LIST OF ARTICLES CURRENTLY AVAILABLE: Updated 7/4/2014

DISCLAIMER: Gardening information and articles found in these pages are written by Wally Richards (Gardening Columnist)
They are compiled from his own experiences gardening and information gathered from other gardeners over the years.
The articles may mention uses of gardening products that may or may not be registered for the purposes mentioned.
They are supplied for you to make your own personal judgements on their validity.
Wally Richards
If you have ideas that will also help other gardeners in their endeavors, please relay them to the writer.

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Written by Wally Richards.

APRIL 2014

SHIFTING PLANTS

MARCH 2014

VEGETABLES THAT CAN HURT YOU

GARDENING IN MARCH 2014

WINTER READY YOUR PLANTS

AUTUMN GARDENING

BUXUS HEDGE DISEASE

FEBRUARY 2014

GARDENING WITH CHEMICAL POISONS

WEED EATERS

CITRUS TREE CARE

PHOSPHATE

JANUARY 2014

ANTS

PREPARING FOR WINTER

GARDENING FOR HEALTH

DECEMBER 2013

CHRISTMAS GARDENING GREETINGS

STRESS

NEW GARDENING AIDS

NOVEMBER 2013

GADGETS TO MAKE GARDENS BETTER

CODLIN MOTH AND OTHER PESTS

ROCK YOUR GARDENS

HAVE YOU GOT YOUR GARDENS COVERED?

HEALTHY VEGETABLES

OCTOBER 2013

USING YOUR EYES GARDENING

LABOUR WEEKEND 2013

IT IS TOMATO TIME:

THE JOYS OF GARDENING

SEPTEMBER 2013

SPRING GARDEN PESTS

SPRING FLOWERS

GARDENING KNOWLEDGE

SEPTEMBER GARDENING 2013

AUGUST 2013

SOME GARDENING TIPS FOR THE NEW SEASON

ROSES

BEES IN YOUR GARDEN

DO NOT DELAY PLANTING SEED POTATOES

GERMINATING SEEDS

JULY 2013

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO GROW THIS SEASON?

LIFTING YOUR GARDEN WITH RAISED BEDS

START REDUCING PEST AND DISEASE PROBLEMS FOR THE NEW SEASON

REPLACING LOST MINERALS AND ELEMENTS

JUNE 2013

FRUIT TREE TIME

THE WINTER SOLSTICE 2013

NEW ROSES ARE IN FOR 2013

NEW SEASONS POTATOES

STRAWBERRY TIME

MAY 2013

HUMUS

AUTUMN LEAVES

BRYOPHYTES (MOSS AND LIVERWORTS)

Gardening MAY 2013

APRIL 2013

HOUSE PLANTS CARE IN WINTER

AUTUMN GARDENING

KNOW YOUR CALCIUM

LAWN TIME PATCHING OR SOWING A NEW LAWN

MARCH 2013

EASTER GARDENING 2013

WINTER PREPARATIONS

DROUGHT TIMES

MORE FOR LESS

MARCH GARDENING 2013

FEBRUARY 2013

SEED TIME

HARD TO KILL WEEDS

CITRUS AND OTHER THINGS

JANUARY 2013

INSECT PEST CONTROL

JANUARY GARDENING

BEE PROBLEMS

HAPPY NEW GARDENING YEAR

DECEMBER 2012

WHEN TO PLANT

CHRISTMAS TIME

GROWING TOMATOES

DECEMBER 2012 GARDENING

Next set of articles

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.

SHIFTING PLANTS

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.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES


VEGETABLES THAT CAN HURT YOU

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.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES



GARDENING IN MARCH 2014

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.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES


WINTER READY YOUR PLANTS

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.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES


AUTUMN GARDENING

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


BUXUS HEDGE DISEASE

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.
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GARDENING WITH CHEMICAL POISONS

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!
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WEED EATERS

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.

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CITRUS TREE CARE

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:

Hi Wally,
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.
Regards David.

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.
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PHOSPHATE

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.
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ANTS

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.
see www.0800466464.co.nz

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PREPARING FOR WINTER

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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GARDENING FOR HEALTH

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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CHRISTMAS GARDENING GREETINGS

Another calendar year is coming to a close and that means we are about halfway through the gardening year.
I cant remember how long ago it has been since one could write the simple statement; What a great gardening spring? There must have been one somewhere, back in time past.
The weather this spring was certainly a dampener for gardening over most of the country.
When things started to settle to a spot of good spring weather it would belly-up and be more like our mild winter.
Weather patterns are certainly not like they were 20, 30 or 40 years ago, each decade seems to bring a new batch of weather to change again into yet another new cycle.
During the week, while emailing a new gardener about his weather elated problems, I came up with a code for gardeners; Enjoy what you have achieved and make adversity a challenge.
If you like it then its yours.
In actual fact I have had a very good spring growing season thanks to the new conservatory glasshouse that I put in last year.
This has given me 3 glasshouses from a small lean-to to a 6 x 4 and then a large conservatory with a quarantine area between the last two.
Using Quarantine cloth has been great, keeping insect pests out and giving better temperature control. Not all insect pests are being kept out and the few that sneak in are easily controlled as long as I spray about every 1 to 2 weeks with Neem Oil and Key Pyrethrum.
I have inside these glasshouses tomatoes that are nearly ready to pick (they are black when ripe) mini cucumbers which we have had to give a lot away as we cant keep up with the vines production. Capsicums, chilli, egg plants, luffa and okra are all in fruit and soon will be able to start harvesting.
Out doors in my raised gardens the hardy plants such as lettuce and brassicas have done well but the sweet corn planted in September is making cobs at this time but the plants are so short at about 30cm tall so I don't know how the cobs will be. Obviously they did not like the temperatures they have had to put up with while growing.
Fruit wise we have picked the cherries and they turned out good (the tree is only second year in a 100 litre tub) strawberries have produced better in the last month or so and now freezing the surplus for jam later on.
Not much problem with curly leaf this season and a loquat I have had in a container for years has fruited for the first time.
Raspberries, logan berries etc are all fruiting well and not much problem with birds. Feeding the local birds every morning with fresh bread fills them up so the fruit don't get damaged as much. Also bird netting over the strawberries helps.
I plan to plant some more sweet corn now the weather has settled a bit and also a later crop of potatoes which I will keep protected from the psyllids with Quarantine cloth.
Roses have taken a hammering with the weather and lots of yellowing leaves and blackspot.
Will try a mix of the New Liquid Copper and Liquid Sulphur as a spray and see how that fares with the new growths and flowers.
Don't forget to dead head your roses and even on established plants trim back the canes to produce new side shoots and more flowers.
Spring bulbs such as tulips should have been lifted and allowed to dry so they can be stored. Daffodils and Freesia can stay where they are unless the clumps need dividing. If that is the case lift them, break them up and store till autumn for replanting.
Store dry bulbs in a cool dark place for autumn planting.
Garlic planted in June should be about ready to lift and dry. If you have plants going to seed lift them straight away. I think the weather has confused them and sent plants to seed sooner than normal.
If you are growing pumpkins and other curbits such as water melon make sure they set fruit by pollinating the female flowers and the resulting fruit should have a bit of plywood between them and the soil so they will store better later on.
If you are having problems with Argentine ants (or others) as one gardener I spoke to during the week from Nelson told me. He was using a product called X-it Ant as a spray over hard surfaces such as concrete paths, walls, etc and another product called Biforce for areas such as lawns, gardens etc.
The products are not cheap but have a good residual period of control.
I noticed that there are not many stockists such as garden centres and chain stores more likely available in stock and station agents. Mail order is the best way such as www.0800466464.co.nz
I hope you have got most of your Xmas shopping done and remember your local garden centre as they not only have plenty of plants for gift ideas but many stock interesting gift lines as well.
What to do in your garden over the next few weeks?
Ensure the plants have adequate moisture but don't flood the gardens with irrigation systems.
Keep up a spray programs for pests insects as the milder winter will have allowed a lot more to breed.
Use only natural products such as Neem Oil and Key Pyrethrum later in the day.
Chemicals such as Confidor kills bees even weeks later after spraying.
If you want to have healthy plants and soil spray Magic Botanic Liquid and Mycorrcin about every 14 days. You can add Neem Oil and Key Pyrethrum to the same spray doing 4 jobs in one spray.
Also sprinkle Rok Solid around existing plants for all the extra minerals and elements plants need.
This is my last article for this year and will be back in January for another year.
So to all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a great happy New Gardening Year.
I will be around to answer your questions through the festive season.
Wally Richards
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STRESS

Stress affects plants as well as all life forms as far as I am aware.
We suffer stress in our day to day lives and this time of the year is especially stressful for some people.
As there are different forms of stress which humans can be affected by, there is also different forms of stress that plants can suffer by.
The most obvious of these is moisture either not enough or too much. Not enough moisture the plant starts to dehydrate and the lower leaves tend to flatten out to shade or cover the surrounding soil helping to prevent moisture loss from the soil.
Thew upper foliage also droops and without receiving a good amount of water to moisten the earth the plant will wither and die.
Too much water we call wet feet which means there is excessive amounts of water around the roots with little or no oxygen; then the roots will start to rot unless its a bog type plant.
As the roots rot the foliage will droop and leaves will begin to fall off until the plant dies.
Some plants will try to remove the water from around their roots by taking up water to the leaves where it forms as drops of water on the tip of the leaves.
Wet feet is fatal to a number of plants such as citrus trees.
Plants also suffer stress from weather conditions such as rapid temperature changes (going from cold to hot and back to cold) wind damage, heat, cold/freezing, insufficient light or too much sunlight.
Planted in the wrong situation a plant can stress out because of a range of things such as soil conditions, pH, shade or sun, wet or dry, fertile or barren. Too much food or not enough, unbalanced nutrients which are locking up, missing elements are all problems that will cause stress.
(Use Rok Solid and Magic Botanic Liquid for unlocking and supplying all the elements) When you move container plants, you create a problem as the plant has to readjusting to the new situation.
Ficus Benjamina is a pot plant that hates to be moved from one spot to another unless the new spot is identical to the old spot, otherwise it will leaf drop and then produce new foliage as it adjusts. Plants that are attacked by insects can be likened to you having a multitude of leaches or mosquitoes attacking your body. (Thats stressful)
Leaf diseases such as black spot, mildew etc often appear on plants when conditions favour them or when a plant is in stress for some reason.
If say your fruit tree that is laden with fruit sheds its crop, then the tree is in stress for some reason.
If it sheds part of the crop it is likely self thinning the fruit as it cannot support all the crop or; so that the better larger fruit have sufficient room to mature.
If you think that you are facing several types of stress related issues in your life currently then think again what our plants have to face. (Does that make you feel better?)
Seedlings in punnets can easily become stressed when their root systems fill the punnet and the mix dries out quickly. I have seen seedlings in stress in chain stores because the staff don't water often enough.
It is especially bad this season because of the weather and people not planting out as they would in a better season leaving a lot of old over grown stock.
I went to one hardware chainstore recently to pick up a few things and also obtain a few vegetable seedlings; all that was on display was over sized plants which would have already been in stress a few times and a total waste money buying and of time planting.
If its vegetable seedlings you are going to buy look for the small plants which have a bit of growing to do before they get too big for the container they are in.
If you buy the big plants what will happen is you plant them out, they grow on for a few weeks then before maturing they go to seed.
When I owned a garden Centre and nursery we would throw vegetable plants out, once they were too big and in danger of going into stress and replace them with smaller healthy plants.
Now this rule does not apply to plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers etc which you want to flower and fruit. Likewise flower plant seedlings, the bigger, the better as we want them to flower as soon as. But brassicas, lettuce, onions, leeks, silverbeet, beetroot, spring onions, spinach etc you want them to mature and not waste your time going to seed.
I have had a few complaints from gardeners recently on this very problem.
While we are on the subject of brassiacs it would be a good idea if planting out over the next few months is to place Neem Tree Granules in the planting hole and also on the soil surface.
This is to help with the control of aphids and caterpillars.
Then after planting put some hoops over the row and cover with crop cover.
It only costs about $5.00 a metre and its 4 metres wide.
Keeps those plants free of pests and makes preparation of them for the table an easy job.
The cover can be used time and time again.
Recently I purchased a 5 litre pump-up sprayer to do those inbetween jobs that my big back pack sprayer is a hassle to use and my favourite trigger sprayers are too small.
Looking at the range of pump-up sprayers about the 5 litre size, they varied in price from twenty odd dollars upwards. I have purchased over the years numerous cheaper sprayers which all end up in the rubbish bin often sooner than later.
Instead I opted for a more expensive Hills sprayer and after using it I am glad I did.
So easy to use and clean afterwards I am back to being a happy chappie when I need to spray.
So treat yourself or someone to a decent sprayer this Xmas you will thank me for it.
Well about one more article for the year after this one so look after yourselves and your gardens over the festive season.


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NEW GARDENING AIDS

Solutions to solving gardening problems without endangering yourself and the environment are always welcome in my gardening shed. (I don't actually have a gardening shed but similar)
There are two brand new products being released this month the first of which is a new copper spray using the revolutionary concept of Copper Sulphate.
In the past I have always considered copper sulphate as not being suitable for most gardening activities and now after reading the proven uses of this new formulation I am impressed.
The copper is a concentrate liquid branded; Liquid Copper and should be available in most garden shops (Not Bunnings or The Warehouse)
Liquid Copper is a tribasic copper sulphate in the form of a suspension concentrate in a liquid form which is more convenient than having to mix a copper powder with water .
The product is compatible with most garden sprays but don’t mix with lime sulphur or Surrender.
It is also best not to mix copper with any spraying oils including Neem Tree Oil as oil tends to reduce the effectiveness of any copper spray. Oils are used for smothering scale, mites and thrips and if any of these are present then it is better to do a separate spray for them.
Use also straight after pruning to help prevent diseases entering cuts before they seal.
The commercial brand name of this product is registered for the following plants diseases:
Anthracnose, Ascochyta Blight, Angular Leaf Spot, The following Blights: Common, Early, Late, Halo, Bacterial, Spur and Fireblight. Downy Mildew, Brown Spot, Brown Rot, Leaf Curl, Shot Hole, Bladder Plum, Bacterial Blast, Black Spot, Grease Spot, Septoria Spot, Bacterial Leaf Spot, Rust, Crown Rot, Bacterial Canker, Stemphlium, Bacterial Brown Spot, Melanose, leaf Spot, Cane Spot and Cane Wilt.
Best used as a preventive prior to the first sign of a disease and as a control to prevent spread in plants.
Liquid Copper comes in a 250ml concentrate bottle making 83 litres of spray Add to water for better mixing as opposed to adding water to the copper liquid.
This Copper gives you another safer alternative to harmful chemical sprays. It can be used all year round.
USE WITH RAINGARD at 1 ml per litre of spray to give rain proofing for 14 days.
Otherwise no other spreaders or stickers need to be added as the Liquid Copper already has these features.
The Raingard just extends the life of the copper film on the foliage no matter what the weather conditions.
Wash out sprayer afterwards. If concentrate copper comes into contact with skin wash off under running water.
The Next new product is one that solves a problem that a solution has been sort after for years; to remove black sooty mould off plants.
Called KarbyonTM it is Micro encapsulated potassium bicarbonate 900g/kg in form of water soluble powder.
Used at 50 grams per 5 litres of water. (Scoop provided in container is 50grams when filled level) To mix place 2.5 litres of water in spray tank, while mixing slowly add the 50 grams of KarbyonTM then the other 2.5 litres of water. (Warm water will be better to use) When spraying ensure a good spray coverage to run off for optimum disease control.
48 hours later spray the target plant with a jet of water from the hose.
If not all the sooty mould is removed then a second application of KarbyonTM maybe needed.
There is a withholding period which is; Do not apply within 7 days of harvest of food crops.
Storage Instructions: Store below 35oC. Keep out of reach of children. Store out of direct Sunlight. Keep container tightly closed. Do not store diluted product.
Karbyon is used for not only removing black sooty mould off plants but also for the prevention of powdery mildew on plants. That means it will also help prevent black spot on plants.
For either of these uses I would recommend adding Raingard to the spray so it does not was off in rain for up to 14 days. If using for black sooty mould then do not add Raingard to the spray as you do want to wash it off after 48 hours.
The cause of the black sooty mould is insect pests such as whitefly, scale, mealy bugs, aphids and thrips all of which feed on your plants and then pee out honey dew. The honey dew turns to black sooty mould and also attracts ants.
You can do one of two things, firstly kill the insects that are causing the problem by spraying Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum mixed together or you can treat the sooty mould first and the the insects afterwards.
Black sooty mould not only makes the plants unsightly it also reduces the energy the plant can obtain from sunlight. The plants are not getting the energy they should and pest insects are sapping their vital energy as well. The plants are in stress and can lose leaves, fruit, flowers and eventually die.
A real problem on citrus trees is from the Australian White Fly which arrived in Auckland in 2000 and now spread over a lot of the country.
At least now you have a means of removing the sooty mould.
Ask at your garden centre for Karbyon and if they say they don't know about it tell them to get in contact with me. Happy gardening Wally Richards.
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GADGETS TO MAKE GARDENS BETTER

Over the last 50 odd years I have come across a number of ideas or gadgets that are supposed to make your gardens better or give you an edge in growing healthier plants.
I have tried a number of them; often with little or no real difference in the end results.
Some are products that were supposed to do great things for your plants touted with great sell pitches lacking any proper field trials to validate their performance.
Nature is a fickle thing and a plant’s performance is dependent on a number of factors from soil health to weather conditions.
To validate any idea or gadget one needs to do a controlled experiment.
A plant type or several plant types are chosen and placed in two groups, either in containers or open ground, in proximity to each other.
All the plants are treated identical in all respects such as the amount of sunlight they receive (being close to each other) the same amount of water each receives (as a type maybe, not overall), the same nutrients supplied to all, either at planting time or later.
So all and all the plants should grow identically according to type.
Unfortunately that is not always the way as any gardener will know, plant 20 seeds of a species and the resulting plants will not all germinate at the same time or all grow exactly the same.
For the purpose of the experiment we assume the plants used in the control and the test batches would be the same except for what ever extra we are going to do to the trial plants.
If the trial plants grow better and stronger than the control plants or mature earlier and produce a better crop or flowers then the gadget or product we used proved to be better than not using it.
There needs to be a marked difference between the control and the experimented otherwise its just the fickleness of Nature that has caused the difference.
For instance I brought a product in from Parker India that was supposed to make better growth and produce better results on crops.
I did a trial in a raised garden to find out how good it was and found that my control plants grew far better than the ones which the product was used on. (I now have a 200 litre drum of the stuff if anyone is interested)
I remember one which was to place copper rods in your garden which was to bring in all sorts of things to bear such as cosmic forces, magnetic fields and electricity. Well the copper rods tarnished and and the angels didn't visit.
Some actually do make a difference such as a powder that would promote greater root development hence a bigger plant faster. It worked but the retail price was very expensive and I found that if you used a bit of gypsum and Rok Solid at the same rate as the product recommendation it worked just as well at a fraction of the price.
Then there is the Moon Gardening aspect, planting and gardening by the moon cycles.
There is a certain time in the 28 day cycle which is the best time to plant seeds as the germination will be better and the plants stronger. This is normally at the new moon time and through the 1st quarter.
As a nurseryman years ago I would be planting seeds every day for nearly 360 days of the year and if the ones planted during the new moon or first quarter were better strikes than the seeds sown during the full moon or last quarter I certainly didn't see it.
So does it actually work? I believe so, as its mind over matter and if I tell you that if you plant seeds on a special day for you; such as your birthday you will have great success and if you believe me, then it most likely will happen. A bit like taking two identical plants in pots, side by side on a window sill; with one of them each day you think happy thoughts and tell the plant how much you love it.
The other plant you think hate and tell it how much you despise it and wish it dead. Do it right and it will die after a while (sooner dependent on how more powerful your thoughts are) Another interesting aspect that I have come across is products that people have told me about that have made a very noticeable difference on say pasture or cropping land.
With only one application there is great improvement in the grass or crops within a short time. I have taken a sample of the product, used it on some containers, seedlings and raised gardens and never noticed an appreciable difference. Yet I firmly believe that the trials and comments from observers are correct.
My reasoning tells me that their soil was in a poor state with locked up chemical nutrients and thats why it worked so well. Starting to bring back some balance.
With my earthworm invested gardens and containers they are in a near perfect natural balance so no great change.
A couple of months back I received an email telling me about a pair of Irish scientist’s invention that improves the water quality by energising the water with electromagnetic energy.
They state: Vi-Aqua is an extraordinary innovative technology designed to provide water with electromagnetic energy. This facilitates the metabolism of organisms improving the uptake of nutrients and the chemical interactions that normally occur in nature.
The system stimulates the electrochemical activity of molecules, prevents the formation of lime scale, while dissolving the minerals normally contained in water, allowing them to be absorbed more easily.
Vi-Aqua is a patented technology, scientifically proven to produce results in all sectors of agriculture, particularly in the production of fruit, vegetables and livestock.
In plants it increases the natural immune system enhancing the root activity and stimulating the process of photosynthesis, therefore increasing the absorption of CO2 from the air.
In animals it sanitizes the immune system enhancing metabolism efficiency, consequently controlling the intestinal fermentation and reducing the production of methane and ammonia.
The electromagnetic waves produced by our equipment do not interfere with other electronic apparatus. Viaqua has been successfully tested for both agricultural and breeding purposes. For human consumption, however, water treated electronically may increase the effectiveness of certain active ingredients as medicines.
True or false? Some web sites say its a scam and the test results are not peer reviewed. Soap makes water wetter along with a number of wetting agents.
Bit hard to make your hose water soapy so in for a pound; actually Euros 300 of them.
About a couple of weeks ago my ‘Hosemate’ Vi-Aqua unit arrived and I charged up the battery so I could use it on the following days watering.
Not having time to do a control testing I decided to just use it everywhere and see what happened. On the second time round of watering (24 hours after the first time) I was surprised at the increase growth on many plants and could not relate that to any more favorable growing conditions such as weather.
One thing that is definite is that the water is wetter, it is absorbed better into the growing medium and container plants now need less watering than before. Note also that I have 10 micron carbon bonded filters on all my outdoor taps to remove chlorine and other chemicals so the water is about half as good as rain water. I think this device makes it just about as good as rain water.
Well thats my observation anyway. Is it an Irish scam?
Does planting by the moon work?
Are there fairies in my garden?
However I do know for a fact that there is no honey bees and only a very few bumble bees due to chemical insecticides.
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CODLIN MOTH AND OTHER PESTS I have had a few inquiries this week about some seasonal pests such as codlin moths.
For control of codlin moth control in apples, pears and walnuts; I have learnt from gardeners that sprinkling Neem Tree Granules under the trees at the end of winter can help with control.
A lot of the moths are under the trees in the soil pupating waiting to emerge when the apples have formed and conditions are favorable.
This being the case the Neem Granules that smell as they break down will confuse them. When they emerge as moths, they will not sense/smell the tree above. Sitting on the ground is dangerous as the birds will find them and eat them.
What you can do at this time is place a small container of treacle in an onion bag and hang in the tree. This acts as a pheromone trap for the male moths. Check you trap every few days and when you see a few moths, you know that they are active. Start spraying the young apples with Neem Tree Oil every 7 days till no more activity is noticed in the treacle. If you add Raingard to the Neem Oil spray then the spray will not wash off in rain and you can spray every 7 to 10 days.
Easy and once again inexpensive without harming honey bees or bumble bees.
Grass Grub Beetles are now active and they can cause a lot of damage at night when they feed on your garden plants and trees.
The adults will start to emerge in mild conditions, when the soil temperature reaches about 10 degrees they then mate, fly, eat and lay eggs in the short space of time between dusk and early evening. As they tend to fly towards light, you are most likely to know they’re there when the flying beetles hit your lighted window panes.
This very attraction for the light has become one of our best weapons in controlling the pest in its adult stage. You can set up a grass grub beetle trap by placing a trough, such as the one used when wall-papering, directly underneath a window near a grassed area.
Fill the trough with water to about two-thirds of its capacity, then place a film of kerosene on top of the water.
Put a bright light in the window, the beetles fly towards the lit window, hit the glass and fall into the trough.
The kerosene acts as a trap, preventing the fallen beetles from climbing out.
You can extend this method to areas away from the house by using a glass tank, such as might be used for an aquarium. Place the empty tank into a tray containing several inches of water (and the kerosene), and position a light inside the glass tank.
By adding a sheet of ply or something similar over the top of the tank, you will ensure that the light shines only through the sides of the tank above the waiting water and kerosene. It is better to use a dome-shaped battery-powered light rather than an ordinary torch for this job as the bigger light makes the trap more effective.
If the tray and tank are raised off the ground and placed on something like a table, you will get an even better result.
However you set up your beetle trap, this is a very good method to dispose of the pests. Simply get rid of all the beetles caught the next morning. Run this system from just before dusk to about 2 or 3 hours after sunset.
Another method is to take a torch and after dark go out and check the plants that are being eaten.
If you find the beetles then spray them with a solution of Key Pyrethrum and Neem Oil.
The Pyrethrum is a quick knock down and like fly spray soon takes care of the beetles you spray.
Repeat this night after night till there is no more beetles eating your plants.
Thrips in Rhododendrons is a problem at this time of the year.
The drought last summer followed by a mild winter has seen a great increase in their populations and now lots of silvery leaves caused by their feeding.
I have a simple, easy solution for this, no matter how big your Rhododendrons are.
Take a strip of material similar to the flannel used in electric blankets.
The strip should be about 40mm wide and sufficient in length to wrap all the way around the trunk of your Rhododendron. Next soak the strip in straight Neem Tree Oil and then wrap around the trunk near the base or before the first branches. Use a couple of drawing pins to hold in place and then wrap in plastic wrap to keep from weathering.
Note the date you apply and remove exactly one month later, failure to do so may result in ring barking the trunk and then the death of the Rhododendron.
On smaller trees where it is easy to do so; spray under and over the foliage with Neem Tree Oil.
Neem Tree Granules spread on the ground under the Rhododendron will help give longer term control after the current batch of thrips are cleared.
Not harmful to bees and other beneficial insects (or yourself) Neem Products are an obvious better solution when compared to dangerous man made chemicals.
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ROCK YOUR GARDENS

Several years ago I was introduced to a product called Rok Solid which is a Rockdust-Full Spectrum-Bio Certified Fertiliser.
Rok Solid is designed to work in the soil, increasing the mineral content to the benefit of the health of the soil and plants growing there.
Used on food crops it means your produce will have greater nutritional value and taste.
Rok Solid contains over 60 minerals and elements and is specially selected for its natural energy (paramagnetism), this energy is what gives the soil it’s vitality assisting in the nutrient uptake of plants.
The high silica content (43%) helps in plant formation.
Rok Solid is blended with Organic 100 liquid fertiliser concentrate made from fish and seaweed, which contributes a further array of minerals, together with microbial stimulates.
These organisms are necessary to hold soil balance, regulate nutrient to the plants, build humus and help detoxify the soil.
Rok Solid is used at 100 grams per square metre for new plantings.(Note scoop provided in container is approx 50 grams when filled level)
Alternatively about a level teaspoon into each planting hole for seedlings or a sprinkling along a row of seeds, with the seeds at planting time.
Larger plants about a level tablespoon in the planting hole.
For existing gardens 100 grams per square metre twice a year (spring and Autumn) for fruit trees, shrubs, vegetable and flower gardens and lawns.
Roses enjoy an application of one to two teaspoons per rose spring and autumn giving you healthier roses and better flowers.
I have had excellent reports on the improvement Rok Solid has made to gardener’s Roses.
For the home gardener Rok Solid is available in 1kg and 3 kg jars from many garden centres.
Analysis of Rok Solid (Averages)
Nitrogen [N] .15%
Phosphorus [P] .8%
Potassium {k} 1.4%
Sulphur [S] .14%
Calcium [Ca] 4.4%
Magnesium [Mg] 5.69%
Sodium [Na] 2.95%
Silica [Si] 43.0%
Iron [Fe] 39,000ppm
Manganese [Mn] 1,100ppm
Boron [B] 55ppm
Copper [Cu] 90ppm
Zinc [Zn] 142ppm
Cobalt [Co] 59ppm
Molybdenum [Mo] 2ppm
Selenium [Se] 3ppm
Plus many other trace elements.

