Sulphur 18% :
Calcium 23.26%
Aluminium 300
: Antimony < 4 :
Arsenic < 1.0 :
Cadmium < 0.2 :
Chlorine 1315 :
Copper 93.8 :
Fluoride 100 :
Iron 80 :
Lead < 10.0 :
Magnesium 93.8 :
Mercury < 0.05 :
Phosphate < 19 :
Potassium 50 :
Selenium < 0.5 :
Silicon 800 :
Sodium 820 :
Tin < 4 :
Zinc 5 .

I favour the mixing of the three products together, soft garden lime, gypsum and dolomite in equal amounts and sprinkling over empty garden beds prior to planting out and the lightly raking to work into the soil.
Light side dressings can be applied over existing planted beds and lawns and then watered in. This can be done as often as every 3 months.
In areas where acid loving plants are, just use the gypsum and dolomite, which includes where potatoes and tomatoes are to be grown.
For a fuller spectrum of minerals and elements use Rok Solid 6 monthly, (or at planting time) Ocean Solids once a year. Then two to four weekly sprays of Magic Botanic Liquid and Mycorrcin combined.
Avoid chemical fertilisers and chlorinated tap water.
Do this and you will be amazed how great your gardens will become with really healthy plants and lot of your garden problems will be reduced or disappear.
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FROSTS AND WEEDS

The first frosts are likely to strike at any time in frost prone areas. Some of you may have already had a frost or two so far.
There are a few things you can do to offset damage to frost sensitive plants and assist cropping plants to keep on going a bit longer for better returns.
First of all you can spray sensitive plants with Vaporgard which is very simple to use; mix 15 mls per litre of warm water and then spray over plants for a good coverage. Vaporgard is organic and it provides a long lasting (2-3 months, longer in winter) film over the foliage which protects down to 3 degrees C.
New growth requires further applications but as there is very little growth through winter, this is not needed till the spring.
Note; for the full protection that Vaporgard can give against frost and chill damage takes about 3 days to come into effect.
Putting on frost cloth and taking it off is a chore and more often or not, one either forgets or you get caught out. Vaporgard overcomes these problems and becomes an all winter, first line of defense against the chills.
In areas where you have harder frosts than 3 you will still need the extra protection such as the traditional frost cloth (Good quality frost cloth protects down to 5), combine the two together and you will have increased protection. Note, several frosts in a row will result in damage still.
You can further harden up plants by sprinkling potash over the area where the roots of plants are.
This can be combined with magnesium to keep foliage green through the winter.
The two are found together in the product, Fruit and Flower Power.
Weeds taken care of now, before they reseed, will reduce problems in the coming spring.
Though I am not a fan of chemical weed killers sometimes they are the quick and easy way to control the more difficult weeds.
A few gardeners recently have complained about suckers coming up over their gardens after a tree has been felled.
Some trees are really bad about suckering and the roots will send up saplings to keep themselves alive.
The first answer to the problem in prevention is to ring bark a tree first, that you intend to fell.
This allows both the top and the roots to die and once that has happened then you can cut down the tree.
It does not always work and if suckers start to appear from the old root system then my suggestion is to mix Roundup and Woodyweed killer together with Raingard added and paint this onto every sucker that appears. It may take sometime but in the end you should win.
Oxalis is a bulb that throws up a set of leaves, gains energy from the sun and produces hundreds of bulblets or baby bulbs. If you take a heaped tablespoon of baking soda and add it to a litre of warm water, stir to dissolve, then add one mil of Raingard, you have made a potent dehydrator of oxalis foliage which does not harm other types of plants. If you spray this formula over the oxalis foliage on a sunny day when the ground is on the dry side the leaves of the oxalis will shrivel and die.
It has not killed the bulb which will then produce another set of leaves. As soon as these appear you either apply the same solution or cut them off at ground level. If done quickly enough at the emergence of the new leaves the bulb has not gained energy but has weakened instead.
Again it will try to produce leaves which should be quickly removed. At some point of time the bulb does not have any more energy left to produce foliage and it rots in the soil. Goodbye oxalis.
There is a further aspect to the oxalis problem and that is all the baby bulbs attached to the now dead parent, if you disturb the soil you will bring these babies nearer to the surface where they will also produce leaves to start the cycle over again. What you do instead is cover the soil with a layer of compost and plant any new seedlings into this layer. This action further buries your oxalis problem.
Do not disturb the soil and when you flowers or vegetables are finished or harvested, just cut them off at ground level and cover the area with more compost. Simple and effective.
Wandering jew. Go to a grocery wholesaler such as Toops and buy a 25 kilo bag of table salt, which will cost you between $10 to $15.00. Broadcast the salt over the area where the wandering jew is growing, its cheap, so throw it on. You will find that the weed dies off leaving bare ground.
Some new emergence will then occur and you spot treat these with a handful of salt.
Later rake the area to remove the stubble and then you can lime the area and apply Magic Botanic Liquid to bring the soil back for planting up in a preferred plant.
If you have other plants growing in the area they will likely die also but well established trees and shrubs should not be unduly affected. Now $15.00 worth of salt goes a long way and is cheaper than a little bottle of chemical weedkiller for $30 which does not go far.
If you have pavers and weeds grow in the cracks just sprinkle some of your salt.
Another one is sulphate of ammonia which also burns out weeds. I have used this on low weeds growing in a gravel drive. Sprinkled the sulphate of ammonia over them and they brown off and die..
Ideally you should lightly water the weeds about an hour prior to applying the sulphate of ammonia so there is a little moisture to start the burning action. The advantage of sulphate of ammonia is a short residue period, unlike table salt which is much longer.
In your kitchen you already have a couple of neat, environmently friendly weed killers, vinegar and cooking oil. These can be sprayed over the foliage of weeds on a sunny day when the ground is on the dry side to burn off the weeds. Add dish washing soap to the oil so it mixes with the water.
Dependant on the type of weed you can dilute either of the two products with water to make them go further and be more economical. You need to experiment a bit to find out what dilution rate works best for each type of weed.
Once again buying either a cheap cooking oil or vinegar in bulk, works out very economically on the purse and you are doing far less damage to the environment or your own personal health.
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MORE ON FRUIT

After last weeks article on fruit a reader sent me aa email with further information about how good fruit is for you, this is especially so when you grow your own fruiting plants because you have the control on what minerals and chemicals are used or not used. I would like to share the information with you.

The email read:

We all think eating fruits means just buying or growing fruits, cutting it and just popping it into our mouths. It's not as easy as you think. It's important to know how and when to eat.
What is the correct way of eating fruits?
IT MEANS NOT EATING FRUITS AFTER YOUR MEALS! * FRUITS SHOULD BE EATEN ON AN EMPTY STOMACH.

If you eat fruit like that, it will play a major role to detoxify your system, supplying you with a great deal of energy for weight loss and other life activities.
FRUIT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FOOD.
Let's say you eat two slices of bread and then a slice of fruit.
The slice of fruit is ready to go straight through the stomach into the intestines, but it is prevented from doing so.
In the meantime the whole meal rots and ferments and turns to acid.
The minute the fruit comes into contact with the food in the stomach and digestive juices, the entire mass of food begins to spoil.....
So please eat your fruits on an empty stomach or before your meals!

You have heard people complaining - every time I eat watermelon I burp, when I eat durian my stomach bloats up, (For those that do not know Durian: The durian is the fruit of several tree species belonging to the genus Durio and the Malvaceae family.
Widely known and revered in southeast Asia as the "king of fruits", the durian is distinctive for its large size, unique odour, and formidable thorn-covered husk. The fruit can grow as large as 30 centimetres (12 in) long and 15 centimetres (6 in) in diameter, and it typically weighs one to three kilograms (2 to 7 lb).
Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the colour of its husk green to brown, and its flesh pale yellow to red, depending on the species. End)

When I eat a banana I feel like running to the toilet etc - actually all this will not arise if you eat the fruit on an empty stomach. The fruit mixes with the putrefying other food and produces gas and hence you will bloat!
Graying hair, balding, nervous outburst, and dark circles under the eyes all these will NOT happen if you take fruits on an empty stomach.
There is no such thing as some fruits, like orange and lemon are acidic, because all fruits become alkaline in our body, according to Dr. Herbert Shelton who did research on this matter.
If you have mastered the correct way of eating fruits, you have the Secret of beauty, longevity, health, energy, happiness and normal weight.
When you need to drink fruit juice - drink only fresh fruit juice, NOT from the cans.
Don't even drink juice that has been heated up.
Don't eat cooked fruits because you don't get the nutrients at all.
You only get to taste. Cooking destroys all the vitamins.
But eating a whole fruit is better than drinking the juice.
If you should drink the juice, drink it mouthful by mouthful slowly, because you must let it mix with your saliva before swallowing it.
You can go on a 3-day fruit fast to cleanse your body.
Just eat fruits and drink fruit juice throughout the 3 days and you will be surprised when your friends tell you how radiant you look!

The following are good reasons for growing your own fruit where possible;

KIWIFRUIT: Tiny but mighty. This is a good source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin E & fiber. Its vitamin C content is twice that of an orange.
APPLE: An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Although an apple has a low vitamin C content, it has antioxidants & flavonoids which enhances the activity of vitamin C thereby helping to lower the risks of colon cancer, heart attack & stroke.
STRAWBERRY: Protective Fruit. Strawberries have the highest total antioxidant power among major fruits & protect the body from cancer-causing, blood vessel-clogging free radicals.
ORANGE : Sweetest medicine. Taking 2-4 oranges a day may help keep colds away, lower cholesterol, prevent & dissolve kidney stones as well as lessens the risk of colon cancer.
WATERMELON: Coolest thirst quencher.. Composed of 92% water, it is also packed with a giant dose of glutathione, which helps boost our immune system.
They are also a key source of lycopene - the cancer fighting oxidant. Other nutrients found in watermelon are vitamin C & Potassium.
GUAVA & PAPAYA: Top awards for vitamin C. They are the clear winners for their high vitamin C content. Guava is also rich in fiber, which helps prevent constipation. Papaya is rich in carotene; this is good for your eyes.
Drinking Cold water after a meal = Cancer! Can u believe this??
For those who like to drink cold water, this article is applicable to you. It is nice to have a cup of cold drink after a meal. However, the cold water will solidify the oily stuff that you have just consumed.
It will slow down the digestion. Once this 'sludge' reacts with the acid, it will break down and be absorbed by the intestine faster than the solid food.
It will line the intestine. Very soon, this will turn into fats and lead to cancer.. It is best to drink hot soup or warm water after a meal.
A serious note about heart attacks HEART ATTACK PROCEDURE': (THIS IS NOT A JOKE!) Women should know that not every heart attack symptom is going to be the left arm hurting.
Be aware of intense pain in the jaw line.. You may never have the first chest pain during the course of a heart attack .
Nausea and intense sweating are also common symptoms..
Sixty percent of people who have a heart attack while they are asleep do not wake up.
Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep.
Let's be careful and be aware. The more we know the better chance we could survive...
A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this mail sends it to 10 people, you can be sure that we'll save at least one life. END

Fruit can easily be grown in either open ground or in containers.
As from above information it is well worth the effort and the savings you can have, over many years, makes great sense as fruit is fairly expensive to buy and unless grown organically you do not know how much goodness or harmful chemicals are in your purchases.
This autumn/winter plant at least one more fruiting plant/tree.
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FRUIT FOR YOU

Home grown fruit, grown naturally (without chemicals) with all the minerals and elements added to the growing medium, have very high nutritional values plus health giving properties.
When you combine that with your own naturally grown vegetables and these two form a good part of your food chain then your health will be better for it.
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is one thing for good health, another is in how and when you consume the produce.
Raw fruit (any type) should always be eaten when your stomach is empty as raw fruit spends little time in the stomach when it is empty. In fact between 20 to 30 minutes after eating raw fruit it has passed through to your intestines where all the powerful goodness is absorbed into your body.
I am currently reading a book called, Fit For Life by Harvey & Marilyn Diamond and if you are interested in health including really loosing excess weight then I highly recommend you to obtain and read a copy.
One of the prime aspects of the book is, Its not what we eat, its how and when we eat it.
For instance if you are serious about loosing weight all you need to do for a start is to only eat raw fruit or drink pure fruit juices/vegetable juices in the morning from awaking till noon.
Raw fruit has a very high water content and it takes very little energy to absorb all the goodness.
This natural high water content flushes out toxins (fat) from your body giving you more energy for the day ahead than you would normally have. Try this for 10 days and see what difference it makes to you.
I emphasise RAW because cooked, canned or otherwise processed fruit has to spend hours in the stomach and requires a lot of energy to break it down.
We are creatures of habit (unfortunately) and having a cooked breakfast, or cereals, toast etc require a lot of energy to digest and are likely to add body weight instead of reducing it.
As this article is about gardening I cant go into a lot of detail about what to eat and when other than to say you should do some research yourself such as putting into Google the words, Food Combinations.
Fruit and vegetables grown naturally in your own back yard, picked fresh and eaten raw (where possible) are the best medicine your body will ever receive.
Alternative to this is organically grown fruit and vegetables that you can purchase and as a final back stop conventionally (chemically) grown produce from your Supermarket of Vegetable shop.
The later will have chemicals your own produce will not have, unless you are silly enough to use them.
It is difficult to grow a lot of fruit for all year round consumption, unless you have a lot of land, but even so, with a small amount of land you can grow a few fruit trees, fruiting bushes and plants.
For instance most of you grow tomatoes and they are a fruit just like tree grown fruit. So are cucumbers.
Both tomatoes and cucumbers are best eaten raw for optimum value.
Even if you have no gardening area to grow any fruiting plants, you can still grow some using containers of a suitable size for that type.
There are fruiting plants that will give you produce in the first season such as strawberries, melons, tomatoes and cucumbers. Normally produce from berry bushes, tamarillos and feijoa Unique in the first or second season. Other fruits including citrus usually are 3 or more years before a reasonable harvest can be expected. Which means the sooner you start the sooner you will have a reasonable supply of your own fruit, which will only become better as the years roll on.
I have grown several different types of fruit trees in 100 litre containers (200 litre drums cut in half) and they produce a nice crop for me each year once they reach a more mature state.
The mix I use in containers is purchased compost with chicken manure added along with a little vermicast (worm casts from my worm farm, a few handfuls of clean top soil is the alternative)
I also add to this Bio Boost, OrganiBOR, Ocean Solids and Rok Solid for additional food and all the possible minerals and elements. You can also use any other animal manures, sheep pellets, blood & bone etc.
Each year you can add or water in any other natural foods.
There are several advantages in container grown fruiting plants; you can move them around to suit seasons and personal choice; you can take them with you if you shift house; they do not become too big as would the same, if grown in open ground; drainage problems are solved in wet situations; there is little waste; pests and diseases are easier to control.
Disadvantages are; having to root prune every 2-3 years; giving them adequate water in the summer months and they are heavy to move about in a large container.
Strawberries are easy to grow in a trough using the same mix as suggest above with the addition of some untreated saw dust and two weekly sprays with Mycorrcin.
Raspberries and similar berries are best grown in a 45 to 50 litre container which is a great advantage as they are confined to the container and cant run through a garden causing a problem.
There are a number of thorn-less types available which is even better for handling.
Evergreen fruiting plants are available most of the year round, deciduous become available in winter and it is a good idea to place an order now with your local garden centre as many varieties sell out quickly.
The ideal health solution would be a 70 to 80% diet of your own home grown fruit and vegetables, eaten raw or juiced. If you cant grow all that is required then supplement with purchased produce.
A note on watering at this time of the year with weather patterns changing and cooling, do not water plants till they do need a drink. Give them a small drink and don't drown them. When you have a nice hot sunny day then give the plants a good drink.
Over watering in cool and cold weather it a certain way to lose plants.

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SPRING BULBS

A couple of weeks ago a Palmerston North gardener sent me a letter with a photograph of a yellow trumpet daffodil that had two flowers on the same stem. It had flowered in the spring of 2009.
The gardener had found this unusual and was asking me why it had occurred.
There are freaks in nature but after consulting with a local bulb growing nursery it was suggested that the variety was most likely one called Golden Perfection and this daffodil often flowered with two or more flowers on the same stem.
Other varieties may do similar on the odd occasion but likely only once in a blue moon.
By the way this month is a blue moon month having two full moons during the same calendar month.
March is also the month when most if not the full range of spring bulbs come available in garden centres.
It is the time to pick out what new spring bulbs you wish to plant but it is not necessary the time to plant some types into open ground yet as the soil temperatures during the day are too high and certain bulbs may cook. (Tulips for instance)
The following information is supplied by NZ Bulbs and they are available through most garden centres. Plus at (www.nzbulbs.co.nz)
What Bulbs are the best for dry areas?
The following bulbs are ideal for dry areas such as under hedges and along the north wall of the house. As long as they receive enough moisture in winter and early spring for growth to commence, they will flower well year after year.
Alliums: Members of the onion family, most alliums prefer a warm sunny position with good drainage. The most common varieties sold in New Zealand are Moly, a cluster flowered medium yellow on 30 cm stems; and Sphaerocephalon, a deep purple/mauve ball on 60 cm stems. The flowers of Sphaerocephalon are great for dried arrangements.
Babiana: Short growing, babiana are available in mixed blue and purple shades. Although very small bulbs, they need to be planted relatively deep, 12 cm or more, an adaptation to prevent baboons digging them up to eat in their native Africa. Their name is derived from their common name “Baboon flowers”.
Brodiaea : Early summer flowering, brodiaea are a great touch of colour when most bulbs have finished flowering. Queen Fabiola is the most common variety sold, it is a strong growing strain of a light violet purple colour. Brodiaea need a good dry spell in summer to flower successfully the following year.
Ixia: Spectacular in mid to late spring with bright yellow, gold, pink and red shades on tall 40 60 cm stems. Normally available as mixed colours and occasionally as individual colours, the most common being ixia viridiflora, a stunning blue-green.
Sparaxis: Superb for naturalising as they increase rapidly by bulb division as well as by self-seeding.
Available in mixed shades of white, pink, rose, orange and red. Growing 20 30 cm tall, the flowers resemble freesias in shape. Mid spring flowering.
Tritonia: Predominantly available as mixed colours in white, orange and pink shades, tritonia will produce masses of flowers in late spring. They have a very similar flower shape to sparaxis and freesias, although they flower much later, filling the gap between spring and summer flowering bulbs. The flowers are carried on 20 cm stems and they last reasonably well in the vase.
What bulbs are the best for shade and damp?
The following are the best for shady areas such as the south side of the house, shady banks, or beneath trees and shrubs. A little direct sunshine each day is a bonus, but not essential. They all tolerate damp conditions, but prefer not to be continually wet.
Specialised wet loving plants are necessary for the really wet places such as near ponds and streams.
Bluebells: Naturally occurring in forested areas, bluebells are happiest in dappled shade and moist soil.
They will naturalise well in these conditions, increasing through bulb division and seed production to establish large drifts. They are available in blue, pink and white shades.
Chionodoxa : Translating from the Latin as “Glory of the snow”, chionodoxa flower in early spring through the last of the melting snow in their native Europe. They need a cool shady site that gets a touch of sunshine in spring and summer.
They are not suitable for warmer areas. Two main varieties are available Luciliae, a medium blue with a white centre; and Sardensis, a deep gentian blue.
Crocus : One of the earliest spring flowers; crocuses produce three or four flowers from each corm planted, giving a great display from few corms. Two main types are available species crocuses and hybrid crocuses. Both are available in white, cream and shades of blue and yellow. The species crocuses are earlier to flower and are slightly smaller.
Erythronium: Commonly known as “Dogs tooth violets” as the corms are similar to the shape of a dog’s tooth.
The foliage is very attractive in its own right. Available in white (White Beauty) and yellow (Tuolumnense), it naturalises readily beneath trees and shrubs in the rich soil and shade.
Fritillaria: Amongst the most unusual bulbs available, fritillaria come in a wide variety of forms, from the 30 cm mahogany F. camschatcensis to the stunning orange 1 m tall Crown Imperial.
They all like a cold, shady position, with some afternoon sun. Crown Imperials are not suitable for warmer districts. Stunning flowers though they are, fritillaria are also distinguished by having rather pungent odours.
Leucojum : A spring classic with the white bells, dotted green at the petal tips, Leucojum are commonly known as snowflakes. Often confused with snowdrops, snowflakes have large daffodil sized bulbs and will grow well in all areas of New Zealand, unlike snowdrops, which are confined to colder areas. Damp conditions and semi shade are tolerated well.
Ideal for naturalising beneath deciduous trees where they can get winter sun and spring and summer shade.
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GARDENING AND HEALTH

On Sunday the 21st of February on the TV channel, Rialto, at 4pm was a film/documentary called Real View: Food Matters. The program was a discussion on the importance of Nutrition & Natural Therapies for the prevention and reversing of chronic illness.
The program was recorded and I watched it a couple of days later with great interest.
The program presented numerous, logical aspects about our bodies and how our food chain can heal or create numerous diseases from occurring to us.
The ancient statement ‘Let Food be thy Medicine and Medicine be thy Food’ (Hippocrates c.460 BC- 377 BC an ancient Greek physician and is often known as 'the father of medicine'.) was used and backed up by informative commentators.
One of the statements made was that if 51% of our diet was natural (they used the word organic) and consumed raw then most if not all chronic illness would be prevented or reversed.
Now that is a very interesting point and we often see or hear many examples of this.
For instance I heard that Japanese people living on a diet that is traditional in their country, have some of the lowest instances of chronic illness in the world. If these same people move to a western country and change to the western diet then various illness begin to transpire over time. If they then move back to Japan and resume their traditional diet the complaints normally disappear.
I can also relate to the aspect that 60 odd years ago, growing up in New Zealand we did not have the massive amount of chronic illness that we have today. We had a far better diet, most families grew their own vegetables and fruit and ran their own chickens for eggs and meat.
There was not the chemical fertilisers used on crops and farms as we have today and far less use of chemical controls for pests and diseases.
But over the last 60 years that has all changed and the amount of chemicals in our food chain has increased out of sight. So has the health problems.
The pharmaceutical industry has grown enormously and they make billions every year out of our suffering. They are always announcing possible cure breakthroughs which do not eventuate and the common thought is they only want to provide ongoing relief which creates a continuous cash flow.
What is the point of curing a condition, there is little money in it.
According to the program if we opted for a natural diet of highly nutritious vegetables and fruit then we would just about put the pharmaceutical companies out of business.
They also pointed out that the fruit and vegetables that are not grown in a organic manner have many chemical poisons and sadly lack in good nutrition, which compounds our health problems.
One of the presenters stated that our soils need 55 minerals and elements (I say 114) and that the 3 common elements in chemical fertilisers (NPK) are so inadequate, for growing healthy plants with good nutritional values. The better chemical fertilisers can have up to 16 elements but that is still far short of 55 or 114.
When we look at the chemicasl in processed foods and add that to the list of chemicals from agriculture it is no wonder that our health is on the decline.
Another interesting point that I came across recently is the high instance of dog attacks.
It has been found in America that certain additives to dog foods causes aggression in dogs over a period of time. I researched this through the Internet and found; high protein levels in the dog food provide an over-abundance of amino acids, essentially crowding out the amino acid tryptophan.
Tryptophan is essential for seratonin production, which has a calming and stabilizing effect on canine behavior.
Other ingredients in dog food are suspected of causing aggressive behavior, but have not been extensively studied. Some experts suspect soy protein (a common dry pet food ingredient) containing plant estrogens may upset hormonal balances, thus causing hyperactivity and aggression.
Some research has focused on the long-term effects of synthetic food colorants and preservatives on the physical and mental well-being of dogs.
Feeding a high-quality dog food with few additives and natural preservatives alleviates some of these concerns.
So like the chemicals that effect children's behaviour, do we have the same happening to our dogs, changing our beloved docile dog into a killing machine? Very likely.
Back to us and our health; we know or are told that raw is best, even a moderate amount of heat in cooking kills enzymes and destroys nutritional values.
Juicing vegetables in a common juicer where the blades heat up, causes a loss of 40% or more of the goodness.
The slow juicers that squeeze the juice out of your carrots will give you 100% of the goodness available. Wheat grass grown with all the minerals and elements possible, added to the growing medium, then the grass squeezed through a manual juicer and drunk, will make a remarkable difference to your health.
Growing your own vegetables and fruit with all the minerals and elements added to the soil will provide you with the best medicine known to man.
There is a problem though, which is; the cell structure of plant leaves are some of the toughest cells on the planet and our jaws are not capable of breaking the cells open to obtain the maximum benefits.
Think of a cow in a paddock chewing its cud, it is getting the maximum out of the food.
We can do that, instead we can use a high speed blender (up to 42,000 RPM) to smash open the cell structure.
The common low speed blenders which do about 2500 RPM are no where as good but far better than nothing.
In my last book, Wallys Gardening and Health I describe how anyone with a few buckets, some purchased compost and 3 mineral rich products, can simply grow a few leafy type vegetables and herbs with the highest possible nutritional values, then with the add of a high speed blender convert them to a liquid (Green Smoothie) which should assist with any health aspect as a preventive, or to reverse a condition.
Your body is a remarkable machine (to use a term) give it the means, and it will heal itself.
It is so simple and basic, so why don't we do it? I do and my doctor hates me.
If you have a green smoothie once or twice a day, eat naturally grown fruit raw, drink plenty of filtered water, do a bit of exercise and you will be a much healthier person.
It would not only save the country millions of dollars each year, it would save you a lot of money and suffering too. You do not need a big garden just a few buckets or a raised garden or two.
Its a lot of fun and the rewards will assist in you having a long and healthy life.
Make your garden centre your new chemist!
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LOOKING AT LAWNS

Autumn is the ideal time to sow new lawns or patch up existing ones.
When the autumn rains begin to moisten up the soil is the perfect time to sow lawn seed.
With a little additional watering you can keep the soil moist allowing seeds to germinate and establish. Then the new grasses have the rest of autumn, winter and spring to establish before they hit a hot dry summer.
Likewise perennials, shrubs and trees are best planted in the autumn.
Now is the time to prepare for your sowings of lawn seed.
The first aspect is to get rid of any weeds in the lawn if you are not going to rotary hoe the lawn and start a fresh. There are a number of lawn weed killers on the market and if the lawn weeds are grass weeds then a product such as Roundup can either be selectively sprayed or wiped over the leaves with a paint brush.
If you opt to sow a completely new lawn then kill off the existing one with Roundup and Woody Weed Killer combined, prior to rotary hoeing. (Add Raingard to the spray for better results)
Once the area is turned over and leveled off you keep the soil moist to germinate any weed seeds.
As soon as there is a show of weeds, spray them or hoe them out. Repeat this as many times as possible to eliminate as many weeds as possible.
If you do not do this you will have a weedy new lawn later on.
Drainage is important and if the area is prone to ponding then Nova flow pipes should be placed through the area and run off to your storm water system.
If you have a heavy or light soil you may wish to import top soil for your new lawn. This will be full of weeds so once spread out, follow the above to kill the weeds.
If after killing off the weeds in an existing lawn you may wish to thicken up the grasses by over sowing the lawn with fresh seeds.
This action is done in the autumn when the soil is moist by hiring a scarifier which will rip out the thatch in the lawn and make grooves which are ideal for broadcasting the new seed into.
After sowing the seed lightly water to settle the seed onto the soil and then roll the lawn to press the seed into the moist soil.
If you repeat this action each autumn (for a few seasons) you will obtain a lovely lawn that is dense in nice grasses making it very difficult for weeds to establish.
If your lawn has thatch (thats the debris that builds up on the soil surface) you can either scarify the lawn or spray the product called Thatch Busta which can eat up an inch of thatch in a month if kept moist. (not wet) Autumn is the ideal time to do this.
If you desire a good lawn then you must sow top quality lawn seed which is not cheap but well worth it.
Super Strike is a good lawn seed otherwise confer with the companies that supply lawn seed to Green Keepers.
A number of gardeners have contacted me recently with a problem of brown patches in the lawn.
This can be what is called dry spot which means that water or rain sheds off those areas leaving the grass to brown off through lack of moisture. Often the surrounding grasses are lush and green as they are getting all the water.
To fix this problem you need to fill a watering can with warm water and give it a good squirt of dish washing liquid. Lather up the water then spread it over the dry spot, it will help break the surface tension that prevents water penetrating.
Autumn is also a good time to control grass grubs in lawns as they are near the surface and easier to kill.
I always advise people to lift some turf to establish if there are a number of grass grubs in the lawn.
This is best done in areas where past problems have occurred but other test lifts can be applied at different spots on a lawn. You may find that some areas are badly infested where other areas have little or no grubs.
This can also save you a lot of money by only treating the infected areas. The lawn needs to have been moist for a couple of weeks prior to testing as the grubs go deep and dormant in dry conditions.
A safe product to use, if you do not want to use a harmful chemical, is Professor Mac’s 3 in 1 for lawns.
It is a liquid made up of Tea Tree and Eucalyptus oils with a lawn food and wetting agent. The 2 litre container snaps onto the hose for spreading.
Those that prefer a chemical can use the product called, Lawn Pest Control. It is a granule chemical that is spread over the lawn and watered in.
If Porina caterpillars are a pest in your lawn then simply mow the lawn and that evening spray the lawn with Neem Tree Oil. Repeat a couple of weeks later.
I absolutely believe that a nice lawn sets off a nice garden, and that a poor lawn detracts attention from an otherwise lovely garden. It’s a little bit like a beautiful picture, framed with an ugly frame.
Great looking lawns and great looking gardens go hand in glove, so to speak.
Many well-tended gardens entered into competitions have failed to do well simply because of a poor-quality lawn. You might remember viewing some really nice gardens on the 1999 television show presented by Maggie Barry. Some of these gardens were badly let down by messy lawns, patchy with clover and weeds.
Anyone mowing their lawn will notice an instant transformation to their overall landscape. Sadly, the effect lasts just a few days before the lawns start looking scruffy again. Mowing is one of the gardening pleasures of those gardeners growing a great lawn.
Conversely it is one of the biggest bugbears endured by those growing a so-so average lawn, as they use mowing to cut down the weeds. Weeds grow faster than grass, and make a lawn look very unkempt.
The weeds problem is exacerbated by mowing a lawn low or scalping it, as it is called. This process opens up spaces in which weeds are more able to germinate and grow. Some lawn mowing contractors are prone to mowing in this manner, as it means they will have to come back more frequently to do the job, increasing their income.
It is possible to have a tremendous looking lawn, but it does take a little bit of time and effort to maintain it to that standard. No more so, however, than the time and effort required to maintain an average to poor quality lawn!
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GARDENING IN FEBRUARY 2010

