MORE ON GREEN MANURE CROPS
MORE MAY GARDENING
FRUIT FOR YOU
GARDENING WITH GLOBAL WARMING
WINTER WOES IN LAWNS
FILTER THE WIND
SAVING PLANTS THROUGH WINTER
WHEAT GRASS GROWING & JUICING
HYACINTHS IN GROW VASES
PREPARING FOR WINTER
PLANT HEALTH FACTORS
TIME FOR BULBS
LAWN SOWING TIME
BANDING TIME CITRUS FOR YOU
May and June might be slower times in the garden with plants and weeds in a more dormant state, but its this dormancy that can make gardening a busy time still.
Over the next few weeks many of the dormant or semi-dormant plants become available in garden centres. This includes; roses, strawberries, lillies, garlic, shallots, fruit trees and deciduous ornamentals. Some of these will already be available and others will quickly follow. We will look at a number of these over the next few weeks starting this week with roses.
Roses would be the most popular garden plant in New Zealand with most gardens having one or many specimens growing as bush, standard or climbers.
For some gardeners they are the only feature plants that are really well cared for. It is because of all this attention to roses, that gardeners endeavour to have them looking perfect, well shaped, lots of buds and flowers with no blemishes on the foliage.
You can have perfect or near perfect roses if you work with nature rather than against it.
Natural products will promote healthy roses, chemical products designed as rescue remedies or rose foods, will remove the natural balances and cause both insect pests and diseases to run wild.
In the spring when the new season’s growths appear they are perfect and will remain so with a little help from a number of natural, health promoting products.
If on the other hand we apply rose fertilisers or Nitrophoska Blue we knock back the vital soil life (micro organisms and worms) because of these product’s acidity.
If we then apply chemical rose sprays, we damage the natural immune systems of the plants, causing greater problems, as well as further harming the soil life.
Our poor roses become targets for both insect pests and diseases as these are the cleaners of nature, taking out the weak plants. Roses are not easily killed but will remain sickly looking for the rest of the season.
To have really healthy roses (or any plant for that matter) you need to supply all the minerals and elements that the plant needs, feed the soil life and the micro organisms that live on and inside the plants, control any insect pests that sap the vitality, ensure they have ample moisture and a suitable sunny spot to grow in.
Do this and you will have great roses that everyone will admire. See Below for a program but first lets look at 3 new rose releases. Amber Flush (Hybrid Tea.) Glorious blooms of apricot amber carried proudly on long sturdy stems, scented and perfect for picking.
Midnight Blue (Floribunda) Unique & strikingly different with a strong fragrance from the large trusses of smallish, semi-double flowers, which are a fabulous deep rich purple with a centre of golden stamens. Compact and virtually thorn less. (ideal for a container as well as garden) Wild Eve (English Rose, David Austin type) A strong healthy rose whose arching branches form a wide mounded bush. Blush pink buds with hints of apricot, freshly fragrant.
Roses are an individual choice and my personal pick of the three would be the Midnight Blue which I have now ordered.
I will pot it into a 45 litre container using a mix of compost, (80%) a bit of soil (15%) and chook manure.(5%) Under the plant I will place some Simalith, Ocean Solids and sheep manure pellets. A sprinkling of Dolomite also.
Once planted the mix will receive a drench of MBL and Mycorrcin. About a month later I will prune it to the 3 rd out going bud then spray it with Liquid Copper to seal the wounds.
When the new foliage appears the plant will receive a 2 weekly spray of MBL and Mycorrcin and on every second spray, Perkfection will be added to the spray.
If aphids appear on the buds and foliage, they will be sprayed with Key Pyrethrum. If the rose has come from good breeding then there should be no further problems. A sprinkling of Neem Tree Granules and Fruit and Flower Power on top of the mix every couple of months should keep the plant free of any other insect pests as well as supplying the extra magnesium and potassium needed.
The same principals as above can be applied to roses planted in the open ground.
Make a hole twice the size as needed and mix a good compost with the soil removed (half and half) Use this to line the base of the hole to the right height, place the Ocean Solids, Simalith etc on top of this along with the rose. Back fill with the same mix.
If you have a heavy clay soil then ensure the base of the hole and sides are rough not smooth and apply two or three handfuls of Gypsum to the clay base before the mix.
Ensure that in either case of planting that the soil is kept moist for the following 12 months as the root system is establishing. Do not cut flowers off for vases during the first season, but you can dead head without removing foliage. It is most important that a new rose has as much foliage as possible to gain energy from the sun while establishing.
You can enhance the energy production by spraying the foliage with Vaporgard every 3 months which protects the plant from UV damage. (It also makes the leaves a darker green and shiny)
With new roses it is very important that the roots never become dry. There is a great danger that roses purchased from chain stores that only have their roots wrapped, will dry out in the controlled atmosphere of these stores. The roses may have died as a result before you buy them.
What to do with your existing roses? Cut all bush and standard roses back to half and remove any dead wood and spindly canes. Then spray either with Lime Sulphur or Liquid Copper. Leave till about end of July and then do your proper pruning and spray the wounds with Liquid Copper as you go. Don’t prune or cut on damp cool days as this can let Silver Leaf disease into the rose. Pick a warm sunny day when the air is drier.
In the spring place the Simalith, Ocean Solids etc, on top of the soil around the base of the rose and cover with a good compost.
Use the natural sprays and products suggested as for the new roses. If you avoid the use of any chemical fertilisers and sprays as well as any chemical herbicides, anywhere near the roses and follow the above natural program, the health of the roses should greatly benefit and you too will be healthier for not using the chemicals.
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In the last week or so I have had a number of people contact me in regards to grass grubs and porina caterpillars in the lawn. They are two natives insects, that have become a bad pest in many areas in lawns.
The grass grub is a small whitish grub growing up to about 10 to 20 mm long that normally hatches out of its eggs around about December/January each year.
They then start feeding on the roots of grasses about 200 to 250 mm under ground. If the soil becomes too dry, they will aestivate in cells about 200 mm deep till the soil moistens.
Then they continue eating the grasses roots upwards to the surface. It is about this time of the year the grubs are near the surface eating the last of the roots of your grasses. From about June to August the grubs will have reached their 3rd instar, empty their gut and become flaccid which is the prepupal stage.
Followed by pupation at 100 to 250mm down under the soil.
They emerge in October to December as brown beetles to eat your roses and other plants, lay eggs and start the cycle over again. Damaged grasses are often not noticed till the spring and by that time the grubs are deep underground in cocoons. The damage is not so easily noticed at this time, when some areas of grass may have very little roots left.
This is because there is not a lot of growth with the shorter day light hours. The grasses can sustain themselves as there is ample moisture and no great demand on the roots to supply the foliage. Though badly damaged grass will lift out of the soil easily, having few roots to hold it. Strong winds or mowing may lift strips of near rootless grass.
Birds or hedgehogs ripping into the lawn are good indications that there is food for them in those grasses. It could well be grass grubs, porina or worms.
There are two very good times of the year to treat for grass grubs, now and over the next month while the grubs are near the surface and secondly, later in summer, when the adult beetles are flying. Before rushing out to buy a treatment at this time it is best to check to see if you do actually have the grubs and if so, how badly is the infection.
The only way to do this is to lift some turf with a spade.
(Cut a small square about 70 mm deep and lift) Inspect the soil in the bottom of the square and in the part removed.
If a good number of whitish grubs are seen then you know that there is a problem in that area. If you only find about 1 to 3 grubs in the square lifted, its not a priority to treat that area.
By lifting turf in different spots on a lawn you will find where number of grubs maybe high and where there are few. Areas with the greatest populations will be where in the past there has been a problem and also in areas that are near lights, that are shining in the early evening.
(Street lights and night lights outside) You may find that only certain areas of your lawn need treating and that is a saving.
What treatment to use? The poison Diazinon, in prills or liquid, is not effective on heavy soils, organic or peaty soils. It will only work well on light, sandy soils and if your lawn soil is not of this type don’t waste your money.
Another chemical poison that many Green Keepers use for control of the grubs is Pyrifos G. Available from some garden centres, it will work on all soil types and the 500 gram pack will do 250 square metres of lawn. Applied before rain or watered in after application.
If you have children or pets it is not good to have them on a lawn that has a toxic poison applied. Also wild life can be hurt.
(Cats or dogs walking on a poisoned lawn then licking their paws is not good, except for Vets) The third alternative treatment is Neem Tree Granules, these are sprinkled over the area you wish to treat at 50 grams per square metre. The granules breakdown and release the Neem properties which are taken up by the roots.
A grub chewing on the root gets some Neem in its gut and eats no more. Simple and safe. It will likely help also in control of the porina caterpillars and root nematodes.
A bird or hedgehog will not be hurt if they eat a grub waiting to die.
One application lasts about 6 weeks and during that time significant numbers are likely to be reduced. Hopefully the grasses will then have a chance to grow adequate roots before the spring and losses of turf will be small.
Mow the lawn before application so there will not be a need to mow again for several weeks. Sprinkle the granules over the area where you found higher numbers of grubs. Using a watering can, water in with either Thatch Busta, Mycorrcin or MBL added to the water, to start the granules breaking down.
When you do your lawn checks you may find there is not many grass grubs but a good number of porina caterpillars who come out of their burrows in early evening to feed on the base of the grasses leaves. This can damage the crown besides giving your lawn a crew cut in places.
If you only need to treat for the porina; after mowing the lawn spray the grasses with Neem Tree Oil to the point of run off. ‘Neem Tree Oil’ (name of the product) has 1500 parts per million of the most active Neem property making it the strongest formulation of Neem Oil for home gardeners. Use this late in the afternoon and the porina will get a dose, when they come out to feed that night. They will then go back into their burrows and starve to death.
If you have both grass grub and porina problems you can either just use Neem Tree Granules or both granules and Neem Tree Oil.
Seedlings planted out at this time of the year can be found later on with their trunks eaten through near the ground.
The leaves will be laying beside the stump often untouched. It could be birds but often its porina.
Spray the seedlings with Neem Tree Oil, sprinkle Neem Tree Granules around the base of the plants. You can always protect the young seedlings by placing a plastic bottle over the plant after cutting the base off the bottle. 2 Litre fruit juice bottles are ideal.
Neem Tree Granules are available in most garden centres in 750 gram and 1.8kg containers. ooooo
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New Zealand has a vast array of native plants which many gardeners can take for granted, as they are more common in their homeland.
Overseas, much of our indigenous plants, are well sort after and considered prized processions. I remember several years ago Kew Gardens contacting me to assist in obtaining a number of natives in ‘fresh seed’ form. I was able to purchase some of their requirements from local seed collectors and send them over to England for a special New Zealand Native Garden, Kew was developing.
I still have a photocopy of the Kew Garden’s cheque, as it was such a highlight.
Through the Internet back in the 90’s several gardeners in America also contacted me for seeds of various native plants that they wanted for their collections. This stopped when the importation into the States of seeds, had to be put through expensive tests for Bio security reasons.
Natives can be planted at any time with due care to their establishment, but the very best time to plant is in the autumn, as they require very little assistance to establish.
Native shrubs and trees have adapted to New Zealand conditions over thousands of years making them very suitable to grow in your gardens. The chances of failure is low as long as you don’t try to make one grow in conditions that it is not accustomed to.
The more readily available natives from garden centres have their labels showing what conditions are best for them. Some cannot handle wet feet for extended periods but most will grow in heavy soils as long as the drainage is reasonable.
Once established they need only an annual trim to keep them in shape and prevent their domination of the sunlight from their neighbours.
A few pests can attack them but as they are used to native pests they will survive without any intervention from you. Mind you its nice to remove the pests and keep the foliage clean. Most natives are very suitable container plants as long as you give them a good size pot to grow in. A mix of half compost and half top soil is a good mix for them and if you can, put a few worms into the mix to keep it open, in the pot.
The cabbage tree is a good container specimen for a large container. The juvenile foliage makes an impressive display as the plant grows towards to sky. Later as it matures the older leaves will be discarded showing the trunk.
More impressive in my mind than Yuccas which are currently popular container plants. Take the rich colour of Cordyline Australis Purpurea (the purple Cabbage tree) with its bronzy purple leaf colouring and you have a majestic plant for both garden and tub. They take from very wet to dry situations with ease, don’t mind a bit of shade or care about soil type. The only pest problem they have is with the cabbage tree moth, whose caterpillars eat the foliage in summer.
