Written by Wally Richards.
A TALE OF WOE AND A TIMELY WARNING
TWO TOPICS: CATS And NAPTHALENE Plus PLANT”S ROOTS INVADING
MESSING WITH NATURE
WINTER CLEAN UP
CARING FOR CONTAINER PLANTS IN WINTER
CLEANING UP MOSS, LIVERWORTS, SLIMES AND MORE
LAWNS AND GRUBS
LAWNS IN APRIL
RAIN AND HOW BEST TO STORE IT.
WINTER READY AND WEEDS
VEGETABLES THAT CAN HURT YOU
GARDENING IN MARCH 2014
WINTER READY YOUR PLANTS
BUXUS HEDGE DISEASE
GARDENING WITH CHEMICAL POISONS
CITRUS TREE CARE
PREPARING FOR WINTER
GARDENING FOR HEALTH
More gardening articles for 2013
A new article will appear on this page each week along with what to do in the garden.
Then these articles will go onto previous article pages.
A TALE OF WOE AND A TIMELY WARNING
TWO TOPICS: CATS And NAPTHALENE Plus PLANT”S ROOTS INVADING
MESSING WITH NATURE
WINTER CLEAN UP
CARING FOR CONTAINER PLANTS IN WINTER
CLEANING UP MOSS, LIVERWORTS, SLIMES AND MORE
LAWNS AND GRUBS
LAWNS IN APRIL
RAIN AND HOW BEST TO STORE IT.
WINTER READY AND WEEDS
VEGETABLES THAT CAN HURT YOU
GARDENING IN MARCH 2014
WINTER READY YOUR PLANTS
BUXUS HEDGE DISEASE
GARDENING WITH CHEMICAL POISONS
CITRUS TREE CARE
PREPARING FOR WINTER
GARDENING FOR HEALTH
More gardening articles for 2013
A new article will appear on this page each week along with what to do in the garden.
A recent article about a herbicide laced mulch a gardener wrote to me about which killed many of her roses caused a lot of interest and two readers emailed me in regards to their own gardening disasters.
The first of these is an aspect I would have thought could never have happened but it did.
The email reads; Wally, keep up the good work...
The article on pesticide residues killing roses is timely!
My fiend and I have experienced a similar episode with "pea straw"
Several years ago we purchased a big bale of "pea straw" each from a local service club, for mulching our gardens.. What we weren't told was that the pea crop was sprayed pre-harvest with Roundup. When the pea straw was applied to our gardens, they grew sick and died.....
Now three seasons later our gardens are still very sick, with many deformed and sickly plan: with beds of brassicas that refuse to flower after six months and so no cabbages, caulis or broccoli.....
I have gardened organically for 40 years ~ this is the first time I have been caught out by pesticide residues in straw....
This happened simultaneously in both our gardens which are half a km apart....
so it cannot be put down to other factors...Regards Haikai
Well that takes the cake and hopefully there are not too many growers out there spraying off their paddocks of peas with Roundup then selling the pea straw to unsuspecting gardeners.
Roundup commercially is cheap and nasty and I have had complaints before where potato crops have been sprayed pre-harvest with Roundup to kill the foliage before the potatoes are lifted.
The practice is frowned upon but its not illegal to do so as far as I am aware and none of our food in this country is tested for Glyphosate residue levels. (Which is really stupid as I am sure the results would shock us all)
Potato growers are supposed to use a different more expensive chemical to kill the potato foliage before harvest.
Back when I was a teenager I used to go out in the summertime, potato picking to make a few extra bob. (An old expression for money referring to shillings for instance 2 shillings would be called 2 bob)
Anyway the farmer would put a chain on the back of the tractor which would spin in a deadly circle and cut the tops off just above ground level. Bit like a massive weedeater.
I think most pea straw sold would be ok for use around the garden but you never know now.
The next email was even worse as it exposes that not all things are cracked up to be what they are supposed to be. (we knew that anyway):
I read the story about adulterated mulch. We had a similar experience with certified organic (BioGro) compost and seed mix from a local supplier. We and other (OFNZ) certified growers bought a few loads from them because a) it was local b) it was certified and c) because it was more convenient than sourcing from Daltons.
The results for all of us were disastrous. Slow growing or no growing and nothing like Daltons (which one grower tested and photographed both products on batches of seedlings so we know the truth). Some of it looked mostly like black sand from a beach.
We reported this back to the supplier and were treated like idiots at first, so we sent off a sample of the stuff we had been supplied to Hill Laboratories in Hamilton. The analysis we received was completely different from the BioGro one we were shown (and assumed would be more or less like what we were sold), with almost no organic matter present in the stuff we were sold.
After negotiation they returned our money in full but of course it didn't compensate for lost production (we all sell at Farmers Markets).
We reported it to BioGro but nothing came of it. We assume that BioGro earns income from suppliers for certifying them and were reluctant to pursue the matter any further.
Then later another friend, who used to be a certified organic avocado grower and really knows his science, bought some of the same material from the same people. After a while he detected a strong smell of petroleum coming off the beds he had planted (actually strawberries grown vertically) and poor growth.
As we did, if you investigate yourself via Google, you will discover that the company is heavily involved in recycling drilling waste from the oil and gas industry! They are:
Our friend (Tony) also knows some folk at BioGro and reported it but I don't think he has had any more luck than we had.
The company are still going gung ho with advertising the product. We'll probably never know the half of the horror story but we tell everyone we know to avoid them. Kind regards Patricia.
This is really bad; a company producing certified organic, under a certification label that is contaminated with chemicals and even worse the certification company appears not to be interested!
My own thoughts on Organic Certification does not mean much. It is NOT pure organic with no chemical residues because logically that is impossible. It just means (hopefully) no extra chemical were used in production or crop growing in other words, basically spray free.
We now know that Roundup (Glyphosate) has a half soil life of about 22 years; DDT half soil life up to 30 years and in an aquatic environment 150 years. (In water thats a long time.)
So if either these two chemical (maybe others) were used in the past on the land where organic crops are now grown they will take up the chemicals. Next the rain on those crops will likely contain chemicals from rivers, lakes and seas when the water evaporates. Then water used to water the crops unless filtered through carbon bonded filers will likely contain chemicals.
The air is also a source of contamination from all sorts of sources including motor vehicles. You only have to look at the foliage of plants near a busy highway.
Even so you are better off health wise eating organic grown produce compared to conventionally grown.
Not only do organic foods have more nutrients, including cancer-fighting antioxidants, but they also contain far fewer pesticide residues. The key nutritional difference between conventional and organics? Anywhere from 18 to 69 percent more antioxidants.
Grow your own at home and its even better because you are not likely to be silly enough to use the chemicals. Beware of tags which are not enforced and lie to you.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
Recently a reader sent me the following email:
You may not recall but some months ago I emailed you and sent a picture of the damage to a large number of my roses.
I wondered if it was Verticillum Wilt as the pictures looked very similar.
You suggested the damage might also have been caused by herbicides.
Initially we thought that could not be the case as we had not brought in any soil for the rose beds but, after talking it over, we recalled that we had had a large load of twig mulch brought in and most of this had gone into the rose beds.
We have just had our roses pruned by someone who is an authority on roses who has confirmed that the damage was, as you suspected, caused by herbicides in the twig mulch.
In addition to losing half of my roses (about 40), many of the remainder are not looking as robust as they did last year and it will be touch and go as to whether they revive in the Spring.
I could end up losing more! Sadly I have learned my experience is not unique and that others have suffered similar destruction through no fault of their own.
My struggling survivors will receive all the organic TLC possible in the coming months and it is hoped that by continuing to build up the goodness in the soil organically the remaining roses will recover.
As gardeners we think we are doing the right thing giving our plants compost and mulch from specialist firms but neither they, nor us, know what is in the green waste they are recycling - whether someone has included garden waste sprayed with Turifx or other herbicides. You can't tell whether you are bringing in a load of goodness or destruction for your plants.
A sad tale but one that I have heard of frequently over the years caused through green waste recycled as compost and animal manures from stock feeding in pastures that have been sprayed with herbicides to kill thistles and other weeds. (The herbicides dont kill the grass but do effect the health of the stock.)
I have had reports from gardeners that they have placed composts from major suppliers around sensitive plants such as tomatoes, beans, potatoes and roses to have either strange new growths appearing or dead plants.
In non-sensitive plants you would not see any noticeable damage other than maybe yellowing of foliage.
Roundup when used around plants and gardens will over a period of time cause yellowing then a slow and eventual death of the plants, shrubs and trees. Roundup Does Not break down to be harmless in the soil, its there for a half soil life of about 22 years.
Lawn Weed Killers that dont kill the grass unless the grass is in stress can have a very long residue period from a few weeks to many months dependent on type and application rates.
Green Waste centres have no idea if organic material they take in are contaminated with chemical herbicides. People dumping their grass clippings are not going to say. Lawn Mowing Contractors may or may not know.
The recyclers turn the green waste into compost and sell it directly to you the home gardener or sell it to major garden companies to supply garden shops in their company's branded bags.
Another problem can be that maybe most of the bags of compost you buy are safe because they happen to be free of herbicides then the next time the same company's bags are deadly.
I only know of two brands that I have never heard of problems from and that is Daltons Composts and Oderings. I think Yates are ok but not sure.
I was told by a green waste recyclers that it takes up to 18 months of compost turning, to leach out the herbicides and make the material safe for around sensitive plants!
If you buy some compost that you are not sure of there is a simple test you can do before you spread it all around your gardens.
Take a little of the compost out of each bag and place into a seedling tray. Plant some bean seeds into the mix and germinate. If the seeds dont germinate then you need to repeat the same but also using a control medium such as soil from your garden in another tray to prove the seeds are good.
If containing herbicide, the new growths will come up stunted and distorted which means its very likely that herbicide is in the compost. Take the bags back to the seller, complain and get a refund.
Please let me know the brand so I can warn other gardeners.
Is herbicide affected compost safe to use around non-sensitive well established plants, shrubs and trees?
The short answer is no as it does affect a healthy plant even if not visible signs are noticed.
The first sign is yellowing in leaves but that may not happen for sometime.
Dont put herbicide treated lawn clippings into your own compost bin or on your gardens. If you have a waste area dump them there otherwise dont collect the clippings just leave them to bio-degrade back into your lawn where you may get more killing of weeds for your money.
All chemical herbicides can be a solution for fast weed removal but can also have drastic consequences for your gardening.
The proof is in the pudding as my mum used to say; so I would like to share this snippet from overseas with you: Two years ago conventional media used a meta-analysis by Stanford University to cast doubt on the value of an organic diet. This despite the fact that the analysiswhich looked at 240 studies comparing organically and conventionally grown foodfound that organic foods are less contaminated with agricultural chemicals.
In an effort to further clarify the 2012 findings, a group of European scientists recently evaluated an even greater number of studies, 343 in all, published over the last several decades.
Here’s what they found.
Not only do organic foods have more nutrients, including cancer-fighting antioxidants, but they also contain far fewer pesticide residues. This is a no-brainer given that monoculture chemical and GMO farmers kill the soil with toxic chemicals and climate-destabilizing nitrate fertilizerwhile organic farmers feed the soil with compost, nurturing the soil food web.
But the key nutritional difference between conventional and organics? Anywhere from 18 to 69 percent more antioxidants.
This is a very good reason to grow more of your own fruit and vegetables naturally this spring.
Plant now brassicas and lettuce and any other hardy vegetables dependent on your own local climate
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
A few weeks back moth balls were banned in New Zealand as a result of the Ministry of Health issuing the following: On the 04 June 2014
All currently available mothball products are being removed from the market as a result of concern about the risk of poisoning to children.
Three agencies are involved in the action. Trading Standards (part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) has contacted distributors and retailers and asked all retailers to remove products from the shelves.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has advised that the chemicals in these mothballs are not approved for use as a pesticide and the Ministry of Health is warning the public to return any mothballs they have to the retailer they bought them from or to dispose of them in the rubbish. End
One of the three possible chemicals used in moth balls is Naphthalene.
Naphthalene has for over 30 years been used as an effect cat deterrent keeping most cats off gardens, doorways and other places where they foul.
Moth balls have been used to protect clothes, carpets, books etc from the likes of moth and silverfish damage. Naphthalene was never registered for this purpose yet moth balls were sold as an insecticide, which violates the regulations..
I contacted the EPA and inquired about the product, Cat Repellent which contains Naphthalene crystals.
The reply was that they were not aware of this use (Cat Repellent) and they would have to look into the matter. After a week or so the answer came back that Cat Repellent could be sold for that purpose as it did not require registration but it could only be made available in a child resistant container with new warnings on the label.
All these matters have been completed and approved so you can still obtain Cat Repellent from most local garden centres and Mitre 10.
Young children these days can mistake a round object such as a moth ball for a lolly.
One elderly reader told me that in his day lollies were never seen in the home except maybe at Xmas time where a few might be in a Xmas Stocking.
It makes one wonder about other round objects such as marbles, though not toxic certainly not good to swallow.
It is good news for gardeners that are plagued by neighbor’s cats digging up freshly planted beds of seedlings and fouling gardens.
Over the 30 years I have been associated with the sale of Cat Repellent I have accessed that it deters about 95% of cats with a few odd ones not affected.
It is a chemical that when freshly applied can be irritating to both cats and some people.
It should not be placed on bare soil where food crops are grown instead place in lids or plastic ice cream containers so its not in direct contact with the soil.
Problem Number Two: An email recently from a reader asked: Hi Wally
Having just read your article in our Rotorua Review I believe you may be able to advise me on what to plant along my fence line (wooden).
For the past 4 years I have had bush roses planted in this area but on the other side of the fence are agapanthus!!! (I thought they were classed as noxious weeds!)
I have struggled for the last 4 years to try and stop the roots from these strangling my roses. I gave up this year and moved the roses (after pruning).
I now have a blank garden and would like to plant either shrubs or something that will resist or fight the roots taking over. Can you suggest anything hardy and strong – please dont suggest more agapanthus.
Look forward to hearing from you. Cheers Pat
My reply was: Hi Pat
You are a mind reader as I read I immediately thought of Agapanthus (Fight fire with fire)
Unfortunately you would spend a lot of time and heart ache trying to establish most things there.
That is while the roots of the ags can reach in and suck the goodness out of the soil, even if they cant produce foliage on your side. I presume that the ags are the next door neighbors and you cant kill them.
Ok plan B takes a bit of work but can allow the planting of your preferred plants there.
A trench needs to be dug down about 3 foot cutting all the roots coming under the fence till there is no more lower down.
Then sheet metal or roofing iron is placed in the trench directly under the fence to extend the fence downwards by about 3 feet. Then back fill with soil dug out and plant up.
The barrier should last many years and greatly reduce the problem. Ensure the metal over laps and no holes for the roots to penetrate.
Invasive root systems are a curse of gardeners and can be the likes of bindweed coming under a fence line or trees and shrubs on the other side sucking all the goodness from your gardens in their root zone resulting in barren areas.
Raised gardens within a metre or more of tree/shrub root zones are attractive sources of food.
The offending plant extends its feeder roots into the raised garden and then populates the area with a mass of feeder roots. Your raised garden becomes a useless ornament.
You can do one of two things, situate your raised garden at least two metres away from the drip line of any tree, shrub or climber. If that is not convenient to achieve then place a concrete pad where you wish to have your raised garden. Make the pad about 10cm larger than the area of the raised garden.
If you think that a raised garden will not work on concrete I can assure you they do as all my raised gardens are on concrete. You can get some leaching out into the surrounding area otherwise no problems that I have noted.
The best raised gardens heights are the width of a standard sheet of roofing iron.
That gives a nice height to work at without bending much.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
This is the very best time of the year for planting trees, shrubs, roses, perennials also hardy vegetables and annual flowers.
This is because the daylight hours are extending, which encourages new growth and the plants will have several months to establish before summer dry spells occur.
It is also an excellent time to transplant any existing plants that you wish to move.
Container plants with ornamental plants such as roses or fruit trees that have not had their roots pruned for a couple of years should also be attended to now.
Large plants in big containers will require two or three strong people to remove them from their containers so their roots can be pruned and placed back into the same container.
A little while back a gardener asked me what gardening tool did I consider the most useful?
The answer gave the person a bit of a shock when I said my 2.5 ton forklift.
Seeing most of my gardening is done in containers and in raised gardens, because we are living above a warehouse with 90% of the outside area in concrete.
The forklift allows me to move container plants around and using protection for the trunks of the trees and a rope, makes it easy to lift them out of the containers for root pruning.
Every gardener should have one, say I smiling.
A gardener phoned me recently asking how to give the fruit trees and Natives they are going to plant a really good start in establishing.
An excellent question and an ideal topic at this time of the year.
What I am going to say is what I believe is the ultimate in establishing new plants, you need to decide whether you want to use all or some of the procedures in your own plantings.
I remember years ago when I had a garden centre we used to have a product that was a slow release over a couple of years to be used when planting shrubs and trees. (Not sure if its still around hopefully not)
The theory of the fertiliser was to feed the plant for 2 years and not have the food leached away during that period.
I dont know if that actually worked or not but obviously that was the claim by the manufacture.
The fertiliser had Nitrogen (N) 7.0% : Phosphorus (P) 17.0% : Potassium (K) 5.0% and Magnesium (Mg) 12.0%.
I dont know what the magnesium was supposed to achieve in assisting development? I would have thought calcium and sulpur far better minerals.
We have learnt that microbes, Mycorrhizal fungi, earthworms and other soil life are of utmost importance to healthy plants and that acidic compounds such as superphoshate and chlorine in tap water kills the soil life. This being so why would one place a fertiliser with 17% phosphorus (Super phosphate) in the hole where you want the best for your new plant?
For food obviously a little mild food in the form of Blood & Bone and Sheep Manure Pellets would be perfect as they will encourage growth and help the soil life to grow also.
If you have good fertile, humus rich soil, all you need to do when you plant is dig a hole add a few goodies and plant.
Many gardeners will have either clay or sandy type soils and that is where you are best not to make a normal planting hole.
Instead make a hole twice the depth and width than you need. Mix the diggings in your wheelbarrow with a good purchased compost about half and half.
You line the bottom of the hole with this mix to about the right level to plant. Now here is the next consideration to make, dependent on the plant and whether the area is prone to drought or flooding.