February is the last month of summer and the time when many pest insects have built up big populations, if you have not been on the ball with your controls. It is very easy to miss a build up and then a lot harder to gain control.
I got caught out recently with my zucchini plants, normally great producers, I started to wonder why they were not preforming as usual. When I went to pick the sole fruit on one plant I noticed aphids had fallen on my hand. A quick look under the leaves revealed thousands of the pests sucking the goodness out of the plants and thus the reason for so few mature fruit.
The answer was to mix up Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum added into a trigger sprayer and then to fold back every leaf and spray the underside. Within a couple of days the vigor came back to the plants but another couple of sprays will be needed to keep the populations from building up again.
Mites, thrips, leaf hoppers, aphids, psyllids, whitefly and caterpillars can soon get out of control and reduce crop production which is something we do not need.
I sometimes get a call from gardeners that say even though they are spraying regularly with Neem Oil and Pyrethrum they cannot get on top of a pest insect population.
There is a simple reason for this as the pests are re-infesting from other plants near by and sometimes from a neighbouring property where the people are not spraying.
If this is the case then you need to check all your own plants in the area including weeds for the pests and spray those plants as well.
If coming from next door then you need to get permission from the neighbours to spray their gardens as well. If not you will have an on going fight till winter.
I struck an interesting problem this week from a gardener that told me that gum was oozing out of the trunk of a citrus tree. I had not come across this problem previously so did a bit of research and found that the condition is called Phytophthora gummosis.
An early symptom of Phytophthora gummosis is sap oozing from small cracks in the infected bark, giving the tree a bleeding appearance. The gumming may be washed off during heavy rain. The bark stays firm, dries, and eventually cracks and sloughs off.
Lesions spread around the circumference of the trunk, slowly girdling the tree. Decline may occur rapidly within a year, especially under conditions favorable for disease development, or may occur over several years.
Phytophthora fungi are present in almost all citrus orchards. Under moist conditions, the fungi produce large numbers of motile zoospores, which are splashed onto the tree trunks.
The Phytophthora species causing gummosis develop rapidly under moist, cool conditions. Hot summer weather slows disease spread and helps drying and healing of the lesions.
Secondary infections often occur through lesions created by Phytophthora.
These infections kill and discolor the wood, in contrast to Phytophthora infections, which do not discolor wood.
The answer is to par away diseased bark (without ring barking the trunk) and then paint straight Liquid Copper over the clean areas.
Fruit on trees and plants such as tomatoes become very heavy as they reach maturity placing a lot of stress on the branches and trunks.
On my beef steak tomatoes I have noted that the branches bearing the large fruit are bending under the weight and need further ties for support. If this is not done at some point the branches snap off causing losses. Ties onto bamboo stakes can also slip down the stake adding to the problem.
Very large fruit weighing up from 250 grams to near a kilo are a heavy item for a plant and maybe the support of old bras maybe needed with the fruit cupped nicely into the cup of the bra, which is secured to a strong stake. On bushy plants a number of stakes maybe needed.
It is also a good idea to take the odd lateral off a tomato plant at this time and strike it as a cutting in a small pot. These can be progressively potted up into bigger containers and provide ripe tomatoes late in the season as winter comes on. Been planted into containers which can be moved later to sheltered spots to protect from winds and frosts.
Several weeks ago when my tomatoes started ripening I had several attacks from birds pecking at the ripening fruit. A few lengths of Bird Repeller Ribbon fixed to the stakes soon put an end to the bird damage.
If you are growing pumpkins it pays to check the plants every day or so and pollinate the female flowers by taking a male flower with pollen on the stamin, off the vine, remove the petals (which are editable) and wipe some of the pollen onto each female flower’s centre. (The female flowers are the ones with the baby fruit behind the petals) Do this and you will be sure of a good crop.
If you want larger pumpkins then set 2 or 3 fruit per plant and then pinch out the leader (growing tip) this is then likely to cause side branching and these should also be removed. If you don't want extra big pumpkins then don't worry about pinching out, just feed the plant well with either liquid manures or Cucumber Booster.
All flowering and fruiting plants should be given a dose of potash every few weeks to enhance the flowering and fruiting. This also applies to tomatoes for better flavour if you are not already using my Secret Tomato food which has ample potash in it.
Gardens areas where crops are now been harvested should be given a good dose of animal manure and winter crops of seedlings planted. If you do not want to plant up vegetables for winter then after manuring, plant green crops of any of the following, mustard, lupin, oats, wheat or peas.
I like peas as you can get a nice crop of peas as well as having the nitrogen rich foliage and roots for conditioning the soil for next season.
Another aspect is if you are repotting any plants into larger containers always plunge the plant into a tub of water prior to potting up. If you don't and the original mix is too dry then water may not penetrate into the old mix and the plant may suffer and in some cases die.
I learnt this lesson years ago in one of my nurseries where I lost lots of miniature roses as their pots were too dry and the damp mix I was using to repot did not allow the old mix to take up water.
Always learning. Seedlings in punnets and cell packs should also be plunged into a tub or bucket of water before planting out. It reduces root damage and gives them a better start after planting out.
Young weeds that have sprouted in gardens should be lightly hoed on a sunny day to be left on the soil to wither in the sun.
They are great food for the soil food web.
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IMPROVING YOUR CROPS AND GARDENS

Many gardeners are always looking for ways to improve their gardens whether it be vegetables, roses, ornamentals or fruit trees.
Their goal is to have very healthy plants, wonderful roses, great lawns and excellent crops.
There are a number of things that you can do to improve your gardens by improving your soils.
The optimum is to have a soil that is teeming with microbes which make up what we call the soil food web.
This creates humus from the trillions of their dead bodies and gives the plants the ultimate growing medium.
A good indication of how good your garden soils are, is by the number of earthworms present in a square foot of soil. If there are none you have a problem, if there are about 25 that is good and if there are about 100 that is excellent.
Earthworms will only be found if the soil is kept moist. That is moist not soaking wet.
The same applies to your soil food web, it needs ample moisture to keep growing and thriving.
When the soil becomes too dry or too wet then activity stops.
Chemicals kill the soil food web and badly affect your worm populations.
This not only includes chemical (man made) fertilisers but also chemical sprays including chemical weed killers and chlorinated water from your tap.
It is not difficult to overcome all of the above by just not using them on your gardens, especially where your food crops and preferred plants such as roses are growing.
If you are in an area where chlorinated water is in your tap then you need to place a 10 micron carbon bonded filter onto your hose line to remove the chemical. This will remove the chlorine from about 16000 litres of water before it needs to be replaced.
If you have silty (sediment) water then your carbon filter will block up quickly and to overcome this problem you place a paper filter in line, prior to the carbon filter. (The paper filter can be cleaned and reused for many years with care)
Calcium is the fuel that microbes need so dependant on what plants are growing in an area, soft garden lime is applied (not to acid loving plants) and dolomite and gypsum are also applied.
Dolomite is calcium and magnesium where gypsum is calcium and sulphur. These are two more valuable and needed elements for good gardens. Calcium can also be supplied by applying crushed egg shells and sea shells.
For a natural food one can not better animal manures from chickens, horses, cattle, sheep and pigs.
These can be applied directly to bare soil in a solid form or made into liquid manures.
Potash and BioPhos should also be applied every few months or more frequently as needed with the potash.
Lack of some elements can cause other elements not to be taken up by plants, even though there are ample of them in the growing medium. One of these is Boron which most of our soils are deficient in.
The product OrganiBOR is a natural slow release boron which is only applied about once every 3 years.
It can make a big difference to gardens as a number of gardeners have noticed after applying it.
Especially good for fruit trees and vegetable gardens.
Microbes play a very important role in the garden and are vital to the health of plants.
The plants supply carbohydrates (sugars) at their roots for the microbes and in turn the microbes supply the plant with nutrients, moisture, plus small organic compounds such as growth regulators which form a primary defence against pathogens. (Diseases)
Take away the microbial activity by watering with chlorinated water and your plants suffer and are more susceptible to diseases (black spot, rust, rots etc)
With the use of Mycorrcin we can build up the microbe populations in the soil and on the plants.
Mycorrcin is primary a food for the soil life and secondly for the plants.
Used at 1 mil per litre of non-chlorinated water as a soil drench say every 3 months and at 5mils per litre of non chlorinated water as a spray every 2 weeks.
The results can be seen for yourself as an improvement in your gardens.
This is especially so with strawberries where your crops will increase by between 200 to 400%
Minerals and elements are very important for the health and production of your gardens.
There are 114 known natural minerals and elements and if they are all available in the soil your plants grow in, then the plants themselves can choose which ones they require.
For instance I am told that a tomato plant requires 56 different elements.
At the very best you would get about 16 minerals in a man made fertiliser.
To obtain all the minerals, we need to look to the ocean, rocks and prehistoric mineral resources.
(In prehistoric times the earth was mineral rich)
Ocean Solids brings us the minerals from the seas. Rok Solid the minerals from various rocks along with natural silica which is also vital to the soil life.
Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) which is minerals from prehistoric times.
Ocean Solids is applied sparingly to gardens once a year.
Rok Solid twice a year and placed into the planting hole when planting out. Great help in root development.
MBL is a liquid and is used at 20 mils per litre as a soil drench and at 10 mils per litre as a foliage spray.
It can be added to your Mycorrcin drench and sprays and normally applied at the same frequency.
If you like to use man made fertilisers to give plants a boost then a little applied to the root zone and watered in with Mycorrcin and MBL will reduce the damage done by the fertilisers.
This reminds me back in the days (many years ago) when I had plant nurseries and we used to regularly spray out the glasshouses with all sorts of chemical sprays to control pests and disease.
Within a day or so of spraying the plants, they would look poorly and it would take a week or more for the plants to rid the chemicals out of themselves.
To help overcome this problem and get them back growing again we would add a good liquid plant food to the chemical sprays.
Taking care of the soil is a major key to having great gardens.

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HOUSE PLANT and CONTAINER CARE

Looking after house plants and container plants during the summer can be a daily activity.
This is particularly so when it comes to the potted plant’s water needs.
Outdoors container grown plants, once their roots fill the pot, will likely need watering every day and on some days, twice. Hanging baskets of plants outdoors are heavy users of water as they lose more moisture than containers sitting on the ground.
On the other hand indoor potted plants will likely need watering once or twice a week and in some cases even more frequently.
Outdoor plants in containers where a potting mix has been used as the growing medium, dry out quicker than ones that you have used compost as the growing medium.
This still applies if wetting agents have been applied to the potting mix.
Potting mix these days is mostly bark fines with slow release fertilisers added along with some lime and maybe other additives. Some potting mixes may still be peat based or have peat moss added.
Potting mixes are ideal for indoor plants but in my opinion hopeless for outdoor use.
The problem occurs when the potting mix drys out it creates a surface tension which does not allow water to penetrate. Thus when you water the water tends to go to the sides of the pot and then run out the drainage holes, on the way through the plant is able to gain some moisture.
The water is not able to penetrate into much of the mix, leaving areas of the mix and roots bone dry.
The result of this is that in next to no time the plant is drooping through lack of moisture and often parts of the plant’s foliage will wither and die.
When a friable purchased compost is used as the growing medium it retains water far better and will accept water much more readily than a pile of bark fines called potting mix or shrub & tub.
Even using a good compost mix on a hot day a plant may need two waterings dependant on the size of the plant and the size of the container.
There is also a danger of over watering when using compost in a larger container with a young plant that is still establishing. Care must be taken.
When you notice that the water you apply to a container runs out the drainage holes quickly and the plant’s mix soon drys out again, then you can do one of two things to throughly moisten all the mix.
The first and the best method is to fill a large tub or bath with water and plunge the containers into the water and watch them bubbly away. The more bubbles the more dry areas. When it stops bubbling then the mix is wet right through, lift and allow excess water to drain out and then place back in the original spot. Next time you come to water the water will stay in the mix.
(Note punnets of seedlings should also be plunged before separating them for planting out) After a period of time, especially if the mix has dried out too much you will need to plunge again.
Hanging baskets outdoors will fare better with a weekly plunge.
Being summer it is not a bad idea to treat all your indoor plants in the same manner, just do not do it in direct sunlight. Afterwards leave them in a shaded area to drain. They will likely only need one treatment if you are consistent with supplying their moisture needs.
If you have very large containers that cannot be plunged then fill a bucket with warm water and add a good squirt of dish washing liquid to it. Agitate the water to make it soapy right through then slowly pour the contents over the top of the mix ensuring that all surface areas are covered.
The soapy water breaks the surface tension and allows water to penetrate.
This same method can be used on gardens and lawns for dry spots. (Bare spots of dried grass on lawns with a ring of healthy grasses around is often ‘Dry Spot’.)
You can also reduce your potted plants water needs by spraying Vaporgard over and under the foliage.
One spray will last for about 3 months on foliage sprayed. It will also help reduce disease and insect damage.
Most disease damage to container plants is caused by overwatering. You need to be aware as we head into autumn that the need to water is reduced. Do not carry on watering on the same frequency as you had to do in summer.
Powdery mildew can also be a problem as the weather cools and sprays of baking soda and Raingard will protect foliage from this problem.
Insects can get indoors and attack pot plants. Sometimes insect pests will get inside when bringing cut flowers indoors.
Always check the flowers you bring inside for pests.
The following applies to containers both inside and out.
One of the worst pests would be mealy bugs. These inhabit the root zone and then move up into the foliage. If you lift your plants out of their containers and notice white cotton wool like wisps on the inside of the container and on the outside of the growing medium then that plant has mealybugs.
Neem Tree Granules can be scattered over the top of the mix to assist in control.
A solution of Neem Tree Oil at 25mils per litre of warm water can be watered over the granules when the medium is moist to strengthen the amount of Neem getting into the roots.
Indoors you may not like the sight or smell of the granules breaking down so you can cover them with additional mix or just water the Neem Oil in, without the granules.
Any of the pests in the foliage and stems should be sprayed with Neem Tree Oil at 15mil per litre of warm water. Do this outside in a shaded area such as in a garage, then leave to dry before returning to their spot.
The same spray treatment can be applied to any other insect pests such as scale, thrips, aphids etc.
If the plant has mites then a spray of Liquid Sulphur will deal to them. Do not use in conjunction with Neem Oil or if Neem Oil is present on the plant.
(Thats Liquid Sulphur NOT Lime Sulphur a totally different spray that burns)
Plants that have filled their containers can either be re-potted into larger pots or alternatively lifted out of the pot and the bottom third of roots sawn off. Place fresh mix back into the base of the pot to fill the third that has been removed and pop the plant back in.
With shrubs and fruiting plants this should be done every two years.
The plant will come away nicely after treatment and make new growth.
You can mix some Rok Solid into the bottom third of new mix to great advantage.
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GARDENING BITS AND PIECES

It is Saturday in Palmerston North, and while I am writing this, nice showers are wetting the soil and plants are growing in response.
It has been a poor spring and summer so far for gardening, but hopefully conditions will improve in February, if they don't then its going to be a bad season overall.
Poor seasons are accepted as part of the life of a seasoned gardener but for the newer gardeners it is a set back they don't need. In gardening you take the good with the bad and garden on, without losing heart.
Recently I watch the gardening program on the Prime channel which would be of assistance to newer gardeners.
There was some good points raised and been the critic I am there were aspects that I did not agree with.
I had not seen any previous episodes but obviously this young family had converted some lawn area into a few raised gardens.
The first thing that struck me was that the raised gardens were too wide, which meant that you had to walk on them to sow, plant and harvest.
This is wrong as a raised garden should not be walked on, or suitable paths be placed through, so that you can tend plants without walking on the growing areas.
Tramping down your growing areas means you would need to dig and cultivate the compacted areas; a raised garden should be a no dig garden.
Walking across lawns and into the raised gardens would likely bring grass seeds in to become weed seeds and more work keeping the weeds under control. As the garden heights were not great, I prefer a raised garden to be about half a metre tall or more to prevent weed seeds blowing into the area.
Then another thing occurred to me, in the middle of a couple of the large raised gardens, climbing frames had been placed for beans and cucumbers.
Around these frames various vegetables were planted, many of which were too close anyway (good spacing had not been allowed) and I wonder how, when the plants reached maturity, one would be able to get to the frames to harvest without trampling other produce.
Carrot seedlings purchased were transplanted which normally is silly but in this case the carrots were called rolly pollies or something similar and they only grow as a round ball. Not having the length of root normal carrots have, they are suitable for transplanting.
The problem solving part talked about the stress plants suffer when transplanted from open punnets.
The expert never gave a solution to this but said you should never water plants in full sun.
I expect that the same person has never heard of sun showers.
Mind you rain on a sunny day is very much less likely to cause any burning of foliage when you compare it to chlorinated water from the tap.
How do you get around the problem of transplanting seedlings to reduce the stress of having their roots damaged?
Firstly you can spray the seedlings with Vaporgard a day or so before transplanting.
This greatly reduces moisture loss through the foliage and takes the stress off their root system and foliage.
Secondly you plunge the whole punnet into a tub of water and watch it bubble away.
This ensures that the mix is soaking wet and roots will come away from the mix with far less damage.
Finally you never plant out while the sun is on the garden, wait till later in the day when its cooler (and a better time to garden) then do your transplanting.
As for watering during a sunny day, if you have a filter on your tap to remove the chlorine then you can water but to be on the safe side, hand water the soil not the plants which is easy to do with a wand type attachment. The wand should have a fine rose which puts out soft water spray.
On a hot day if your soil has dried and plants are in stress it is better to water the soil then than wait for further damage to the plants. Plants in stress are more prone to disease and insect attack than plants not in stress. Its the same with us, stress can cause health problems.
When a plant goes into stress though insufficient moisture it stops growing and you lose valuable sun hours.
Then there is a situation such as with tomatoes and some other crops that the soil can be moist but the foliage is transpiring so fast that the root system cant keep up with the moisture loss.
If this is the case you simply spray the foliage under and over with Vaporgard which can reduce the water needs by 30 to 40%.
The film of Vaporgard lasts on the foliage sprayed for about 3 months.
It will also reduce the possibility of disease or insect attack and your plants will gather more energy from the sun growing faster and better.
Talking about tomatoes it has been a bad season this year so far, with a lot of fungus attacks because of the weather patterns.
Fruit is not ripening as quickly as they should and often as they begin to ripen the birds attack.
I started picking the fruit as they changed colour to finish ripening indoors, placing them in a bowl with an apple to speed up the process. I also have strung a few lengths of Bird Repeller Ribbon from the stakes to deter the birds.
Between the two aspects I now have a nice supply of ripe tomatoes.
During a recent conversation with a fellow gardener I was told that you should never store carrots near apples as it makes the carrots bitter. Learn something new every day.
Stem rot in tomatoes has also been another complaint from gardeners and yes I have lost a couple of plants to this disease also.
One plant that showed the signs of stem rot the other week, with its collapsing foliage, on examination I noticed that it had two branches about a foot long above the rot area and these branches had dimples which are the beginnings of aerial roots.
So I broke them off the dying plant and plunged them into the growing medium to the depth of about 4 inches.
Both these are now standing up nicely as their roots are keeping the foliage in adequate moisture.
I might have lost the main plant but now have two establishing plants to replace.
The same can be done with laterals to give you more tomato plants.
Weather permitting these cutting grown tomato plants will fruit well into autumn and early winter.
The water need for tomatoes on a daily bases varies dependant on temperature, soil type and time of the year.
On a hot day the mature plant may use 1 to 3 litres of water. If there is insufficient moisture at the time the fruit is setting then blossom end rot will occur.
This happens more so in container grown plants than in open ground.
With containers you may need to give them a drink twice a day or alternatively spray the foliage with Vaporgard to reduce moisture loss.

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FRIENDS OR FOES?

Gardens can be blessed or cursed by our four legged friends and the winged ones, dependant on your own attitude to the pleasure or harm that they may contribute.
We are talking about dogs, cats, hedgehogs, chickens and other bird life wild or in captivity.
Dogs are mankind's best friend, loyal, loving and devoted to a caring family. They are best owned in pairs of either opposite or same sex and should ideally live indoors with their two legged family especially during the night.
Pairs should be obtained ideally as puppies and then they will learn to be part of the whole family including any other pets. Obtaining adult dogs can be a bit more disruptive dependant on their previous experiences.
The problems they may give a gardener are digging and toileting.
The first rule is to never work in your gardens while a puppy or dog is around, unless they are high, raised gardens or containers.
They may watch you planting, making holes and then later on, with all good intentions, repeat the process for you. Unfortunately they usually make holes where you do not want them to do so.
Dogs should be given meaty bones regularly for their enjoyment and health of their teeth and jaws.
Dogs have a habit of burying excess bones for later consumption so always remove any bones after they have chewed on them, it will save you another problem of dug up gardens.
Likely the worst problem is urine and the damage it will do to plants or lawns.
The first dog pee of the morning is one of the best natural weedkillers you could wish for, that is of course if they directed it to offending weeds rather than onto your row of petunias.
There is always a solution to every problem and so if you make a small bark garden area with a pole or two in the area (for the male dogs), fenced off completely, from the rest of the section for their first toilet of the day.
On arising take them directly to their toilet area and wait till they have done their business.
You may need to put them on a lead to reach the area and once inside remove the lead.
During the day the same area should be open to allow them access.
One of the best breeds of dogs for good behaviour aspects would be Shar Pei and I currently have 4 of them and several now past on over the last 20 odd years.
Cats are also great companions to many but much more independent in their natures than dogs.
I currently feed two feral cats at my back door, both females which I have caught and had spayed to prevent the multitude of kittens they can produce.
They serve me a great purpose, ridding the rat problem that I had experienced in the past and keeping the mice populations at bay.
They also have reduced bird damage to tomatoes and other fruit and yet there are good populations of birds here. (I think they are well enough fed not to hunt for food) They do not harm my chickens either and in fact are a bit scared of them especially the rooster.
I also have a kitten from one of the feral litters which is now an adult girl and spayed also.
I was amazed that she was able to settle in with my four Shar Pei who love to chase anything that runs, in fact she teases them every now and then.
Been originally feral she lives in two manners, indoors loving and sleeping but will spend much time in the wild of the area.
Cats are a problem for many gardeners and often it is the cats from other houses that come to toilet in your freshly worked beds.
There are solutions for this such as having either your own dominate, territorial cat to keep others away or a dog that loves chasing cats to protect the section.
The next alternative is to sprinkle naphthalene flakes around areas where you do not want cats to go.
The flakes are sold by a number of garden centres under the simple name, Cat Repellent.
The smell is the same as moth balls and appear to be about 95% effective in deterring cats.
If used in food crop areas then do not place on the soil as they are a chemical, instead place in lids.
As the flakes evaporate they can sting the cat’s eyes and they do not like the smell. (I think that the cats may believe that there is a monster cat around and the smell is from its toilets so they give the treated area a wide berth.)
In dry areas the flakes will last for sometime before the need to refreshen, in areas that are rained on, more frequent applications will be needed. They also will keep a lot of other vermin away such as rats, mice, moths and cockroaches.
For cats that take no notice of the flakes then try soaking used tea bags in citronella oil and scattering these around.
Hedgehogs are a blessing and you are fortunate if you have a nest nearby, they will hunt out slugs and snails in the evening and solve another pest gardening problem for you.
Put out a dish of milk for them on the odd evening.
They can suffer from mange caused by mites and result in skin problems and loss of guills.
Catch the effected ones and powder them with sulphur or wash then in a diluted solution of Neem Oil.
By the way Neem Oil added to your dog bath water will control fleas.
The same can be used on either cats or dogs by soaking a cloth in Neem Oil and rubbing this over them. Also great for nit control.
Birds are great to have in your gardens as they enhance the atmosphere with their bird song and will assist in the control of garden pests.
The problem arises when fruit are ripening and they start pecking it.
There are several methods that can be employed to save a good amount of fruit for yourselves.
Firstly most fruit as it is starting to ripen can be picked to ripen indoors. This can be assisted to speed up the process by placing an apple or two with the unripened fruit.
Often not as nice as tree ripened but at least you get your share.
Bird netting can be employed to prevent birds getting onto the fruit but with trees this can be difficult to use and remove.
There is a Bird Repeller Ribbon which is highly reflective tape with holograms imprinted and will work as a deterrent for short periods of time while fruit is ripening.
Similarly you can use CD discs strung like wind chimes, whirling in the breeze to keep the fruit safe.
Another method can be spraying the tree with Nitrosol (Liquid Blood & Bone) which can also act as a deterrent.
Its great to have friends in the garden but not so hot when they upset your world.

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WEEDS

A weed can be defined as a plant growing where you do not want it to grow.
It maybe a preferred plant that has seeded or spread to become invasive, or it maybe a non desired plant that has made its home in your gardens.
I spoke to one gardener this week who had been told that horseradish makes a good companion plant so he had planted horseradish in several areas of his garden.
Horseradish spreads by its root system similar to convolvulus, couch and a number of other invasive weeds. This gardener now has a major problem trying to gain control.
Horseradish and mints are best grown in containers where they are secure in the pot. It is also advisable not to have the container in contact with the soil as they can creep out of the drainage holes to take over the area.
We often can cause our weed problems by our garden practices such as mowing our lawns when the grasses are in seed and placing the clippings in a compost bin or mulching onto our gardens.
Seed ridden compost, mulched or dug into gardens will produce a weeding problem for you later.
Recently a few gardeners have contacted me in regards to roses, tomatoes, beans and potatoes either dying or becoming mis-shaped in their new growth. (Feathery or distorted foliage) Some of these had applied green waste compost to their soils and this was why.
Green waste compost is a great idea in recycling garden wastes but what happens at times, is some gardener sprays his lawn with a herbicide to kill the weeds and later when he mows the lawn the clippings are taken to a green recycle unit.
The operators have no idea that the clippings contain an active herbicide which will affect some plants in your garden such as roses, beans, tomatoes and potatoes.
The other cause of the distorted foliage on these plants was due to herbicide spray drift which could have resulted in the same gardener using Roundup or similar otherwise it would be another gardener somewhere in the area.
Often people believe that spraying on a calm day is best when in actual fact it is the worst time.
Minute droplets of spray are lifted by upward air currents and float along in the air in any direction to later fall somewhere.
These could come from a mile away or from next door. When they land on say your tomato plants they cause damage. A good dose will kill the plant, a light dose will cause distortions in the new growth.
There should be a breeze at the time of spraying so you can direct your herbicide onto target plants and away from desired plants.
A simple safe proof way which allows you to spray on a windy day is to make a shield out of a two litre ice cream container by drilling a hole in the middle of the container at the right size to fit over the wand of the sprayer when the nozzle is removed.
Place the end of the wand through the hole and then screw back on the nozzle.
You place the container over the weeds and give it a squirt of weed killer, beware of any dripping onto preferred plants.
This also prevents any upward drift of herbicide to affect your plants or your neighbors . Another safety point is never use a sprayer for any purpose that any herbicide has been used in previously unless it is another herbicide you intend to use.
Some gardeners will not use a chemical herbicide on their sections and I am one of these.
We do weed control by the good old fashion method of hand weeding, have free range chickens in areas to clean up weeds or use salt, vinegar or oils for control.
For instance if you have a waste area or alternatively cobbles or similar, where weeds grow then good doses of salt will keep those areas free of weeds for sometime.
Sprays of vinegar or cooking type oils used on a sunny day when the ground is on the dry side will dehydrate the foliage of the weeds sprayed and in the case of annual weeds, kill them.
Perennial weeds will need further treatments or be pulled out. These sprays will also affect desired plants if you are not careful.
Another method is to use Sulphate of Ammonia which is 21% nitrogen and 23.6% sulphur, if this is sprinkled onto the centre of a weed such as a dandelion, dry and left dry it will burn out the crown.
Chemical herbicides are a quick way of controlling weeds and if you prefer to use them, then that is fine but remember that they are lethal chemicals and can cause you, children, pets and wildlife harm and health concerns.
Full protective clothing should be warn and areas sprayed should have a no entry time for children and pets. This includes the same precautions when using glyphosate brands which includes the most common one, Roundup.
If you put Raingard into any herbicide you are using you will obtain better results.
Sometimes a combination of herbicides will work better for you if spraying different weeds.
A combination of two or more such as say Woodyweed Killer and Roundup. Where Woodyweed Killer will not kill grass weeds, Roundup will but the Roundup may not affect some woody weeds for a absolute kill.
Here are a few more tips using herbicides:
If trying to kill an ivy cut the trunks coming out of the ground, a few inches up and cut again a few more inches off, so you can paint the stumps with a straight solution of Woodyweed Killer or Roundup.
The top foliage will die off in time and the chemicals should kill the root system. Any new shoots should be sprayed as soon as they appear.
Invasive weeds from next door can be sprayed or it the case of convolvulus you can make up a solution of say Woodyweed Killer and Roundup and place them into a container or jar and then take the growing leaders of the weed and put them into the solution. The leaders will take up the solution and it will travel back over to next door wiping out an area of the weed.
Repeat this with every leader and you will solve a problem for sometime.
Gorse can be killed slowly with a heavy dose of garden lime applied to the root zone.
This is a method by which you alter the pH of the soil and thus it can become a hostile environment for some weeds or plants. The other way is to acidify the soil with good doses of sulphate of iron or similar which will control alkaline loving weeds. Beware that areas treated can also harm preferred plants.
There is a golden rule in weed control and that is every plant needs to obtain energy from the sun though their foliage, if you keep removing the foliage as soon as it appears eventually the weed has to fail.
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A NEW YEAR

Welcome back to the New Year and the middle of the summer season.
The gardening year starts in June and finishes a year later in the following May so that puts us about halfway through.
I am writing this in advance, a couple of days before the first of January and the weather at this time is windy here in Palmerston North and still not great after a poor spring.
This break from my normal work has allowed me some time to get stuck into the mess my container plants and raised gardens had become.
I will not use any chemical herbicides to clear the weeds and grasses that grow up out of the gravel in my garden area. Outside of pulling up grasses and suitable weeds for my chickens, the area around the raised gardens and containers had become over grown and a real mess.
My answer to this was to clear the area by hand best as possible and then lay down heavy gauge black plastic sheets over the gravel. This should reduce my weed problem in future and over the plastic, to hold it in place, shingle has been laid.
I even got to put up a lean to glasshouse that I had in storage so I can grow a passion fruit vine and a few other tender plants.
The weather in Palmerston North years ago, used to be ok to grow passion fruit vines outside in a sunny sheltered area as long as you protected them in the winter. Now the lack of constant warm/hot weather in the summer means they often fail outside, after the first season.
I have had a number of gardeners from certain areas report failure in their early crops of potatoes for the season.
The tops grew great with no indication of a problem but when lifted only marble sized potatoes were found. They were not aware of the new pest called the potato/tomato psyllid which releases a toxin while sucking on the stems and leaves of potatoes and tomatoes preventing the spuds or fruit to develop and you end up with small useless fruit or spuds.
The answer is to place Neem Tree Granules into the planting hole (about a tablespoon) at planting time of either crop.
With tomatoes also sprinkle some on the soil in the root zone and repeat about 6-8 weeks later. Do the same with the potatoes after you have finished mounding up.
A spray every so often with Neem Tree Oil for total coverage of the plant will also assist.
I have used this method at the beginning of spring when planting out the early potatoes and they have grown as they should where last season, one later crop was a complete failure.
It is also a good idea to plant a few more tomato plants at this time.
Some garden centres still have plants available but if you cannot find any then take a few laterals off your existing plants and strike them as cuttings in small pots.
To speed up the striking spray the laterals you are going to strike with Vaporgard a day before removing from the parent plant.
These later plants will grow to maturity and produce ripe tomatoes late in the season likely when your originals have finished and at a time when tomatoes become dear to buy.
Another important aspect is to keep feeding your existing plants.
A number of gardeners neglect this once they start to pick ripe fruit and thus they do not get the millage out of their plants as they should.
If birds attack the ripening fruit you can protect them with Bird Ribbon or alternatively pick the fruit as they start to change colour and ripen them off the plant indoors.