Since 2008 I have being using this natural product in all my raised gardens and containers.
Placing a little in the planting hole for seeding or a sprinkling into a container when potting up. On existing containers with fruit trees and ornamentals a twice yearly sprinkling makes the world of difference to the health of the plants.
The most remarkable use I have come across is a massive passion fruit vine that is growing over a horizontal trellis under a clear plastic roof.
At the time I spotted this plant at an organic orchard, the vine covered about 8 sqM and there was hundreds of large passion fruit hanging down waiting to ripen.
I ask the owner about the vine and what it was being feed (as it was only growing in a 100 litre container) I was told Rok Solid.
If you want better gardens, healthier plants plus more flavour as well as nutritional value from your vegetables and fruit then Rok Solid is the answer.
To obtain Rok Solid on line and all our other products goto Order Web Site

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HAVE YOU GOT YOUR GARDENS COVERED?

In the past week I have received several phone calls from gardeners all of which had a similar theme; covering gardens.
Sometimes, one thinks that some things are as obvious as the nose on one’s face forgetting that there are people that lack the knowledge that we may take for granted.
Which leads me into one call from a gardener about weedmat and how it should be used.
It turned out that he wanted to cover an area one metre wide between two raised gardens which he had built. The area would be a walk way and a place to attend the gardens on either side.
His question was about whether to put down gravel under or over the weedmat and also about using pavers on the mat.
Because he did not want any weeds to grow between the raised gardens on the walkway then it would be best to use a thick plastic film over the area.
The builder type film which has a high Mu thickness is best as its very strong. The pavers were to be square concrete slabs 50 x 50 cm so two side by side would be just right to cover across the area.
Then more to cover the area between the raised gardens. The plastic film can be tucked under the edge of the raised gardens and that would stop all weeds and growths emerging from the soil underneath; in fact over time that strip f soil would become anaerobic.
The area under the plastic needs to be dead flat so the pavers will sit flat and not be wobbly. A sand base is good for that, then the plastic film with the pavers on top.
Some weeds may be able to germinate in time to come, as dirt accumulates between the pavers.
A jet of water from the hose should wash away the dirt and weeds.
The next call was from a gardener that had problems with caterpillars on his brassicas every season. He had not tried the Neem Tree Granule trick (placing them in the planting hole and on the soil surface) which I said was worth doing and to also use a crop cover over the plants.
Last season in summer I tried one of the new crop covers over a raised garden where I grew broccoli and cauliflowers. This white mesh cover is 4 metres wide; 45 gsm with a 15% shade factor, called either Natural Insect Mesh, Crop Cover or Light grade Quarantine mesh. See
It is available in some garden shops and Mitre 10 or by mail order and about $5.00 a metre length. This mesh will keep most insects out but not small ones such as the psyllid; it also should be above the plants as some insects may have the ability to lay eggs through the mesh if the leaves are touching the mesh.
For low growing plants no.8 gauge wire hoops will work nicely down a row to support the cover.
For taller growing plants (over 30cm) ridged alkathene pipe is good up to about a metre tall and the same wide. For hoops larger than that use plastic conduit pipe.
The no 8 wire hoops will just be poked into the ground, the alkathene pipes can also be poked into the ground; or even better, place short lengths (of a larger diameter galvanised pipe) driven into the soil and the pipe ends placed in these.
This method is also the best way to do the conduit pipes.
If you have a raised garden with a wooden rim around the circumference then holes can be drilled into the rim to place the pipes into.
The crop cover is secured on one side by covering with soil (in an open garden) stretched across the pipes to be fixed at the ends and sides by lengths of old 50 x 100 wood.
These can be easily be moved to weed and attend the plants as needed.
While it is open (and even before planting) is the time adult insects can get to the plants so the use of the Neem Granules is still important for extra protection of the crop.
If wood lice, slugs etc are found hiding under the wood spray them with a mix of 1 part ammonia and 2 parts water.
If its birds that are giving you a problem then use bird netting over your hoops/pipes.
The no 8 wire hoops with bird netting is ideal for a row of strawberries.
Small insects such as the psyllid can also be kept off your potatoes, tomatoes, egg plants etc by using a much finer mesh called Quarantine Cloth, which is 3.3 metres wide and is 125gsm, white with a 25% shade factor.
Because it is only in 3.3 metre wide rolls it has to be mail ordered as I don't think any retail outlets can handle the cutting to required length.Its about $17.00 a metre length. See
I used this cloth last summer on a late crop of potatoes when the psyllid populations were so high that tomato plants and tamarillos were dying from their attacks.
The crop grew and normal potatoes were harvested in early winter, a great success.
If you have container plants to protect then you can build a frame out of say 50 x 50 wood to go over the plants and then place bird netting, crop cover or quarantine cloth over the frame, stapled to protect dependent on plant and problems.
The Quarantine cloth is great to put over all vents and door ways of glasshouses and tunnel houses to prevent pest insects getting in while allowing good ventilation still.
I have used it on a large conservator glasshouse over the entire roof area to not only keep insects out when the top vents are opened but also to shade down the house to reduce the temperature from the high 50 degrees it used to reach to about 30 degrees now its on.
Where there is a will there is a way and the use of covers can make gardening easier and reduce the amount of spraying needed for pest control.

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HEALTHY VEGETABLES

Growing vegetables and fruit has always been one of my main concerns in gardening since I was a tot. If you can eat it, grow it, all other plants are for show. This does not mean that I don't like my roses, annuals, ornamental trees and shrubs. They all serve a good purpose which I can enjoy, when my belly is full with my own, home grown produce.
This thinking dates back to over fifty plus years ago, when many New Zealanders used to grow most of their own fruit and vegetables.
In the last 50 years things changed, we started to depend on others to grow the produce that we put on our tables.
Initially this produce was healthy, grown with compost, blood & bone and similar natural products. It contained nutritional value and fed a growing nation.
Progressively things changed as super phosphate and other chemical fertilisers were used by the market gardeners and farmers. Nutritional values dropped, the crops were attacked by diseases and pests, chemical sprays were applied and the health of the nation has declined dramatically.
Scientist tell us that our mass produced commercially grown food chain now days has only 20% of the nutritional value when compared to our grand parents food. That applied to vegetables, fruit and dairy.
The heartening news is; many gardeners have woken up to this problem and are now taking more notice of what harmful substances are in the food we eat, along with lack of goodness and flavor..
I believe that people do not want to have illnesses such as cancer and that they realise that cancer and several other health problems are largely resulting from the chemicals in our food chain plus lack of goodness.
The answer is simple; grow as much as you can of your own produce so that your body receives a reasonable amount of wholesome goodness. The food tastes that much better and your health will be far better off as a result.
Dig up some lawn and make a plot for vegetables. Build raised gardens, grow in containers, remember where there is a will, there is a way and its your health we are talking about.
There are some basic rules to grow healthy produce;

1/ Remember that whatever you put into the soil will be in your food.
2/ Avoid chemical fertilisers, chlorinated water, chemical sprays and chemical weed killers especially glyphosate.
3/ Use only natural composts, sheep manure pellets, blood & bone, liquid manures, garden lime, gypsum, dolomite, animal manures etc.
4/ Enhance the number minerals and elements in the soil by using mineral rich products such as Ocean Solids, Rok Solid and Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL).
5/ Feed the beneficial microbes and fungi with Mycorrcin and MBL.
Doing the above will build an excellent soil food web which is the key to the health of all living things on the planet.
The next question is what vegetables to grow? This depends on the amount of garden room you have or alternatively grow in containers such as the polystyrene trays. I grow the following in these trays; lettuce, silverbeet, spring onions, beetroot, dwarf beans, radishes, parsley, chives, garlic and my favourite ‘Bright Lights’ silverbeet.
The same trays are perfect to grow wheat grass for juicing or blending which in my mind is the ultimate in nutritional value and health giving properties.
If you lack room look for space saver type vegetables or mini’s take take less room and mature faster.
Besides not taking so much room in the garden these vegetables are quicker to reach maturity from seed. For one or two person households, they are perfect for fresh use, without the waste of a larger item that needs storing in the fridge.
Your garden centre will have a great range of seeds and seedlings at this time of the year and for a greater selection you can go on line to mail order companies for their extensive range of seed types.
The key is simple, avoid man made chemicals, use natural products and enhance the soil with minerals, feed the soil life and avoid destroying it by using chlorinated water out of the tap.
Place a 10 micron carbon bonded filter on the garden hose line to remove the chlorine.
The issues that the chemicals used in agriculture has caused to our health has reached a crisis point.
A recent article in a Sunday paper states that Doctors in Argentina realise that pesticides used on soya crops are making people sick.
It says that South America has turned into laboratory for what can happen when uncontrolled chemicals are used on genetically modified crops.
Roundup and other chemicals used in Argentina’s soy industry in Santa Fe province where cancer rates are now two to four times higher than the national average and children are four times more likely to be born with devastating birth defects, all this since biotechnology dramatically expanded industrial agriculture.
Even the amount of Roundup (glyphosate type herbicides) in New Zealand has increased dramatically over the years along with dramatic increases in health problems.
Glyphosate does not disappear when it hits the soil and research shows it is causing health problems in animals and humans.
Another news item this week is:

A group of 93 international scientists (the real kind, not the ones paid by the biotech industry), physicians and academics signed a statement to set the record straight. No, they wrote. Despite the many claims to the contrary, there is no consensus that GMOs are safe.
Said Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, chairwoman of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) and one of the signers:
“The statement draws attention to the diversity of opinion over GMOs in the scientific community and the often contradictory or inconclusive findings of studies on GMO safety. These include toxic effects on laboratory animals fed GM foods, increased pesticide use from GM crop cultivation and the unexpected impacts of Bt insecticidal crops on beneficial and non-target organisms.”
Its a world gone mad for profits with no respect for human lives or the welfare of the planet.
Argentina’s problems are as a result of large amounts of chemicals used over a relatively short time frame, our problem in New Zealand is smaller amounts used over a long period of time; both result in the same health concerns.
Grow food your self and benefit and to obtain the best flavours and results follow the information supplied above and remember you can only get out of your gardens what you put in. ooooo
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USING YOUR EYES GARDENING

Being a good spotter is half the battle in solving gardening problems. Gardeners that keep their eyes open as they go around their gardens can spot problems as they begin to happen.
One of the best times to do this is when you are hand watering plants with a soft shower wand; while the right hand is holding the hose, you can fold back leaves with your left hand and check for pests or problems.
Some problems are seasonal and come in cycles and the knowing of these cycles also makes you aware to be on the out look for them.
Aphids are in season at the moment and they can be found on your roses and some other plants. On the roses they will be around the new growths and the flower buds. If you just leave them, their populations will quickly build up and this will likely diminish the flowering display.
Aphids suck the sap of the plants and in doing so remove the plant’s energy resulting in poorer growth, twisted leaves and damaged flowers.
Aphids are not hard to kill and if you only have a few roses you may simply run your fingers over the pests and gently squash them without harming the plant.
For those with a lot of roses it is better to use a safe spray to knock them over such as Key Pyrethrum.
Use it late in the day just before dusk; make up say 5 litres of spray using 5 mils of Key Pyrethrum, 25 mils of Neem Tree Oil and 50 mils of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL). The Pyrethrum is a quick knock down that should kill off most of the aphids within a day.
The Neem Tree Oil will aid in the control of any missed, or new aphids arriving during the next 7 odd days.
This natural oil will also aid in the reduction of diseases such as black spot, rust and mildews. The MBL will also assist in keeping the roses free of diseases, supply extra minerals to the foliage and aid in the health of the plants.
The reason for spraying near dusk is that Pyrethrum is quickly broken down by UV, in fact within a couple of hours, if sprayed earlier in the day. At dusk it is going to be active all night till the next day.
Now that your roses are coming into bud and flower start applying about a teaspoon of Fruit and Flower Power every 4 to 6 weeks.
The potassium aids in flowering and the magnesium aids the deep green of the foliage. In fact any other plants that are coming into flowering or setting fruit will do better with a small regular dose of these two minerals.
Stone fruit trees will likely have distorted leaves unless you have been very vigilant with your spraying of Liquid Copper and Raingard. The curly leaves are the effects of the common disease, Curly Leaf and every leaf that is damaged means one less leaf for the tree to gain energy from the sun.
The damaged or curly leaves will later fall off the tree leaving only the leaves that are not affected. Leaf loss means a smaller crop and maybe smaller fruit as well. You can offset some of the damage by spraying the good leaves with Vaporgard.
Vaporgard acts as a sun screen reducing the UV levels which affect the plant’s ability to produce energy from the sun. One spray lasts for about 3 months on the foliage sprayed. Within a couple of days of spraying you will notice the leaves turning to a rich dark green which means each leaf is working at full capacity, gaining energy.
Some gardeners like to spray Vaporgard onto the foliage of their roses to deepen the green colour and place a long term shine to the leaves. It also means your roses will be more vigorous and flower better.
One point to mention is that the film Vaporgard puts over the foliage makes it difficult for sprays such as Perkfection to enter the plant. To get around this add Raingard to the sprays.
Tomatoes will be doing well if in a sheltered, sunny spot. Those out in the open will be much slower to grow because of the weather and cold snaps.
I have kept my tomato plants in containers in the glasshouse, waiting for the weather to settle before starting to put them outdoors. When I decide its time to put them out I will, a couple of days before hand, give them a spray all over with Vaporgard. This hardens the plants up and stops any transplant shock.
Tomatoes in containers must be given adequate water to prevent the compost from drying out, if not you will get blossom end rot which is that black patch on the bottom of the fruit.
Removing laterals on tomatoes can allow diseases to enter the plant, which will often result in losses. If botrytis enters the tomato where you remove a lateral or leaf, then it will cause a rotting on a branch or on the trunk.
The plant begins to wilt and the wilting progressively gets worse till a branch or the whole plant is lost. There are two rules you must follow when removing laterals (side shoots) or leaves, do not do so when the air is moist as moist air carries the disease spores. Next; as soon as you remove a lateral, spray the damaged area with a squirt of Liquid Copper.
You can make up the copper in a small trigger sprayer and as long as you give it a good shake before using each time it will keep well.
Oxalis is a curse for many gardeners and it is about this time of the year that the weed comes away.
A safe and cheap spray to use is baking soda at the rate of a good tablespoon full per litre of warm water. Stir a little till the mix stops bubbling and then add 1 mil of Raingard per litre.
Spray over the oxalis foliage, but it only works well when the soil is on the dry side and during a warm to hot sunny day. The oxalis leaves will dehydrate but other plants sprayed will not be harmed.
The first spray will remove the oxalis foliage but will not harm the bulbs. More foliage will appear and soon as it does repeat spray. After a few sprays the bulbs run out of energy as they have been denied leaves and then the bulbs fail.
In the meantime do not work the soil, instead cover the soil with compost and plant any new plants into the compost. Over time you will be free of the weed.
Strawberries planted in winter should be doing well by now and if they are first year plants, still a bit on the small size, you should remove some of the early flowers so the plants can grow bigger before you let them fruit. Spray the strawberry plants every 2 weeks or so with Mycorrcin.
This simple, natural spray feeds the beneficial microbes, which will not only keep the plants healthy but can increase your crop yield by 200 to 400%. I had one gardener ring me a few years ago and tell of his successes.
He had two beds of strawberries, one he sprayed regularly with Mycorrcin, the other he didn't.
In all other respects the two beds were treated the same. The gardener reported that the difference was outstanding. The Mycorrcin treated bed produced masses of big, sweet strawberries where the other bed was just the normal so-so crop. He said if he had not done the trial with the two beds he would not have believed the possible difference.
As I often say, when you work with Nature you get the results, when you try to work against Nature with harmful chemical fertilisers and sprays, all you have is problems.
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LABOUR WEEKEND 2013

With Labour Weekend fast approaching there will likely be more New Zealanders working away in their gardens than in the past weather permitting.
The reason for this is likely two fold, financial and health.
In the last few of years many new gardeners have appeared at garden shops looking to start off a vegetable garden because they are very concerned about what is in their food chain.
They want to grow as much food as possible that has nutritional goodness and not laced with chemical poisons. This makes good sense because as a gardener you determine what goes into the soil the plants are feeding on.
With upheavals in the world’s financial domain we face a lot of uncertainties and to have a well stocked vegetable garden is one way to ensure that a ready source of food is at hand along with a big savings also.
The cost of vegetables and fruit purchased, will keep going up in price, otherwise the commercial growers will be out of business, as their chemical fertilisers and sprays prices are escalating out of sight.
Compound this with transport costs and we shall see many food lines slipping out of the reach of most people on a tighter budget.
We all need to become more self sufficient and look after our own health by growing and eating good wholesome fruit and vegetables which is home grown.
Garden centre owners have reported fantastic increases in the sale of vegetable seeds and plants along with fruit trees and herbs.
You do not even need a garden to grow vegetables and fruit trees as you can grow lots of things in containers.
I have written about this before and by using pots, buckets, polystrene boxes and plastic rubbish tins (these are for fruit trees). For instance you all know about growing a spud in a bucket.
To grow in containers all you need to do is purchase a few bags of compost, some sheep manure pellets, maybe a bag of blood & bone and add these to the compost and plant up seeds or seedlings.
You can increase the goodness of the food by adding mineral rich products such as Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) and Rok Solid.
You don't even have to use a lot of the sheep manure pellets, blood & bone and Rok Solid as a little placed in the planting hole will do nicely. After which you can spray the foliage of the plants with the MBL 2 weekly.
For those that have a nice sunny area where a vegetable garden could be started you don't even have to do any digging.
Mow down as low as possible any grass or weeds in the area. Make a surround that is at least 200mm tall. (the taller the better.) My recommendation is using roofing iron as the sides screwed to 100 x 100 posts.
If using treated timber cut the wood to the required size and paint all surfaces with acrylic paint giving a couple of coats to seal in the chemicals.
The garden should only be about a metre wide so that you can work from the sides and never have to walk on it.
When your surround is in place for the raised garden cover the bottom with cardboard or several sheets of newspaper.
Over this throw in grass clippings, food scraps, animal manures, prunings, leaves and anything organic including home made compost and spent potting mix from old containers..
This will cheaply build up the base of the raised garden. When you have a layer about half full then sprinkle a good dose of garden lime over the material.
Next layer another lot of wet newspaper and then with purchased compost place over the newspaper. If you have animal manure such as chicken, cow or horse this can be incorporated into the top layer for extra goodness.
Finish off the top few centimeters with purchased compost. (This will be weed free)
Now you are ready to plant up as suggested with sheep pellets etc.
Corrugated iron with fence posts is ideal for a taller raised garden as the heat from the sun will warm the growing medium and speed up plant growth. A little more expense but well worth it in the long run. What we have achieved from the above is a weed free garden (at the beginning anyway) with the cardboard or newspaper initially suppressing any weeds from coming through from below.
Worms love newspaper and cardboard so they will be attracted to your raised garden and provide further nutrients and keep the soil open.
It costs nothing to obtain animal manure and sea weed (if near the sea) and either of these (or both) can be placed in a plastic rubbish tin to about a third full and the filled with water to two thirds full and stirred.
The resulting liquid can be diluted 1 part to 10 parts water to spray or water over foliage of the plants for extra feeding.
Or a dilution of 1 part to 1 part water for watering over the compost (not the plants)
Some grass clippings can be added to the brew as well but not too much.
As plastic rubbish tins come with lids you can keep it sealed when not using.
With buying seeds look for the cheaper seeds as these are likely to be open pollinated ones which will give you better crops. The more expensive hybrid seeds are not so good as they have been bred in most cases to grow in a chemical environment. Some will actually fail in a natural soil.
When you grow a crop then let the best looking one go to seed. You will be able to collect more seed from one plant than you will know what to do with. These seeds are free and will greatly reduce future costs.
Labour Weekend is the traditional time to plant up gardens in New Zealand and an ideal time to get started for both new and experienced gardeners. (The later would already be well underway.)
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IT IS TOMATO TIME:

Growing tomato plants is a tradition for most gardeners some will plant a great number of different types where others may plant just one or two of their favourite types.
From garden centres you can obtain a good range of different types of tomato plants from grafted or Supertoms types to traditional varieties and heirlooms.
Seed stands will likely increase the number of types you can grow and through seed mail order companies the range extends dramatically.
Many gardeners have their own favourite ones, many of which are only available from over the fence from a friendly gardener. Some of these have been hand-me-down seeds, originating from returned servicemen after the World Wars, collected while in Europe especially from Italy.
Italy might be called the home of tomatoes at they have over 500 known varieties growing yearly and the Italians would likely be the world’s biggest consumers of tomatoes as it is reported that they eat 38Kg of tomatoes per person annually.
Some years ago a local gardener gave me a newspaper article from Italy where the reporter travelled around the country to find the very best flavoured tomatoes.
The article explains that it is a combination of the sun and the saline soil that produces the best flavoured tomatoes. The mineral rich soil due to sea salt is the key as it has been found that tomatoes desire 56 minerals and elements for best results. (You are not going to get that from your bag of tomato food.)
To obtain this you should place a little Ocean Solid (about a pinch) and a teaspoon of Rok Solid into the planting hole when you plant out your tomatoes. Finish off by sprinkling Wallys Secret Tomato Food with Neem Tree Granules on the surface of the soil.
Repeat the Secret Tomato food about every 4 to 6 weeks until the fruiting has finished for the season. The health benefits from eating tomatoes either raw or cooked are great if you grow your own tomatoes naturally with all the minerals that they would like.
You are not going to obtain the same health benefits from tomatoes you buy especially the ones in winter that are picked green and then chemically treated to make them go red. The chemical does not actually ripen the tomato in just changes them from green to red, so you are then eating a tasteless green tomato that is red in colour.
Scientists have discovered that eating five tomatoes a day can help to protect against sunburn and premature aging.
Tomatoes are a super food; oozing lycopene, folic compounds, magnesium and potassium, reports suggest that they can help fight both Alzheimer’s and cancer as well as improving your overall health.
Let us now look at some of the finer points on growing these wonderful plants.
In the following I am going to give you as many aspects as I can remember, you may not want to use all the points but even a few will make your tomato production results better than before.
Firstly if you want to grow a tomato plant without any great problems or care then plant a couple of Sweet 100’s they are prolific, grow like weeds and will give you lots of small sweet tomatoes for salads and eating.
If you have a tomato variety that you like and have grown successfully for some years, keep the seed and grow them for the rest of your life, keeping fresh seed from the best tomato each season for the following year.
Try one or two other types for variety, you will have successes and failures and in a never ending search you will likely add more favourites to your annual collection of seeds.
Seeds are picked out of tomatoes, laid on a bit of paper towel to dry (with the type written on the paper) then the paper is rolled up and placed in a sealed glass jar for storage in the fridge. (I have tomato seeds over 25 years old that still give me a 50% germination rate using this method.)
To germinate cut the paper to obtain the required number of seeds and place paper and seed on a seedling tray or punnet that contains a friable compost or a good potting mix, spray the paper/seeds with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) with Mycorrcin added.
Leave to dry and then cover with a little more of the mix or with sharp sand. Moisten down with MBL by misting. Keep moist in a warm bright light situation till seedlings emerge and then immediately place in a glasshouse or cold frame so the plants receive overhead natural sunlight.
Keep moist with non chlorinated water.
(During the life of the tomato never water with chlorinated tap water) When of a size to transplant, soak the tray with water and lift the individual seedlings and spray their roots with MBL & Mycorrcin. Pot into individual pots about 100mm in size using a friable compost (not potting mix) Plant deep up to the first leaves as they will then root all the way up. (Do not do this with grafted tomatoes) This applies also to purchased seedlings in punnets.
Keep moist but not wet allowing the mix to dry a bit between waterings. Place in full sun.
When the plant is about 150mm tall then it is ready to plant into open ground or a large container.
For containers use a large bucket about 20 litres for dwarf type tomatoes, 45 litres for average size fruiting types and 100 litres for Beefsteak types and Supertoms.
Use animal manure based composts, apply more Ocean solids, Rok Solid, Dolomite and the tomato food mentioned.
The plant can once again be planted deeper than previous. Spray the foliage with diluted Super Roots. Repeat this once again 6 weeks later.
Two weekly; spray foliage with MBL (Mycorrcin can be added) Place more of the special tomato food with Neem Granules at about 4 weekly to 6 weekly on top of soil/mix.
Do not remove laterals on humid days and spray the wound immediately with Liquid Copper.
A monthly spray of Perkfection will also assist in disease prevention.(This can be added to MBL or Super Roots)
The same will apply to open ground grown tomato plants as above for containers.
Support the plants with stakes etc.
In glasshouse grown plants on sunny days when in flower, tap the plant to cause a vibration which aids in setting fruit.
Protect ripening fruit from bird damage with Bird Repeller Ribbon or pick fruit as they turn colour to ripen indoors. (Best if ripened on plant.)
If cooking tomatoes only cook in a good Virgin Olive Oil as it brings out both flavour and health benefits.
In some areas where the tomato psyllids are affecting crops you will need to spray the plants regularly at dusk with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum, for all over coverage.
Repeat weekly. In areas where the psyllids kill the plants then a frame work with Quarantine cloth maybe the answer. In my case that is what I have done after a disaster season last year.
Wishing you a great tomato year.
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THE JOYS OF GARDENING

There are a number of times and events which make gardening a wonderful experience for me.
Likely there are different aspects which different gardeners relate to and enjoy more than other events.
Things like the smell of cut grass and the instant change, a freshly mowed lawn makes to the rest of the gardens.
When an especially beautiful flower has recently opened, making food for your eyes.
A meal with guests where your partner tells that all the vegetables we are eating are home grown from your garden. You can proudly add that they have been grown without the use of chemicals.
Your visitors are not only impressed but are astounded by the rich flavors.
Then there is the sight of vibrant spring growth after a shower of rain.
I could name a lot like the first ripe tomato of the season or the first rose bud to open.
The one thing that I find that tops all is the sprouting of seeds in a seedling tray.
Tiny sprouts of green emerging out of the mix and new baby plants are born.
I have during my time as a nurseryman and as a gardener germinated literally millions of seeds and still I get great pleasure seeing those little sprouts popping up.
The biggest kick is to germinate a seed which is known to be very difficult.
Some seeds need special processes to enable germination and without the right things happening they will just sit till they rot.
For instance some native Australian seed species will only germinate after a bush fire has happened.
I remember when in Perth some years ago the guide taking us around Kings Park told of an earlier event when some vandals started a fire in the park which burnt out several acres of natural bush before it was put out.
There was a up cry about the senseless damage until out of the ashes came a new selection of native plants and a couple that had been thought to be extinct.
Packets of native Australian seeds sold to us tourists were accompanied with a small bag of ashes so these could be spread with the seeds to aid germination.
A number of seeds need special treatment to germinate such as stratification. This is a process of pre-treating seeds to simulate winter conditions that a seed must endure before germination.
Many seed species undergo an embryonic dormancy phase, and generally will not sprout until this dormancy is broken. In nature the seeds fall to the ground in autumn and lay dormant through the chilling winter to break dormancy later in spring when conditions is favourable for growth.
We can duplicate this process (stratify) by placing seeds in the fridge for a period of time.
The time taken to stratify seeds depends on species and conditions; though in many cases two months is sufficient.
Even if you have seeds that do not specifically require stratification it is worth while to store all unused seeds in a glass jar in a fridge. A freezer should not be used unless the type of seed is native to an area where the ground freezes in winter and the seed required temperatures down below zero. Freezing of other seeds would likely kill the germ.
I find that seeds coming out of the fridge germinate quicker than seeds stored at room temperature.
Also seeds stored in the fridge will tend to be viable for a much longer time than otherwise.
I have stored varieties of tomato seeds for over 25 years and still get about a 50% strike rate.
If you are germinating seeds in seedling trays or punnets then obtain a heat pad.
You should find one in either garden shops, brew shops and even pet shops. (My cat has a excellent one but will not let me have it for germinating seeds)
Place a sheet of polystyrene about 30mm thick under the heat pad so all heat is directed upwards.
Sow your seeds on a friable potting mix that has been sieved to obtain a fine texture of grains.
Spray the seeds and mix with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) at 20 mls per litre to soak both seeds and mix.
The MBL speeds up the germination which can mean in some cases, using the above methods, germination within a few days rather than weeks.
Keep a regular check on the trays and keep moist.
I like to keep my heat pad in the kitchen on a bench so I don't forget to check and spray every morning and again in the evening.
As soon as the first seeds germinate and you have a show the tray should be moved out into a glasshouse or similar where they have natural overhead light.
If placed on a window sill they will stretch and likely be useless.
If you do not have a glasshouse then get an old drawer or box (like a drawer about 12 to 18 cm depth) put the germinated trays in the box and place a sheet of glass over the box.
This should be placed outside where it will get natural light, but not strong direct sunlight all day long.
You need to keep an eye on the seedlings and water to keep moist but not wet.
Away from the heat pad they will not grow as fast but in a glasshouse they will fare better than in a drawer.
You may need to use a bit of shade cloth above the seed trays so that they get nice bright light but not burning sun rays.
Once they have reach the true leave stage or a bit bigger they should be pricked out when the mix is wet and planted into either cells or small containers to grow on for planting out later when big enough and conditions are favorable.
Check out your local garden centre for seeds you wish to grow this season and get started. TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES



SPRING GARDEN PESTS

Spring not only brings forth a new season of gardening it also is the starting time for a few pest problems.
Slugs and snails are one of these problems which is made worse with ample rain and moisture around our gardens.
We don't see much of these two pests during the day unless we discover one of their hiding places such as under a length of wood or behind a shrub against the fence.
They like to hide out in a cool moist place until after dark and then they can slide out to feed. Interestingly they prefer rotting organic material over living foliage but can be partial to tender young foliage for a balanced diet.
If you venture out at night when its raining you maybe surprised to see hundreds of snails motoring all around the gardens. In the morning you would be searching to find one out in the open.
Slugs not having the protection of their shell tend to live mostly in the soil where they venture out for a bit of a change of diet.
I have lived in places where in the beginning there have been no snails or slugs that I was aware of but after a while the odd ones would be found. From that time it would only be another year or two for there to be masses of the slimy creatures.
How to deal with these two pests?
The traditional way would likely be to place slug baits (poisons) down such as Blitzem which contains Metaldehyde 15g/kg, a poison that dehydrates the slugs and snails and is dangerous to pets, children, wildlife and should not be applied to food crops; is one of the suppliers warnings.
Baysol snail and slug bait is a more potent poison which contains 20g/kg of Methiocarb being a contact and stomach poison. Once again not something you want your pets getting into.
Quash is iron based pellets which are safe to use and not harmful to pets or your environment.
Slugs and snails cant stand iron which kills them when they eat the pellets.
Down side all of these is they cost money and have a limited life in spring weather conditions.
Based on the iron aspect one could make a bait using sulphate of iron dissolved in water and added to say bran with a liberal sprinkling of yeast.
The yeast attracts, the bran is the carrier and the iron to the killer.
I have also mentioned in the past sprays of copper over and around plants you wish to protect from damage. Slugs and Snails cannot handle copper which kills them if they come into contact with it.
This week a gardener by the name of Ken sent me an email in regards to the following valuable tip:

Hi Wally I thought I would pass on this information, I have had a lot of trouble with slugs and snails for the last couple of weeks and I didn't want to use the pellets that need to be reapplied every time it rains, in Auckland that means every day.
I have been using Ammonia in a 3 to 1 dilution ( 1 part Ammonia to 3 parts water) in a spray bottle, this seems to kill the little buggers straight away with no harm to plants or the soil.
I read on the net that it's actually good for the soil but I don't know if it's true.
I have also used it on other insects like cockroaches and earwigs and it worked just as well.
A litre of no frills Ammonia is only about four dollars so is quite cheap to use.
I have also put some plywood down to give the slugs somewhere to hide during the day, which has been working very well, when I go check there are usually 10-15 slugs and snails every time I turn over the wood.
I just give them a spray wait a couple of minutes then turn over the wood so the dead slugs are under the wood, this acts like bait to catch more slugs. I have noticed that there are a lot less slugs and snails on my plants now and I have only been doing this for a week, I may only catch 3-4 each night now .
It takes a little bit of effort, going out to buy a bottle of ammonia, laying out a few bits of 3ply or similar and then a one litre trigger spray bottle; 250mls of ammonia and 750mls of water.
Shake before each use. I love the idea of using on pests such as cockroaches and earwigs as I am often asked a solution to control them. Take care spraying over plants till you know if any harm is done.
I have also this week had a number of questions about codlin moth control in apples, pears and walnuts.
I have learnt from gardeners that sprinkling Neem Tree Granules under the trees at this time can help with control.
A lot of the moths are under the trees in the soil pupating waiting to emerge when the apples have formed and conditions are favorable.
This being the case the Neem Granules that smell as they break down will confuse them. When they emerge as moths, they will not sense/smell the tree above. Sitting on the ground is dangerous as the birds will find them and eat them.
Next place a small container of treacle in an onion bag and hang in the tree. This acts as a pheromone trap for the male moths. Check you trap every few days and when there are noticed a few moths, you know that they are active. Start spraying the young apples with Neem Tree Oil every 7 days till no more activity is noticed in the treacle.
Easy and once again inexpensive without harming honey bees or bumble bees.
Are you finding a lack of honey bees in your gardens? Not surprising as I hear that a number of bee keepers will not place hives near towns or cities because of the number of gardeners using Confidor and Lawn Insect Control which kills the bees.
A garden centre owner in the South Island told me that in England where he is from there are now no bumble bees because of these dangerous insecticides and in fact they are importing NZ bumble bees into the UK. (Where they originally came from)
He also told me that in England where he also had a garden centre about 8 years ago that most of the chemical insecticides that we still use in NZ have been banned. Of course we will follow suit but as history has proved we usually one of the last countries to wake up and see sense.
A bee keeper in Taranaki told me this week that he has lost 30% of his hives to Confidor and similar insecticides.
Bad news for us gardeners and its about time that responsible gardening companies stopped the availability of these chemicals..
If you feel strongly about this you should tell your local garden shop. TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES


SPRING FLOWERS

Gardeners that have spring bulbs in their gardens will be enjoying a good show of daffodils, tulips, crocus, freesias and other spring flowering plants at this time.
You can pick the flower stems and bring them indoors for a vase, on the other hand if you leave them on the plant the flowers will likely last longer.
When the flowering is finished it is very important to leave the plants/bulbs growing until they die down naturally. After flowering the bulbs will regain the energy they have lost from the sun by way of their leaves.
If you were to remove their leaves before they naturally start to die back then the chances are they will not flower for you next spring.
When the foliage changes colour later in the season then you can lift the bulbs to dry, clean, then store till autumn for replanting.
Daffodils and Freesias can be left in the ground after they die back as long as they are not in a open dry area where they could cook in the summer.
Other spring flowering bulbs should be lifted once the foliage starts to die back.
It is very important not to cut the foliage or lift to soon if you want good results next spring.
Two seasons ago I planted a selection of tulips in the autumn and the following spring they put on a great show including a number of the fancy types.
I had not bothered with planting tulips previously as I was under the belief that in milder areas such as Palmerston North, most tulips except for Darwin Hybrids would be onces.
I knew to leave them till the foliage was finished, then lift and store in a cool dark place, which is what I did.
This last autumn I ventured out and purchased a lot more tulips especially the unusual fancy flower types and planted them separately to the one that I had stored from previous season.
My previous season tulips have flowered earlier than the new ones and in some cases have finished while many of the new ones are just starting to flower.
I put this down to the newer ones having not been left in the ground to gain as much energy or that they were imported from Holland and not fully adjusted to the change of hemispheres.
One important aspect I have learnt is that you can get more than one season out of fancy tulips if you care for them correctly.
I receive a number of emails about various garden related topics from overseas and this week one arrived about honey bees and garden plants from the USA.
The email stated that a new study co-authored by the Friends of the Earth and Pesticide Research Institute has found that seven out of 13 samples of garden plants purchased at top retailers in Washington D.C., the San Francisco Bay Area and Minneapolis contained neurotoxic pesticides known as neonicotinoids.
Neonics, made by Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, are the fastest-growing class of synthetic pesticides.
They’re also linked to the mass die-off of honeybees.
This is an aspect which I had not thought about previously but its very obvious that if a nursery growing flowering plants such as annuals, perennials including roses and bee friendly plants use Confidor or other Neonicotinoid insecticides to control insect pests in their nurseries; then when these plants are available for sale they could well be lethal to honey bees and bumble bees when they flower.
How long would it be before they were safe for bees to visit?

I cant find an answer to that question but research into the subject looks likes either weeks or months.
In the summer I usually get a few complaints from some gardeners who have purchased new swan plants to place their monarch butterfly caterpillars on as their own plants have been stripped.
Within a short period of time the caterpillars eating the new plants die, which is the result of systemic insecticides inside the foliage the caterpillars are eating.
I have also noticed a number of responsible garden centres advertising their swan plants as spray free.
Maybe we will need to ask the question of places that are selling flower plants if they have been sprayed with any Neonicotinoids before we buy to protect bees visiting our gardens?
‘Spray Free flowering plants’ signs in garden shops would be a logic step to prevent this happening.
In the Us there is currently a petition of 300,000 names being gathered to meet with the CEOs of Home Depot and Lowe’s (two of the largest chains of garden shops in USA) and ask them to do what garden centers in the U.K. have done commit to getting bee-killing garden plants out of their stores.
The EU has suspended popular neonics and a majority of the UK’s largest home improvement retailers, including Homebase, B&Q and Wickes, have made public commitments to no longer sell products containing pesticides linked to declining bee populations.
The importance of bees to pollinate our crops cannot be understated.
About 100 crop species provide 90 percent of food globally. Of those species, 71 are pollinated by bees. For example, in the United States a full one-third of the food supply depends on pollination from bees.
In New Zealand I would say its even a greater percentage being an agriculture country.
You can stop using insecticides that are from the Neonicotinoids group such as ‘Confidor’ and ‘Yates Complete Lawn Insect Control’ (for insect pests in lawns) and make sure the plants you are going to grow do not contain these chemicals.
I really wonder why the Neonicotinoid insecticides are even available to the home garden market, as from manufacture to retailer there appears to be a sad lack of responsibility to the welfare of our food chain.
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GARDENING KNOWLEDGE

A well known saying; ‘Knowledge is Power’ and this applies to many aspects of our day to day lives.
If we have learnt something by personal experience or gained the knowledge through the experience of others we have a greater understanding or power over that subject.
The ability to assimilate a bit of knowledge and with the use of your reasoning abilities, including past experiences we can determine if the knowledge is worthwhile and applicable to our lives or whether its a waste of time.
For instance the World Wide Web is a enormous library of information, some valuable and some absolute rubbish. It takes a bit of grey matter to discern what is worthwhile and what is not.
It is said that if wrong information is constantly made available then that information is believed by many to be gospel or correct.
For example it is promoted that you should mix spraying oil (Conqueror oil)with your copper spray when spraying your roses or fruit trees this time of the year.
This bit of silly advise was designed to sell two products without any thought of resulting disadvantages or advantages other than it saved time to mix the two together, rather than spray separately.
So being gullible; I, like many gardeners, believed that was the right thing to do and so we would mix the two together and spray.
Why do we spray copper? It is to protect plants from certain diseases.
Why do we spray Conqueror oil? It is to smother and kill certain pest insects such as scale.
Now if there are no pest insects present on the target plant why spray the oil?
No point whatsoever, its just a waste of money.
If we do mix the two products together we find that the effectiveness of the copper has been markinly reduced in the intended control of diseases.
Also when applied with the oil the copper will wash off quicker in rain leaving the plant most vulnerable at the time it needs protection.
To sum up the spraying oil is only needed if there are insect pests on the target plant which can be controlled by a film of oil (that is scale, mites and mealy bugs) if not don't waste your money.
Besides the Copper is much more effective without the oil and even better if you add a rain proofer to the copper spray so it will not wash off in rain (Raingard)
I learnt about this aspect many years ago when on a Sunday I went to spray my plum tree for bladder plum and found I had run out of the spraying oil.
I could not be bothered going out to get the oil so just sprayed the copper. That was the first season that I won the fight with Bladder Plum by not having the oil in the spray to reduce the effects of the copper.
Later when I thought about it I came to realise that I had been sucked in for years and the combination of oil and copper was only in the interests of the people selling it.
Another aspect which I often talk about is the chlorine in tap water in areas where the town supply is chlorinated to kill bacteria.
Chlorine is a poison that kills bacteria, its put into our drinking water to protect us from bacterial infections (tummy bug, diarrhea etc) which is fine even if it is also poisoning ourselves.
Why would we put chlorinated water into our gardens which kills bacteria when we want healthy soil teeming with beneficial bacteria and earth worms?
I also learnt that by chance some years ago and when you stop and think about it then it is very logical.
I came up with another one recently when a lady gardener phoned me about a problem they have getting grass to grow in a very shaded area.
The reason they are having the problem is that they are cutting the grass in that area too low.
It is stated that if you want grass to survive in shaded areas then you must let it grow taller and not cut it lower than about 5 plus centimeters.
She asked why which made me think.
The reason, which I had not thought through before, is because the lawn grasses have very narrow leaves which means there is a small area for the plant to gather energy from the sun.
In a more open situation the grasses survive when cut lower so not a problem because they get more light.
In a shade area the grass needs a longer leaf to gather what energy it can from reflected light, cut it sort and through lack of energy the grass dies. Simple when you think about it.
Like I said earlier Knowledge is Power and it enables you to be more successful in your endeavors.
Knowledge comes from personal experience and from research or to use the knowledge and experience that others share. Likely one of the main areas of researching these days is through the Internet by putting your appropriately worded question into a search engine.
Watching educational films or DVD’s, reading books and talking to people with experience in the matters of concern.
Books are a great source of information and when it comes to gardening there are gardening books on just about every subject that you can think of.
Take for example Touchwood Books at http://www.touchwoodbooks.co.nz/ they would likely have the biggest range of gardening related books, new and second hand available in New Zealand.
The company changed hands a little while ago and moved from Hastings to Levin area.
I am told there was many truck loads of books that traveled across the Island to their new home.
I had a look at their current web site which only has a few selected titles displayed.
You need to put in a topic such as Glasshouses and then a page will come up with what books are available on the subject.
I put in ‘Wallys”and found 3 of my 5 books listed so thats pretty good.
Which brings me to another bit of knowledge and that is my latest book called Wallys Glasshouse Gardening For New Zealand.
I wrote the book over the winter because there are no glasshouse gardening books for New Zealand conditions available. It has108 pages with a recommended retail price of $20.00
Available from some book shops by request (Whitcoulls and Paper Plus) also some garden centres and by mail order.
More details on the book at Wallys Glasshouse Growing for New Zealand

If you have a glasshouse, tunnel house or thinking about buying one then my book maybe a help to you on how to grow plants in a glasshouse.
It is a guide by which you can use my experiences to gain better results.

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SEPTEMBER GARDENING 2013

September is the first calendar month of spring, but for most of the country spring began in August and many gardeners heeded the early call. Even if some gardeners missed the early start, plants in our gardens didn't and spring growth has been great.
The big question on everyones minds, is it going to be a great gardening season for a change?
Time will tell and in the meantime we will be optimistic because that is the way of gardeners.
Talking with gardeners in the lower South Island, Invercargill, Dunedin and Queenstown, it is also an early spring for them.
One of the dangers to think about when you start off gardening in the spring is sun light on your bare skin. On nice days outside we tend to expose our lilly white skin from winter to the strong rays of the sunlight. Our unprotected skin burns easily and can lead to skin aging and skin cancer.
There is a lot of publicity about using sunscreens to protect your skin from UV radiation to help prevent skin cancer.
What a lot of people do not realise is that sunscreens prevent your skin from making Vitamin D.
Sufficient Vitamin D levels, (along with a good diet and exercise) has emerged as a most important preventive factor in human health.
There are now hundreds of studies which link vitamin D deficiency with significantly higher rates of many forms of cancer as well as heart disease, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and other health conditions and diseases.
We make 90 percent of our vitamin D naturally, from sunlight exposure to our skin. When our skin is exposed to ultraviolet B this naturally initiates the conversion of cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D3.
Sunscreens may help prevent skin cancers but lack of Vitamin D leads to other cancers and health problems. Recent studies found low levels of Vitamin D in most cancer patients and the worst cases of cancer with none.
There is an answer to the problem of both protecting your skin and gaining your bodies needed Vitamin D and that is using Virgin Coconut Oil.(VCO)
Apply VCO to your exposed skin before venturing out into the garden. Be sensible and spend only a short time in the beginning of the season, granularly increasing your exposure time as your skin tans and becomes less prone to burning.
After coming indoors wash the exposed skin and apply a fresh lot of VCO to protect and nourish the skin from aging effects and wrinkles. When spending longer periods in the garden after gaining your dose of Vitamin D either cover up or use a sunscreen to prevent unwanted burning.
I remember as a teenager we used to coat ourselves in coconut oil and go and bake it the sun.
I am sure that protected us a lot from skin cancer as most of the people I have spoken to that did the same have not suffered from melanomas.
Keep your pets out of the sun, especially those with white patches and thin coats.
How does UV effect our garden plants? Trials have shown that plants are effected but not all in the same way. Some plants do better with the higher levels of UV where others fair worse.
For instance photosynthesis (How plants use the energy from the sun to produce carbohydrates and sugars) decreases in many plants.
It was found that water use efficiency, dry matter production/yield and leaf area decreases in many plants. Specific leaf weight increases in many plants and flowering maybe inhibited in some plants and stimulated in others.
The answer could well be in the occasional spray of Vaporgard to protect the foliage against the UV. Vaporgard is the sunscreen for plants as it blocks the UV and allows the chlorophyll to go into maximum production. The higher UV levels at this time of the year will affect other plants in our gardens also, for better or worse.
You may like to experiment a bit yourselves by spraying half of a crop with Vaporgard and leave the other half as the control. If one or the other half does better or worse you have some interesting information that I would love to hear about.
This applies to not only vegetables, but annual flowers, roses and other ornamentals.
Gardeners in southern regions will notice a greater difference than northern gardeners.
Besides protecting plants from UV we also have the spring disease problems for some plants.
On roses where black spot is a problem along with rust protect them and other plants with sprays of baking soda (a tablespoon to a litre of water)
Rust and most leaf disease can be controlled with sprays of potassium permanganate.
Lawns need to be looked at and checked for weeds, moss and thatch.
If you find weeds then dig them out or use a lawn weed killer. Moss is best treated with a spray of Moss and Liverwort Control rather than Sulphate of Iron as the product will kill the moss completely, the iron only burns the top.
For the thatch spray the lawn with Thatch Busta, it will eat up an inch of thatch in a month. Thatch Busta can be added to the lawn weed killer spray to speed up the removal of both thatch and weeds.
If you have moss then first spray the Moss and Liverwort Control on its own and a day or so later use the weed killer and Thatch Busta together.
Spring is the ideal time to de-thatch the lawn so that the roots of the grasses have to grow down into the soil, rather than into the thatch area. This causes the lawn to brown off as soon as we hit drier times.
I haven't noticed any pest problems yet except for mealy bugs on flax and some other plants. A spray of Neem Tree Oil will take care of the critters. Remember that mealy bugs live in the soil also and re-infest onto the plants from down below, so a scattering of Neem Tree Granules over the soil will help gain total control.
Time to repot both indoor and outdoor container plants that are not annuals.
If a plant is pot bound, you do not have to go up to a larger pot unless you want to.
Instead lift the plant out of the container and cut off the bottom third of the roots with a cross cut saw. Put fresh mix in the base of the old pot and pop the plant back in.
For indoor plants use a good quality potting mix. For outdoor containers use a good friable compost with a little top soil mixed in. If you have a worm farm, pop a few worms into the outdoor mix. You will find the compost/soil mix will grow better plants and require less watering in the summer than a potting mix. Its cheaper also.
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SOME GARDENING TIPS FOR THE NEW SEASON