If the plant hates wet feet then to compensate you need to plant it higher than the surrounding soil in fact on a mound.
If the area is prone to drought then plant deeper than the surrounding soil so its in a hollow that will easily catch water when you water or it rains.
Besides the foods mentioned, I would highly recommend that you place some Rok Solid in the planting hole along with some Gypsum and a little bit of BioPhos. The BioPhos is natural phosphorus broken down by microbes instead of acid.
Thus you are adding more soil life to the new plants root zone.
If you are wanting to give the plants an extra good start then drench the soil after planting with Mycorrcin and Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL)
The Mycorrcin is a food for Mycorrhizal fungi which attach to the roots of plants and extends the effective root system by about 800%.
The microscopic threads of the fungi gather nutrients and moisture for the plant in exchange for carbohydrates. The fungi also aids the production of humus which is what we need for the ultimate in soils.
The MBL supplies minerals to the soil, releases locked up minerals and cleans up chemical residues from the past.
Doing what I have described would give your plants the best start in the soil that I am aware of but only part of the plant is in the soil, the foliage is going to be effected by wind, sun and climate; so for one final big help in establishing, it would be to spray all the foliage, under and over with Vaporgard.
Vaporgard puts a film over the leaves sprayed that lasts for about 3 months. The film not only protects the leaves from the likes of wind damage it also protects the chlorophyl from UV allowing the plant to generate more energy from sunlight. The plant benefits with frost protection down to minus 3, plus the film reduces the transpiration by about 30 to 40% reducing its water needs.
I have heard cases where plantings in more adverse conditions using a number of the procedures described have achieved a 3 to 5 years head start on the new plants when compared to ones that were just planted without. These plants struggle for years to establish before they can preform.
Whether its seedlings you are planting or specimen trees, the more care you take in the planting will determine how soon you will achieve the results desired.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
Many years ago I read a science fiction story about a couple who invented a time machine and traveled back to prehistoric time. While in the past a large beautiful butterfly fluttered by and they caught it as a specimen.
When they traveled back to their own time, the world had changed greatly, different Government, different weather conditions, different species etc. How much difference would one butterfly make if prevented from living and dying as it originally did?
Man kind is the problem messing with nature and the natural order of things for either greed or their own ego.
For instance the early settlers in New Zealand introduced a whole range of plants, insects and animals from England because they wanted to make New Zealand more like England.
Rabbits, hares, gorse, hedgehogs, numerous birds, deer etc.
Some have adapted to our conditions and not caused too many problems where other introductions have become a curse. Rabbits for instance have no natural predictors in NZ and our pastures and crops suit their ability to breed massive populations destroying farms.
Even when the settlers cut and burned native bush to create paddocks the grass planted became a massive food source for the native grass grub and porina caterpillar making real problems for gardeners and farmers ever since.
Likely the natural enemy of the two natives would have included moa and kiwi along with other native birds. The scales of balance disappeared with fewer native birds for control and massive numbers of the pests.
If we take a plant out of its natural habitat where it is controlled by climate and predators and plant it in an environment which it can thrive with no natural controls, we are creating a noxious weed.
Ecological systems have evolved over thousands of years, all with their balance and counter balances but we as a species can in no time at all disrupt the natural order of things and cause immense problems for hundreds of years to come.
This is why we now have far stricter controls at our borders with Bio-security.
If a predator insect or a bacteria is going to be introduced to control an introduced pest problem, a lot of research is done to find out if beneficial life forms will be unduly affected as well.
We can determine this to a reasonable degree but have no idea what the long term affects will be because nature is not constant, it is always changing and that is how it survives.
Simply speaking the logic is that man kind cannot control Nature, Nature controls itself.
A few years back a pest insect from Australia was able to establish in New Zealand commonly called the potato psyllid, MAF researched the pest and found in Australia it was not a major problem commercially or for the home gardener and because of lack of funding decided not to do anything about it.
Sure the psyllid is not a problem in Australia because it is controlled by their climate in which the higher temperatures regulate their breeding.
Place the pest in New Zealand where the temperatures are congenial to their breeding and we now have a massive problem commercially and in our gardens, dependent on climate season to season.
We are told by our scientists that the use of antibiotics in animals, plants and people has reached the point where bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics.
We now get a small dose of antibiotics in our daily food chain. Bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics pass this resistance to the genes of their prodigy who improve on the resistance.
Bear in mind a lot of bacteria have a life cycle of about 8 hours and during that time reproduce like mad in favorable conditions.
Could a thorn prick when pruning your roses mean a death sentence? Our scientists tell us in the near future, likely yes.
Here is another folly of Monsanto recently uncovered by gmwatch.org I quote;
'GMO soy, corn, and cotton crops in Brazil, along with non-GMO crops such as tomatoes, beans, and sorghum, are being devoured by voracious caterpillars that were not a problem prior to the use of genetically modified seeds.
Brazilian farmers are facing huge losses (now totaling ten billion REAL’s, the national currency) as a plague of the caterpillar pestscalled Helicoverpa armigera or the “corn ear worm” are devastating fields. The insect’s natural predator, another variety of caterpillar with cannibalistic tendencies called Spodoptera, was intentionally eliminated as a result of the cultivation of transgenic maize engineered with Bt toxin, designed to kill off the primary species.
Unfortunately, 90% of the secondary caterpillar species proved immune to the pesticide, allowing it to multiply unchecked and to eat to its heart’s content in the absence of natural enemies.
At a recent conference specifically dedicated to Helicoverpa armigera, conducted by Brazil’s Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, scientists, farmers, students, and government officials gathered to discuss the problem and propose control measures. Declaring the infestation a “phytosanitary emergency to cotton and soybean crops,” a working group was formed to sketch out a disaster plan in an effort to reverse the caterpillar’s impact.
A method of attacking its reproductive cycle is being considered…and so mankind’s tampering with nature continues, no doubt with even more unpredictable consequences on the horizon. End.
I have yet to see anything positive from mankind tampering with Nature through Genetic Engineering. All that I have heard of is disasters and adverse health effects on humans, animals and the environment.
When will we ever learn?
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
Its this time of the year that fruit trees are readily available from garden centres and it is the best time to plant them, as they have the rest of winter and all of spring to establish before they hit their first summer. I love fruit trees and other fruiting plants, having gathered a nice collection of various types, over a period of time.
When choosing what fruiting plants you are going to grow it is important to select the types of fruit that you and your family most enjoy and then to pick the cultivator that is most suitable and productive for your locality. It is a waste of time buying say an apricot that needs a cold winter followed by a warm spring if these climatic conditions don't exist in your region.
It is better to buy one that bears well without a real winter chilling. A number of fruiting trees require a suitable pollinator to obtain good crops, which means you need to buy two different cultivators to ensure that you have a good fruit set.
Now days we can find plums for instance that have a double graft, meaning that two varieties of plums will be produced on the same root stock. The varieties chosen for the grafting will often be the pollinators, so only one tree is needed but two types of plums will be harvested.
For a time some nurseries were producing triple or more varieties onto the same root stock. These were more difficult to produce and often one graft would fail in preference of the other two. Even if the 3 did take nicely it would mean some complicated pruning to ensure that the 3 parts preformed equally and in many cases one would ultimately fail.
I not sure if these multi-grafted trees are still available and in many ways they can be a waste of time and effort. Even with a twin graft one has to monitor the two aspects to ensure both are growing equally well without one superseding the other.
In the likes of apples and some other grafted fruit you may have the choice of the type of root stock such as MM106 etc. The root stock type will help determine the ultimate size of the tree and thus the amount of fruit it can bear. These are MM106, 4-5metres MM793, 3.5-4metres and EM9 2.5-3m The later is also referred to dwarfing root stock. This can be a great advantage for people with smaller sections.
Some types maybe labeled ‘Self Fertile’ which means you have no need for another tree as a pollinator. Others may have their name on the label along with recommended pollinators. These are important aspects to consider when you are buying any fruiting tree.
Self fertile will produce good crops but better again if there is a second suitable cultivator or the same species planted nearby. Another tip, because of the lack of feral bees in parts of New Zealand, if you plant your fruit tree down wind (prevailing wind) of your pollinator, you will likely have a better fruit set due to pollen been breeze carried.
Having little open ground, I now grow most new fruit trees as container plants.
There is many advantages to this, you can grow many more trees in containers than you could ever grow in open ground. The containers restrict the root system making for smaller trees, no matter what root stock they are on. Smaller trees are easier to manage, spray, and been in a container, less loss of nutrients from leaching away.
Crops are smaller but minimal wastage, as you tend to eat all the fruit produced.
They are easier to protect from birds as the fruit ripens. If you move house you can take your fruit trees with you without too much of a hassle.
For those that are interested in this method here is how I do it. Firstly choose the largest plastic rubbish tin you can find. (About 76 litres) Avoid black plastic ones, as they can cook the roots if in strong direct sunlight.
Drill about 40-50mm wide holes in the sides of the bin about 100 mm up from the bottom for drainage. This leaves an area at the base, for surplus water in the summer.
You can partially dig into the soil and if you want the roots to enter into the soil, place about 4 holes 40-50mm wide in the bottom as well as 4 at the cardinal points on the sides. (If you move you can easily wrench the tree and container from the ground) I have used this part buried method in the past, for my citrus trees and passion fruit vines to avoid root rots in winter.
Now for a growing medium to fill the containers, don't waste your money on potting mixes as they lack the long term goodness that a tree needs. Instead use a manure based compost. There are organic mulches and composts available from most garden centres, that are made of bark fines, composted with animal manures. Add to this a few handfuls of clean top soil, mixed or layered through. I also add in worm-casts and worms from my worm farm.
The worms help keep the heavier composts open and also supply a continuous source of nutrients. You add in sheep manure pellets and Rok Solid.
Plant up your tree so that the soil level is about 100mm below the rim of the container. This allows for easy watering and feeding. I mulch the top of the mix in spring with old chook manure and apply Fruit and Flower Power (Magnesium and potassium) once a month during the fruiting period.
Other foods can be applied as needed. If the roots are not allowed into the surrounding soil, you will need to lift the tree out of the container every 2-3 years and root prune by cutting off the bottom one third of the roots with a saw. New compost and a bit of soil is placed in this area vacated and the tree put back in the container. This is best done in winter when the tree is dormant.
Another interesting thing to try is making a grape vine into a column or weeping vine.
I saw these a few years back, where grape vines had been grown in containers and pruned so that they were just a upwards growing pole-like plant (when cut back in winter) These grapes stood about 2 metres out of the containers and had trunks up to 100mm in diameter. The new laterals would appear off the trunk in the spring and with the weight of the grapes made a nice looking weeper covered in grapes.
To achieve this, simply obtain a grape vine that has a reasonably tallish trunk and leader. Secure these to a suitable stake and remove all other laterals while its dormant.
The following winter prune side laterals to two or three buds and repeat every winter.
As mentioned before, garden centres now have their range of fruit trees in. If you cant find a particular specimen there, have look for nurseries on the internet.
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During the week I had a phone call from a reader who was looking for some potassium permanganate or its more commonly known as, Condy's Crystals.
I often have suggested the use of the crystals dissolved in water to control fungus problems on plants or skin such as athletics foot because its an oxidizing agent.
The Lady whom phoned told me she had another use for it and that was keeping lettuce nice and crisp in the fridge for up to 3 weeks!
I was told that you take about a quarter of tea spoon or so of Condys crystals and add to water in the kitchen sink filled to a depth that allows you to completely submerge the lettuce.
Beware that the Condys Crystals may stain your sink and hands so maybe it would be best to use a bucket and wear latex gloves. In a bucket you will have less water so use less of the crystals. (Likely a few grains will colour up the water nicely. Soak the lettuce in the solution turning it around , back and forth to get the liquid right through the lettuce.
Lift and once again turn it around, back and forth to drain the liquid out of the lettuce.
Once you have drained it then place a paper towel into the bottom of a plastic bag, sit the lettuce on the paper towel in the bag, seal and then into the fridge.
When you bring out the lettuce to use, remove the leaves that you require and rinse them under a running cold tap. According to our reader lovely fresh lettuce leaves for up to 21 days.
I don’t know how well it will work on purchased lettuce from a supermarket (as its already several days old when you buy it) but fresh lettuce from your own garden should work very well.
Likely the reason it works is that it kills bacteria which cause the aging and decay process.
While on the subject of chemicals you will likely be aware of the banning of all moth balls including those made from naphthalene. This also effected the Cat Repellent which is naphthalene crystals.
The product Cat Repellent is a very effective way of keep cats away from where you don’t want them to go and foul. It has about a 95% success rate (Does not work on all cats) and its use was a tip given to me by a gardener about 30 years ago.
Anyway the concern with naphthalene was that some children had put moth balls into their mouths and required medical attention. Also naphthalene is not registered as an insecticide and moth balls were used to control moths.
The question was raised with the Environment Protection Agency about whether naphthalene could be used in its crystal form as a cat repellent? After some debate it was approved but had to be placed into a child resistant container for safety and a lot more information needed to be placed on the label for the safety of users. Cat Repellent will be available again for the new season of gardening.
One of the label aspects is 'Suspected of causing cancer' which puts it into the same category as a number of commonly found chemicals including Glyphosate (such as Round up) as well as a number of gardening & household chemicals.
With the numerous chemicals in our food chain these days it is no wonder cancer cases are rapidly increasing every year. My advise is grow some good wholesome vegetables and fruit naturally to offset the poisons in our water and food chain.
I see that new season potatoes are available in some garden shops now and even though its only July it is a good time to purchase and sprout them ready for planting.
So far we are having a mild winter and in areas where the risk of late frosts is small and where the psyllid damage is making the growing of potatoes areal problem then a very early start is a good tip.
I am looking to plant my early and only crop in a week or twos time.
I have raised gardens so I will be planting the sprouted tubers into holes about 180mm deep.
In the bottom of the hole I will place a few Sheep Manure Pellets, about a table spoon of Neem Granules, a pinch of BioPhos (Natural Phosphate) a teaspoon of Rok Solid and a dusting of Gypsum.
A little compost to cover and then sit the potato onto the compost, cover with more compost till the sprouts are hidden.
Its just a matter of checking every few days and if sprouts appear then cover again with compost.
If it looks like a frost then check to make sure any sprouts are covered.
Once the hole has been filled in then you can start mounding to keep the tops covered.
This process should, if all goes well, not only protect the potatoes from any frost damage but also encourage the new potatoes to form all the way up the sprouts.
Once the mounds reach a height where its not practical to mound any more then give the mound a good sprinkling of Neem Granules, Rok Solid a little more sheep manure pellets along with a light sprinkling of BioPhos. Have frost cloth or crop cover ready to put over the foliage if it looks like a frost.
Plastic Pipes made into hoops over the crop spaced about a metre a part will make a good support for either cloth.
Getting the crop in early with faster maturing varieties (90 days) with planting July/August and harvest in October not only allows you to obtain a good crop without damage from the psyllid but frees up the garden for planting up other summer vegetables around Labour Weekend.
If you want to plant your potatoes later in the season and you know psyllids are a problem then you will need to obtain Quarantine cloth which is available in 3.3 metre wide lengths (crop cover is 4 metres wide) and has a much finer mesh than crop cover.
I used Quarantine cloth 2 seasons ago on a late crop planted in January when the psyllid number were at their highest and harvested a great crop undamaged in May.
Where there is a will there is away.
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The shortest day is past, slowly the day light hours are extending and with it a new season begins.
There are many tasks that should be completed over the next month or so before its too late.
These involve such things as root pruning container plants, treating deciduous plants (rose & fruit trees)
for diseases and pests harboring over from last season, sorting out strawberry beds, pruning, mulching green crops and so the list goes on.
This week we are going to look at winter clean up and one of the main aspects of this is with deciduous trees and roses using an old control called Lime Sulphur.
Many years ago I penned an article for several newspapers that I write for, one of which was the Timaru Herald. A couple of weeks after the article was published one of the garden centre owners phoned me about the article.
He told me that he was annoyed about my article and I asked him why?
I was told that he had about half a dozen bottles of Lime Sulphur on his shelves which had been there for some years then all of a sudden they all sold and because of the dammed demand, he had to buy several more cartons in. That is the power of the word and press for you.
Deciduous plants such as roses and a number of fruit trees, have either lost their leaves or in the process of doing so, this can be greatly assisted with a spray of Lime Sulphur.
Lime Sulphur does several things which are an advantage to both gardener and plants.
It burns and should not be applied to evergreen plants as it will damage the foliage.
It should not be applied to apricot trees, some pear varieties (I dont have a list of sensitive ones so best not any) and any other Sulphur sensitive plants.
The burning action assists in the final removal of foliage, burns disease spores and insect pests that maybe harboring over in nooks and crannies wanting for better conditions in the spring to emerge.
If you can greatly reduce both disease and pest problems now, then you will have better results in the spring/summer period with less spraying to do.
With bush and standard roses I suggest that you cut back all the growths to half.
This means if the bush roses that are about a metre tall cut them back to half a metre.
At the same time remove any dead or diseased wood along with spindly stems.
Pick up all the bits and debris on the ground and then spray what is left with the Lime Sulphur.
This does two important things, it reduces the amount of plant that you are going to spray and it makes the rose ready for final pruning later in July.
If there are not plants growing under the roses then also spray the soil with the Lime Sulphur also.
If you have roses by a wall the Lime Sulphur will likely stain the wall so a sheet to protect the wall is a good idea.
If you have had problems last season with diseases then you could, in the beginning of July, make up a solution of Condys Crystals (about quarter a level teaspoon to a litre of water) and spray the plants and soil underneath with this.(It stains also)
With climbing roses just firstly tidy up the plants then do your spraying.
For gardeners that have peaches and nectarines that suffer from curly leaf each season then according to an article I have read from England, the Lime Sulphur spray is a must to assist in reducing the number of spores that cause the problem later on. I tried that last winter and it made a big difference.
I would also follow up with the Condys Crystals as well.
With other Deciduous fruit trees (not apricots) spray the Lime Sulphur as best you can (if they are big trees) and do any pruning you want to do next month.
Remember that Silver Leaf disease is about in winter when its cool and damp so any cutting back and pruning should be done only on sunny days when the soil is on the drier side.