Dead head flower plants including your roses which mean simply cutting off the old withering flowers.
This promotes new flowers as the plants want to create seeds and if the old flowers are removed they will not form seed pods and so the plants keep trying.
If rust attack any plants then make up a mild solution of potassium permanganate (Condys Crystals) by placing a few grains into water to make a nice mid lilac/purple colour. Spray this over the effected plants.
For mildew take a couple of heaped tablespoons of baking soda to each litre of warm water, stir and add a mil of Raingard (per litre) and spray this for prevention and control.
A number of gardeners have informed me that by sprinkling Neem Tree Granules on the soil under their roses has greatly assisted in the control of insect pests.
If you are growing brassicas such as cabbage etc then sprinkle the granules onto the soil in their root zone to control white butterfly caterpillars. It works a treat especially if started at planting time with a bit in the planting hole as well as on the soil.
Repeat the soil application about every 6 to 8 weeks.
Likely we will be looking at drought situations in some areas soon, so it is a good time to mulch gardens to conserve moisture.
Hopefully we will also have some good weather and growing conditions over the next few months which means it is a great time to plant up crops for autumn harvest and also start planting vegetables for winter harvests.
I have just put in a swag of silverbeet for autumn and winter harvesting and planted a lot of corn seeds for autumn harvests.
One thing that really annoys me is nurseries that sell through retail outlets punnets of plants that will not transplant well and some which should never be transplanted.
I spotted carrot seedlings in punnets at one place prior to Xmas, which no knowledgeable gardener would ever buy.
I saw a lady putting a punnet of carrot seedlings into her trolley so I went up and had a quiet word with her, saying that she is wasting her time and money. She said had thought that, but why were they selling them? What I said was, for money from people that did not know any better.
There are a whole range of vegetables best grown directly from seed into the spot where they will mature.
This includes root crops such as carrots, parsnips, beetroot etc, then corn, beans and peas the same, direct sow the seeds.
Foliage crops such as brassicas, lettuce, silverbeet, celery, spinach, herbs are good to buy in punnets or pots. Fruiting crops are fine also such as tomatoes, cucumbers, etc but ideally are best if individually in pots rather than massed in a open punnet.
People that are learning about gardening are likely to buy carrot seedlings, plant them out and end up with stubby, small, funny shaped carrots at harvest which are not worth the effort of growing.
All plants will do best if grown from seed in the spot where they will reach maturity.
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SEASONS GREETINGS

I would like to wish all our readers a very Merry Xmas and a Happy Gardening New Year.

It is a very great pleasure to bring you gardening information each week and to hear about your successes and problems.
Your emails and phone calls contribute a lot to these columns and sometimes when stuck for a topic, one of you will contact me with a query and the resulting answers, make for the start of an article.
We are always coming across better ways of gardening, improving the health of the soil and plants, so its never ending.
Maybe thats what life is all about, always learning and experiencing.
So all the best for Xmas and the New Year.
After 25 years of writing these weekly articles I have decided this season to have a couple of weeks off so I will resume the weekly articles early in the new year.

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SOME TIPS FOR CURRENT PROBLEMS

I receive many emails and phone calls from gardeners that have problems in their gardens or with certain plants. These questions change with each of the seasons but re-appear about the same time each year.
I have the view that if one gardener has a specific problem then likely there are 100 or even 1000 more gardeners with the same.
Currently here are some of the problems; Tomatoes not setting fruit? Air movement or vibration are the setters. On a sunny day when flowers are open, tap the plant to cause a slight vibration, which will set those flowers.
Pumpkins, Cucumbers, Zucchini and melons not setting fruit? Bumble bees are the main pollinators of these and you need male and female flowers for it to happen.
The female flowers are found by the small, embryo fruit behind the actual flower.
The centre of the female flower contains the ovule. The male flowers contain the stamen and pollen.
If there are no bees or bumble bees working the flowers then take a male flower (on a warm sunny day) remove the petals without touching the stamen thats covered in pollen.
Then rub the pollen covered stamen over the ovule. Repeat on other female flowers till no pollen left then obtain a another male flower to continue doing rest of the females. If no female flowers can be found, but there are lots of males, don't worry.
The females will appear later when conditions are more favourable for that plant.
If fruit form and go rotten while still immature it means that the pollination process did not happen for that fruit.
Remove such rotting babies to prevent contamination of healthy tissue.
Tomatoes have a black patch at the base of the fruit? Called Blossom End Rot, its a condition that occurs when there was insufficient moisture at the time the fruit was setting. (Pollinated)
Very common in container grown tomato plants when the growing medium becomes too dry.
A maturing/mature tomato plant needs about 2-3 litres of water a day.
The water moves the calcium to the setting fruit.
Not enough water to do this, means no calcium, and the result is blossom end rot.
Keep the plant’s soil or growing medium moist.
A large saucer under the pot filled with water may overcome the problem.
Don't refill the saucer till all the water has been used.
Too much water at the time when the fruit have fully formed and ripening will cause splitting of the fruit.
So don't overwater. Ensure that your tomatoes have sufficient calcium available for their needs by sprinkling Dolomite around near the base of the plants. Ripe fruit with black bottoms are still ok to eat, just cut off the damaged part.
At the end of the season when you have a number of green tomatoes on the plant you can speed up ripening by root pruning. To do this take a spade and press it into the soil to a depth of about 6 to 8 inches, in a circle, out about a foot from the trunk of the plant.
If birds attack green or ripening fruit use Bird Repeller Ribbon to keep them away.
Talking about keeping things away from gardens that do damage and namely cats.
Sprinkle the product called Cat Repellent, it is a commercial strength Naphthalene (like moth balls) in a powder crystal form. Most cats avoid areas where the product is scattered.
The Naphthalene evaporates as it is exposed to the environment and a second or third application maybe needed till the cats stay away for some time.
It will also deter other vermin such as cockroaches and moths indoors and outdoors.
Do not apply directly onto soil in food growing areas, place on lids instead.
Ants will be found in areas outside and on plants?
If noticed on plants, there will likely be aphids or some other sap sucking insect on the plant, secreting honeydew, which the ants are collecting.
By removing the sap suckers will stop the ant activity on the plant. Spray with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum.
To kill nests of ants? A mix of boric acid, borax, sugar, honey and water is by far the best ant bait going.
Borax and boric acid can be found in many garden centres under the name, ‘Granny Min’s Ant Bait’ On the label is the instructions to make it up with sugar, honey and water.
Place the made up bait in lids beside ant trails, keep topping up the lids till no more ants are seen.
Use outdoors as the bait inside only encourages them to visit.
Indoors the best way to keep them out is to use one of the pyrethrin Can Dispensers which are available under trade names such as ‘Robocan’ These cans automatically release a puff of the ingredients out every 7 minutes or so.
Hang one on the wall of the kitchen and it will take care of flies, ants, fleas, cockroaches, mosquitoes etc.
I used one for about a week in my chicken house to kill mites and lice.
You could use one in a conservatory or glass house to rid plants of pests.
As pyrethrin is quickly de-activated by UV only place in a glasshouse over night and remove the next morning.
You can repeat for a few nights in a row to clean up pests. Indoors they can operate 24/7 but not where you have a fish tank as it will also kill your fish if they are exposed to the pyrethrin. Keep tank covered and air tight.
Use the Neem Granules or pellets around plants in glasshouses etc to assist in keeping them pest free. Ideal on tomatoes for whitefly control.
Citrus fruit lack in juice and flavour? All fruit including citrus need an ample supply of potassium and magnesium. This does not mean you apply these and thats it.
A monthly application is required and the two components can be found in perfect balance for plants in the product Fruit and Flower Power.
A monthly amount of 25 grams per square metre is applied to the feeder root zone.
With citrus this is from trunk to drip line.
Can also be used to encourage flowering on any garden plants.
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BIG TOMATOES AND BOLTING

The weather has certainly not been great for gardening this spring and here we are into the first month of summer and still receiving weather as if we were in the first days of spring.
Plants suffer just as we do when temperatures plummet, cold winds and rains wrecking havoc making for a hard time in and out of the garden.
Normally in the spring you can plant out vegetable crops and be fairly well assured that they will grow on nicely and reach maturity.
Spring soils warm and seeds germinate fairly well and then grow on to produce good crops.
This season I found that my early sowings of seeds in raised gardens either failed completely or only resulted in a very poor strike.
Further sowings of seeds in the raised gardens, in the last couple of weeks have resulted in better strikes which is great, but now there will be little in the way of the early harvests which the first sowings should have produced.
A little more alarming is seedlings purchased a couple of months ago of vegetables such as silverbeet, grew well and were looking good but now are starting to bolt or in other words go to seed.
This crop of silverbeet should have kept on producing till next spring if conditions had been more favourable.
Why do non-fruiting plants such as silverbeet, brassicas and root crops like carrots bolt?
The answer is that they have had their lives threatened in some way and the next thing they want to do is reproduce by going to seed.
This is caused by any checks they have had in their growth such as too dry, too wet, up and down temperature fluctuations etc.
For instance there maybe a couple of days when it is sunny and warm giving good growth, then cold rains along with chilling winds halt the growth. Repeat this pattern two or three times and our vegetables say this is not good so we better reproduce.
Fruiting and flowering plants are already in reproductive mode no matter what the weather is like but can be destroyed by rots and cold related diseases.
Once plants bolt they are of no use unless you wish to keep one or two for gathering of seeds for future plantings. Pull them out and start again hoping for better growing conditions.
One aspect is that a lot of insect pests are greatly affected by these weather patterns and that keeps their populations at a lower level for much longer.
Some regions have had better weather and I have received a number of reports of white fly on citrus trees and the seasonal run of aphids and spittle bugs along with grass grub beetles.
White fly can be controlled with sprays of Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum added, used late in the day just before dusk when the adults have settled for the night.
Sprays have to cover the whole of the target plant, under and over the foliage to be successful.
This can be enhanced by sprinkling Neem tree Granules onto the soil in the root zone.
Repeat the above spray every few days and spray the granules on the soil at the same time.
To prevent re-infesting you need to also treat any other plants in the area that maybe hosting the pests also.
The more you can kill now the lessor will be the problems later in the season when the weather hopefully comes right.
Now onto a brighter subject and that is growing tomato plants that can produce really big tomatoes that can weigh 1 to 3 kilos when harvested ripe. These monster tomatoes can be achieved from some varieties of tomato plants which are normally referred to as beefsteak or super beefsteak types.
Searching seed catalogs you will find the types that have the ability to produce tomatoes weighing up to a kilo or more, some of these will be the older varieties called Heirlooms.
(Not all Heirlooms have this potential)
When you find a variety that can produce super sized tomatoes then you need to do a few things to gain the maximum sized fruit.
The plant requires lots of food, ample moisture and good warm temperatures.
Root room is important so the plant should be grown in open ground or in a 100 litre container.
In open ground the soil should be friable to a good depth and mixed with animal manures and compost.
If in a container use compost, animal manures and a little soil.
A tall stake needs to be driven securely into the soil and stand at least six feet above the soil.
A deep planting hole is made near the stake and a couple of big handfuls of chicken manure placed in the bottom of the hole and covered over with mix with a tablespoon of Rok Solid and a tablespoon of Neem Tree Granules added. The young plant which should be about a foot or more tall is placed into the hole to a depth that will cover the trunk up to about the first set of leaves.
The plant will root up in this covered area thus giving a much larger root system.
Protect the plant by placing some smaller bamboo stakes at the four cardinal points then a run plastic film wrap around the stakes so the plant is enclosed in the centre.
As soon at laterals or side shoots appear these are nipped out with your fingers and the spot sprayed with Liquid Copper to protect the wound.
Do not remove any leaves that are green as they are proving energy from the sun. You can increase the sun energy gained by spraying the leaves with Vaporgard and repeat on new growth.
When the first truss sets fruit remove all the fruit except for the largest most perfect one.
The same is repeated on the second truss. You can do the same on the third truss or remove the truss completely as you will do with every other truss of flowers as they appear.
You are looking to produce two or three super sized tomatoes on the lowest 2 or 3 trusses.
You need to apply a top quality tomato food that has plenty of potash such as my own ‘Wally’s Secret Tomato Food with Neem Granules’ Repeat applications of this about every four weeks.
Occasional sprays of Neem Tree Oil should be applied to the foliage every so often to protect against insect pests.
When the 2 or 3 tomatoes start to reach a good size their weight will need to be supported and a old bra is ideal for this, stapled to the main stake and adjusted so the weight is not going to damage the plant.
The plant should be supported with soft ties to the main stake as it grows upwards.
Now with any luck you should end up with a super large tomato or two which then creates a new problem that they do not make bead big enough to place one slice on.
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DECEMBER GARDENING

This week I received two emails which maybe of interest to some gardeners.
The first was from a gardening couple, Jerry and Vicki which read;

Hi Wally, Your advice and weekly email's worked great. I got first in the Veggie Section and Vicki won in the Rose categories. Jerry.

The email include pictures of the two winning their respective trophy's and a stunning picture of Vicki’s roses.
What can I say? If you use natural products that enhance the soil, giving the plants all the possible minerals that they may need to be healthy and stop using chemicals that are harmful to both soil, plants and yourself.
Over the years I have received a few similar stories about how gardeners have turned their gardens into award winners by simply observing and using the above information.
The second email is of concern this time of the year and it read;

Hi Wally, I have a problem with a brown beetle infestation. I was finding the leaves of my newly planted plum trees and almond tree were getting stripped bare almost.
I wasn't sure what it was but think the culprit is this brown beetle (please see photo) - I have since found hundreds (literally) in one of my raised beds and quite a few wherever I have placed the garden mix I bought a month ago.
Is there something I can do to get rid of these beasties? They are now attacking my raspberry plants and feijoa trees. Because they are in the soil - and potentially quite deep (some of them were 20cm deep) - I'm not sure how to fight them. Please help! Kind regards Debbie

Debbie sent me an amazing photograph which show hundreds of these brown beetles drowning in a container of water, along with photos of her plants badly damaged.
The beetle is the Grass Grub beetle and this is the time of the year that they emerge from pupating deep in the soil to feast on the foliage of a number of plants, mate and lay eggs back in lawns for future generations.
In my first book, Wally’s Down to Earth Gardening Guide, I suggest a trap to aid control of these pests.
Here is an extract from the book:

‘Grass grub adults emerge in October, and are active until about mid-December, depending on weather conditions and exactly where they are in New Zealand. The cooler the temperature, the later they emerge.
The adults will start to emerge in mild conditions, when the soil temperature reaches about 10 degrees they then mate, fly, eat and lay eggs in the short space of time between dusk and early evening.
As they tend to fly towards light, you are most likely to know they’re there when the flying beetles hit your lighted window panes.

This very attraction for the light has become one of our best weapons in controlling the pest in its adult stage. You can set up a grass grub beetle trap by placing a trough, such as the one used when wall-papering, directly underneath a window near a grassed area.
Fill the trough with water to about two-thirds of its capacity, then place a film of kerosene on top of the water.
Put a bright light in the window, the beetles fly towards the lit window, hit the glass and fall into the trough.
The kerosene acts as a trap, preventing the fallen beetles from climbing out.

You can extend this method to areas away from the house by using a glass tank, such as might be used for an aquarium. Place the empty tank into a tray containing several inches of water (and the kerosene), and position a light inside the glass tank.
By adding a sheet of ply or something similar over the top of the tank, you will ensure that the light shines only through the sides of the tank above the waiting water and kerosene.
It is better to use a dome-shaped battery-powered light rather than an ordinary torch for this job as the bigger light makes the trap more effective.
If the tray and tank are raised off the ground and placed on something like a table, you will get an even better result.

However you set up your beetle trap, this is a very good method to dispose of the pests. Simply get rid of all the beetles caught the next morning. Run this system (call it Wally’s Grass Grub Beetle Catcher, if you like) from just before dusk to about 2 or 3 hours after sunset.’

Spraying the plants that are been attacked with Neem Tree Oil will help to also control the populations.
This should be done late in the day after the sun is off the plants. When a beetle chews on a leaf they get some Neem into their gut and that shuts off their ability to eat. Problem arises, if there are hundreds of beetles then there needs to be hundreds of bites.
With the likelyhood of more beetles emerging every day it is an on going battle over the next month or two. Another way is to go outside just after dark with a torch and check your plants for beetles.
If you see a good number on any plant then a spray at that time with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum added, sprayed to hit the beetles rather than the plant itself.
Another very good natural spray to use late in the day is a solution of Professor Mac’s 3 in 1 for Lawns.
This is a combination of Eucalyptus oil and Tea Tree oil, nice to use and deadly on pests.
If you repeat your nightly spraying and use a light trap also, then you will make a big dent in the grass grub beetle populations and thus suffer less damage to your plants and lawns.
The season is still poor weather wise which helps keep insect populations lower than normal but care should be taken with your potatoes and tomatoes by placing Neem Tree Granules on the soil in the root zone and spraying the plants occasionally with Neem tree Oil.
Visit your local garden centre to obtain some good ideas for Xmas Presents.
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MORE ON THE TOMATO/POTATO PSYLLID

The tomato/potato psyllid is going to be a big concern for many gardeners this season as well as commercial growers.
(From Crop and Food Research web site) The tomato potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli) is a pest attacking tomatoes and capsicums (both indoors and outdoors) and potatoes in New Zealand and can cause a reduction in fruit yield and quality.
The nymphs cause plant damage but adults also feed on the plants.
While feeding, the tomato potato psyllid (TPP) nymphs inject toxic saliva into the plant, causing the condition known as "psyllid yellows” in potatoes and tomatoes.
In capsicums young plants can be severely damaged by direct feeding of the nymphs.
The TPP was first identified in an Auckland greenhouse tomato crop in April 2006. TPP is now an established pest in New Zealand.
The pest is well established in the north of New Zealand (Thames upwards) and has been identified in the Waikato, Poverty Bay, Hawkes Bay, Central Taupo region, Taranaki, Manawatu, Wellington, Marlborough and down the East Coast of the South Island up and down from Christchurch.
These are areas which have been surveyed and the pest has been found, which is not to say that other areas are not affected as yet.
It is a pest that is not easy to see on your plants.
Small white waxy beads (psyllid sugar) is the symptom that you are most likely to see on the plants.
The eggs are yellow, oval shaped and stand on stalks. Eggs can be hard to spot, but look on the leaf margins where they are easiest to see.
The nymphs feed most often on the undersides of the leaves and will move when disturbed.
The adult psyllid is about 3 mm in size with distinct white markings. When first hatched the adults are light yellow/brown in colour, but after five days they become grey/black and banded in white. The adults jump when disturbed. End.

(From The Biosecurity Web Site) The psyllid has three life stages. The life stages are egg, nymph and adult.
Outdoors in North America there are thought to be 4-7 overlapping generations per year.
In greenhouses development and survival can occur from between 15.5°C and 32.2°C, optimum development occurring at 26.6°C. The development threshold is 7°C.
In a greenhouse averaging 18°C psyllids will take 33 days to complete the life cycle.
Psyllid adults can mate more than once. The first mating usually occurs 2-3 days after emergence.
Females lay up to 510 eggs over their lifetime. Eggs are laid over a period of about 21 days. Eggs hatch 3-9 days after laying.
The nymph goes through five scale-like nymphal stages. The psyllid remains a nymph for between 12-21 days.
Over this time they change from light yellow to tan to greenish brown in colour.
The nymph will grow to 2mm in length and feed on the underside of the leaf.
Wing buds appear in the third instar and become obvious in the fourth and fifth instars. The wing buds distinguish the psyllid from whitefly nymphs.
Adult psyllids are 3-4mm in length with long clear wings. The adult can resemble miniature cicadas.
On emerging the adults are light yellow in colour. After 2-3 days they change to brown or green in colour. After 5 days they become banded grey or black and white in colour.
Psyllids feed like aphids. Psyllids insert stylets into the plant, suck the sap and excrete the excess water and sugar as honey dew or as a solid waste (psyllid sugar).
Psyllid sugar is the symptom that you are most likely to see on your plants. Nymphs and possibly adults inject a toxin into the plants when they feed.
The toxin causes discoloration of leaves and the plant to become stunted exhibiting ‘psyllid yellow’ and ‘purple top’. Leaf edges upturn and show yellowing or purpling.
The plants internodes shorten and new growth is retarded.
If the psyllids are removed, the plant may start to grow normally.
In tomatoes, psyllid feeding can cause plants to produce numerous small poor quality fruit or prevent fruit forming.
In potatoes, the psyllid can cause a reduction in the numbers of tubers, size of tubers and production of secondary tubers.
Harvested tubers often sprout prematurely. Not all host plants show ‘toxic’ plant reaction symptoms.
Overseas the psyllid is reported to have host plants in 20 families, but has only been found breeding on three families, one of which (Lamiaceae) was in a greenhouse only.
Solanaceous species (capsicum, egg plant, potatoes, tomatoes and black nightshade) are the preferred hosts, but it may breed on species of Convolvulaceae, including kumara, especially if high populations are nearby.
Known wild hosts present in New Zealand include Solanum nigrum (black nightshade), Physalis spp (cape gooseberry), Ipomoea purpurea (common morning glory) and Convolvulus arvensis (field bindweed).
Ornamental solanaceous plants are potential hosts. The native species of Solanum (ie porapora) may also be a suitable host.
Adult psyllids are strong fliers and are dispersed by the wind.
They will spread from outdoor crops when the plants are no longer suitable. They will also be spread by the movement of plants, e.g. from nurseries and garden centres. End.

As from my earlier articles on this pest some gardeners have found that the use of Neem Tree Granules placed in the planting hole and sprinkled on the soil surface has assisted in the pest’s control.
This should also be supplemented by spraying Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum just prior to dusk, over and under the foliage of crops affected for a complete coverage.
The same spray can be used over the Neem Granules on the soil to increase their potency.
The granules should be refreshed about every 6 to 8 weeks to keep a continual supply of the active ingredients entering the root system of the plants.
Originally I was under the impression that only tomatoes and potatoes were effected but now it has been shown that capsicums, (peppers) egg plants, cape gooseberry and possibly kumara can be damaged.
Refer to the above for other plants and ornamentals that can be hosts to the pest such as nightshade.
The removal of these plants or controls as suggested should also be applied to them to prevent re-infesting on your target plants (tomatoes etc)
If there are host plants growing nearby such as in neighbouring properties then your control sprays will need to be increased in frequency.
The facts as I see them are; they are hard to spot and many gardeners will suffer crop losses thinking their crops are ok and not apply any controls, a female laying up to 510 eggs in 21 days makes for massive population increases which means they become harder to control.
Your best bet is preventative controls used from the time of planting and right through the growing season.
If you had the problem last season, then as sure as apples you are likely to have the problem again.
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CHRISTMAS IS COMING

With Xmas now only about 5 weeks away it is a good time reflect on our current season and start thinking about the festive season.
The season has been poorly, weather wise in most areas with a sprinkling of summer like days followed quickly by chills and rain. Growth has been good for all the hardy plants including weeds but not so favourable for the heat loving plants.
This is a shame as there are many new gardeners whom are either starting gardening this season or this is their second or so season. People that have gardened for many seasons know that some years its great and some years poor, which they accept the good with the bad and battle on.
I know that my more tender plants such as tomatoes, capsicum, cucumbers and egg plants are still sitting in pots in my little glasshouse waiting for the signs of better weather before been moved outside.
They are doing well and been potted into larger containers as the need arises so time is not lost.
Every time I think of moving some outdoors the weather turns to custard and they would only sulk in the chills.
Often the weather does not really improve till after Xmas and then one hopes for a long season which we call an Indian Summer.
If you do not have a glasshouse or tunnel house then it is not too difficult to make one using horticulture plastic film.
A tunnel house is the most simple, using lengths of plastic pipe about 25 to 30mm wide and placing larger gauge tube set deep into the soil about 2 metres apart and inserting the ends of the smaller tubing into these.
A number of these hoops about 75cm to a metre apart in rows will form the basic structure to run your plastic film over. The film can be held down on the ground with a mound of soil or rocks on both sides and at one end. This leaves one end open and tied off (using say Velcro) as the entrance way and for ventilation.
The structure should be placed where its both sunny and sheltered.
When summer does comes the plastic film can be removed and stored then windbreak or shade cloth could be placed over making a neat shade house.
The alternative is to make an A-frame house using say 40 x 40mm wood framing and the film attached to this.
Where there is a will there is a way and a glasshouse like structure makes for easier gardening no matter the season.
You could also drop a few hints that you would love a plastic or glasshouse for Xmas and hope it does not fall on deaf ears.
Lets now look at a few ideas on what to give your gardening family or friends for Xmas.
A living gift keeps on giving and plants are always appreciated.
There is ample time to pot up some containers with colour spots (flowering annuals from a garden centre) and grow them on for gifts just prior to Xmas.
Use purchased compost and add to this some blood & bone plus sheep manure pellets.
Select a range of colour spots and use your artistic flare.
If you wish to take this a step further then with a good size container, plant a rose or some other ornamental shrub into the same mix and around the edge of the container plant annual flowers such as Lobelia.
Another idea would be a fruit tree such as citrus or a Feijoa ‘Unique’ planted into a 45 litre container.
It could be finished off with a few salad lettuce plants around the rim.
Herbs are another good possibility and in a larger container a few different types could be used.
A pot of several strawberry plants makes a neat looking gift with their flowers and fruit.
One in the centre and several around the rim.
A flowering climber in the centre of a container with a tepee of bamboo stakes to wind it around and give upward support.
There are endless ideas that one can find in your local garden centres and a gift of a few bags of compost never goes astray with a keen gardener.
If you are stuck then there are Gardening Gift Vouchers which can also be included into a Xmas Card as a small but appreciated gift to a gardener.
Garden Ornaments such as fountains, arches, sun dials, statues & plagues for those gardeners that like a bit more than plants growing.
A worm Farm is a great investment, not only is it a good way of disposing of kitchen scraps plus you benefit from the worm pee, worm casts and worm populations for your gardens and containers.
Gardening books are useful tools for the novice to learn from and seasoned gardener to refer to.
There is a wide selection of books that can be found in bookshops, or by mail order from Touchwood Books and directly from some garden centres. Some books are on specialized subjects and others more general topics.
Here I must put a plug in for my own three books, Wally’s Down to Earth Gardening Guide, all ready in its third print, Wally’s Green Tips for Gardeners and the latest, Wally’s Gardening and Health.
The later can be of value to anyone with heath concerns.
Your options for gardening type gifts are many and as gardening has become very popular in recent times it is unlikely that any gardening gift would not be greatly appreciated.
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CUCUMBERS MORE THAN A FOOD

Gardeners keen on growing their own cucumbers will be purchasing plants about now for establishing in sunny, sheltered positions or for growing in their glasshouses.
Cucumbers along with watermelons and rock melons need warm settled weather to do best and if the weather is not settled they will sulk and preform poorly.
I find that in Palmerston North I can grow great crops of cucumbers in my glasshouse but outside they are only mediocre. If you are in a part of New Zealand where you have great summers, then you will likely have great crops of cucumbers growing in any nitrogen rich garden.
In areas where chilling winds are common then you need to create a special environment to grow cucumbers. I have found that one or two cucumbers planted into a compost rich 20 litre container will provide sufficient room for their root development and hence a good crop.
Cucumbers can be trained up a stake with soft ties for support and if you are growing telegraph types this method is the best to obtain long straight fruit. (Yes they are a fruit not a vegetable as they have their seeds inside)
The following is a way to provide a sheltered start to your cucumber plants so you can obtain fruit early, even if the weather conditions are not so favourable.
Take a 20 to 40 litre container that has drainage holes and fill the container with a good compost to the height of about two thirds, then place a layer of chicken manure and cover this with more compost to a height of just under the rim of the container. (If you cant get chicken manure use any other manure or blood & bone and sheep manure pellets, some Neem Tree Granules can be added as well.)
Now place a 6 foot stake into the centre of the container and plant one or two cucumber seedlings near the stake. Next take 4 bamboo stakes about 5-6 foot long and place these at the sides of the container at the 4 cardinal points.
Taking plastic wrap you run this around the outside of the bamboo stakes making two or three runs around the base part and then working upwards.
If you do the upper part too tight the stakes will start to bend in and you may need to pin a couple of slats of wood or a small bamboo stakes across the outer stakes to form a cross and keep the stakes from bending in.
Also leave a small air gap at the base so air will circulate upwards and reduce possibilities of mildews.
This will also allow you to water onto the mix at the base rather than overhead. You have created a temporary shelter to trap heat and establish your cucumbers, later into summer the plastic wrap can be removed. As the cucumbers grow tie them to the centre stake with stretch type nylon ties.
For addition food and as a booster use Cucumber Booster once a week mixed as according to the instructions on the jar. Cucumbers can be attacked by powdery mildew at any time dependant on conditions and very likely later in the season. Spray once a fortnight with a solution of baking soda (1-2 heaped tablespoons to a litre of water with Raingard added) Ensure the spray covers the whole plant including under the leaves.
Pest insects and mildews can also be controlled with regular sprays of Neem Tree oil all over the plant. Just wash the fruit prior to eating.
An North American Indian friend of mine, Running Bear, sent me a whole lot of facts on Cucumbers which I would like to share with you;

1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.
2. Feeling tired in the afternoon, put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.
3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.
4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.
5. Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!!
6. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!
7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.
8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.
9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!
10. Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.
11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.
12. Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.
13. Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!!
You might like to try a few of these remedies, I know that I will be.
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BUXUS DISEASE

A very popular ornamental shrub commonly known as Buxus or Boxwood and often grown as a border plant, trimmed to keep compact for a more formal type setting.
In the past thousands of these plants have been produced by nurseries to satisfy the demand from gardeners wanting to establish box hedges. The same plants have been used for topiary as well.
Then a disease appeared which has caused great problems for both nurseries and home gardeners.
Firstly lets have a look at the problem from a web site on the net:

The early stages of Box Blight infection are easily missed, commonly it is not detected until parts of the plant die and pronounced leaf fall occurs. Examination of the stems below the dead leaves will show dark lesions in the vascular tissues, viewed through a microscope these lesions are seen to be a mass of hyphae with conidium characterised by ellipsoid vesicle with pointed apices.
The initial phase of infection in the leaf is indicated by a general darkening often spreading in a circular fashion until the whole leaf is discoloured, by then the fungus will have spread to the stem and the leaf usually dies and turns a straw or tan colour. Unfortunately these colour characteristics can be caused by a variety of other reasons making diagnosis difficult to the untrained eye.
Frequently these leaves will be infected by secondary fungus, Volutella, which creates a pink dusty mildew effect. Volutella itself is not a serious problem, it is a wound pathogen which usually effects plants which are suffering from another problem.
Box in gardens is frequently arranged in parterres, edging and knot gardens etc and is clipped to regular forms and shapes. Advanced infections can be readily recognised as often a central section of the top foliage will appear to be dead whilst the side foliage retains its green. On a topiary piece, such as balls, cones and spirals, commonly a small area comprised of individual stems will die first, however the fungus will spread throughout the plant eventually killing it.
TREATMENT - Can Box Blight be cured or prevented ?