Sprinkle Neem Tree Granules around the base of the plant in spring and again in summer for reasonable control.
In fact most natives that have any insect problem can be solved with Neem Tree Granules and a occasional spray of Neem Tree Oil.
There are other Cordylines that you can grow also for their unique foliage such as Cordyline Stricta with its narrow sword like leaves.
A very popular native is the Pittosporums of which there is such a diverse range of foliage types and colours.
They do not tolerate wet feet for extended periods but are fine in dry areas. I had a very wet heavy clay section and found that my first plantings of pittosporum failed until other natives were established and then they never looked back.
They seed well and you can collect as many seedlings as you like later on. If you have a few different types near each other you will get cross pollination and the seedlings can be very different from the parents.
Seed grown ones are stronger that planted ones and produce the best specimens. It is easy to collect the ripe seed and sow them where you want the plants to grow.
Ideal for wind breaks, screens, individual specimens as well as container plants. Spray the foliage with Neem Tree Oil about every 2-4 weeks from November through to March to keep the pest insect (Psyllids) under control.
Psyllids cause the bubbles and distortions in the leaves.
Another big family of natives is the Hebe with a big range of foliage types and flower colours. Hardy, as they are suitable for any location that is not too shady.
Several years ago a gardener in Palmerston North gave me material of a Hebe ‘sport’ that had appeared in their garden a few years before. It had foliage that changed colour with the seasons and lovely pink flowers. I had the plant registered as Hebe ‘Pink Goddess’ and is available still, to the best of my knowledge.
There are some hebe that have a slightly sprawling growth pattern and if you take one of these types, then plant it into a good size container. Next lightly trim the tips off all the branches and allow all the new shoots to grow. When these have reached a good size, tip them again.
This can be done as many times as needed to get a thick display of foliage that sprawls over the sides of the container and reaches sky ward in the centre.
When the plant flowers, later on, you will have a great display as it should be just covered in blossom. I have not found any problems with any Hebe unless they become too crowded from other plants and then they become misshapen seeking the sun.
Pseudopanax are another very hardy plant for any situation. Fast growing with larger leaves than many other natives and they don t mind a shady spot. Tolerant of wet areas and the new forms have a great range of foliage colours including near black and yellow.
The coloured ones must have plenty of sun or they will loose their colours.
I used to love visiting a local nursery (P.Nth) called Midlands, when I had a garden centre and pick out pseudopanax for resale from the great selection they have. Sometimes the coloured or variegated ones start to revert to green and when this starts to happen the green should be cut out. Ideal for containers too.
Pseudopanax also can be affected by Psyllids marking the foliage, so spray with Neem Tree Oil when that happens. If I had more room, I would have a good collection of these natives.
Manuka or Leptospermum is another range of natives that now have a good selection of flower colours. Hardy plants but often attacked by scale insects that cause the black sooty mould. The Neem Tree Oil will keep the pest at bay. A few manuka planted will trill you when in flower.
No garden is complete without a Kowhai or two to grace an area or container.
I have one that I made into bonsai many years ago and at only just over a foot tall it flowers every year making a neat display. The above natives are some of the most popular and you will find a good selection of them in your local garden centre.
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This month is a good time to look at the control of grass grubs and porina in the lawn.
If you have had past problems with these pests then likely the problem will still be there unless you have got it under control and reduced their numbers.
The first thing to do is to lift some turf and look for the little whitish grubs that curl up when exposed (grass grubs) or the large greasy dark caterpillars (porina)
If in a square foot only 2 or 3 grass grubs are found then the problem is not bad, if a number of them are found then its worth treating for them. Any lawn areas that are near lights that are on at night will have higher populations than dark areas. It maybe that only the lighted areas are worth treating.
With Porina any found is a cause for treatment. The simple way to treat them is to mow the lawn and spray the grass with Neem Tree Oil late in the day. When they come out to feed that evening they will get some Neem Tree Oil in their gut and stop eating for ever.
The grass grubs are a little harder to get to as they are feeding under ground but at this time of the year they will be closer to the surface. The safe way to treat would be to mow the lawn, sprinkle Neem Tree Granules over the areas to treat and then spray with Thatch Busta. The Thatch Busta will speed up the break down of the granules and take out any thatch that is on the surface of the soil.
The alternative is a chemical control. Not good if you have cats or dogs that walk on the lawn as the chemicals can effect them. The best chemical available for this to the home gardener is Pyrifos G.
A 500 gram pack will treat 250 square metres of lawn and needs to be applied with a spreader as you are only placing 2 grams per square metre. Best applied before rain or otherwise you need to water in.
It will control both porina and grass grub.
The Neem Tree Granules will also help control both, along with root nematodes. It is not hard on the grasses and in fact the grass will often look to be in better health a week or two after the treatment.
All gardening jobs that need to be done should be completed this month as next month is the first month of winter. Don't forget to spray frost tender plants with Vaporgard.
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Many areas in New Zealand have a high instance of the disease Silverleaf.
The problem occurs in stone and pip fruit trees, roses and some ornamentals. The disease once noticed by the 'silvering' of leaves in the trees progresses over time to affect more and more of the tree, bush or rose, until the plant succumbs and dies.
In the past there has not being any effective controls other than removal of effected branches hoping to reduce or eliminate the disease.
Often trees and bushes are effected by the disease for some time prior to the first visible signs of the silver leaves.
The disease which is air borne enters the plant through cuts or damaged branches, most likely to happen at pruning time when there are many open wounds. The disease is air borne and favours cool damp conditions and is most likely in winter to affect plants.
Gardeners that grow roses and fruit trees should be very concerned about the disease and safe guard their beloved plants. Roses and fruit trees take time to mature and become established members of the garden; their demise costs not only time and money.
Field trials have shown that Perkfection has effectively reduced and in many cases controlled the disease. The trials were conducted on Pip and Stone fruit trees but will equally well apply to roses and other ornamentals.
It was found that applications of Perkfection in the Autumn and in the spring to control root and crown rots caused by Phytophthora, also concurrently gives a significant reduction in Silverleaf. In trials on Silverleaf in apples, 18 months after treatment, NONE of the previously "clean" Perkfection sprayed trees showed any infection symptoms, whereas 67% of previously "clean" untreated trees showed infection symptoms.
25-80% of previously badly infected, Perkfection sprayed trees have improved with the 50 mils to 10 litre rate of spray.
50-80% improvement with 100 mils to 10 lites spray rate.
It is to be noted that the curative rate varies from tree to tree.
It is also noted that Autumn sprays appear more effective than Spring sprays and the higher dose rates having the best results.
I would suggest that gardeners that are concerned about their roses and fruit trees should implement a spraying program using Perkfection.
The product is regarded as being organic and in keeping with nature.
Perkfection helps the plants to fight off the invading diseases by strengthening their immune systems. Products such as this are becoming very popular with both commercial and domestic growers because the products are not regarded as toxic or harmful to the planet.
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A reader asks what they can do with a two-year-old banksia rose "which has made surprisingly vigorous growth and now extends four metres along a horizontal wooden fence. It obviously needs some drastic cutting back."
Not too drastic, please. Banksia roses flower very early, but they are just oncer's. They do not continue throughout the summer as modern roses do. But the double white, violet-scented, ones come into bloom before the larger-flowered double yellows.
They are common in Italy, and many flat dwellers in Rome grow banksias in window boxes, sometimes as standards.
According to that great gardener Gertrude Jekyll, on the Continent at La Mortola the banksias climb through the trees to a tremendous height, as she said:
"Flinging their sprays of blossom from the highest to the lowest branches, with never a pruning knife or gardener's shears to mar their native grace."
Two things to note from that quote -- banksias like sun, the more the better, and they also can take plenty of pruning, indeed need it if they are to bloom well the following season.
But pruning should follow the flowers.
Cut back hard after flowering they will quickly put out new shoots which will bear blooms next year.
I suggest leaving it now as banksias are difficult to prune in winter, choosing which shoots have flowered and which will flower in spring is too tricky.
As to making excessive growth, they do. They are happy to riot all over the place. I remember one in Blenheim in the 1960s, originally trained over a gate to form an archway, soon became a jungle which forced visitors to find another way into the house.
Rosa banksia, or the Lady Banks rose, was named in honour of the wife of the famous botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, a director of Kew Gardens. He it was who sailed with Captain Cook to New Zealand on the Endeavour on the voyage from which Banks Peninsula got its name.
Like most roses they like a moderately rich soil, but not too rich or they will make excess growth and foliage. There should be a reasonable potash content in any compost applied to a rose bed. Mulching with good compost is one of the best ways of retaining moisture in the soil in summer.
Sprinklers should not be used.
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Lemon trees can be grown throughout New Zealand in home gardens, but in some areas, and in some gardens 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 which grow quite yellow, appearing to be ripe. But usually the white pith is thick, the fruit juiceless and dry. Sheer cold will turn green fruit a bright yellow 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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Cover crops planted in late summer or autumn, are an inexpensive way to build better soil for gardening. Cover crops often are called green manure crops. They are grains, legumes that will grow during autumn and winter, that you can plow, spade, or till under in the spring. During their growth, cover crops help reduce soil compaction and prevent erosion.
Their roots penetrate and help loosen heavy-textured soils, allowing better air and water penetration. Inoculated legume cover crops add nitrogen to the soil. When you turn cover crops under, they add organic matter to the soil, building better soil structure and fertility.
A deep-rooted cover crop allowed to grow for two seasons in problem soil can help break up a hardpan and greatly improve soil tilth. Cover crops also are called catch crops. Growing a green crop catches and uses the nitrogen and other mineral nutrients that winter rains normally leach away.
When you turn the cover crop under in the spring, these nutrients return to the soil, ready for your crop of vegetables. Nearly all garden soil needs organic matter to maintain the bacteria, fungi, earthworms, and other forms of life needed to make a healthy, fertile soil.
However, organic matter is quickly used in the food chain of earthworms and other soil organisms, so you will need a continuous supply. In addition to green manure crops, manures, sawdust, bark dust, and composts also supply organic matter.
These can be applied to the soil after the cover crop has be dug in. After planting the seeds of whichever cover crop you intend to use, drench the planted area with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL).
This does several things; it ensures a better and faster strike or germination of the seeds, it enhances the soil life which will assist in a better crop of green material and it releases the fertilisers that are locked up in the soil making them more readily available for the new crop.
The crop is then able to take up more nutrients from the soil which it will return back as nutrient rich humus when it is dug in and breaks down. When the crop is ready to be dug in (Late winter/early spring), I usually cut the tops off near the ground with a pair of hedge clippers, spray the cut foliage with Mycorrcin (to speed up the break down) then sprinkle lime over the area before digging it all in. After digging in, a layer of compost can be placed over the freshly dug soil such as mushroom compost and then water with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL).
The ground is now ready to start receiving the new plantings for the season.
What green or cover crop is best? That depends on what you are looking to achieve and there is no reason why you should not combine two or more types into the area.
Just mix the seeds together of the ones you prefer and broadcast. Types include;
Lupin; quick growing and nitrogen fixing.
Mustard: good for cleaning up harmful soil fungi and weed control. Should never be used if club root disease is in the soil.
Oats: Good for reducing soil erosion and breaking up hard pans.
Buckwheat: great for phosphorus, breaking up soil and weed control.
Alfalfa: ideal for rejuvenating worn out soils, breaking up hard pans with its deep roots. Can be cut back down a couple of times for a nitrogen mulch before digging in.
Radish: Long tap roots break up sub-soils, dig in just before flowering and gasses released help control root nematodes. (Not into club root affected soils.)
Peas: nitrogen fixing and your own fresh pea straw. You can have some fresh peas for the table as well.
Green Crops can be used in spare winter gardens where you would normally have your summer vegetables or flowers.
Points to remember, don't let the green crop set seed and if you grow vegetables through the winter, but have a surplus area, then sow one part in a green crop and vegetables in the other. Following year, switch.
Its better to plant a fodder crop than not, just for the aspect of reducing weed problems.
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The first month of winter is upon us and growth will slow as we head for the shortest day next month. Now the shortest day is only about 6 weeks away, how quickly the seasons change.
Dependant on where you are in New Zealand, one can expect cooler weather to cold and frosts, damper conditions and less nice periods to do a few things in the gardens.
Had a call from a garden centre owner in the North Auckland area asking for a copy of my information sheet about growing potatoes. Without thinking about the difference in climate through out the country, I said, “but its the wrong time of the year”.