Gardening tips are items that can make gardening easier, save you money and time as well as obtaining better results. You may like to cut out this article for future use.
Experienced gardeners, learning from each other find methods that are an advantage in their gardening endeavors. Most of the following tips came originally from experienced gardeners given to me over the years.
Firstly you need to realise that there is a lot of misinformation bandied about, some of which is taken for gospel by novice gardeners to their disadvantage.
Take for instance adding dish washing liquid to a garden spray, it will help spread some types of sprays better over the foliage but it will also make the spray wash off faster in rain or over head watering.
Dish washing liquid added to water, on the other hand, is good for dry soils or mediums where water will not penetrate to break the surface tension.
Garlic sprays favoured by organic people do not kill insect pests. Garlic sprays will however disguise the natural smell of a plant making it difficult for a pest to locate, if the pest is one which finds its host plant by smell. Problem is the smell washes off with rain or wears off quickly leaving the plants vulnerable.
Pyrethrum which is often used with garlic sprays for the killing action is a very good natural insecticide which is a quick kill for the insects it comes into contact with.
Problem is that Pyrethrum is very quickly broken down by UV (Sunlight) and may only be effective for a couple of hours when sprayed during the day. (even on a cloudy day) If on the other hand you spray Pyrethrum at dusk, it will remain effective till sunlight destroys its active ingredients the next day.
Copper sprays are a good protection against diseases such as blight, downy mildew, brown rot, curly leaf, bacterial diseases and citrus diseases. If you add a spraying oil to the copper spray it reduces the effectiveness of the copper, so you waste your time and money.
You often hear advisor's saying to mix copper and oil together to save you time. If the two were truly compatible then someone would have introduced a product that already combined the two elements. The only reason to use a spraying oil is to smother scale insects in the winter/spring period. If you don't have scale why use the oil?
If you do have scale insects then do a separate oil spray when the copper protection is not needed. Copper sprays do not protect your plants from diseases such as black spot, powdery mildew, botrytis, rusts, leaf spots and leaf moulds. You need a liquid sulphur spray for these which will also control spider mites.
Use the right protection for each disease, often copper is recommended for rust and black spot but it does not do much for the disease.
I had a call from a lady gardener years ago who told me that when she lived on the farm, she feed her roses cow manure and had wonderful, healthy roses that never needed spraying. When she moved to town and started to use water soluble fertilisers and Nitrophoska, her roses started having troubles.
To overcome these problems she was told to use Shield. The roses never improved. These chemical sprays and fertilisers harm the soil life and as a result effect the natural health of the roses/plants.
The simple answer is to go back to the natural foods like animal manures, sheep pellets, Yates Dynamic lifter (chicken manure based) Bio Boost, Blood & Bone Etc then watch your rose’s health recover.
You may need to use some natural remedies in the meantime while the soil life and worm populations are allowed to build up again.
Herbicides used for weed killing also harm soil life but busy people that do not have the time to weed opt for these quick solutions. Environment friendly weed killers such as Yates Greenscape are a better option.
If you opt to use the conventional chemical herbicides then you can offset the damage by adding either Thatch Busta or Mycorrcin to the spray. The weed killer will work better and the dying weeds will disappear faster as the products speed up the decay time and feed the soil life.
Raingard has been proven to increase the weed kill by about 50% if added to the herbicide spray. If you use glyphosate weed killers such as Roundup etc and add Raingard plus Thatch Busta you can halve the amount of glyphosate used.
Example, instead of 10 ml of glyphosate use 5mls. In fact for many weeds you can come down as low as 2.5mls. The less chemical used the better off everything is.
Club Root is a bad disease that effects brassicas (cabbages etc) by distorting the root system.
It is a soil borne disease that is often introduced into gardens with seedlings and plants grown in contaminated soil. Once you have it you have a problem growing cabbages etc.
The control is Condys crystals (potassium permagnate) A small amount of the crystals are dissolved in water with salt and then added to more water to drench the planting hole. Potassium permagnate is available from many garden centres and the jar has the recipe on the label.
A quarter a teaspoon of Condys Crystals added to a litre of water is an excellent spray to control numerous diseases such as rust, rots, and fungus diseases.
Baking Soda is ideal to control powdery mildew and black spot use a tablespoon to a litre of water. If possible only use warm water when mixing any sprays, they mix into warm water better, than into cold.
Always use non-chlorinated water for sprays and watering your gardens. Chlorine kills beneficial soil life and makes for unhealthy plants.
If you like growing some of your own potatoes then plant your seed potatoes now to try and beat the potato psyllid damage.
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ROSES

Now that I have finished the winter spray treatment and pruning of the roses it is time to start the new season care program.
I see that currently my bush roses (which are all in 45 litre containers) are sprouting nice new shoots while the climbing roses that are planted in the soil along the street fence, already have some new season flower buds.
Its an early season because the winter has being so mild along with ample rain over the last few months, will mean an increase in pest and disease problems this season.
Many areas have not had the freezing cold frosts that make a big difference in the pest populations.
The now current damp conditions with warmer temperatures can lead to leaf diseases.
The best way to combat these problems is to make the roses as healthy as possible and pre-empt diseases and pests with some early preventive measures.
To aid the health of your roses apply about 50grams of Rok Solid around the root zone of each rose along with animal manures such as sheep manure pellets, horse manure or whatever you can obtain.
One word of caution ensure any animal manure is not from animals that have grazed in herbicide sprayed areas.
Blood & Bone is an excellent food and so is Yates Dynamic Lifter plus Flower Food which is chicken manure and compost with a little extra added nutrients.
BioBoost is another reasonable priced slow release plant food.
A small sprinkling of Fruit and Flower Power should be made monthly till the end of the season.
These foods suggested will not only feed your roses but will also enhance the soil life which is vital to healthy plants. Microbes and beneficial fungi (Mycorrhiza) along with earth worms aid in the collection of moisture, creation/storage of minerals and elements, aeration, feeding and protecting your roses.
All this is done under ground and the Soil Food Web is a must for healthy garden plants.
You destroy this wonderful world by using the harsh man-made fertilisers such as Rose Fertiliser and Nitrophoska. Chlorinated tap water also kills your soil life and leads to disease and pest problems.
If you have chlorinated water in your water supply then put a 10 micron carbon bonded filter on your tap to remove the chlorine. It makes a world of difference to your gardens in the summer.
You can enhance the soil life by giving a drench of Mycorrcin and Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) to the soil in each rose root zone. These two natural products build up the soil life and aid in the removal of contaminants including locked up elements.
For diseases the most simple and inexpensive is to make up a solution of potassium permanganate (Condys Crystals) at quarter a teaspoon to a litre of water and spray the rose and soil underneath.
Do this now before you place any of the foods and soil drenches as mentioned above.
Leave for a few days and then apply the foods.
During the season at any sign of black spot, powdery mildew, rust or fungus forming on the rose then spray all the roses with the potassium permanganate.
It can also be done occasionally as a preventive.
Then two weekly (if you are keen) spray the Mycorrcin and MBL mixed together over the roses and the soil underneath; alternatively do monthly, this helps with building the health of the roses and soil.
If you have any troublesome roses which always have problems add Perkfection Supa to the monthly spray Pests can be controlled safely with the Neem Products, first of all (at the same time as placing your food around the roses) sprinkle a small handful of Neem Tree Granules.
I have had some good reports from gardeners that this reduced or prevent the invasion of aphids.
Likely it is the smell of the Neem Granules breaking down that confuses the aphids.
A spray of Neem Tree Oil will control pest insects safely and also tends to put possums and rabbits off eating the roses if you are in the country.
Neem Oil also helps in the prevention of leaf diseases such as black spot and rust.
Neem Oil can be sprayed with Mycorrcin, MBL and Perkfection but not potassium permanganate.
To protect our bees do not use any chemical sprays on your roses.
Chemical Rose sprays are harmful to your health, the environment and the soil life.
I have had a number of reports over the years from gardeners that are rose enthusiasts. Their stories are the same, about how they used the chemical rose foods and sprays and over the years their roses became sicker and sicker.
Then they stopped doing so and started to use natural products and within a couple of seasons they have beautiful roses again.
Garden naturally and you will have peace of mind and great gardens, garden unnaturally with chemicals and every thing suffers.
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BEES IN YOUR GARDEN

August is the month for making the public and gardeners aware of bees which not only includes honey bees, where most of the focus is directed, but also bumble bees and our native bees.
The NBA (National Beekeepers Association) is the principal organisation behind Bee Aware month and in this regard they are asking people to plant nectar rich flowering plants in their gardens so that our bees will have ample food sources.
A very good principal but if on one hand you are using chemical poisons in your garden to kill pest insects and these chemicals also effect or kill our bees then no matter how chock-a full your gardens maybe with nectar flowing plants, what if there are no bees to visit?
I note that Palmers Garden Centres are one of the companies that is supporting Bee Aware month so in that regard it would be a worthy gesture on their behalf to remove the sale of Confidor from their stores.
Confidor is a member of the Nicotinoids family of chemicals such as Imidacloprid and Chloronicoyinyl Which kills insects by attacking their nervous systems. These are known to get into pollen and nectar, and can kill beneficial insects such as bees.
I see that on Yates web site they have the statement; ‘Systemic action absorbed through the foliage and moves throughout the plant to control insect pests Works from the inside out’.
Also stated is ‘Will kill bees do not spray when bees are active’
Reference: http://www.yates.co.nz/products/pest-control/insects-concentrates/yates-confidor-garden-insecticide-sachets/
A systemic insecticide is a chemical poison that enters the target plant and will effect any insect that feeds on that plant from the roots to the flowers and remains active in the plant for several days or in some cases months. Yates state ‘Very low concentrations needed to be effective’.
This implies that a little will be effective, likely similar to herbicide spray drift you don't need much to effect non-target plants.
I see on Yates web site Withholding periods: 21 days for stone fruit; 7 days for capsicum, potatoes or eggplants and brassicas; 3days for tomatoes.
That tells me that no bees should be allow near those crops for at least that period of time, bit hard to stop the bees or bumble bees coming into your gardens?
Actually its a lot worse than above according to page 335 of my Novachem manual, 2008 where Confidor has Withholding periods on Onions of 7 days, lettuce 35 days, vegetable brassicas 70 days.
I know from experience that bees forage brassica flowers when the plants are going to seed. If I had happened to have sprayed the plants a month before with Confidor to kill caterpillars, then a month later the brassicas that were flowering, they would likely be killing the bees that were taking nectar from the flowers.

On April 29, 2013, the European Union passed a two-year ban on neonicotinoid insecticides, which are suspected to be a contributing factor of bee colony collapse disorder.
What was this family of insecticides developed from? Nicotine! Thats what we are warned against in regards to smoking tobacco.
I remember years ago there was a nicotine based insecticide that was in use along with DDT both were later banned.
There are a number of other insecticides which are also harmful to beneficial insects and one for example would be pyrethrum if bees came into contact with it within about 2 hours of spraying.
Thats why we recommend that you spray pyrethrum at sunset when bee activity has finished for the day.
Pyrethrum is very quickly broken down to harmless by UV or sunlight which means that about 2 hours after spraying during the daylight hours it will be gone; it kills what you hit and thats it.
If you want to encourage bees into your garden firstly stop killing them with insecticides and then start planting up beneficial, nectar producing plants. Three of my favorites are borage, brassicas and Allium family members such as onions. All allowed to flower and seed, then you have free seeds.
Here is a list of what I consider practical plants to grow and keep the honey bees and bumble bees happy: All stone and pip fruits, citrus trees, blackberry, clovers, rosemary, lavender, sage and other salvias, thyme, mint, bee balm, basil, catmint, brassicas, dandelion, sunflower, dahlias, cosmos, echinacea, zinnia. Then there are also eucalypts, pohutukawa, rata, bottlebrush, manuka and heathers.
My message is attract the bees but stop killing them when they visit.
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DO NOT DELAY PLANTING SEED POTATOES

This season’s certified seed potatoes are now available in garden centres through out New Zealand.
The first certified seed potatoes are normally the fast maturing types which are referred to as ‘early’ or ‘first early’ which include the following varieties: Swift 60 days; Liseta 60-90 days; Rocket 60 days; Jersey Bennes 90 days; Cliff Kidney 90 days, Ilam Hardy 90 days and Maris Anchor 90 days.
The number of days after each variety indicates the time, after sprouting, the potatoes take to mature given average growing conditions.
Seed potatoes have to be broken out of their dormancy before they will grow and we call this ‘sprouting.’ If you were to place non sprouted seed potatoes into the cold soil of the garden nothing would happen till the soil warmed up. If the soil happened to be too wet for an extended period, then the seed potatoes would likely rot in the ground.
Potatoes are a seasonal crop having a built in dormancy period which varies between varieties with many of the early potatoes only having a short dormancy unless they are chilled.
In the natural flow of nature a potato will sprout in the soil when the soil temperature rises. This will often be later in spring or early summer. The potato will grow to maturity; produce a crop of tubers and flower.
The flowers produce green, small tomato like seed pods which you will often see on mature potatoes. These pods contain seeds which if given the chance, will become potato plants in their own right.
The tops of the potato plants die off leaving the tubers in the soil. As the soil cools in autumn the tubers in the soil go into dormancy which is further assisted by the colder soil conditions of winter.
In the spring when the soil warms the cycle repeats. It is this natural dormancy aspect that allows us to grow a sizable crop of potatoes and store them for later use.
That is of course as long as we store them correctly in as cold as possible conditions. Late crops that mature in autumn should be left in the soil to store naturally which works fine as long as the area is not prone to excess water in winter. If the soil becomes water logged for an extended period then the potatoes may rot. Otherwise you just dig up a few tubers as you need them. Bringing too many tubers indoors to the warmer temperatures will break dormancy and the potatoes will start to sprout.
This is the method that you use on the certified seed potatoes that you will buy over the next few weeks. Bring them inside where it is warm and start the tubers sprouting. If you want to achieve sprouting even quicker, place the seed potatoes in the hot water cupboard.
As soon as the little sprouts appear you then set the seed potatoes out onto a tray with their shoots upwards. The tray is placed outside in a partial shade situation that is frost free.
Under a car port or evergreen trees and shrubs is ideal as the potatoes will have frost protection from above and ample light to ‘green up’ The greening happens to any potato when it is exposed to light for a period of time. This greening hardens up the new shoots and prepares the seed potato for planting out.
A question that is often asked of me by gardeners is ‘Can I plant the potatoes that have sprouted from home grown potatoes or purchased ones, or do I have to buy new certified seed potatoes’?
A good question and the simple answer is if you want a good crop of potatoes then always buy fresh certified seed potatoes. There are two reasons for this.
The first and most obvious is that certain diseases can be carried on the tubers and using non-certified seed potatoes could introduce these diseases into the new crop. Certified seed potatoes are checked while they are growing and post harvest for any diseases and if free of problems they obtain certification.
The less known reason is that many potato varieties grown these days are bred to fail after the first initial crop.
The reason for this, I have been told, is the potato breeders want to keep their jobs.
If you grow a variety of certified seed potatoes and harvest a good crop that is all that is meant to happen. If you keep a few of the crop and grow them then the second generation crop will likely have a few good sized potatoes at harvest and the rest will be small. Take the better potatoes from this and you will likely end up with a crop of marble size potatoes on the third generation.
If you have plenty of garden room you can grow some of the sprouted seeds from purchased potatoes or previously grown crops. Hedge your bets and also plant ample new certified seed potatoes as well.
Buying an early variety such as Jersey Bennes about now gives you time to sprout the potatoes and green them up ready for planting out later in August. Taking 90 days from planting to maturity will have nice new potatoes ready for Xmas 2013.
So don't delay. The best seed potatoes originate from the South Island because of the colder conditions. One supplier marks their certified seed potato bags ‘South Island Grown’ Look for them.
Another interesting method is when you place your just sprouted seed potatoes out into trays try doing the following; Lay untreated sawdust in the base of the tray to cover about 10-20mm deep, next lay your seed potatoes onto the sawdust with their sprouts facing upwards.
Then cover completely the s tubers with more untreated sawdust and drench the tray/sawdust with Magic Botanic Liquid at 20ml per litre of water. Keep the sawdust moist by watering as need be.
Not only will the seed potatoes produce sprouts but they will also produce a nice root system too which means they will establish quicker when planted out in the garden or in containers.
When planting your now sprouted seed potatoes out there are some ingredients that you can use to advantage: The ingredients are Gypsum one tablespoon, sheep manure pellets, small handful, Neem Granules, quarter of a teaspoon, BioPhos, a teaspoon full and Rok Solid, half a teaspoon.
The Gypsum supplies ample calcium and sulphur, the sheep pellets, a natural NPK fertiliser, Neem Granules food and protection from pests, the BioPhos supplies natural phosphate and beneficial micro organisms, the Rok Solid supplies additional magnesium, silica and elements.
These products will greatly assist in keeping the plants healthy and free of diseases while growing.
They also enrich the crop in minerals and elements which are great for your own health.
Root crops will take into themselves more of any elements in the soil than foliage crops.
This is a good reason to avoid harmful chemical fertilisers and sprays including any herbicides.
You don't want these in your home grown potatoes as you already get enough of them in any potatoes you buy.
Home grown potatoes generally speaking have far better flavour than most purchased ones with the exception of organic grown and potatoes from some South Island growers.
Your own potatoes will have better cooking aspects with added health benefits.
There are lots of good reasons to grow your own potatoes and by getting them in now will help to avoid damage from the psyllids.
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GERMINATING SEEDS

Last week we looked at a range of new or interesting seed types that I will be planting this season and where you would be able to obtain similar seeds.
To take this a step further, lets look at how is the best way to germinate any type of seed.
There are two basic places to germinate seeds, one is where they will ultimately grow and mature the other is in suitable containers to germinate and then to transplant out into open ground or larger containers latter on.
Firstly it is always best to plant any seed in the spot where it will grow and mature. The reason for this is because when a seed germinates it will send down a tap root and if in open ground in a friable soil that root can be very long.
If on the other hand we germinate in a container or seedling tray that root will be limited in the depth of the tray and growing medium.
It is not practical to grow every thing at the maturity site, especially when we are getting an early start or growing out of season.
There are some seed types which should only be grown in their maturity site and only planted when conditions are favourable.
I often see seedlings for sale in punnets of plants which should never be offered this way because novice gardeners, that know no better, may purchase and have poor results..
The worst example of this is root crops such as carrots and parsnips which should only be direct sown as in any other form they will not produce a normal root. An exception to this is a newer carrot that is round in shape and does not produce a long edible root.
Beetroot and onions are seedlings that will transplant but are better to direct sow. (Direct sow means planting seed where they will mature) Spring onion is an exception.
Corn, beans and peas should all be direct sown and you will get far better crops if you do so.
Larger seeds are easy to handle and can be placed where you want them to grow without having to thin out later on. Silverbeet is another one that would be best direct sown.
If you want to start off seeds early in open ground try this method.
Make a trench about 100mm deep and the same wide, mow your lawn and collect the clippings which you then pack fresh into the bottom of your trench. (Note if the grasses are in seed in the lawn it maybe best not to use the clippings to prevent moving grass weeds to your garden)
Pack firmly to about 80mm then sprinkle a little compost over the clippings to cover.
Next sprinkle garden lime and Rok Solid along the trench along with foods such as chook manure, sheep manure pellets, blood & bone, Bio Boost and Neem Tree Granules.
Once again cover lightly with weed free compost (Purchased)
Next sow your seeds such as peas, beans, sweet corn etc. (Peas are hardy but others will depend where you are in NZ to when you start)
Once the seeds are spaced out along the row then spray them with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) at 20 mls per litre. This really speeds up germination. Then cover the seeds with more compost and water down using a fine rose watering can with MBL added.
For those that have problems with either cats, birds or late frosts then make some hoops out of No8 wire and place them along the row with a clearance of about 200mm in the middle of the row.
Place crop cover over the hoops and on one side cover with soil and on the other side with lengths of old timber or similar.
That allows you to easily take off to tend to the plants if needed. The heat from the grass clippings will warm the soil which greatly helps germination. Once well developed then you can remove the hoops and cover and store for future use.
Now lets look at doing similar but in seedling trays or by using cell packs or punnets.
If you keep the punnets and cell packs that you have purchased in the past then these are good value to use.
Wash them out in hot water so they are nice and clean.
To fill I use only purchased compost of high quality such as from Daltons or Oderings.
I have found that seed raising mixes are a gimmick and most of the ones I have looked at are too expensive and do not work as well as a good quality compost for most seed germination projects.
Think about this; outside in Nature we find all sorts of soils types even straight gravel or sand where seeds do not appear to have much trouble germinating, without any special mixes from mankind.
One important aspect to consider when germinating in seedling trays is to have heat from a heat pad.
Some garden shops, pet supplies and brew shops have heat pads which can be used for germination.
I place a sheet of polystyrene block on a bench to direct the heat upwards then sit the seed trays on the heat pad.
If you go to wholesale fish outlets or fish departments of supermarkets you will likely find used polystyrene trays free or for a few dollars.
You can sit your heat pad in the tray and being white it will provide lots of good reflected light.
If the pad you buy is a higher temperature than you require then cover the pad with sand and keep the sand moist. Sit your seedling trays on the sand.
Fill your seedling tray or cell packs to about two thirds full with purchased compost as above.
Carefully sprinkle a few seeds over the compost keeping them apart so they each have their own space.
Spray then seeds with MBL and Mycorrcin mixed together in a trigger sprayer with non chlorinated water. Once the compost and seeds are wet then cover seeds with more compost (You can sieve it if you like) and wet down with your spray.
Now you spray the tray at least twice a day to keep the compost moist using the same trigger mix.
Once a few seeds have germinated and before they start stretching for light get them out into natural light from overhead such as on a bench in a glasshouse.
If you do not have a suitable place then place your polystyrene box outside with a sheet of glass over it.
The seedlings will need spraying still but off the heat pad a lot less. Make sure the seedlings are in good light but not strong sun light to burn them.
If you are worried about them at night you can bring the polystyrene box inside or onto a porch.
When the seedling are big enough to handle prick them out and pot them into small pots once again using the compost.
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WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO GROW THIS SEASON?