There are no effective fungicides available on the retail market specifically for treating Box Blight.
PREVENTION - What cultural practices minimise the risk of infection and spread ?

Box Blight, Cylindrocladium buxicola, is widespread throughout the UK and as it is an airborne disease there is no guaranteed means of prevention, however there are measures which significantly reduce the possibility of severe infection.
The conditions in which the fungus proliferates are damp, shade and poor ventilation, so avoidance of these will help prevent firm establishment of the disease.
It is most important to avoid overhead irrigation as the spores are carried and activated in water droplets and damp leaves provide ideal conditions for the fungus. Water the roots if required, possibly by a 'leaky hose', Buxus do not need foliage irrigation.
Always ensure that all garden tools, particularly shears and clippers, are clean. Do not infect healthy plants with dirty shears. Shears may be cleaned by dipping in bleach or disinfectant mixed in the dilutions indicated on the label for domestic/kitchen use.
Improving ventilation may be problematical, by its very nature Box is often tightly clipped and hence poorly ventilated. With new plantings it is worth bearing in mind ventilation and shade implications.
Removal of dead leaves, plant debris and foliage will reduce the availability of spore releasing material and may reduce any 'resting spores'.
IMMUNITY, RESISTANCE

There are no Buxus species that are immune to Cylindrocladium buxicola.
Practical experience however shows that some varieties seem more susceptible to the disease, we suspect that this is not due to any inherent properties of the plants but more due to the physical features such as water retaining foliage. End.

Last week I spoke to a gardener who has a number of Buxus for their display gardens which are open to the public. They told me that they had been able to keep their Buxus in a perfect, healthy condition by spraying the plants all over with a solution of Vaporgard every 3 months or so.
Vaporgard places a film over the foliage and stems which cannot be penetrated by the disease and cause damage or death to the plants. By doing this and using other preventive measures as indicated above, keeps their Buxus in prime condition.
Vaporgard is used for many practical garden applications to great advantage besides its frost protection aspects..
Used on transplanting seedlings and established plants as it reduces moisture loss though the foliage and thus reduces transplant stress or shock. This factor can be used to great advantage in summer on your container plants when they start to suffer through drying out. Just spray the plants and they will require far less watering. In a glasshouse, or on very hot days in summer, plants such as tomatoes and curbits can droop during the day. At that time they have stopped growing. Just spray with the product to reduce this problem also.
Another interesting aspect is, VaporGard develops a polymerised skin over each spray-droplet which filters out UVA and UVB. Providing a sunscreen for the chlorophyll, which is normally under attack by UV light. This results in a darker green colour of the foliage within a few days of application. The chlorophyll build-up makes the leaf a more efficient food factory producing more carbohydrates, especially glycols giving stress protection from moisture loss and extra fuel for better growth and faster maturity.
The film also offers some protection against some fungus diseases. Sprayed on fruit it will give your fruit better colour, reduce splitting problems, increases sugar content and earlier maturity.
The picked fruit will store for longer also. This aspect also applies to vegetables, potatoes and pumpkins, sprayed before or after harvest they will keep longer.
You could also use this for keeping cut flowers longer. A magic product that has uses all year round. A few don'ts through; never put chemicals in the spray mix if using on food crops as the harmful chemical will still be present when you harvest. Safe products such as Neem and Perkfection can still be used.
Do not spray blue conifers with VaporGard as it will turn them green for about a year.
Vaporgard enhances the establishment of plants in open windy situations and prevents salt spray damage to plants in coastal locations.
A very practical use this time of the year is to spray seedlings with Vaporgard prior to disturbing them for transplanting.
Roses sprayed with Vaporgard will greatly enhance their beauty giving a darker richer appearance to the foliage and a lovely shine to the same. With the film been in place over the foliage treated, for about 3 months, will reduce disease and pest problems.
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LONGEVITY

Every so often I am asked how long will such and such plant or tree are likely to live for?
A good question but a difficult one to answer.
Some plants which are called annuals will germinate, grow, flower and produce seeds then die. Most vegetables and bedding plants fall into this category and are often referred to as seasonal.
Then there are the biennial plants which is a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its biological life cycle. In the first year the plant grows leaves, stems, and roots (vegetative structures), then it enters a period of dormancy over the colder months.
Usually the stem remains very short and the leaves are low to the ground, forming a rosette. Many biennials require a cold treatment, or vernalization, before they will flower. During the next spring or summer, the stem of the biennial plant elongates greatly, or "bolts".
The plant then flowers, producing fruits and seeds before it finally dies. There are far fewer biennials than either perennial plants or annual plants.
A perennial plant or perennial (Latin per, "through", annus, "year") is a plant that lives for more than two years. When used by gardeners or horticulturalists, this term applies specifically to perennial herbaceous plants. Scientifically, woody plants like shrubs and trees are also perennial in their habit.
Perennials, especially small flowering plants, grow and bloom over the spring and summer and then die back every autumn and winter, then return in the spring from their root-stock rather than seeding themselves as an annual plant does. These are known as herbaceous perennials.
However, depending on the rigors of local climate, a plant that is a perennial in its native habitat, or in a milder garden, may be treated by a gardener as an annual and planted out every year, from seed, from cuttings or from divisions.
Some trees are by far the longest living plants and here are a few known examples from the Internet: The world's oldest known living tree, a conifer that first took root at the end of the last Ice Age, has been discovered in Sweden.
The visible portion of the 13-foot-tall (4-meter-tall) "Christmas tree" isn't ancient, but its root system has been growing for 9,550 years, according to a team led by Leif Kullman, professor at Umeå University's department of ecology and environmental science in Sweden.
The spruce's stems or trunks have a lifespan of around 600 years, "but as soon as a stem dies, a new one emerges from the same root stock," Kullman explained. "So the tree has a very long life expectancy."
Bristlecone pines in the western United States are generally recognized as the world's oldest continuously standing trees.
The most ancient recorded, from California's White Mountains, is dated to around 5,000 years ago.
Bristlecone pines are aged by counting tree rings, which form annually within their trunks.
But in the case of the Norway spruce, ancient remnants of its roots were radiocarbon dated.
The study team also identified other ancient spruces in Sweden that were between 5,000 and 6,000 years old.
Trees much older than 9,550 years would be impossible in Sweden, because ice sheets covered the country until the end of the last Ice Age around 11,000 years ago, Kullman noted.
As with all long-lived plant and fungal species, no individual part of a clonal colony is alive (in the sense of active metabolism) for more than a very small fraction of the life of the entire clone.
Some clonal colonies may be fully connected via their root systems, while most are not actually interconnected, but are genetically identical clones which populated an area through vegetative reproduction. (termed suckers) Ages for clonal colonies, often based on current growth rates, are estimates.
A huge colony of the sea grass Posidonia oceanica in the Mediterranean Sea could be up to 100,000 years old. Pando (tree). This clonal colony of Populus tremuloides has been estimated at 80,000 years old, although some claims place it as being as old as one million years.
King's Lomatia in Tasmania: The sole surviving clonal colony of this species is estimated to be at least 43,600 years old.
When it comes to other than plant life forms we have:

A specimen of the Icelandic Cyprine Arctica islandica (also known as an ocean quahog), a mollusk, was found to have lived 405 years and possibly up to 410. Another specimen had a recorded lifespan of 374 years.
Some koi fish have reportedly lived more than 200 years, the oldest being Hanako, died at an age of 226 years on July 7, 1977.
The tuatara can live well above 100 years. Henry, a tuatara at the Southland Museum in New Zealand, mated for the first time at the age of 110 years in 2009 with an 80-year-old female and fathered 11 baby tuataras.
When it comes to our species we find that Jeanne Calment was the oldest human to have verifiable birth records. She was 122 years old at time of death.
Dominicans have only recently become aware of Elizabeth Israel, aka Ma Pampo, at 126 believed to be the world's oldest living human being. According to her baptismal records, she was born on January 27, 1875.
Amazing mum-of-10 Sakhan Dosova is said to be the world's oldest living human - outdoing her nearest rival by 16 years. She celebrated her 130th birthday on 23rd of March 2009 without ever having visited a doctor or taken any medicine.
And Sakhan puts her health down to cottage cheese and a sense of humour. She said: "I don't have any special secret. I've never taken pills and if I was ill, I used granny's remedies to cure me."I have never eaten sweets. I don't like them. But I love kurt, a salty dried cottage cheese, and ground wheat."
What is likely to be the shortest lived species would be some bacteria at about 20 minutes.
I have read that there have been tribes living in remote mineral rich areas on the planet that have lived a life span of about 120 years. These people are reputed to be very healthy right up till the last few weeks of life and likely parts of their bodies have just worn out ending their time.
This gives great justification for growing your own fruit and vegetables and placing all the known minerals into the soil so that your body benefits, when you consume the same.
Even if you don't make 120 years the advantage of having a very healthy body for as long as possible makes good sense to me.

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NEEM PRODUCTS ARE THEY SAFE?

Recently a number of gardeners and garden centre staff have contacted me asking if products such as Neem Tree Oil and Neem Tree Granules are safe to use on food crops?
This sudden interest, in the safety of these products, has come about from two sources in the Gardening Industry, one from a major supplier of gardening products whom has been stating that Neem may have possible carcinogenic aspects and birth defects and similar comments have appeared in publications by another company that advises on gardening/marketing aspects.
The later has in a publication suggested as a alternative a chemical product that is widely known to be carcinogenic and is only available in New Zealand for use on ornamentals such as roses. This chemical once sold as Orthene to the home garden market was removed by the distributor some time back. (Orthene is registered for use on food crops and is available in commercial quantities)
One concerned gardener called me directly from a garden centre when he was told by a staff member that they had been informed that Neem has carcinogenic aspects and possible birth defects.
After speaking to this gardener, later that day, he contacted me again with information that I was not aware of.
He told me that he had contacted NZFSA and had also checked their web site and found at http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz/consultation/mrl/page-14.htm

That its stated the following: It is proposed that an MRL exemption be set for extract of azadirachta indica when used as an insecticide for food producing plant species.
It is proposed that Schedule Two of the NZ (MRL) Food Standards 2007 be amended to include the following; this will be the resulting entry for extract of azadirachta indica in Schedule Two of the NZ (MRL) Food Standards 2007:

Amendment Rationale: The proposed MRL exemption represents a reassessment of the currently approved use patterns for extracts of azadirachta indica (Neem). Neem has a very low toxicity and represents a risk reducing insecticide.
Neem’s broadly defined good agricultural practice (GAP) means it is not required to be managed against a chemical concentration limit. It therefore does not require an MRL to regulate GAP.

Residues Information: Insecticide products containing Neem have been available in New Zealand for many years. Neem is derived from the oil of the Neem tree berries. The action of the insecticide is primarily derived from the presence of azadirachtin in the oil, although other components of the oil may cause synergistic or insecticidal effects.

Dietary Risk Assessment : Neem has been determined to be of very low toxicity. Extracts of Neem have been used historically in parts of Asia for skin and dental treatments for what has claimed to be over 2000 years.
Parts of the Neem tree are consumed in certain Indian and Southeast Asian dishes. Neem is used in human medicine for skin and acne treatment and for the control of scabies and head lice.
The active component azadirachtin has also been demonstrated to be of very low toxicity. Neem and azadirachtin do not represent a dietary intake risk from consumption of residues on treated food commodities.

Toxicological / Public Health Assessment : It has been determined that the use of Neem as an insecticide for use on all food producing plant species is very unlikely to pose any health risks from consumption of the harvested commodity. End.

Thus NZFSA are seriously looking at making Neem Oil available for use on food crops with no need for registration. Currently in NZ there are 3 brand name Neem oils available, one is registered for food crops and approved for organic growers, the other two are not registered at this time for food crops and state so on their labels. The reason been the costs and time involved.
Neem Tree Granules which are called Neem Cake in India do not come into the ‘Do not use on food crops’ category.
I found also the following on the Internet:
The natural insecticides, fungicides and bio-pesticides made out of Neem have many advantages. Research studies indicate that they are not harmful to humans or animals. The pests will not develop resistance over generations while the beneficial insects like butterflies, ladybugs, etc are spared. The soil is enriched, and Neem extracts leave no residue in the environment.
Insecticide - Neem extracts have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use on food crops. It is non-toxic to birds, animals, beneficial insects or man and protects crops from over 200 of the most costly pests.
As a fungicide, Neem oil is mainly used as a preventative and when disease is just starting to show. It coats the leaf surface which in turn prevents the germination of the fungal spores. Neem oil is effective against rots, mildews, rusts, scab, leaf spot and blights.
Neem Cake, the by-product obtained in the process of cold pressing of Neem fruits and kernels is used as organic manure. It has adequate quantity of NPK in organic form for plant growth. Neem cake typically contains about 6% neem oil and min. 4% nitrogen, 0.5 % phosphorus and 0.5% potassium.
Being totally botanical product it contains 100% natural NPK content and other essential micro nutrients. It is rich in both sulphur compounds and bitter limonoids.
According to research calculations, Neem cake seems to make soil more fertile due to an ingredient that blocks soil bacteria from converting nitrogenous compounds into nitrogen gas.
It is a nitrification inhibitor and prolongs the availability of nitrogen to both short duration and long duration crops. It also acts as a natural fertilizer with pesticidal properties.
Neem cake organic manure protects plant roots from nematodes, soil grubs and white ants probably due to its content of the residual limonoids. Neem cake is widely used in India to fertilize paddy, cotton and sugarcane.
It is harmless to earthworms - in fact earthworm populations are known to proliferate in plots treated with Neem cake. End.
All I can think of is that some chemical insecticide distributors to the home garden market would prefer gardeners to buy their products rather than use a effective natural alternative.
I believe that there is sufficient documented evidence to say that Neem products are safe to use and are a great natural asset for the home gardener to combat a wide range of insect pests and plant diseases without harming themselves or the environment.
Have a great Labour Weekend.
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LABOUR WEEKEND PLANTING TIME

A tradition developed many years ago in so much as the right time for planting out in the new season was around the holiday weekend we call Labour Weekend.
Logic says this must be a good time as it is in the middle of spring and about half way to the longest day.
Plant growth is determined by firstly the hours of light in a 24 hour period, the soil plus air temperature and the amount of moisture in the soil.
The other factors include nutrients for the plant development, the right pH of the soil to allow nutrient up take, even temperatures, even moisture, even space to grow, sunny or shaded, dependant on the plant’s preferences and a wide selection of minerals and elements to complete a plant’s desired needs.
In some years Labour Weekend is the perfect time for many crops including those that desire a fairly warm growth period, in other years Labour Weekend can be too early or a bit late which all relates to the weather patterns each year.
When the weather warms and stays constant, tomatoes for instance will grow well but if there is a cold snap then they will sit and sulk till conditions improve.
If late frosts, hail and chilling winds happen to be, then losses may occur.
More tender plants such as egg plants, cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelons etc will certainly not do well and often we talk about plantings of these heat loving types a few weeks after Labour Weekend.
Hardy plants such as the brassicas, lettuce, silverbeet and spinach can be planted early and unless they have a major check in their growth they will mature nicely in their own time.
If they have too much of a check in growth then they are very likely to bolt which means, ‘go to seed’ This often happens when these vegetables are planted too late in the season for winter produce.
If planted late which means April, May or June they are growing during the shortening daylight hours cycle and into the cold conditions of winter.
What happens is they grow a bit, slow right down during the winter months and when spring comes around they start to grow again and then bolt.
The winter check has caused this to happen, the plant’s life has been threatened and all it wants to do is reproduce itself through seeds.
If the same plants were planted in January, February or even early March, they would come close to maturity as winter slows them down and sit in the garden in their maturity over the winter months for you to harvest.
A number of gardeners have complained to me over the last month or so, about their vegetables going to seed before they matured. In each case they planted the vegetables too late, which is the reason the crop failed.
All of these gardeners complained that they purchased the plants from a garden shop so they should have been ok and why were they on sale if it was too late?
Can we blame the garden shops and the nurseries that produced these seedlings?
I don't think so, but maybe a notice of caution should be displayed with the seedlings so that newer gardeners that do not understand the season times are warned.
Some gardeners may have glasshouses or micro-climate areas where these late plantings will do ok and produce mature crops.
It also depends on where you live in New Zealand as to what you plant and when you plant it.
Even the most experienced gardener can be caught out when unseasonal weather patterns occur like we have been experiencing in the early days of this October.
Any plants that are grown for their fruiting aspects will be ok as long as they are not badly damaged by frosts or cold conditions because the bolting aspect does not apply to them.
Foliage and root crops can be effected.
It is very disappointing when we see a young crop go to seed instead of producing mature vegetables.
This is the main reason why it is wise to only plant a small number of plants early and another small number a few weeks later, then again a few weeks later, during the early part of the new season.
If the first or second crop should fail then likely the third crop will be ok and you have not lost all.
If all crops are successful then you have a bonus of mature vegetables to harvest over a good period of time.
In September we had some great weather, sunny, warm and it looked very much like a early season was underway.
Gardeners got keen and gardens were planted out, then the weather changed for the worse.
Thats gardening for you.
There is a bright side to this and that is during those warm days a number of insect pests emerged to start off their new season.
It is these early ones that will lay their eggs and produce big populations to infest your gardens.
When the early ones are knocked back by a good lengthy cold break as we have experienced, it means that they will not become a problem till much later in the season.
With a bit of luck and good management they may suffer a poor season overall which is great for us.
In the meantime we can germinate some seeds and protect these seedlings to plant out when conditions improve and stay improved.
You could also pop down to your local green grocer shop and pick out a few kumara tubers, look for the ones that are showing signs of shooting.
Take a polystyrene box or similar that is about 12cm deep or deeper, make a few holes in the base for drainage and then fill the box half full with a good compost.
Press the tubers into the compost to about half their depth with any eyes facing upwards, then cover with sand or similar.
Place in a sunny warm, sheltered position if you do not have a glasshouse and keep the sand just moist.
The tubers should each produce a number of shoots which you allow to grow till they are about 12cm tall or more. Once you have a good number of tall strong shoots you can carefully lift the tuber and with a sharp knife remove each one, taking a little bit of the tuber and all the roots that the shoot has attached. These then are ready for planting out.
To grow kumera well you need a depth of about 20cm of soft, friable soil that is moderately rich in food.
This good layer should be sitting on a very hard pan surface because the kumara will send down roots through the good growing medium and when they strike the hard pan they are halted and thus the new tuber is formed from these roots.
If there is not a hard pan to obstruct the roots they will keep going deeper and never fill out and you end up with a lot of thick roots and no kumara to harvest.
The top layer where the tubers form can be made up of compost, sand, and soil with sheep manure pellets, blood & bone and some BioPhos added. A liquid food can also be applied during their long growing season.
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ROSES IN THE SPRING

I received an email from a lady gardener this week asking about what she could do to keep her roses healthy this season.

The email read: Hello Wally, you have probably been asked the same questions over and over, but as I am unfamiliar with your ‘healthy plants’ program, can I question you on the programme for my 100 plus roses. I need to know what products and sequence preferred for the season, to cover rose disease but also dreaded aphids, which I have now just started to get already. I have been told Perkfection is a must which I have already and the Raingard mix. Thanks, Kaye.

My reply was: Hi Kaye, Firstly it depends on what you put into the soil on how healthy your roses will be.
Completely avoid chemicals, including fertilisers and sprays as they destroy the soil food web and worm life, this includes chlorinated water. (Also includes using any chemical herbicides near them.)
Otherwise the natural products are only going to achieve so much and the root cause of the rose’s health is not attended to.
Natural products include animal manures, blood & bone, gypsum, dolomite, potash, magnesium and compost.
If you have good worm populations, your soil is healthy, if you do not then there is a problem.
Yes Perkfection will help build a roses immune system when used once a month at the lower rate for the first 6-7 months of the season.
Then use Bi-monthly the second season, quarterly the third, twice a year there after unless a specific problem occurs. (spring and autumn.) There is no point putting Raingard with Perkfection.
Give all the roses about a teaspoon of Rok Solid into the root zone, repeat in early autumn.
A few grains of OrganiBor could also be applied and repeated about 3 years later.
Water some Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) into the root zone of each rose, spray foliage with the same about every 2 weeks. Mycorrcin can be added to these to increase the benefits.
For aphids simply lather up some old cake sunlight soap and spray the pests with it.
Alternatively spray with Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum added and then use just prior to dusk.
For any other pest insects use the latter (such as scale)
For black spot and powdery mildew; spray baking soda by placing one or two heaped tablespoons per litre of water with Raingard added. This will assist in both prevention and control.
For rust spray the plants with a mild solution of potassium permanganate (Condys Crystals)
Normally a definite improvement is noted in the first season which only gets better as the years roll on.
Regards, Wally Richards

The above will not only assist in retaining the healthy growth of roses through most of the season till they are coming to an end in the autumn but can be applied to any other plants in the garden for the same benefits. Vegetables and fruit should be treated in this manner for better crops.
The use of non-chlorinated water is vital as the chlorine knocks back the beneficial microbes, fungi and worm populations.
The chlorine can be simply removed from the tap water with a 10 micron carbon filter unit or by standing tap water in an open vessel for a day or so in sunlight. Placing an air stone with air pump into the water to bubble away will speed up the chlorine removal as will a water fountain.
Talking about water I also received a very interesting email with pictures which orginated from a School Science Project.
The project was to determine whether two lots of tap water heated in different ways would have any significant difference.
Half the water was boiled on a stove and other half boiled in a microwave oven. To determine if there was a difference in the water after cooling they were applied to two identical seedlings, potted up and placed in a sunny spot.
One would be watered as it needed moisture with the microwave water the other with the normal boiled water. The results as shown in the pictures astounded the students involved and made a number of people reconsider the use of microwave ovens for heating or cooking food.
From the pictures which were taken every second day; this is what occurred:

Day 1; the plants which look like primula seedlings look great and the one receiving microwave water appears a bit big and better potted than the other one.
Day 3; things have changed greatly the microwaved water plant has gone backwards and is not looking good where the other plant has grown and is a picture of health.
Day 5; The microwaved water plant has lost many of its leaves and lost colour, looks poorly, the other plant is growing nicely.
Day 7; now the microwaved water plant has lost all but one sick looking leaf at the base, the other plant is growing well.
Day 9; the microwaved watered plant is now dead and other plant has preformed as one would expect and is very healthy.

The sender also added a footnote to the pictures which reads; I have known for years that the problem with microwaved anything is not the radiation people used to worry about, It's how it corrupts the DNA in the food so the body can not recognize it. So the body wraps it in fat cells to protect itself from the dead food or it eliminates it fast.
Think of all the Mothers heating up milk in these "Safe" appliances.
What about the nurse in Canada that warmed up blood for a transfusion patient and accidentally killed them when the blood went in dead.
But the makers say it's safe. Never mind then, keep using them.
Ask your Doctor I am sure they will say it's safe too.
Proof is in the pictures of living plants dying.
Remember You are also Living. Take Care. (signed)

I personally have avoided using a microwave oven for many years but find its great for sterilizing my dish washing cloths. Funnily enough another gardener I was talking to this week also told me of another school where a very similar experiment was conducted.
They had more plants which each one was watered with a different type of water, these were, rainwater, tap chlorinated water, filtered water and microwaved water. Results were; Microwaved plant dead, chlorinated water plant ok but not as good as the filtered watered plant, healthiest one at end of the trial was the rain watered one.
The same lady told me that she had a friend that used her microwave oven for heating or cooking everything she ate. This lady has had several tumors removed and does not keep good health.
Bit like the poor microwave watered plants in the two school trials. Our health is our most important asset and it is dumb to do things that interfere with our general well being, even if its a slow process that progressively undermines our health such as microwave use; it killed the seedlings.
I note with interest this also; I obtain raw milk from a certified organic farmer, my dogs love this milk and the bowel is quickly emptied. On odd occasions I purchase standard milk from a shop and put it in their bowl, days later its still there. Animals have more sense than us when it comes to food unless they are starving.
Makes one think.

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VIGILANCE PAYS DIVIDENDS

I feel that one of the worst problems that is going to face gardeners this season will be insect pests especially the potato/tomato psyllid.
I spoke to a lady gardener recently, from the Hawkes Bay area, and she told me that a number of her gardening friends were not going to grow tomatoes and potatoes this season because of the psyllids ruining their crops last season.
The lady also told me that her own later crop of potatoes came to nothing but her tomato plants produced the normal good size tomatoes. She felt the reason that her tomatoes did so well was that she had used the Neem Tree Granules around the plants for whitefly control and this she presumed also saved the plants from the psyllid damage.
My concerns are for newbie gardeners whom are starting to grow their own vegetables and if they are not aware of the possible problems, then have failures, they may lose heart and go back to purchasing the produce they consume.
It is a aspect of human nature that failures can result in disbanding a project with the negative thought that they are not capable. There are others who accept failures, not as their fault, but as a learning experience.
They find out that they are not actually at fault, they just did not have the knowledge needed to succeed. There is a good saying in this regard, ‘When things get tough, the tough get going’.
There is only one gardener that I know of that can plant a seed and most of the time that seed will grow into a good mature plant with very little problem. That gardener is called Nature.
For all us other gardeners we have to learn to follow Nature and the natural patterns, because we are imposing our will, to obtain the results we desire, we need to be vigilant and learn the pit falls.
In regards to insect pest problems we need to start right at the beginning of the season and check all the plants and weeds in our patch for the first sign of a problem.
To do this all you need is a reasonably good eye and its best to do your checks later in the day, towards dusk, but any time will do.
Besides actually looking for insect pests there are a number of signs that indicate that they are there or have been.
Holes in leaves, distorted leaves, scarring of leaves such as silvery leaves on rhododendrons.
If there is a number of ants running up and down a plant then chances are there is some insect secreting honey dew which the ants are after. This can show later as black sooty mold on the leaves as the honey dew forms this mould overtime.
It is the new leaves that are the most succulent to pest insects and these are the ones to check the most.
Old damage will take time to grow out of, new damage will usually be with the growth tips or leaves.
Excessive nitrogen from man made fertilisers make for soft tender growth that insects love.
If you find new holes in leaves and cannot find a caterpillar or other insect present then the damage maybe caused by any of the following, slugs, snails, beetles or birds.
(There is also some diseases that will cause small holes but often there is a discoloration around the damage)
It can pay to go outside with a torch after dark and check for the nocturnal pests such as beetles, slugs and snails. The later two can be seen in moist conditions more readily than dry times.
There is another problem that can face gardeners who are vigilant and keep their gardens free of pests on all plants and weeds and that is invasions from next door, especially from neighbours that do not garden and have no concerns about what happens in their patch.
In these cases it will be an on going battle through the summer and autumn to keep the invaders getting established on your plants.
Neem Tree Granules can help with some plants by simply sprinkling them on the soil in the root zone and repeating every 6 to 8 weeks with fresh granules. The main plants for this would be tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips and brassicas.
Regular sprays of Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum added to obtain complete coverage of the foliage and done later in the day, just prior to dusk will assist in control.
An alternative would be sprays of Professor Mac’s 3 in 1 for lawns, diluted and applied at the rate one 1 litre to 25 litres of water (200mls to 5lites of water)
All of the above sprays are natural and safer to use than chemical poisons.
Dependant on the problem; will depend on the frequency you need to spray to gain control.
If you wish to use a prevention program then likely a two weekly spray would be about right but if you start to see a build up of a pest insect then a weekly program should be applied (or more frequently) till control is gained.
In regards to growing potatoes and tomatoes and the psyllid pest I would suggest placing Neem Tree Granules in the planting hole and also sprinkling the same on the soil surface.
In the early part of the season an occasional spray of the foliage all over with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum.
As the season progresses and the weather warms then maybe a two weekly spray.
Later once fully into summer a weekly spray maybe needed.
Early crops will be least affected where later crops will be greatly affected in any area where the pest has established.
Day Light savings begins on the 27th September this year which means you will have a bit more time in the evenings to get some gardening done.
I received a poster from an email friend of mine who's name is Running Bear (he is a North American Native, living in New Zealand)
The poster has a picture of an elderly Native American Indian and reads, ‘When told the reason for daylight saving time, the Old Indian said “Only the government would believe that if you cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.”
Remember whether you are an experienced gardener or a new gardener, be vigilant and don't let insect pests ruin your gardening efforts.