He replied “not up here in the north, we are selling seed potatoes for planting now”.
Oh how would gardeners in Dunedin and Invercargill like to be doing that at this time.
Even in Palmerston North I would not risk it.
For most of us gardeners, winter is the quiet time, a time to plan and review the past season. It is not a time when the gardens need to be completely drab as we have available a good range of winter flowering plants to brighten our gardens and homes.
Polyanthus and primulas are wonderful winter flowering plants, which can be planted into gardens, borders and containers. Not bothered by frosts these plants can give us bright bold colour or lovely pastel shades to suit our tastes and various areas.
The plants are available from your garden centre in two forms, as seedlings which will flower later in the winter or as colour spots for instant flowers.
It is a good idea to buy a number of both especially if you are planting up a bed of them.
Space out the colour spots so that seedlings can be planted in between. This will give a nice show of colour which just gets better as the weeks go by.
It is great to have a nice display of colour to greet you as you come home each day in winter. So plant up an area that you view, as you come up the drive and also include a few containers of winter flowering plants around the entrance ways.
For container plants that are going to be protected from frosts, as they are on the porches and under cover, the best choices in my mind are cyclamen and dwarf cineraria.
A few primula malacoides and primula obconica can be included for a variety in foliage type and flowering form.
Don t use potting mix for the containers, instead give them a growing medium with a bit of guts. Use an animal manure based compost that is reasonably friable.
Fill the container to the desired planting height and then sprinkle a reasonable amount of sheep manure pellets over the compost along with a heaped teaspoon of dried blood and a quarter teaspoon of Simalith. Then place your colour spot onto this minus its original container.
The new container size for one of the plants suggested, should be about 6 to 8 inches in diameter. A planter box is ideal for a number of plants in a row on a porch.
The secret with container plants in sheltered areas during winter is to never overwater them. Too much water makes the mix colder, slows growth and leads to root rots then losses of plants. Keeping plants a little on the dry side is the best way to have them handle winter.
Small drinks of warm water with a little Matrix Reloaded added(for extra food value) is applied as the foliage starts to droop through lack of moisture. It is surprising how little watering is required. The reason for this is the plant is not losing moisture through the foliage as in the summer, therefore reducing the water needs, by up to 90%.
The plant also gains moisture from the damp air which is often enough to keep it happy even when the mix is fairly dry. In winter its just about a game to see how little water you need to apply.
You can also further reduce the watering needs by spraying the plants with Vaporgard.
It reduces the loss of moisture through the leaves on warmer days and offers extra protection from frosts and chills. When you place your container plants on a porch make sure that they have sufficient bright light and a little direct sun if possible.
Also you can take this a little further and place a few of the same plants on windowsills indoors to brighten up rooms. On windowsills they will receive sufficient light and the cold of the window pane, they will enjoy. Especially cyclamen that do not like too much heat. Placing the same plant in the middle of the room, they will suffer from lack of light and too much warmth. Then if you overwater then they will rot out.
All the primula and polyanthus type plants are ideal for the garden displays.
By the way Polyanthus have one flower stem with a number of flowers on the top of the stem where primula acaulis, which look just like the polys, except they have lots of stems with a single flower on each. Both types are often referred to as polys or polyanthus.
The true polys usually have tall stems so the flowers appear well above the foliage in a cluster.
The primula polys have shorter stems so you have a more posy bowel effect when they are in flower. Birds in winter, because of their lack of much food, will tend to eat the flowers of either type. Especially the blue flowers for some reason.
If you are finding this happening, then two things can be done. Stretch some bird repeller ribbon between two stakes near the plants and toss some bread and other food out for the birds, away from where the plants are. Its a good thing to feed birds in winter as they do need some help for us at this time. I can have 50 plus birds, waiting each morning and afternoon for me to feed the chooks.
They always know the exact times. When planting out into gardens, ensure that sheep pellets, dry blood and a bit of Simalith is placed in the base of each planting hole. An occasional watering with Matrix Reloaded added to the watering can is ideal as an extra complete food source.
Food and iron can become locked up in the cold of winter so you need to ensure a plentiful supply for the flowering plants. Otherwise the foliage will pale and flower production will suffer. A side dressing once a month of the dried blood is well worthwhile. If you find that the plants are growing slower than you would like, then spray them with MBL and Matrix Reloaded about every two weeks.
Underneath shrubs and trees where its protected, you can plant cineraria and cyclamen but even with the above protection, a spray of Vaporgard for frost protection is a good idea.
If slugs and snails give you a problem instead of putting down poisons to kill them and possibly harming hungry wild life as well as pets, simply spray the plants with Liquid Copper and Raingard every couple of weeks. The slugs and snails cant stand the copper and will leave the plants alone while the copper is there. Spray the ground around the plants with the same.
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It is a fact that earthworms are the greatest garden helpers that you can have.
The more worms you have in your gardens the healthier the plants will be.
Sadly many gardens lack in earthworms and the reasons for this are often because water soluble fertilisers have been used such as Superphosphate, General Purpose Fertiliser, Rose Fertiliser, Nitrophoska Blue, etc.
These fertilisers create acidic making conditions that the worms detest.
Chemical sprays and weed killers, including the Glyphosate ones, are also harmful to worms.
When you don’t have good worm populations you also have low counts of other soil life forms, collectively called micro-organisms.
The health of the soil is easily gauged by the number of earthworms found when turning over the soil.
An acre of good soil will contain about one million worms. This works out to be about 23 worms per square foot.
Recently Ag Research stated that on good natural pasture the weight of the stock grazing the grass would be equal to the weight of all the earthworms in the soil on that paddock.
Big worm populations make for great healthy gardens and plants.
Here is a few facts on worms; Earthworms make contributions, such as adding calcium carbonate, a compound which helps moderate soil pH.
Each day, they produce 60 percent of their body weight in urine, which contains high levels of nitrogen.
Worms can eat their own weight each day.
Worms live where there is food, moisture, oxygen and a favorable temperature. If they don’t have these things, they go somewhere else.
Worms tunnel deeply in the soil and bring subsoil closer to the surface mixing it with the topsoil.
Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen.
The sticky slime also helps to hold clusters of soil particles together in formations called aggregates.
Although they have no prominent sense organs, earthworms are sensitive to light, touch, vibration, and chemicals.
Incidently earthworms have 5 hearts.
Earthworms do not like dry soil and in dry times they will burrow deep into the soil and wait till the rains come. (not a good time to gauge worm populations)
If you have good populations of worms, they will do the bulk of your digging of gardens for you.
If you dig a garden or rotary hoe it, after leveling off the soil with a rake, you should put a layer of compost over the soil.
Digging can disrupt the worm’s food supplies.
The compost will put matters right. Even better, before spreading the compost, layer the ground with newspaper a few pages thick and wet down. Cover with compost.
Worms love newspaper (hence the term bookworm) and the inks used these days are ok. Don’t use glossy paper.
There are ways to make your gardens ‘worm friendly’ and build up their populations.
Drench gardens with MBL (Magic Botanic Liquid) This cleans up chemicals from the soil and other contamination.
Give the garden a liberal dressing of soft garden lime such as Hatuma Lime.
Hard limes made from limestone take too long to be of immediate advantage.
Don’t use any water soluble fertilisers or chemical sprays including weed killers. Use natural foods such animal manures, blood & bone, sheep pellets, sea weed, sawdust and straw.
Gardens with low or no worm populations can be restocked with worms after making them ‘worm friendly’
The fastest way to achieve good worm populations is to breed worms in a Worm Farm.
This is a specially designed container that you place kitchen scraps into along with a starter bag of worms. The worms fed on the rotting material, converting it to vermicast (rich soil).
The ideal conditions that a Worm Farm should offer, allows the worms to reproduce until their numbers reach what can be called the worm population limit. They then stop actively breeding until their numbers reduce. By removing some of the worms every so often, they will keep producing a never ending supply of worms.
When harvesting the vermicast you are taking a number of worms out unless you carefully pick out the worms and put them back into the worm farm. In this respect it is better to only harvest a quarter to a third of the vermicast at any one time. Allow a couple of months or more to pass before harvesting again.
The harvested worms can be placed into what I call ‘worm pits’ in the garden.
These are simply spade sized holes dug in the gardens, filled with shredded wet newspaper, kitchen scraps, animal manure and any organic material. About a handful or two of vermicast and worms are seeded into each worm pit then covered with compost.
Keep the area of the pit moist with occasional watering as needed.
Apply compost and animal manures over the surrounding garden as a mulch along with a sprinkling of soft lime, from time to time. If all goes well you will over the following months, build up big populations of worms in the gardens. Concentrate on the vegetable garden first and later do the same to other gardens.
In a bigger garden place the worm pits towards the centre about 3 metres apart. There are a few brands of worm farms available, the type that I use is called a Worm-A-Round.
It is so good that I now have two of them in operation.
It comprises of 3 round tiers 60cm in diameter and standing 46 cm tall when all tiers are stacked on. The bottom tier has a tap and the leachate (worm pee) is collected and harvested from there.
The two upper tiers are for the scraps and worms. A lid covers the farm.
The size is important, as too smaller units can become too hot or cold for the worms in summer or winter.
Placed in a shaded situation the worms can keep cool enough in summer and huddle together in cold winters.
There has in the past, been some cheaper smaller units available, which likely were not very good, as to the number of problems gardeners found when trying to use them.
Having a worm farm is a great investment, not only do you benefit the gardens with worms, vermicast and leachate (liquid plant food) you save money in disposing of your kitchen wastes. (We keep a plastic container in the kitchen to fill with wastes before putting into the worm farm)
I also use the vermicast mixed into compost for containers when potting up.
This places a few worms along with the rich vermicast into the containers, making for really great container plants.
For further information see my web pages at http://www.gardenews.co.nz/worms.htm
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Its that time of the year when my feijoa tree is giving us so much fruit that we have to give away half the crop. The tree is a variety called ‘Unique’ which produces large fruit and does not need a second tree as a pollinator.
When I say large fruit, we are talking about fruit up to a similar size of a tennis ball but oval in shape. (so, not much good for tennis)
Half a dozen fruit make a lovely healthy snack. A good source of vitamin C with a small amount of iron and calcium.
Not all my fruit are large, about 80% of them are of a good size, to large.
The crop is picked from the ground, as the fruit falls when near ripe.
A day or two after falling they are fully ripe and lovely to eat.
The fruit does not store well and it takes only a few more days from falling that they start to go off.
Likely placed in the fridge they would keep longer but should be at room temperature to eat. You could always cut open the ripe fruit, scoop out the pulpy centre and place a number of them into freezer bags or plastic containers and freeze for later use.
There are a few recipes you can make, to take care of the surplus feijoa fruit for later use.
For a jam simply peel firm fruit to obtain 1Kg. Slice them up and place in saucepan with a quarter cup of water. Boil gently until soft. Stir in 4 cups of sugar with the juice of a lemon. You can add a half teaspoon of ground ginger it you like. Boil hard for 5 to 10 minutes, allow to cool slightly and place in glass jars and seal.
If you don t have a feijoa tree you should think about investing in one. They are hardy, tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, are free of plant diseases and pests.
Birds do not take the crop when it is ripening as with most other fruit. You never have to pick the crop off the tree, just off the ground.
The trees can be shaped to suit your garden. They don’t get too big, so ideal for even small gardens.
Their foliage is a lush dark, shiny green with underside of the leaf being whitish. So tolerant of coastal situations. An attractive evergreen with ornamental aspects for any garden setting.
Likely they could be grown in a good size container such as a plastic rubbish tin. Talking about good size containers, you sometimes see recycled 200 litre plastic drums for sale. These are easy to cut in half with a jigsaw electric saw and with a few large holes dilled in the base of each half, using a drill saw, you have a couple of nice big planters.
I don’t even feed my feijoa anything, as I have chooks free ranging in the area where it grows and they supply ample manure for the tree. Otherwise a mulch of older chook manure or compost is likely all the food they need.. I do however sprinkle a bit of Fruit and Flower Power under the tree in the spring.
The common feijoa, Feijoa sellowiana, only produces small fruit but these trees are ideal as screens or hedges growing up to about 3 or 4 metres with a similar spread. Trimming them makes for an excellent hedge.
The most desirable Feijoa is Unique for its fruiting, which even a young tree will produce a small crop, early in its life.