Wet times brings about a number of unwanted growths such as moss, molds, slimes, liverworts and lichens. These growths are unsightly and can in some cases be dangerous where one walks such as paths and steps. ACC might look after you but its not worth the pain and discomfort you have to endure especially seeing a simple spray or two will remove the problems.
Moss in lawns does cause problems for the grasses and should be controlled if you want a nice lawn.
Don't waste your money on treatments of Sulphate of Iron as it only burns the top of the moss which soon reappears again.
There are sprays that can be used such as Moss and Liverwort Control that will assist in control of these growths without damaging your garden plants.
Just follow the instructions on the bottle for best control and use.
Containers with perennial plants (roses, shrubs and trees) need to have their roots pruned about every 2-3 years.
This time of the year is the best time to do it. Remove the plant from the container and with a crosscut saw, saw off the bottom third of the roots and mix. If you notice white whispery bits in the mix or on the side of the container you will have root mealy bugs which will need to be treated.
Place fresh purchased compost in the bottom of the container up to the level of the removed root system.
Sprinkle Neem Tree Granules, Sheep Manure pellets and Rok Solid onto the compost then place your plant/tree back into the container. Ensure that the top of the mix is about 20mm below the rim of the container making for easier watering. Sprinkle Neem Tree Granules and Rok Solid over the top of the mix and a thin layer of compost to cover. Any weeds on the top should have been scrapped off to clear the top before applying fresh compost etc.
If you have noticed mealy bugs on the container and in the mix wash the container to clean those ones before reusing.
After completing the above take 25mls of Neem tree oil into a litre of water and water this into the container. (More for large containers a bit less for smaller.
If you have containers that curve back on themselves at the top and have planted perennials in them then there is no way you are going to remove the plant to root prune without smashing the container.
Those containers are ok for annuals which will die at the end of each season anyway.
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I am amazed at the price of New Zealand grown garlic is at about $2.00 a bulb of cloves.
I think what has happened is a couple of years back the market in NZ became flooded with cheap garlic from China.
The NZ growers could not obtain a reasonable price for their produce and as a result a number of growers changed to more profitable crops.
In the meantime we found the cheap garlic from China was of poor quality and suspect of unhealthy aspects.
So the tide turned and we looked for NZ grown high quality garlic but alas fewer growers makes for less supply and up goes the price.
We used to see the same thing happening years ago with potatoes, not from overseas competition but from seasons of glut followed by a season of low production resulting in high prices.
This would encourage growers and farmers to plant for the following season causing a glut and low prices.
It would seem the potato industry has got its act together better these days.
Back to the topic which is garlic and the traditional planting on the shortest day.
There is a very good reason for the shortest day planting as the day light hours are increasing and that promotes the crop to grow and later for the bulbs to form prior to harvesting on the longest day.
If there is just one vegetable that anyone can grow it has to be garlic, as one plant needs only 4 inches (100mm) of room to grow in fertile, free draining soil.
The end result of what you obtain, be it a lovely big bulb with lots of cloves or a dismal excuse for a bulb depends on a few factors.
Garlic is a member of the onion family and so it likes similar conditions. They prefer a good amount of natural nitrogen in their initial development, so the use of animal manure especially chicken manure is important.
Garlic requires ample moisture but hates wet feet which leads to root rots and failures. They relish a friable soil with a harder clay pan underneath. Best grown also in a sunny exposed situation where they can be chilled in winter.
Choose a site for planting that is free draining and will not be water logged in winter.
Work chicken manure and Rok Solid into the area to be planted and also apply BioPhos (the Organic form of super) Ensure the top 75 to 100 mm of the soil is worked well to make the area friable.
Gypsum and sheep manure pellets can also be applied to the planting area.
Place the cloves about an inch deep into the soil in spacings of 4 inches apart with the point just poking out of the ground.
Water in MBL (Magic Botanic Liquid) which acts as a catalyst aiding the uptake of goodness you have applied to the soil. An occasional spray or drink of the same product will be to benefit, over the growing period.
What happens is firstly the clove will produce a massive root system of white tender roots and a small green sprout. As the chills of winter occur this will initiate the side buds which later, with the lengthening day light hours and warmer temperatures, will fill out to become cloves. When the tops die back the new bulbs will be ready to harvest.
They should then be stored dry, in a cool airy situation and checked regularly for rots.
To prevent bulbs re-sprouting lightly burn the remaining roots with a candle flame. If you want to keep your own cloves for the following seasons crop, then select the best cloves and don't burn their base roots. Now is a good time to plant.
There are many reasons to grow your own garlic besides saving you the cost of buying what someone else has grown. You will know that your garlic is free of chemical sprays and has all the goodness in it that nature and your soil can provide.
You will have ample garlic for cooking with and for health aspects that this wonderful plant provides.
We know that garlic is wonderful for your health and in particular it is excellent for preventing abnormal blood clotting, angina attacks and strokes.
Also for stimulating the immune system so is beneficial to all cancer patients.
It seems to act by suppressing, preventing or inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, and can even cause the death of some cancer cells due to the allicin content of the garlic.
If you are like myself and don't wish to have a cancer condition then a regular intake of natural garlic is worthwhile. Garlic is more effective than vitamin C to prevent the conversion of dietary nitrates and nitrites into carcinogenic nitrosamines.
Garlic has the ability to rid the body of many harmful bacteria such as e.coli, salmonella and shigella, and to destroy viruses, is well researched, as is its ability to lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar in diabetes and lower LDL cholesterol.
Try this for babies, children or yourself to relieve a nasty cold, peel and crush a clove of garlic and steep it in enough olive oil to cover. Leave for at least an hour then smear the oil on the soles of the feet. Put socks on and retire to bed.
It is said that home made garlic oil transverses the body extremely fast and within about 10 minutes of applying to the soles of the feet it can be smelt on the breath of the patient.
Spots on teenagers can be stopped by rubbing the area with a bit of cut garlic.
You can often stop a cold by carefully peeling a clove and placing it between the gum and the cheek in the mouth and leaving it there.
Ideally you should eat some garlic every day and grow sufficient to cater for your requirements and your family. If you cant peel a clove and chew it to shallow then make the garlic oil and place into a salad or meal.
If you are worried about the smell of garlic on your breath then chew a sprig of parsley.
Parsley is another herb that you should always have a plentiful supply of in the garden. Its a must for poor blood circulation and for people that have chilblains in winter.
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Garden Centres in most areas will have the new seasons strawberry plants available for gardeners. You may find a range of types but likely the most common variety found these days is Pajaro.
Pajaro; An excellent all round variety, large fruit with a lighter flesh. Firm with excellent flavour. Early to mid-season cropper. A very popular variety grown by many commercial growers in the North Island.
Chandler; A variety with medium red fruit with light red flesh. More resistant to wet weather. Suggested as the most suitable variety for home gardeners in the North Island.
Camerosa; Medium red flesh with large, firm berries. Good flavour. Wet weather resistant.
Sundae; Large red fruit, oval in shape. Firm red flesh with excellent flavour. Suitable for northern and central regions.
Supreme; Very large bright red fruit. Very firm red flesh with excellent flavour. Suitable for northern and central regions. Yield is very good.
Seascape; A variety producing medium dark berries of moderate size. Good flavour, firm and conical in shape. A good late season variety, suitable for most parts of New Zealand. Harvest late season. Best grown in drier areas.
Temptation; Medium bright red shiny fruit. Pale, firm flesh with excellent flavour. Tough and resilient in relation to pest and diseases. Ideal to grow nationwide. Consistently high yields of berries ripening over a long period from October to March.
Albion; If you are lucky enough to find some plants it would be the best strawberry going and often the berries seen for sale in fruit shops. Excellent flavour and large juicy berries.
Alpine (white strawberries) which I find are delicious when fully ripe even though the berries are a bit small. The alpine produce just about all year long.
South Island readers are likely to have Aptos which are; Day neutral, UC variety. Bright, dark red. Goes very dark as it becomes over-ripe. Size medium - large. Plants shows Potassium deficiency symptoms, especially late season, showing up as purple margins on leaves.
Large fruit number per truss with last fruit tending to be very small. Flavour is good but can be slightly astringent in some conditions. Slightly soft. Excellent yield.
Ensure good plant size before allowing flowers to form fruit to minimise small size tendency. Maintain good potassium levels late in the season. (Fruit and Flower Power) Difficult to produce quality fruit on second year plants. Sensitive to mite attack.
You also find some older varieties such as Red Gauntlet and Tioga.
The Alpine strawberries are likely to be found in with herb displays. You only need one or two plants to start with as they self seed easily and pop up all over. A nice ornamental plant also for under trees and shrubs.
One of the problems with buying strawberries from your green grocer is that commercial strawberries are often grown with excessive nitrogen which means if you place them in the fridge they go mushy in a few days. Home grown strawberries, grown correctly, do not go mushy they dehydrate in a fridge. (Interesting bit I learnt a while ago)
You can either grow strawberry plants in the garden or in containers especially in troughs about 16cm deep.
In the garden you can work in animal manure based compost, mixed half and half with untreated sawdust. (Native timber is preferred but pine will do. Strawberries are a woodland plant and you are providing the right micro-organisms with the sawdust mix.) For containers use the above compost and sawdust mix with a little top soil added. (about 10%)
The sooner you get your new plants in the better. I find that first year plants produce reasonably if in early (about now) where they preform better the second year onwards to about years 3 to 4.
They need then to be divided and fresher plants re-planted. I like to place a few sheep manure/Neem pellets and some Gypsum in each planting hole. Water in with a mix of Mycorrcin and MBL (Magic Botanic Liquid) Mycorrcin which is an organic feed for soil life can make a big difference to your crop size as trials have shown a 200 to 400% increase in berries and size of berries.
Then a 2 to 4 weekly spray of the two products will ensure greater returns and healthy plants. By using these products I am able to keep plants producing well for about 4 years. Side dressings of Fruit and Flower Power and either sheep manure/Neem pellets or Bio Boost gives the extra food for replacing the original compost goodness.
Last season a reader told me that she also used my Secret Tomato Food as a side dressing and the result was enormous berries with excellent flavour. Some much bigger than apricots.
I tried it towards the end of the season and had a great crop of extra large berries to finish the season.
Each winter place fresh saw dust around the plants. If mites or aphids attack the plants spray with Neem Tree Oil on both sides of the foliage, late in the day after the sun has gone off the plants. (Alternative is Liquid Sulphur for mites)
If conditions are damp and botrytis is noticed spray the plants once a month with Perkfection.
If you have any dry berries (Downy mildew) then also spray with Perkfection.
My favorite method of growing is in a widow box type trough on the top rail of an iron fence. If its a location which gets a reasonable amount of sun the plants will do well. I find that the plants tend to cascade over the open side of the trough with many of the strawberries growing over the edge. This makes it difficult for birds to get the hanging berries. To solve the bird problems use wire hoops with bird netting over the crop/trough.
The main points to remember are the use of sawdust or fine bark chips, regular sprays of Mycorrcin. Use no chemical fertilisers or sprays as these harm the natural healthy environment you are trying to maintain. Your feeding should only be natural products that will ensure healthy plants and great berries.
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Grapes is a gardening topic that I have never written about previously, other than ay times various mentions in relation to other subjects.
An email recently from a reader asked:
Hello Wally, Now that the end of the grape season is over. I wondered if you might consider writing an article about pruning, disease, and general care of the vines; getting ready for next year.
My grapes are 20 years old and normally they are a beautiful black grape with a delicious flavour.
In the past few years they have formed lovely branches but as they develop, some fruit that matures well while the others turn into raisins spoiling a perfect bunch.
I've sprayed with Neem oil, copper and even one dose of condies crystals. This year has been a disaster - the fully matured grapes have not turned black and have not got their usual nice flavour, while the undeveloped tiny grapes [all on the one bunch] have turned black and have their delicious flavour.
The vine is against a garage wall, plenty of sun and well drained soil. there is no wet feet problem. What is going on ???? This year is supposed to be a bumper year for Grapes at Ohau vineyards, so I’ve been told.
l live at Manakau quite close to Ohau so the climate or area should not be an issue.
l have considered cutting the vine right back to the original trunk, but l am not sure this is a good idea or not.
I've found over the years that very little is written about table grapes, l feel sure l cannot be the only one with problems.
Hope you can assist me with this problem. Thanks.........................Frances.
Hmm, likely that is the reason that many of us do not write about growing grapes.
I always envy those gardens that have a large rambling grape vine, years old producing an abundance of juicy grapes every year with little or no problems.
I have yet to achieve that goal and know that the reasons is wrong growing conditions and even when in the past the conditions were right I would move house and leave a nice vine for the next owners.
I have over the years purchased vines, taken cuttings from vines I would die for and even grown seedless grapes from seeds.
I even relocated one vine several times over a number of years to different spots in the garden and ended up in a container and the end result after about 10 years and only the odd grape to eat it finally died likely from confusion.
Grapes need a cool winter while they are dormant and a warm/hot summer when in foliage and producing fruit.
Different types of grape have different temperature needs so one should try and find a vine type that is suitable for their climate.
Early autumn frosts can wipe out a crop and late spring frosts can damage new shoots.
A mild summer will effect a crop by not ripening properly and lack the sugars to sweeten the fruit.
Humid summers will effect the fruit causing diseases to attack and thus loss of the crop.
With our changing climate a vine that was once a great producer having a cold winter followed by a hot, dry summer, becomes a poor producer with disease problems because of the climate.
This can also be part of the reason of our reader's problem with humid conditions or a milder summer and needing a better spray program to overcome the diseases.
Commercial growers are much more on the ball to compensate for possible problems as their livelihoods are at risk plus they likely have commercial experts to guide them in disease prevention etc.
Grapes are best grown on free draining soils of low fertility. Feed your grape and you are likely to have a great canopy of foliage at the expense of the fruit.
Grapes will grow on most soil types as we see in New Zealand.
If grapes are not pruned each year, they develop many unproductive shoots and soon become a tangled mess of leaves and stems. At least 90% of the previous season’s growth is removed each winter.
Vines are either spur pruned; this is where one or two branches are permanently trained along a trellis or wire and the side branches are cut back to two or three buds. This is often what you see when you travel past a vineyard.
Otherwise they are cane pruned, where one or two new branches are selected each winter and trained along the wires, and the rest are removed.
There are two main pests of grapes a small aphid that feeds on the roots and mealy bugs.
Using Neem Tree granules in the root zone and Neem Oil sprays in the foliage will help control these pests.
Diseases include powdery mildew which you can use baking soda and Raingard to prevent and control.
Downy Mildew; a month spray of Perkfection Supa will help control and can be added to the baking soda spray.
Botrytis is a grey mould that is prevalent in warm, damp conditions, and rots bunches of grapes. Growers reduce the risk of botrytis by plucking leaves around the berries, allowing air to circulate. Very occasionally a condition known as noble rot develops in botrytis-infected grapes. The berries shrivel, then dry out and do not rot.
They produce a sweet, full-flavoured wine. (Another aspect of our reader's problems)
Liquid Sulphur is the best control of botrytis-infected grapes but should not be used if Neem Oil was used recently. Regular sprays of Condys Crystals can also help.
One thing is that grape vines can not handle herbicides such as Roundup as they are very sensitive like tomatoes.
Talking about Roundup or glyphosate, Monsanto is getting a hard time with hundreds of thousands people in 420 cities in 50 countries protesting against Monsanto's chemicals and seed controls on May the 24th last.
Also two activist groups; Moms Across America and Thinking Moms Revolution, want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recall Monsanto’s Roundup, the most widely used herbicide/pesticide in the world. Now's the time to do it, they say, because the EPA is conducting a registration review of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup.
Representatives of the two groups contacted the EPA to request a meeting. When the EPA ignored them, they rallied supporters. Over a period of three days, about 10,000 moms from all over the country rang the phones off the hook at the EPA.
A week later, five Moms Across America leaders were sitting around a boardroom table with nine EPA employees who have the power to recall Roundup. What was supposed to be a one-hour meeting turned into two.
The EPA employees stayed glued to their seats as one mother after another shared heart-wrenching stories of their experiences parenting children with life-threatening allergies, severe gastrointestinal problems, mysterious autism-spectrum disorders, and major nutritional deficiencies.
The common thread in those stories? Exposure to glyphosate.
You would not want to be a share holder in Monsanto and if the truth comes out on what they have being hiding from us for many years they will have their pants sued off them..
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
A question that I am often asked is about the need to sterilize soil in areas where a crop is grown each year, such as tomatoes or potatoes.
The reason that a number of gardeners wish to sterilize the soil in a given area is because they believe that the process will clean up pathogens (diseases) that have occurred while growing the previous season’s crop.
Some gardeners go to great lengths to remove all the top soil from a plot or glasshouse and replace it with fresh top soil.(that is a lot of work and expense)
There are also other gardeners that have reported to me that they have grown their tomato plants in the same area, year after year (one said 30 odd years) with no problems.
Some gardeners will remove their tomato plants before they start to go off, at the end of the season and send all the material to a landfill to be safe.
Others let the plants die in place and even dig the decaying material into the soil where they are going to grow again next season. These gardeners feel that the dead material contains the elements that the next crop needs and the recycling of the material is of benefit. In most cases they have healthy plants year after year outside of seasonal problems.
Another set of gardeners doing this, will find that they have diseases attacking the new establishing crop and will have many failures. Some gardeners do not want to take any risks and practice high hygiene standards.
If we take a situation of a tomato plant growing in the wild from a seed dropped in a bit of bird poo, that plant matures and produces fruit. The fruit rots on the ground and when conditions are right a bunch of seedlings will appear all in competition with each other. Many of the plants will grow to maturity and repeat the cycle, year after year.
Maybe some years a disease will strike and wipe out the plants, but likely new seedlings will appear the following season and do well.
The question must be asked, how can some gardeners grow in the same area every year without problems where others must adhere to rotation cropping over a three year cycle to avoid losses?
I believe that two aspects come into play one of which is very interesting and is likely not to be considered a possibility by many. It is the power of the mind and influence your thoughts have over plants. If we have a gardener that is worried about planting his tomatoes in the same spot as last seasons crop he somehow conveys these thoughts to the new crop and maybe creates them to fail.
Another gardener may only think of the positive aspects and sees in his mind’s eye the seedlings growing strong and true and the delicious tomatoes that he will enjoy in days to come.