I always find it very exciting this time of the year as new season’s seeds are displayed in garden centres and in seed catalogues which arrive in the post.
I received my Egmont Seeds Mail Order Catalogue this week with 113 pages of seeds and products for us to look through and decide what we shall have a go at this season.
I believe it is existing customers that receive a printed catalogue each year or in some years a supplement which has all the new seeds not previously catalogued before.
These days you can go on line and see the current selection of seeds available and place your order. For those without a printed catalogue see http://www.egmontseeds.co.nz/

I really like Egmont Seeds company as they have an incredible range of accessories that you can obtain to assist with the germination and the growing on of the seeds you buy.
Heat pads, cell packs, PB bags, containers, labels etc as well as all the different types of seeds.
A selection of fruit seeds, vegetables, flowers,herbs, native plants, oriental vegetables and what they call Fuseables, which are vegetables or flowers that can be grown close together for harvesting such as salad mix (Cut young and tender) or in flowers such as petunias that make a great show in a cluster or container.
The seeds come in pellets which will contain several seeds of the same or in some cases a few different varieties. You place one pellet of something into a 12cm pot and let them grow or you can place 3 to 5 pellets in a 30cm pot.
One of interest that caught my eye is Juncus Twisted Arrows which is a combination of straight dart and twisted arrows. The pellets can be added to the pellets of flowers to create a striking living vase effect or grown on their own.
Seed tapes which have become more common in recent times are an easy way to obtain a row of say carrots at the right spacing without having to do a lot of thinning out later on.
Then there is seed mats which are 8cm discs with a number of seeds of the type/s you wish to plant.
Ideal for the likes of Mesclun mixes etc, just lay on your prepared bed or container and lightly cover.
My preference is for vegetables and especially crops that you cant normally buy in most fruit and vegetable outlets.
Ones that caught my eye and taste buds include:

Beans - Snake Bean - Orient Wonder; Vigna sesquipedalis. Very productive, climbing long podded type. The green beans grow as long as 40cm. Best grown up a trellis or with other support. Delicious!
Beans Soy Kiwi No 8; Glycine max. A versatile variety relatively unknown in NZ home gardens. Quite simple to grow so long as you have a warm area needs temps 18 degree plus. No staking required.
Broccoli Sprouting - Red Spear Sprouting; Brassica oleracea var botrytis. Outstanding cropper. Good colour and size. Red Spear does best in the winter to spring harvest period. What I like about this broccoli is that it produces lots of small purple coloured heads which you just harvest what you want for a meal and leave the rest.
In the meantime more heads will grow to give a long harvest time.
Capsicum Peter Pecker - Capsicum annum. Needs at least 25-30 degrees celcius to germinate. Not for the shy - bred for fun and for its phallic appearance! Fruits are extremely hot and can be red or green, growing to approx 10 cm long.
It ends in a rounded dome which is inset inside the main sheath. Shapes and sizes vary. A hot item in more ways than one.
One I grew last season and will grow many more plants this season instead of ordinary cucumbers is:

Cucumber - Iznik Mini F1 Hybrid Cucumis sativus. Fresh green, shiny finger cucumber with smooth skin and intense taste. This very early maturing plant is littered with 10cm long fruits well before other varieties.
Iznik is Parthenocarpic - it does not require pollination to set fruit, so it can produce high-yields even under adverse conditions or without any bee activity.
We recommend it as a great variety for pot and container production - not necessary to stake, but may be beneficial.
For those that love some pumpkin now and then and do not like waste try:

Pumpkin (Squash) - Gold Dust F1 Hybrid; Cucurbita maxima Prolific yields of tiny, attractive pumpkins with exceptional powdery mildew tolerance. The fruit set close to the crown early and escape virus flecking. lOOg pumpkins sized 7cm X 5cm. Lovely taste.
Something for your eyes to enjoy and a favourite of mine especially for containers:
Calceolaria - Dainty Mix F1 Hybrid; Calceolaria herbeohybrida With its exotic looking flowers the exciting challenge to produce these wonderful plants is certainly worthwhile. Requires lots of TLC to germinate and does not like it hot or dry. Normally grown for it's fabulous display in pots.
Chiastophyllum - Solar Yellow; Chiastophyllum oppositifolium. A hardy perennial giving a fantastic spring show! Compact plants have sturdy, upright stems with eye-catching “weeping” blooms of bright yellow over fine, green foliage. Ideal for patio planters and gardens.
For your children or grand children you could grow them a pot with:
Mimosa - Touchy Tina; Mimosa pudica. Easy to grow ‘sensitive’ plant produces fern like green foliage which folds together when touched. Flowers are pink. Mimosa undergoes changes in leaf orientation termed ‘sleep’ or ‘nyctinastic’ movement.
The foliage folds closed during darkness and reopens in daylight.
The leaves will also fold under various other stimuli, such as touch, temperature, wind, or shaking.
The world is your oyster when it comes to new seasons seeds, a very exciting time.
You will have successes and you will have failures which is what gardening is all about.
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LIFTING YOUR GARDEN WITH RAISED BEDS

Raised beds for gardening is a great way to make gardening easy and at the same time produce a good range of vegetables or flowers.
The advantages as I see them are; less bending, tidy gardens, attractive gardens, less weeding, no digging, superior produce or plants, ease of watering, great drainage, ease of harvesting and a pleasure to garden even if you are not really into gardening.
I have viewed some excellent raised gardens over the years and have always been very impressed with the lay out and thought that the owners have put into their work.
To obtain really good crops you need about 30cm of good humus based soil to allow plants to root deep.
Deep rooting plants will produce greater amounts of foliage when compared to shallow rooting ones.
When this is applied to brassicas, lettuce, silverbeet and similar foliage crops the more tops the better harvest. Plants that can root deep require less spacing giving you greater production on each square metre. With root crops such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot etc they fair better and bigger when they can easily penetrate deeper into the soil.
A good raised garden can be of any height over 30cm tall built on top of the ground in a fairly sunny situation. An ideal height would likely be 70cm tall and at that height a person in a wheel chair is able to garden still. The width of the raised garden should not be too wide with one metre being ideal as long as you have access from both sides. A metre wide allows three rows of potatoes or brassicas, two of which are planted near the sides with one in the middle.
The length of the raised garden will depend on your needs and the amount of room available. As with anything new it is better to start in a small way and extend over time as your enthusiasm for this way of gardening increases.
Start with a raised garden a metre wide, 70cm tall and between 1 metre to 2 metres long.
Using a combination of timber and corrugated iron for the sides has the advantage of collecting heat from the sun to warm the growing medium. The added heat will help achieve earlier maturity times.
For this structure you simply need 2 sheets of corrugated iron 1.8 metres long and another sheet cut into two for the ends and 4 lengths of wood 100x100mm 70cm long. (Square fence posts)
The wood used should be ground treated tanalised to ensure the structure has a long life.
We do not want the chemicals from the tanalising process leaching into our garden so the first step is to paint them all over with a couple of coats of acrylic paint. If you prefer not even to use tanalised timber then obtain non treated wood and treat it yourself with a solution of borax to preserve the wood.
The formula is 150 grams of borax dissolved in 1 litre of hot water and painted on the wood including the ends. Allow to dry and then give it another coat or two. The borax would soon wash off if you did not seal the wood so once again a couple of coats of acrylic paint.
You will note that I have suggested that the wood is only 70mm long which is the same width of the corrugated iron, this will make the raised garden free standing and a structure that could be dis-assembled if need be in the future. This also avoids the need to dig holes and cement posts into the ground. The structure will be very stable once it is filled with our growing medium.
I have my raised gardens using the above materials sitting on concrete instead of soil.
Rather than nail the iron to the wooden uprights (posts) drill holes through the iron and screw it to the posts. How to construct: Lay the posts on the ground and place a sheet of iron over them so that there is a post at each end flush with the iron and one dead centre in the middle.
Now drill your holes for the screws and screw it up. There should be one screw at every place where the iron touches the post.
Repeat the same with the other 3 posts and the one remaining 1.8 metre length of iron.
Now move these two sheets and their posts to the spot where you are going to have your raised garden. The spot should be in a sunny area with either the end or one side facing towards the north. One side facing north will be best for maximum heat to the growing medium.
Now cut the remaining sheet of iron into half with tin snips. Making two lengths 90cm long being the two ends.
Lay one of the sides on the ground with the iron on the ground and the posts exposed, drill and screw the two ends to the outside of the exposed posts.
Once done stand this side where you want the structure to be and raise the other side to match keeping it squarely in shape.
Drill and screw the remaining side to the iron ends. We now have an oblong box 1.8 metres long and 90cm wide.
Later you could increase the overall length of the raised garden by obtaining another two lengths of corrugated iron (1.8metres) and two more posts as above. Unscrew one end off the posts and screw the two new sheets to both sides the new posts at the far end and the end sheet onto the new posts.
Nail or screw a brace across the now middle two posts to ensure the structure stays straight without buckling.
To fill this structure firstly place a layer of twigs and thin branches over the bottom. This will aid in initial drainage and provide carbon. Next cover this with a inch or two of untreated saw dust or wood shavings to further increase the carbon content. Next a couple of inches of top soil.
From this point up wards a number of materials maybe used in layers such as straw, animal manures, kitchen scraps, wet newspaper, grass clippings, green waste, top soil and compost.
You need not fill the raised garden to the top at this stage in fact with the materials just mentioned take it to about 40cm deep and the finish off with 5 to 10 cm of purchased compost with a little top soil added.
Now sprinkle Ocean Solids and Rok Solid, for the extra minerals they provide, at the recommended rates on the jars.
Then make a mix of one part Garden lime, one part Gypsum and one part Dolomite and also sprinkle this over the area at the rate of 100 grams per square metre.
Lightly water and you are ready to start planting or sowing seeds.
If you have a worm farm or worms in the garden collect some and add them to the raised garden as you are putting the initial layers, in but do not put them directly onto lawn clippings or green waste.
When you harvest crops, disturb the growing medium as little as possible and with foliage crops and weeds just cut them off with a sharp knife just below soil level.
Root crops should be carefully lifted with disturbance.
To plant seed potatoes take a round pole 100mm wide with a sharped point and press this into the mix to a depth of about 20 to 30 cm.
Sprinkle some Neem Tree Granules down the hole and then drop the seed potato into this hole and push some mix in to just cover the potato.
When the new shoots appear in the bottom of the hole sprinkle a little compost to just cover. Repeat till the foliage breaks free of the top of the mix.
A little mounding maybe done as required after this. When you harvest use your hands, so once again the medium has minimum disturbance. The reason for non disturbance of the soil is to not upset the soil life and beneficial fungi.
When a crop is harvested you simply cover the area with some fresh compost and plant up again. If you do not want to plant vegetables straight away, plant a cover crop such as lupin, oats, wheat, peas, mustard etc. (A mix of several is great)
If you wish to grow tall crops such as corn or tomatoes place them on the southern side of the raised garden so the lower crops are closer to the north for sun and do not get shaded by the taller plants.
You can grow runner beans up the stalks of the corn, once the corn is up 20cm tall plant the bean seeds.
To keep the area around the raised garden tidy lay a strip of weedmat and cover with pebbles or bark chips or lay some paving slabs.
Later on you may wish to construct more raised gardens after you have so much success with the first one.
A nice project this time of the year so that it is ready for spring planting.
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START REDUCING PEST AND DISEASE PROBLEMS FOR THE NEW SEASON

The year is simply racing away and with the unusually mild winter that most of the country has experienced (Except for the couple of cold snaps) it will likely mean an early start to the spring.
Spring growth is determined by warmth of the soil and day light hours, both are now on the increase.
We are only about 11 weeks away from the start of daylight savings.
The mild winter (with exceptions) means in areas where the temperatures have not being so cold as one would have expected, pests and disease spores will have had a better chance of surviving in greater numbers.
In Palmerston North I have been amazed that so far we have only had one very mild frost and my self sown tomato plants, in exposed situations, are growing still.
This being the case we need to do what icy cold frosts do for us naturally and that is spray deciduous plants/trees with Lime Sulphur.
Roses bush and standard, cut back canes to half their size (eg from 1 metre to about half a metre) remove spindly cane and diseased wood, clean up the debris. Spray with Lime sulphur the remaining cut canes along with the soil underneath the plants (if free of annuals) Leave for about a month and then do your proper pruning after which spray each plant (as you go) with Liquid Copper and Raingard.
Sprinkle Rok Solid around the root zone.
About a couple of weeks later spray the rose and the soil beneath with Potassium Permanganate and then sprinkle Neem Tree Granules into the root zone.
The Potassium Permanganate also helps kill disease spores and the Neem granules will help ward off early aphids. During the season repeat sprays of Potassium Permanganate at the first sign of any leaf diseases. Feeding of the roses is best done with natural products such as blood & bone animal manures along with Fruit and Flower Power.
For climbing roses tidy up and then spray with Lime Sulphur, following the plan above..
Nectarine and Peach Trees: The worst problem at the beginning of the season is curly leaf.
You need to start control of this now by spraying the tree and the soil under the trees with Lime Sulphur for total coverage. Leave for a couple of weeks and repeat with Potassium Permanganate spray.
When the leaf buds start to swell spray with Liquid Copper and Raingard. Repeat with the same every 7 to 10 days till the time of the disease is past.
The disease spores rise in wet weather and set up colonies on the leaves thus its important that you have copper covering the leaves at that time, with the Raingard preventing the copper from washing off.
It would not hurt to also spray the soil underneath with Potassium Permanganate every so often.
Curly leaf is a hard disease to control and the damaged leaves reduce the amount of energy from the sun the tree receives which effects the crop size. While the trees are in flower, spraying should be done last thing in the day so pollination is not effected.
Codlin Moth: Another annoying pest. A few gardeners have told me that by sprinkling Neem Tree Granules on the soil under the trees about now has helped reduce damage.
I would think it is the smell of the granules that is doing the control which confuses the moths when they emerge as they can not smell the tree above.
Lingering on the soil means they would be fair game for birds to eat.
There is still the problem of female moths flying in from elsewhere so you need to know when activity is starting so that you can spray at the right time.
This is done by using a pheromone trap which you can either buy or alternatively use a tin with treacle in it hanging in the tree in an onion bag. It must be treacle not golden syrup.
Check the trap every couple of days looking for the smaller male moths.
Once they appear you know that the pests are on the wing so you can start spraying the young fruit with Neem Tree Oil. Repeat the spraying about every 7 days till there is no more activity in the trap. If you have several trees then hang a trap in each.
Aphids, whitefly, psyllids, thrips, vegetable beetles and leaf hoppers are all pests ready to start breeding when the weather conditions are favourable.
Placing Neem Granules on the soil and spraying with Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum added, at the first sighting of any pest will greatly help to control the build up of a problem.
If this is not done early then a few pests can soon become a few hundred and not long afterwards a few thousand.
When plants start to move in the weeks to come, that will be the time to start applying natural foods for their spring growth.
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REPLACING LOST MINERALS AND ELEMENTS

There are 114 natural minerals and elements known to our scientists and these are found in perfect balance in the non polluted blue waters of our oceans.
In the beginning times of our planet, Earth, the first plants to evolve had an abundance of minerals to aid their growth making for a mass mat of vegetation and to grow to heights far greater than their modern relations.
Much of this massive plant life formed the bases of our fossil fuels of today.
Ice ages in the past added fresh minerals to the earth by the actions of the glaciers griding rocks to dust.
Over time minerals and elements are used up by plants and erosion taking the rich minerals away from the soil and out to sea.
For plants to be healthy each species requires a range of minerals and elements starting with Nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus as the main three (NPK) then we add in the other important ones such as calcium, sulphur, magnesium, sodium, boron etc.
The best man made fertilisers have about 16 elements which is far short of the possible 114.
I have read that a tomato plant would like 56 different minerals and elements, I don't know which ones but thats about 40 more than our best man made plant foods.
If we give our plants a large range of minerals and elements into the soil or growing medium then the plant can take up the ones it wants and leaves the others it does not need.
One of the fundamental reasons for companion planting is that one plant will use x, y, z elements where its companion uses u, v, w elements while they share the NPK plus other minerals.
When a plant needs a certain element that is not in the soil it will endeavor, in its internal chemical lab, to convert available elements into substitutes for its needs.
Also in a healthy soil life teeming with all parts/members of the Soil Food Web we find microbes also creating minerals and elements which are then made available to the plants.
One of the great benefits of this process is the creation of Humus which I wrote about recently.
Humus which can store its own weight in moisture plus carbon and minerals.
Plants growing in a humus rich soil will be very healthy and even weeds will be worthy specimens in your garden.
Chemicals and acids from man made fertilisers, sprays, weed killers and chlorine from tap water; kills soil life making it difficult for plants to live healthy. Unhealthy plants attract diseases and pests which are really Nature’s cleaners removing the weak.
We keep the sick plants and crops alive by spraying them with chemicals to protect and control the problems.
The plants are feed high doses of fertiliser to force growth while a chemical cocktail is soaked over them. Then the sick plants lacking in nutritional value (only about 20% of what they should have) are eaten by us or our farm animals.
We and the unfortunate animals that have to consume these sick, chemically saturated plants/grasses also become sick through lack of minerals and elements.
Its even worse for humans as we eat the meat and produce of the sick farm animals.
Ever wondered why our general health has deteriorated over the last 50 odd years?
A point to consider also that as far as I am aware none of the existing horticulture chemical sprays existed 50 years ago. It was only the beginnings of superphosphate back then.
Buying Organic or spray free produce will be of better value to your health than conventional grown food and dairy but there is even a better way and that is growing as much as you can of your own produce.
By placing the minerals into your soil or growing medium, the food crops you grow will be healthier and better taste than what you buy. Just follow the rules, little or no chemical fertilisers, sprays, weed killers or chlorinated water from the tap.
Instead apply the minerals from the Ocean called Ocean Solids; the minerals from prehistoric times called Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) and the minerals from rocks called Rok Solid.
Your food crops will be healthier and your roses/plants will be better than ever.
Ocean solids is only applied once a year or at planting time. MBL can be applied once or twice a year as a soil drench and once a fortnight as a spray. Rok Solid can be applied in the spring and autumn as a general application and also some every time you plant.
Rok Solid contains about 80 minerals and elements and is specially selected for its natural energy (paramagnetism), this energy is what gives the soil it’s vitality assisting in the nutrient uptake of plants.
The high silica content (43%) helps in plant formation.
Rok Solid is blended with Organic 100 liquid fertiliser concentrate made from fish and seaweed, which contributes a further array of minerals, together with microbial stimulates.
These organisms being necessary to hold soil balance, regulate nutrient to the plants, build humus and help detoxify the soil.
Rok Solid is used at 100 grams per square metre for new plantings.(Note scoop provided is approx 50 grams when filled level)
Alternatively about a level teaspoon into each planting hole for seedlings or a sprinkling along a row of seeds, with the seeds at planting time.
Larger plants about a level tablespoon in the planting hole.
For existing gardens with plants 100 grams per square metre twice a year (spring and Autumn) for fruit trees, shrubs, vegetable and flower gardens and lawns.
Roses an application of one to two teaspoons per rose spring and autumn. I have great success using Rok Solid and would not plant anything without it.
Many gardeners feel the same way and also use MBL regularly reporting that their gardens have never been so good. If you are not doing so then try it this season, it makes sense to mineralize your gardens.
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FRUIT TREE TIME

About now is the time that the new seasons deciduous fruit trees arrive into garden centres.
There is a very good reason for deciduous trees becoming available during winter because in the cold months, the trees are dormant and better to lift from their nursery plots and relocated to your gardens and containers.
The trees are normally bagged or held bare rooted in bins of wet sawdust to keep their roots moist. It can be fatal if one allows the roots of bare rooted trees and roses to dry out.
There are lots of good reasons to grow as many different types of fruit trees as possible; the fruit gained each year is virtually free (allow for initial outlay and care), they can be grown without harmful chemical sprays and fertilisers in your garden, which means you are not eating contaminated fruit such as most of the non-organic fruit purchased.
Fruit trees grown with natural products such as animal manure, compost etc will be freer of disease and pests. Add to the soil or growing medium minerals from Ocean Solids and Rok Solid as a yearly dressing, this will ensure your fruit has the maximum amount of nutritional value and provide further protection against diseases for both the trees and the fortunate people who consume the fruit.
Often gardeners say to me that they would love to grow a few more fruit trees but do not have the room in the gardens for any more.
There is a very simple way around this problem and that is to grow your fruit trees in larger type containers.
To prove this point I currently have 7 citrus trees, 3 apple, 1 dual plum, 1 avocado, 1 cherimoya, 3 feijoa, 1 grape, 2 loquats, 1 dual peach, 1 passion fruit, 1 cherry, 1 persimmon, 1 guava, 1 cranberry, 1 blueberry, 1 tornless raspberry, Orange berry, blackberry, logan berry, 5 pineapples and 1 tamarillo growing in 45 to 100 litre containers.
All sitting on concrete.
I am this season about to add a Mespilus Germanica or commonly known as a Medlar which I found at Fairfields Garden Centre in New Plymouth during a recent visit to the area.
It is a collectors item fruit tree and actually a member of the rose family having an open rose like flower which turns into a fruit like a rose hip with a calyx on the crown. Fruit are about an inch to two inches in diameter and are picked hard and ripened in a process called bletting.
Which means laying the fruit out on sawdust or similar for a few weeks till it becomes soft.
The pulp is squeezed or spooned out and the taste is like cinnamon applesauce.
The foliage is very similar to a loquat. Growing in the open, the Medlar will grow to about 20 feet tall about less than half than in a container.
Another two new ones arriving soon are a citrus tree from Diack’s Nursery in Invercargill called a Citrus Mandarinquot.
Mandarinquats have orange, bell-shaped fruit that is larger than a typical kumquat.
The peel is sweet and is eaten along with the tart flesh. Grows to 2m
Then the new Papple which is a cross between two pears and the fruit look like an apple but taste like a pear. The fruit was developed here in New Zealand, where it is known as PremP109.
The fruit has an almost fluorescent pinkish-red, and its skin is mottled looking to all intense and purpose like an apple..
Since you expect the taste and texture of apple, you bite rather harder than is necessary. The flesh is not tart like an apple; its sweetness is almost overpowering. It's also very juicy making it a tasty, refreshing fruit.
The big advantage with container grown fruit is you can move them around, take them with you if you move house and they do not get too big as the container restricts their root size.
The disadvantages are they take a bit longer to produce when compared to open grown specimens and you do need to root prune them every few years.
Plastic rubbish tins come in various sizes and these are ideal and reasonably priced; with a few drainage holes drilled in the sides just up from the base.
If you can find a place that has used 200 litre plastic drums for sale or free then these drums cut in half make excellent containers for growing fruit trees in.
If you are going to grow fruit trees or other plants in containers then don't use any kind of potting mix, instead make up a mix of compost with about 10% clean top soil or worm casts mixed through.
The reason for this is you are bringing the soil life into the mix making for a more natural growing medium. I always add a few worms to the mix as they will keep the soil/compost more open and prevent it from compacting over time.
For additional food I use old fowl manure placed on the top of the mix along with a sprinkling of Fruit and Flower Power (the later applied once a month during the flowering to harvesting period)
A yearly application of Ocean Solids and Rok Solid for the extra minerals and a drench plus spray of Magic Botanic Liquid with Mycorrcin every so often.
If any of the trees get attacked from insect pests then a spray of Neem Tree Oil takes care of them safely.
Liquid Copper is also another handy spray to control various disease problems such as citrus tree diseases, bladder plum and curly leaf. The same copper is also ideal for pear slug control.
The worst problem with fruit is the birds getting into a crop when the fruit is coming towards maturity.
A few lengths of Bird Repeller Ribbon helps to take care of this at that crucial time.
Existing fruit trees can be pruned at this time but do not prune on a cool moist day as this can allow Silverleaf disease to enter the wounds. (Do not prune passion fruit vines in the winter, they should only be pruned when they are actively growing in the spring.)
A spray of Liquid Copper and Raingard over any of your fruiting trees or vines would not go astray at this time.
Deciduous trees do not need any feeding while dormant but when the buds start to swell in the spring a good layer of rich compost can be applied along with Fruit and Flower Power.
If you have existing container planted fruit trees that have been in their pots for 2 or more years, then winter is a good time to lift them and cut the bottom one third of the roots off with a cross saw. Place fresh compost in the base of the pot to the depth of the amount of roots removed and simply pop the tree back into its pot.
This action should be taken about every two years but in some cases an annual root prune will help produce a bigger and better crop.
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THE WINTER SOLSTICE 2013.