Here is another interesting way to deal with surplus fruit.
Make a syrup of 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan on the stove.
Peel some firm feijoa and place in the syrup. Simmer gently until the fruit is clear.
Drain the fruit and dry on greaseproof paper in a cool oven.
When dry to the touch, roll in sugar and store in jars. You now have crystallised feijoa as treats.
Passion fruit I find are difficult to grow outside of my glasshouse.
Likely I don t have a situation that is warm and sunny enough to obtain the growth conditions needed for good fruiting.
I used to have a vine or two growing well and fruiting, some years back when the spring/summer weather was more settled than it is these days.
Its is annoying as I can easily get a vine well established in the glasshouse, in a container, then when the weather is settled in the summer, take it out to a sunny sheltered spot.
The vine does well and even a few fruit are produced that season. Then the following year it struggles and does little.
A year or two of this and the plant is lost. I think that to be successful, I would need to rig a nova light shelter for a vine, in a sunny situation, against a fence or a building.
Recently a gardener, obviously more fortunate than myself, rang to ask when is the best time to prune a passion fruit vine.
The answer to that is only in the spring or early summer when the vine is actively growing for the season.
To do so at other times can cause the vine to die back and be lost.
Lots of passion fruit vines are sold in garden centres every year and I wonder how many of these do well and produce good crops?
For success you need a sunny, warm situation with free draining soil.
Heavy soils and wet feet are the end to passion fruit vine endeavors.
You can overcome the wet feet problem by growing in a container partly buried in the ground. Shelter from wind and chills is most important to obtain good growth.
An established plant can take some light frosting in winter but it is best to protect them from frosts with a spray of Vaporgard. An animal manure rich compost should be applied to the root area in the spring and again later in summer.
They are heavy feeders. Chook manure is excellent.
Also apply blood and bone along with Fruit and Flower Power.
If you find that your vine is producing flowers, but no fruit is setting, then it means that the lack of bees or bumble bees is the cause.
You need then to pollinate by hand.
The centre of the flower is where the pollen needs to go and out from that often curled back inwards are the male stamens with the pollen.
With a brush or cotton bud move the pollen to set the fruit.
Orange Berry A ground cover that I wrote about, a couple of years back, had all the qualities of another wonderful, easy care fruiting plant.
It grows very well, has no pest or disease problems, very attractive leathery like foliage (bit like an ivy) flowers well in early summer, but certainly does not produce good crops of the orange berries.
As a ground cover, a container plant or in a hanging basket it is great. But don t hold your breath for fruit. I have had, after about 3-4 years, the odd fruit and a number of gardeners have complained to me also about the lack of fruit or even flowers.
Maybe up north in warmer situations they could produce good crops. Birds also fancy what fruit forms so you need to protect the plants against birds at fruiting time.
Grown for its foliage its great and you can always dream about the fruit.
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The media recently has had a number of items related to global warming.
It is interesting to note that a few years back there were a number of skeptics that poo hooed the green house gas theory, about the planet warming.
Now most of these skeptics have pulled their heads in and realise that our current warming of the globe is not a natural cycle, but one which mankind is the primary cause of.
The reason that scientists believe that the current warming of the planet is not just a natural cycle, as has happened in the past, is because of the speed of the warming.
We all know that its the emission of greenhouse gases from the use of fossil fuels that is the foremost cause of the problem.
There are other factors that also contribute such as the flatulence of all the farm animals out there grazing, belching and farting. Which raises an interesting point, There has in the past, always been billions of animals on the planet, so why did they not cause the same problem?
We know from personal experience that if we eat certain combinations of food we will also get wind. I would suggest its likely the pasture they are eating, that gives the stock their gas problems.
Superphosphate and Urea feed pasture making for poor digestion.
From what I can gather it would appear that stock grazed on organic type farms do not have this problem to the same extent.
What will Global Warming mean to you? Weather patterns not dissimilar to the past but much more intense.
Storms, high wind speeds, flooding and droughts but overall warmer temperatures.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce the possible damage to your gardens, homes and lives.
Flooding is a real problem especially for those living near the sea, rivers and streams.
Rising ocean levels will cause havoc in low lands, banking up rivers and streams causing possible flooding miles away from the ocean.
Heavy down pours of rain can quickly cause surface flooding to gardens so any improvement you can do to your drainage would be advisable. Raised gardens are great for plants to grow in and overcomes the problem of wet feet and root rots.
Shrubs and trees take up vast amounts of water and their foliage reduces the amount of rain that hits the ground. They also give shade protection as well as reducing the wind damage. The planting of both deciduous and evergreen trees is well worth considering.
Use deciduous trees where you require summer shading but want winter sun warmth.
Evergreens as wind breaks, on the prevailing wind side of your property will shelter smaller plants from the worst of winds.
A point here is that if possible the seeds of trees and shrubs should be planted to grow naturally. These have a stronger root system when compared to transplanted ones.
The Greenhouse effect is like placing a gigantic glasshouse over the planet, the heat from the sun that bounces off the planet is trapped between the earth and the upper atmosphere. Same principal as in a glasshouse, in the backyard. The problem with the planet’s glasshouse that it is so large that weather is altered as a result.
Where inside your little glasshouse there is only small conventional currents of air movement.
The glasshouse you have, protects the plants growing inside from the weather outside.
Its this protection that will likely make the need for glasshouses more necessary in days to come.
Once we had a glasshouse to be able to grow plants out of season such as tomatoes.
Now it could transpire that we may need a glasshouse to grow some plants at all.
It could be that protection of vegetables will be needed, for home gardens, to supplement your needs, especially when commercial crops are lost.
One can imagine a nova roof type structure over the vegetable plot.
A big advantage of global warming would be the warmer temperatures, that would allow one to grow a greater range of plants over longer seasons.
Water could be a problem especially in areas that will experience much lower rainfalls.
Tank water for personal and garden use is a way of ensuring that you have more water than what is coming out of the tap. 200 litre drums that can be recycled for water storage, can be cheap to buy and is a good backup for dry times.
The higher levels of UV greatly effects plants, which we now see plants producing their own sunscreens. This action reduces the production of carbohydrates which means plants grow slower and take longer to reach maturity.
We can overcome this by a 3 monthly spray of Vaporgard, this gives preferred plants, the UV protection they require.
It is also a good time to use this spray on garden plants sensitive to chills and frosts.
You may think that much of the above is nonsense but think of this; if I had written 25 years ago that many people would be buying bottled water to drink as a norm and it would be a billion dollar industry even in NZ, you would have laughed.
The world’s weather is changing and its changing a lot faster than even the scientists thought possible. You may think about the suggestions I have submitted to assist with your gardens and lives, plant a few trees, improve drainage, store water, build a glasshouse or similar.It is better to be prepared for any eventuality than not.
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Keep weeds under control this month to reduce the weed problems in the spring.
Collect seeds of plants you wish to grow in the spring, store them in a glass jar in the fridge. Main crop potatoes are best stored in the ground and dug as needed.
As long as the area they have grown in is free draining they keep best there.
Reduce your watering, plants no longer need the amount of water they did a month or so back.
Spray preferred garden plants with Perkfection as it helps prevent wet weather diseases. A couple of sprays a month apart will do them nicely.
De-thatch your lawns for better drainage by spraying the lawns with Thatch Busta.
Apply potassium liberally to gardens to firm up growth.
Magnesium should also be applied to keep foliage from yellowing.
Lettuces love this current weather to grow well. If possible put a hand full of chook manure under each seedling at planting time.
Hoe up winter brassicas to promote growth. But with Brussel Sprouts, trample the soil around the base to help achieve a good crop.
Sprinkle Neem Tree Granules after hoeing to control the late caterpillars. Plant broad bean seeds.
Get your winter flowering plants in as soon as possible.
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April is the second month of Autumn and already there are many signs of the pending winter.
Its not so much the cold that plants relate to for the change in seasons, its the hours of light.
An interesting aspect can occur when one has plants such as roses in a front garden which are near street lights, roses in these gardens are getting just about 24 hours of light (sun and artificial) which is why they are very reluctant to drop their leaves and have a winter’s rest.
If you have the above situation and also have roses in the back yard away from night lights then you will see the back yard fellows dropping leaves and going into their winter rest while their front garden mates still believe its summer because of the extra light hours.
It amazes me that with the potential shortage of electricity that street lighting is run all over the country during all the hours of darkness. This is a waste of electricity as most of us are tucked up in bed and not out wandering the streets after midnight most days of the week.
It may provide a bit of security against burglary but as I understand it they (the burglars) prefer to operate in rainy times when the lights are not so effective anyway. It does upset out side garden plants confusing them about the time of the year.
Its a busy month preparing our gardens for winter. Spraying tender plants with Vaporgard for frost and chill protection. Sowing new lawns or patching existing. Planting fodder or green crops in gardens cleared of their summer plants.
Plants that have finished such as flowers, tomatoes pumpkins etc, don't leave them to die and rot where they grew as this will bring diseases into those areas and may cause problems in future crops.
Time to do the autumn de-thatching of lawns, (the debris that builds up on the soil under the grasses)
Use Thatch Busta for this task. When the thatch is gone the lawns will be healthier, have better drainage and less moss problems.
A busy month with Easter being a great time to get a lot of things done if you are staying home and weather permits.
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Often vegetable gardeners wonder what else they can grow this time of the year?
The winter vegetables such as cabbage, cauli, Brussel sprouts, Sprouting Broccoli, silverbeet, spinach, broad beans, leeks etc are all well underway and the early planted crops about ready for harvesting about now. So what can one plant for a bit of variety? Snowpeas are the answer and now is an ideal time to plant them.
Its always best to grow your snow peas (or peas) from seed. They sprout as quickly as 6 days after they are sown. Always impressive.
(Most of the hints and advice in this article have been written for snow peas. But you'll find it should equally apply to peas.)
Many gardeners don't bother growing peas these days compared to about 20 years back.
The ordinary peas are too easy to buy all year round, frozen and they take up a fair amount of room in a summer garden.
But snow peas are a winter crop and will be harvested before the main spring planting of other vegetables are completed.
They can be used as a fodder crop with great benefits to the soil as well as being able to harvest to pods for winter cooking. Snow peas always make a stirfry something really special.
They can also be grown as a late winter/early spring crop.
Make sure you pick your snow peas before they start to mature, otherwise the peas in the pods will swell up and you'll lose some its unique taste.
The one thing I'd stress about snow peas is that you avoid watering the leaves. Too much water on the leaves will likely cause powdery mildew to set in and all the plants will be covered as the disease spreads rapidly, ending your season early.
So keep your water away from the leaves or use a spray of Baking Soda with Raingard two weekly, to prevent powdery mildew.
If not use as soon as the disease is noticed as it will stop it in its tracks from my experiences. One of the best things though about snow peas is how quickly you start getting a crop.
(Place a tablespoon of baking soda into one litre of warm water with 1 ml of Raingard, stir to fizz up then place in sprayer, use straight away)
Usually in 8 weeks you'll be eating your own produce. Its that quick. And it tastes great. Don't sow the snow pea seeds in the same area or containers as cabbages. This may cause the snow pea plants taking longer to flower. Cabbages like regular nitrogen doses with liquid manure.
But the liquid manure flows through into the soil around the snow peas.
Result: lots of leaves on the snow peas as it puts its energy into growing leaves and not flowers.
Put sulphate of potash around the snow peas and a couple of weeks later the flowers will start to appear.
During July, August and maybe into September you will have juicy snow peas coming out of your eyeballs. And they taste so good! They will eventually succumbed to powdery mildew after they stop cropping.
The plants then can be dug in and the ground left till spring planting starts.
Hints and Tips:
•Snow peas prefer a well limed, free draining soil and a sunny to part shade aspect.
•Sprinkle lightly, Ocean Solids over the seed planting area to ensure the crop is rich in minerals adding to taste and goodness.
*Sow the seed next to a fence or trellis and weave the shoots through the fence for support.
Otherwise place stakes at the end of rows with garden twine between the stakes for support.
If growing as a fodder crop sow the peas in a band about a metre wide and place stakes at the four corners.
Tie garden twine around the circumference of the bed to stop the plants sprawling out.
The peas can still be harvested and the plants will tend to help support each other.
Leave ample walking room between beds for access to harvesting.
Mind you if you use the Snow Peas as a fodder crop you are likely to have more peas to harvest than you can cope with so either sell them to your local green grocer of give them away to friends.