Do the plants pick up these thoughts at some level we do not understand and then grow to for-fill them?
Is this the same power that we acknowledge when we say ‘that gardener has green thumbs’?
Do these green thumb gardeners have a very positive attitude about their gardening thoughts and have formed a link with their plants to the benefit of both?
I feel that there is some truth in this and the closer one feels to nature the better the results.
On the more practical side of things, that can be measured scientifically, we can see two types of gardeners in their different methods.
One gardener will use chemical herbicides, fertilisers (without thought), chemical sprays and water with chlorine in it..
The damage done by these chemicals to the soil life is great, then pathogens run rife having no beneficial soil life to balance them out, or control them.
Common weed killers such as glyphosate (Roundup) linger in the soil for 22 years (half life) and plants growing in those treated areas will not be as good as plants of the same type grown in non treated areas.
A fact of nature is if the soil life is diminished in an area then any ensuing crops are more likely to have more health problems.
Now take the gardener who avoids the use of chemicals and may only use very small amounts of man made fertilisers as a boost for a crop at the right time. The same gardener will be building up their populations of beneficial microbes in the soil by applying natural products of animal manures, calcium, composts and other minerals. Their soil teems with life, including good worm populations and the plants growing there will be strong and more able to overcome any diseases that may be floating around.
Many gardeners over the years have used a product called Jeyes Fluid or in more recent times the same but called Natures Mate. 80 mils of this product would be added to 10 litres of water to saturate the soil in one square metre. Many gardeners swear by this but a problem has arisen that the product is not so readily available.
Many years ago a gardener from Invercargill gave me a solution to control the root disease of brassicas (Club Root) It is a simple recipe where you take a quarter teaspoon of potassium permanganate (Condy’s Crystals) and 3 desert spoons of table salt into one litre of warm water to dissolve, then added to a further 9 litres of water. One litre of this solution is placed in each planting hole to reduce the damage of club root. It works well for this problem.
Potassium permanganate is a strong oxidizing agent of which the sodium chloride (table salt) complements its action in soil.
Taking the aspect of how well it helps to control club root disease (which most other chemicals do not) then it is a logical assumption that it can clean up other diseases or reduce their number in the soil.
I have suggested in the past to gardeners that wish to clean up areas in their glasshouse or soil where a crop of tomatoes is to be grown, to use the above recipe at double the rate (half teaspoon of potassium permanganate with 6 desert spoons of salt to drench 5-10 square metres of area. Leave for a couple of weeks then flood the area with water.
Once the soil has dried to moist then apply Rok Solid, Dolomite & Ocean Solids (for the minerals and calcium) Cover with a layer of animal manure based compost. Use Mycorrcin and Magic Botanic Liquid as a soil drench to feed and promote the beneficial soil life, after which you can plant up. A number of garden centres have 150 grams of Potassium Permanganate available.
If you feel the need and peace of mind to sterilize a garden area and are unable to obtain Jeyes Fluid then this would be a good alternative.
On the other hand if you have the right frame of mind, looking after your soil and the soil food web then nature will work for you controlling the diseases giving you healthy plants with crops of nutritional density.
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Winter can be a tough time for plants that grow in containers either outside or indoors, unless you take some special care of them.
Before we look at the problems these plants face, let us consider the difference between plants growing in the garden and the ones in containers.
Garden plants have nature to look after them, sunlight, rain and the soil provide for their basic needs.
It is only during times of low rainfall that you need to assist in keeping them alive with regular watering.
There are other functions that you provide such as preventing them from choking out each other with a bit of pruning, removal of competing plants (weeds), staking against damage from wind and providing extra nourishment as need be.
By in large most of the time plants in the garden can fend for themselves with what nature and the weather provides.
When we take a plant and place it into a container, we become very responsible for its well being.
Outdoor container mixes can dry out quickly during the summer and daily or even twice daily watering maybe needed.
During wet times we need to ensure that the outdoor container plants have free drainage if they are rained on. This means removing any saucers and raising the containers off the ground with a couple of slats of wood.
Over the next few months, without rain, you are likely to be only giving those containers an occasional light watering, maybe once or twice a week.
Indoor plants are much more dependent on your care as they have a harder life because many of them are living in a space where there is no natural overhead light.
In most homes, light comes only through windows and dependent on which direction a window faces will determine the amount of light the plant receives. Windows facing north obtain the most direct light where east and west facing windows are likely to receive only half as much direct light in a day.
South facing windows receive little if any direct light from the sun. These same rooms will be the coolest or coldest rooms in the house dependent on the time of the year.
A plant sitting in front of a window facing either west, north or east will receive very good light in summer and only a fraction of that in winter. If you have a sun screen curtain across the window, you have reduced the amount of light the plant receives by half. Move a plant a metre or more away from a window then the amount of direct light drops off considerably.
The further away the less light which then becomes reflected light off other surfaces.
You likely have seen plants that are stretching towards the window to gain more light, becoming ungainly and weak.
There are many different types of house plants, each type having different requirement for the amount of light they receive.
A general rule of thumb is that plants with the largest leaves will survive better in lessor light situations compared to smaller leaf plants.
Most flowering plants require plenty of direct light to be able to produce buds and have those buds open.
If you have an indoor flowering plant and it either does not produce flower buds or the buds fail to open, falling off after forming, then the plant is telling you it needs more light.
In winter the light situation becomes even worse for indoor plants. The hours of natural light are shorter as the sun is at a lower position in relation to the horizon. Plants need light to grow and as the amount of light decreases so their growth slows or stops.
Indoor plants do receive a bit of extra light from us when we turn the light switch on after dusk.
If we are using the power saving lights, then the type of light the plants receive is a little better suited to their requirements when compared to the incandescent lights.
When indoor plants are receiving less light their needs for moisture greatly reduces.
This is a key point at this time of the year and one of the main causes of plants dying.
Wet potting mix in cool weather means root rots, which cause leaves to fall and likely a loss eventually of that plant.
So in winter you must be very careful with your watering of indoor plants.
You need to check every plant every few days and basically only give them a little drink when the foliage starts to droop through lack of moisture. (Beware also that plants that are too wet will also have drooping foliage and to give them more water is likely to be fatal.)
Plant food is not needed for house plants at this time of the year unless they are flowering or still actively growing. Wait till the plants start showing signs of new growth in the spring before you start to feed again.
Avoid re potting into larger containers in winter as this also can cause wet feet till the roots once again fill the container.
You are the care giver of your container plants both indoors and outside so be aware of their needs and look after them accordingly.
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Bryophytes and Embryophytes are the botanical names given to mosses, lichen, liverworts, hornworts, molds, algae and slimes. These are what one could label primate plant-like forms which were the first land type plants on the planet, millions of years ago.
It was as a result of these primitive plant forms that began the process of building soils from rocks split and powdered by the action of water and ice.
Members of this diverse plant family are found all over the world, many growing in places where no other types of plants could grow, so in a sense they are still creating growing conditions for higher plant forms to grow.
Many bryophytes are very attractive with feather or fern like structures where others look more like something from a alien landscape.
When bryophytes grow in places we do not want them to grow they become a nuisance just like weeds.
Lichen and liverworts appear to be able to grow on most surfaces including glass, public footpaths, fences and roof tiles which are favorite spots for them. Vertical glass is difficult for them but glass roofs of glasshouses are not.
Algae and mosses growing on paths make for a slippery condition when wet and dangerous to those that can occur serious injury if they slip and fall.
Lichens that colonise on the trunks and branches of plants and trees look unsightly and can lead to rots and losses.
Mosses growing in lawns are another annoyance, not only making the lawn unsightly but also suffocating our preferred grasses.
More often than not, wherever bryophytes appear, it means a war to eradicate and control. When action is not taken they prolificate, spreading out to cause more harm.
Bryophytes cannot be controlled easily by scrapping off, as residues will be left that allow them to re-establish.
In lawns so gardeners resort to sulphate of iron to burn off mosses, which is only a very temporary fix as the acidity of the iron only burns off the top of the moss, allowing it to re-establish again fairly quickly.
There are various products advertised to clean up bryophytes such as ones that are sprayed on, then left for weathering to remove. Many of these are fairly expensive and bryophytes are like ants, you can never eradicate them as they will always come back .
Bryophytes multiply by spores of which they create vast numbers, carried by water and air they will always return.
Some years back a chemical called benzalkonium chloride, which was used in the medical industry for sterilizing instruments, was discovered to be a boon in the control of bryophytes without harming other plants.
Benzalkonium chloride is an interesting chemical been an aqueous solution and used as a detergent, fungicide, bactericide, and spermicide. It is still widely used in mild solutions for eye-washes, hand and face washes, mouthwashes, spermicidal creams, and in various other cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants, though there are some concerns on its safety as it can be a irritant, even in mild doses and very much so in stronger solutions.
The first product to use benzalkonium for the control of mosses etc was Surrender and the writer picked up on this many years ago and introduced its use to gardeners in Palmerston North though the garden centre I was operating at that time. It became very popular but was only available in the commercial pack of one litre.
I convinced Yates NZ to market the product for New Zealand gardeners, at which time it became available in 200 ml bottles. A ‘me-two’ product emerged with the same formulation called Yield and McGregors came out with McGregors Yield Moss Control also in a 200 ml bottle at a more competitive price.
These proved very popular and effective resulting in other chemical controls on the market, for the home garden to disappear.
Over the following years these brands of the chemical benzalkonium have become fairly expensive leading to complaints from gardeners as to their cost effectiveness.
The products are formulated at 500g / litre benzalkonium chloride in the form of a soluble concentrate and used at the rates of 25 to 50 mls per litres of water making the 200 ml bottle only able to produce between 4 to 8 litres of spray.
Not a lot if you have a big area to cover and the need to re-apply when the problems reappear.
Many mosses and liverworts need the 50 mls per litre dosage to have effective control where some other bryophytes such as lichen and algae can be controlled successfully at rates of 10 to 20 mls per litre.
Unfortunately the strength of only 10 to 20 mls for lichen and algae information is not always made available and gardeners can waste product using unnecessarily at the higher rates on these easier to control bryophytes.
Another brand is available from some garden centres using the same formulation and called Moss and Liverwort Control. Available in both 200 ml and 500 ml containers making it more affordable in comparison to the previous brands.
Another interesting aspect is that the chemical benzalkonium chloride is a track able chemical by ERMA which does not affect the home garden market in quantities of up to 1 litre.
But if a gardener has in storage over 1 litre of the concentrate then they must by law have a handler’s licence.
This is obtained by sitting a one day agrichemical course and passing.
I congratulate ERMA in taking tighter controls on agricultural chemicals which is in the interest of us all and the environment.
The new regulations also means that more safety information must be on the labels of many chemicals, which should help users to be more careful while handling and using.
Moss and Liverwort Control’s labels has all the new requirements for safety which at first glance may give the user concerns about using the product. This is good in actual fact as more care is likely to be taken and a great advantage to the user as you would certainly not want to get a splash of the concentrate (or the diluted product) in your eyes.
By wearing rubber or latex gloves, gum boots, protective waterproof clothing, eye protection and a spraying mask while mixing with water and spraying should keep you nicely safe. One of the great advantages of this product is that you can safely spray it over other plants without harming them but to be sure of this, it is advised that you should water the preferred plant’s foliage with the hose, 30 minutes after spraying. It only takes 30 minutes for Moss and Liverwort Control to get into the target bryophyte and do its job. If it rains or you water after that time the product will not be deactivated.
When using the product adjust your spray nozzle away from a mist to more of a jet as it needs a bit of force to get into the bryophyte. The product is systemic as it goes right through the bryophyte killing it completely and often making the target area difficult for re-establishment for sometime.
The product must not be mixed with other sprays to avoid chemical reactions but other sprays can be applied to the target area later. For instance if you have moss in a lawn; firstly spray with Moss and Liverwort Control and next day a lawn herbicide and Thatch Busta could be applied, mixed together. The Thatch Busta will also help clean up the material left behind by the dead moss.
Once sprayed and the area lightly watered 30 plus minutes later the re-entry of children, pets or wild life can be allowed. The product can be used indoors in the weaker solutions to control molds in showers, on the backs of curtains etc.
With the right knowledge and precautions applied, makes this product very efficient and safe to use.
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So often, grass grubs are blamed when patches of grass turn brown which could be the case.
The grass could be browning up for several reasons, including dry spot and porina. It doesn’t make economic sense to go out and buy a treatment for a specific problem until it has been positively identified.
You can make an intelligent guess on your brown patches by knowing a little about the life cycle of the grass grub.
Those grass grubs which hatch from their eggs 200mm or so deep in the soil in January will start feeding on roots at that level. If this happens during a dry period, the hatchlings will stop eating and will head into summer dormancy until such time as the soil becomes moist again – which is sometimes not until autumn. So brown patches appearing at this time are more likely to be dry spot. Once the soil becomes moist again, the grubs will start eating the roots of the grasses at those lower levels within the soil, and will continue eating their way to the surface.
It might be that they only get to eat most of the grass’s roots in the period from May to July, by which time the weather is cool to cold, and there is plenty of moisture around, both in the soil and in the foliage. This means that the grass, which may have little of their root systems left, will still look reasonable. A practiced eye, however, would be able to tell that the lawn was in a state of partial stress.
Having passed through their 3rd instar (development stage of the larva), the grubs then burrow down into the soil to enter what’s called their prepupal stage (when they empty their gut and become flaccid) before pupating about 100-250mm under the surface of the soil. Later in the year, they’ll emerge as beetles.
The problem of dead patches will arise when the grasses battle to grow again in the spring because their roots are long gone. The new foliage doesn’t receive sufficient food or moisture from the reduced root system - so the grasses fail and turn brown. And yes, while it was certainly grass grub which caused the problem; but as they are pupating well beneath the surface and there’s no way in the world you are going to kill them then without digging over the lawn and letting the birds eat the cocoons.
So you see how easy it is for gardeners to be sucked into spending their money on treatment for grass grub when it is very possible it won’t work as there is no grubs to kill.
My recommendation to those who believe they have a grass grub problem is this.
First, lift some turf at various parts of the lawn and see if you can see any white grubs. They look a little like small, whitish caterpillars and they curl up when exposed.
To lift the turf, simply take a sharp-bladed spade and cut a square in the lawn, about 4 to 6cm deep, with the sides being the width of the spade’s blade. Under the final cut, slide the spade into a horizontal position and lift the square of grass. Examine the area you have uncovered, and the earth on the underside of the square you have removed. Don’t worry unduly if you find the odd grass grub, and if that’s the case, don’t bother to treat the lawn.
If, however, you find a number of grubs, then put the square of lawn back and launch into a treatment programme. By lifting a number of squares over a lawn, spacing these apart in a grid formation, you’ll find out what areas are worst infested.
This process won’t harm your lawn, and the squares can easily be stamped back into place to make them level with the rest of the lawn. It is important, however, to make sure the soil is moist (but not too wet) and not dry when you lift the squares. If the soil is very dry, the grubs will be too deep down to spot.
It’s worth paying particular attention to areas of your lawn where there has historically been a problem with grass grubs, and areas which are exposed to light at night. You will need to decide on a suitable treatment in the event of finding areas of lawn with real grub problems.
Grass grubs can also be dealt to using natural controls. Birds and hedgehogs will work the lawn where they find grass grubs near the surface. Flocks of birds ripping your lawn to bits is a very good indication that they are after some protein. (grubs)
It is possible to control the pests in pasture and on playing fields by using heavy rollers in areas where the grubs are near the surface and the soil is moist. In those conditions, the rollers will crush the pests. Some farmers use their cattle in a similar manner, by over-stocking the paddock and using the animals’ weight to crush the grubs.
A safe to use spray is Professor Mac's 3 in 1 for Lawns. You attach your hose to the 2 litre container and spray the lawn with the water and contents. The active ingredients are Eucalyptus oil and Tea Tree oil along with natural plant foods in the form of manures and seaweed/fish extracts plus a wetting agent.
Safe for children, pets and wild life. The 2 litre container will treat 100 square Metres.
There is another product on the market for lawn pests that also snaps on the hose using the chemical, Imidacloprid (Confidor).
This product is extremely harmful to bees and lasts for a long time in the soil and plants and can effect bees visiting any weeds that flower in the lawn for weeks later..
Gardeners who don’t mind using a chemical, and who don’t have children or pets using the lawn, are able to do what many green keepers do, and that is to use Pyrifos G or called Lawn Pest Control. These are prills which are spread at the rate of 2 grams per square metre, using a lawn spreader for even coverage. The product should be applied either just before rain, or it should be well watered in to increase its efficacy. The 500 gram pack covers 250 Square Metres and gives control for about 6 weeks without harming bees.
One of the best ways to control grass grub problems is to get at the beetles when they are in flight in early summer using a light trap
It’s not worth treating the grubs themselves with any of the methods mentioned unless you have found them in larger numbers. And always remember to take particular care if using a chemical control method.
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We are now just about 7 weeks from the shortest day and very nearly half way through the calender year. This is the time to tidy up outside, remove spent plants to the compost; or if you have no compost bin then lay them on the soil and nature will do the rest.
A few months ago I purchased a tumbler compost device which has this barrel shaped container on a pivot so that you can turn it 180 degrees every day or two.
There are lids at either end that you remove to place material into it.
My main intention was to use it to decompose my dog's droppings.
To facilitate this I also add spent compost, kitchen scrapes and plants that have finished for the season.
Having ample tiger worms I have also thrown them in to help with the breakdown.
It works a treat and a great way to re-cycle animal droppings which later on I will add to raised gardens or use as a mulch over my gardens.
Leaf fall is starting to happen about now and recently I was asked to supply a reader the information about converting autumn leaves to leaf mold.
There are two processes you can use with one being faster than the other.
Collect fallen leaves and stuff them into a black plastic rubbish bag after spraying them with either Thatch Busta or Mycorrcin. When the bag is full tie it off and then punch small holes all over the bag using a very small screwdriver or nail.
Toss the bag somewhere out of sight but in a place where it will be heated by the sun for part of the day.
Every month or so pick up the bag and shake it and lay it down again with the previously underside facing upwards.
In about a year or sooner you will have a nice pile of leaf mold.
