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Gardening Articles for week ending 16th June 2018

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Written by Wally Richards.

On the 21st of June two very important gardening events take place, the end of last gardening year and the beginning of the new gardening year.
It is all to do with day`light hours, nothing to do with temperatures even though some of the coldest temperatures are still in front of us.
We celebrate the shortest day and the start towards the longest day by planting shallots and garlic for harvesting about the longest day.
For those that are keen growers of potatoes it also heralds time to plant that very early crop to harvest about Labour Weekend making the ground ready for the summer vegetables.
Over the last 2-3 months has been the silly time to plant seedlings of brassicas and several other vegetables.
The reason is that as the day light hours shorten and the temperatures drop the plants do not grow much in fact often stay fairly dormant.
This is what we call a 'check' in growth, those plants will in the next month or so with extra light each day start to grow and because of the check they have had; with their live threatened, they will go to seed or as we say 'bolt'.
If you were unfortunate to make the mistake of planting 'out of season' then treat the plants as a green crop and dig them in before they set seeds.
If you have a glasshouse and because of the protection it offers you may mature those vegetables with a bit of luck as they had been grown in the protected environment.
Gardeners that are keen should invest in a glass/plastic structure for growing preferred plants and with a new method of growing; which I will be talking about in the near future called ' Wallys Hydro Flow Growing' when used in combination with a glasshouse you are going to have some amazing results.
Potassium permanganate commonly called Condys Crystals is an inorganic chemical compound and medication.
As a medication it is used for cleaning wounds and dermatitis. It has the chemical formula KMnO and is a salt consisting of K and MnO ions. It is a strong oxidizing agent.
It is very useful in gardening to control diseases such as rust, black spot etc.
Fungus diseases such as rust have microscope size spores that wait for the opportune time (moisture and temperature) to rise up and set up new colonies on their host plants.
During the spring summer period 2 seasons ago garlic rust devastated crops of garlic through much of NZ.
Last season once again the problem reoccurred likely because of the amount of spores from the previous season.
This year when we plant our garlic we are likely to once again find a problem later on.
The area that you are going to plant garlic should be sprayed with a solution of potassium permanganate at a quarter a teaspoon per litre of water. It could also be drenched instead of spraying.
I have another suggestion to help obtain a decent crop of garlic this season. Spray the foliage with Vaporgard later on when there is a good show of foliage on the garlic, before the rust strikes.
Used at 15ml per litre you could add some potassium permanganate to the spray for added protection.
The idea here is to place a film over the healthy foliage of the garlic so that the rust cannot get to the leaf surface and set up a colony.
As the foliage is growing it would be ideal to do a repeat spray about once a month.
This does two things it not only puts a film over foliage sprayed for up to 3 months but it also acts as a sunscreen against UV which allows the plant to gain more energy from the sunlight.
This means a bigger and better bulb even if the plants still gets a bit of rust on the foliage.
Due to last season garlic problems it is harder to find good cloves to plant but I see in green groceries/supermarkets you can find some good bulbs to use the cloves for growing.(Not the Chinese garlic)
Do not store left over Vaporgard spray in the spray bottle, store in another suitable bottle and rinse sprayer out after use to prevent jet blockages.
If you grow roses then to reduce diseases on the plants also spray them and the soil around them with the potassium permanganate now and later on in the spring when they start to move.
Curly leaf on stone fruit is another disease that this compound can be used to reduce the problem by spraying the tree and the soil now and repeating when the leaves begin emerging in the spring at which time you would add Raingard to the spray.
If you want to grow an very early crop of potatoes now; here is how I would suggest you go about it.
Obtain some potatoes and sprout them indoors where it is warmer. Once a few sprouts develop at the eyes then pop them out into a protected sunny spot to 'green' them up.
Dig a trench two spade depths in a very sunny area and leave open till you are ready to plant the tubers.
When you are ready to plant you then mow the lawn with a catcher on to collect the clippings to spread these along the length of the trench about 4 to 5 cm thick.
Cover this with about 1-2 cm of soil and then sit your sprouted potato on top of the soil with the sprouts looking at the sky.
Under each potato place about half a dozen sheep manure pellets, a teaspoon of BioPhos, a teaspoon of Rok Solid, teaspoon of gypsum and a teaspoon of Neem Tree Powder or granules then lightly cover with soil before sitting the seed potato on the pile..
Cover the potato with soil so it is just covered. The heat from the decomposing grass clippings will warm the soil and promote growth. As soon as the shoots break through the soil surface cover with more soil.
Check each afternoon to see that no leaves are showing and if there are sprinkle more soil over them.
This gives complete frost protection. Once you have progressively filled the trench to the level of the surrounding soil you then start mounding soil over the emerging shoots.
Keep doing this till you have a mound about 12 to 15 cm tall.
If done correctly you should have new potatoes forming from near the bottom of the trench right up to the top of the mound which is a lot of potatoes.
We need to protect the foliage from frost after we stop mounding and to do this; obtain some alkathene ridged pipes, cut to make hoops about a metre tall in the centre over the row of spuds.
Over the hoops we are going to put crop cover which will keep late frosts off the foliage.
About Labor Weekend you should have a nice crop of new potatoes to dig if you get started soon.
The trick of using grass clippings to heat the soil for germinating seeds early such as carrots, onions and beans is good value. Even if planting seedlings they will be helped with the underneath heat.
One gardener told me he used this method in the bottom of a kumara bed and had a great crop of kumara in the autumn.
Likely about a 15cm layer of grass clippings in the bed mixed with sheep pellets, BioPhos and Rok Solid covered with 5cm of soil to plant your kumara shoots in.
If you want to grow kumara then look for a few smaller kumara in the shops and starting to shoot.
The red type will shoot but the yellow and the orange will not; likely they were sprayed with glyphosate prior to harvesting so they cant be grown.
(Those two coloured varieties are likely protected to prevent you from growing them. The easy way to prevent sprouting of the tubers is to spray the foliage with Roundup before harvest.
It puts a load of weedkiller into the tuber which will prevent it from growing. Makes those Yellow and Orange Kumara a big health risk when you eat them)
Layer the tubers in compost in a suitable box in a warm place like a glasshouse and just keep them a little moist. Once the sprouts get up about 12 to 15 cm tall then they can be harvested for sowing.
If you only want to grow a few plants you could sit the kumara in top of a glass jar of water on a windowsill. The bottom of the tuber sitting it the water and the sprouts to grow upwards.
Also can be used as a trailing pot plant.
The kumara leaves are also good to eat when steamed. They have excellent health benefits.
By the way yams can also be grown using methods described.