*Water them at soil level avoiding the leaves, otherwise you're likely to encounter powdery mildew early.
*Harvest them often to encourage further flowering and more pods.
*The shoots of the plant can also be harvested for salads or cooked in stirfry meals.
*After harvesting dig in the roots and plants into the soil to boost the soil's nitrogen.
Look for Snow Peas on the seed stands at your local Garden Centre. Ooooo
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Had a good display from the perennial border this year? As well as can be expected, considering the weather. But now is the time to do some work on it, so if the weather improves next spring and summer, as is hoped, the display will be even better.
The perennial bed should be tidied up in readiness for winter. Dead-heading the chrysanthemums will continue the display for a while yet, maybe, but most of the other perennials should be about finished.
It is best to cut back each perennial clump as it begins to die back. Cut back herbaceous perennials to ground level, and shrubby perennials to tidy, compact clumps, trimming off all the dead flower stems.
After clearing weeds from the area and forking the soil loose -- avoid damaging fleshy roots -- spread a mulch of compost, mushroom compost or peat moss over the area.
Many gardeners now save seeds of particularly fine perennials to increase stocks for next season, or for replacements where the old clumps have been attacked by diseases or pests.
Though perennials are supposed to come year after year, and some do improve with age, many grow old, the roots thicken, the stems harbour disease spores and the eggs of pests. As always, only save seeds from the best plants, particularly from disease-free ones, and don't expect the seedlings to come true to the parents.
Cross-pollination ensures this will not happen. Some gardeners, after the autumn tidying up, spray with Liquid Copper followed by Neem Tree Oil later, as is done with fruit trees and roses. There is a great deal of merit in this. Both diseases and pests carry over winter.
This is also the season when new beds may be planned, perhaps replacing a mixed one with a bed where a theme predominates -- a white bed, a blue bed, a fragrant one, spring bulbs followed by summer and autumn species which carry on the theme.
Now is the time to plan and undertake. Ooooo
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With winter approaching the old problem of moss in lawns appears once again for many gardeners.
There are several ways that you can improve your lawns and reduce the moss problems. Firstly there are several different types of moss that invade our lawns and they all belong to that lower plant life family called Bryophyes.
They multiply by outward growth and germinate from spores similar to the way ferns do.
The spores of Bryophyes are very hardy and they can survive for up to 16 years plus travel, by moisture, for great distances. Thus it is easy to understand how lawns can become re-infected.
Mosses can establish more easy in lawns that have poor conditions such as;
low soil fertility, shade, very acidic soil, poor drainage, thatch and compacted soil.
Gardeners also can create a further problem that assists the moss to establish and that is mowing lawns too short. Always ensure that the mower is not scalping the lawn and cutting about an inch above the ground.
To improve your lawn and make it more unfavourable to moss ensure that the fertility of the lawn is good. Use a slow release Lawn Fertiliser or Bio Boost.
If there is poor drainage or hollows then nova flow pipes can be laid and connected to the storm water. Hollows where water lies should be filled with top soil and re-planted with grass seed.
If the lawn has become too acidic (below 5.0 pH) then lime the area. Lawns that become compacted due to the type of soil or heavy traffic on the lawn should be aerated or spiked at least once a year.
This can be done with a commercial machine hired for the job or simply use a garden fork.
Drive the fork blades deep into the lawn and move backwards and forwards to open up holes. This will also help drainage. Spray the lawn with Thatch Busta to remove the thatch. If moss is present then use Surrender from Yates to kill it off.
Surrender also gives a longer term control than the likes of the old remedy Sulphate Of Iron.
All of the above suggestions can be done at this time of the year and with the ground softer it will make the tasks easier.
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While plants may tolerate quite low temperatures, if there is a wind blowing they may collapse quite quickly. Cold winds of freezing and below have the same effect as drought, causing the foliage to transpire and lose moisture faster than the plant can take it up from the soil, especially if frosts lock up much of the moisture.
Building a barrier such as a fence does not help much, as turbulence in the lee can cause more damage as the plants thrash about. Research on a cross-Channel bridge, before the Channel Tunnel was started, called on the expertise of horticultural specialists, as they had experience in that field.
The designers had to allow for winds of up to 100mph, which would have blown cars right off the bridge, even with a low parapet.
A high parapet would have acted like a sail and the whole bridge would have "taken off" downwind. But steel lattice work was found to reduce even very high winds to safe limits, and this is the principle we need to apply to our gardens -- filter the wind.
Windbreaks or fences of plastic netting, of different densities, protect plants against cold winter winds. Look ahead for the need to erect them now, also protection from frost and wind chill from Vaporgard by spraying the foliage will help.
Potassium is also needed for hardening up plants and getting them through winter.
Magnesium is used to retain good leaf colour through winter and assists the plants in producing more energy.
Potassium and Magnesium are available in balance for plants and is called Fruit and Flower Power.
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Written by Wally Richards.
Gardeners can spend time and money making their summer gardens of annual, flowers and vegetables productive and great for the summer. Now that we are into autumn, the last few weeks are left, for these summer plants to preform before the cold, wet and frosts take them out.
Does one need to start off fresh again next spring with seeds or seedlings purchased? The answer for many plants is no. There are ways of saving plants and seeds so that next spring you start off with your own stock of material, saving both time and money.
If you have a glasshouse or shade house this makes a great storage area for plant material. Even a part of a conservatory or a sunny porch will allow you to hold plants over the winter time, that will be lost otherwise.
Plants can be saved in three ways from your gardens. Collecting ripe seeds, taking cuttings and in some cases lifting the whole plant. For instance you may have capsicums or peppers growing in the garden, these are not annuals, but will be lost in the winter if left where they are growing.
What you do is remove any fruit that are ready or near ready and either dry or freeze them, depending on whether they are capsicum (Cut and Freeze) peppers, remove and dry. A good way to freeze is to place a suitable number of cut up capsicum for one serving into an ice cream container and cover them with water. Place the container in the freezer and when the water freezes, the capsicum pieces are protected from freezer burn from the ice around them. Knock out this ice cube of capsicum and put into a plastic bag then back in the freezer.
They stack well like this too.
Now the plants out in the garden (if you have several just pick the best) spray them with Vaporgard, over and under the foliage and leave for a couple of days. Then lift the plant taking a good size root ball. (They are fairly shallow rooting so its easy)
Take a bucket sized container with drainage holes and partly fill with compost. Sit the plant’s root ball and soil on top of the compost at a level, so that the soil level, is just below the rim of the container.
You now have a potted capsicum or pepper for growing in the glasshouse etc.
If you go very easy on watering and only give them a small drink, when they are very dry then the plants winter through and even supply you with fresh fruit in winter, every so often.
The same maybe done with some flower plants that you would like to keep, flowering begonias, impatiens and petunia are three that can be kept through winter. If they are a bit large cut them back to half before spraying with the Vaporgard.
Some of these maybe kept indoors on a windowsill as pot plants through the winter.
As long as you only water them with little drinks when they are very dry, they will survive. Too much water in winter is a killer. Now say you have 100 odd impatiens outside growing, it is pointless lifting lots of these, so the next easy way is to take cuttings of the best flowering ones, you want for next season. This time spray the growing tops of the ones you want to keep with Vaporgard.
Leave for a couple of days and then cut the tops for cuttings. Take a seedling tray and half fill with potting mix, over the top of the mix place sharp sand, to fill the tray to near the top rim. Wet the sand carefully and place your fresh cuttings into the sand. (Bit like those sand saucers we used to do at school.) Place the tray into a good light glasshouse, but shaded from strong sun. As the sand dries, mist it with water. The cuttings should strike roots over the next few weeks and then you can hold them in a frost free spot till spring.
Flowering begonia, coleus and petunia are some of other flowering plants you can keep in this manner.
The third method is to collect seeds from the flowering plants including any tomatoes you want to grow next season.
Beans also is another good one and with them just allow a few beans to stay on the plants till they mature and dry.
Tomatoes, pick a nice big fruit and cut in half, with a knife pick out a number of seeds and place on a paper towel. Write the name of the type, on the towel and leave on a bench for a few days to dry out the seeds.
Then cut away the towel part without seeds, fold up, place in a plastic bag, then into a glass jar with a seal lid.
Store the jar in the fridge.
Flower seeds and other seeds can be placed dry into plastic bags with their names on and stored in the same jar. It is a good idea to use the three methods mentioned where applicable so that you have lots of material for next spring.
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The articles written a few weeks back about growing wheat grass seeds in trays for harvesting and juicing created a lot of interest, because of the number of phone calls and emails I received. The key to the whole process is for one to grow the organic wheat grass seed in a tray with all the minerals possible by using Ocean Solids, Simalith and MBL.
The grass when up about 6 inches or so it is cut and placed into a manual juicer to squeeze the green juice out. The electric juicers are no good for this as the blades generate too much heat and this ruins the enzymes and some of the vitamins. Squeezed out, a 30ml glass of this juice is equal to the vitamins, minerals and enzymes of 1kg of fresh vegetables!
The mineral rich juice fortifies the blood, aids in healing your body, assists in the removal of toxins, slows the aging process and gives the regular, daily user, a new lift in health and well being. Some of us saw recently on TV3, the program, Dirty Little Secrets of NZ, how cosmetics, household cleaners and other chemicals can have a very detrimental effect on our health.
Add to this the pollution in the air also shown on the program, along with the chemical additives in processed food and in our food chain (which these last two never were mentioned) we have turned our bodies into chemical dumps.
Wheat grass juice can be easily grown and juiced to assist our bodies back into good health.
It is well worth considering if you want to spend the rest of your days in good health and mentally alert.
I have put a lot of information on my web site at www.gardenews.co.nz/wheat.html
for those that would like to know more about this aspect of gardening and health.
Ooooo Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
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Yes its happened, the rains came, giving much of the country the long awaited moisture that our gardens needed. The autumn rains means that we can now get stuck into those jobs that need doing.
Rain brings new life to our gardens and part of that new life is the seeds that have been laying dormant, waiting for moisture. Unfortunately most of these seeds are from plants that we don’t want in our gardens, commonly called weeds. The weeds can be divided into two types, annuals and perennials. The annual ones will grow as fast as they can to reach that point where they will flower and set new seeds.
They wont grow tall and many will mature just a few inches tall. The perennials will grow slower and gain as much strength as possible so they can withstand the vigors of winter to then flourish in the spring.
Either types are easy to control if you slice them off just below ground level while they are still small. Using a Dutch hoe or sharp bladed knife are two quick and easy methods.
The Dutch hoe can be used in more open ground, out from preferred plants and the knife for close work, by existing plants. You need to do this quickly to make it easy work and prevent the annuals from reaching maturity and setting seed. This seed will give you a lot more weed problems in the spring if you don t act now.
Moist soil now allows you to plant out those seedings of vegetables and flowers for the winter gardens. Clean up the area to be planted with your hoe killing the new weeds, then cover the area with a layer of weed free compost. This will help keep existing moisture in and make it harder for weeds to germinate and grow through the compost.
Then plant your seedlings into the compost. Any weeds that poke through the compost can be pulled out while they are small.
Gardens that are not going to be planted up can have a green crop ( fodder crop) planted. Kill off the existing weeds as above and sprinkle Simalith and Ocean Solids at the prescribed rates on the jars over the area.
Work these into the soil with a rake and then cover with a thin layer of compost. Sprinkle the seeds of the cover crop, which can be any of, lupin, oats, peas, wheat or mustard.
Don’t put mustard in any garden that has the club root disease, it only helps the club root. You can do a mix of any of the above seeds to obtain the different benefits of each. I favour peas as they will also give you a crop of peas to eat as well as pea straw later on with all the nitrogen aspects.
The reason for a cover crop is two fold, one to reduce the weed problems by having a mass of a cover crop and secondly, to have the cover crop gather up the fertiliser/foods you have applied to the garden in the previous months, rather than loosing the same to leaching in the winter. Later on in early spring the cover crop is cut down and dug in, returning more goodness to the soil.
Spray the crop occasionally with MBL to add more goodness. Ooooo
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Its time to do some work on your lawns. If you haven’t de-thatched the lawn for a while now is the time to do so.
If you want to over-sow your lawn to create a thicker mat of grasses and thus be more weed free, then hire a scarifier to remove the thatch. This opens up grooves in the lawn which is ideal for the the new seed to be washed into with the hose after spreading.