The alternative is to lay the fallen leaves on the lawn, where it does not matter and run over them with a rotary mower collecting the cut up leaves in the catcher.
Spray them as described above before stuffing them into the bag. They will break down faster and likely have good leaf mold next summer.
May is also the month to sort out your strawberries.
If you have allowed the runners to root into the soil you will have a crop of new plants which you can either use to replace old plants or replace plants that did not produce well this last season.
Any spares left over can be given to family or friends.
I have my strawberries in troughs suspended on a fence and they have grown well with lots of runners dependent on variety. (I have about 7 varieties including one new one, Albion which produced very large sweet berries and another old variety called Red Gauntlet which did very poorly)
I think it will be out with the old and in with the new. I also learnt from a reader that using my Secret Tomato Food for the strawberries along with regular sprays of Mycorrcin produces extra large juicy strawberries and according to the reader bigger than apricots.
I took the advise and gave a feed of the tomato food towards the end of the season and was surprised at the size of some of the fruit which were just about too big to put in your mouth.
If you have strawberries in containers or troughs then lift them out and place fresh compost and manures under them. The same can be done on open ground ones making fresh mounds to plant back in either existing plants or the new runners.
Don’t forget to use the Mycorrcin as a spray 2 weekly it does increase your crop potential by 200 to 400%.
There are some interesting things currently happening overseas which will have positive effects in New Zealand in time to come.
Monsanto the worlds biggest GMO company is pulling out all its new applications to grow GE crops in Europe as consumers do not want 'Frankenstein' foods.
Instead they are going to concentrate back into the USA where even there there are changes in the wind.
It the USA there is no mandatory labeling of food stuffs which contain GMO's and Monsanto and the Grocery Manufactures Association have been spending millions on advertising to prevent Americans from knowing what is in their food.
Referendums in California and in Washington states have been narrowly defeated by 70 million dollars worth of advertising.
Vermont is the first state to pass their H 112 bill for compulsory labeling of GMO's in food sold in that state.. Several other states are also in the process of passing similar bills.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is a multi-billion lobbying group representing more than 300 food, pesticide and drug makers, are trying to pass their “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014,” introduced recently by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), intended to strip Vermont, and all other states, of their right to pass GMO labeling laws.
It is expected that Congress will not pass this law, dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, which seeks to deny consumers the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered, and deny states the right to enact laws designed to protect public health.
How bad is that?
It only takes a couple of States to pass legislation in regards to labeling then manufactures will have to label all their products for all states about the GM content or change to non GE ingredients.
GE farmers will not likely be able to sell their products as a result and a great reason to keep our own country completely free of Ge and GMO products.
The other bad news for Monsanto is the peer reviewed studies that link Roundup to numerous health problems some studies saying that Roundup is a far worse chemical than DDT.
Also pro-GMO scientists have started to have their past studies reviewed and thrown out as being inaccurate. (Companies such as Monsanto presumably pay scientists and Universities to produce results that they want)
Agricultural chemicals are progressively making their way into your body whether you are trying to avoid them or not, according to several recent studies in the US and Canada. A prime offender is glyphosate, the main toxic ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup.
Glyphosate is both an herbicide and a pesticide. Multiple scientific findings suggest that Monsanto and global regulatory bodies have been wrong about the lack of bio accumulation of glyphosate-based agricultural chemicals.
This also applies to our own food chain in New Zealand from conventional farming.
Toxic Herbicides Now Common in Pregnant Women’s Breast Milk, Placentas, and Umbilical Cords is the title of an article by a Dr. Mercola. (USA)
Is it any wonder that many babies have health issues never seen in such numbers in the past, overseas and here in New Zealand?
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Now that the rains have moistened up the soil in many areas, it is the right time to sow new lawns, patch up or over-sow existing lawns, to thicken up the grasses.
If you want a really nice lawn you must have top quality lawn seed.
Some garden centres do have excellent lawn seed mixes which they, more often than not, obtain from the same sources that supply green keepers.
If you don't want a really nice lawn preferring a green area that covers a area of bare soil that you mow short the least number of times a year as possible, then buy any cheap seed and sow it.
For those that are more discerning and do want a great looking lawn which is a lovely green carpet, then you are on a mission to get the best seed possible.
There is an alternative, and that is to buy instant lawn which comes in strips, which you lay on a prepared area. I did that some years ago where I had a small area that I wanted a really great lawn for show. I checked out the instant lawn people and selected a pure fescue type which was stunning. Seeds are certainly cheaper but if you don't end up with the lawn you prefer then the ready to lay lawns are good value.
There is less work with a instant lawn, it can be laid by the supplier or yourself and then its just a matter of ensuring adequate moisture and a bit of food.
If you going to sow a lawn or do some patching (with patching make sure you have the same seed mix as the rest of the lawn in that area) then you need to ensure that any weed seeds in the area have sprouted and been removed first.
The best value lawn seeds are uncoated simply because seeds are sold by the kilo and if you have a coating on a seed that weighs as much as the seed (or more) you are getting far less seed than uncoated.
Every seed is a prospective plant, the more grass plants in a given area makes for a better lawn, thicker and less chance of weeds establishing later.
I always note with amused interest, that both uncoated and coated lawn seeds have a recommendation of 1 kilo to do about 33 square metres. Yet with the coated seeds you have about half or less, seeds in a kilo. Why the coating? Reasons often stated are, bird repellent (doesn't work) fertiliser, fungus control, pesticide and moisture retention.
The coating may be for one or more of these aspects. Green Keepers say, ‘You treat the problem (if there is one) Not the seed’. So the coating does not serve any great purpose other than to give you less seeds for your money. Very seldom would you find a green keeper buying and using coated lawn seed and they are the experts.
Once you have found a good, suitable lawn seed, but not sure of its viability (germination percentage), take a small amount of the seed and sprinkle onto some potting mix in a seedling punnet. Sprinkle a little more potting mix to just cover and wet down the mix. Place a meat tray under the punnet and keep the unit moist. Place on a windowsill above the kitchen sink (or similar) so you can keep an eye on it.
Then sow the rest of the seed outside, where required. Now if you find that the seeds outside don't do well and your punnet does better then you have not looked after the new seeds outside right. If you get a poor strike in both punnet and outside then likely the seed is faulty and you should return the packets to the supplier and ask for a refund. If you use new potting mix in the punnet and you get weeds germinating amongst the grasses you also have a reason for complaint.
If I was going to sow a new lawn I would broadcast the seeds, then sprinkle Gypsum over the area, mixed half and half with sharp sand, (plasters sand) to cover the bare seed. Next I would drench the area with MBL (Magic Botanic Liquid) mixed with water at the rate of 20ml per litre of water. These natural products will greatly assist and speed up germination.
If birds were a problem (after sowing) I would place some Bird Repeller Ribbon over the area. The area would be lightly watered with a hose once or twice a day if it did not rain. After the grasses were established and had the first mowing then I would give the area a light feed with a slow release fertiliser such as Bio-Boost.
If you are wanting to thicken up your existing lawn then the best way to do it is to hire a scarifier and cut the grooves in the lawn (as well as lift the thatch) north/south, east/west (mow the lawn first). Then broadcast your new lawn seeds with Gypsum. Water to settle in seeds or use MBL in a watering can to do the same. Roll the lawn with a hire roller to press seeds into the soil and grooves. Keep the area moist.
For general care of existing lawns you should check the lawn for weeds, thatch and moss. If there are a number of weeds, you can either spot spray them or use a lawnboy to do the whole lawn. Use a suitable spray for the types of weeds found.
Add Thatch Busta to the spray to remove thatch at the same time or if there is thatch in the lawn just use the product on its own. Thatch is the debris that builds up in a lawn on the surface of the soil and makes for bad drainage, moss and diseases if not cleared.
Thatch Busta is a easy to use product that you just spray over the lawn at 100 mls to 10 litres of water to cover 100 sqM. It stimulates the natural micro-organisms to eat up the thatch, converting it to food for the grasses. It will eat up to an inch of thatch in a month.
The best lawns are obtained from sowing top quality lawn seed, never mowed low, fed with slow release foods, de-thatched spring and autumn, cultivated to form a dense mat of fine grasses that make it difficult for weeds to establish.
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The autumn rains have started at last, bringing much needed relief to parched gardens in much of the country.
It has been a crazy season for gardeners in many areas and due likely as a result of the changing climate.
What we once considered normal and took for granted can no longer be relied on.
Weather events that only happened occasionally such as once in a hundred years have started to happen in more regular cycles. It was only a few years ago that scientists were telling us that climate problems were emerging, which in the next 100 years, would be devastating. The speed of the problems are increasing at such a rate, that we are already experiencing global events, never before seen in such proportions during anyone’s life time.
Oceans rising, storm surges; are not familiar words from the past and obviously with a rise of a metre level in oceans along with a storm surge will leave coastal and riverside properties worthless.
The answer to reduce the problem is very simple but not in the interests of money making multinational and national companies.
Humus in soils can store large amounts of carbon, up to 50-300 tonnes per hectare, which is equivalent to 180-1100 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is called Carbon Sequestering.
Humus stores or sequesters carbon for decades, or even centuries. Imagine if farmers started cultivating their soils to create humus rather than to destroy it? What a difference it would make to their income and the health of the country?
Each week I receive a newsletter from a organic farmer namely, John who has a block of 'paradise' land in Taranaki called Avonstour Organic Heritage Farm. (Look it up on the net)
In his latest newsletter he said; 'We are real dry in the back country against new Plymouth but once I got out of Hawera toward Wanganui it was supper dry even the saved grass paddocks and the side of the roads just a few broken sticks of seeded grass standing. No wonder the price of hay has gone though the roof. The problem will get worse in winter as the grass wont have time to grow so I’m real happy we fallow farm and have grass and feed in bulk.'
Fallow Farm? I know the principal in so much as you leave one seventh of your land fallow for a year but was not sure what this did in a farming sense so I emailed John and asked.
His reply was,
We Sabbatical fallow farm .....we shut up 1/7th of the farm for 12 months usually at the shortest day when feed is short and then we use it like standing hay.
This naturally balances the soil ,,suppresses weeds ,,gives more and better topsoil, retains water in the humus layer to give better growth.
The seed formed is the best grasses for our soil and farm .
It powers fallow land to grow well for 7 years.
The biggest thing is livestock health we never have a vet here (Well only to castrate a horse or two )
Conventional farmers cant say that as they spend a fortune on Vets.
My research on the internet found:
'Farmers who defy economic logic and leave their lands fallow for the Shmita (agricultural sabbatical) year. According to the Torah (Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:1-7 and Leviticus 25:18-24), every seventh year, must remain fallow. Agricultural work is prohibited, especially sowing, pruning, plowing and harvesting.
Sabbatical fallowing is written about in the Bible, Koran, Torah and other historical documents as the main method used thousands of years ago to retain and build up fertility in soils.
Its still very popular in many parts of the world and is used in many countries changing over to organics.
The method entails each year shutting up a different 7th of your farm from Spring right through to late winter / early spring when it can be trampled and eaten off.
The paddocks grow up to an outsiders eye like an untidy, uncut, Hay paddock, then composts and decomposes, its about 11 tonne a hectare of organic compost that feeds the worms and increases microbial activity, improves soil structure, increases soil aeration, drainage & water holding capacity. The Pastures root density & depth of penetration is improved. Due to additional food supplies earthworm numbers increase which enhances the rate of nutrient cycling.
We have observed much larger numbers of earthworms high up in the soil feeding during very heavy frosts. We have found Sabbatical fallowing enhances trace elements and fertility, increases nitrogen accumulation and conservation, gives a new covering of seeds and organic matter and gives the paddocks a rest too !
"You end up with a rich, biologically active, deep humus layer over the blocks." It gives you a HUGE feed bank of standing hay for the winter. The paddocks perform much better in Droughts and drain better in wet conditions.
Another very valid point is humus can hold 90% of its weight in water.
That is a incredible reservoir of water in the soil, available for plants as they need it.
(Thousands of litres per hectare)
Farmers like John laugh during drought times as their water is stored where wind and sun cant evaporate it. This makes the storage of water in dams or open reservoirs for irrigation a joke and a waste of money.
Change the soil husbandry and solve the problem of droughts.
Coming back to your garden and section you may not have sufficient land or gardens to leave a seventh of the land fallow but you can still use many of the principals to achieve a great garden soil that is full of humus.
Mulching of organic material, straw, weeds, fodder crops will build better soils.
Supply ample calcium in the form of garden lime, gypsum and dolomite.
Drench the soil with Magic Botanic Liquid and Mycorrcin, 3 monthly to start with and 6 monthly later on.
Sprinkle Rok Solid and BioPhos over garden areas. Do not use chemical fertilisers and chlorinated water on your gardens.
When you get your soil right you too will laugh at droughts and help with global climate change.
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The first frosts are likely to strike at any time in frost prone areas. Some of you may have already had a frost or two so far.
There are a few things you can do to offset damage to frost sensitive plants and assist cropping plants to keep on going a bit longer for better returns.
First of all you can spray sensitive plants with Vaporgard which is very simple to use; mix 15 mls per litre of warm water and then spray over plants for a good coverage. Vaporgard is a natural product that provides a long lasting (2-3 months, longer in winter) film over the foliage which protects down to –3 degrees C.
New growth requires further applications but as there is very little growth through winter, this is not needed till the spring.
Note; for the full protection that Vaporgard can give against frost and chilly wind damage comes into effect in about 3 days from application.
Putting on frost cloth and taking it off is a chore and more often or not, one either forgets or you get caught out. Vaporgard overcomes these problems and becomes an all winter, first line of defense against the chills.
In areas where there are harder frosts than –3 you will still need the extra protection such as the traditional frost cloth (Good quality frost cloth protects down to –5), combine the two together and you will have increased protection. Note, several frosts in a row will result in damage still unless you use frost cloth as well as Vaporgard..
You can further harden up plants by sprinkling potash over the area where the roots of plants are.
This can be combined with magnesium to keep foliage green through the winter.
The two are found together in the product, Fruit and Flower Power.
Weeds taken care of now, before they reseed, will reduce problems in the coming spring.
Though I am not a fan of chemical weed killers sometimes they are the quick and easy way to control the more difficult weeds.
A few gardeners recently have complained about suckers coming up in their gardens after a tree has been removed.
Some trees create lots of suckers from the still alive roots which will send up saplings to keep themselves alive.
The first answer to the problem is prevention by ring barking a tree first, that you intend to fell.
This allows both the top and the roots to die and once that has happened then you can cut down the tree.
It does not always work and if suckers start to appear from the old root system then my suggestion is to mix Roundup and Woodyweed killer together with Raingard added and paint this onto every sucker that appears. It may take sometime but in the end you should win.
Oxalis is a bulb that throws up a set of leaves, gains energy from the sun and produces hundreds of bulblets or baby bulbs.
If you take a heaped tablespoon of baking soda and add it to a litre of warm water, stir to dissolve, then add one mil of Raingard, you have made a potent foliage dehydrator of oxalis.
This spray does not harm other types of plants and can help with powdery mildew and black spot prevention..
You need to spray this formula over the oxalis foliage on a sunny day when the ground is on the dry side causing the leaves of the oxalis to shrivel and die.
It will not kill the bulb which will then produce another set of leaves. As soon as these appear you either apply the same solution or cut them off at ground level.
If done quickly enough at the emergence of the new leaves the bulb has not gained energy but has been weakened. Again it will try to produce leaves which should be quickly removed.
At some point of time the bulb does not have any more energy left to produce foliage and it rots in the soil. Goodbye oxalis.
There is a further aspect to the oxalis problem and that is all the baby bulbs attached to the now dead parent, if you disturb the soil you will bring these babies nearer to the surface where they will also produce leaves to start a bigger problem. What you need to do is cover the soil with a layer of compost and plant any new seedlings into this layer. This action further buries your oxalis problem.
Do not disturb the soil and when your flowers or vegetables are finished or harvested, just cut them off at ground level and cover the area with more compost. Simple and effective.
Wandering jew. Go to a grocery wholesaler such as Toops or Bin Inn and buy a 25 kilo bag of table salt, which will cost you between $10 to $15.00. Broadcast the salt over the area where the wandering jew is growing, its cheap, so throw it on.
You will find that the weed dies off leaving bare ground. Some new emergence will then occur and you spot treat these with a handful of salt. Later rake the area to remove the stubble and then you can lime the area and apply Magic Botanic Liquid to bring the soil back for planting up in a preferred plants.
If you have other plants growing in the area they will likely die also but well established trees and shrubs should not be unduly affected. Now $15.00 worth of salt goes a long way and is cheaper than a little bottle of chemical weedkiller for $30 which does not go far. If you have pavers/cobbles and weeds growing in the cracks just sprinkle some of your salt.
Another one is sulphate of ammonia which burns out weeds. I have used this on low weeds growing in a gravel drive. Sprinkled the sulphate of ammonia over them and they brown off and die.. Ideally you should lightly water the weeds about an hour prior to applying the sulphate of ammonia so there is a little moisture to start the burning action. The advantage of sulphate of ammonia is a short residue period, unlike table salt which is much longer.
In your kitchen you already have a couple of neat, environmentally friendly weed killers, vinegar and cooking oil. These can be sprayed over the foliage of weeds on a sunny day when the ground is on the dry side to burn off the weeds. Add dish washing soap to the oil so it mixes with the water.
Dependent on the type of weed you can dilute either of the two products with water to make them go further and be more economical. You need to experiment a bit to find out what dilution rate works best for each type of weed.
Once again buying either a cheap cooking oil or vinegar in bulk, works out very economically on the purse and you are doing far less damage to the environment or your own personal health.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
I am often asked, 'how do you work out what you are going to write about each week?'
There are 3 sources that I use; if something interesting occurs while I am tending my gardens and plants sometimes this can lead to an article.
If I get stuck then its a matter of looking back over the last 30 years of articles for ones written at that time of the year, to promote a new article.
Thirdly and the most used, happens because someone contacted me during the week with a gardening problem or a gardening solution and that is the beginnings of a new article.
This last week is no exception as two very interesting conversations transpired, one of which will very likely lead to a new natural way of controlling insect pests; there will more about this in the future.
The other was from an 80 year old lady who now is unable to do much in her well established gardens so she has a chap come in to do the manual bits.
The problem is a very old rose bed with about 20 very old roses.