On the 21st of June the Northern hemisphere will have their summer solstice and we, our winter solstice.
The shortest day means the longest night which also equates to the shortest hours of natural light.
Plants are really effected by short light hours and one of the main reasons that growth is so slow during the middle of winter.
If you give plants 24/7 of light and they never stop growing, which is a trick some nursery and glasshouse owners use to get plants moving at this time..
Over the next few weeks your garden plants will start to respond to the increasing amount of light each day. Buds will start to swell as we enter into spring. June is also the beginning of the new year of gardening and the time for you to start for another season.
The first thing to do is to make a list of what you are going to grow this season in annual flowers and vegetables. Seed potatoes wont be far away for instance. (In fact some garden centres have them already)
Once you have your list, then you can visit your local garden centre and pick out the packets of seeds of the plants you wish to grow. The hardy types can be started anytime now, for planting out after they are hardened off.
The time frame from obtaining seeds, germinating, pricking out, growing on and then hardening off is about 8 weeks or more. That takes us into August and a nice early start.
Cabbages, lettuce, silverbeet are good early choices to start now.
Being the keen gardeners that many of us are, we use methods to beat the system.
For instance a length of plastic film (growers plastic) and a number of lengths of No 8 wire can be used to start of seeds or seedlings early in spring.
You bend the wire to form good sized loops which are placed about every 30cm into the prepared soil.
The top of the loop should be about 30 cm above soil level. The distance between, where each end of the loops enter the ground, should be between 30 to 40 cm.
Lay your plastic film along the row of loops and on the prevailing wind side, cover the plastic edge thats laying on the ground (out side of the loops) with soil.
Now along the row, under the loops sow your dwarf beans, carrots or parsnips etc. Once sown and lightly watered in with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL), bring the plastic over the hoops and secure to the ground with lengths of old 100x50mm (4 x 2)wood.
The ends of this low tunnel house are also secured with wood. On sunny days there will be a build up of condensation inside the plastic which is not healthy if allowed to happen, day after day.
So you remove the wood and fold back the plastic to the earth side of the row, for a couple of hours, on nice sunny days.
The shelter and sun trap the plastic offers, warms the soil and your seeds germinate. The plastic allows the plants to establish quicker and can be left on till the plant’s foliage come near to touching the plastic. It also stops bird damage this time of the year.
It is important that you do pull back the plastic on sunny days for a few hours. A few days before removing the plastic for good, you need to harden up the plants and a spray of Vaporgard is ideal for this.
This method is a cheap way to grow rows of vegetables or flowers quickly, early in the season or sometimes late in the season for some crops.”
The above is designed to do in a month or so but you can construct it any time and start to warm the soil under the plastic to later plant seeds. Seedlings obtained from garden centres now, can be planted under this tunnel of plastic, where they will grow much quicker and give you early crops of vegetables or flowers.
The plastic will give you protection from bird damage but slugs and snails maybe able to get to the plants so spray the seedlings and soil under the plastic with Liquid Copper.
A layer about 1cm deep of sawdust around the seedlings and over the ground under the plastic can help. Spray the sawdust with the Liquid Copper and Raingard about every 2 weeks.
Birds are hungry at this time and you will likely find that the flowers of your polyanthus are being eaten, especially the blue ones. Place some Bird Repeller Ribbon to protect the flowers and else where throw out bread or cheap grain to feed the poor hungry birds.
Germinate hardy seeds in punnets on a sunny windowsill in a warm room. As soon as there is a show of germinating leaves place the punnet in the glasshouse or under a plastic tunnel as described above.
When the seedlings are big enough to transplant, prick out into punnets or cell packs (even better) and grow on till they are big enough to place in the garden under another plastic tunnel.
This will give you a great early start.
If you have planted green manure or cover crops, there are two alternatives; dig in or cut down and cover.
Traditionally July is the month when most green manure crops are dug under. But the timing is not critical, as long as there is a reasonable gap between digging under and sowing or planting the subsequent crop.
When a heavy green crop is dug under, bacteria start to work on the foliage and stalks to break them down.
To do this they draw nitrogen from the soil, and if seeds have been sown or young plants set out, these may suffer from lack of nitrogen. The products of swift decomposition also effect good growth by healthy roots, so once again living plants in the area can suffer.
The minimum time between digging under and planting out is said to be six weeks in winter, less in warmer summer conditions. But I have dug under a green crop of lupins one weekend and planted a crop of potatoes the following weekend, to gain an excellent harvest.
I think the stricture about leaving plenty of time for decomposition applies more to sowing seeds and setting out very young seedlings.
There is much more leeway when planting hardy crops like potatoes or planting newly arrived rose bushes, for instance.
A soil drench of Thatch Busta and MBL after digging in will speed up the breakdown period to half.
To make life easier with tall growing green crops; first cut the crop down near ground level with a weed eater, rotary mower or hedge clippers. Next spray the cut foliage with Thatch Busta and MBL.
Now instead of digging in the crop, cover with wet newspaper and over this a layer of compost to hold down the paper. The soil is not disturbed and overall you will have better results.
Before planting out sprinkle Ocean Solids and Rok Solid over the area and lightly rake into the soil.
These products are mineral rich and will greatly aid the health of your plants and on vegetable crops will place the valuable minerals into your food chain.
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NEW ROSES ARE IN FOR 2013

During recent visits to garden centres I have noticed most the staff busy potting up and placing the new season’s roses out for display in the retail areas.
This season is the last time Mathews Roses will be available as they are retiring from their nursery business. This is a pity as they have a number of varieties which they have the sole licence for and unless they pass on these to other growers there will be no more new stock.
Over the years the older rose nurseries have been disappearing and in many cases no younger ones to pick up the traces. If you want to buy a few roses this season I would not delay as there likely will be shortages.
Roses would be the most popular garden plant in New Zealand with most gardeners having one or many specimens growing as bush, standard or climbers.
For some gardeners they are the only feature plants that are really well cared for. It is because of all this attention to roses, that gardeners endeavour to have them looking perfect, well shaped, lots of buds and flowers with no blemishes on the foliage.
You can have perfect or near perfect roses if you work with nature rather than against it.
Natural products will promote healthy roses, chemical products designed as rescue remedies and rose foods, will remove the natural balances, causing both insect pests and diseases to run rampant.
In the spring when the new season’s growths appear they are perfect and will remain so with a little help from a number of natural, health promoting products.
If on the other hand we apply Rose Fertilisers or Nitrophoska Blue we knock back the vital soil life (micro organisms and worms) because of these product’s acidity.
If we then apply chemical rose sprays, we damage the natural immune systems of the plants, causing greater problems, as well as further harming the soil life.
Our poor roses become targets for both insect pests and diseases as these are the cleaners of nature, taking out the weak, sickly plants.
Roses are not easily killed but will remain sickly looking for the rest of the season. The situation becomes worse when we need to water, if our tap water contains chlorine.
If you want really healthy roses through the summer you need to either fit a filter on the garden tap to remove the chlorine or have a tub or old bath that you can fill with chlorinated water and leave exposed to the sun to remove the chlorine.
Fill the bath late in the day or early morning, use the water next day to water the roses after which refill the bath for the following late afternoon watering. (The filter is easier and less work)
To have really healthy roses (or any plant for that matter) you need to supply all the minerals and elements that the plant needs, feed the soil life and the micro organisms that live on the plants, control any insect pests that sap the vitality and ensure that they have ample moisture and a suitable sunny spot to grow in.
Do this and you will have great roses that everyone will admire.
For a new container grown rose (Standard or Bush) I would pot it into a 45 litre container using a mix of compost, (80%) a bit of soil (15%) and chook manure.(5%) Under the plant I would place some Rok Solid, Ocean Solids and sheep manure pellets. A sprinkling of Dolomite also.
Once planted, the mix will receive a drench of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) and Mycorrcin. About a month later I would prune it to the 3 rd out going bud then spray it with Liquid Copper to seal the wounds.
When the new foliage appears the plant will receive a 2 weekly spray of MBL and Mycorrcin and on every second spray, Perkfection would be added to the spray.
If aphids appear on the buds and foliage, they will be sprayed with Key Pyrethrum. If the rose is one from good breeding then there should be no further problems.
(Note; some modern hybrid roses may have great flowers but will always have health problems) A sprinkling of Neem Tree Granules and Fruit and Flower Power on top of the mix every couple of months should keep the plant free of any other insect pests as well as supplying the extra magnesium and potassium needed.
The same principals as above can be applied to roses planted in the open ground.
Make a hole twice the size as needed and mix a good compost with the soil removed (half and half) Use this to line the base of the hole to the right height, place the Ocean Solids, Rok Solid etc on top of this along with the rose. Back fill with the same mix. Rok Solid (Rock dust) really assists in great new root development.
If you have a heavy clay soil then ensure the base of the hole and sides are rough, not smooth and apply two or three handfuls of Gypsum to the clay base before the mix. This extra preparation work gives the new rose a great growing area for root establishment.
Ensure that in either method of planting (Open ground or containers) that the soil is kept moist for the following 12 months while the root system is establishing. Do not cut flowers off for vases during the first season, but you can dead head without removing foliage. It is most important that a new rose has as much foliage as possible to gain energy from the sun while establishing.
You can enhance the energy production by spraying the foliage with Vaporgard every 3 months which protects the plant from UV damage. (It makes the leaves a darker green and shiny, also added protection against pests and diseases)
If you use Vaporgard then you will need to add Raingard to the other sprays on the 2 weekly cycle.
With new roses it is very important that the roots never become dry. There is a great danger that roses purchased from chain stores that only have their roots wrapped, will dry out in the controlled atmosphere of these stores. The roses may have died as a result before you even buy them.
What to do with your existing roses? Cut all bush and standard roses back to half and remove any dead wood and spindly canes. Then spray either with Lime Sulphur or Liquid Copper. Leave till about end of July and then do your proper pruning and spray the wounds with Liquid Copper as you go.
Don’t prune or cut on damp cool days as this can let Silver Leaf disease into the rose. Pick a warm sunny day when the air is drier.
In the spring place the Rok Solid, Ocean Solids, Blood & Bone, Animal manure, etc, on top of the soil around the base of the rose and cover with a good compost.
Use the natural sprays and products suggested as for the new roses. If you avoid the use of any chemical fertilisers and sprays as well as any chemical herbicides, anywhere near the roses and follow the above natural program, the health of the roses should greatly benefit and you too will be healthier for not using the chemicals.
A number of gardeners that have followed my natural advise with their roses and other gardens ring me up to tell me how great their gardens are. Work with Nature, not against it.
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NEW SEASONS POTATOES

New seasons seed potatoes are now available from a number of garden centres.
They are too early you may say but even down Southland the first varieties; Agria, Jersey Bennes, Nadine, and Rocket are now in store.
I would presume the same varieties will be available in most areas and it certainly not too soon to buy your seed potatoes and start them sprouting.
The earlier you start the better off you will be as I will explain soon.
There are many varieties of potatoes and some are best for certain ways of cooking where other types maybe good all rounders. Lets have a look at the four above.
Jersey Bennes; Maturity: Approx 80-90 days. Tuber Shape: Oval. Skin: White. Flesh: White. General: Waxy potato, good for boiling, salads, casseroles, soups, and mashing.
Rocket; Maturity: Approx 60-70 days. Tuber Shape: Oval. Skin: White. Flesh: White. General: Great boiling and roasting potato.
Nadine; Maturity: Approx 80-90 days. Tuber Shape: Round. Skin: White. Flesh: White. General: Waxy potato, Good for boiling, salads, casseroles and soups
Agria; Maturity: Approx 90-100 days. Tuber Shape: Long Oval. Skin: Cream. Flesh: Yellow. General: Floury potato, suitable for boiling, mashing, baking, wedges, and great for chips. High yielder.
Why grow your own potatoes? There are very good reasons for this starting with taste; you grow your own using natural methods and the taste is supreme when compared to most purchased potatoes.
Potatoes grown commercially will contain a lot of chemical residues unless they are certified organic.
Because of the psyllid insect pest there are a heck of a lot more chemicals used on commercial crops when compared to before the arrival of this pest in 2006.
These chemicals do effect our health in the longer term and children are especially susceptible. You only have to look at the increasing health problems and the increased numbers of sick people to realise this fact.
The potato psyllid is a definite problem and one of the reasons that a number of gardeners have stopped growing their own potatoes; even a few for Xmas.
The more die-hards of gardening don't give up they fight and find a way to beat the bug.
Temperature is a natural controlling factor and the psyllid operates best between 21 to 27 degrees C.
Above 32 degrees there is reduced egg laying and hatching then at 35 degrees and above growth stops.
I cant find a low temperature for them to cease reproducing but I did notice that when the daily temperatures dropped later in March the damage to tomato plants stopped.
Since March till currently in June; my self sown tomato plants have done well with little psyllid damage. I have also found in the past 3 seasons that early planted seed potatoes have done very well and good crops have transpired with only the aid of Neem Granules.
This is crops planted from about July to August in Palmerston North.
The crop is mounded up with soil as foliage appears during the possible frost times then after that, either Vaporgard or frost cloth can be used to protect the tops against late frosts.
Crops planted about October are going to be exposed to the worst time for psyllids and it would take a lot of spray protection to ensure that a good, clean crop is harvested.
That is without the aid of other protection which I came across earlier this year.
A very special fine mesh call Quarantine cloth has such a fine weave that the adult psyllid cannot get to the foliage of the potatoes. It weighs 45grams per SqM has a 25% shade factor and comes in 3.3 metre widths by mail order.
In January I did a trial in a raised garden where I planted a crop of Red King potatoes placing the Quarantine cloth over the bed to prevent any psyllids getting in.
I planted the potatoes fairly deep and only lifted the cloth back to mound up later on.
Rain and irrigation water will pass through the cloth nicely so the Quarantine cloth stayed on till the beginning of May when I knew the temperatures were too low for the psyllids.
Currently I am enjoying a nice crop of potatoes as I harvest each plant.
For the home gardener that does not want the hassle of spraying later in the season (summer) then Quarantine cloth on hoops over the crop is for you.
At this time of the year you have temperatures on your side and only minimal controls are needed.
Sprout your seed potatoes now and then plant then deep about 15 to 20 cm into the soil.
Under each potato place about a heaped table spoon of Neem Tree Granules, a level table spoon of Gypsum, a few sheep manure pellets, a level teaspoon of BioPhos and a teaspoon of Rok Solid.
Cover the potato with a little soil to cover sprouts.
Check every day and when foliage breaks through cover again. Do this till the planting hole is level with surface and then start to mound up soil to cover the foliage.
The idea here is we not only protect the foliage from any frost damage but to have potatoes form all the way up the helm making for a large crop off each plant. Once the mound gets to a height of about 15cm then you will let the foliage go and protect with Vaporgard spray and frost cloth for late frosts.
Planting main crop potatoes which take about 120 days to mature means you should harvest about October where early type potatoes would be ready about a month before.
You can store potatoes in the fridge for Xmas. In September plant a small crop with the Quarantine cover for harvesting on Xmas day.
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STRAWBERRY TIME

Strawberry plants have started to arrive in garden centres through out New Zealand, a little later than normal because of the mild, dry autumn.
They are a woodland plant from Europe and North America. One of the keys to their successful growing is to realise that they are woodland plants and should, if possible, be given woodland conditions.
There is a great number of strawberry cultivars in New Zealand and only a few of these are generally available to the home gardener. You are likely to find the following types:
PAJARO Would likely be the most common type available now days, it is a ‘Short day’ type that has consistently very large berries with bright red skin and light red flesh. Exceptionally firm.
Excellent flavour when picked fully ripe but can be insipid when picked under-ripe. Early if not deflowered. Average yields, but exceptional quality results in high export grade out. Produces well before Xmas and again in late summer/autumn. Suitable in northern and central areas.
Older types such as Tioga and Red Gauntlet are sometimes still available but have been superseded by new cultivars by most commercial growers.
APTOS is a Day neutral (Means it will fruit off and on from spring to autumn) Berries are bright, dark red. Goes very dark as it becomes over-ripe. Size medium to 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 good but can be slightly astringent in some conditions. Slightly soft. Excellent yield. Deficiencies: Softness. Small size on lower parts of trusses. Dark colour and occasional poor flavour.
Ensure that the plants are given a sprinkling of potash each month through growing season. District suitability: Central and Southern New Zealand.
Ensure good plant size before allowing flowers to form fruit to minimise small size tendency. Maintain good potassium levels late in the season. Difficult to produce quality fruit on second year plants. Sensitive to mite attack. (Spray with Liquid Sulphur if mites appear)
CHANDLER, Short day type, medium red fruit but not as bright as Pajaro. Flesh light red. Size varies from very large to small. Firm but softer than Pajaro. Flavour very good.
Produces a multi crowned plant quickly. More resistant to wet weather than Pajaro. More susceptible to botrytis than Pajaro. Yield is very good.
Deficiencies: More inconsistent appearance compared with Pajaro. Tendency to produce large quantities of small fruit later in season. District Suitability: Northern and Central New Zealand.
SEASCAPE, Day neutral. Parentage: Selva x Douglas. Fruit is moderate-dark red, attractive and glossy. Size is moderate-large. Good flavour. Firm. Shape conic. Moderately strong, upright plant. Has some susceptibility to botrytis in wet seasons. Tendency to produce misshapen fruit in cool temperatures. Deficiencies: Susceptible to botrytis, misshapen fruit.
District Suitability: Appears suitable for all parts of New Zealand. Does not appear to need deflowering. Medium plant spacing.
If you have a choice when buying fresh plants go for some short day and some day neutral as this will give you a longer, consistent, picking period.
When preparing a new bed for strawberries incorporate an animal manure based compost and untreated sawdust into the soil. If you have leaf mold that should also be used. For the extra elements use potash, Ocean Solids and Rok Solid. If you like to grow on mounds do so and either use weedmat or straw to reduce weed competition.
There is one product that will increase your crop yield by 200 to 400% and that is Mycorrcin.
Drench the soil with the product after planting out and then spray the plants every 2 weeks with the same. Mycorrcin feeds the soil life and in doing so builds up the beneficial soil food web, increases the plant’s yield and reduces disease problems.
A good number of gardeners that have used Mycorrcin on their strawberries and contacted the writer because of the great results they have had.
Last season, one gardener told me, that he placed two strawberry beds, side by side. Both beds had the same variety of strawberries and were treated exactly the same except one bed had a 2-weekly spray of Mycorrcin.
The gardener said the difference was truly amazing. The untreated bed produced a normal average crop of berries, where the treated bed yielded about 3 times the amount. Bigger berries, sweeter flavour and a longer harvest period. His final words were, ‘If I had not done the experiment I would not have believed the difference could be so great. From now on I will use the product on all my plantings.’
The Manufacturer of the product told me a story that a commercial grower used the product on his plots but misread the instructions and gave the plants double the recommended dosage each spray.
He complained that the berries were so much bigger than normal, he had to change the packaging for sale!
Mycorrcin can be used to advantage on any other plants and the soil they grow in, to obtain better plants with less disease problems.
Strawberry varieties that are prone to botrytis and dry berry (Downy Mildew) should be given a monthly spray of Perkfection which can be mixed with the Mycorrcin.
Birds can be a problem when berries are ripening and you need to protect the bed with either bird netting or Bird Repeller Ribbon.
Gardeners with existing strawberry beds will likely have a number of runners that have now rooted into the surrounding soil. The runners can be cut and the rooted plants lifted to place in a new bed.
Minerals play a big part in obtaining healthy plants and the soil they grow in. This is extended to our own health by consuming home grown produce grown in mineral rich soil. The minerals are not in the soil unless you put them there by using the likes of yearly applications of Ocean Solids, Rok Solid and more frequent applications of Magic Botanic Liquid.(MBL)
I am convinced that those trace elements derived from these products make a big difference.
Strawberries are easy to grow and great to eat, so visit your local garden centre for some plants soon.
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HUMUS

Humus is a complex organic substance which comes from the breakdown of plant material in a process called humification.
The word itself comes from Latin meaning soil or earth.
We can see that the word Human is closely related to Humus and likewise we are also from or part of the earth. (Ashes to ashes, dust to dust)
Humus is made by microbes and mycorrhizal fungi converting organic material to humus.
Scientists tell us that 90% of the mycorrhizal fungi in the earth’s soils have been destroyed by chemicals and what we call conventional farming.
They have also found that herbicides such as Roundup does more harm to the soil than to plants they are designed to kill.
Humus determines the profitability in farming or cropping, the more humus the greater the bottom line.
Why? Because a humus rich soil enables the plants to gain all the mineral rich nutrients and moisture they require; this allows them to grow strong and naturally repel diseases and insect pests.
The crop/ pasture will not require the expensive fertilisers and chemical sprays.
Animals and humans eating grass/food from a humus rich soil will be healthier also. Less vets and doctors bills.
Humus saves on harmful fertilisers, controls nitrates, reduces the costs of chemicals and vets.
More profit for less costs; it makes sense and I don't understand why its not implemented in normal agricultural practices.
Lack of humus has meant that our conventionally grown food chain (including dairy) has only 20% of the nutritional value our grand parents food chain had.
Humus stores carbon, water and minerals which are available to plants through their roots.
Humus is an incredible reservoir of water storing its own weight in water.
If there is a 1% increase in humus in a hectare then 170,000 extra litres of water will be stored safely in the soil and available for plants.
Those farmers that care for their soils and have built up the humus levels did very well in our recent drought when compared to conventional farmers.
The same can be said of gardeners that have great gardens with ample humus, water restrictions did not mean the gardens suffered like the gardeners who use chemicals and don't look after the soil.
Minerals in our soils are stored by the humus; obtained by either putting into the soil minerals and elements (Ocean Solids, Rok Solid and MBL) or by microbes converting organic material to humus.
Humus is one of the three places where carbon is stored the other two are in plants (or biomass) and the atmosphere.
There used to be 476 billion tons of carbon locked in humus but because of our horticulture methods and the use of fossil fuels the 476 billion tons is now in the atmosphere contributing to global warming and thus climate change.
So far we have increased the mean average planet’s temperature by 1 degree and the results in wild weather patterns have been very damaging.
It wont be long before the temperature increase of another degree will take place, the outcome of which is incalculable in terms of losses.
Scientists are saying that if we completely stopped today, releasing carbon into the atmosphere, it would take about 200 years for the situation to start to reverse.
Even worse than the temperature increase; the oceans are also absorbing carbon which becomes carbonic acid. This has increased the acidity of the oceans by 30% which affects algae, krill, coral and plankton.

Plankton besides being a beginning of the food chain in our oceans is also the source of 50% of the oxygen we need to live. There is already a loss of 40% of the plankton and in just 20 years we will be in trouble through lack of oxygen.
If you would like to know more see

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q1VnwcpW7E&feature=youtu.be
What can we do? Logics tell me that we should build up the humus in our soils to recapture the carbon and put it back where it belongs.
We can do this in our own gardens by using natural materials such as animal manures, compost, calcium etc. Have a worm farm to take care of our kitchen scraps instead of turning them into pollution causing methane gas (which is a lot worse than carbon in the atmosphere)
Use the natural food for mycorrhizal fungi called Mycorrcin to grow this vital organism and increase the microbes in the soil.
Your plants and food crops will be a lot more healthy as a result and your benefit will be to eat healthy like your grandparents.
Now if we could get the farmers and our commercial growers to also change their loosing ways and concentrate on making humus then they would save a lot of money and become very profitable.
It would likely not take long before the general health of the people started to improve, taking the burden off our health system and those tax dollars could be used elsewhere.
The outlook during our life time is not looking good let alone the future of our children or grand children.
Give your support to Farmers Markets and those that care about our soils and their produce.
If every one spent their food dollars in their gardens and in support of natural farmers/growers the world would be a better, healthier place.
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AUTUMN LEAVES

A reader from Southland emailed me this week and asked if I could write an article about what to do with autumn leaves.
For some home owners, autumn leaf fall is a curse, another chore to rake them up and clear the gutters. For a number of others, leaf fall is a blessing and they gladly collect the leaves to make leaf mould.
Leaf mould is excellent for improving soil, also as a lawn conditioner and mulch over gardens.
It can be used in seed raising mixes and potting mixes.
Leaf mould is easy to make, its free with a little effort on your part and its a good substitute for peat moss in your gardens.
If you live in an area where there are hedgehogs and you would like to help them through the winter then leave any leaf fall thats under hedges and other out of the way areas. The hedgehogs may use the places as hibernating sites over winter.
Also if you have bare vegetable or flower gardens either leave the leaves as a cover over the area or place a good layer over the gardens yourself. Sprinkle garden Lime over the leaves then spray them with Thatch Busta which will help break down the mat of leaves, getting the gardens ready for spring.
This cover of the leaves will prevent a lot of weeds from growing in the bare gardens.
Now to make your own leaf mould with what is left or what you can collect from else where.
There are two ways to do this and one is much faster than the other.
The fast way is to lay some leaves over a flat area of lawn an inch or two thick and the with your rotary mower adjusted to the lowest setting run over the leaves with your catcher on.
Repeat this with another layer of leaves and so on.
When your catcher is ready to empty, open a black plastic rubbish bag and put a few handfuls of leaves and any grass clippings into the bottom of the bag.
Sprinkle over the leaves a handful of garden lime and then spray with Thatch Busta at 10 ml per litre. (If you don't have Thatch Busta but have Mycorrcin, then use it at 15mls per litre.)
Now add a few more handfuls of mashed up leaves and repeat the lime and spraying.
Press down when bag is full to compress the material and then you can add a lot more.
Finally when the bag is full enough to still be able to tie off, tie the top and with a small nail or thin blade screw driver punch lots of small holes all over the bag.
Toss the bag into a sunny out of the way area and leave for a month or so. After a few weeks pick up the bag, give it a shake and put it back with a different side facing upwards.
Repeat this about every month or so.
The bag will appear to have more space in it as the material coverts to leaf mould.
Within about 6 months you should have a lovely crumbly product that smells good.
The sprinkling of lime is important as the leaves that fall are acidic and you want them sweet so the bacteria will work breaking them down to mould.
The Thatch Busta or Mycorrcin is also very important as they supply the food that increases the microbe populations which speeds up the process.
The alternative method is to place the leaves into a rubbish bag without using a rotary mower to break them up. Otherwise the lime and spray are used between layers and tied off as above.
This way will take at least twice as long to get your leaves into good leaf mold (say about a year) Without the lime and Thatch Busta/Mycorrcin then about two years.
If you are not able to clear the leaves and are going to leave them where they fall, then the best thing to do after they have finish falling is to sprinkle some garden lime over them and spray with Thatch Busta.
Repeat the Thatch Busta spray every month or so to speed up break down.
If you haven't planted your spring bulbs yet then you should get cracking now.
If you are planting a bed of bulbs then sprinkle the area with Rok Solid and Bone Flower.
If you cant find bone flower use blood & bone.
Rake the two products into the bed then plant your bulbs.
Remember to place the tallest growing spring flowers at the back or if a bed in the open place tall growing ones in the centre.
The shortest growing will be in the front.
Rather than having a bare bed for a while till the spring bulbs emerge, plant some alyssum and lobelia seedlings. They will make a nice ground cover over the winter and a lovely back drop for your flowering bulbs.
Don't forget to protect tender plants from frost. Spray with Vaporgard and if there happens to be two or more frosts in a row, night after night then cover plants with frost cloth or sack/newspaper) Winter time plants hate wet feet but they may still need an occasional drink during periods of no rain.
Container plants not in the open will occasionally need a drink also; best to wait till they start to droop from lack of moisture then give them a small drink.
Plants like citrus trees in open ground that detest wet feet should be sprayed with Perfection to prevent root rots in winter.
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BRYOPHYTES (MOSS AND LIVERWORTS)

Bryophytes and Embryophytes are the botanical names given to mosses, lichen, liverworts, hornworts, molds, algae and slimes.
These are 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 splitting 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 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 problem, 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-stablish.
In lawns many gardeners use 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.
The first product to use benzalkonium for the control of mosses etc was branded, 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.
The product is 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 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.
A product is available from some garden centres or by mail order 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.