If you are not going to over-sow then simply spray the lawn with Thatch Busta. If you have weeds in the lawn add a lawn weed killer to the Thatch Busta.
It will do two jobs at once, killing the weeds and eating up the dying foliage as well as the debris (thatch).
If you want a really good lawn then you need to buy top quality lawn seed of the type that green keepers use. It will be uncoated, 99% pure with a very high germination rating.
(Before you buy ask to see the certification)
It will likely be about twice as dear as common lawn seed. If you are not looking for that deluxe lawn then just plant a suitable lawn seed for your requirements.
Avoid coated lawn seed as you get far less seed for your money and the germinating seed has to break the coating before it can grow. It takes longer to germinate making it a greater target for birds and disease.
You also need to sow about 2Kg of coated seed to get the same coverage of 1kg of the same seed uncoated. The coating does not detract birds from eating the seed. There are ways around the birds eating the seed problem. Sow late in the day just on sunset when the birds are tucked up for the night.
Water in and if applicable cover with with sharp sand before watering in.
Next day feed the birds in another area with fresh, cheap bread. (If their tummies are full they wont eat the seed) Repeat the feeding till the lawn is up and away. The new types of short growing rye grasses germinate very quickly so you may like to favour them.
Bird Repeller Ribbon may also help keep the birds off a freshly sown area.
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Hyacinths are popular to grow in those glass grow vases designed for this purpose.
It allows you to see the complete plant growing, roots and all. A novel and interesting aspect that can be educational for children. If done with a little care a good flowering display will result and the bulb can be reused the following year again.
If placed in just water the bulb uses up too much energy in flowering and will likely be a oncer. If you add a complete plant food such as used in hydroponics, then the bulb will gain the energy from this food to be planted the following year in the soil or a container.
Matrix Reloaded is a complete food and a little of this should be added to the water in the growing vase. Only fill the vase so that the very end of the bulb where the roots come from is actually in the solution. If too deep the bulb can rot.
(With or with out the Matrix Reloaded) Once the roots have formed then the level of solution can be kept a bit below the bulb as the roots are in the solution. The solution should be changed once or twice a week. When you have a good root formation in the vase don’t remove to empty and refill, just tip to one side to empty and then lift the bulb slightly so you can pour in fresh solution.
Never allow to run dry of solution. Changing the solution as suggested should stop the build up of algae. If this happens place one drop of Surrender into the solution.
Ensure that the vase and bulb are in good light such as on a morning window sill.
Without adequate light the leaves will grow but no buds or flowers.
Have fun. oooooo
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The end of daylight savings brings home the fact that the hours of daylight are reducing, as we head towards the shortest day, in 3 months time.
To back this up we can feel the colder temperatures as the nights become cooler and even on sunny days the sun has lost its bite of heat.
Plants relate strongly to the amount of light hours and start to prepare themselves for the winter chills. Some areas have already experienced their first frosts and more of us will as the days shorten.
There are a number of things one can do at this time, to help their gardens and plants to be more capable of handling winter’s cold and wet conditions.
The first and foremost is to strengthen the plant’s cells with liberal applications of potassium. Potash or potassium sulphate is sprinkled onto the soil in the root zone of all plants that you care for. On fruit trees and shrubs this is applied from the trunk to the drip line.
Potassium helps balance out any heavier use of nitrogen you may have applied during the growth time.
It firms up sappy growth which is the first casualty to winter colds, winds and wet. You no longer apply any nitrogen rich fertilisers instead only use the milder ones such as sheep manure pellets, blood and bone, Bio Boost etc.
You will notice in winter, the leaves of some plants turning yellow.
This is an indication of low levels of magnesium in the soil along with the cold conditions, locking up these smaller deposits. Applications of magnesium sulphate, or Epsom Salts now, will help reduce this yellowing later on.
The product Fruit and Flower Power has both magnesium and potash blended together in the right balance for plants.
This should be applied once a month over the next 2-3 months to preferred plants, citrus, passion fruit, winter vegetables, winter flower beds etc.
Having all the minerals available that a plant could desire makes for very healthy plants which will in turn handle the stresses of winter better. Dissolve a table spoon of Ocean Solids in 500 mls of hot water and then add to 4 litres of tap water.
Place this into your sprayer and when the sun is off the garden late in the day, spray the foliage of all your preferred plants. This can be repeated in 2 months time.
Frosts will damage the frost tender plants out doors and even in glasshouses.
Frost cloth can be used to cover these plants when it looks like a frost that night.
Often the conditions can change during the night while you are sleeping, resulting in a frost in the morning, when the previous evening because of wind, clouds or even rain there was not going to be a frost. We have all been caught out like this.
The easy answer is to use the spray on frost protection called Vaporgard.
It will give protection down to minus 3 degrees, within three days of application for a period of about 3 months (from one spray application) How it works is very interesting, Vaporgard develops a polymerised skin over each spray-droplet which filters out UVA and UVB.
Vaporgard thus, provides 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, also giving stress protection from moisture loss and extra fuel for better growth and faster maturity. The glycols are anti-freeze, so each plant cell has its own anti-freeze component giving the plant frost protection.
Towns and cities are a lot warmer than the surrounding country side because of the heat given off by buildings and street lights along with a level of pollution. On an average winter, city living plants will only have to put up with a mild frosting occasionally.
Where in the surrounding country side a number of heaver frosts are likely.
Thus an application of Vaporgard now and another in 3 months time will protect your frost tender plants very well in the built up areas.
In the country or in towns/cities if there is a series of frosts night after night, the cells of the tender plants do not have enough time to heal and damage will result, unless on these occasions, extra protection is provided.
I have successfully kept tamarillos in full foliage during an average winter with only Vaporgard as protection. Also petunias, impatiens and other tender plants.
A point to beware of is once the plants have been sprayed with Vaporgard it creates a film which does not allow other sprays to pass through to the leaves under the film.
If applying other sprays then add some Raingard to the spray and the two films will lock together and allow the transfer of the spray to the leaves. This is important if spraying with the likes of Ocean Solids or Perkfection.
Perkfection is also a excellent spray to give to any plants that can suffer from wet weather diseases in winter. It fortifies the cells and helps plants overcome/prevent diseases such as root rots. Apply now and again in a months time for this protection.
A spray program would be, Spray Ocean Solids, a few days later spray Perkfection with Vaporgard added. In a months time Perkfection and Raingard, a month later Ocean Solids and Raingard. A month later (about end June) spray Vaporgard again.
That will be all till the spring.
Many will be buying new spring bulbs for gardens and containers.
It is about the right time to plant them as soil temperatures are lower, but as many areas are very dry you would need to keep the plantings moist.
It would be better to wait a bit longer for open ground plantings then do this after the autumn rains have taken over.
Plantings in containers is fine as they are easier to water but make sure the containers are in shaded situations so as not to harm the bulbs on sunny days.
A little Simalith and Ocean Solids added to the potting mix (or even better a good open compost) will make for better flowers and plants later on.
The same two mineral rich products can be lightly scattered over the area and worked slightly into the soil where bulbs are to be planted.
Once you have winter proofed your gardens as above you can relax or get onto other tasks that need completing in your garden before winter sets in.
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Gardeners endeavor to have their garden plants looking as healthy as possible, especially their preferred plants such as roses. Any blemishes to the foliage or flowers cause keen gardeners to take remedial actions.
To understand what is needed to have very healthy looking plants, one can compare plant health to human health. For a healthy body we require a certain amount of water, sun, a balance of food, rich in vitamins, minerals and enzymes, along with a life as free as possible from external stress aspects.
Plants need adequate moisture for their daily needs but not too much to cause root rot problems. Adequate sunlight (dependant on the type of plant) A humus rich growing medium, full of soil life and worms. Availability of all the minerals and elements that each type of plant species requires. Free of stress caused by external factors (pH, insect pests etc.. Given the above aspects a plant will grow and be very healthy.
As gardeners we provide many of these aspects for plants ensuring that they have adequate moisture yet free draining during wet times. Positioning the plants for either sun or shade depending on type. Building up a rich humus by using compost and other natural products while avoiding the use of water soluble fertilisers that kill soil life and chemical sprays that weaken the plant’s immune system.
Providing where possible, natural foods that give the basic needs of the NPK’s along with magnesium, calcium, sulphur etc. It would appear that, dependant on the type of plant, somewhere between 20 to 90 odd different elements are required for plants to have full health.
Last week I wrote about the plant trials that Dr Maynard Murry did using Ocean Solids.
In brief, Maynard found that the blue waters of the ocean contained all the minerals and elements known to man, in perfect balance, along with a big percentage of sodium chloride. (Salt) If these minerals were carefully harvested from the ocean and used on the land, plants would overcome disease problems that they had, and be immune to diseases.
His research included treating the soil in the root zone, with Ocean Solids, on various types of plants while have untreated controls growing nearby. Then disease spores would be sprayed over the trail and control plants. In each case the controls succumbed to the particular disease while the Ocean Solid treated plants showed no signs.
It would appear that common garden plants, vegetables, roses etc are likely to need somewhere between 20 to 40 odd elements for full health. Take one of these away e.g. Selenium, and like our own bodies a health problem can arise over time.
Fertilisers commonly supply only the major elements for plants which may as few as 4 or 5 elements or in better formulations a dozen or so. Still far short of all the minor trace elements that many plants might need. We know that wheat grass will take up the 90 odd elements if available, which makes wheat grass juice so valuable to our health.
What about our roses? I don’t know how many elements they would like to have in their diet, but if we supplied everything, then the rose (or whatever other plant) can choose for themselves. We know already that MBL (Magic botanic Liquid) has a lot of minerals and several people this season, that used the product on their roses, reported that their roses were better than they had ever been.
If we apply ‘Ocean Solids’ to our gardens and containers, then we can be fairly confident that likely 90 odd minerals will be available to our plants. When we apply Ocean Solids to our home grown vegetables and fruiting plants, then many of these minerals will also be available in our food chain. Growing our own wheat grass for juicing with Ocean Solids, then all the elements and minerals will be in the juice which are quickly absorbed into our blood stream to enhance our cells, assist in overcoming any health problems and boost our immune system reducing the possibility of future health effecting conditions.
Plants do not require a lot of Ocean Solids, in fact one application of 35 grams per square metre is applied the first year followed by half that amount for years 2 to 5. Then no further applications for 5 years. It can also be used at the rate of one tablespoon, dissolved in 4.5 Litres of water sprayed over foliage to run off. The Purpose for the spray, is as a natural insecticide, fungicide and foliar feed. Use only Bi-Monthly and late in day when sun is off the plants. Too much of the Ocean Solids can be detrimental.
I see the possibilities of overcoming some of the harder to control diseases such as curly leaf, brown rot and black spot from these applications of Ocean Solids.
Plants that have been weakened by chemical sprays and water soluble fertilisers will not come right overnight, it may take a season or two but likely improvements will be noticed during recovery. Given the opportunity, Nature will heal itself, often faster than we imagined. Ocean Solids is not a complete plant food as it contains no nitrogen.
You need a good animal manure based compost to supply this. Used sparingly, some of the ‘fast’ slow release fertilisers can be beneficial for boosting plant growth when applied at the right times. Potassium Sulphate and magnesium sulphate are two water soluble fertilisers that can be very beneficial at the right times in the right amounts.
Superphosphate is one to be avoided because of its acidic nature and to obtain the extra phosphate the plants need, use the natural BioPhos. Ocean Solids will give your gardens and plants availability of about 90 odd elements for overall health. This then will greatly reduce the possibility of diseases unless the plants come under stress for other reasons such as too little or too much water, wrong pH, bad insect attack, chemical fertilisers or sprays, herbicides, UV, weather, age, etc.
Even many of the aspects above will have less damaging consequences when your plants are fortified with all the elements that they need for strong metabolisms.
Ocean Solids have been carefully harvested from selected, mineral rich sea water, solar dried naturally to retain the elements. It has not gone through further processing as we find with table salt, of which refining have removed many of the elements to make it purer sodium chloride. Many gardeners know the value of some sea-weed related products which contain many minerals also, but only the minerals that particular sea weed required. In fact they obtained their chosen minerals from Ocean Solids in its original form.
Ocean Solids are available through some garden centres and if not, ask for them to obtain the product for you. A great step towards perfect plants.
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Autumn is coming quickly this year and a number of plants showed the signs of an early autumn in February, because of the number of sudden drops in temperatures.