The bed has become a problem because of oxalis and convolvulus, these two weeds have taken over and ruined the rose garden.
The question put to me was if the roses were pulled out and the soil removed (with the weeds) and new tops soil placed in the bed could grass be sown successfully and change the area back to lawn. .
I agreed it would work but also involved a lot of work and expense which likely both are not an easy option.
The removal of the soil and replacement would not likely make the area weed free so you can forget about that.
The area could be treated with herbicides to kill the oxalis and convolvulus but once again an expense and a long term program to ensure the offending weeds were cleared out.
The easy solution would be to remove the roses, rake out the bed and sow the new grass seed.
This would mean the weeds and grass would be in competition but the lawn mower would keep them at bay.
The next question would be about the roses and what happens to them?
The lady said they would have to be dumped as they likely would be carrying weed bulbs and bits in their root systems.
My immediate thoughts were; here are 20 odd roses likely 40 years old, varieties that may be rare and they are going to the tip.
I am sure there would be gardeners out there that would love to have one or more of these old specimens and all that needs to be done is to lift them in winter, wash the root system clean, then replant in a new home.
I know of two very active rose societies within 'cooee' of her residence so I suggested that she phone the President and see if there are society members happy to come in, lift the roses and take them home.
Seeing that the roses are for free they could also prepare the area for sowing lawn seed.
I asked if she would be sad to lose all her roses and the answer was yes, so I said why not pot up the ones she liked?
I was asked if this could be done because she had two or three favorites.
My reply was no problem and if a rose society was involved they could lift the roses she would like to keep and pot them up into the containers which she supplied.
The moving of the roses would be done about June, the canes cut back and then the roses roots cut with a spade so they could be wrenched.
The root system washed clean and most importantly kept moist till replanted.
The containers to plant them in would have to be at least 45 litres or larger and potted up using purchased compost which is weed free. My recommendation is to use Oderings or Daltons Compost.
Hopefully my suggestions will work out and well within the Lady's budget.
If you are moving deciduous plants such as roses or fruit trees the best time to do this is in winter when they are dormant.
You can start preparing to move at this time by cutting to the depth of about two spades a half circle out about 30cm or more from the trunk leaving an open trench.. This will cut a lot of roots and the cut roots will start to side root, making for a whole bunch of new roots.
In winter the other half of the circle would be cut and the plant lifted.
This makes for a better transplant.
With evergreen plants this can also be applied but because the plants are always in leaf it also pays to remove some total branches to open up the plant.
Less top growth takes less stress on the damaged root system.
Both these actions can be done between now and winter when the final lifting will occur.
On evergreen plants another action should be taken and that is to spray the foliage all over with Vaporgard about a week before lifting. This reduces moisture loss and takes a lot of stress off the plant's move.
Now is also about the right time to spray your more tender plants with Vaporgard to give them winter protection.
One spray lasts for about three months giving down to minus 3 frost protection within 3 days of spraying.
Vaporgard works well to prevent damage from winter's chills and the occasional frost.
If there are two or more frosts in a row then additional protection is needed to allow the cells to heal before being hit again.
If you are going to transplant seedlings a spray over their foliage with Vaporgard a couple of days before moving will make the world of difference to the establishment.
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I love roasted parsnips and decided this season to grow a crop in one of my raised gardens.
Parsnips are difficult to germinate from seed for two reasons, the seed has to be very fresh and the older the seed (over 12 months old) may not have a good strike rate.
The seed needs plenty of moisture to germinate so you need to keep the area damp.
The purchased seed packet gave me about a 25% strike rate which was not too bad from packet seed that is likely to be a lot older than 12 months.
This week as I was watering the patch and admiring the strong foliage of the parsnips I remembered an article I wrote about 5 years ago about the danger of parsnips and a number of other plants.
Now is a good time to re-visit that article for those that may not be aware of this problem and end up suffering as a result.
The following is the tale of a keen gardener who wrote to me and promoted the article:
‘I thought you might be interested in my sorry little tale of a vegetable attack.
I Put in a couple of double rows of Parsnips this year - for a change, and for our winter needs.
Read in a gardening article once, that if their tops get too big its OK to cut them back a bit if they interfere with your other vegetables.
So about a week ago, - on a very hot day, in shorts and jandals, and with bare arms - I gave them a short back and sides with a pairs of hand shears.
Took off two barrow loads of leaf cuttings.
Two days latter I'm starting to look like the lead part in the movie "Return of the Monster from the Toxic Waste Dump".
Both legs and arms are covered with severe red burns and large blisters, some as big as ten cent coins. A trip to the doctor confirms that it's what he calls "Wild Parsnip Burn". A fairly distressing and painful business that requires medication and some time for the skin to heal. And it can take years to get rid of the nasty red and purple scars.
The problem seems to be, that contrary to inference there's really no difference between the so-called "wild" and the "garden" parsnip - i.e. pastinaca sativa - and this kind of nasty burn can happen to anyone.
Nearly all of my older gardening friends have never heard of this problem before and were quite surprised.
Must admit I've grown parsnips before without any problems, but then I've never trimmed them back quite like this before.
So thought I'd just remind you of this little known danger of parsnips, - just in case you ever feel the urge to write an article on "The Dangers of Growing Vegetables"
Best Regards, Stuart Rae.’
I had never heard of this previously but were aware of things such as stinging nettle which can be irritating when handled. Also Primula Obconica a lovely flowering plant which a number of people can have a reaction to if handled with bare hands.
The juice or sap from parsnips causes photochemical burn.
The plants are not a threat unless you cut into the green parts and get the juice on your skin.
There is no immediate effect when you get the juice on your skin. But, if the skin is exposed to the sun, the burning starts to happen about a day later, and the skin will actually blister. If you got a lot of the stuff on your skin, you could have some pretty serious and painful burns.
The scars can last up to 2 years.
To investigate the matter further I looked up ‘Photochemical Burn’ and found that the following plants and vegetables can cause the same problem.
Family Genus: Species: Common Names: Main Compounds
Umbelliferae : Amni majus: Queen Anne's lace, Bishop's weed: 8-methoxypsoralen (8-MOP), 5-methoxypsoralen (5-MOP), imperatorin
Heracleum sphondylium: Cow parsnip: 8-MOP, 5-MOP, imperatorin, phellopterin
Pastinaca sativa: Parsnip: 8-MOP, 5-MOP, imperatorin, isopimpinellin
Apium graveolens: Celery: Psoralens, 8-MOP, 5-MOP
Rutaceae: Citrus: bergamia: Bergamot lime: 5-MOP
Citrus: maxima: Zabon: 5-MOP
Dictamnus: albus: Gas plant: 8-MOP, 5-MOP
Moracea: Ficus: carica: Fig: Psoralens, 5-MOP
Leguminosae: Psoralea: corylifolia: Bavchi, Scurf pea: Psoralens
Now it is the juice of these plants from cut foliage that can or will cause you problems.
The best way to overcome the situation is to wear vinyl or rubber type gloves and do not allow any exposed skin to come into contact with the foliage. Long sleeves and trousers with footwear such as the good old gum boots.
Place the cut foliage into the compost or lay on the soil to breakdown.
Once the foliage has decomposed there is no further danger.
I see a potential danger if young children are playing in areas where wild parsnips or any of the other plants mentioned; they could bruise or damage foliage and get the juice on their bare skin.
As the reaction time is a day or two later you would not be aware of the cause.
Careful removal of these plants would be best when children are involved.
Live and Learn.
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This week a couple of events that occurred maybe of interest; the first was from a gardener that was concerned about their pH levels. A meter they purchased to read the pH was giving some readings which would result in many plants being either dead or very sick.
I asked how are your plants looking and the reply was very healthy and growing well.
So what is the problem with your pH I asked? The gardener had read somewhere about pH levels and how some plants like Camellias like a more acidic soil where others such as cabbages love an alkaline soil, all which is very true.
So to find out what is what with the pH in their gardens they purchased a meter that you push the probe into the soil and it gives you a reading.
A reading between 6.6 and 7.3 is considered neutral.
A reading of 7.4 to 7.8 is slightly alkaline, 7.9 to 8.4 is moderately alkaline 8.5 to 9.0 strongly alkaline and 9 to 14 heavily to extreme alkaline.
On the other side we have between 6.1 and 6.5 slightly acid, 5.6 to 6 moderately acid, 5.1to 5.5 strongly acid, 4.5 to 5.00 very strong acid, 3.5 to 4.4 extreme acid and 3.5 to 0.0 ultra acid.
Most plants are either happy with or can tolerate soils with a pH of between 6.1 to 7.8.
Outside of this plants will not grow so well, or not at all, dependent on their preference for alkaline or acid conditions.
For instance brassicas love a very alkaline soil so you can dose the area well with a soft garden lime before planting. If you did the same to where gorse was growing it would not be able to feed and it would die. Best to keep garden lime away from citrus, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas to name a few acid preferring plants.
A small dose of sulphate of iron watered into their root zone once or twice a year will keep them happy or as was done in days gone by a few old rusty nails.
There is an easy test for plants that like an alkaline soil which I like to use and that is to plant two small rows of peas about 300mm apart, on one row give a sprinkling of soft lime.
If that row grows better than the other row then the vegetable garden could do with a dose of lime.
Do not place lime where you wish to grow potatoes or tomatoes as they like a slightly acidic soil.
In New Zealand in many areas our soils tend to be slightly acid but not where there is limestone.
Overtime with rain and weather the soils do become more acidic.
Using manmade fertilisers and watering with chlorinated/floreinated water also leads to more acid.
Gardens that host alkaline plants, which is mostly your vegetables, should be given a sprinkling of soft lime about every three months. This will supply the calcium that the soil life and worms require and keep the soil alkaline.
In other areas the products to use are dolomite and gypsum. These both are pH neutral but will supply the calcium the soil needs as well as sulphur and magnesium.
These two products can also be applied to vegetable gardens for these extra elements.
If you are really serious about pH readings you need to purchase a calibrating type pH meter and use buffer solutions to calibrate, not cheap.
Alternatively the litmus paper used for testing swimming pools can be used.
Place a small sample of soil into a clean bottle along with distilled water, shake vigorously for several minutes and then place your litmus strip into the solution. Take a comparison of the colour to the chart supplied. This will give you a good indication of the pH of the sample at little cost.
To another subject; last weekend I thought it would be a good time to germinate some seeds of the special mini cucumber, Iznik Mini F1 Hybrid. Last year my summer Iznik Mini carried on in the glasshouse, giving a few fruit now and then through the winter, without any supplement heating.
How much better would new plants do? Hopefully very well dependent on how winter goes in Palmerston North this year. I had also acquired some winter lettuce seeds and Russian tomato seeds from the Silvery Tree Fern tomato plants that I have grown in the past.
The best way to germinate is on a heat pad indoors so the seeds were sown in separate punnets with the cucumber in a cell pack. After filling each punnet to two thirds full with compost the seeds were sown, then sprayed with a solution of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) before covering with vermiculite and wetting that down with more MBL solution.
This was done on Saturday afternoon and by Sunday nite the cucumber had sprouted so that pack went to the glasshouse so they would have ample light and not stretch.
By Tuesday the first of the lettuce had spouted and on Wednesday the first show of the tomatoes.
Now is the fast or what? Its the MBL along with the under heat and regular sprays of non-chlorinated water to keep the medium moist, that does the trick.
Mind you even I was impressed with the speed of the cucumbers.
These plants will grow on in their punnets then be transplanted into larger pots before being potted up into their final pot size or planted out in a raised garden in regards to the winter lettuce.
MBL is Humate and Fulvic acid.
This natural product has numerous advantages to gardens and plants. as many gardeners have found out to their benefit over the last few years.
To start with it helps undo the damage that man-made chemicals do to the soil and plants, turning so-so gardens into healthy ones you can be proud of.
Well its March so winter vegetables and flowers must be started off this month to gain the most from the daylight hours that are slowly decreasing. Don't waste time and miss the seasons.
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Winter is a hard time for many plants when they are of a tender variety or if they do not like wet feet.
Water logged soils, chilly winds, frost and snow don't bode well for lots of plants.
There are a number of things you can do now that will help your plants get through the winter better.
Plants such as citrus trees cannot stand their roots in water for prolonged periods and if this happens they are likely to die.
You will be aware of areas on the section where water tends to pond and if there are any plants nearby such as a citrus tree, which don't like wet feet, then the best thing you can do is dig a trench just beyond the drip line.
The depth should be about a spade depth or more and left open.
The trench may go right around the tree or if near a fence at least in a half circle.
The idea is that rain water will drain into the trench and as it is exposed to sun and wind it will evaporate fairly quickly taking the moisture away from the root system.
If you have a vegetable plot it is good gardening practise to have a trench all around the plot for the same reason.
If you don't like trenches then its a matter of installing a drainage system to remove surplus water.
To assist in the prevention of wet weather diseases you can spray all susceptible plants and preferred plants with Perkfection Supa.
Perkfection is used for recovery from/or prevention of, the following problems, Black spot, Downy Mildew, Phytophthora Root rot, Canker, heart rot, damping off, crown rot, leaf blight, silver leaf, late blight, collar rot, pink rot, brown rot, Armillaria, and gummy stem rot.
This fortifies the plant’s cells, increases the plant’s immune system and makes your plants less susceptible to invading pathogens.
The recommendation is to use Perkfection at 4 ml per litre of spray once a month.
The next step is to make the plants more cold hardy and to keep the foliage green; for that we need a combination of magnesium and potash which is available through Fruit and Flower Power.
Magnesium is involved in chlorophyll production, which converts sunlight into sugars and 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. In winter because of the cold, yellowing of foliage is more common because of low levels of magnesium.
Once the yellowing starts to appear then already the plant is having problems and even when magnesium is supplied, it takes several weeks or months before the lovely dark green colour is restored.
During this time the plant is weakened, as the chlorophyll is not working to its full potential which makes the plant more susceptible to diseases and pests.
As the weather cools and winter approaches, plants feel the chill like we do, but plants cant put on a jersey like we can. Plant’s protection from chills and frosts comes from having adequate Potassium in their diet to harden up growth.
Thus us gardening commentators always suggest to gardeners to supply potash to their plants as winter starts to approach and to avoid too much nitrogen.
Apply Fruit and Flower Power once a month from now and through winter to ensure firm growth and green foliage.
Vaporgard is a ‘spray on’ frost protection that is used at 15 mils per litre over your more tender plants.
One application will give frost protection down to minus 3 for 3 months within 3 days of application.
Even if you are in an area where frosts are not normal, the film of Vaporgard will protect the plant from winter chilly winds and rain.
Vaporgard works a treat except when there is two or more frosts in a row, the cells in the plant do not have a chance to recover before the next frost and damage will occur unless extra protection is used such as frost cloth.
The big advantage with Vaporgard is that you don't get caught out by a sneaky frost.
Vaporgard also acts as a sunscreen against UV so the foliage of the plant will become a darker rich green within a couple of days of spraying and the plant will gain more energy from the sunlight.
If you have sprayed your plants with Vaporgard and later on you want to spray Perkfection Supa again then you need to add Raingard to the Perkfection spray so the two films merge allowing the Perkfection to enter the plant.
Hardy plants such as brassicas also benefit from protection and the easy way to supply this is with crop cover. Not only will it reduce insect pest problems but it will offer protection from elements, bird and cats.
Will we have a mild winter like last year or will the winter be more along the lines of what has happened in the northern hemisphere?
Who knows but if we winter proof our gardens and plants now one thing is for sure, they will better handle what ever Nature throws at them.
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It is March already, first month of autumn and only 5 weeks till daylight savings ends.
Daylight savings gives us a perception that the days are still long, with a good amount of time in the early evening to do a few jobs outside as well as water the gardens.
We run by the clock on the wall or our wrist, while plants run to the universal clock of the sun.
They (the plants) have been watching the days shorten and they know that winter is looming. Strawberries are right on the button with the seasonal change and have for a few weeks now, been producing runners which create new strawberry plants.
Strawberries have the ability to reproduce in three ways, seeds on their outer skins, runners in autumn and by clumping.
A few newer gardeners have asked me recently what to do with the runners on their strawberry plants.
It all depends on whether you would like some new young plants for your own use or to give to a friend. If this is the case then all you need to do is ensure that the runners move over the soil so the young plants formed at the nodules can root into the soil.
You leave them attached to the parent plant till about May and then you can cut the runner and lift the new plants for re-planting.
If you do not want any new plants for yourself or friends then the best thing to do is cut off the runners as they appear and keep all the energy in the parent plant.
Either way, to promote healthy plants, new or old, a 2 weekly spray of Mycorrcin should be applied to both.
Mycorrcin is magic on strawberries and with its use can increase your crop by 200 to 400% as well as assisting in keeping the plants healthy.
A healthy bed of strawberries can produce well for several years till the clumps get too big and production falls.
On some varieties of strawberries you will find a late crop of flowers and berries, on others they will be finished fruiting for the season.
March is also the last month to plant out vegetables you will require in the months of winter.
Any vegetable that takes 90 days or longer to mature should be planted as soon as possible.
Growing those vegetables from seed is now really pushing it so you are far better to purchase seedlings and plant them out.
When buying vegetable seedlings look for young plants in punnets or cell packs.
Larger plants have likely being stress and will then go to seed rather than mature later on.
Beware of club root problems if buying bundles of plants which are soil grown.
Planting seedlings next month or even later of plants that take about 90 days to mature will also likely go to seed.
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower are good value to plant now. The only problem is the caterpillars from butterflies and moths that can quickly destroy a crop.
Place some Neem Granules in the planting hole and on the soil surface to assist in control.
Then place crop cover over the plants supported by hoops of alkathene pipes to give the plants ample growing room.
It is also a good time to plant silverbeet and winter lettuce. (Yes there are varieties of lettuce for summer and winter.) For instance Great Lakes is a summer lettuce where Cisco and Cool Season Winguard are for the winter time.
If you are fortunate to own a glasshouse now is the time to start off seedlings of frost tender but cold hardy plants for growing through winter.
In very cold areas the glasshouse can be invaluable for growing lettuce and other hardy plants that would not do well outside.
I found last winter in my glasshouse that the mini cucumbers called Iznik Mini F1 Hybrid survived and produced slowly through winter so I have just ordered some more seeds from Egmont seeds to start off some fresh plants for winter in the glasshouse.
