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Gardening Articles for week ending 20th January 2018

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Written by Wally Richards.

GARDENING IN JANUARY 2018

This current gardening season has produced some very unusual problems of which I can only conclude are weather related created by either Nature or human intervention. Maybe a combination of both.
What happens in one part of the country may not happen in all other parts so some problems are only localised and others maybe more general.
One I experienced first hand this year is a problem with strawberries which started sending out runners in the late spring when they should have been producing fruit.
Normally the plants send out runners in the late summer early autumn and with most varieties the trigger for this is the shortening daylight hours.
Strawberry runners are properly called “stolons.” The word “stolon” comes from the Latin word “stol ” meaning a shoot, branch, or twig springing from the root. Stolons are produced by virtually all summer bearing strawberry plants and most ever bearing and day-neutral strawberry varieties.
So in my case I have 'Mother' strawberry plants which started producing runners, few flowers and most fruit small as all the energy was going into foliage and stolons.
I might have to go into the business of selling strawberry plants in the winter.
Last year a gardener told me about unusual strawberry plants for sale on Trade Me.
I looked it up and it had a picture of a round strawberry fruit that was white (like Alpine Strawberries) but with red raised spots. Most unusual so I just had to buy it.
What it turned out to be is Duchesnea Indica which is a quick growing, ornamental plant that spreads quickly to serve as a good ground cover.
Popularly known as Indian Strawberry or Mock Strawberry, Duchesnea Indica bears ornamental foliage and fruit – both resemble the foliage and fruit of real strawberry plants, however the fruit of Mock Strawberry is quite tasteless.
A very hardy plant and a good ground cover fruit are the same as the picture I saw but red all over not white and red. It certainly spreads quickly given good growing conditions and roots in on its runners making for new plants. Might have to start a nursery.
Another unusual thing is; I have several pumpkins growing, healthy plants lots of flowers which are all male flowers.
I have only spotted two females which because of the lack of bumble bees did not get pollinated and my late hand pollination was too late and the fruit failed.
I have also had a few gardeners questioning me in regards to their Zucchini plants once again all male flowers.
There has been a few also who complain about all female flowers but no males to pollinate.
If I am correct in this statement then:
In Nature when conditions are not so favorable then the tenancy is to produce more males, when conditions become favorable we then see the females appearing along with some males.
I presume when conditions are extremely favorable you get mostly or only females.
I saw a thing on TV recently where there are concerns about a turtle species; where they lay their eggs in the sand, the sand temperature is higher than normal temperature (30degrees) the result is only males hatching. With this happening each year means that the species will become extinct.
The same point is; give a 'stress' situation and predominately males are produced.
For instance: A curious shift occurs during and right after a war: more boys tend to be born than girls.
It's been documented for decades in many nations, especially during long conflicts with many troops deployed. The cause of this boy boom has long flummoxed thinkers and scientists.
Wars are a very anxious time with lots of stress for those that go to fight and those that stay at home.
So maybe we are affected just like other species and plants in Nature.
Then I had some self sown sweet corn seeds germinate which I transplanted to correct spacing.
These plants only grew about 30 to 40 cm tall when they started producing their male tassels then a little later the female silks started to appear.
Now this is on plants under half a metre tall which in normal conditions should be 1800 cm tall or taller!
Normally the plants would be getting near 1800cm before the male tassels appear.
That means a lot of foliage to capture energy from the sun to produce nice big cobs.
It also means it takes sun light in the early growth to create growth plus foliage to gather more energy.
Reduce the direct sunlight exposure that the plants have and you have stunted growth, stress and strange predominance of male flowers.
Same as my previous articles on this subject, too much cloud cover and if not cloud cover then its hazy skies blocking the direct sunlight.
Both these situations allows UV through which traps heat and unnaturally heats up sand so you have male turtles being born.
I want to know; 'Where are to bright blue skies I grew up with and the wonderful milky way of stars I used to see at night gone?'
Moisture and temperatures either hot or cooler lead to fungi diseases happening.
Powdery Mildew (that white powder on the foliage of pumpkins, cucumbers, pansies etc reduces the effectiveness of leaves to gain energy from what direct sunlight they are able to receive.
Normally a symptom of later in autumn but some gardeners are noticing it happening early.
My best solution is simply a spray the foliage with Super Neem Tree Oil.
It neutralists the mildew and makes the leaves green again.
While talking to a gardener on the phone this week she made a very interesting observation which like a lot of things that are in front of us we don't see them till pointed, out like Hazy Skies!
They told me that they grow a nice amount of their own vegetables naturally, and if harvested and put into the crispy drawer of the fridge they wither within a couple of days or so.
But vegetables purchased from the Supermarket can keep for well over a week without any signs of spoiling.
Normally we pick and eat and dont fridge our own produce but when we cut a home grown pumpkin from our garden and put in fridge its not long before it goes off. Purchased ones however can be good in fridge cut for over a month?
The question is then; why does your healthy, natural home grown produce go off so quick in comparison?
My thoughts are that there is some many chemicals in conventionally grown commercial crops that the chemical combinations act as preservatives preventing bacteria from establishing.
In other words there is sufficient poisons in these vegetables to kill bacteria that attack the vegetables and we are eating these supposed to be healthy for us produce?
It would be nice if this chemical protection carried on into our bodies delaying diseases and aging process but unfortunately I think the reverse applies.
Reduced nature direct sunlight is affecting our food crops making them more expensive but they will keep longer as a result of chemical poisons used while they are growing.
Is that a Catch 22?
It reminds me of: Kissinger’s infamous saying in the early seventies:

“Who controls food, controls the people, who controls energy controls entire continents, and who controls money controls the world”.

Now I am back to the garden after having a nice shower of rain here....(Saturday 13th Jan 2018)