Great news this week, the European Commission decided to ban certain pesticides, including those classified as neonicotinoids, known to destroy honeybee populations. The decision was backed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
I wrote about this a few months ago and suggested to gardeners that the insecticide called Confidor which is readily available to the home garden market and is a neonicotinoid should be not used by gardeners so that honey bees and bumble bees along with our precious native bees are not destroyed.
It is certainly a good time for ERMA and MAF to re-look at these deadly poisons and either ban them or greatly restrict their use.
In England two major chains of garden centres have stopped selling any brands that contain the neonicotinoids and it would be good to see the same happen here.
You might like to suggest it next time you are in your garden centre. We cant afford to lose our bees so that a few companies can make money.
It was the result of a few million people and thousands of bee keepers petitioning that has made the ban in Europe happen, against the might and money of Bayer and other chemical companies; thats people power for you.
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Gardening MAY 2013

Its good to see that the drought is over in NZ and that most areas have had ample rain.
Gardens are responding to the rain and growth is seen but not a lot because day light hours are shortening and temperatures averages also dropping.
If you have a nice chilli or capsicum plant growing in the garden; now would be a good time to lift it carefully and pot it into a suitable size container.
Moved to a glasshouse or porch where its sheltered but receiving good light, will keep it going through winter, if the transplant is successful and you don't overwater during the cold months.
You can make the transplant more successful by ensuing the soil in the root zone is wet before lifting and by spraying the foliage with Vaporgard a couple of days before lifting.
Young self-sown tomato seedlings can be treated in a like manner. If they die later on you have lost nothing as they will die in the cold in a month or twos time.
Insect pests are on the decline now and it would pay to clean up as many as possible by spraying with Neem Tree Oil. Add Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) to the oil and you will get better results because of the Fulvic acid in the MBL.
Wet soil makes weeding easy as most weeds can be pulled out, roots and all unlike trying to do so when soil is dry.

A report has come to hand this week about the very popular herbicide, Glyphosate which is the active ingredient in Roundup along with several other brands.
I have for many years maintained that glyphosate is likely to be found to be one of the worst chemicals ever produced far worse than the past ones such as DDT, Lindane, Agent Orange etc.
The reason that makes it worse is the excessive use of the chemical in areas where food crops are grown.
I believe it is just about impossible not to get a small dose of glyphosate with every thing we eat in all our food chain that is not organic grown or produced.
It does not break down in the soil and thus its taken up by plants and pasture grasses to the detriment in the long term to all mammal’s health. (which includes us, our children and pets)
The following is the abstract of the recent report on this chemical:

Abstract: Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, is the most popular herbicide used worldwide.
The industry asserts it is minimally toxic to humans, but here we argue otherwise. Residues are found in the main foods of the Western diet, comprised primarily of sugar, corn, soy and wheat.
Glyphosate's inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify xenobiotics.
Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins.
Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Here, we show how interference with CYP enzymes acts synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria, as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport.
Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
We explain the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease, and we show that glyphosate is the “textbook example” of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.
(Underlined by me) For those that would like to view the full report see:

http://nobull.mikecallicrate.com/news/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/GlyModern-diseaseSamsel-Seneff-13.pdf I know that Roundup is a convenient way of controlling some difficult weeds and I even recommend its use in certain situations. But where food crops are grown, fruit trees are and where animals graze it should be the last chemical control that is ever used.
NZFSA does not test our food for levels of Glyphosate so we have no way to determine what amounts we consume but if we look at the raising rates of people with gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease then we get a rough idea.
First available in NZ in the 70’s thats 40 years in our food chain with greater amounts used every year.

In December 2012 the first Glyphosate tolerant weeds were discovered in NZ.
So the usefulness for this chemical is coming to an end if it does not kill all weeds anymore, bit late for those suffering from the chemicals effects.
Another very important reason for people to grow their own vegetables and fruit as much as they can without the use of chemical poisons and take Sulphur supplements such as MSM..
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HOUSE PLANTS CARE IN WINTER

Winter can be a tough time for indoor plants if people don't recognise the problems that the plants face.
The factors that affect indoor plants are, light, temperature and moisture levels.
These three factors are interlinked and if they are not all correct in relationship to each other, then plants will be in a stress situation.
Lets consider each of these starting with light; Indoors light is what I call sidewise light, it is not overhead light but its natural light that comes sidewise though windows or glass doors.
All plants need a certain amount of light and they will always grow towards the light source.
Outside plants grow straight up, indoor plants tend to grow sideways.
The best light in a home is within a metre of a unshaded window facing in a northerly direction.
During summer with long hours of natural light daily, plants will do well and much of their foliage will be facing the window to trap all the light possible.
Once we move the same plant a couple of metres from the window, but still in line with the window, the light level the plant receives drops a fair amount and the plant stretches towards the window making it lopsided. Move the plant to the far side of the room and it is likely to be getting only about 10% of the light it was getting in the one metre zone.
A low light plant will be happy in that spot with all its leaves facing the window. If we had a room that was pure white with all furniture white, the room would be quite dazzling to our eyes because of the amount of reflected light.(Plants would love it) On the other end of the spectrum if we had a room that was totally black the room would appear dark to us except for the area immediately around a sunny window.
Indoor plants rely on a lot of reflected light and the lighter the colours in a room the better the plant will be for its light requirements. When we look at the situation in midwinter our day light hours are down to 8 hours, about half the hours as we have in mid summer.
So naturally from this, plants are getting far less natural light in winter.
This is why some plants do well in the summer months but fail in the winter with foliage browning or yellowing off, leaf drop and many tend to hibernate also.
Temperature in summer is higher and more constant in the plus 15 degrees area.
In winter the temperatures being lower (without artificial heat) is the factor that sends plants into a more dormant state. We have situations then, with people that are not home during the day and the room is cool to cold. On returning home to a cold room artificial heat is turned on raising the temperature to a nice level.
On retiring for the night the heating is often switched off and temperatures quickly drop to zero or a few degrees. In the morning the room maybe warmed again for a short time and then allowed to return to the normal indoor temperature of the day.
This up and down temperatures does have an effect on the well being of the plants.
Next is moisture level and its an aspect that we have the control over completely.
Plants need moisture in the air to keep nice clean foliage. When the air becomes too dry the plant keeps pushing moisture to the foliage to replace the moisture lost into the drying air. Tips of leaves or the edges tend to yellow and brown when the plant cant replace sufficient moisture to the leaves.
Especially noticeable in palms and ferns.
If we water the plants well, we have the problem that when the temperature drops they have cold wet roots which are prone to rotting. Lack of good light, wide temperature swings and too much water in the mix is the death of many plants in winter.
You can control to a degree two of these factors, ensure that plants that require good light are very close to (in front of) good light windows without net curtains.
I have had people tell me that their plant is getting good light because it is right near the window. On further questioning it turns out the plant is either beside the window or below the window which is actually worse than being over the other side of the room. It must be direct light on the foliage, through the window.
Low light plants such as philodendrons will be happier in less light spots, but a maidenhair fern would die down. Keeping a steady temperature in winter can be expensive and a cost when you are not at home to have benefit of the heat.
Heating does dry the air and to overcome this, and take advantage of the fact, place a clothes horse in the lounge to dry that days washing.
The drying of the clothes puts ample moisture into the air and helps to keep the plants happy.
If you run a dehumidifier your plants will suffer unless you compensate by say placing wet sphagnum moss on top of the potting mix and wetting it every day without actually watering the mix. Bowls of water near plants is another way to ensure moisture in the air near the plant’s foliage.
The biggest control in the three aspects that you have, is the moisture level of the potting mix. In winter it should never be wet, just evenly moist to nearly dry.
If you have wide variations of temperature in a room keep the mix fairly dry with only little amounts of water applied when the plant is showing signs of lack of water.
In rooms that heat comes on when you come home would be the time for a little drink which might be every few days to once a week or less. The odd plant may need say 50 mils of water every night to prevent water loss drooping. Another plant in the same room might only require a weekly drink of 250 mls. You have to watch the plants and judge.
If there is ample moisture in the air because you made it so, then your plants will require far less drinks. To sum up, ensure plenty of light (artificial light does help), go easy on the watering, endeavor to keep a reasonable amount of humidity in the air and if possible avoid rapid changes in temperature. ( Plants can handle this aspect if they are fairly dry in the mix) Except for flowering plants in winter don't bother feeding. Good luck with your house plants this winter.
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AUTUMN GARDENING

Autumn is a great time for ‘planting out’ gardens, besides the planting of vegetables and flowering plants, you also have a great range of shrubs and trees you can add to your garden.
It is still early times for new seasons deciduous fruit and ornamental trees or roses but orders can be placed at your garden centres for collecting of, later on, in winter.
Lets have a look at the various areas starting with the vegetable garden.
Silverbeet is one of my favorite winter plants and you have two types that are available, been the original dark green such as ‘Fordhook’ and the newer coloured silverbeet that are called ‘Bright Lights’ The later is a sweeter silverbeet and if you don't like the flavor of the dark green you may well like the sweeter taste of the coloured forms.
When you buy silverbeet in shops you find that you are buying the whole plant minus the roots as this is the way the commercial growers harvest the crop.
In the home garden there is no need, in fact its silly to harvest the whole plant, instead just remove the outer leaves and the plant will continue to produce till it goes to seed.
Rust should not be a problem through the winter and nether should pests bother the crop so no extra work involved with spraying. It is best to buy the seedlings and plant them at this time, as seed raising will take longer to reach harvest time.
Broad beans are grown from seed and if you like these iron rich vegetables then plant up a row.
As bumble bees are needed to set the pods it is better to do a short row now, another one in about a months time and a third one about July. Do this and you are sure of getting a great harvest even if some of the flowering is before the bees get going.
Snowpeas are another good winter seed grown crop and are ideal for stir fry.
All the brassicas do well during winter and no problems with caterpillars.
For those with bigger vegetable gardens you can also sow seeds or plants of Chinese cabbage, cress, leeks, winter lettuce, mustard, onions, radish, shallots, spinach and turnips.
If you place Rok Solid under the plants or with the seeds before you cover them, you will speed up the growth of the plants noticeably.
Feed with sheep manure pellets later by side dressing the plants.
In the flower garden you once again have a great range of plants to chose from for winter colour.
I will list the plants for cold climate areas and these will grow even better in the warmer areas.
Plants are once again a better option, as seeds take several weeks to get to the stage purchased plants are already at. Primula and polyanthus are excellent choices making great bedding and container plants for winter colour.
Place dried blood under the seedlings at planting time and side dress with the same every month or so.
Cineraria do very well in winter as long as they are in frost protected places. The dwarf forms make wonderful container plants in a 6 to 8 inch pot.
Another plant for containers or protected garden places such as under trees are cyclamen.
Both cyclamen and cineraria can be grown indoors as flowering pot plants but ensure they are right in front of a full light window and in a cool situation for best results. Other flowers to plant would include, bellis, calendula, candyturf, Canterbury bells, carnations, cornflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-nots, godertia, lobelia, nemsia, pansy, viola, snapdragons, sweet peas, stock and wall flowers.
It will depend on what plants are currently available in your garden centre but you will surely have a lot of choice.
Shrubs, trees and fruit trees are all personal choices and it is not worth listing types that can be planted. Autumn is a great time to plant as there is no stress from heat and the soil has adequate moisture so extra watering is kept to a minimum.
The plants have right through winter and spring to establish which means that they should be doing well before they have to face a summer. This will reduce the possibility of losses.
It is important to chose plants that will suit the conditions which means the type of soil, the wet or dry conditions they will have to face during a gardening year and will provide the size and shape that you desire without a lot of future trimming.
Plus the chosen plants should fit into the way you want your gardens to ultimately look like.
If planting up new gardens or sections don't be tempted to plant the shrubs and trees too close.
Just because they are smaller when you plant them, remember that they grow and their ultimate size needs to be catered for. Information on the label will give the approximate end height and spread which gives you a good idea how far to space the plants.
Mind you I have yet to know of a plant that reads its label and the end result maybe different dependant on factors such as the growing conditions.
Planting shrubs and trees too close together may look better for the first couple of years in filling in gardens, but will need constant trimming or removal of maybe half the plants in the future.
When you plant your trees and shrubs at the right spacing apart, for when they mature and the areas in between look sparse, then obtain some perennials or ground covers to fill in the spaces. These can either be removed in the future if need be or they will acclimatise to the situation and survive.
Also perennials can be easily be lifted and transplanted to more suitable situations in the future.
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KNOW YOUR CALCIUM

Calcium is the fuel that feeds the microbes in our soils, allowing their numbers to increase in the billions, when soil conditions are congenial. (Moisture, temperature, decaying matter, etc) Calcium keeps the soil alkaline, which is the most common state for all plant life except for the species which have adapted to acidic conditions.
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth most abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust. Calcium is also the fifth most abundant dissolved ion in seawater by both molarity and mass, after sodium, chloride, magnesium, and sulfate.
Calcium is essential for living organisms, particularly in cell physiology, where movement of the calcium ion Ca2+ into and out of the cytoplasm functions as a signal for many cellular processes. As a major material used in mineralization of bones and shells, calcium is the most abundant element by mass in many animals.
Calcium is available to the home gardener in a number of forms, garden lime, hydrated lime, dolomite, gypsum, crushed egg or sea shells and bone flour.
The importance of calcium and its influence in the gardens cannot be under estimated as I have learnt over the years of gardening.
Every now and then a gardener will approach me with a problem that basically is; the garden shows little vigour, plants don't grow well as they used too, even though I feed them and tend them well.
I ask a simple question when did you last lime the garden? The answer is invariably, ‘not for years’. Thus they are told to lime the soil with a quick acting soft lime and a few months later they contact me to say it worked.
Garden Limes sold come in two forms, powdered lime from limestone which is a hard, gritty lime that can take up to 10 years to break down and become available to the soil life and plants.
Then there is soft lime that comes from either sea shell deposits found in the hills or chalk which is a type of limestone in a powdered form; these limes when placed between moist fingers and rubbed has a soft, smooth texture and becomes a slurry quickly.
This makes it quickly available to plants and soil life soon after it has been broadcast.
Garden lime increases the alkalinity of the soil and should not be used near acid loving plants.
It is vital to spread it over decomposing organic matter such as mulches of cut green crops and into compost bins. A sprinkling now and then into your worm farm is a great advantage especially if you place citrus peelings into the bin.
Calcium hydroxide, traditionally called slaked lime, hydrated lime, slack lime, or pickling lime, is a chemical compound with the chemical formula Ca(OH)2. It is a colourless crystal or white powder, and is obtained when calcium oxide (called lime or quicklime) is mixed, or "slaked" with water.
It can also be precipitated by mixing an aqueous solution of calcium chloride and an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide. It is also a fast acting lime with a burning effect. Used speed up the decomposing of bodies and other organic materials. Great in compost bins. If used on the garden there should be a reasonable rest period before seeds or seedlings are planted out.
Dolomite is a naturally occurring material containing 39% magnesium carbonate (of which 11% is elemental magnesium) and 57% calcium carbonate (of which 24% is elemental calcium). It is sourced from Golden Bay in the Nelson region and is ground to a yellow-brown powder.
Primarily used for dairy farming as both a magnesium source and liming source. It is also used in some horticultural situations where magnesium and calcium inputs are required.
It is pH neutral so can be used anywhere.
Gypsum (calcium sulphate di-hydrate) is an abundant natural mineral. It originates from the drying out of ancient seas and is quarried (or mined if deep) in many parts of the world. Gypsum does not occur in New Zealand. Winstone imports our gypsum from Australia.
Gypsum enjoys a growing application in agriculture and horticulture. It is used as a 'clean green' soil conditioner and also as a fertiliser. Gypsum has an advantage over certain other minerals, being pH neutral.
Gypsum is particularly useful for treating heavy (clay) soils where it is used to improve the soil's texture, drainage and aeration.
Gypsum is an important natural source of calcium and a number of other elements all of which are of great benefit to our soils and plants. Below is the chemical analysis of Gypsum:
NB: Quantities are stated in ppm unless otherwise specified:
Sulphur 18% :
Calcium 23.26%
Aluminium 300 :
Antimony < 4 :
Arsenic < 1.0 :
Cadmium < 0.2 :
Chlorine 1315 :
Copper 93.8 :
Fluoride 100 :
Iron 80 :
Lead < 10.0 :
Magnesium 93.8 :
Mercury < 0.05 :
Phosphate < 19 :
Potassium 50 :
Selenium < 0.5 :
Silicon 800 :
Sodium 820 :
Tin < 4 :
Zinc 5 .
I favour the mixing of the three products together, soft garden lime, gypsum and dolomite in equal amounts and sprinkling over empty garden beds prior to planting out and the lightly raking to work into the soil. Light side dressings can be applied over existing planted beds and lawns and then watered in. This can be done as often as every 3 months.
In areas where acid loving plants are, just use the gypsum and dolomite, which includes where potatoes and tomatoes are to be grown.
For a fuller spectrum of minerals and elements use Rok Solid 6 monthly, (or at planting time) Ocean Solids once a year. Then two to four weekly sprays of Magic Botanic Liquid and Mycorrcin combined.
Avoid chemical fertilisers and chlorinated tap water.
Do this and you will be amazed how great your gardens will become with really healthy plants and lot of your garden problems will be reduced or disappear.
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LAWN TIME PATCHING OR SOWING A NEW LAWN

Putting time and effort into getting everything right before you sow is as much a part of a great lawn as is purchasing the best lawn seed in the first place. One of the first things you will need to do in this process is determine the soil type in the area you intend planting out.
If it is hard, clay-type soil it will need to be loosened up so that it does not crack in summer or go slushy in winter.
Loosening up this sort of soil also allows the grass roots to grow well into it. The way to go about doing this is to remove a certain amount of the clay and replace it with a good quality top soil, bringing it back up to the required height.
If you have a light sandy soil, you will need to build up the humus level by adding quality top soil and mixing it into the sand.
Where there is poor drainage, install drainage pipes connected to the storm water system this is an absolute must on heavy clay-type soils.
Simply remove about 6 inches of the heavy soil and then lay your drains. Once you’ve done that, give the clay a hefty dose of Gypsum.
Watering is another crucial aspect of a good lawn, so you might wish to lay a pop-up type of lawn watering system. The best time to do this is as you are spreading your new top soil.
It is worth being wary when buying your top soil, as this too can be a bit of a hit and miss operation. You should inspect the soil before buying it to make sure it is friable and of good quality.
Realise also that any soil you bring in will contain weed seeds, unless it has gone through the expensive sterilisation process. However, the worst of the weeds you’re likely to import with the soil will probably be oxalis, as most other varieties of weed can be controlled easily before sowing the lawn seed.
Gauge the amount of top soil you will need by planning to provide about 6 inches of good soil in which to grow the grass. When the sub-soils are sufficiently friable, they allow the roots to penetrate deeper, so much the better. Once you have laid the soil to the correct height and leveled it out to get rid of undulations, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Your ideal lawn should be raised slightly in the centre, tapering off gently to the sides if you have not installed drainage. This allows surface water to run off the lawn rather than pond in the centre.
There should be an open area at the side, or at least an area in which drainage has been put in to remove the surface water.
Be aware of the construction of buildings and fences around the property as they might stop the effective run-off of water from your lawn. In areas where structures are likely to block the run-off, either make your lawn slightly higher there, tapering off to areas where the water can run off, or lay drains.
Before sowing any lawn seed, you will need to get rid of as many weeds in the top soil as possible. If you don’t do this, you’ll find the weeds will probably germinate before or along with the grass seeds, making for a big problem later on.
You can rid the area of weeds before sowing by watering liberally to germinate the weed seeds. Once they’re up, simply remove them by hand or with a Dutch hoe, or spray them with a suitable weedkiller.
If you use a chemical weedkiller for this job, make sure it is one which won’t interfere with the germination of your lawn seed later on in other words ensure it has no residual characteristic.
Once you’ve taken care of the weed situation while they’re still small, you could continue watering to see if there are any more likely to pop up. Obviously, you’ll have to stop at one point to sow your lawn.
If you leave the soil bare for too long, weed seeds will come in, either via the wind or bird droppings.
While on the subject of weeds, make sure any garden beds around the area you plan on sowing are also free of weeds, and kept that way during the time you’re preparing the new lawn.
The next thing you will need to do is spread a good fertiliser over the bare soil before sowing in your lawn seed. My recommendation would be an organic product called Bio Boost a low-release fertiliser available from most of the branches within Farmlands, Fruit Fed, PGG group.
Now that you’re ready to sow your seeds, pick the best time of day to do it. Ideally, this is late in the day, just before dusk, or even after dusk if you have adequate outside lighting.
Doing it any earlier will mean the birds will be watching you, and will return later to eat your lawn seed.
The best way to sow evenly is to use a spreader, set at the right gauge for sowing. Depending on the type of seed you purchased, the rate will be somewhere between 35 and 50 grams per square metre.
If you’re likely to walk over areas you have already sown during this process, make sure the soil isn’t damp enough to pick up the soil and seeds on the soles of your shoes.
A good tip here is to wrap your shoes in a couple of layers of plastic shopping bags this will give them a smoother surface and make it more difficult for earth and seeds to cling on.
After sowing all your seeds, give the area a light watering with sprinklers to settle in the seeds. You can also do this by using a roller to press the seed into the soil, then watering lightly.
I prefer to cover my seed with sharp sand (plasters’ sand) as is it more weed-free than river sand.
Starting at one side, sprinkle the sand until you can’t see the seeds underneath.
The sand should be dry, and will adhere to the moist soil and seeds. You can then walk on the sand without worrying about picking up seeds on your shoes. This allows you to progressively spread the sand over the whole area.
You can reasonably expect birds to start foraging in your newly-sown lawn area the next day. The problem can be largely overcome by placing Bird Repeller Ribbon on small stakes at intervals over the lawn after you have completed the sowing process. Another tip is to get a few loaves of cheap fresh bread and sprinkle quite a lot of it outside each night, on the side of the house away from your new lawn.
With luck, the birds will fill up on that and might leave your seed alone.
A very light watering of the new lawn 2 to 3 times a day will help speed up germination. Remember that this is just a light watering; enough only to dampen down the sand. Applying too much water won’t help, and unless you get a really heavy downpour, rain is unlikely to pose a problem either.
But it is important to keep the new grasses a little on the moist side.
Once the grasses are established and have reached about 4 to 5cm in height, you can do you’re first mowing, removing only about 1 to 2cm off the top.
This will encourage the grasses to branch out, making for a denser lawn. Never mow more than one third off the height of your grasses in any one mowing, whatever age your lawn is, and always use a catcher as clippings left lying around after mowing will only increase problems with thatch. This is really important.
A good lawn should be about 3 to 4cm tall, perhaps even taller, and should be a dense, thick pile of grass. It should never be less than 2cm in height.
The ideal colour of a healthy lawn should be a deep to emerald green.