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GARDENING AND HEALTH

People that garden regularly are generally more healthy and happier than people that do not, or seldom garden. There are a number of reasons for this such as getting out in the fresh air and the exercising of the body while doing various garden chores. That is on the first level.
While out gardening on a sunny day for 15 minutes or more, two or three times a week will give your body the vitamin D it needs for good health.
(From the Internet) ‘Vitamin D prevents osteoporosis, depression, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and even effects diabetes and obesity. Vitamin D is perhaps the single most underrated nutrient in the world of nutrition. That's probably because it's free: your body makes it when sunlight touches your skin. Drug companies can't sell you sunlight, so there's no promotion of its health benefits.
The healing rays of natural sunlight (that generate vitamin D in your skin) cannot penetrate glass. So you don't generate vitamin D when sitting in your car or home.
It is nearly impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from your diet. Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to generate vitamin D in your own body.
A person would have to drink ten tall glasses of vitamin D fortified milk each day just to get minimum levels of vitamin D into their diet.
People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 - 30 times as much exposure to sunlight as fair-skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D. That's why prostate cancer is epidemic among black men -- it's a simple, but widespread, sunlight deficiency.
Sufficient levels of vitamin D are crucial for calcium absorption in your intestines. Without sufficient vitamin D, your body cannot absorb calcium, rendering calcium supplements useless.
Chronic vitamin D deficiency cannot be reversed overnight: it takes months of vitamin D supplementation and sunlight exposure to rebuild the body's bones and nervous system.
Even weak sunscreens (SPF=8) block your body's ability to generate vitamin D by 95%. This is how sunscreen products actually cause disease -- by creating a critical vitamin deficiency in the body.
It is impossible to generate too much vitamin D in your body from sunlight exposure: your body will self-regulate and only generate what it needs.
Vitamin D is "activated" in your body by your kidneys and liver before it can be used.
Having kidney disease or liver damage can greatly impair your body's ability to activate circulating vitamin D. The sunscreen industry doesn't want you to know that your body actually needs sunlight exposure because that realization would mean lower sales of sunscreen products.
Even though vitamin D is one of the most powerful healing chemicals in your body, your body makes it absolutely free. No prescription required.’
That is very interesting and it makes your gardening activities more productive to your health than you may have realised.
Gardening also relieves the day to day stress by just simply getting out there with the plants and trees and doing a few bits and pieces. You can come home stressed after a day’s work, change and hit the garden and within a sort period of time you are communicating with Nature and your stress and worries disappear, which is also great for your health.

The most benefits from gardening and your health comes from growing a good range of vegetables and fruit.
Whether you are growing in open ground, raised gardens or containers you can ensure that your produce has all the nutritional value and flavour possible by growing naturally and avoiding man made chemicals.
Good compost with ample animal manures are the keys for containers and raised beds, also the same lain over open soil, will turn, over time, any soil into great gardens full of soil life.
By adding all the minerals and elements into the growing medium will help ensure that not only that your crops are healthy but also brimming with goodness.
Controlling any pests or plant diseases that may occur can be done simply with natural products some of which you likely have already in your kitchen or laundry.
My second book, Wally’s Green Tips for Gardeners, covers many of these aspects.
Once you have your crops ready for harvest you can then decide how you and your family are going to consume them. We all know that raw is the best way to get all that goodness into your body.
This is easy with fruit and salad crops yet there are a number of foliage vegetables which when cooked the goodness level is reduced.
Some of these can be juiced with a slow speed juicer that squeezes the goodness out into a liquid form for you to drink.
Another method is to place the foliage in a very high speed blender with non-chlorinated water and turn them into what is called a Green Smoothie.
A high speed blender breaks open the cell structure of the foliage opening up the total benefits to your health that can be obtained from your own garden.
Health problems abound these days and they are fairly much avoidable if you grow and consume your own produce in the right manner.
As we get older (as I have) we become more concerned about our health and the health of our loved ones, especially when people that we know fall victim to health problems such as cancer etc.
No one wants to be sick or have a terminal illness but few people do much to avoid this situation till often its a bit late.
To this end I have written a third book entitled, Wally’s Gardening and Health which shows how to grow really healthy food (even if you don't have gardens) very simply and how to consume the same for maximum benefits.
I dare say that my Doctor and pharmaceutical companies must hate me as I don't spend much of my money making them rich. My medicines are growing outside in containers or raised beds and I drink a little of them every day to ensure my health and immune system are excellent.
If you are interested in the book, its not a big one, just over a 100 pages with a r.r.p. of $20.00.
Some garden centres and book shops will be stocking it about now or it can be obtained directly from myself.
Click here for more information

Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food said Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine.
One of my favourite says is, Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants, Healthy You!

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STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT

The met service has reported that we had the warmest August ever since records began with about 1.5 degrees above average, which does not seem a much on those odd cold days, but for a lot of insect pests it means an early arrival. A good hard, cold winter takes its toll on insect populations from last summer, dramatically reducing their numbers before heading into the new season.
I was surprised to find the first leaf hopper in my garden the other day along with a small number of whitefly. A couple of gardeners from other parts of New Zealand informed that they had already seen the odd white butterfly flitting around their cabbages.
This means that the early emergence of pest insects bodes problems in the weeks ahead, as it does not take long before eggs are lain and grubs are into our gardens.
If we take the time to knock out these early invaders we will reduce the size of the problem that will happen over the next few months.
So strike now and repeat your control methods before the situation becomes a real problem.
Insect pests will attack their host plants which often includes weeds and ornamental plants in your garden so for good control of any of the pests, sprays need to be applied to all plants and weeds.
If you are a diligent gardener then the removal of all weeds will greatly reduce the amount of plants you need to spray, if not so careful, then you will need to cover the weeds as well.
A second problem arises for many gardeners who keep a good eye on the pests in their gardens and use sprays to irradiate them, before they become a real problem and that is from over the fence.
Houses that surround you, owned by people that are not keen gardeners, are very often breeding grounds for a whole range of pests which will keep on jumping over the fence into your gardens.
This is a difficult problem and unless the neighbours keep the pest populations under control on their section you will spend the whole of summer and autumn trying to control the invaders.
If you are on friendly terms with your non-gardening neighbours then you could explain the problem to them and ask if they would mind you popping over every now and then to spray their gardens and weeds.
If this arrangement cannot be made then you are going to spend about three times the amount of time and spray to protect your own plants, than you would have to do otherwise.
A good natural general spray that you can use at this time would be Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum added. Firstly place your bottle of Neem Tree Oil into a jug of boiling water for about 10 minutes to ensure that the oil it is nice and liquid, then measure out 10 mls for each litre of water you intend to make up.
Use non-chlorinated water for this so it will not harm the microbes on the foliage of the plants you spray. (Microbes/bacteria on the foliage protect the plant from the nasties so you do not want to harm them) You can simply remove the chlorine from water by placing an air stone into the water attached to a air pump (as used in fish tanks) and allow it to bubble away for a few hours.
If you have a good filter on your indoor tap that removes chlorine (10 micron or less, carbon bonded filter) then use that water.
The water should be warmed before adding the Neem Tree Oil as this will help it mix better and less chance of blocking spray jets and filters.
Add to the mix 1 to 5 mls of Key Pyrethrum for every one litre of spray and then agitate to obtain a good overall mix.
Spray just before dusk so that the pyrethrum is not affected by UV till the next day, which means its active all night.
Key Pyrethrum is a fast knock down spray that affects the nervous system of insects.
The Neem Oil is an anti-feedent and growth regulator which means its not a fast knock down but causes the pest’s death by them not being able to eat or alternatively grow.
There are three brand name Neem Oil products in New Zealand, two of which are not registered in NZ with NZFSA for use on food crops and a very expensive one which is and also certified organic.
In Australia Neem Oil (one brand anyway) is also certified for Organic Growers.
It can be an expensive exercise to obtain certification and the reason the other two Neem Oils are not.
Recently a gardener/green keeper showed me an article which said that the reason for Neem Oil not being certified for food crops was because of possible carcinogenic aspects.
In the same article which was to do with the potato pysllid it was stated that Orthene would be a good chemical to use against the pest but said that Orthene was no longer available but was included in Yates’s Shield still.
Now Orthene is a known and proven carcinogenic so the writer certainly has not done any proper research and has a biased article in favour of his sponsor.
If you have a Neem Oil that is not registered for food crops then it would be your discretion whether to use it or even Shield for that matter. (Shield is only registered for use on Roses and Ornamentals and has a least one chemical in it, which has real health concerns)
Anyway back to the suggested spray of Neem Oil and Key Pyrethrum, this can be used as a preventive to stop population build ups of pest insects on either a weekly, 2 weekly or monthly program dependant on the need. Spray just before dusk for best results and check all plants in your garden at least once a week for any sign of insect pests.
Another concern at this time is the pollination of fruit trees and fruiting plants because of the lack of honey bees these days.
There are pollinating insects around such as bumble bees and native bees which have not been affected by the viroa mite, the problem is to entice these pollinators to your fruiting plants when they are in flower.
My suggestion is to dissolve raw sugar in hot water and when cooler, spray the sugary syrup over the foliage of the fruit trees late in the day, when the pollination has finished for the day.
This mix may do the trick in getting a better fruit set.
Do not use honey as this is frowned on by bee keepers in case of the spread of any virus.
If there are honey bees still around in your area then they maybe attracted by the sugar also and they are still the best known pollinators going.
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This will build up to several years of articles giving you a better reference.
NEW THREATS TO GARDENERS

Last season a number of gardeners lost potato and tomato crops to an insect called the potato psyllid which releases a toxin into the plants and causes the young potatoes or tomatoes not to grow much larger than a marble. My suggested treatment is a combination of Neem Tree Granules and sprays of Neem Tree Oil.
Cluster flies have also been found in their thousands in various regions of New Zealand.
They winter over in areas such as in the roofs of houses, emerge in the warmer weather and lay eggs in the soil near earthworm burrows. The maggots hatch out and find a earthworm where they feed on it, killing the worm. There can be 4 generations of cluster flies each season. This is devastating to our friends the earthworms. The trick is to control the pests in their adult form during the winter months.
Now a new problem has been reported to me recently and that is the guava moth, Coscinoptycha improbana Meyrick (Lepidoptera: Carposindae), which was first found in Kaitaia in May 1997. The insect is a native of Australia, where it is commonly seen in autumn feeding on the flesh of ripening guava fruit.
MAF suggests that guava moth arrived in New Zealand between 1995-97 after being blown across the Tasman during favourable winds that also saw several other new Australian species arriving. Another possibility is that guava moth arrived in coastal Northland in infested fruit from a trans-tasman yacht.
There is little knowledge about this pest as in Australia it has not been a major problem.
In New Zealand it is quickly becoming a major problem and one reader from the Waikato alerted me as they had found damage to their fruit crops this past season.
The problem is far worse than just guava fruit been affected, as the moth has a big range of host fruit it likes.
Guava moth infests fruit all year round. Its hosts include yellow guava and feijoa in autumn, citrus (lemon, mandarin, orange, grapefruit) throughout winter/spring, loquats in spring, plums and peaches, nashi pear in summer, and macadamia nuts from summer through early winter.
This is really bad as the populations keep on building all year round which means more fruit is ruined and the spread of the pest will carry on south into new regions.
The Tree Crops Association concedes that the guava moth is just one of 20-30 new plant pests reaching New Zealand each year, but claims there are defects in the response of MAF Biosecurity that need to be addressed. Members are particularly concerned at the response time over this moth and the huge increase in eradication costs for the painted apple moth because of delays in implementing that programme.
First Moths Not Acted Upon:

The first moths were reported in 1997 but MAF didn't become involved until 1999.
Karyn Froud (Tree Crops Association) says it's unfortunate they weren't alerted earlier, but even then, the Australian experience suggested the moth was 'no big deal.' In Australia it is considered a backyard pest only, not a threat to commercial orchards.
We now know that this moth has the potential to be a very major pest to emerging subtropical crops in New Zealand," she said. "It has definitely had a devastating effect on macadamias.
So far it has only affected backyard citrus and not commercial crops."
Gordon Lees, (Tree Crops Association) however, says commercial organic mandarin orchards in Northland have been affected and these crops have been shipped around New Zealand, though not exported. He claims about 50 percent of the Northland orchards inspected by BioGrow in 2002 showed some degree of infestation.
Karyn says she can understand the frustration of tree croppers but she can also understand why MAF made the decision not to go for eradication on the information available at the time.
"HortResearch now hopes to get funding for bio-control research but it may take 6-10 years before an agent can be introduced. Collecting infested fruit at harvest and removing it from the orchard is another control possibility. The guava moth pheromone is also available from most grower suppliers."
Nuts Totally Destroyed:

With plums and feijoas, there is little external evidence of infestation in the early stages and it's not until someone bites into a fruit that the damage is discovered. Sharp eyes may detect pin prick holes when the caterpillar first enters the fruit, later the fruit is discoloured and you can see 1mm holes where the mature grub has exited. But with organic macadamias it acts as a boring insect and can totally destroy the nut.
The larval form is small, growing to about 8-10mm and turning pink as it matures. The moth probably has a short life of just a few days before laying eggs, offering only a short period for control, but multiple cycles of the moth are likely to occur in northern regions.
The small exit holes have detritus similar to codlin moth.
Organic growers remain particularly at risk. One trial of spraying Cold Water SurfTM has seen infestation markedly reduced while unsprayed feijoas were badly infested with the caterpillar.
Systemic insecticides will probably work for conventional growers, providing this is acceptable for export markets. Is this what the commercial growers are relying on?
One grower has reported that Orthene has reduced infestation to negligible proportions in feijoas - however care will be needed to ensure that resistance does not develop.
The above extracts are from web pages of Tree Crops Association and MAF.
I have also heard that in at least one instance, fruit in a supermarket had to be withdrawn because of the internal damage inside; what appeared on the surface, as perfectly good produce.
There is great concerns about the moth reaching the Hawkes Bay orchards.
At this time likely it has only reached down as far as the Waikato but likely to spread through the rest of the North Island in the next year or so and then across the strait to the South Island.
Also if people are buying fruit from a contaminated area and taking effected fruit home to any part of NZ then it could only be a year or so before outbreaks are found anywhere.
My suggested possible means of control for home gardeners would be to try the Neem Tree Granules under the tree, sprayed with Neem Tree Oil at 25 ml per litre. (This may help on some types of trees)
Using the pheromone traps to catch the male moths would give you the time of activity and thus the right time to spray, which you could apparently try the Cold Water Surf or sprays of Neem Tree Oil.
Because the pest can be in operation all year round on various fruit and nut crops it could be a year round battle for those with a good selection of different fruit trees. The moths are also attracted to light and suitable traps could be used.
The question is going to arise; who is going to take a bite of a fruit to find grubs inside?

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SPRING HAS SPRUNG

During this last week with nice sunny days through out the country, has made us aware that nature and our gardens are in back into full, early spring mode.
I see in my own garden the first plum trees are in flower, a peach tree budding up nicely and about to flower also; dormant daffodil bulbs are back into foliage and the pine trees next door are laden with pollen.
Silverbeet and spinach which had been slowly growing over the past few months are now picking up speed and showing lots of new growth over the past couple of weeks.
The warmer temperatures help but it is the ever increasing hours of light that make the real difference to plants and unfortunately the weeds also.
The garden centres have been busy with lots of people getting plants and seeds organised for the spring.
There is lots to do so lets go through a list of some of the things that maybe applicable to your garden.
Starting with fruit trees; it is a good time to check your citrus trees, if their leaves are not a nice dark green then they are lacking in magnesium and seeing that they are likely in fruit, a dose of potash would make the fruit juicer when ripe. Both can be simply achieved by an application of Fruit and Flower Power applied now and repeated once a month till harvest.
If there is any black sooty mould on the foliage and fruit, then there will be insects such as scale or mealy bugs active, secreting honey dew which turns to the black mould. A spray all over with Neem Tree Oil should be applied and repeated about a month later.
If you have borer in the tree then sprinkle Neem Tree Granules under the tree to the drip line and then spray the granules with Neem Tree Oil at 25ml per litre and repeat this spray about a month later.
That should knock out any borer in the tree and help control any other insects as well.
Stone fruit trees will likely have curly leaf disease happening as the new leaves emerge.
The traditional prevention is to spray the tree every 7 to 10 days with Liquid Copper with Raingard added. If you can keep a film of copper over the new leaves until the disease time has passed, then most of the leaves should be clean and not distorted.
I have heard of another interesting method but I am not sure how effective it is.
The gardener that told me about it said they sprinkled Soda Ash (Washing Soda) under the tree out belong the drip line each season when the leaves start to emerge. If there is any sign of leaf curl later then another dose is applied. Washing soda is available from some Supermarkets in a lump form which should be broken down to more of a powder and then applied and lightly watered in.
It is an interesting solution and one that I am going to try this season. If you do it, then I would be interested to hear of any results, good or bad, that you find.
If it works as well as my informant said, then it would save a lot of time spraying.
Plum trees may have the disease bladder plum which means some of the immature fruit become distorted, looking like a bladder.
The solution to this is to spray late in the day when the tree is in flower with Liquid Copper and Raingard. Repeat about every 7 days till flowering is finished and the fruit are well formed.
Copper sprays at this time over all fruit trees and roses will not do any harm and may prevent possible problems. Do not add any spraying oils to the copper as it reduces the effectiveness of the copper and is a waste of money.
If you have not done your final pruning of your roses do so now and then spray them with the Liquid Copper and Raingard.
You can add to the spray Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) to further increase the health of the roses.
Then two weeks later spray the roses with MBL, Perkfection Supa and Mycorrcin.
Then two weeks later spray again with just the MBL and Mycorrcin. Then repeat two weeks later with MBL, Perkfection Supa and Mycorrcin. Two weeks later with MBL and Mycorrcin.
Repeat the same right through the season till autumn. This spray program will greatly assist with the prevention of black spot and rust.
Only feed your roses natural foods such as sheep manure pellets, Bio Boost, blood & bone, animal manures, compost, potash and magnesium. Sprinkling some Rok Solid and Ocean Solids around each rose will give them all the minerals they may require to be full of health and do not water them with chlorinated water as it harms the soil life and the health of the roses.
Chlorinated water out of the tap is harmful to soil life and worms and the easy way around the problem is to place a 10 micron filter on the outdoor taps.
Your early seed potatoes should be nicely sprouted and greened up about now and ready for planting.
You can either plant them in a deep hole or in a more shallow hole and then mould them up as the foliage comes through. The reason for this is that potato plants will produce tubers all the way up the trunks, so in theory the longer the trunk is under ground the bigger the crop.
In the base of the planting hole place a couple of tablespoons of sheep manure pellets, one tablespoon of gypsum and a level teaspoon of BioPhos along with about a tablespoon of Neem Tree Granules.
Later on when the covering of the trunk is completed and the foliage is allowed to grow on, then sprinkle as a side dressing some Neem Tree granules and a little Rok Solid.
You are unlikely to have much of a problem with the potato psyllid early in the season and hopefully the Neem Granules will help, as the season progresses they will build up numbers and damage to the young tubers will occur. Then sprays of Neem Tree Oil along with the Neem Granules applications will be more necessary. The same applies to your tomato plants as well, later in the season.
Neem Granules should also be placed in the planting hole of your tomatoes and sprinkled on the soil under the plants to assist in the control of whitefly. Repeat the granules about every 6 weeks.
Sprays of Neem Oil can be applied two weekly if required.
In your vegetable gardens applications of OrganiBOR, Rok Solid and Ocean Solids should be applied before planting or spot used in the planting holes. (Only a little of each in the planting hole.
Other beneficial natural products include Rapid Lime, gypsum, dolomite, sheep pellets, Bio Boost, BioPhos, blood & bone, compost etc. Do not apply the lime where you are going to grow tomatoes and potatoes.
If products are broadcast over an area, lightly rake over to mix into the soil.
A two weekly spray of MBL will also add value and health to your crops.
Don't forget to spray your strawberry plants every two weeks with Mycorrcin for increased harvests of berries. MBL can be added to this spray if you like.

A busy time, so get gardening.

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GARDENS NEED BORON

Boron is a semi-metallic trace element which is essential for plant growth and the availability of this micro nutrient in the soil and irrigation water is an important determinant of crop yield and quality.
Boron does not appear on Earth in it’s elemental form but is typically found as boric acid or as borate (boron oxide) minerals.
In these forms, boron is widely distributed in nature and is released into the environment (soil, water, air) mainly via geothermal activity and the natural weathering of clay-rich sedimentary rocks.
Boron deficiency has been recognized as one of the most common micro nutrient problems in agriculture with large areas of the world (including New Zealand) being boron deficient.
Such deficiencies can be corrected with the use of borate fertilizers and in areas of acute deficiency borates can increase crop yields by 30 to 40 percent.
However, the management of boron concentrations in soils can be difficult as a narrow range exists between plant deficiency and toxicity.
Traditionally, the most commonly used boron fertilizers are sodium borates (eg borax, ulexite) and they range from 11.3 to 20.5 % boron. However, due to the high solubility of sodium borates it is difficult to maintain consistent boron concentrations in soil. Thus, sodium borate fertilizers are typically applied frequently and in small quantities to avoid boron toxicity.
A new product; OrganiBOR® is a naturally occurring borate mineral (hydroboracite) mined in the Santa Rosa de Los Pastos Grandes valley in Argentina and is made up of a rare mixture of magnesium and calcium borate. Unlike, sodium borates, hydroboracite is not highly soluble and therefore OrganiBOR® releases boron slowly into the soil, at a rate similar to which most plants uptake boron.
OrganiBOR® can, therefore be applied in larger quantities than traditional boron fertilizers and will persist in the soil without the risk of boron toxicity.
One application of OrganiBOR® will last anywhere between 3 and 10 years depending on the crop, soil type and climatic conditions.
Thus application of OrganiBOR® is simpler for most growers and gardeners and more cost effective, especially when combined with soil and foliage testing to determine exactly when the next application is required.
OrganiBOR® is certified for organic use and is suitable for grapes, apples, kiwifruit, avocados, potatoes, tomatoes and almost all other crops grown commercially or in home gardens in New Zealand.
As OrganiBOR® releases boron into in the soil it combines with water and forms boric acid and plants take up boron from the soil in this form. Boron plays an essential role in a plant’s life cycle.
In vascular plants, boron deficiency inhibits leaf expansion, root elongation, apical dominance, flower development, pollen tube growth and, in turn, fruit and seed set.
Boron toxicity also results reduced shoot and root growth, with marginal and tip chlorosis and necrosis typically occurring.
While the effects of boron deficiency and toxicity are well documented, the biological mechanisms involving boron which lead to these symptoms are not well understood.
Recently, it was shown that boron cross-links pectins in plant cell walls a process that is essential for cell wall synthesis, structure and function. But in addition to this, boron involvement has been implicated in a diverse range of cellular processes including regulation of gene expression, nucleic acid metabolism, carbohydrate and protein metabolism, indole acetic acid metabolism, membrane integrity and function, phenol metabolism, nitrogen fixation and nitrogen assimilation.
Accumulating evidence also points to boron being important to animals and humans. Boron has been shown to be necessary to complete the life cycles of some higher animals (eg zebra fish and frogs) and boron deprivation has been linked to impaired growth, bone health, brain function and immune response various animal models including humans.
The daily intake of boron by humans can vary widely depending on the proportions of various food groups in their diet.
Fruits, leafy vegetables, nuts and legumes are rich in boron, as are wine, cider and beer. For humans, boron intakes or 1-3 mg/day compared to intakes of 0.25-0.5 mg/day reportedly have beneficial effects on bone and brain health.
The recent release of OrganiBOR® to the home garden market in one kilo gram containers through some garden centres will allow gardeners to safely apply this essential element to the crops.
It is applied at the rate of 100 grams per ten square metres which means the 1Kg container will do 100 square metres for a 3 to 5 year treatment before the need to apply again.
This will be an absolute boon for home or part time growers that in the past have not been able to easily apply boron, unless they really know their stuff. Sprinkle it about every 3-5 years and forget about it in the knowledge that the plants will be getting the correct amount of boron without risking any sort of toxicity. The boron is of course taken up by the plants and distributed into the fruit or vegetables (or flowers for that matter) which are of course in turn eaten by you and me, so not only will your plants be healthier but you will be too.
The following is a few examples of what happens when plants do not have adequate boron:
Boron deficiency in roses can cause small, thickened, curled, scorched leaves and death to the terminal bud. Death of the terminal bud causes lateral buds to develop contributing to witches broom effect. Boron deficiency can cause "bullheads" (flowers with shortened petals, that are abnormally thick and have the margins roll in).Treat your roses with OrganiBOR® for healthier plants and better flowers.
Boron deficiencies in cauliflowers causes browning of the heads.
In celery, the first symptoms are brownish mottling along the margins of the bud leaves and brittle stems with brown stripes along the ribs. Later, crosswise cracks appear on the stems.
Acute deficiency in corn appears on the newly formed leaves as elongated, watery or transparent stripes; later, the leaves turn white and die. Growing points also die and, in severe cases, sterility is common. If ears develop, they may show corky brown bands at the bases of the kernels.
The term "cork" as used here applies to boron-deficiency symptoms on apples. There are two phases of the disease on the fruits: namely, external cork, characterized by surface spots, and internal cork, characterized by lesions in the core or core and flesh.
To sum up all plants require a certain amount of boron.
Some plants are very sensitive to boron deficiencies and will not produce as they should unless boron is applied. In a generalization, if you apply OrganiBOR® to your gardens you can expect healthier plants that grow better and produce bigger crops and better flowers.
If there is adequate supplies of boron all ready present in your gardens then a application of the product will not make any difference. It is very expensive to do the tests in a lab but if you apply OrganiBOR® and then see a difference; then the test is free as you have done it all yourself with the help of your plants who will love you for it.
Then forget it for 3 plus years before re-applying.