I also have already, from self sown seedlings, a few Russian Red tomato plants which will hopefully do well in winter.
Many tomato types will grow in winter when in a glasshouse but will not fruit unless they produce flowers and pollen in the colder temperatures.
In recent articles I have spoken about how chemical companies like to fool us into believing that their toxic sprays are safe by stating ‘Sound Science’ as proof of their claims.
In this regard I came across the following which makes a good quote for the week;
'Sound science' is only a term, an ideological term, used to support a particular point of view, policy statement or a technology. 'Sound science' is little more than the opinions of so-called "experts" representing corporate interests.
Simply put, 'sound science' always supports the position of industry over people, corporate profit over food safety, the environment and public health.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
I am writing this article in the last days of February; for general publication on the 1st March 2014.
That means we are now just about at the calendar start of Autumn; in real terms we have had autumn-like weather for a few months now with only a few summer days, most of which are very recent.
Maybe we are getting a late summer which would be nice rather than miss out altogether.
The advantage for gardeners in regions where the weather has been poor is low numbers of insect pests on outdoor plants. In sheltered areas and in glasshouses the conditions have been more favourable to insect pest populations growing and needing frequent spraying.
On the other hand the weather conditions have been stressful to many garden plants such as roses where we see the results in blackspot and rust. Even mildews have happened which is not normal for the months of summer.
A few years back a disease started attacking the box hedging and topiary of the very common Buxus sempervirens and several other species.
For those gardeners with specimens of the buxus you will likely be very familiar with the symptoms.
Box blight is the name of the disease effecting the leaves and stems caused by two fungi, Cylindrocladium buxicola and Volutella buxi. The two are often found together.
This is a disease specific to Buxus.
Both fungi cause leaves to go brown and fall, leading to bare patches; C. buxicola, the more damaging of the two also infects young stems causing black streaks and die back.
In wet conditions the spore masses of the fungi may be seen on the under sides of infected leaves, white for C. buxicola and pink for V. buxi.
I have written on the subject previously and recommended to ways to control.
The continual trimming of the foliage causes a dense plant which hampers air circulation and this means moisture hangs around making a perfect breeding ground for the diseases.
Rather than continual trimming of the foliage the removal of some branches to open the plant up to better air circulation is an obvious remedy.
Then to further prevent the spore of the diseases settling on leaves a 3 monthly spray of Vaporgard is used for complete coverage..
This puts a film over the leaves making it difficult for the spore to establish.
Gardeners that have used both these two methods have been successful from the feedback I have heard.
Now a gardener this week sent me an email which read:
Happy New year to start with.
My message relates to a problem buxus hedge plants which over a number of years decided to turn sickly, example;
The leaves turned a coppery colour . To try and find a cure I approached and spoke to some staff at Mitre 10 Petone. Their answer was that they had other people also asking about this problem and they had made contact with the growers who also were stumped on a solution. Now the moral of my story is that nothing ventured nothing gained so on went Perkfection Supa.
This took several months before I noticed fresh growth appearing , but rather sparsely .This was back in 2012. This year these plants have almost resumed original coverage. This may be useless info for what it is worth but some one may find it helpful. This has been on my mind for some time so I thought I would pass it on. Regards John.
The information is far from useless and will likely assist a lot of gardeners to retain the beauty of a neatly trimmed Buxus hedge
Perkfection Supa is ‘Synthetic Organic Phosphates’ so what you are doing, is placing this valuable material, onto the foliage of your plants, where it is very readily absorbed and transferred through the whole of the plant.
This fortifies the plant’s cells, increases the plant’s immune system and makes your plants less susceptible to invading pathogens.
Excellent stuff for helping to safely control many diseases on your preferred plants. Perkfection Siupa will also control silverleaf disease if used before the disease has progressed to the point of no return.
If you have a Buxus with the disease spray Perkfection Supa at 7 ml per litre of non chlorinated water.
A month later spray at 4ml per litre and repeat monthly.
If you want to use as a preventive the 4 ml rate should be fine. Repeat monthly.
Autumn and spring are the more critical times but during adverse weather conditions summer and winter you may also use or at the first sign of any problems.
You can also increase the health of the plants by sprinkling Ocean Solids at the prescribed rates once a year, Rok Solid twice a year, spring and autumn.
Placing Magic Botanic Liquid and Mycorrcin in the Perkfection spray will also greatly enhance the health of the plants and the soil.
The above can be used to benefit on food and ornamental plants as many gardeners have found out.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
When we wander around garden centres we eventually arrive at the place where many controls and cures can be found in bottles or containers. These will be various herbicides (weed killers) insecticides and fungicides, some will be natural in so much as they are found in nature such as pyrethrum (extracted from the a daisy flower). Others will be chemicals made by scientists to control gardening problems. How dangerous are these substances? According to the manufactures, ‘they are safe as churches’ and they will go to great lengths to produce scientific evidence to back up these claims.
However there is a growing concern amongst gardeners (and others) that maybe many chemicals are not as safe as the manufactures would like us to believe.
Twenty years ago when I owed a garden centre and gardeners would come in and ask me about a problem they were having in their garden. I would listen and then lead them over to where all the various bottles of solutions were on the shelves and ask them a simple question; “Do you want a safe to use product or do you not care”? Definitely a loaded question and only about 1 out of 10 would reply, “I don't care just want to fix the problem”
I can only conclude that back then over 20 years ago that gardeners were concerned about their health and the environment. How much more so today as cancer and other health issues have increased greatly over the last 20 years.
To find the answer to this question we would need to go into the future and look back to see which chemicals were proved to be dangerous and eventually banned.
We cant do that and all we can do is listen to the two opposing sources of information about some of the chemicals you maybe using in your garden today.
On one hand we have the manufacture, their scientists and universities funded by chemical manufactures saying, ‘no problem they are safe’.
Then on the other side of the coin we have a collection of scientists, health practitioners and universities (not funded by the industry) saying ‘harmful and dangerous’.
We can say the manufactures have a good reason for their claims, they make money.
Then what of the scientists with the opposing views?
Is it because they care about truth or are they annoyed that they are not funded?
To find the pattern lets go back in time and look at a chemical banned in most of the world that was an excellent control of insect pests namely DDT.
DDT was first synthesized in 1874 by Othmar Zeidler.
It came into use during the first world war in controlling lice, bed bugs and other nasty bugs including mosquitoes.
After 1945 the chemical was being used in agriculture through out the world.
In New Zealand DDT was used extensively for agricultural use in the 1950s and 1960s to control grass grub and porina moth.
It was also used on lawns and for market gardens.
Some 500 tons applied annually by 1959.
By the 1970s its use was restricted and it was finally banned in 1989.
Historically; some Canterbury and Southland farms have elevated levels of DDT and a programme run by the Ministry of Agriculture ensures that exported meat and dairy produce have low levels of these residues.
(DDT has a half soil life of up to 22 years) During dry periods animals ingest soil since grass is shorter and sparser and the DDT residue on the soil is retained by the animal.
In the 1980s 40% of the lambs in Canterbury, a region with low rainfall and occasional droughts, had DDT levels that were above the European unions permitted limit but still acceptable under safe tolerance limits for New Zealanders to eat..
How silly is that?
Mind you we were one of the last counties in the world to ban DDT in 1989.
In DDT’s hay day we find the following promotion;
Commercial product (Powder box, 50 g) containing 10% DDT; called Néocide. ;
"Destroys parasites such as fleas, lice, ants, bedbugs, cockroaches, flies, etc..
Néocide Sprinkle caches of vermin and the places where there are insects and their places of passage.
Leave the powder in place as long as possible."
"Destroy the parasites of man and his dwelling".
"Death is not instantaneous, it follows inevitably sooner or later."
"French manufacturing"; "harmless to humans and warm-blooded animals" "sure and lasting effect. Odorless."
It was found that it was not harmless and it moves up the food chain affecting all and sundry on the way to your table.
Now this is interesting and it is the same game that is being played out today;
In 1967 a group of scientists and lawyers in USA, founded the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) with the specific goal of winning a ban on DDT.
EDF had witnessed bird kills or declines in bird populations and suspected that DDT was the cause. In their campaign against the chemical, EDF petitioned the government for a ban and filed a series of lawsuits.
In response to an EDF suit, the U.S. District Court of Appeals in 1971 ordered the EPA (Environment Protection Authority)to begin the de-registration procedure for DDT.
The EPA rejected an immediate suspension of DDT’s registration citing studies from EPA’s internal staff stating that DDT was not an imminent danger to human health and wildlife.
However, the findings of these staff members were criticized, as they were performed mostly by economic entomologists inherited from the United States Department of Agriculture, who many environmentalists felt were biased towards agribusiness and tended to minimise concerns about human health and wildlife.
The decision not to ban thus created public controversy.
In the summer of 1972, a cancellation of most uses of DDT an exemption allowed for public health uses under some conditions.
Immediately after the cancellation was announced, both EDF and the DDT manufacturers filed suit against the EPA, with the industry seeking to overturn the ban, and EDF seeking a comprehensive ban.
The cases were consolidated, and in 1973 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the EPA had acted properly in banning DDT.
(Information from Wikipedia used)
One thing is sure; Chemical manufactures do not like to have their products banned no matter how dangerous they are to us.
I received 3 emails this week which are on the subject:
A study published in the journal of BioMed Research International, found that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, whose key active ingredient is glyphosate, is by far the most toxic of herbicides and insecticides tested.
AND The French parliament has adopted a law which prohibits the private or public use of pesticides from 2020 in green areas, forests or public space.
The law which is to start from 1 January 2020 for private individuals and the public excludes the use of pesticides on railways, airport runways or motorways.
From 1 January 2022, it will be prohibited to place pesticides for non-professional use on the market, to be sold, used or in the possession of someone..
Anyone using or found with banned pesticide products could be imprisoned for up to six months with a 30,000 EUR fine.
These prohibitions do not apply to the necessary measures such as the destruction and prevention of the spread of pests.
All groups in the French parliament voted for the proposal except for the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) who asked that ‘weekend gardeners’ have more time to learn about no longer using pesticides.
Maybe sanity still exists; Vive La France!
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
If there is one gardening tool that I have a Hate/Love relationship with it is the Weed Eater.
Over the years I have owned a number of brands of weed eaters both electric and petrol and included in this mix was a couple of bush cutters.
The history of weed eaters is:
Weed Eater was a string trimmer company founded in 1971 in Houston, Texas by George C. Ballas, Sr., the inventor of the device. The idea for the Weed Eater trimmer came to him from the spinning nylon bristles of an automatic car wash. (from Wikipedia)
The interesting aspects of this is that the Name Weed Eater is a registered company by that name and we have been plagued or helped? with these devices for over 40 years.
In principal they are a great idea; you have this motorised spinning contraption that spins nylon cord at high speed capable of slicing through weeds near ground level.
When working as they are supposed to do, they will tidy up your section in a relatively short time, far quicker than on hands and knees, removing weeds.
Far better for the environment than using chemical herbicides which end up in our food chain.
A weed eater is like having a perfectly trained goat to chew out weeds and leave your plants alone.
I have never found a goat that would only eat weeds when given the opportunity to choose between weeds and cabbages.
I did however have a goat when I lived in Te Kuiti, that loved to eat the hedge in the front of the house.
Tethered on the lawn he made a great job of trimming the lower part of the hedge that he could reach.
The hedge was about 5 foot tall and bordered on a well used footpath.
To help the goat out and also to trim more of the hedge I made a ramp for the goat to climb to the higher level and a plank to walk along as he continued to do his good work.
He would be up on the plank trimming away when a person would walk by , startling the goat who would stick his head up to see who it was.
The pedestrian would suddenly be eye to eye with what appeared to be a 6 foot tall goat!
I cant remember when I purchased my first weed eater but I have memories of motors that would not start after pulling the cord untold times and if they did start to kick over by the time you started to open the throttle they would die.
Floated engines, dirty spark plugs and after so many pulls on the cord it would finally break.
When you were lucky and you got the motor going then a bigger problem would follow; the cutting cord.
Who ever invented those cord feeds should have been drowned at birth (as my Mother used to say about me at times)
I have had the types which you are supposed to hit the centre part of the cord feeder on the ground to feed out some cord and the types that is supposed to automatic feed.
Ever try to load a twin cord dispenser by yourself and actually get it working correctly?
Both systems work some of the time and to cause absolute frustration, never all of the time.
The Electric ones I have owned solve the problem of starting the motor with a pull cord, just connect to the power and turn on. Magic and nice and quiet also, but no better in the cord feed department and with dragging a 230V extension cord around can be likened to living dangerously unless an isolating device is used.
I have also owned bush cutter ones which are like the smaller weed eater but with a much longer reach and a steel cutting disc instead of nylon cord.
Heavier to use as a much bigger motor and heavier steel in the manufacture made for cutting down scrub and small bushes where using a chain saw is not practical. (Real man stuff)
Steel disc cutting blade means hours of cutting before it needs the edges sharpened.
My original one was great, excellent brand, worked a treat but really was overkill and later sold it due to a change in where I lived.
The last time I purchased a bush cutter it was a dual purpose one in so much as you could use a metal cutter or a cord cutter. It was not expensive and came from a Australian owned chain store.
After the second or third use it would not start so back to the store I purchased it from and was told to take it with the receipt to a local repair shop.
I knew the people that worked there very well and told them of my problem with my cutter.
The manager said follow me and took me out the back where there were numerous cutters, same brand and model as mine all in various states of repair. Some were already in for their second, third and forth repair under warranty.
I was told it could be fixed but only temporary unless I was lucky.
Instead I got a cant repair chit for a refund. I went back to the lawn mower place and asked what is a really good weed eater and was sold on a nice model of a Makita, not cheap but quality..
Starts on second or third pull of the cord every time and goes like the clappers.
The problem is it has a dual cord automatic feed which is difficult to load by yourself and does not work as well as it should unless loaded perfectly.
After frustrations of trying to get the automatic cord thing working I decided to buy some preloaded spools on our anniversary day recently. First stop Bunnings as they have everything but no, lots of cords to load yourself none preloaded spools for Makita.
The attendant said they used to have Makita but now other brands. So off to Mitre 10 Mega same problem only a specialised Lawn Mower shop would have what I wanted and they are sensibly closed on a Anniversary holiday.
The shop assistant asked me if I had seen a Pivotrim on TV informals? I had not so he showed me this great gadget that is a disc with 4 pivots that heavy duty cords are treaded through to give 8 cutting cords which are so simple to replace when worn out.
The disc called a Pivotrim Pro Premium (there is a cheaper version also) will fit most motorised weed eaters. I was sold and the next step was to fit it onto my Makita.
It took a bit of time to puzzle that one out but in the end after reading the instructions many times and studying the diagrams (why do they always make instructions that most people without a degree in engineering cant understand)
I used some common sense and got the disc on. It is magic the pivots move back when the cord hits a solid object so the cord does not get worn out quickly near concrete etc. I am fairly sure it is a lot safer to use around trees and shrubs without the danger of ring-barking, normal cord ones do.
You can even do edges on mowing strips very neatly and on slopes it cuts grass and weeds in half the time of the normal cord ones.
So after years of hating weed eaters I now look forward to getting out there and tidying up the place.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
Growing citrus trees for their fruit, glossy foliage and heavenly perfume is a New Zealand tradition.
In years gone by just about every garden had a lemon tree which was a handy source of lemon juice for colds and sore throats.
Many gardens would also sport an orange, grapefruit and likely a mandarin.
These were valuable specimens for vitamin C, eating and drinks.
Back in those times before manmade chemical sprays and fertilisers came along, the citrus trees would be of high health with little problem from disease and pests.
Oh how the world has changed and certainly not for the better when it comes to health of plants and people.
I had a email this week from a reader that I would like to share with you:
I've been meaning to relate my experience with your Neem granules back to you which may be of interest.
I inherited a small citrus patch when I bought my place in Auckland a few years ago.
There are about about 15 trees which were small then (but quite a lot bigger now) - and planted closer together than is ideal.
So a perfect scenario for a severe Whitefly outbreak which is what I had about last October.
Spraying with Neem Oil etc was problematic as it's very difficult to coat the back of every leaf.
Anyway, I used about 1/2 kg of Neem granules around the drip line of each tree.
I'd say it took about 6 weeks to fully activate but I have since not had a Whitefly problem at all - if a couple of small Whitefly patches appear even now, they're gone the next time I check.
No signs of borer or other sap suckers this year either.
Most satisfyingly, because I haven't sprayed, the trees are covered in Ladybugs which can keep on top of the massively reduced levels of pests.
I have often suggested the use of Neem Tree Granules to use around citrus trees as a mulch and to assist in getting rid of pests in or on the tree.
Citrus trees when not pruned correctly become dense and very difficult to spray so pests and diseases can have a field day.
Back in days when New Zealand was a happier place and people were a lot more healthy, we used to care for our citrus trees by feeding them with Blood & Bone, chicken or other animal manures, potash, Epsom salts, urine every so often and the tea pot leaves now and then.
About once or twice a year a spray of copper would be used to keep diseases from establishing.
We would always plant our citrus where they would be free draining as we knew they would die if they had wet feet.
We would never cut the end off a branch as we knew that would only cause the branch to sprout lots of new branches making the tree too dense.
Instead we would remove total branches right back to the trunk if the need arose.
Often the great citrus trees we would see in gardens were grown from pips by a caring gardener.
Years ago during my travels to the Hawkes Bay, as a sales Rep, I would marvel at some of the citrus trees that I came across often reaching heights of 30 feet or more.
Now days we tend to have a lot more problems with our citrus trees and I put a lot of that down to fertilisers such as Citrus Fertiliser and Fruit Tree Fertiliser.
Nasty concoctions that harm the soil life, give a quick feed and then nothing till the next application.
Feast or famine stuff.
Then there are the chemicals such as herbicides that are used around the trees to control weeds.
The manufactures say they don't harm established trees unless directly sprayed but thats rubbish they get into the soil and do effect the health of both soil and established plants.
Research has shown that Roundup has a soil residual of 22 years!