March is the first month of Autumn and a busy time for gardeners preparing their gardens for the coming winter. The things to do are to harden up plant growth and this is achieved by giving gardens a good sprinkling of Potash. (Sulphate of Potassium)
Stop feeding any nitrogen rich fertilisers which is mainly the water soluble fertilisers types. Nitrogen causes soft sappy growth which can be easily damaged by frost or cold winds. Sheep Manure pellets and compost mixes, not rich in animal manures, are fine to use.
Frost tender plants need to be moved to frost free areas if in containers. Other tender plants including container ones and plants in glasshouses, will need additional frost protection. This can be done by covering with frost cloth when there is to be a frost, or you can simply spray the foliage with Vaporgard.
Within 3 days of spraying your plants will be protected down to minus 3 for about 3 months, so a further spray would be applied in June. Saves the hassles of putting on and taking off frost cloth but in heavy frost areas the cloth may still be needed to give additional protection. Areas that get frosts at freezing point or below, the only way to protect the plants is with a insulator such as paper, hay or sacking.
If you have several frosts in a row, night after night, then you require more protection than what Vaporgard offers. (If the plant’s cells don t have sufficient time in between frosts to repair, then damage will occur)
Wet feet is also a big problem in winter for many plants, you can help them get through the wet times by spraying them with Perkfection before you apply the Vaporgard. Perkfection is great for preventing losses due to wet weather diseases. (If you have already applied Vaporgard and wish to spray Perkfection then you need to add Raingard to the Perkfection)
March, once the soils are moist, is the best time to sow lawn seed. Areas should have already been prepared so the seed can be sown as soon as the soils are moist. Look for high quality, non-coated lawn seed as you get more seeds for your money and they germinate quicker.
Cover seed with sharp sand and the best time to sow is just on dusk when the birds have gone to bed for the night. Keep moist by watering if need be, and use Bird Repeller Ribbon to keep birds away.
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March is the first month of Autumn and we can now say that autumn has officially arrived. So what happened to summer? I recall a few days here and there that tasted like summer but they are now only fleeting memories. Any chance of an Indian Summer?
Not likely, those continual balmy days are unlikely to be seen this year.
Gone are the days when summer was summer and winter was true to its name, instead we tend to have a little of both and a period of spring followed by lots of autumn.
I noticed the first signs of autumn a while back and in many areas I am told that autumn certainly arrived during the supposed summer months. Dew will be noticed in the mornings and this means that powdery mildew will be appearing on cucumbers, pumpkins and other plants prone to the problem. You need to decide whether to keep the plants going longer by spraying or if with annual plants that have done their best to let them go.
If you want to keep them going longer, then spray the plants with Liquid Sulphur with Raingard added. Sulphur is safe to use on food crops for rust, mildew and black spots.
Annual Pansies that have given a good show can be let go but the mildew might hit newer plants so they will need the protection. As we go into autumn annual plants feel the cooler weather and the shortening days, so they start to show the effects of dying off.
Before they become too badly effected by the diseases that nature uses to wipe them out, they should be removed to prevent the disease spores building up in your gardens.
You can prevent the early strikes by protecting the plants with Liquid Sulphur but as soon as you see that the sprays are not working so well, get rid of the affected plants.
The following are things that you may elect to do to prepare your gardens and plants for the coming winter. Deciduous trees will soon start to change their leaf colour and you can obtain brighter colours by sprinkling potash under them at this time and watering in.
In fact on all garden plants that you wish to help through the cold and chills of winter should be given a light sprinkling, once a month of potash onto the soil in their root zone. Two or three applications a month apart should be ideal.
Potash firms up the plant’s growth and cells making them better capable of handling to vigours of winter.
Wet feet in winter can mean root rots for many plants, which will knock them back or in some cases, you can lose them completely. A couple of sprays now, a month apart, using Perkfection, will give the plants a greater ability to overcome the wet weather diseases.
If you have been using nitrogen rich water soluble fertilisers such as general purpose or Nitrophoska Blue, stop using them now as they will only cause soft sappy growths that winter will damage. Instead apply potash and water Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) into the areas where the fertilisers have been applied, to release the locked up particles so you get your money’s worth.
Otherwise use sheep manure pellets and compost for general autumn feeding.
You only want slow, strong growth over the next few months.
As the weather cools, water requirements will become less and it is important that you only supply sufficient moisture for the plant’s needs. Wet feet and foliage leads to problems in cooler weather. Plus the plants will not need so much moisture as they did.
Frosts may strike early and tender plants will be nipped or damaged.
For general frost protection spray the foliage of tender plants with Vaporgard.
Vaporgard gives down to minus 3 frost protection within 3 days of spraying, for about 3 months. A spray this month will take you into June when a further spray can be applied.
Vaporgard works well as long as you don t experience several reasonable frosts in a row, night after night. (The plant’s cells don t have time to heal before they freeze again)
If there is s row of frosts then additional protection will be needed.
Autumn rains when they come, is the perfect time to sow lawn seed, do your lawn patching or over sowing. If you want a great lawn then look for a high quality lawn seed that is not coated. You get many more seeds per kilo in uncoated lawn seed, which means more grasses to thicken up your lawns, keeping weeds out. Uncoated seed germinates quicker than most coated seed do.
Its only been an average season for tomatoes with most gardeners getting reasonable crops. Older plants will likely be showing signs of finishing, where later planted ones (or self seeded) will be going strong still.
Keep feeding and supplying enough water for their day to day needs and they should produce still for a couple of months or more. Once a plant has done its best and is waning, remove it, taking the bigger un-ripened tomatoes off, to ripen on a window sill. This helps prevent disease build up in the soil.
Roses can be dead headed if you like to do so but there is no harm in letting some rose hips happen.
Plants are likely to flower fairly well for several weeks yet but as the cold moves in they will start to change colour in the foliage. This is the time when no matter how healthy you have been able to keep your roses through the season, they will become more prone to foliage diseases. This is natural.
Sprays of the Liquid Sulphur will help for a time then fail too. At that time it will be the right time, to put your roses to rest for the winter dormancy period. I noticed that there has been a late batch of aphids on some roses so a spray of Neem Tree oil and Key Pyrethrum or DE can be used to zap them.
Received a letter from a lady in Gore who read my article on the use of net curtains in protecting plant’s fruits from birds and white butterfly’s caterpillars.
She said that net curtains can be obtained cheaply from Op-shops which is a great way to place some most wanted money into these great charity organisations.
Another tip from a gardener was about freezing and to prevent freezer burn to produce thus stored. You place whatever you want to freeze into a suitable container such as the plastic ice cream containers, with water to cover the produce.
Place in freezer and when frozen you can take the block of ice with the produce inside out of the container and then into a plastic bag. Having ice all around the produce means it will keep well for a long time frozen. Freeze just the right amount for use when thawed out. This method should allow for better stacking in the freezer also, allowing you to get more into a given area. Always nice to get useful tips.
Next week an interesting crop to grow for your health.
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March is usually the bulb planting month, both in pots for indoor
display and in the open garden.
Though bulbs in pots are planted in a high humus bulb mix, high in fibre, in the open garden the main requirement for bulbs is drainage rather than compost.
Adding some sand or gritty soil to the bulb bed is better than giving them too much compost. And both in pots, containers and in the open bed, adding some charcoal -- partially burned wood -- will help growth.
Where bulbs are planted in bowls without drainage holes -- many are sold which are really unsuitable for growing plants in because they have no drainage hole -- pieces of charcoal and a drainage layer of gravel or small stones are a must if good growth is to be achieved.
Growing in aqua containers, jars or vases which hold the bulb just above the level of the water so that the roots grow down into it, is an attractive way of displaying bulbs, particularly hyacinths.
The ones with coloured or darkened glass are best, as light can encourage the growth of algae in the water.
In this case, changing the water frequently will be found to give better growth. Oxygen leaches rapidly from water into air, and if the same water is left in the container all season, by the time the bulbs have flowered an unpleasant smell can develop.
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As we are now in Autumn it is the best time of the year to prepare and sow new
lawns, patch existing ones and over sow sparse lawn areas.
The best thing you can do for your new lawn in the preparation is to give the area to be sown a good coverage with Gypsum Soil Life.
The reasons for this are several, it will open up heavy soils allowing for the roots to penetrate deeper. Gypsum will provide valuable calcium and sulphur without altering the pH of the soil.
Gypsum will assist in draining excess water and reduce ponding effects. Gypsum will increase the germination rate and success of your lawn seeds as field trials have proven.
Gypsum will give you stronger and healthier grasses that will be able to withstand serve conditions better.
If you are preparing a new area for lawn or replacing an old existing lawn, spray the area with Roundup to remove the current weeds and grasses.
A few days later the area can be tilled, levelled and granulated to suit and at this time Gypsum Soil Life should also be applied at the recommended rates.
The area then should be kept moist to germinate any other weeds or seeds that are dormant. (Gypsum will also assist these to germinate quicker) Then the area should be sprayed again with Roundup to kill these seeds.
Sprinkle a light coating of Gypsum prior to broadcasting the lawn seeds or mix Gypsum with the seeds to be scattered.
Lightly rake to work the seeds and Gypsum into the soil.
Similar treatment can be applied to lawn patching.
If you wish to over sow an existing lawn to increase the amount of grass and better the texture then spray the lawn with a lawn weed killer such as Yates Turf Fix.
After the lawn weeds have died spread Gypsum Soil Life over the area and either use a scarifier or rake to open up the soil in preparation for planting.
The new lawn seed can then be broadcast followed by a light raking to work the seeds into the area.
Remember to keep the area that is sown, moist after planting, by regular sprinklings of water if it does not rain. Regular light sprinklings will prove better than intermittent heavy soakings.
Choose the right lawn seed to suit the conditions and to give you the type of lawn you require.
Look for high quality, non-coated lawn seeds as you get more seeds per kilo and without a coating to slow down germination. If you are not looking for a quality lawn then any lawn seed will do as long as its a high viable germination rate.
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Magnesium is an important element for vegetable crops, ranking fifth in the
amount required behind nitrogen, potassium, calcium and phosphorus -- N, K, Ca
and P, then Mg. As it is not present in all fertiliser, deficiencies can occur.
The crops most likely to show problems are potatoes, tomatoes, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, sometimes carrots, citrus and apples.
Magnesium deficiency in citrus, shown by yellowish bands on the leaves between the veins, is often cured by giving the trees a few spoonfuls of Epsom salts, magnesium sulphate, as many gardeners know. This should be applied regulary about every month or so.
On the principle of using indicator plants to show what is going on in the soil, if citrus do well in your garden, then there is probably sufficient magnesium available in the soil. But availability, remember, is affected by seasonal factors and interaction with other elements.
In winter and spring plant-available levels tend to be low, so symptoms may be seen. On-farm this can be seen in the form of spring staggers, cured with a supply of magnesium, on the hay or by drip.
High soil potassium levels, as can occur in glasshouses when the ripening fertiliser has been applied freely -- I often recommend it -- requires higher than usual levels of magnesium.
As the element is mobile, it moves from older leaves to younger leaves or storage organs -- such as potato tubers. That means the deficiency shows on older foliage when tubers are bulking up, tomatoes swelling or broccoli heads developing.
Magnesium also tends to be low where the pH is low -- in acid soils -- yet adding magnesium raises the pH almost as much as adding calcium (lime) does. So it is an important element, and general fertiliser packs should be checked to ensure it is present.
Winter time often shows yellowing leaves on many plants and this is an indication of insufficient magnesium in the soil. Best to apply magnesium now than wait for this to occur later on.
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Codlin moth larvae hit your apple or pear trees this year?
They also damage green walnuts.
At this time of the year many of the codlin moth larvae crawl down the apple and pear trees where they have been feeding to reach the soil, there to pupate, overwinter and appear again in spring. (Some will leave the tree directly on a tread of silk to reach the ground)
A cheap yet effective -- and organic -- way of cutting down their numbers, and therefore the damage they do is to band the trees now with corrugated cardboard bands about 20cm (8in) wide.
Tie them firmly round the trunk and some of the main limbs, corrugated side inwards.
The grubs, looking for a place to spin their pupae, will crawl into the corrugations of the cardboard, which fit them nicely. The bands may be removed about June and either burned or fed to chooks or canaries -- they love them.