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TOMATOES FOR THE NEW SEASON

Now that we are into August, it is the right time to start thinking about tomatoes for the new season.
The traditional time for planting tomatoes outdoors in many parts of New Zealand is around Labour Weekend which is about 10 odd weeks away.
That does not mean that you have to wait till then to buy a few plants for the garden.
Tomato plants planted out in Labour Weekend are unlikely to produce ripe fruit till early in the New Year except for a few quick maturing types such as the Sweet One Hundreds.
On the other hand if you were to start now with seeds you are likely to have plants with fruit on by Labour Weekend and have ripe tomatoes before Xmas.
Garden Centres are likely to have a few varieties of tomato plants about now including the first of the Supertom tomatoes and that even puts you further ahead for possible ripe fruit say about November.
Gardeners that are fortunate in having a glasshouse can sow some seeds and buy a couple of plants for growing on. For those that do not have a glasshouse there is no reason that you can not get an early start as well, it just takes a little more care.
Let us look at how to go about this without a glasshouse but similar applies to glasshouse owners.
Purchase a packet of tomato seeds from your garden centre and one that I would recommend is Silvery Fir Tree which is a Russian tomato that is a dwarf type, an excellent producer of nice size fruit and its cold tolerant as well. The seeds can be found on Niche Seed Stands in some garden centres.
I have grow this tomato for a couple of years and they are perfect in a 20 litre container only growing about half a metre tall and very bushy with lots of small to medium size fruit.
It is a plant which you do not remove laterals, you just let it grow.
The first thing to do is germinate a few seeds and this can be done in a old punnet or cell pack.
Fill the punnet with a good potting mix to about two thirds full then place say 6 seeds nicely apart or one seed per cell on top of the mix.
Next spray the seeds with a solution of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) at 20mils per litre of non chlorinated water, so that the seeds and the mix are nicely wet.
Cover the seeds lightly with either a little more mix or alternatively use sand or fine pumas.
Spray the surface to moisten. The seedling tray can now be placed onto a heat pad (if you have one) or alternatively in a warm room for germination. Every day spray the surface to keep it moist.
Dependant on the amount of warmth will determine when the first show of foliage appears.
Once a show of foliage appears the seedling tray needs to be moved to a spot outside that is sunny but sheltered from frosts.
The easy way to do this is to take an old drawer and place the tray inside it with a sheet of glass over to cover. If it looks like there maybe a frost, place a sheet of cardboard over the glass with some stones to hold it in place or alternatively place the cardboard under the glass for the night.
Remember next morning to remove the cardboard. Other punnets of vegetable seedlings can also be placed inside the drawer for early plantings.
Mist the young plants every day or two to keep the mix moist. Do not over water.
When the plants have established their true leaves (the first leaves are the embryo leaves from germination) then you can wet down the tray and carefully lift the young plants out without disturbing the roots and damaging them.
They are now ready to go into their first small pot which should be no wider than about 50mm and up to 70mm tall use a good compost as the new growing medium.
A little of my own Secret Tomato Food with Neem Tree Granules can be applied to the surface of the compost but not against the trunk of the plant. If your drawer is deep enough the small pots can be placed back inside with the glass to cover.
If there is not sufficient height then place the pots in a sunny spot and protect from frost.
You may want to move them indoors or onto a covered porch or into a shed overnight when it looks like a frost. They should also be protected against cold wind and rain during the day.
The secret is to keep the mix just a little moist and certainly not wet as it will make it colder for the plants.
When the plants get up to about 100mm tall in their pots then it is about time to repot them into a 120mm pot using compost once again. When you transplant them this time, you will bury the plants deeper, up to about their first set of leaves.
This then allows the plant to root up the mix covered trunk increasing the amount of roots to nourish the young plants. Apply a little more tomato food and spray the plants every couple of weeks with MBL.
The above last part would also apply to purchased tomatoes in punnets, cell trays or Supertoms which come in a smaller pot.
When your plants reach about 200mm tall then repot them into 200 to 250mm pot.
At this time you will likely have the first trusses of flowers and the beginning of fruit set.
Allow the plant to grow on to about 500mm tall and then if conditions are favorable they can be planted outdoors with protection or repotted into a 20 litre container for dwarf type plants or into a 50 litre or larger container for tall growing types, as their final home.
When repotting wet the mix down first and transplant without disturbing the root system by tapping the edge of the pot on a bench to remove while supporting the plant with your other hand.
Apply more tomato food with Neem Granules at each transplant time.
A problem arose last season in some areas with a pest called the potato/tomato psyllids, these insects suck on the stems and leaves of the plant and release a toxin which prevent the fruit from growing much larger than a marble in both tomatoes and potatoes.
My possible solution for overcoming the problem is to use the Neem Tree granules around the root zone on the growing medium and to place more about every 6 weeks.
Spray the granules and the plant all over with Neem tree Oil every two weeks with MBL added and once we are into summer fully, spray with the same every week.
In the early part of the season there should not be a problem until the pests start to appear, as the weather warms up. Once their populations start to build, then regular sprays will need to be used.
The same applies to your potato crops.
A monthly spray of Perkfection will assist in preventing diseases.
When removing laterals or any leaves spray the wound immediately with a solution of Liquid Copper to prevent disease entering the plant.
Lets hopefully look to a good season and lots of fresh home grown tomatoes, they certainly taste far better than the purchased onces.
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FRUIT TREES FOR YOU

Its this time of the year that fruit trees are readily available from garden centres and it is the best time to plant them, as they have the rest of winter and all of spring to establish before they hit their first summer. I love fruit trees and other fruiting plants, having gathered a nice collection of various types, over a period of time.
Just this week I received two new fruit trees from an Invercargill nursery which are a double grafted Nashi and a peach called Yumyeong. These will be planted into 100 litre containers which come from a 200 litre plastic drum cut in half.
When choosing what fruiting plants you are going to grow it is important to select the types of fruit that you and your family most enjoy and then to pick the cultivars that are most suitable and productive for your locality.
It is a waste of time buying say an apricot that needs a cold winter followed by a warm spring if these climatic conditions don't exist in your region. It is better to buy one that bears well without a real winter chilling.
A number of fruiting trees require a suitable pollinator to obtain good crops, which means you need to buy two different cultivars to ensure that you have a good fruit set.
Now days we can find plums for instance that have a double graft, meaning that two varieties of plums will be produced on the same root stock. The varieties chosen for the grafting will often be the pollinators, so only one tree is needed but two types of plums will be harvested.
For a time some nurseries were producing triple or more varieties onto the same root stock. These were more difficult to produce and often one graft would fail in preference of the other two. Even if the 3 did take nicely it would mean some complicated pruning to ensure that the 3 parts preformed equally and in many cases one would ultimately fail.
I not sure if these multi-grafted trees are still available and in many ways they can be a waste of time and effort. Even with a twin graft one has to monitor the two aspects to ensure both are growing equally well without one superseding the other.
In the likes of apples and some other grafted fruit you may have the choice of the type of root stock such as MM106 etc. The root stock type will help determine the ultimate size of the tree and thus the amount of fruit it can bear. These are MM106, 4-5metres MM793, 3.5-4metres and EM9 2.5-3m The later is also referred to dwarfing root stock. This can be a great advantage for people with smaller sections.
Some types maybe labelled ‘Self Fertile’ which means you have no need for another tree as a pollinator. Others may have their name on the label along with recommended pollinators.
These are important aspects to consider when you are buying any fruiting tree. Self fertile will produce good crops but better again if there is a second suitable cultivar or the same species planted nearby.
Another tip, because of the lack of feral bees in parts of New Zealand, if you plant your fruit tree down wind (prevailing wind) of your pollinator, you will likely have a better fruit set due to pollen been breeze carried.
Having a small section myself, I now grow any new fruit trees as container plants.
There is many advantages to this, you can grow many more trees in containers than you could ever grow in open ground. The containers restrict the root system making for smaller trees, no matter what root stock they are on. Smaller trees are easier to manage, spray, and been in a container, less loss of nutrients from leaching.
Crops are smaller but minimal wastage, as you tend to eat all the fruit produced.
They are easier to protect from birds as the fruit ripens. If you move house you can take your fruit trees with you without too much of a hassle.
For those that are interested in this method here is how I do it. Firstly choose the largest plastic rubbish tin you can find. (About 76 litres) Avoid black plastic ones, as they can cook the roots if in strong direct sunlight. If you can source 200 litre plastic drums even better.
Drill about 40-50mm wide holes in the sides of the bin about 100 mm up from the bottom for drainage. This leaves an area at the base, for surplus water in the summer.
Some of mine I partially dig into the soil and if I want the roots to enter into the soil I will place about 4 holes 40-50mm wide in the bottom as well as 4 at the cardinal points on the sides. (If you move you can easily wrench the tree and container from the ground) I have used this part buried method, for my citrus trees and passion fruit vines to avoid root rots in winter.
Now for a growing medium to fill the containers, don't waste your money on potting mixes as they lack the long term goodness that a tree needs.
Instead use a manure based compost. There are organic mulches and composts available from most garden centres, that are made of bark fines, composted with animal manures.
Add to this a few handfuls of clean top soil, mixed or layered through. I also add in worm-casts and worms from my worm farm. The worms help keep the heavier composts open and also supply a continuous source of nutrients.
You can if you like add in sheep manure pellets and blood & bone.
Plant up your tree so that the soil level is about 100mm below the rim of the container. This allows for easy watering and feeding. I mulch the top of the mix in spring with old chook manure and apply Fruit and Flower Power (Magnesium and potassium) once a month during the fruiting period.
Other foods can be applied as needed. If the roots are not allowed into the surrounding soil, you will need to lift the tree out of the container every 2-3 years and root prune by cutting off the bottom one third of the roots with a saw. New compost and a bit of soil is placed in this area vacated and the tree put back in the container. This is best done in winter when the tree is dormant.
As mentioned before, garden centres now have their range of fruit trees in. If you cant find a particular specimen there, have a look at http://www.diacks.co.nz/fruit.html on the net.

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CHECK LIST FOR SPRING

The weather may not be the best but each day the sunlight hours increase by a few more minutes and our plants and gardens respond to this increasing amount of light.
We are only about 6 weeks away to the beginning of spring and there is lots to do in these 6 weeks so that you are ready, and the gardens are prepared.
Let us list some of the things to do and you can pick out which ones apply to your gardens.
If you need to move any shrubs or trees get onto it as soon as possible as time is quickly running out for safe moving.
Roses should now have their final pruning and as you prune each one spray the plant and cuts with Liquid Copper. Pick a sunny day to do pruning when the air is not damp to reduce the risk of diseases entering the wounds.
You are likely to find that new growths are starting to appear on the canes which gives you a good indication where to prune the canes which is just above a outward going bud.
It is too later to use Lime Sulphur on the roses or other deciduous plants.
Likewise if you have any deciduous fruit trees or plants now is the time to do any pruning if required.
Likely it is getting too late for grapes as they will bleed as the sap is starting to rise about now.
Weeds will also be coming away at this time so clean them up before they mature and produce any weed seeds.
If you are going to use a chemical weed killer you need to dissolve some sulphate of ammonia into water and add that to the spray mix along with Raingard to stimulate the weeds to grow and thus die.
Weeds growing in cobbles and similar can be treated with salt to kill them safely. Just pour the salt over the weeds and cracks.
Moss and liverworts etc will have grown in lawns and other areas so clean them up with a spray of Moss and Liverwort Control.
Spring bulbs will be starting to bud up and be getting ready to flower, sprinkle a little potash around them to enhance the flowering.
Plants that have yellow leaves should be treated with a sprinkling of Fruit and Flower Power or Epsom salts. Repeat again a month later.
Purchase seed potatoes for planting next month, there is a good selection available from your local garden centres at this time. The potatoes should be laid in a tray for sprouting.
If there are no noticeable sprouts on the ones you buy place the bag in doors in a warm room or in a hot water cupboard to break dormancy. As soon as the shoots appear place the tray outside in a frost free situation so the shoots green up ready for planting.
If you have not purchased your new season strawberry plants yet do so now and plant them out as soon as possible. Start spraying your strawberry plants every two weeks with Mycorrcin, it will increase your crops by 200 to 400%. Plant out any runners that have rooted up.
Vegetable gardens should be limed after the weeds have been cleared and preferably use a soft lime that is quick acting such as Rapid Lime.
It is also time to start germinating vegetable seeds of hardy plants. The seeds can be started off indoors in a seedling tray or punnet and watered in with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) which speeds up germination.
As soon as they show the first green leaves they must go outdoors into good overhead light so they do not stretch. An old drawer with a sheet of glass over the top is ideal for this.
Ensure that they have protection from later frosts. If you have a glasshouse then germinate and grow the seedlings on by placing the trays on a bench inside.
Likewise trays of seed potatoes can be also placed on the bench to green up safely.
If you wish to build a raised garden for vegetables then do this now.
If you have a lot of leaves laying on the ground, gather them up and place them on a bit of lawn and run a rotary mower with catcher on over the pile to smash them into small bits.
Place the catcher lots into a black plastic rubbish bag till the bag is full. Tie off the bag and punch a lot of little holes over the bag with a nail or small screwdriver. Place the bag in a sunny spot and leave till summer.
You will have made some neat leaf mould to use in gardens or containers. Placing some animal manure such as chook manure into the bag in layers will further increase the goodness of the leaf mould.
Look in your yellow pages for Poultry Farmers and Dealers locally, ring them and ask about obtaining bags of chook manure. Many of them sell good sized bags at a low price and this is great food for your gardens.
Besides spreading it over bare soil areas at this time and covering with compost you can make a liquid manure for side dressing plants later on.
Take a plastic rubbish can and fill the bottom third with the manure, some grass clippings and sea weed can also be added if available. Fill to three quarters full with non chlorinated water and stir with a suitable paddle.
Put the lid on and leave with an occasional stir. When ready to use dilute the mix to one part liquid manure to nine parts non chlorinated water. This can be safely watered around or over plants at this strength.
Check around for the availability of other animal manures in your areas from stables or farmers. Often you can find free supplies and its great for your gardens.
If you wish to plant any more fruit trees then now is the best time to do so. Check out your local garden centres to see what is available.
Likewise if you wish to plant any more roses now is the time to get them in.
Plantings of garlic cloves and shallots can be done now along with sowings of broad beans and peas.
Lime the planting area of the seeds and water in with MBL.
Make a point of harvesting and using any winter vegetables that are mature over the next few weeks, if you do not then they will go to seed as the day light hours increase. This will also give you more garden area for spring planting. Seedlings of hardy vegetable plants and annual flowering plants are now available from garden centres and these can be planted out now.
If you have clear plastic bottles of cordial or fruit juices don't throw them into the rubbish, instead cut off the bottoms, remove the cap and push them into the ground with the vegetable plant inside.
This shelters the plant from the wind and cold and acts like a little glasshouse to promote growth.
Later when the plant starts to fill the inside of the bottle it can be removed to allow further un-cramped space. It can speed up harvest time by several weeks and give the seedlings protection from birds and cats.
Its a busy time when the weather allows.

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PRUNING ROSES AND FRUIT TREES

Soon thousands of gardeners will be getting out their secateurs and pruning saws and begin the annual pruning of roses and deciduous fruiting trees and plants.
Why do we prune? There are several reasons for pruning, keeping a good shape, removal of dead or spindly wood, preventing woody-ness, shaping so that all of the plant obtains as much sun light as possible, encouraging flowering and fruiting, preventing dense growth, encouraging new growth and removing diseased wood.
On roses we tend to prune to obtain the best from the plant. A Hybrid Tea for instance will likely be pruned hard, leaving a few strong canes to produce a smaller number of perfect blooms. On the other hand a Floribunda which you want a mass display of blooms will have many more canes and not cut back as hard as a Hybrid Tea.
When we prune we are opening up the plant to diseases that may enter the plant through the cuts causing problems, or even resulting in the death of the plant.
In winter the worst disease is Silver leaf which does attack stone and pip fruit, roses, popular, willows and escallonia hedges. The disease turns leaves silver and the leaves become smaller. Infected branches die back and are killed when the fungal mycelium stops the sap flow. Fruiting bodies form on branches soon after they die. These are about 15-30mm across, sometimes larger, and may look like small brackets.
They are likely to appear when the weather is cool and wet. It is during cool wet weather that the fruiting bodies release their spore which can then enter the pruning cuts of host plants. During warm dry weather the spores are not released and this is the reason that summer pruning is done in preference to winter pruning on many fruit trees. This does not help with roses as the main pruning is a winter chore.
There are other diseases such as die-back that can also enter fresh wounds.
In the past gardeners would be always sealing cuts with the aid of pruning sticks or pastes to reduce the instance of disease. But over time many of these products have escalated in price making them an expensive item, especially if you only have a few roses. So many gardeners have stopped using this protection as the cost of some pruning solutions can mean you could buy one or two new roses.
Some have used alternative, cheaper protection such as mixing a copper into either petroleum jelly or acrylic paint and applying this to the wounds. Some will just spray the plants after pruning with copper to give a degree of protection.
You can make up your own protection by using Liquid Copper at 7mils per litre of water with one mil of Raingard added to each litre made.
If you place this solution into a trigger sprayer then the cuts can be easily sprayed as you complete each rose bush. Very convenient to use, just squirt a little of the solution on all wounds as you prune.
Another great advantage is that you can spray the solution onto the cutting areas of pruning tools between plants.
This will aid in the prevention of transfers of fungal and bacterial diseases between plants. Dead wood can easily have fungus diseases working on the wood to break it down. Sometimes one may have a disease such as silver leaf in a rose or tree and not beware of it and transfer the disease to other plants while pruning.
Silver leaf can be deadly if not treated in the early stages with either Trichoderma or Perkfection Supa.
The Liquid Copper and Raingard solution will keep well out of sun light with the top firmly secured.
Gardeners can now protect their roses and plants with an affordable solution.
After you have finished pruning all your roses and fruit trees than a overall spray of Liquid Copper and Raingard is well worthwhile.

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ROSE PLANTING TIPS

Roses can be lost when their roots are not kept moist during and after transplanting.
If you buy roses that are not bagged up or in containers, then you should submerge their roots into a bucket of water as soon as you get them home. Leave them in the bucket for a day and then plant. If you cannot plant them at that time, then heel them into a patch of garden where the soil is moist to wet.
If the roses are in a bag or container ensure that the mix is kept nice and moist till you lift them out of the container and plant them. It is fatal if the roots of roses dry out for any length of time.
When you dig a hole to plant a rose, before planting, fill the hole with water and leave till most of this water drains away. (If the water table is high and there is already water at the bottom of the hole then don't add more) Sub soil maybe dry even if the top soil is moist and we need to ensure that the soil in the area of the roots is nice and wet.
Likewise for the first year of the rose’s life, in its new location, the rose must have adequate moisture in the root zone. You may like to cut the bottom off a plastic cordial bottle and plant it so the neck of the bottle is in the root zone.
This allows you to water the roots when the top soil is very dry.
Otherwise a new rose will need about a bucket of water a day during drought times or when the soil moisture level becomes low.
New roses have not been pruned, they have been cut back to make transporting easier.
Normally about 4-6 weeks after planting a new rose you would do the final pruning.
The first problem the roses will face in the new season is attacks of aphids on the new shoots and buds. At the first sign spray with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum added and repeat when new aphids come along. Its easy to tell with this organic product, as the aphids are dead within 24 hours from spraying.
A few gardeners have told the writer that they placed Neem Tree Granules in the root zone of their roses and found that by refreshing the granules about every 6 weeks that they did not have much of an aphid problem last spring.
You may like to try this yourself and if it works for you it will reduce or eliminate the need of a spray program.
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A WET WINTER

This winter has been wetter and colder than any we have had for sometime. For us gardeners it is a matter of doing our best to keep plants alive and the gardens in reasonable shape while chaffing at the bit. One of the worst problems is saturated soil which is a problem for plants that do not like wet feet.
There are a few things that you can do to help dry out areas of the garden quicker and by doing so save the plants growing there.
I live on a section that has a heavy clay pan which does not allow water to seep away once the pan is wet. Surface flooding is not uncommon with water laying for days until wind and sun do their work.
To aid evaporation I dig trenches around garden plots about a spade or more deep. The water in the surrounding soil soon fills the trenches and being exposed to the air and sun this water evaporates away faster.
It is an old trick that we used to use when water tables were high.
Unfortunately the weaker winter sun and often still days does not aid fast evaporation.
A couple of years ago I dug a single trench the length of most of the back yard, that has in the past, been surface flooded for days and even weeks. Along the trench a nova-flow pipe was laid covered with pea metal then soil.
At the trench end near the house, where electric power is available, a deep hole about 75cm was dug. Inside the hole a large plastic container was placed with numerous holes drilled in the sides.
A submersible pump was placed in this container. The pump is one that has a float attachment so when the pump is covered in water, it switches on and runs till there is no water left and then turns off, waiting for more water to arrive.
The area above the pump was covered with old wood and sacks to prevent rubbish and sticks from getting into the catchment’s area and blocking the pump.
The water from the pump is carried away to the storm water system where it is removed away from the section. In the past I have used a similar system but with an open trench and found that I was forever having to clean out the trench and unblock the pump. (Having chooks running around in the area does not help)
These problems were solved by the covered trench, nova-flow pipe and covered pump area.
Submersible pumps are not expensive to buy and the one that I have must be at least 15 years old or more and it just keeps on going. Not expensive to run either as they use only a small amount of power and turn themselves on and off in relation to the amount of water.
In my case surface flooding only lasts for a few hours, after heavy rain instead of days, the plants appreciate it and the chooks are happy too, not having to grow webbed feet.
Root rots are the biggest problem for many plants that are under water for extended periods.
If the plants are evergreen such as citrus then a spray of Perkfection over the foliage at twice the normal spray rate will help the plants overcome the wet weather diseases. A repeat spray a month later at the normal rate should be followed up.
Wet soil is difficult to work with but when assisted to dry out to moist soil, it is great for wedding and digging. Another problem that I came across last year during the previous wet winter and spring was from gardeners that had mulched their gardens.
The mulch is great in drier times but is a curse in wet times as it prevents the natural evaporation of water.
These gardeners lost lots of valuable plants and trees because of their mulches.
If you have a mulched garden and some of the plants are not looking to good then it would be a good idea to clear the mulch away from the root zone of the these plants.
Follow up with sprays of Perfection Supa to aid their recovery.
The signs to look for are drooping leaves, leaves going yellow and falling.
If you have lost all the foliage off a plant then the spray will be useless.
Clear the area of any mulch, make a trench around the plant outside of its root zone and hope for the best.
If not all the roots have rotted then the plant may come away slowly in the spring, if not, leave till summer before removing, just in case.
Container plants outdoors should not have a saucer under them to catch surplus water during wet times. Instead lift the container up and place a couple of slats of wood under the container so that there is a air flow underneath.
This will aid the container to dry out quicker.
Wet sensitive plants in containers should be moved to a place where they do not get rained on.
Concrete driveways and paths are areas where the rain water can run into adjoining gardens increasing the amount of moisture the gardens receive.
If the garden is hemmed in by a fence or building then the water will tend to build up in that garden.
Ideally the garden in these cases should be a raised garden but if this is not currently the case then you maybe able to reduce the problem by placing a edging strip along the concrete path/drive to reduce the amount of water flowing into the garden.
The water will of course build up on the concrete area unless it has the ability to flow away to a safe area. It will dry out faster on the concrete when conditions allow.
The wet times also creates a great situation for moss, moulds and slime to grow.
These are unsightly and a danger on cobbles or concrete making them slippery to walk on.
Many injuries occur as a result every year, so a moss remover such as Moss and Liverwort Control should be sprayed over the problem area to clean up.
The same product can be used over lawns, gardens, fences, roofs etc to also clean up those areas.
It will not harm plants that are sprayed but follow the instructions on the container and lightly water the plants half an hour after the application of the product.
Another comment I have received is the question, Is there more grass grubs around this year?
This is one time that excessive rain and waterlogged soils is an advantage as grass grubs can drown in very wet soils so they come to the surface to breathe.
As they are on the surface they are readily brought to our attention and gives the appearance of a lot of grubs. In drier times you would not see them and the numbers would likely be the same.
Brought to the surface with any luck hungry birds will gobble them up.
In the meantime keep your gumboots handy and hope for better gardening weather.
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ASPARAGUS & PRUNING

Asparagus is a favorite seasonal vegetable for many gardeners and gourmets; with mature crowns producing a number of spears each spring.
I spoke to a elderly lady gardener recently who told me that she had a bed of asparagus that is now 30 years old and still producing an abundance of spears every season. What a great asset to have in ones garden!
Asparagus crowns become available about this time each year in your local garden centres and its a good idea to obtain them as soon as available as they are best, freshly dug.
If you wish to move an existing asparagus bed to a new location, now is also the best time to do so as the ferns will be yellowing off and they can be cut down and the crowns lifted. Try to do so with as little root disturbance as possible which is a bit difficult as they do create a strong root system over time.
ASPARAGUS is best grown from crowns which come available in mid winter when the plants are dormant.
They can be grown from seed but you are looking at an extra two to three years to get up to the crown purchase stage. Check that the crowns purchased are in moist material as if they dry out for too long they may fail.
Prepare a raised bed in a sunny spot that will be a long term asparagus plot.
The bed should be a mix of soil, compost and animal manure. Apply Rok Solid, Ocean Solids and BioPhos to the bed and give annual dressing of the three each winter. Lay the crowns with their roots fanned out on top of the bed about 150mm apart then cover with compost. Keep moist through the drier times.
The first season slender stalks will appear with their fern-like foliage. These are left untouched until they die back the following winter. The foliage will gain energy from the sun and strengthen the crowns and root systems.
If possible each winter spread seaweed over the bare bed after applying a mulch of compost and animal manure.
The second season you can harvest for about a week, the spears of good size, and then allow to go to fern.
The following season you may harvest for about two weeks before allowing to fern.
The forth season should allow about 3-4 weeks harvesting and after that the harvest time can be between 6 to 8 weeks.
Harvest the spears by bending them so they snap off at ground level.
If berries form on the ferns, these can be removed as they are seeds which may become a weed problem.
Control of insect pests can be done with Neem tree Granules or sprays of Neem Tree Oil.
PRUNING

Now is the time to do any winter pruning of deciduous fruit trees, grapes and berry bushes.
Always pick a nice sunny day to prune when the air is drier. Cold moist weather can carry the dreaded silver leaf disease which can easily enter the cuts and infect some fruit trees and roses.
To go through all the different types of pruning for various plants is difficult to do in this column so lets look at grapes and fruit trees..
Allow the grape vine to grow any-which-way the first year it is in the ground. Having abundant stems and leaves will help develop a strong root system on immature grape vines. No pruning at all for the first year.
The First winter: Select the strongest and most vigorous-looking stem during the winter of the first year. Using bypass pruners, remove all the other stems at the base of the plant or as close to the trunk on the main stem as possible. Stake the remaining stem which will become the trunk of the plant. Use a grape stake or secure the vine along a fence with wire.
Second spring: Allow stems to grow from the main trunk. In the spring of the second year, begin removing all but two of the very best side shoots that grow from the trunk. If the vine isn't branching where you want it too, pinch the top of the main trunk to encourage side branching.
Second Summer: Cut back the top of the trunk during midsummer of the second year, when the vine reaches the desired height. The process of tip pruning will force new growth along the main trunk. Remove any new branches that don't fit your plan.
Second Winter: Cut back all but the desired side branches and the main trunk during the second winter. What you have now is the basic frame for the plant - an upright stem with two sets of side branches.
Allow the vine to grow during the third spring and summer, removing anything that grows from the trunk. You want to retain the basic framework of the vine.
Third Winter: Leave 12 buds along each of the arms during the third winter. Pruning during the third winter is crucial to future fruit production. These 12 are the buds that will produce fruit during the 4th summer. Each of the 12 should have 1-2 leaf joints so that the vine looks like a stubby hat rack when you are finished pruning. These are called 'renewal buds' and will remain on the plant forever.
Prune the 12 renewal buds so that there is always one more bud growing from the tip. This practice will continue from the fourth winter onward. What you are doing is allowing the renewal buds to extend and grow one bud length every season. During the summer, the fruit develops on the new growth that springs from the renewal bud. Keeping them short during the dormant season keeps the plants under control.
Pruning fruit trees is a technique that is employed by gardeners to control growth, remove dead or diseased wood or stimulate the formation of flowers and fruit buds. The most economical pruning is done early in the season, when buds begin to break, and one can pinch off the soft tissue with one's fingers (hence the expression "nipped in the bud"). Many home fruit growers make the mistake of planting a tree, then neglecting it until it begins to bear.
But careful attention to pruning and training young trees will ultimately determine their productivity and longevity. Good pruning and training will also prevent later injury from weak crotches that break under snow or fruit load.
For further information on fruit tree pruning go to the Internet at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pruning_fruit_trees
You will find at this free information web site what to do with new fruit trees and also with established fruit bearing ones for best results. They have good pictures and diagrams to assist.
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A GARDENING BOON; CONDY’S CRYSTALS

Potassium Permanganate (Condy’s Crystals) has numerous uses in gardening as well as in other areas. The origin of the chemical and its common name is as follows:

In 1659 a German chemist, J.R. Glauber, fused a mixture of the mineral pyrolusite and potassium carbonate to obtain a material that, when dissolved in water, gave a green solution (potassium manganate) which slowly shifted to violet potassium permanganate and then finally red.
This report represents the first description of the production of potassium permanganate.
Just under two hundred years later London chemist Henry Bollmann Condy had an interest in disinfectants, and marketed several products including ozonised water.
He found that fusing pyrolusite with NaOH and dissolving it in water produced a solution with disinfectant properties.
He patented this solution, and marketed it as Condy's Fluid. Although effective, the solution was not very stable.
This was overcome by using KOH rather than NaOH. This was more stable, and had the advantage of easy conversion to the equally effective potassium permanganate crystals.
This crystalline material was known as Condy’s crystals or Condy’s powder.
Potassium permanganate was comparatively easy to manufacture so Condy was subsequently forced to spend considerable time in litigation in order to stop competitors from marketing products similar to Condy's Fluid or Condy's Crystals.
I remember as a boy that if one had a sore throat a mild tincture of Condy’s Crystals would be made up to use as a gargle. This would hopefully kill the bacteria which was causing the sore throat.
“The use of a weak solution of Condy's crystals as an antiseptic wash or bath for eczema, vulvovaginitis, vaginal thrush and recurrent urine infection in adults and children is neglected. This safe, simple and effective treatment was used in pre-antibiotic days as a vaginal douche in obstetrics following the birth of the baby.” (From a Doctors web site)
Condy's Crystals is great for:

* club root in brassicas & other susceptible plants.
* control for moss in lawns
* carrot fly deterrent.
* control powdery mildew in gardens.
* Black spot & mildew on roses. 5 grams to 5 litres.
* Tomatoes:Occasional watering with Condy's Crystals will act as a tonic improving flavour and colour
* Sterilize soil.
•Disinfectant.
•Staining Timber.
•Fungus control on fish in tanks and ponds. (very mild solution)
I originally came across the gardening use of Condy’s Crystals from a South Island Gardener who told me how to apply the chemical for club root control in brassicas.
Dissolve a quarter teaspoon of Condy’s Crystals in one litre of water along with 3 desert spoons of common salt. Once dissolved the coloured mix is added to a further 9 litres of water and stirred to mix.
One litre of the above is then poured into each planting hole where a cabbage or other brassica is to grow. The preparation sterilizes the surrounding soil and reduces damage to the roots from the club root disease.
A number of gardeners like to sterilize the soil in glasshouses or in areas where the same crop is grown year after year such as tomatoes.
There are products such as Basamid that can do this and in the past many gardeners would use Jeyes Fluid which is also a sterilizing agent. The first is rather expensive and the second one is difficult to obtain these days.
My suggestion is to make up the above preparation as for club root but to use only half the amount of water thus doubling the strength of the solution.
This then would be watered over 3 to 5 square metres of soil that you wish to treat. The soil should be moist but not wet prior to application. Leave for a week or so then water the area lightly to force the solution deeper into the soil.
About a week or two prior to planting in the area, flood the soil to wash away any residue that maybe left.
For moss control in lawns place one teaspoon full into 9 litres of water and spray over the moss.
Alternative to this for moss, use either Moss and Liverwort Control or Surrender.
To deter carrot fly add a few grains of Condy’s Crystals to water to make a light pinky colour and spray this over the young carrot tops.
More recently another South Island gardener told me how he controlled rust on celery.
At the first sign of rust a weak solution of Condy’s Crystals would be made up and sprayed over the celery for complete coverage. This would be repeated as needed.
The gardener told me that it worked a treat and as long as he used it, his celery would be rust free.
I see no reason that the same cant be used on any plants to control rust disease.
This then can be extended to control of other fungus diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew.
These later two can also be prevented or controlled with the use of Baking Soda. ( Heaped table spoon to a litre of water with one mil of Raingard added)
You could take this a step further and make up a winter strength solution which would be the same as for club root and spray this over your roses and the surrounding soil to kill any disease spores that maybe waiting for spring to attack. Other deciduous plants such as fruit trees could be treated in a like manner for various diseases such as curly leaf, black spot, brown rot and bladder plum.
How effective this would be is for you as a gardener to find out for yourselves. It is a suggestion from myself and I would love to have feed back on any success or failure you may have.
The aspect is that Condy’s Crystals are cheap when compared to many other sprays.
A number of garden centres stock 150 gram jars of Condy’s Crystals sold under the correct name KmnO4 Potassium Permanganate.. The jars are also available by mail order in areas where garden centres do not stock them.
A few chemists may still stock Condy’s Crystals but from my research most do not any more and the few that do, sell only small amounts such as 25 grams for a price dearer than 150 grams from a garden centre.
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WINTER SOLSTICE