Then if chemical fungicides and insecticides such as Confidor are used you don't only effect the health of the tree but your own as well not to mention the bees honey bees and bumble bees that will die if they visit your tree. (This can still happen weeks later when the tree flowers)
Most citrus diseases can be easily controlled or prevented with sprays of Liquid Copper and Raingard.
If there is a problem spray a couple of times a month apart, or as a preventing, spray twice a year, spring and autumn.
Our gardening friend has the answer for insect pests on your citrus trees by using Neem Tree Granules which most garden centres stock otherwise can be obtained by mail order.
Sprinkling granules is much quicker and easier than spraying.
The new strain of whitefly that love citrus trees are a problem easily solved by this method along with scale and mealy bugs and the beauty of it is, no harm to lady birds or bees.
(Its the emerald green ladybird we see on citrus trees)
The black Sooty Mould that is formed by the insect pests peeing honey dew over the foliage can now be remove with the new product Karbyon.
Simply spray Karbyon onto the foliage, leave for 48 hours and hose off.
Heavy deposits may need more than one treatment.
Leaves with sooty mould on them cannot gather energy from the sun so the production from your tree will be reduced.
If your fruit lacks flavour or juice then you need to apply Fruit and flower Power every month.
(You should be doing this anyway during the tree’s time of flowering and fruiting)
Follow the old ways of care and feeding and you will be rewarded with lots of great healthy fruit for you and yours.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
Fertilisers either man made or natural will usually bear the initials . Then a series of three numbers. This indicates the Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphate level and ratio to filler.
"N-P-K" ratio reflects the available nutrients by weight in that fertiliser. For example, if a 100 kilo bag of fertilizer has an N-P-K ratio of 5-7-4, it contains 5 kilo of nitrate, 7 kilo of phosphate (which contains phosphorous), 4 kilo of potash (which contains potassium) and 84 kilo of filler.
Nitrogen helps plants make the proteins they need to produce new tissues and hence grow.
Phosphorous stimulates root growth, helps the plant set buds and flowers, improves vitality and increases seed size.
Potassium improves overall vigor of the plant. It helps the plants make carbohydrates and provides disease resistance along with tolerance to growing conditions such as cold etc.
Phosphorous in the middle of the NPK has always been a bit more of a puzzle to me where I have always had a good perception of the other two and what they can do in my garden.
In early horticulture phosphorous was obtained from bird or bat droppings from various places around the world.
Reactive rock phosphate could be mined but in the garden it would sit slowly breaking down over countless years not making enough readily available to the plants that needed the mineral.
Then some smart person discovered that you could break down rock phosphate with acids to make it readily available. This is then called Super phosphate.
The problem is of course that the end product is acidic and does harm the soil life.
Used over a period of time the soil becomes inert and only able to grow plants by repeated applications of fertilisers. The plants are not healthy and attract all manner of diseases and pests which are Natures cleaners to get rid of sickly plants to make way for healthy ones.
To ensure that a crop is ok to sell, growers then use various chemicals to prevent the diseases and pests from destroying the crops. What you end up with is produce with low nutritional values laced with a concoction of chemicals. If you consume regularly a food chain lacking in goodness that your body needs, to be healthy and if that same food chain is supplying your body with a number of chemical poisons as well; you may start to develop various health complaints especially the ones we see today such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinsons, heart disease etc.
This is so fundamentally obvious and so simple that most people cant understand it. These people believe that the Government would not allow this to happen so the food chain that is common to most people is the best that money can buy. It was good about 60 odd years ago but not now as health figures show.
Phosphorous is an important element in your garden and outside of getting a sailing ship and visiting an island where birds have being dropping manure for untold time we are back to using reactive rock phosphate.
In New Zealand we have some very clever people and one of these found a way to break down rock phosphate by using microbes. The product is called BioPhos and is readily available to the home gardener from most good garden shops or by mail order.
Not only does this natural product supply your garden plants and lawns with their phosphorous requirements without damage to the soil life it has its own microbes that are used in breaking down the phosphate. These added microbes to your garden soils makes for far better soil. A win, win situation no damage and soil enhancement.
BioPhos works as well as Super, but actually better as it does not not have a ‘peak’ growth on application and gives a much longer sustained release of phosphorus to plants. Instead of killing soil life it actually supplies new micro organisms to the soil which carry on breaking the natural phosphorus down, meaning that only one application is needed per year unless you are cropping during the winter as well.
Some rose growers and rose societies recommend using BioPhos for better, healthier roses.
BioPhos contains phosphate, potassium, sulphur and calcium at the rates of P10:K8:S7:Ca28.
BioPhos is Bio Certified for organic growing.
It is pH neutral and used at the following rates; New beds work in 100 grams per square metre, the same with lawns but water in to settle.
Side dressing plants; seedlings 8 grams (a teaspoon full) around base of the plant or in the planting hole. Same for potatoes (which do well with phosphorus) Sowing beans peas etc sprinkle down row with seeds. Roses and similar sized plants 18 grams or a tablespoon full around plant or in planting hole.
Established fruit trees etc, spread at the rate of 100 grams per square metre around drip line or where feeder roots are. Apply to vegetable gardens in spring and a further application in autumn if growing winter crops. Can be applied to container plants also. Apply to tomatoes when planting or side dress existing plants.
When you obtain your BioPhos you will notice it consists of fine powder to granules with sawdust.
The lumps of granules actually contain 4,888,000 fungal colonies to aid the breakdown and enhance your garden soils.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
New Zealand has 11 known native ants yet there are many more that have found their way here to set up populations. We have an additional 29 ant imports most of which have arrived from Australia.
The World Conservation Union lists the Argentine ant as one of the world's worst invasive species.
The Argentine ant originally established in Auckland in 1990, and is now a problem in an increasing number of towns and cities throughout New Zealand. From one urban area to another, Argentine ants hitches rides in freight, potted plants, rubbish, vehicles and other such goods.
I have not come across this ant myself and from what I have heard from some gardeners I am very lucky.
Each of you reading this will know whether you have an ant problem or whether you have some ants that go about their business outside without concerning yourself.
The first problem is ants invading your home, especially in the kitchen where they are seeking food.
I remember visiting my brother in Napier some years ago and being up early in the morning I made myself a cup of coffee.
The taste of the coffee was really horrible and I found that ants had got into the sugar container (even though it had a lid on) and left their pheromone trails through the sugar.
(Some species of ants secrete pheromones to mark their trails for other ants of the colony to follow to food sources, bit like a GPS.)
The taste of the pheromone is not pleasant and its a memory I can easily recall.
Over the years I have heard some incredible stories of home invasions by ants.
People opening their wardrobe and moving the hanging clothes to find thousands of ants falling out.
Light switches on the wall bursting into fire caused by electricity arcing across the dead bodies of ants.
Piles of dead ants in heaps several inches high on the ground from the ceiling where dead ants are tossed out of a nest in the eaves.
Benches in the kitchen black with thousands of ants.
Even outdoors there have being cases where some one walking across the lawn is suddenly in a hole up to their knees when a ant nest under ground has collapsed with the persons weight.
One ant problem gardeners often ask me about is ants climbing up into their plants such as citrus trees etc. If you see ants on plants then the reason is that there are sweet substances that attract them such as honeydew or nectar.
Honey dew is the more common one and this is caused by pest insects such as aphids, scale, mealy bugs or thrips sucking/rasping on the plants foliage and then peeing out honeydew which turns to black sooty mould. Ants collect this sweet substance and take it back to their nests.
To stop the ants in the tree you need to firstly get rid of the insect pests causing the problem.
A spray late in the day with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum will knock back the pests. The spray should be for total coverage under and over the foliage followed up about a week later with another good spray of the same.
The black sooty mold is not nice and it does effect the health of the tree as those leaves do not get energy from the sun because of the mould.
There is a new product called Karbyon which comes in a 500 gram container.
You simply take 50 grams and dissolve in 5 litres of water then spray the mix to run off over the foliage with sooty mould on. You leave it for 48 hours then hose off.
This should wash off the mould unless its a very heavy layer and a further application maybe need to break down what is left.
You can do either kill the pest insects first and then attack the mould or do the mould first and insects second. Do not mix Neem Oil etc with Karbyon.
Karbyon is available from a number of on the ball garden centres or otherwise by mail order.
I have recommended over the years a number of solutions for ant problems and here they are again.
Ants coming into the kitchen simply set up one of those can things that hang on the wall and sprays every so many minutes a dose of pyrethrum.
Ants sense the natural product and stop visiting as long as the can is working. When the can runs out of pyrethrum then about a week or two later ants will start to appear.
If ants are in cupboards/pantries where the pyrethrum spray is not reaching then remove all the food and containers and spray the walls and shelves with X-it Ant.
The product lasts for months affecting any ant/cock roach etc that may come into contact with it.
If you wash the cupboard after about 2-3 months you will need to reapply.
Do not food on the bare shelves, its low toxicity but not good in your diet.
X-it Ant is not cheap at about $50 a container but still less cost than to have an exterminator come and use it.
Also you should treat the ants outside and the cheap way to do this is to use either Borax to make up a powder bait or to use Granny Mins ant Bait for a liquid one.
For Borax you measure an equal amount of Borax with icing sugar, mix the two together and place the bait outside where there is ant activity. If concerned about pets place the bait in a small glass jar and lay on its side, with a little sprinkling of bait from trail to jar. This is a good method to use anyway as rain will not wash your bait away.
Granny Mins Ant Bait comes a jar that contains Borax and Boric Acid in equal amounts. You follow the recipe to add water, sugar and honey to the contents to make up just under a litre of liquid bait which can be used in bait stations as above. If your ants prefer protein then add either of the above to sloppy cat food and place safely in a bait station. These products are available in many garden centres and some Mitre 10 stores or by mail order.
Outdoor areas of concrete, walls etc can be sprayed with X-it Ant and will effect ants and other pest insects that come in contact with it for a good period of time.
On soil areas or container plants where ants are use Biforce granules which is the same pyrethrin as X-it Ant.
These two are mainly available in stock and station agents or by Mail order. If you cant find just ask me.
Finally if there are ant nests in your lawn then sprinkle some Lawn Pest Control over the entrance and lightly water. This also is excellent for wasp nests. Available once again from a number of garden shops and by mail order.
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It may sound a bit unusual but now is the time to get organised with your winter gardens.
With both vegetables and flowers its over the next couple of months you need to plant up seeds or seedlings so that you will have crops to harvest and displays of flowering plants, in the middle of winter.
If you plant late; say April through to June then there will be not much growth till the spring and then the vegetables will go to seed and be a waste of time. For flowers plants it is not a problem.
Planting vegetables such as brassicas at this time of the year can be a problem because of white butterflies and their caterpillars devouring your young plants.
The best solution I have found for this is the following;
If growing winter cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli from plants then check the plants you buy for the little yellow eggs of the white butterflies and rub them off the leaves so the plants are clean.
Also don't buy seedlings that are big as they are likely to have been stressed and may go to seed prematurely.
Instead look for nice young plants and if a bit too small to transplant don't worry they are good value for you to grow on till they are big enough to transplant.
I like to spray the seedlings a few days before transplanting with Vaporgard as this reduces the transplant shock and the plants stand up without laying down as you often see with transplanting seedlings. They get away to a quicker start.
Also remember to plunge the punnet into a bucket of water to throughly wet the mix before removing the seedlings. This reduces root damage.
When you make the planting hole, place some Neem Tree Granules into the base of the hole alone with some Rok Solid. Also sprinkle the same onto the soil around the seedlings.
The Neem Granules help to protect the plant from insect pests and the Rok Solid assists in root development and supplies about 80 odd minerals and elements for a healthier plant and more nutritional value for you.
Doing this only will help with caterpillar control but the next step will make sure you don't have the pests on the plants and in amongst the curds of cauliflowers and broccoli when you harvest.
The total protection is by using hoops of alkathene pipe and crop cover mesh.
You place lengths of the pipe into the soil making a hoop thats about 1 metre tall over the row of plants.
The pipes are spaced about 50 to 70 cm apart.
Then take your crop cover which is 4 metres wide and place it over the hoops and on the windward side cover it with soil to hold secure. On the ends and the other side place lengths of old 100 x 50 (4 x 2) wood to hold in place. This allows you to open up and weed as needed.
The rest of the time the plants are protected from insects, birds, cats and strong winds.
The cover gives at 15% shade factor which in a sunny situation is also good value.
It allows rain or overhead watering with a soft wand to wet the soil still.
Winter vegetables such as leeks should be planted as soon as and followed up with your brassicas over the next month or two. Remember to add natural products such as animal manures, blood & bone and Garden Lime. If you don't feed the soil you don't get the results.
Palmerston North has had unusual weather patterns since August.
August was a brilliant month after a mild no frost winter here; since then its been very piece meal.
Ample rain but chilly winds and not many hot summer like days.
What I have noticed as a result is very little damage by psyllids on tomato plants outside and I have not seen any white butterflies except the odd ones.
Last season I could not grow a tomato plant out in the open so this year I am using a Quarantine house and insect proof glasshouses to grow tomatoes and other crops.
Aphids and whitefly are in the glasshouses; weekly I need to spray for control, but no psyllids.
The weather here has been such, that populations of psyllids have not grown and thus outdoor tomatoes are doing well so far.
The glasshouses are a real asset and I highly recommend you keen gardeners to invest in one before winter so you can extend your growing season.
In some areas like here in Palmerston North it is the only way to grow some heat loving plants such as okra, luffa, cucumber, chilli and capsicums with a good degree of success even at this time of the year.
For instance outside in the open dwarf beans and normal type climbing beans are doing well but snake beans are struggling. Not enough heat.
If you are going to buy a glasshouse type unit then the best is definitely glass as opposed to plastic or other materials. Glass may break if you play cricket on the lawn but it will out last as many years as you can garden, otherwise.
Its easy to clean and maintain and unlike plastic film or similar materials it is not effected by UV so does not have to be replaced every few years.
By placing quarantine cloth over the vents and doorway you can make your glasshouse fairly insect proof. (You can take insects into the house on plant material or even in soil/compost mixes.)
If you need some information on glasshouse growing you can grab a copy of my book; Wallys Glasshouse Growing for New Zealand.
With the world’s weather patterns changing it could mean a glasshouse is the only way to have a reasonable control over the environment and be able to grow the plants you want.
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Welcome back to a new year of gardening columns and hopefully your Xmas and New Year was good and relaxing.
Relaxing in the garden is an excellent way to relieve day to day stress.
Pottering around, mowing the lawns, watering the plants are great activities to take your mind off problems, letting it flow with Nature.
While outside you can also get your body’s much needed dose of Vitamin D if you use Virgin Coconut Oil to protect your skin instead of sun screens.
Sun screens prevent the body gaining Vitamin D and lack of this vitamin leads to cancer as research has found. People with cancers have low levels of vitamin D and in worst cancer cases, nil.
You have to be sensible about it and apply the Virgin Coconut Oil before going out into the sun and not staying too long initially, building up to longer periods as your tan develops.
When returning indoors wash and apply more Virgin Coconut Oil. It repairs and protects your skin and reduces wrinkles and blemishes.
Its getting out into sunlight after winter that helps give us that come alive feeling in spring.
During the holidays one of the many phone calls I received was from a retired farmer who told me that if it was not for his gardens he would go mad. (I feel the same way)
He also told me of a neighbour with a young family that was struggling so he offered them one of his 5 gardens to grow some vegetables for themselves. They never took up the offer.
I have since wondered if it was because they have never gardened and did not want to look silly in front of him.(Obviously an expert gardener)
Digging over land and making a garden is a daunting task and what results are achieved maybe poor unless a lot of preparation goes into making a good vegetable garden.
The simple and easy way is to grow in containers using purchased compost as the growing medium.
Then raised gardens, using roofing iron are excellent for growing lots of vegetables.
You may think what is the point when you can buy produce fairly cheaply dependent on the time of the year. Unless that produce has being grown organically you are really buying a pot pori of chemicals all of which can accumulate in your body making way for cancer and many of the other health problems we see today.
The produce not only contains numerous chemicals and more often than not it lacks flavour as well.
Scientists tell us that this chemically grown produce has only about 20% of the goodness that your produce you can grow has.
No wonder there has been a major increase in health problems over the last 40 years and getting worse year by year.
If you want good health then get a few containers and start growing some really healthy vegetables.
Use only natural products such as animal manures (sheep Manure pellets) blood & bone, Bio Boost, garden Lime, gypsum and dolomite. For the minerals and elements your vegetables need; use Ocean Solids, Rok Solid and Magic Botanic Liquid.
Grow your own lettuces, silverbeet, radishes, spinach, dwarf beans and spring onions to start with as they are easy and require little effort to obtain good results.
Avoid chemical sprays including herbicides.
During the holidays I received an email from a reader which I would like to share with you.
The America Author, Jeffrey Smith apparently was in New Zealand at sometime and recorded a short video clip about glyphosate weed killer.
The email read:
Monsanto have been convicted for misrepresenting glyphosate as biodegradable In fact, it has been recorded still active more than 20 years after application....
Glyphosate does not biodegrade when applied in waterways....... it is toxic!
Please take time to watch this (just under six minutes) on glyphosate (Roundup and others) and what it does to our environment, all living beings and our country. End
The link is http://vimeo.com/82810923
I have written similar in the past to try make gardeners aware of the health issues this chemical causes.
Grow as much as you can naturally and your health and the health of your children will be far better for it.
I recently turned 68 (just a baby as one 86 year old lady said to me on the phone today) and by taking care of my health and well being I can say for a fact that I feel and are a lot healthier than I was 8 odd years ago. I get up in the morning and feel really good, no niggly aches or pains or health issues.
I put this down to being more careful about what I eat, preferring food from my container gardens.
Taking a few natural health giving foods such as Virgin Coconut oil, MSM and capsulated herbs that we capsule ourselves such as turmeric, cayenne pepper and ginger.
Did you know that cayenne pepper with ginger is great for your heart and circulation?
If you want to look after your heart health then do some research on Heart Food.
I have a friend that loves hot chilli peppers and has done so all his life. He grows the hottest ones possible and eats them like candy. Now he is 86 years of age (looks more like 50) and has never had any heart disease. Unfortunately I cant eat hot peppers but in capsules its not a problem as long as taken with other food.
Your health is your greatest asset and as Hippocrates said, Let Food be thy Medicine and let Medicine be thy Food. (Best out of your own home garden)
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