This will not guarantee clean trees next year, but will reduce the damage. If in spring cardboard bands are put on again in spring, smeared with grease, the female moths which have overwintered in the soil will be caught in the grease.
This will further reduce their numbers and maybe only one spray in December, or at the least one in December and one in January, will be needed. You could use the new Neem Tree Oil for these sprays and be organic completely.
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Citrus trees are valuable plants for anyones 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, for the tree to reach a good size and then you have ample fruit to harvest every year.
A mature, well established tree about 3 metre or more in height will reach the stage where you see over cropping. That is new flowers, immature fruit and ripe fruit all at the same time. This is often noticed on a good sized Meyer Lemon tree which gives a continual supply of ripe fruit all year round. A tree that has reached this stage, needs to be supplied adequate food and moisture, if not then the ripe fruit will shrivel on the tree as the maturing fruit robs the goodness from them, because they cannot get enough for their growing needs, from the soil.
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 its as a result of not using any citrus, water soluble fertilisers, 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. Its a fact, we can cause the problems and then pay for it.
It is a good time to select any new citrus trees that you may wish to grow and as long as you have the ability to water them every second day till the earth moistens up with the autumn rains, then they can be planted. Otherwise purchase them anyway and leave the plants in their containers in a handy spot so they can be watered each day or as needed.
Citrus trees hate wet feet and is 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 its 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 a plastic rubbish tin that holds about 70 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 60mm 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 occasionally plus a occasional spray to the foliage of the same.
An annual sprinkle of Simalith 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. 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 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.
(Its also a great method for control on rhododendrons and camellias for thrips.)
If you also sprinkle some Neem Granules over the root zone that will help too in both cases.
I have been surprised at how quickly the Neem Tree Granules have worked on controlling caterpillars on my cabbages.
Fortunately I have high numbers of micro organisms in my soil after using Micro-Life 4/20 so the granules break down quickly and go to work.
Now when the untold eggs hatch out and the baby caterpillar has eaten its egg case, then starts on a leaf, it stops eating and dies within a day or so. Hassle free solution to a bad problem this time of the year.
If you have stagnate water with nymphs of mosquito breeding simply pour a little Neem Tree Oil onto the water. It wipes them out very nicely. One more 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.
Check out your garden centre soon, for your favourite citrus trees.
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Many gardeners are ingenious solvers of gardening problems, often using common materials or other products for a solution. Being the nice people that gardeners are, they are more than willing to share their innovations with others.
During a recent conversation with a New Plymouth gardener it was mentioned that she used curtain netting to protect her blue berries from the birds. A length of the material was simply placed over the bush which actually is a container plant.
The material allows air circulation, ample light to the plant and completely fools the birds. The same gardener uses the netting over her strawberry plants, also keeping the ripening berries for herself rather than for bird tucker.
Talking about strawberries I came across a strawberry plant called Fragaria Lipstick recently in a garden centre. It is an attractive plant with pink flowers instead of the white flowers normally on the species. Sold as an ornamental ground cover with edible berries.
The berries have a unique flavour which is as good as or better than most strawberries.
I placed the potted plant onto a sunny shelf in the glasshouse and allowed it do its thing.
It flowered nicely and produced average sized delicious berries.
I like to run a new plant for a time without any extra help to see how it will preform, then later use some products that could increase its performance. After the initial fruit the plant started sending out a few runners so while feeding my tomato plants with ‘Wallys Secret Tomato Food’ I gave a dose to this strawberry plant along with an occasional spray of MBL and Mycorrcin.
The result is that the plant started producing a mass of flowers, berries and runners all at the same time.
I have never seen any other variety of strawberry plant preform so well.
In fact I will now take the rooted runners and add them to my strawberry patch.
It is a plant that would make an excellent ground cover with pick-able fruit, a container plant for pot or hanging basket as well as a bedding plant producing lots of fruit.
I don t know how easy it would be to obtain a plant so you will need to ask your local garden centres for them.
Back to our net curtains which I think are a great idea to protect plants from birds and likely other pests such as the white butterfly from laying their eggs on brassicas etc.
The lady gardener said she purchased ends of rolls for her use at a very good price from shops that sell the product.
Another way is to have a look at your own net curtains in the home and see which ones would be worth replacing with new, so that you can reuse the old for the garden.
They would be great to use when patching lawns, as I use it over my trays now after germinating wheat seed for wheat grass juice. (A subject we will look at soon)
A phone call from Dunedin recently related to the use of Neem Tree Granules around brassicas to stop the caterpillar damage to the plants.
The gardeners that I spoke to said it was magic, not only stopping the freshly hatched caterpillars from damaging the plants but also for getting rid of the cabbage aphids.
Neem Tree Granules or Pellets are the kernels of the Neem Tree. The kernels are collected in India, where the trees grow, and then cold pressed to extract the oil that we know as a spray for insect pests. The crushed kernels are called Neem Cake in India, where they are either used as a granule or compressed into pellets.
Still containing some of the Neem properties they can be used for a plant food, soil conditioner and pest insect control. The granules are spread over the soil in the root zone and watered in or covered with a little soil, when they break down, releasing what properties are left.
This is taken up by the roots of plants and in some cases effectively control pest insects damaging the plant by either preventing the pests from eating or as a growth regulator.
They also take care of soil borne pests as well. Last week I suggested the use of Neem Oil for caterpillar control but have since placed the Neem Tree Granules around my cabbages etc.
There is a time delay from placing the granules till the breakdown and the entering of the properties into the plant, so a spray or two of Neem Tree Oil may be needed, till the granules take over. You can speed up the break down of the granules/pellets by watering them in with Mycorrcin or MBL. The granules are a wonderful control for whitefly on tomato plants and black aphids on lettuce.
The Neem Tree Pellets are ideal for placing under a plant at planting time.
The granules/pellets will last in the soil breaking down for one to three months dependant on how healthy the soil is with micro organisms.
Best to reapply about every two months till harvest or while a problem pest is around.
Now here is an idea for a cheap planter box that I have been using this season.
Its the polystrene boxes that are used in the fish industry. Fish are packed into these boxes for transporting to factories or outlets, along with ice to keep the fish fresh.
The boxes once used for this purpose, can not be reused again for the same and are obtainable for a low price or sometimes free from outlets that deal in fish distribution.
The boxes vary in size a bit, but are about 56 x 42mm and about 23mm deep and have a lid.
To use them I carefully drill good size holes in the base for drainage and then fill the boxes with a good animal manure based compost with a little top soil mixed in. Or even better, some worm casts from your worm farm along with a few worms.
I also place into the half filled box a sprinkling of Simalith, BioPhos, Lime or Dolomite (dependant on whats to be grown) The boxes are ideal for growing about 6 lettuce, or 4 brassicas, (6 of the miniature) about a dozen dwarf beans, a number of radishes, spinach, about 8 silverbeet or celery.
(With celery you will need a layer of Chook manure to get good thick stalks.) By spacing the plants nicely, or towards the sides, where the foliage can grow over the edge, makes for compact garden planter boxes.
Easy to keep moist in summer with a daily watering. Boxes can be moved around to suit plants for sun or shade.
I also use the boxes for growing wheat grass for juicing and this is when the lids are great to keep the birds out till the seeds germinate.
Once germinated then some old net curtain will stop bird damage and can be removed once the plants are well established.
Which brings us back to the beginning of this article about curtain netting.
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When we look out over our vegetable garden at this time we are very likely to see several white butterflies flitting around.
Then when we check the leaves of our cabbages etc we find them riddled with holes and caterpillar droppings between the leaves. The female butterflies are laying yellow-orange eggs under the leaves on host plants at this time.
These eggs will hatch in six to seven days in warm conditions like we are experiencing currently. The young caterpillars are very small at first and are quite easily missed when inspecting the leaves.
Their one job in life is to eat as much of your plants as possible, as quickly as possible.
Thus the caterpillars grow rapidly and reach a size of about 30mm long when fully grown. At this time they stop eating your plants and form a chrysalis, later to emerge as a butterfly. There can be 4 cycles of this happening in a warm season similar to what we have this year.
As the female can lay up to 400 eggs during her short life, the resulting 400 caterpillars could produce 400 more females and then we have 400x400=160,000 caterpillars. You will need a calculator to work out how many in the next generation.(64 million)
This is why we can see, towards the end of summer, thousands and thousands of butterflies flying around in some areas.
Remember that the butterflies do not do any direct damage to your plants except for laying eggs. They may suck some nectar from flowers for energy but otherwise they are harmless. (Note, there is no product that you can put on plants that will keep the white butterflies away that I am aware of.)
The butterflies provide the ardent gardener with the knowledge that caterpillars will be soon, if not already, eating up the foliage of many of the garden plants which are hosts to the pests.
Caterpillars are very destructive on brassicas (cabbages etc) and when we consider that a couple of white butterflies hitting our vegetable patch could result in hundreds of the pests, our brassicas can get decimated.
Gardeners that grow winter maturing brassicas have a bigger problem as the small plants can be wiped out. So how do we control the problem?
I remember as a young boy it was my job to check the cabbages every day for caterpillars, which I would pick off and feed to the chooks.
I was also issued with an old tennis racket which was used as a big fly swat to take out the white butterflies.
I enjoyed this sport so much that I would even clean up all the butterflies in the weedy verges, on the street near home.
Unfortunately with all this practise at an early age, it never helped me excel at tennis! Picking off the caterpillars and squashing them is an option along with rubbing out all the eggs found on the leaves. Likely not many will have the time to do so every day.
One way is to stop the butterflies from getting to the plants. If you have a row of brassicas then make some large hoops with No8 wire which you place along the row at intervals of about a metre apart.
The hoops are placed in the ground forming a hoop high enough so the plants will not be touching them at maturity.
Over this place bird netting and cover the sides of the netting on the ground with soil or lengths of wood to hold in place. The netting should be loose, not tight, which means the white butterflies with their larger wings will not be able to get through the netting to the plants. Sealed at the ends it will make a neat barrier.
Derris dust is used by some gardeners but as the active ingredient, ‘rotenone’ is only 5 grams per kilo of chalk dust plus is easily washed off by watering or rain, it can work out to be an expensive, repetitive control.
I use Neem Tree Oil with Raingard added and spray about every 7 to 10 days.
You need to also look out for the loop caterpillars that attack plants including tomatoes.
Over the next couple of months or so it will be an on going battle for many of us gardeners. ooooo
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I am often asked when is the best time to plant spring bulbs?
They start to become available in Garden Centres in February so do we plant them then?
The short answer is no.
Spring bulbs if planted out in open beds when the soil temperatures are well above 12 degrees C.
will cook in the hot soil. You might as well put them in the oven and turn it on.
This is one of the big failures that new gardeners experience with spring bulbs. Planted too early when the ground temps are too high, means the bulbs will likely fail and never sprout. But you may say, I never lift my Freesias and they are exposed to hot sun and how about Daffodils growing in paddocks that are never lifted?
Well Freesias are one bulb that can withstand the heat without harm.
The Dafs in the paddocks have grasses growing and these grasses act as a mulch keeping the soil temperatures lower.
Anemones and Ranunculus can be planted when the soil temp is between 15 to 18 degrees C. Freesias at any time, and the rest once the soil temp comes down to 12 degrees C or lower.
Remember to take soil temp readings during the day at midday and 4 pm to see what they currently are on hot sunny days.
Why do Garden Centres have Spring Bulbs when it is too early to plant them?
Well often the best bulbs for the season are the early ones.
These top bulbs are the first to be sent out from the growers.
As the season progresses smaller grades start to appear and in some cases the range of types available reduces. For instance some growers have already sold out of certain lines so once the Garden Centre has received its pre-orders then that is it for the season. So what should you do with your spring bulbs if you buy the best ones now?
Place your bulbs in trays in an airy shed or garage, out of direct sunlight. Do not leave them in bags to sweat and possibly get disease.
If you wish to use some bulbs for containers these could be planted up now and left in the shed or a shaded area of the garden.
They do not need to be watered till the temperatures cool down but if they do get moist through rain then keep them moist because they are likely to have started sprouting.
Generally speaking the best time to plant spring bulbs is about the end of March with April being the main month.
Freesias and dwarf type daffodils are excellent for containers and a number of these can be planted in a reasonable sized container.
Best results will be to use a friable animal manure based compost with a little clean soil added.
Forget the potting mixes unless you only have a heavy compost, then some potting mix can be worked through the compost to loosen it up.
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