The shortest day of the year heralds the start of a new gardening year.
Once the shortest day is past the day light hours slowly start to extend, little by little, every day until we reach the summer solstice.
Plants respond to the increased daylight hours and even though the weather maybe miserable they do increase their rate of growth.
Gardeners not only see this increased activity in their gardens, but the power of extra light hours works as a trigger to compel us to get out into the garden and do a few things.
Thus on the better days instead of looking out the window it is time to get involved in the gardens you have created. In fact it is now time to prepare for the coming spring.
There is ample to do in tidying up existing gardens, trimming hedges and shrubs along with making plans for spring plantings.
With many gardeners now wanting to grow more of their own food crops we will look at this aspect.
The old way which I have done many times in the past was to dig up some lawn area that is in a sunny position and convert it to a vegetable garden. It is a lot of hard work and has in my experience been only of moderate success, unless the fertility of the soil has been very good.
Of course over time the soil condition improves and better results are forthcoming.
There is a superior way which is currently in vogue and that is to construct a raised garden or two.
You will find that there are available wood and plastic type kit sets to make raised gardens from from retail outlets.
These are ok to a point but for the same sort of money you can make one yourself that is even better by a long chalk. I made the first one of these a couple of years back and have been very impressed on the results. Great crops straight off, very near weed free and very easy to work.
What you need is 3 sheets of new corrugated iron as used for roofing. The length of the sheets should be 1.8 metres long. Also you need 4 square posts 100x100mm that are the same length as the width of the iron sheets. These posts will be treated with chemicals to preserve them so once cut to the width of the iron you need to give them a couple of coats of acrylic paint, all over, to seal in the chemicals.
The posts are not going to be dug into the ground as your new raised garden will sit on top of the soil or lawn where you wish to place the garden.
One of the 1.8 metre sheets will need to be cut exactly in half with tin snips.
Lay two of the posts on the ground so that each end of one of the 1.8 sheets covers one side of the post exactly.
Drill holes of the correct size to take wood screws through the ends of the sheet into the wooden post.
These should be drilled at the corrugation where it is in direct contact with the post which is opposite to where you would secure if the sheet was used on a roof.
Use 40 to 50mm screws. Next do the same to the other 1.8 sheet.
Now you have two long sides which should be stood up at the spot where you intend to have the raised garden. The sheet that has been cut into half will now be screwed to the two ends to complete the raised garden. The position of one long side should be facing at much as possible to the north so that side gets just about all day sun to warm the soil in the raised garden.
The height of the garden allows you to work it from all sides without having to bend over.
This means if you are situating the raised garden near a fence or building ensure that you have adequate access all around it.
The next step is to fill the raised garden and first we start off by placing several layers of cardboard over the soil at the bottom. This does two things; suppresses any weeds or grass that is there and gives an idea food source for the earthworms which we want to attract into the garden.
Next we pile in any organic material such as leaves, lawn clippings, weeds, prunings and food scraps which is a good way of getting rid of a lot of rubbish. Ideally this should half fill the garden. Just toss the material in and do not compress. Scatter garden lime over this.
Over the top of the rubbish place more cardboard to cover the area.
Next you can place a good thick layer of homemade compost (if available) along with some top soil and any animal manure you can obtain.
If you do not have your own compost to use, then you will need to buy mushroom compost or similar.
Over this you place several layers of newspaper. Now you can add minerals such as a scattering of Rok Solid, Ocean Solids and BioPhos.
The final layer will be purchased compost which is weed free and can be mixed with blood and bone, sheep manure pellets, Bio Boost and aged chicken manure.
Some Rapid Lime can be included along with gypsum and dolomite.
The final height of the fill should be about 20cm below the top of the raised garden.
There is a very good reason for this; it means that young plants will be sheltered by the higher sides of the raised garden against wind.
Because of this shelter provided, the vegetables will grow quicker and fairly much straight up.
If planting vegetables crops that will reach different heights at maturity the the taller ones will be planted at the back with the shorter ones on the side closest to the north.
When your crops are harvested you simply place a further layer of newspaper over the bare mix and another layer of purchased compost as described above in the final layer.
The material below will break down over time and this topping up will compensate for the level of the garden sinking downwards.
The long sides of the bed should not buckle outwards as you are not compressing any of the material and thus the pressure is mainly downwards not outwards.
A raised garden made in this way will last you many years and if by chance you shift homes you can simply unscrew the iron sheets and take them and the posts away to your next home.
You will likely be amazed at how fast seedlings grow and reach maturity as I was with my first plantings.
Other aspects would be to include vermicast and worms from your worm farm if you have one and this would be placed over the top of the news paper prior to the purchased compost.
Sawdust or shavings from untreated wood can be used along with straw including pea straw in the lower layers.
Once planted vegetables should be sprayed with Magic Botanic Liquid every 2 weeks.
Watering should be only done with non-chlorinated water and just sufficient to keep the mix moist which likely means once a day in the summer when it does not rain.
Over the next month or two is a great time to get started with your raised gardens for the spring.
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PLANNING YOUR FRUIT TREES

Recent reports from nurseries and garden centres indicate that there is a big demand for fruit trees this season. This is not surprising as many people have returned to growing their own food crops to save money, become more self-sufficient and to have a better food chain in regards to nutritional values.
Many of you will have booked the fruit trees of your choice and for those that have not as yet I would suggest that you contact your local garden centres to see what is still available.
There is a very good reason for deciduous trees to become available in winter because in the cold months, the trees are dormant and better to lift from their nursery plots and relocated to your gardens and containers.
The trees are normally bagged or held bare rooted in bins of wet sawdust to keep their roots moist.
It can be fatal if one allows the roots of bare rooted trees and roses to dry out.
There are several good reasons to grow as many different types of fruit trees as possible; the fruit gained each year is virtually free (allow for initial outlay and care), grown without harmful chemical sprays and fertilisers in your garden means you are not eating contaminated fruit such as most of the non-organic fruit purchased.
Fruit trees grown with natural products such as animal manure, compost etc will be freer of disease and pests.
Add to the soil or growing medium minerals from Ocean Solids and Rok Solid as a yearly dressing, will ensure your fruit has the maximum amount of nutritional value and provide further protection against diseases for both the trees and the fortunate people who consume the fruit.
Often gardeners say to me that they would love to grow a few more fruit trees but do not have the room in the gardens for any more.
There is a very simple way around this problem and that is to grow your fruit trees in larger type containers.
To prove this point I currently have 7 citrus trees, 1 apple, 1 dual plum, 2 avocados, 2 cherimoya, 1 feijoa, 2 grapes, 2 loquats, 1 passion fruit, 1 persimmon, 1 guava, 1 cranberry, 1 blueberry, 1 goji berry, 1 tornless raspberry, 1 pineapple and 1 tamarillo growing in 45 to 100 litre containers.
My section is small and if the above trees were not in containers I would likely need the old quarter acre to bring them to maturity.
(I also have growing in the gardens 1 citrus, 2 stone fruit, 1 plum, 1 pear, 1 persimmon, 1 tamarillo, 1 grape and a feijoa.)
These are all 5 to 10 times the size of my container specimens.
The big advantage with container grown fruit is you can move them around, take them with you if you move house and they do not get too big as the container restricts their root size.
The disadvantages are they take a bit longer to produce when compared to open grown specimens and you do need to root prune them every few years.
Plastic rubbish tins come in various sizes and these are ideal and reasonably priced; with a few drainage holes drilled in the sides just up from the base. Some of my potted fruit trees have 4cm holes drilled in the base so that some of their roots can venture into the soil or lawn that they are sitting on.
If you can find a place that has used 200 litre plastic drums for sale or free then these drums cut in half make excellent containers for growing fruit trees in.
I use the same drums cut into two halves lengthways for growing vegetables in.
If you are going to grow fruit trees or other plants in containers then don't use any kind of potting mix, instead make up a mix of compost with about 10% clean top soil or worm casts mixed through.
The reason for this is you are bringing the soil life into the mix making for a more natural growing medium. I always add a few worms to the mix as they will keep the soil/compost more open and prevent it from compacting over time.
For additional food I use old fowl manure placed on the top of the mix along with a sprinkling of Fruit and Flower Power (the later applied once a month during the flowering to harvesting period)
A yearly application of Ocean Solids and Rok Solid for the extra minerals along with a drench plus spray of Magic Botanic Liquid with Mycorrcin every so often.
If any of the trees get attacked from insect pests then a spray of Neem Tree Oil takes care of them safely. Liquid Copper is also another handy spray to control various disease problems such as citrus tree diseases, bladder plum and curly leaf. The same copper is also ideal for pear slug control.
The worst problem with fruit is the birds getting into a crop when the fruit is coming towards maturity.
A few lengths of Bird Repeller Ribbon takes care of this at that crucial time.
A couple of winters ago I purchased another Unique Feijoa tree and placed it into a 45 litre container.
During the ensuring months it grew quickly to about 3 times the original potted height and has produced over a dozen large fruit the first year and a nice small crop this last season.
About the same time I had a tamarillo seedling so I potted it into a 45 litre container also and over the last 24 months it has quickly grown to just on 2 metres tall and by placing the container under the eaves along with a spray recently of Vaporgard Frost Protector, it should not be harmed this winter by frosts.
It is bearing a nice crop at this time.
Existing fruit trees can be pruned at this time but do not prune on a cool moist day as this can allow Silverleaf disease to enter the wounds. (Do not prune passion fruit vines in the winter, they should only be pruned when they are actively growing in the spring.)
A spray of Liquid Copper and Raingard over any of your fruiting trees or vines would not go astray at this time.
Deciduous trees do not need any feeding while dormant but when the buds start to swell in the spring a good layer of rich compost can be applied along with Fruit and Flower Power.
If you have existing container planted fruit trees that have been in their pots for 2 or more years, then winter is a good time to lift them and cut the bottom one third of the roots off with a cross saw.
Place fresh compost in the base of the pot to the depth of the amount of roots removed and simply pop the tree back into its pot.
This action should be taken about every two years but in some cases an annual root prune will help produce a bigger and better crop.
If you wish to add a fruit tree or two to your collection then do not delay in placing an order at your garden centre.
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COMING UP ROSES

Several gardeners have asked me recently the following question; ‘What to do with our roses now?’
Likely at this time the roses are in a inbetween state of losing foliage as they go into dormancy for the winter months. Some may still have flowers and buds and if you have not removed them, they will have seed pods which are called Rose Hips.
These rose hips will contain seeds from which you can harvest and germinate to obtain new young rose plants. What they will turn out to be like is anyones guess, but they will be roses in their own right and will vary from a possible good specimen to a so-so rose.
If you wish to try this all you need to do is cut off the rose hips and allow them to dry on a window sill then harvest the seeds there in.
Germinate them as you would any other seeds in a seedling tray.
Another alternative is to use the rose hips in floral decoration, cut the branch sporting the hips off at a suitable length for the vase you wish to use, remove any foliage as it will fall anyway.
They can be used in both dry and living arrangements.
Now what to do with your bush and standard roses?

As it is now June we should give our roses a winter rest so they preform best this coming season.
This means even if they are sporting nice blooms you should cut the canes (branches) back to half their length. Remove all the debris and then spray what is left of the canes with Lime Sulphur to burn off any diseases, pests and remaining foliage. If the soil under the roses is free of plants then spray the soil surface with the same.
Alternative to spraying with Lime Sulphur would be to use Liquid Copper, not so effective in the clean up, but better than not spraying at all.
What you have achieved is to send the roses into dormancy but not preformed the actual pruning which will come later, say about the end of July or into August.
If we were to prune the roses at this time we could cause new growths to appear which are likely to be damaged by frost or cold winds. If by chance this half cut was to produce any new growths they would likely be higher up the cane and would be removed anyway with the final pruning.
If you have any potash or wood ash from a fire this can be sprinkled around the roses now.
If you have a lot of garden area and would like a few free roses then the canes that you have cut back can be used as cuttings to create new plants.
Select the roses you wish to propagate and take about 16cm long cuttings and push these into the soil in a suitable location, burying the bottom of the cutting about 6cm into the earth.
Some of these cuttings if not all of them will root up in the spring, produce new foliage and once established can be carefully lifted and transferred to a new rose bed or border to mature.
If you have a friend that has a rose that you admire, ask them for a few cuttings.
They will come true to the parent.
About now the new seasons roses will be arriving at your garden centres and those of you that have ordered roses will be able to collect them.
The roses will be either potted up in bags or bare rooted in sawdust.
If potted up you can take them home and just keep the mix moist till you are ready to plant them out.
If they are bare rooted then you need to keep the roots moist till you are ready to plant them out and the best way to do this is to dig a hole and place the roots in the hole covered with moist soil.
Several roses can be held in the same hole.
When you are ready to plant out, lift the roses carefully so as not to damage the roots and wrap them in wet newspaper. It is very important that the roots are kept moist, if allowed to dry out they can fail.
Roses need to be planted in a full sun situation if you want the best out of them.
If you have a heavy clay soil then you need to mix either peat moss or compost with the soil 50/50. The same also applies to light sandy soils but make it 70% compost and 30% sandy soil.
The above can be mixed in a wheel barrow as you are digging the planting holes. Surplus soil can be used elsewhere in the gardens.
Make the planing hole about twice the size needed to give a nice area for root establishment.
Fill the bottom of the planting hole to the right height with the mix. The right height will be when the roses roots are just sitting on top of the mix and the beginning of the trunk is level with the surrounding soil.
Place a tablespoon of gypsum sprinkled over the mix at the bottom of the hole along with a teaspoon of Rok Solid and a half teaspoon of BioPhos.
These products will greatly assist in developing a strong root system which means a stronger healthier rose. You may also like to place about a tablespoon of Neem Tree Granules as this will help protect the roots from grubs.
Once these products have been sprinkled over the mix cover lightly with a little more mix.
Sit your new rose in the planting hole and carefully back fill the hole with more mix until the hole is filled. You can finish off by watering some Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) over the rose and planting hole. If there is a dry period during winter then give the area a good drink once a week.
The roses you buy have not been pruned, only cut back similar to what I have recommended to do with your existing roses. This means later on you will give them their first pruning.
It is very important that you keep the soil around new roses moist for the first year in the ground, after that they are fairly able to look after themselves.
Standard roses will likely need a stake to support them while their roots are establishing and this stake should be hammered into the planting hole on the side where the prevailing wind comes from.
The Standard rose is then planted next to the stake and secured with suitable ties.
Placing on the prevailing wind side means the rose is buffered away from the stake, not against it to cause damage. In the spring when you do the final pruning spray the plant with Liquid Copper and sprinkle some Fruit and Flower Power over the soil surface along with some Neem Tree Granules.
Repeat this about every 6 weeks.
This will give the roses the magnesium and potash that the plants need and the Neem Granules will help with the control of aphids.
I have had a few good reports that the Neem granules greatly reduces the need for spraying the roses for aphids. You can however spray the plants two weekly with the MBL for healthier plants and better flowering.
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STRAWBERRIES AND HYDROCOTYLE

June is the first month of winter and the month that most of the different types of strawberry plants become available in garden centres.
Strawberries are a woodland plant and the modern strawberries such as Pajaro have been bred from the original wild ones. This is important information to use when you come to plant strawberries in containers or in strawberry beds. Strawberries therefore do best on a partly sunny situation, with ample woodland debris such as rotting leaves and decaying wood.
As there are ample fallen leaves, available at this time, you can collect these and put them through a shredder or lay them on a bit of lawn (where it does not matter) and run over them with a rotary mower.
Your catcher should be full of nicely shredded leaves. Mix with this about a similar amount of untreated sawdust for the decaying wood.
A good sprinkling of blood and bone incorporated will become your woodland mix. This should be worked into the area where you are going to plant your strawberries saving about half the woodland mix as a mulch to place around the strawberries after planting.
If you are going to plant into containers or into troughs, then add your woodland mix to an equal amount of compost/ top soil. (Two thirds compost, one third soil) Incorporate all together well for the potting medium.
Plant up your strawberry plants and then drench them with Mycorrcin, MBL and water.
The Mycorrcin has been proven in trials, to increase the yield of strawberries by 200 to 400%.
A 2 weekly spray of the plants with Mycorrcin is the on going treatment. (MBL can be added to this if you like) For those that like to obtain the most health benefits from their home grown produce, place a quarter teaspoon of Ocean Solids and half a teaspoon of Rok Solid under each plant in the planting hole.
For gardeners that have existing strawberries now is the time to collect the rooted runners to start off a fresh strawberry patch.
Existing plants that have done well and are free of disease can be left in the beds and drenched with the Mycorrcin. Any plants that have not done well or have disease should be removed from the bed.
Also remove dead leaves off existing plants and tidy up the bed.
In the spring you can apply the woodland mix as a mulch with any of the other products as desired.
The earlier you establish your new strawberries the better the crop you will achieve this coming season.
Late plantings in spring or early summer will never be as good as plantings now.

HYDROCOTYLE

I received the following email from a gardener in Foxton and with his permission received I would like to share it with you.

“Hello Wally,
I finally I eradicated the Hydrocotyle weed, in all my lawns. This weed was rampant, but I can finally tell you that I killed the lot.
Now I used a weed killer called "GRAZON" a fellow musician in Otaki gave me some of this Grazon and apparently it is very costly indeed.
This chap "tim" gave me a container of Grazon and the container would have held approximately 30mls. what I found out was this weed is a classic in that it had what I term as "SURVIVAL" Characteristics I adjusted the spray nozzle for a fine misty flow .
What I found out in the end was to respray every two days, spread over 8 days.
In the end the weed gave up. When I first commenced spraying, the leaf was rather large about the size of clover and that after spraying, the leaf went brown and just disappeared but what surprised me was the appearance of new and small and fresh growth of this weed would appear, so one had to spray every 2nd day and finally it disappeared.
Now I understand, that Christchurch suffers from this weed in a big way and the problem was traced to small motor launches and Yachts which had travelled down the Avon and Heathcote rivers where this weed was rampant, and the owners of these boats would wash them down with a hose, on their property only find that the weed got a hold on in their lawns.
I have 3 lawns which were infested and I can honestly say that I have now, eradicated 99% of this weed but have no illusions that I will not from time to time have to spray again.
My lawns were infested by a person who commercially mows lawns.
I suffered a stroke in 1998 and so I obtained the services of a lawn mowing person and I am convinced that this person did not wash his mowers before using their mower on my property.
I trust this information will help other people who have this weed in their lawns.
kind regards, R White, Foxton.”

Maybe there are some gardeners that have this weed in their lawns and wish to eradicate the pest. Grazon would be found in stock and station agents, farm suppliers etc.
It is available in one litre bottles which should be available for the home gardener without having to have a Handers Licence.
I personally do not like the use of herbicides but for some situations they are a boon.
Remember that for a few months the lawn clippings are likely to contain the herbicide so do not use them in your compost or as a mulch around your gardens except under well established trees and shrubs.
To prevent spray drift you can make a spray shield out a 2 litre plastic ice cream container.
Make a hole in the centre of the container just big enough to fit over the end of your spray wand when the nozzle is removed. Screw back on the nozzle and adjust it to a medium spray mist.
When you place the container over the weed and pull the trigger all the spray particles will remain inside the container area.
Do not use this spray unit for any other types of sprays except for weed killers.
Even if you wash it out thoroughly there may still be parts per million adhered to the plastic tank and that is all it takes to upset your roses, beans and tomatoes.
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WHAT TO PLANT AT THIS TIME

A number of new gardeners have asked me the question ‘What can we plant at this time?’

There is very limited range of vegetables that you can plant and have success with at this time of the year as we head quickly into winter.
It is not so much the colder conditions that brings this about, rather than the shortening daylight hours.
We have about 4 weeks to go to reach the shortest day of the year and thereafter things will slowly improve.
Seeds are more difficult to germinate in cold wet soils. Seedling planted out of a number of plants will make little growth over the next couple of months or so and when they do, they are likely to go to seed because of the check they have experienced.
The worst thing that can happen to new gardeners is to have too many failures and to loose heart.
Experienced gardeners know the best time to plant for their locality and along with a few tricks to help get early starts and better results.
If you have a glasshouse you can grow a number of vegetables which would not fare so well outdoors.
If you extend the daylight hours by using artificial light on a timer you will increase the success rate.
When using artificial light you are looking to obtain about 12 hours of light which means a couple of hours before sunrise and a couple more after sunset. A combination of fluorescent (Cool 33 white) and ordinary light bulbs works well, without the more expensive Growlux type lights.
Heat pads for germination seeds is also well worth using for faster germination.
Many will not have glasshouses so then other means need to be employed.
There are two vegetables that can be grown at this time from seeds, outdoors in open ground and they are peas and broad beans. (This also includes sweet peas and sugar snap peas)
With the broad beans you may find that the plants grow well and flower but do not set much in the way of beans until bumble bees and other pollinators get cracking a bit later in spring.
Getting a good strike (germination) in cold wet soil maybe a problem but this can be overcome to a degree by doing a couple of things.
Firstly soak the seeds in some warm water with a little Magic Botanic Liquid added, overnight only, ideally in a hot water cupboard if you have one, or in a dish in a room that is heated for part of the evening. This swells up the seed and gets them on the way.
In the meantime make a trench about 100mm deep where you want to sow the seeds.
Mow your lawn and take the fresh clippings and place them into this trench filling it to about 20mm from the top.
Cover the clippings with a layer of soil about 10mm thick. Over this sprinkle Rapid Lime or a soft garden lime and other food such as sheep manure pellets and blood & bone.
Lightly cover this with a little more soil and then place your seeds at the correct spacing down the trench. Cover with soil and water in with Magic Botanic Liquid.
The heat from the decomposing grass will warm the soil above and speed up germination no end.
With peas there is another very useful method to use them if you have some bare ground in your vegetable plot. Instead of planting in a row dig out an area 100mm deep and repeat as above.
When you sow the pea seeds just scatter them over the area after the final step (grass etc).
This will create a block of peas which will tend to support each other to a degree.
Make blocks of a size so that you can harvest the pods when they reach maturity.
Later in the spring when you are ready to start your spring garden, you simply cut off the peas at ground level leaving the foliage laying on the soil where they fall and then cover with compost.
You can then plant your new vegetables and seeds into this area having the advantage of all the goodness and nitrogen from the pea crop.
Peas may contract powdery mildew as they are growing and this can be controlled with a solution of Baking Soda.
Dissolve one or two table spoons of baking soda into a litre of warm water and add one mil of Raingard. Spray foliage for complete coverage and repeat as needed.
I am told that certified seed potatoes have become available already in some garden centres.
It really is too early for them unless you live in a warmer area or if you intend to grow them in buckets which can be moved for frost protection.
The newer potato pest, potato psyllid, should not be much of a problem this time of the year but some prevention just in case would be a good idea.
Growing potatoes in buckets is a good way to obtain a early crop. Firstly take your seed potatoes indoors into a warm room to get them to break dormancy and sprout.
Once the first sprouts appear place the potatoes outside in a sunny, sheltered from frost situation, to ‘green up’ the sprouts and harden the sprouts up.
Plastic buckets are cheap these days so obtain enough to plant one spud in each bucket.
Dark coloured buckets or black buckets are best as they attract more heat.
Carefully drill 3 or 4 holes in the base of each bucket. It is better to place the bucket on a old board wide enough to cover the base and drill the holes from the inside out.
This will reduce any splitting of the cheap plastic. Place about 40mm of compost over the bottom of the bucket and then a small handful of sheep manure pellets, a tablespoon of gypsum, a level teaspoon of BioPhos, and a couple of teaspoons of Neem tree granules. Sprinkle more compost over this to cover and then place one sprouted potato on top with most of the shoots pointing upwards.
Cover to half fill the bucket with friable compost. Place in a full winter sun spot. At this time there is no need to worry about frosts as no foliage is showing.
When the first foliage pokes through, lightly cover with a little more compost. Keep on repeating this till the bucket is full to within about 20mm of the top.
Once the foliage breaks through this top layer sprinkle a little potash and some more Neem Tree Granules. You will now need to move the buckets to a sunny spot where they are sheltered from frosts such as under a overhang on a porch etc. If you have a tunnel house or glasshouse you can put them in there.
Watering should be minimal, just sufficient to wet down the mix without getting it too wet.
Dependant on the variety chosen you will harvest new potatoes in about 2 to 4 months from sowing.
Hopefully you will have just about a bucket full of new potatoes.
Strawberry plants are also available now and we will look at them another time.
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CONTAINER PLANTS

With winter fast approaching now is an ideal time to do some container gardening for both indoors and outside. The chill and dreariness of the days ahead can be broken by planting colour (flowers) into containers which can lift the spirits on the gloomiest day.
Starting with the indoors a call down to your local garden centre will find a number of house plants to brighten up your home.
There are ample cyclamen available at this time, being a winter flowering plant.
The miniature types often have a lovely fragrance as well as their delightful up standing flowers.
Cyclamen prefer a cool or colder situation with as much direct sunlight as possible.
This makes them excellent specimens for windowsills indoors and for colour around entrance ways.

Many gardeners find they have more success with these plants outside than they do indoors.
The reason for this is that it is colder outside and there will be a certain amount of air movement to keep them happy even if they become too wet from rain or watering.
Indoors, the temperature is greater once the room they are in is heated and if they are over watered this can be fatal as rots will form on the leaves and flower stems. In bad cases the bulb will also rot away.
Cyclamen are not a flowering plant that you can safely place on a coffee table in the middle of the room except for short periods of time. Away from the windowsill or outdoors, the leaves and flowers will start to stretch towards the distant light and the plant will become unbalanced. The stretching will weaken the plant and be much more susceptible to overwatering diseases.
For indoors the plants should sit on a windowsill where they will receive as much natural light as possible and next to the cold pane of glass, (if you do not have double glazing) will be better suited to its needs of both temperature and light.
When you draw the curtains at night then the cyclamen should be behind the curtain where it is going to be a lot colder than in the heated room.
Every few days you should rotate the pot 180 degrees so that each side of the plant receives direct light for a few days before being turned again.
This will greatly help to keep the plant balanced rather than have all its foliage and flowers growing towards the window side of the container.
Watering can be a problem for many as there is often a tendency to overwater.
That is fatal especially in a room that is heated and has little air movement.
The easy answer to this is to check your cyclamen every day when you open and close the curtains, if the flower stems are starting to droop then give the plant a small drink of cold water.
(As the potting mix dries out the flowers will be the first to droop followed by the foliage.)
Dependant on the size of the pot and plant this would be about 200 to 500 mils of water.
This should be applied right around the circumference of the pot avoiding watering over the bulb.
If you find that when you water the plant much of the water runs out into the saucer then there is a problem in so much as the mix has become too dry and will not accept much of the water.
To overcome this, you fill a bucket with water and plunge the pot into it so that the top of the container is submerged. Air bubbles will start bubbling up and the pot should be held under water till there is no more bubbles. Lift up and allow to drain taking the surplus water away.
The mix is now saturated with water and the best thing to do is to place the pot outside on a porch for a couple of days to allow the container to dry out a bit in the cold.
While outside it should be in a spot where it is sheltered from the worst of the wind and protected from frosts. After a few days you can bring your cyclamen back inside to the windowsill.
At any time that a cyclamen is looking a bit poorly then simply pop it outside for about a week to refreshen it.
Being a flowering plant they do appreciate some feeding and any good liquid plant food is ideal to add to your water once or twice a month. Matrix Reloaded is an excellent container plant food as it contains all the minerals for growing plants in a hydroponic system.
When the cyclamen has finished flowering later in the year then you can place the plant outdoors in its pot or plant it in a shaded situation under trees or shrubs. Do not have them in full summer sun light.
Outdoors the cyclamen will likely produce seed pods as the pollination of the flowers is breeze assisted.
You can leave these seed pods on the plants until they are fully ripe and then harvest the fresh seeds.
Cyclamen seed are usually germinated in the winter by keeping the seeds moist as they are sitting on top of the growing medium, only partially covered or bare. They germinate best in the dark with some underheat.
Once the first leaves appear then move the seed tray into a bight light situation and allow the medium to dry out a bit before re-watering. Later about Xmas time the baby plants will be of reasonable size to pot individually into small 50mm pots. By feeding the mentioned plant food they will then quickly grow and their root system will fill the small pot.
They then can be transferred to a larger container say about 120mm size.
When this pot is filled then up to a larger one again say about 200mm or bigger.
With ample food you can grow a massive cyclamen with hundreds of flowers for the following winter.
If grown for indoor use do not repot into a container that is too big for your windowsills.
Likely you may have a number of other pot plants growing in your home. Great care should be taken in winter not too overwater, in fact the mix should be kept a little on the dry side till they start to come away again in the spring.

There are ample types of flowering plants called colour spots that you will find at your garden centre.
These can be potted up in compost for colour outdoors or some are suitable in potting mix for indoors on windowsills or very close to sunny windows.

Outside now is the time to spray frost sensitive plants with Vaporgard to give them down to minus 3 degree frost protection for the next 3 months. This works a treat but if there are two or more frosts in a row, night after night, then additional protection such as frost cloth will be needed as the plants do not have time to recover before they are frosted again. Vaporgard is perfect for the occasional frost every few days or more apart.

