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Gardening Articles for week ending 14th July 2018

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Written by Wally Richards.

The daylight hours are slowly extending and soon dormant plants are going to wake up and spring will be just around the corner.
Already I have been receiving phone calls from gardeners starting off seeds on their heat pads to have young plants to plant out in a month or so time. (Time waits for no one especially gardeners.)
One gardener told me that seed raising mixes she has tried were expensive and not much good and I totally agree.
The gardener said she preferred to sieve potting mix and obtain the fines to use as a seed raising medium.
I told her go a step better and buy a good compost and sieve that for the fines.
I use either Daltons Compost or Oderings as neither of them use green waste in their compost so no herbicide residue to harm baby plants.
If preparing a seedling tray I firstly place a layer of straight compost in it to about half full; then onto that a sprinkling of Rok Solid after which I sieve more compost over that to create a nice bed of fine particles.
Then I place the seeds which I spray with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) mixed at 20 mils per litre of non-chlorinated water.
Once the seeds and the medium have received a good wetting I then sieve more compost over to cover, or sometimes prefer to use sharp sand as the cover.
The cover is sprayed till nice and moist then onto the heat pad. The seedling tray needs to be sprayed 2 or 3 times a day to keep the medium moist. An easier way is to use peat pots.
You first soak the pots (expandable ones to expand and the other type you fill with compost as for a seedling tray then soak use the MBL in water..
The meat trays that you get from the supermarket are ideal to sit the peat pots on. Place the trays with the peat pots onto your heat pad and once a day you pour some non-chlorinated water into the dry tray. Best done each morning.
The heat pad by the way should be sitting on a thickness of polystyrene sheet so all the heat is driven upwards and not wasted downwards.
Dependent on the seed type there is soon a show of germination as soon as that happens out into the glasshouse on the bench so the seedlings get overhead light and thus do not stretch and die.
Now you need to be very careful not to overwater or to dry out completely.
Off the heat pad the seedling likely only need a misting once a day to keep them happy and the best time to do this is in the morning and check them late afternoon before tucking them in for the night with a little lullaby.
(Try adapting the words from Row, row, row your boat. Gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream. Change to: grow, grow, grow you seedlings, gently during the day. Merrily, merrily, merrily Life is a real great plant.)
You maybe surprised at the results!
Light is so important to plants because that is what they use to make carbohydrates (sugars) which is their life blood to grow. Insufficient sunlight and plants suffer badly, they become weak, attacked by insects and diseases and likely die.
A little trick that I had forgotten about from commercial growers and in particular hydroponic growers and that is Panda Film. Panda film is a 125mu film that is black on one side and white on the other.
The black side is laid on the soil with the white side facing upwards so it reflects light up into the plants.
This does several things such as laid on soil it suppresses weeds and the white increases the amount of light the plant receives and in this case to under the leaves.
This means that the top of the leaf and the underside can both work to create energy for the plant's growth. (You have greatly increased the energy gathering area of the leaf)
Another advantage is that a number of insect pests hate the bright light from below and tend to be less a problem on your plants.
The new growing system which I will write about this month that I have called Wallys Hydro Flow Growing System will have Panda Film supplied with the kits.
The film is 600mm wide and I can see a general use for it in your vegetable garden for some plantings.
Either in 600mm wide strips pegged down with small X cuts in the middle to plant a seedling of say brassica, tomato, capsicum etc or cut into 300mm wide strips to go on each side of a row of plants.
A 200mm strip would be perfect to plant strawberries into cut X in the middle.
(If you are interested in obtaining the Panda Film we now have it on the Mail order web site at it is the last category called "Wallys Hydro Flow Growing materials"
which the new systems will be placed soon. The Film is $1.50 a metre length.
With too many cloudy skies these days (caused by the irrigation systems in agriculture that pump thousands of litres onto paddocks most of which evaporates in to the sky to substantially increase cloud cover and reduce direct sunlight; (my theory)
Actually there is a karma effect here as the increased cloud cover means the grasses do not have the high energy levels that they would with ample sunlight.
Last spring farmers had lots of grass here locally due to ample rain but found they had to buy in feed as the grass was sorely lacking and milk production was poor.
We need to find ways to get more light to our plants in particular our food plants.
Talking about Strawberries they are starting to wake up now so it is time to start spraying the foliage 2 weekly with Mycorrcin.
This will get the plants producing fruit earlier, obtain bigger better fruit and keep them fruiting longer than otherwise.
You may also like to give them a little of Wallys Secret Strawberry Food about every two months which will give bigger berries and better flavor.
Curly leaf in stone fruit trees such as nectarines and peaches is always a problem and you need to be diligently spraying about every 7 to 10 days as the leaves are emerging in the spring.
Copper is the traditional spray to use with Raingard which prevents the copper particles washing off with rain; which it is the time that the disease gets onto the foliage.
I would suggest to add quarter a teaspoon of potassium permanganate to each litre of copper spray and use Wallys Liquid Copper as it is a new formulation using copper sulphate rather than copper hydroxide or copper oxychloride.
The copper sulphate formulation controls a far greater range of diseases when compared to the other two forms.
For brown rot on stone fruit a 2 weekly spray after the fruit is formed using 4 products, Wallys Liquid Copper, Liquid Sulphur, potassium permanganate and Raingard. Repeat till harvest.
Plum trees that have been getting a curly leaf problem for some gardeners is actually caused by an insect called the plum aphid.
It only attacks the leaves as they are emerging; you do not realise it is happening and later the leaves become distorted as the reach maturity.
Once the first sign of leaf emergence spray with Super Neem Oil and Raingard and repeat every week till in full leaf.
It is also a good time to clean up trees that may have lichen on the branches.
Left too long these fungi like growths can damage your trees. Use Wallys Moss & Liverwort control at 25mils per litre of water.
Spray the lichen to obtain good coverage. This product has fungicide properties as well as controlling moss, slime etc so with your fruit trees it may help prevent some of the diseases you have had in the past by killing the spores on the tree and on the soil. Never mix any other sprays with this product.
Use it on paths for algae at 25 mils per litre, on gardens and buildings for liverwort at 50 mils per litre and adjust spray nozzle to make a jet and shoot it into the liverwort. Same applies for moss. Does not hurt plants.
Garlic should be up and away at this time and one semi-commercial grower told me this week he has been using Wallys Liquid Sulphur with Raingard last season every two weeks to prevent the rust.
Had great results and up till recent he has been selling his bulbs by the kilo on Trade Me.
It is a new season started and there are plenty of things to do when the weather permits.