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Gardening Articles for week ending 21st April 2018

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Written by Wally Richards.

WINTER IS COMING

The phase Winter is Coming was often used in the series “The Game of Thrones” which by the way they have just finished filming the final episode of session 8 to be released in 2019.
For us in NZ winter appears to becoming a bit sooner than normal, according to several gardeners, about a month earlier.
Another thing that has surprised me is that the Winter-less North is not so winter-less anymore as I observed when in Northland in May, 2016.
They had experienced a couple of reasonable frosts while we were up there that year.
Also I have had a few northern gardeners inquiring about using Vaporgard on their sub tropical plants. This is because frosts which hardly ever happened in the past are now not uncommon.
Makes one wonder about 'Global Warming' which is it? Cooling or Warming I would love to know the real truth of the matter, but I suppose we shall learn which it is in time to come.
For instance the winter in the Northern Hemisphere for period 2017 though to 2018 is recorded as the following: Europeans longing for spring will just have to be patient for awhile.
Indeed this winter has been a harsh one across the northern hemisphere with record cold temperatures being set from Siberia to North America to Japan. Also a number of places have seen record snowfalls.
The European Alps have had one of the snowiest winters in years as snow continues to pile up meters high.
Hmmm it does not bode well for us in the Southern Hemisphere where here in NZ we have already had a very early cold snap and often we have a similar pattern each year as our northern neighbors.
Winter weather means that we need to protect more tender plants in our gardens from both cold and wet.
Frosts can cause a lot of damage to tender plants and also hardy plants with new tender foliage.
Nitrogen promotes soft sappy foliage which can easily be damaged with a reasonable frost.
Thus stop feeding plants with nitrogen fertilisers instead provide them with potash (sulphate of potash or potassium sulphate) this element hardens up foliage and makes plants more cold resistant and less susceptible to wet feet.
If you apply Fruit and Flower Power to your preferred plants you are giving them a dose of 55% potassium and 45% magnesium.
This is very beneficial at this time of the year as magnesium increases the amount of the element in the plant, which helps keep the foliage green.
Magnesium is involved in chlorophyll production, which converts sunlight into sugars and is involved in activating enzymes.
Because of its role in chlorophyll, the first symptoms of magnesium deficiency show up as yellowing, usually between the veins of the older leaves. In severe deficiencies, the entire leaf will turn yellow or red and then brown, with symptoms progressing up the plant.
There are numerous plants that show this tendency, citrus, Daphne, rhododendrons, tomatoes, passion fruit, roses to name a few.
The cold weather of winter tends to lock out magnesium uptake when there is low amounts of this mineral in the soil. A monthly application helps to overcome this and the plants can gain a better energy return from the reduced hours of sunlight.
Frosts occur when its a calm night and a cloudless sky.
It is easy to get caught out as in the early evening it maybe windy or a cloudy sky so not much chance of a frost.
Later on after going to bed the wind drops or the clouds clear and you have a frost when you get up in the morning.
Using a Spray-on Frost Protection called Vaporgard gives you the first line of defense against frost damage.
You simply mix 15 mils of Vaporgard per litre of warm water and spray that over the foliage of plants to protect them. This should be done on a nice sunny day.
The sun helps dry the film of Vaporgard quicker otherwise it can be tacky for a day or two.
One spray lasts for about 3 months giving down to minus 3 degree frost within 3 days of application.
The film helps with protection by being there but the real protection is: VaporGard develops a polymerised skin over each spray-droplet which filters out UVA and UVB.
Providing a sunscreen for the chlorophyll, which is normally under attack by UV light.
This results in a darker green colour of the foliage within a few days of application.
The chlorophyll build-up makes the leaf a more efficient food factory producing more carbohydrates, especially glycol; glycol is anti-freeze so the plant is able to protect its cells with its own anti-freeze.
The cells still can freeze but no damage is noticed normally.
If another frost occurs the following night then damage will be seen as the foliage has not had time to heal completely before it is hit again.
So if you have two or more frosts in a row you need to provide extra protection such as frost cloth.
If there is a frost every few days then the Vaporgard spray of frost protection will normally prevent any noticeable damage.
If you have tender plants in containers then move them to places such as under the eaves, evergreen trees , porch or a car port. Still spray them with Vaporgard to be sure, to be sure.
A spray about now will take you to about the end of July when a further spray can be applied to take the plants into spring.
Wet feet in winter is another problem and with plants such as citrus that can easily die when the soil is too wet for too long. So you need to take some precautions.
Firstly if you have placed a mulch under them this should be removed now as you want the soil to dry out as quickly as possible after rain.
If the area is prone to ponding or just holds water in wet times then you should go out just beyond the tree's drip line and dig a trench about a spades depth.
This allows water to drain into the trench where wind and sun will evaporate it quicker.
The final precaution is to spray the tree now with Perkfection Supa which helps build up its immune system so it can overcome root rots diseases and wet weather diseases better.
Spray at the 7mm rate first time then a month later at the 4 mil rate and repeat this for the following months it total 6 months in all.
If you have used Vaporgard on the same plant previously within the 3 month period then you need to add Raingard to the Perkfection so the two films merge allowing the Perkfection to enter the foliage.
You can spray Vaporgard and Perkfection mixed together.
Only use the Perfection monthly and the Vaporgard 3 monthly.