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HEALTHY GARDENING

Recently our attention has been drawn to the global spread of Swine Flu; news reports are full of what is happening around the globe and along with cases in our own country. It has to be a health problem of some concern to everyone.
The interesting thing I have noted about this flu is that in Mexico there has been deaths to date and a lot of people that are very sick, where elsewhere in the world such as our own country, there appears to be a milder strain of the same flu. No deaths have occurred to date and the unfortunate people that have been diagnosed with swine flu, put the symptoms about as bad as seasonal influenza.
There is only two reasons for this in my mind and that we are seeing a milder strain outside of Mexico or that our immune systems are better equipped to ward off the worst effects.
Swine Flu or for that matter any seasonal colds along with most other illness will affect people with low immunity systems more than those with well fortified bodies.
The question then arises how do we build up our immune system to the degree that we can shake off colds and other illnesses?
The answer I feel is adding mineral rich foods into our daily food chain along with ample doses of Vitamin D. This brings us back to gardening as both of those aspects can be solved in spending about 15 minutes, two or three times a week out in the sunlight gardening for our vitamin D requirements.
This costs you nothing and by exposing a reasonable amount of skin to the sun rays our bodies gain ample amounts of this much needed vitamin to aid in in own immune systems.
In previous articles I have spoken about growing wheat grass with all the minerals possible and then juicing it for a daily dose of the lovely green mineral rich liquid.
When I first learnt 3 years ago that wheat grass will take up all the known minerals, if they are present in the growing medium, I then started growing and juicing.
I can honestly say that over that period I have never come down with any colds or flu.
Not only that, my general health and stamina have increased considerably.
I can feel a cold coming on one day and next day it is gone.
I have also spoken to other wheat grass growers and juicers and they have made the same comment.
In more recent times I have taken this a stage further after reading a book called ‘Green for Life’ written by Victoria Boutenko which is available from book shops in New Zealand.
The bases of the book is that plant’s cells are amongst the toughest cells in the world and to break down the cells to obtain the most goodness is not a feat our jaws are easily able to preform.
Take for instance a cow standing there chewing its cud, the strong jaws masticates the grass into a green slime and then swallows all the obtained goodness.
As we are unable to preform this function we can utilize a high speed blender with its sharp blades rotating at 38,000 rpm or there abouts to covert raw green food intoa liquid called a Green Smoothie.
Initially I started off using an ordinary blender and found it did mush up the green foliage that I placed into it making a chunky drink.
Later I imported a top of the range high speed blender from overseas and it really smashed up the foliage into a lovely smooth drink.
In the book, Green for Life, Victoria did not really go into the mineral aspect of the vegetables that she was juicing and it is logical that the amount of goodness you can obtain from a green smoothie will depend on the goodness of the produce blended.
Thus back to the gardening aspect of growing green foliage plants that contain as far as possible all the minerals known.
We can do this with the aid of mineral rich products such as Ocean Solids (minerals from the ocean) Rok Solid (minerals from rock dust) and Magic Botanic Liquid or MBL (minerals from prehistoric times)
By planting green crops such as silverbeet, spinach, brassicas and lettuce in compost with the above granules applied to the compost at planting time and sprayed every couple of weeks with MBL we can grow vegetables that have the maximum amount of nutritional value and then by placing a few leaves of a range of these vegetables into our high speed blender and drinking the result we are fortifying our bodies no end.
Other plants we can also use in our blenders are the leaves of carrots, beans, peas, cress and editable weeds such as dandelions and puha. Also the foliage of editable herbs can be added.
To bend you place a couple of cups of non-chlorinated water into your blender along with a handful of foliage from the various plants available and one banana (peel removed). The banana is for flavour and the goodness it also contains. Other fruit may also be used if desired.
The big advantage of growing your own mineral rich foods for blending is that you can start harvesting leaves when the plants are still quite young and in fact the young tender foliage is likely to be of better value than the older mature foliage.
According to the mentioned book, Green Smoothies once made, can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours so you can make up a batch for a glassful each day for the next couple of days.
Wheatgrass can be grown and juiced or added to the other foliage that is used in the blender.
Another big advantage with the blender system is that you do not even have to have a garden to grow a range of high nutrition plants as they will grow very nicely for your needs in containers placed in a sunny situation outdoors.
Aways grow the plants in a purchased compost, sheep manure pellets and blood & bone can be added to the compost along with the mineral rich products mentioned. Mix a little top soil in or use worm casts.
Gardening is a way to better health with the vitamin D gained from being in the sunlight to the mineral rich, naturally grown produce you can grow and juice or blend at home.

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ABOUT THE POTATO/TOMATO PSYLLID

In the season just gone, I have received a number of inquiries from gardeners in regards to their crop failures of potatoes.
In general the first early crops produced well with average to good size tubers but the later main crops, grown through the summer months, did not produce much except for very small pea or marble size tubers. Generally the tops grew well and could be fairly tall, some may have yellowed off and died.
Unfortunately when maturity time came there was little if any tubers worth harvesting.
Initially I assumed that the plants had been given too much nitrogen and lacked the balance of potash and phosphate. I also considered the higher level of CO2 in the atmosphere which does increase vegetation growth.
After talking to potato experts I found that another problem had occurred, an insect called the potato psyllid. This pest has affected many commercial crops to such an extent that in some cases only about 25% to half of the expected yield per acre has resulted, even after extensive spray programs.
Home gardeners in many areas have also ended up with nil returns as they have not been aware of the pest and had not taken any remedial actions.
From a USA University, off the Internet, I have obtained the following information about the pest.
If we know what we are dealing with then maybe we are better able to solve the problem.
To start with the potato/tomato psyllid secretes a toxic saliva during feeding that can severely damage potatoes and tomatoes.
Life Cycle Potato/tomato psyllids pass through three life stages: egg, nymph (immature stage) and adult. The adult psyllid is about the size of a typical aphid and is a member of the insect family known as "jumping plant lice." Adult psyllids are rarely found in Gardens unless collected with a sweep net or knocked onto a cloth placed around the base of the plants. If seen, adult psyllids are striped with alternating dark and light bands.
Eggs are small, 1/32 inch long. They are orange-yellow and supported by small stalks. They are much smaller than the stalked, white egg produced by lacewings, which also are common in Gardens. Psyllid eggs are frequently deposited along leaf margins but may occur on either leaf surface. Eggs hatch in six to 10 days.
Newly hatched nymphs are yellowish but become progressively greener as they develop, undergoing four molts. When almost mature, nymphs are nearly the same color as leaves. Nymphs are flat, elliptical and scale-like.
Nymphs are most numerous on the undersides of leaves but can occur on shaded upper leaf surfaces. They are inactive and seldom can be seen to move about.
While feeding, psyllid nymphs excrete small, waxy beads of "psyllid sugar," which resembles granulated sugar. This material may cover leaves during heavy psyllid infestations.
The nymph stage usually lasts from 14 to 22 days. Newly emerged adults remain green for a day or so before turning darker.
Psyllids usually are found first on early potatoes or pepper transplants. Throughout the season, adult psyllids move to new plants, becoming most numerous late in the season on tomatoes.
The number of psyllid generations produced during a year is thought to vary from four to seven. However, there is much overlap of the generations after the original infestations become established.
Adults and nymphs feed by sucking plant juices. Feeding by nymphs is especially serious because it brings about an abnormal condition known as "psyllid yellows," a result of toxic saliva injected by the insect.
The symptoms on potato and tomato plants are generally similar. Usually the first abnormal condition is a slight discoloration (yellowing or purpling) along the midribs and the edges of the top leaves. The basal portions of these leaves tend to curl upward.
As the condition progresses, the entire plant top changes to yellowish-green or purple-red, and foliar growth is checked. The leaves remain small and narrow and tend to stand upright, giving the top of the plant a feathery appearance.
When the attack comes early in the development of the tomato plant, effects from psyllid feeding may be so severe that little or no fruit is set. Late attack on tomato plants is inclined to cause production of an abnormal number of fruits that never attain a desirable size or quality.
If the attack on potato plants occurs before tuber set, a likely result is the formation of numerous tubers on each stolon. An attack after tubers are partially developed usually results in greatly retarded growth and irregularly shaped potatoes. Potatoes from infested plants may sprout prematurely, even underground before harvest.
Psyllids also occur on other plants in the potato family, such as eggplant and pepper. Damage to these Crops is insignificant.
Because these Insects are so small, damage to tomatoes or potatoes frequently occurs before the problem is detected. It is important to be able to identify potato/tomato psyllids so developing problems can be detected and treated in time. One of the most important means of identification is the psyllid sugar that is excreted by the insect and collects on leaves.
Psyllid problems do not occur every season. In some areas of the state, Extension pest alerts provide warnings of psyllid outbreaks.
Homeowners not able to properly identify psyllids may wish to routinely treat susceptible plants. Protectant treatments may be needed from when plants are 6 inches tall until midsummer. Well-established plants with abundant foliage usually can tolerate late season infestations with little yield loss.
Among insecticides available to homeowners, products containing permethrin or esfenvalerate are most effective when used at rates labelled for other potato/tomato insects. Alternately dusts of sulfur can provide control.
Regardless, application must be thorough, covering the underside of lower leaves where the insects tend to concentrate. Insecticidal soaps (two percent concentration) may also be useful, although control is more erratic.
Some tomato varieties appear to be partially resistant to potato/tomato psyllids. Increased hairiness of the leaves is reported to make plants less favored by psyllids. END

My personal thoughts on this is to try placing about a tablespoon of Neem Tree Granules under each seed potato at planting time. When the tops are allowed to grow without further mounding up, then side dress the plants with more Neem Granules.
You may like to take a further precaution by spraying the foliage, under and over with Neem Tree Oil or alternatively Liquid Sulphur.
The two cannot be used in conjunction as they will cause burning to the foliage.
I was caught out with my later crop and noted that the small tubers that formed did re-sprout in the soil, which according to the above information is a strong indication the psyllids got me too.
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AUTUMN GARDENS

Autumn is a great time for planting out gardens and besides the planting of vegetables and flowering plants, you also have a great range of shrubs and trees you can add to your garden.
It is still early times for new seasons deciduous fruit and ornamental trees or roses but orders can be placed at your garden centres for collecting of, later on, in winter.
Lets have a look at the various areas starting with the vegetable garden.
Silverbeet is one of my favorite winter plants and you have two types that are available, been the original dark green such as ‘Fordhook’ and the newer coloured silverbeet that are called ‘Bright Lights’ The later is a sweeter silverbeet and if you don't like the flavor of the dark green you may well like the sweeter taste of the coloured forms.
When you buy silverbeet in shops you find that you are buying the whole plant minus the roots as this is the way the commercial growers harvest the crop.
In the home garden there is no need, in fact its silly to harvest the whole plant, instead just remove the outer leaves and the plant will continue to produce till it goes to seed.
Rust should not be a problem through the winter and nether should pests bother the crop so no extra work involved spraying. It is best to buy the seedlings and plant them at this time, as seed raising will take longer to reach harvest time.
Broad beans are grown from seed and if you like these iron rich vegetables then plant up a row. Snowpeas are another good winter seed grown crop and are ideal for stir fry.
All the brassicas do well during winter and no problems with caterpillars.
For those with bigger vegetable gardens you can also sow seeds or plants of Chinese cabbage, cress, leeks, winter lettuce, mustard, onions, radish, shallots, spinach and turnips.
If you place Nufert under the plants or with the seeds before you cover them, you will speed up the growth of the plants noticeably.
Feed with sheep manure pellets later by side dressing the plants. If you want to add selenium to your food crops then sprinkle some Micron after planting.
In the flower garden you once again have a great range of plants to chose from for winter colour. I will list the plants for cold climate areas and these will grow even better in the warmer areas. Plants are once again a better option, as seeds take several weeks to get to the stage purchased plants are already at. Primula and polyanthus are excellent choices making great bedding and container plants for winter colour.
Place dried blood under the seedlings at planting time and side dress with the same every month or so. Cineraria do very well in winter as long as they are in frost protected places.
The dwarf forms make wonderful container plants in a 6 to 8 inch pot. Another plant for containers or protected garden places such as under trees are cyclamen. Both cyclamen and cineraria can be grown indoors as flowering pot plants but ensure they are right in front of a full light window and in a cool situation for best results. Other flowers to plant would include, bellis, calendula, candyturf, Canterbury bells, carnations, cornflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-nots, godertia, lobelia, nemsia, pansy, viola, snapdragons, sweet peas, stock and wall flowers.
It will depend on what plants are currently available in your garden centre but you will surely have a lot of choice.
Shrubs, trees and fruit trees are all personal choices and it is not worth listing types that can be planted. Autumn is a great time to plant as there is no stress from heat and the soil has adequate moisture so extra watering is kept to a minimum. The plants have right through winter and spring to establish which means that they should be doing well before they have to face a summer. This will reduce the possibility of losses.
It is important to chose plants that will suit the conditions which means the type of soil, the wet or dry conditions they will have to face during a gardening year and will provide the size and shape that you desire without a lot of future trimming.
Plus the chosen plants should fit into the way you want your gardens to ultimately look like. If planting up new gardens or sections don't be tempted to plant the shrubs and trees too close. Just because they are smaller when you plant them, remember that they grow and their ultimate size needs to be catered for.
Information on the label will give the approximate end height and spread which gives you a good idea how far to space the plants. Mind you I have yet to know of a plant that reads its label and the end result maybe different dependant on factors such as the growing conditions.
Planting shrubs and trees too close together may look better for the first couple of years in filling in gardens, but will need constant trimming or removal of maybe half the plants in the future.
When you plant your trees and shrubs at the right spacing apart, for when they mature and the areas in between look sparse, then obtain some perennials or ground covers to fill in the spaces. These can either be removed in the future if need be or they will acclimatise to the situation and survive. Also perennials can be easily be lifted and transplanted to more suitable situations in the future.
What to put under trees and shrubs when you plant them? It depends on soil type whether clay or sandy. Both means you should dig a hole about twice the depth and width needed and use peat moss or compost mixed with the removed soil (about half and half) to line the base of the hole and back fill.
This gives a good area for initial root formation. I like to place a couple of hand fulls of Gypsum in the planting hole on heavy soils to aid root penetration and for food just use sheep manure pellets in the base of the hole.
It is better not to stake unless it is a very exposed, windy situation and then only stake for a few months while the plant establishes its roots then remove.
Left staked too long actually weakens the plant and can lead to losses in the future. Once the roots have a reasonable grip into the earth the movement of the plant in the wind builds up its strength in the trunk allowing it to withstand high winds in the future.
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WATERING AND OTHER AUTUMN ASPECTS

It is Easter Saturday as I write this column (I normally always write them on a Saturday morning each week) and for the last 3 days I have not watered any of my gardens or container plants including those in my glasshouse.
This is not because we have had lots of rain in fact there was only once, a couple a nights ago, we did have some rain. The soil in all situations including the glasshouse is still moist from the last time I watered or it rained.
I checked all the areas this morning as I was collecting vegetable leaves to make my Green Smoothies and the surface of the soil (compost) was still dark in colour indicating that there was still a good moisture content.
All the plants were happy with no sign of water stress so the best bet is just leave them till they dry out further. Even in the glasshouse where I have several tomato plants for winter cropping, along with a water melon the same applied.
I learnt a long time ago that over watering at the change of seasons and through the winter is really dangerous to plants in containers in the glasshouse and outdoors.
The much cooler temperatures reduces the evaporation aspect and plants do not need a lot of water, in fact they prefer their roots in a drier, just moist situation.
Sometimes in the past I have made that fatal mistake of watering every day without considering how moist the soil or growing medium already is.
When I have neglected this important aspect then I have lost plants left, right and centre. Excessive water in the medium means two things, it increases the cold factor; just as we notice that if we have wet hands on a cold day they will be colder than dry hands.
Wet growing medium leads to rotting of the roots and the demise of the plants.
Outdoors in the garden we can not control the amount of rain that falls on our gardens and plants such as citrus can suffer when the soil becomes too wet.
Containers on the other hand, with sensitive plants growing in them, can be moved to more sheltered spots where they do not get rained on. Any saucers under the containers should be removed and the containers lifted slightly off the ground by placing a couple of slats of wood under them.
This allows an airflow under the pot and keeps the drainage holes free to operate.
Wet weather diseases often take the lives of plants in winter if one is not careful.
You can help prevent the problem by a monthly spray of Perkfection Supa over the foliage.
This fortifies the plants and assists in the prevention of root rots.
In open garden situations a trench dug around say your citrus trees, just out side the root zone will assist surplus rain water to drain into the trench where it will evaporate faster with sun and wind.
The more rain in winter the greater the drainage problem becomes to plants, sensitive to wet feet.
Another problem is mulches that were applied over the summer months to retain moisture levels in the soil now become very dangerous around wet sensitive plants. These mulches should be raked back away from the root zone so the soil can breath freely.
Gardeners should be aware of these aspects and take the necessary precautions now.
A little care now will reduce the number of plants you may need to replace in the spring.
Plants need to be hardened up to face winter better, and the way to do this is to apply potash.
Also lack of magnesium during the cooler months causes yellowing of leaves.
To overcome both these problems a monthly application of Fruit and Flower Power can be applied to the soil as the product contains both potash and magnesium.
Frost protection for tender plants is also a winter problem and a spray over the foliage using Vaporgard will give your tender plants down to minus 3 frost protection for 3 months within 3 days of application.
This works a treat for the occasional frost but if there is a series of frosts, day after day, then additional protection should be applied such as Frost Cloth.
Pests that have plagued your plants over the previous months will be disappearing now as the cooler weather takes over. Hopefully a good hard winter will kill many.
The more that do not survive winter, the less there will be to start breeding when the spring comes.
You can also assist in reducing their numbers now by a couple of sprays, a couple of weeks apart, using Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum.
Then in the spring as soon as the first pests are noticed repeat the sprays.
Early prevention can make for less problems in the summer months.
For the lawns there are two aspects to consider besides any patching or re-sowing.
Thatch, which is the debris that builds up on the soil surface and causes harm to your lawn should be treated with Thatch Busta to remove.
Porina caterpillars will be active at this time eating at the base of the grasses when they emerge in early evening. To fix them mow the lawn then apply Neem Tree Oil as a spray or by using a Lawnboy.
The trick is to get the oil to the base of the grass where they will consume some, never to eat again.
The larva of Grass Grubs or Black Beetles will in some lawns be near the surface eating the roots of your grasses. The first step is to lift some turf and check for infestation numbers.
If only the odd one or two is found at any test spot then they will not do sufficient damage to warrant treating.
If a good number is found at a test spot, then treatment in that area should be applied.
Areas to check for are where previous damage has been done and also areas that are near night lights and street lights as the beetles were attracted to those spots when on the wing.
There are two treatments that can be used; one a chemical called Lawn Pest Control which I do not advise if you don't like chemicals or have pets.
The second is a natural one called Professor Mac’s 3 in 1 for lawns. Very safe to use and deadly on the grubs and Porina.
If using either of these two then a separate treatment using the Neem Oil would not be needed for Porina.
If only small areas need treating for any of these lawn pests then a sprinkling of Neem Tree Granules can be applied.
Mosses will also start to appear in lawns and other areas, Spray them now with Moss and Liverwort Control.
Been winter ready in your gardens is an important part of gardening at this time of the year.
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SPRING BULBS

Many gardeners will have their thoughts on planting spring bulbs as the garden shops are brimming with great selections of most types at this time.
The desire to have a range of spring flowering bulbs coming into their own in early to mid spring is not only a great sight but they also represent the beginning of a new growing season.
Many spring bulbs require a chilling of about 4 degrees Celsius for about 2 months to obtain the best blooms. For instance: Tulips need 14 weeks of chilling; Hyacinths need 12 weeks of chilling; Crocus need 4 weeks of chilling; Snowdrops and scilla need 6 weeks of chilling; Grape hyacinths need 12 weeks of chilling.
This is why those living in colder climates such as the lower South Island will, with no effort on their behalf, have the very best displays.
If you live in a warmer climate where there are no hard frosts you may need to place your spring bulbs in the fridge for a few weeks prior to planting.
Planting should be done before the first hard frost in cooler areas and after the bulbs have done their time in the fridge in warmer areas.
The chilling is what the bulbs need to produce the flower spike.
I sometimes have the complaint from gardeners in warmer areas that their bulbs grew and produced foliage but did not flower, non chilling was the problem.
Spring bulbs can be planted in a sunny, open ground situation or in containers. The size of the container will depend on the type of bulb and the number of them you wish to plant.
Bulbs prefer full sun, a rich, well-draining soil to which compost or other organic matter has been added. The soil should be cultivated and loosened to a depth of at least 6 to 8 inches. Either dig a trench for a bed planting or individual holes for individual bulbs or small clusters. Plant the bulbs by placing them into position. (Never push or force the bulb into the soil).
Check the bulb package to determine the spacing and planting depth for your type of bulb. As a general rule of thumb, bulbs should be planted twice as deep as they are high. (Larger daffodil bulbs should be planted at a depth three times their height) The larger the bulbs are, the more space they will need between them.
Cover the bulbs lightly with soil and then sprinkle a good bulb food on top of the soil, not in the hole. Fertilizer in the hole may burn tender, young roots. Water thoroughly, and then keep the soil moist to allow the roots to form more quickly.
If you prefer to use a more natural food then a small amount of BioPhos and sheep manure pellets can be used. This natural food can be worked into the soil below where the bulbs are to be planted.
Nice big fat bulbs will have all the energy they need to produce both foliage and flower, so in a sense they do not require any additional food to preform.
The addition of food is used to restore the energy of the bulb after it has preformed along with ample sunlight on the foliage.
The foliage is the collector of energy from the sun and this is why the foliage should never be cut or removed after flowering, instead it is left to do its job until it naturally dies off.
Failure to allow this will likely mean that the bulb will not preform again next season.
Summer temperatures along with warm to hot soil can cook bulbs and they will be lost forever.
This is why we should lift most bulbs after they have become dormant and before the soil temperatures rise too much. Exceptions to this are bulbs that can be naturalized; these include crocus, iris reticulata, grape hyacinth, daffodils and bluebells can be grown right in the lawn. Choose an area where the grass can be left unmowed until the foliage has matured. Hillsides and the perimeter of wooded areas are also excellent areas for naturalizing.
Freesias can also be left in garden plots to multiply and flower each spring.
Generally, the earliest flowers which open will be the Crocus and Snowdrops followed by Daffodils and Tulips. Before the spring bulb season is over, the Dutch Iris and Spanish Bluebells will grace your garden. Within each of these groups, and all of the other spring bloomers, you will find a multitude of hybrids which bloom at different times (i.e. early spring, mid spring & late spring). Use these hybrids to spread out the bloom time for each group, and you can enjoy each species for a much longer time.
When your spring bulbs will actually flower will depend a lot on the season and if by chance it turns out to be a warmish winter then without the chilling you may not have any flowers at all, just foliage.
Daffodils and other spring bulbs that are naturalized should be lifted every few years when dormant to break up the clumps. When you do this you will end up with masses of bulbs of various sizes from mature large flowering ones down to bulblets. The larger ones can be replanted in the autumn and the others either placed in a nursery bed or discarded.
If you are growing any spring bulbs in containers then these should be lifted when the foliage has died back because they will need fresh mix when replanted in the autumn and being in containers they could cook in the summer.
To force bulbs to flower in pots indoors the following should be applied. (From the internet)
The pot should be filled to one-half to three-quarters full with potting mix and then moistened.
Gently press the bulbs into the soil with the broad base down, and the nose pointed up. They should be arranged as close together as possible without touching each other or the pot.
Face the flat side of tulip bulbs toward the outside of the pot. Barely cover the bulbs with additional potting mix and water gently until the soil is thoroughly moistened. Add a little more soil if settling has exposed the bulb.
Now the pot must be placed in a dark, cool area for 12 weeks or longer. The temperature must remain below 48 degrees F. but above freezing (35-40 degrees is recommended). While total darkness is best, if you are chilling the bulbs in the refrigerator, don't worry about the light coming on when you open the door.
Once the roots begin growing out of the drainage holes in the pots or the shoots start to grow (about twelve weeks), give the bulbs a gradual transition to warm. Don't expose them to warm temperatures to soon or the blooms will emerge to fast and will fail before they ever open.
Start them out in the coolest spot of your home and gradually move them to warmer areas. This will make the flowers last much longer. Don't expose pale or white foliage to full sun until it has 'greened' up in a few days. Rotate the pots one-quarter turn every few days to keep the foliage and stems upright. Keep the soil moist, but never soggy.
Once the bulbs have finished flowering, remove the spent flowers and stems but continue to keep watering and providing light for the foliage. The bulbs can be planted outside when the weather permits just as with any perennial.
Do not remove the foliage until it has turned yellow. Unfortunately, forcing takes a lot out of a bulb so it may not bloom again for many seasons. The bulbs should never be forced a second time, always start with "new" bulbs.
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LAWN SOWING TIME

There are two important gardening events about to take place; daylight savings ended on the 5th April and autumn rains are starting, both events herald the real beginning of autumn.
The end of daylight savings means we have less time before dusk to do any gardening chores plus the knowledge that we are only about 12 weeks away from the shortest day.
As the days shorten plant growth slows and temperatures cool. Gardeners need to be mindful of this and to be careful when watering gardens or containers as the plants require less water and wet feet gives rise to wet weather diseases. (Spray susceptible plants with Perkfection Supa) Parched soils have been soaking up the recent rains and this promotes seeds of weeds, which laid dormant over the summer months to germinate.
Watch out for these young weeds and zap them while they are very small. If allowed to grow they will race to maturity before winter sets in and drop a fresh load of seed to create weed problems for you in the spring.
A few weeks back we suggested that gardeners should prepare areas where new lawns are to be sown.
For those that have done their preparation work now is about the time to sow the new lawn seed.
Preparation work involved making about the top 15 to 20 cm of soil, friable and a good medium of soil and compost/humus for the lawn grasses to grow. It also involved the laying of drainage and irrigation systems if required and periods to germinate any weed seeds that were present.
If all the above have been done you will now have an area that is of bare soil of a fine tilth, free of weeds and moist with the recent rains. A sprinkling of Gypsum over the area and lightly watered in will assist in seed germination and root establishment. If you would like to go a step further also apply a sprinkling of Rok Solid rock dust and lightly water in.
At this stage you have done a lot of good work so do not spoil it by planting poor grass seed.
The best seed types to sow are ones that are a mix of fine rye and fescue. Avoid mixes that have brown top in them as the brown top is going to cause you heaps of thatch problems in the future. (Who wants to create more work and costs for themselves?)
The modern fine rye strains are quick to establish, hard wearing and make a great looking lawn.
The fescues are also a very fine bladed grass but slower to germinate and not as hard wearing.
Many lawn seeds offered to the home gardener are thickly coated, which means you get less seed per kilo.
Some coatings are so heavy that up to half the weight of a kilo of seed is coatings. These coated types of lawn mixes are a waste of money and can have much slower and poorer germination rates.
Green keepers (the masters of turf) seldom if ever, use a coated lawn seed, instead they prefer uncoated seed that is certified having a proven germination rate in the 90% plus with about a 99% purity.
This last figure is important as you do not want to be sowing a lawn seed mix that has a lot of grass weeds or other weeds in the mix. Consumers (Magazine) a few years back when testing common brands of lawn seeds for the home garden market found one that had no lawn seed in it at all, just weed seeds!
Though I am against coated lawn seed there is one brand called Super Strike which is an excellent mix of fescue and fine rye and the coating is so fine that it only adds 1 gram of weight per kilo of seed.
A great lawn is one that is a dense mat of fine grasses mowed at a height of 25 to 50mm tall.
A dense mat means very few weed problems as weeds can not establish in such competition and the odd one that does, can be cut out with a sharp knife. A bonus to this is that you do not have to waste a lot of money on lawn weed sprays and moss controls.
The rate you sow a lawn at will determine how many seeds are in any given area. Often the rate for home gardens is 1 kilo of seed per 30 to 33 sqM. There is no reason that you cannot increase this by half or even double. A thick mat of grasses that establishes quickly will ensure you of a better lawn.
After you broadcast your seeds you can either lightly rake or even better cover the seed lightly with a weed free sand or fine pumice then lightly water to settle.
It is now important that the area be kept moist for several weeks while the seed is germinating and the grasses are establishing. Failure to maintain a good moisture level means a poorer strike and establishment. At the same time you do not want to drown the area and have seeds wash away from the places where they landed. A light watering morning and night, when it is not raining is about right.
On any hot sunny day a midday watering maybe needed.
Birds, if plentiful in the area, may help themselves to your freshly laid seeds.
To overcome this you can feed the birds with cheap fresh bread on the other side of the house.
The fresh bread will swell in their tummies and reduce their foraging habits. Placed out at dawn (or before you go to bed if not an early riser) and maybe another sprinkling of the bread later in the day.
Bird Repeller Ribbon can be stretched out over the freshly sown areas till the grasses have established.
Using the new fine rye grasses (Super Strike) means a very quick germination and less bird problems.
You can further enhance the germination and establishment by spraying the area with Magic Botanic Liquid after sowing and repeat two weeks later.
Endeavour to keep the area sown free of activity till two or more mowing's are completed.
Never mow off more than one third of the height of the grasses in any one mowing. This aids the grasses to branch and form that dense mat.
The type of food you supply to your lawn is also very important. Do not use the common lawn fertiliser as it can cause problems such as thatch, burning and weak rapid growth. Besides it only gives the lawn a boost, kills the soil life and weakens the health of the grasses.
Instead use a slow release food and the best one for this is a natural product called Bio Boost. Inexpensive when compared to other lawn fertilisers and it releases over a 12 month period but should be applied to lawns in both spring and autumn.
Not readily available except from a few garden centres and some farm supply stores such as Fruit Fed/PGG Wrightson. Small quantities in some garden centres as Break Through.
For those with existing lawns now is the time to apply Thatch Busta to your lawns to clean up the thatch that has gathered in the last 6 months. Thatch is the debris that builds up on the soil at the base of the grasses.
It causes problems of drainage, disease and moss. Thatch Busta is sprayed over the lawn and it will aid the soil life to eat up an inch of thatch in a month in average conditions.
If you wish to thicken up the existing grasses then it pays to run a scarifier over the lawn and sow fresh seed into the grooves that are left. By scarifying and over sowing a lawn with quality lawn seed every spring and autumn till you have the desired lawn you require.
This process will tend to force weaker grasses and weeds out of the lawn and convert a poor lawn into a great one. For further information on lawns and lawn care obtain a copy of my book, Wally’s Down to Earth Gardening Guide available from some libraries, book shops, garden centres and by mail order.
There are two chapters devoted to lawns and their care.
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You can reach me by e-mail for any gardening problems to be answered at: wallyjr@manawatu.gen.nz