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EASTER GARDENING 2013

Easter is here and for many working people it is a great time to get the summer gardens cleaned up and preparations made for the coming winter.
It is also the last chance to do some late plantings of vegetables and flowers for winter use and colour.
In the vegetable garden you can do a late planting of winter type brassicas such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. As white butterflies are still flitting around the garden you can place some Neem Tree Granules in the planting hole and about a tablespoon full on the soil around the plant.
This helps reduce damage from the caterpillars and gives the young plants a good start.
Further protection can be done by cutting the base off 2 litre clear plastic bottles and place one of these over each plant with the cap removed. Once the plants have settled in and started growing nicely you can speed up their development by watering in a weak solution of nitrogen.
There are two ways this can be obtained, take a few handfuls of fresh chicken manure (or any other manure) and place in a large bucket filled with non chlorinated water.
Stir occasionally and once a week take about a litre or two of the solution off and apply about 100mls per plant after having watered the area they are growing in. Do not pour over the foliage just on the soil in the root zone.
The other way is to take Urea or sulphate of ammonia and place 50 grams into 10 litres of water to dissolve the granules. Apply about 500 mls of this to each plant after watering the area.
The use of these nitrogen rich solutions can only be used weekly for about a month to boost growth before the winter chills strike.
Come about the middle of April you have to firm up the growth gained by applying about a level tablespoon of sulphate of potash (potassium sulphate) to the soil around each plant previously treated.
Lightly water in preferably with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) The above treatments can be applied to both vegetable and flower seedlings planted at this time.
A further advantage is to place a few sheep manure pellets and a little blood & bone in every planting hole, cover with a little soil and then in with your seedling.
If you have been growing capsicums or peppers in open ground over the summer you will likely loose these to the chills of winter. That is a waste in my mind as given adequate shelter these plants will keep on preforming for you right through the winter and for a few years with care.
If you would like to keep them going pick out the best preforming plants and spray the foliage under and over with Vaporgard and leave for a few days. This helps reduce transplant shock when you lift them and pot them into a small bucket or 20 cm pot. Use a friable compost for the extra mix needed.
Place the pots initially in a sheltered semi shaded area while they settle down.
Later place back in full sun and as winter settles in, move them to a sunny frost free spot or into a glasshouse/conservatory to grow on through the winter. During winter keep the pots a little on the dry side during the cold times.
This leads me to the next point at this time of the year reduce your watering of the gardens.
With many areas in drought mode you are already restricted to the amount of water you apply which is good.
Too much moisture during the cooler months does more harm than good.
As the cooler weather comes we need to firm up our garden plants and the best way to do this is to sprinkle some Fruit and Flower Power around the garden. The product contains both magnesium and potash in balance which means it will firm up growth and aid in keeping the foliage green.
In areas where early frosts are likely you need to spray any frost tender plants with Vaporgard.
This natural product gives plants frost protection down to minus three for three months within 3 days of application. A further application can be applied in June. If you have two or more frosts in a row, night after night, additional protection will be needed.
Preparations for sowing new lawns or patching up existing should be well underway at this time and if you have ensured that most of the weed seeds in the area have germinated and the resulting weeds killed you can, if you have no water restrictions, sow your lawn seed.
If you want a good lawn you have to sow a top quality lawn seed. Super Strike is one that I am lead to believe is of very good quality. Spray the seed after sowing with Magic Botanic Liquid to enhance germination.
Now that autumn has arrived roses and a number of other plants are coming into their end of the season time and thus Nature takes over and diseases such as black spot, mildew and rusts will appear.
This is natural and you will waste your time and money trying to combat them now.
On the other hand young plants such as celery, pansies etc should be protected with sprays of Liquid Sulphur or Baking Soda.
Insect pests such as whitefly and leaf hoppers are also coming to an end as the winter seeps in. It is still an advantage to keep up your sprays of Neem Tree Oil to ensure that their populations will not be too high next spring.
In both the vegetable garden and flower garden you can let one of each plant go to seed to harvest the seeds later on for next season. This is a great savings as the seeds are free.
Easter is also a good time to have a look around your garden and check the shrubs and trees to see if they are starting to crowd each other and gauge if any are causing problems for your neighbours.
Trim back all offending ones so that each plant receives its share of sunlight.
Trimmings should be put through a chipper and mulched back over gardens or placed in the compost.
It is free food for your gardens so don't waste it

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WINTER PREPARATIONS

When daylight savings ends, we really notice the reduced daylight hours while we head towards the shortest day, in just over 3 months time. To back this up we can feel the colder temperatures as the nights become cooler and even on sunny days the sun is losing its bite of heat.
Plants relate strongly to the amount of light hours and start to prepare themselves for the winter chills.
There are a number of things one can do at this time, to help their gardens and plants to be more capable of handling winter’s cold and wet conditions.
The first and foremost is to strengthen the plant’s cells with liberal applications of potassium. Potash or potassium sulphate is sprinkled onto the soil in the root zone of all plants that you care for.
On fruit trees and shrubs this is applied from the trunk to the drip line.
Potassium helps balance out any heavier use of nitrogen you may have applied during the growth time. It firms up sappy growth which is the first casualty to winter colds, winds and wet. Stop applying any nitrogen rich fertilisers instead only use the milder ones such as sheep manure pellets, blood and bone, Bio Boost etc.
You will notice in winter, the leaves of some plants turning yellow. This is an indication of low levels of magnesium in the soil along with the cold conditions, locking up these smaller deposits.
Applications of magnesium sulphate, or Epsom Salts now, will help reduce this yellowing later on.
The product Fruit and Flower Power has both magnesium and potash blended together in the right balance for plants. This should be applied once a month over the next 2-3 months to preferred plants, citrus, passion fruit, winter vegetables, winter flower beds etc.
Having all the minerals available that a plant could desire makes for very healthy plants which will in turn handle the stresses of winter better.
Dissolve a table spoon of Ocean Solids in 500 mls of hot water and then add to 4 litres of tap water.
Place this into your sprayer and when the sun is off the garden late in the day, spray the foliage of all your preferred plants. This can be repeated in 2 months time.
Frosts will damage the frost tender plants out doors and even in glasshouses.
The easy answer is to use the spray on frost protection called Vaporgard.
It will give protection down to minus 3 degrees, within three days of application for a period of about 3 months (from one spray application)
Towns and cities are a lot warmer than the surrounding country side because of the heat given off by buildings and street lights along with a level of pollution. On an average winter, city living plants will only have to put up with a mild frosting occasionally. Where in the surrounding country side a number of heaver frosts are likely.
Thus an application of Vaporgard now and another in 3 months time will protect your frost tender plants very well in the built up areas. In the country or in towns/cities if there is a series of frosts night after night, the cells of the tender plants do not have enough time to heal and damage will result, unless on these occasions, extra protection is provided.
I have successfully kept tamarillos in full foliage during an average winter with only Vaporgard as protection. Also petunias, impatiens and other tender plants.
Perkfection Supa is also a excellent spray to give to any plants that can suffer from wet weather diseases in winter. It fortifies the cells and helps plants overcome/prevent diseases such as root rots. Apply now and again in a months time for this protection.
A spray program would be, Spray Ocean Solids, a few days later spray Perkfection with Vaporgard added. In a months time Perkfection and Raingard, a month later Ocean Solids and Raingard. A month later (about end June) spray Vaporgard again. That will be all till the spring.
Many will be buying new spring bulbs for gardens and containers. It is about the right time to plant them as soil temperatures are lower, but as many areas are very dry you would need to keep the plantings moist.
It would be better to wait a bit longer for open ground plantings then do this after the autumn rains have taken over. Plantings in containers is fine as they are easier to water but make sure the containers are in shaded situations so as not to harm the bulbs on sunny days.
A little Rok Solid and Ocean Solids added to the potting mix (or even better a good open compost) will make for better flowers and plants later on. The same two mineral rich products can be lightly scattered over the area and worked slightly into the soil where bulbs are to be planted.
Once you have winter proofed your gardens as above you can relax or get onto other tasks that need completing in your garden before winter sets in.
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DROUGHT TIMES

Its a sad time for gardeners when water restrictions play havoc with your gardens.
The key to this is to reduce moisture loss so that what water that can be applied; whether its grey water or tap water, will stick around for a longer time.
Evaporation occurs from two sources, one is the soil and the other is out of the leaves of the plants.
The first can be reduced by placing a mulch or material over the soil after watering.
I have used the plastic bags that compost or potting mix comes in, sliced open and spread over the soil around plants to prevent moisture loss.
A lot of these bags are white which means they reflect light and heat which is better at this time of the year than using black plastic to absorb heat.
Plastic cordial bottles are ideal to use to water roses, shrubs and trees in dry times.
You cut the end off the base of the bottle and then bury the neck and top of the bottle deep into the soil near the trunk of the plant. When you water you fill the bottle with water; the water will go down deep and not dry off as surface water does.
A mulch around the plant of plastic held in place by soil or rocks will ensure the tree or bush gets maximum benefit of the water.
Established roses are very capable of handling a drought as they can go into a summer dormancy.
Don't feed or water and don't prune. The rose should recover (if the drought is not too long) in the autumn.
Moisture loss through the leaves of plants is very high in hot sunny days so we need to reduce this by spraying the foliage all over with Vaporgard.
This can reduce moisture loss by 30 to 40% and protect the foliage from damage.
It will also help a little with insect control on the plants.
Container plants will dry out quicker than open ground plants because of the exposure to the sun through the sides of the container.
Containers that can be moved should be placed in shaded areas and plastic or pebbles placed over the top of the mix to reduce moisture loss. A spray all over with Vaporgard is a must to help keep the plants alive.
Well established trees and shrubs have deep rooting systems so they will survive longer than shallow rooting plants. Unfortunately in times of long droughts they will eventually succumb.
If your trees and shrubs could do with a tidy, up now is a good time to do so.
Thin them out by removing some branches cut back to the trunk. Don't just nip the ends off the branches as this causes new branching on the branch. You don't want to encourage growth at this time.
After a tidy up you can spray what you can with Vaporgard.
Lawns will brown off and will recover in most cases when the rains come.
You may see playing fields of dry, brown grasses and think that its all dead; but no, when the rains come the grass regrows again.
Weeds will be effected also and they are cunning as they will seed as the soil dries out leaving thousands of seeds to germinate when the rains come.
Remove flowers on weeds before they set seed to prevent this or even better cut the weed off at ground level and leave where it falls. It will soon shrivel up in the dry.
Using growth active weed killers such as Roundup is a waste of time as with no growth no kill.
This is good value health wise because the herbicide’s key ingredient, glyphosate, has been shown to cause birth defects, endocrine disruption and a host of other health problems.
Now, a new study says the most widely used herbicide in the world is even more toxic than we thought.
The reason? Roundup contains “confidential” and unlabeled ingredients that affect all living cells, including human cells, according to a new study in the scientific journal, Toxicology.
Turns out that industry regulators and long-term studies look at glyphosate in isolation, instead of looking at Roundup’s full formulation, which includes the secret added ingredients.
I believe the glyphosate herbicides would be one of the worst chemicals the world has ever seen.
One of the main reasons for this is the millions of tons of the chemical that are used every year and the harm it does to our food chain and enviroment.
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MORE FOR LESS

Last week, Fiona a reader of this weekly column, send me an email with a web link and suggested that I might be interested in it. The link is http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2013/feb/16/india-rice-farmers-revolution#

Well I am very interested in the article and the following is what its all about:

A farmer in India called Sumant Kumar was overjoyed when he harvested his rice last year.
The season had been good with ample rains in his village of Darveshpura in north-east India.
He was hoping the harvest would be better than the four or five tonnes per hectare that he usually cropped. During harvest he noted that all the grains of rice were bigger and heavier than usual.
When harvested Kumar was in for a shock the harvest was not 6, 10 or 20 tonnes, instead this poor Indian farmer from one of the poorest areas of India had (with only farmyard manure and no herbicides) grown a world record 22.4 tons of rice on one hectare of land.
This is big news. (from the article it stated:)
“It beat not just the 19.4 tonnes achieved by the "father of rice", the Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping, but also the World Bank-funded scientists at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, and anything achieved by the biggest European and American seed and GM companies.
And it was not just Sumant Kumar. Krishna, Nitish, Sanjay and Bijay, his friends and rivals in Darveshpura, all recorded over 17 tonnes, and many others in the villages around claimed to have more than doubled their usual yields.
That might have been the end of the story had Sumant's friend Nitish not smashed the world record for growing potatoes six months later.
Shortly after Ravindra Kumar, a small farmer from a nearby Bihari village, broke the Indian record for growing wheat.
Darveshpura became known as India's "miracle village", Nalanda became famous and teams of scientists, development groups, farmers, civil servants and politicians all descended to discover its secret.
What happened in Darveshpura has divided scientists and is exciting governments and development experts. Tests on the soil show it is particularly rich in silicon but the reason for the "super yields" is entirely down to a method of growing crops called System of Rice (or root) Intensification (SRI).
It has dramatically increased yields with wheat, potatoes, sugar cane, yams, tomatoes, garlic, aubergine and many other crops and is being hailed as one of the most significant developments of the past 50 years for the world's 500 million small-scale farmers and the two billion people who depend on them.”

How this is achieved is by giving plants more root room.
The idea of close cropping (which has become part of agriculture) we pack as many plants of a crop into the least possible area which means they are competing for both root room, sun light, food and moisture.
If we plant the same plant in an open area where it has all the room in the world to root into and no competition for sunlight and resources it will grow bigger and better than the same plant placed in a close crop situation. Another consideration is giving the plant ample root development minerals such as the silicon mentioned above, which can be found in the product called Rok Solid.
How these Indian farmers did it with rice was; instead of planting three-week-old rice seedlings in clumps of three or four in waterlogged fields, the farmers carefully nurture only half as many seeds, and then transplant the young plants into the fields, one by one, when much younger. Additionally, they space them at 25cm intervals in a grid pattern, keep the soil much drier and carefully weed around the plants to allow air to their roots.
This is something I noted also many years ago when gardening in open ground, space the plants out and once a week hoe up the weeds inbetween the plants leaving the weeds to die on top of the soil.
Every time; this action would produce a boost of growth that was very noticeable.
Likely it also cut some of the plant’s near the surface roots which would cause branching of the roots gaining a bigger root system and a bigger plant. The cut weeds would also feed the soil stimulating more nutrition.
What this can mean to you and farmers is they use less seed, less water, less chemicals but get more without greater investment.
Is this a new revolution in farming? I think not instead its going back to ways that were used successfully on the planet for thousands of years of sustainable cropping before big Ag-industry lead us down the garden path to a terminal death of chemicals and genetic modification.
Think about this; Why would you want to kill your weeds with Roundup when they are a valuable source of food for your garden soil? The weeds take goodness out of the soil like any plant so chop it off and let the goodness return (even more than taken out)
SRI offers millions of disadvantaged households far better opportunities. Nobody is benefiting from this except the farmers; there are no patents, royalties or licensing fees.
A foot note from the article stated:
"If any scientist or a company came up with a technology that almost guaranteed a 50% increase in yields at no extra cost they would get a Nobel prize. But when young Biharian farmers do that they get nothing."
Instead Big Ag Industry goes out of its way to disprove and criticise SRI to retain their profits.

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MARCH GARDENING 2013

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.
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. It pays to have a mix of types so that some will produce a nice crop in the autumn.
March is the last chance for most areas in New Zealand to plant out seedlings of brassicas for winter.
The problem with planting seedlings of cabbage etc at this time is the big populations of white butterflies that are out laying eggs.
You can do one of two things to reduce the problem of caterpillars destroying your young brassicas; Place Neem Tree Granules in the planting hole and also on the surface of the soil.
Replace the soil surface granules with fresh about every 6 weeks.
The other alternative is to use the new insect proof crop cover over your plantings.
I have place this over recent plantings of cauliflower/ broccoli and the plants are growing well without any way the butterflies even know they are there.
Its a joy to see perfect plants, insect free. For more information about the crop cover contact me.
With your flower garden keep dead heading the roses and other plants to retain a further flowering before winter. (On those that will carry on flowering)
Mildews are a problem and sprays of either baking soda with Raingard or potassium permanganate (Condys Crystals without Raingard) will help with control for a while. As autumn progresses more damage will occur as its nature ending the plants for the season so at sometime give up and let nature take its course.
Did you know that the seed pods on fuchsias are edible?
Some fuchsia pods are delicious where others are so so. If you want to collect the seeds inside then don't eat the pods. (They are mildly toxic.)
Later this month the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is looking at some of the chemicals that are used commercially and in the home garden. On their web site they state; The formal application being released today relates to a group of 29 organophosphate and carbamate active ingredients, or formulations containing these active ingredients, that are used for plant protection purposes.
The application includes a number of recommendations for these substances, including recommendations either to revoke, phase-out or retain some approvals.
Hopefully this will eliminate a number of dangerous chemicals from the home garden market.
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SEED TIME

With autumn fast approaching it is time to gather seeds from our gardens or buy from seed merchants for either planting now or next season.
Any vegetables you grow will produce seeds if you allow one plant to flower and then set seed.
Most flowers that you grow will produce seed pods which you can harvest and grow for future displays.
There are great savings when you collect seeds from your garden and if the plants were originally from open pollinated seed themselves (the best type) they will not only come true to type but each generation will improve in quality because the plants will have adapted to your soil and growing conditions. Always choose the best plant of a crop to be the mother of your next crop.
Selecting the best instead of the worst plant means the strain of seeds will improve with each generation.
Look for vigor, health and size in selecting a mother at the time when you first start harvesting the crop.
Some hybrid or special vegetables will come true to type but not all. Tomatoes is one that stays fairly true and if you have a special type you prefer then keep some seeds from one of your best tomatoes.
You can still eat the tomato, just pick out a few seeds and place on a paper towel to dry.
When dry, write the name of the tomato on the paper (if you haven't done so already); fold up and place in a glass jar, seal and store in your refrigerator. (All seeds not replanted after drying should be stored in this manner)
If you buy a capsicum or any fruiting plant that has seeds you can dry the seeds and store for next season.
With flowers such as liliums and gladioli often these will set seed and once the foliage has finished (or heading that way) then those seeds can be harvested and sown in a seedling tray to germinate and grow.
Roses that form rose hips (seed pods) can be left on the bush and then harvested in winter.
Sow the seeds that are inside the pod and grow them to flowering size to see what flowers you get.
Its interesting and a free means of obtaining new plants.
I received a news letter this week from Kaiwaka Organics telling me that some cloves and bulbs are now available in limited stocks. If you are quick you maybe able to obtain some also.
Email shop@kaiwakaorganics.co.nz or phone 09 4312732 Here is what I purchased:

Egyptian Tree Onions (Allium Cepa)

Egyptian Tree Onions used to be in every serious food garden in NZ. They are delicious and very easy to grow. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and can be hung up on strings for the winter and keep very well that way. Keep your best onions for the next season's seed. Plant on the shortest day and harvest in the summer.
Also known as Top Onions, Walking Onions, Winter or Perennial Onions, Egyptian Tree Onions are a delicious, self-propagating, hardy perennial.
They are called ‘walking onions’ because bulbs bloom on top of the plant stalk, grow and become top heavy. The weight causes it to bend over and the small bulbs take root.
A new plant is then produced. One bag of 10 of the main bulbs will ensure your supply of these amazing onions for years to come!
They are traditionally planted on the shortest day, like garlic, but in the north planting can be brought forward to May. They like fertile, well-drained soil to thrive.
The top sets can be harvested in late summer. These will not usually develop in the first year though. The flavour is milder when they are harvested in the early Spring. Harvest the ground bulbs in the late Summer, always leaving some bulbs in the ground for the next year’s plants. Egyptian Tree Onions are excellent in stews, soups and stirfries.
The Spring stalks can be eaten raw like chives on green onions
TAKAHUE SEED GARLIC new seasons: NZ Heritage:

An excellent strong garlic with reddish skin can be plaited because of its soft tops. Sowing: Can be planted from May to August. Harvest from December. Plant 8cm apart in the rows and between each row.
ROCAMBOLE (SERPENT) GARLIC: NZ Heritage:

The strongest garlic! Can be planted from April to the end of May. Plant 8cm apart in rows and between each row. Harvest from December to January.
ELEPHANT SEED GARLIC new seasons:

Elephant Garlic, while it has a strong garlic flavour is not true garlic, but it is from the leek family. Large cloves, great for stir fries and salads. Place your order soon as these will not last long.
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HARD TO KILL WEEDS

There are some plants such as bamboo and privet that are hard to eradicate from your gardens.
Take bamboo for instance, you may have seen a cute bamboo plant in a container at a garden centre and thought that it would be nice to have your own little stand of this cane plant.
It would be great to be able to pick your own bamboo stakes for free.
So with no more thought you purchase the cute plant.
A few years later you find that cute was disguised as a monster that you have released into your garden.
Sometimes one inherits a stand of bamboo when buying a new home and you wonder later on if the previous owners only sold the house to be rid of the bamboo.
This week I was informed by the manufacturer (here in New Zealand on Waiheke Island) of the dab on weed killer, Cut N Paste; that they had a new formulation that is stronger than the original called Bamboo Buster.
Here what I learnt:

Bamboo Buster is designed to tackle those toughest of all weeds, Bamboo.
There are over 1000 species of Bamboo in existence. Some spread like wildfire and are much more of a problem weed than others and whilst many are not in New Zealand there are a great number of different types that cause problems for landowners.
Clumping varieties in general cause less problems than those with long underground rhizomes that can spread rapidly damaging decks, water tanks, concrete paths etc. They are often very hard to get rid of.
Bamboo Buster has been trialled on a number of different species with very satisfactory results. Some species may require several follow up treatments until all vigour has gone from the root systems and no more shoots reappear.
Where deformed new growth appears from old stumps cut and paste the leaves of the many little stems. There are other more toxic methods of killing bamboo, some of which are more immediately effective but they have long term residual effects on the soil and other plants nearby.
Bamboo Buster gives you the ability to tackle your bamboo without spoiling your soil.
Bamboo Buster is also great on all those very tough woody weeds like Chinese privet, tree privet, Rhamnus alternus (evergreen buckthorn), willow, gorse, barberry, hawthorn and other vigorous coppicing shrub weeds and trees.
For Bamboo species - Cut near to the ground, just above a node paste the entire cut surface and into the hollow in the middle of the stem. Dont skimp the gel on each stem.
Apply a generous layer of paste to the whole area of the cut stem. Take your time and apply with care and it will pay dividends.
Make sure you apply the paste as quickly as possible after cutting. That means immediately. When stems are cut the plant quickly withdraws its sap and seals the cut. When the paste is applied immediately it enters the plant most effectively.
Ensuring that the whole cut surface is covered. When part is left a section of the stem can remain alive.
The ideal methodology is one person cutting, one clearing away cut stems and one pasting. By using a third person whose job is simply to apply the paste in the way recommended you will get the best results.
When outlying bamboo shoots are treated the die back can reach some distance into a neighbouring clump of bamboo as the effect travels along underground root systems (rhizomes).
Like Cut'n'Paste, Bamboo Buster is still very low toxicity to animals whilst being very effective on your weeds.
At the lowest herbicide hazard classification of 9.1D Bamboo Buster is not classed as dangerous goods. Bamboo Buster is available in 450ml bottles from some garden centres or by mail order.
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CITRUS AND OTHER THINGS

This is a good time of the year to do a bit of maintenance on your citrus trees.
Firstly have a look and see if the tree is dense with many branches coming off the trunk.
If the tree is not open, allowing a reasonable airflow through, then its more vulnerable to disease and insect attack.
Maybe some of the outward growing branches have got too long and are now a nuisance?
If so; never trim back the branch to where you would like. This only causes more shoots to emerge from whats left of the branch. These will grow into branches even longer than it was before.
The pruning of a citrus tree is done by removing total branches back to the trunk.
The only exception to this would be with a young tree that does not have many branches and nipping a few centimeters off the end of a branch or two will promote more branches. Surplus of these can be removed from their source.
When removing branches you need to protect the wound from disease and insect attack.
Use acrylic paint that you have added copper and borax too painted over the sawn off end of the branch at the trunk.
The copper is for diseases, the borax is for citrus borer and the paint is the medium for application.
Better garden centres will have 1 kg jars of Borax. (It makes a great cheap ant bait also)
While inspecting the tree’s trunk and branches look for borer holes. Newer holes are likely to have fuzz (fine sawdust particles) coming out of them.
This is a good indication that you have active borer in the tree which must be treated otherwise the tree will die eventually.
I have found a great method of threating these active holes or areas where borer are feeding and that is diluting Neem Tree Oil half and half with warm water, sucking the solution up into a syringe and injecting it straight into the holes.
The sap will carry the solution to where the grubs are feeding and that will stop their ability to eat so they die of starvation.
You can do this again a couple of weeks later, repeat till there is no further fuzz appearing.
Borer holes are bad news on a tree as they allow the adult beetles easy access to get in and lay their eggs. Also if the holes are there it is difficult to know if they are new or old so its best to seal them up.
Once again acyclic paint with a good amount of borax added is ideal to dab on and cover the wholes.
If an adult borer attempts to open a painted, blocked hole, it will get a dose or borax and die.
This treatment for borer can be applied to any live tree or shrub.
While your checking the tree look for any pest insects, ants, black sooty mould or stickiness to the leaves. Any of these signs mean there are insect pests in the tree feeding so after you have removed any branches you wish to remove to open up the tree, the time is right to spray.
If its whitefly that you have then just before dusk spray the tree all over with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum. Repeat this again about a week later until the pests are under control.
If its not whitefly then spray with just the Neem Oil.
Its also a good idea to sprinkle Neem Tree Granules under the tree and out to the drip line.
This will help reduce pest problems, kill any soil insects including root mealy bug.
Repeat about every 3 months. Neem Granules are also a natural food for the tree.
Talking about citrus feeding, avoid the manmade fertilisers called Citrus food, this is a cheap and nasty way to feed them and does more short term harm to the soil life than long term advantage.
Use natural foods such as blood & bone, sheep manure pellets or BioBoost. I prefer the BioBoost with chicken manure. Every month sprinkle some Fruit and Flower Power under the tree to give it the potash and magnesium it needs.
If you have fruit that are not juicy and taste right then the tree is lacking in Fruit and Flower Power.
All citrus diseases to the fruit and foliage and be prevented or controlled by sprays of Liquid Copper and Raingard. As a preventive this should be done twice a year normally spring and autumn but any time is fine.
Citrus trees are prone to root rots in wet weather so a spray or two of Perkfection in the autumn and again in the spring will give some protection from the diseases that comes from wet feet. Make sure the area the tree is growing in is well drained.
I received an email this week from a reader informing me of the events happening in Europe in regards to the chemical family that is causing bee colony collapse.
There was a successful call and petition to the EU Commission to immediately ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. (Confidor is a neonicotinoid insecticide)
It has been shown that neonicotinoid pesticides do affect bees and in countries where they have been banned bee populations are rebuilding.
Three large garden Centre chains in the UK have removed the damaging insecticides such as Confidor from their shelves. Garden Centres that are responsible in New Zealand should do the same.
It is hopeful the ERMA will follow the EU and ban these bee destroying pesticides in New Zealand putting our health and our environment before the profit of a few.
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INSECT PEST CONTROL

Its not often that I get excited about some gardening aspect these days but this week I am very much so.
It all started off recently when the local community newspaper published an article on insect pests which I had written.
Along with the article they placed a picture of a garden with a raised crop cover spread over the vegetables growing.
I saw the picture and did not take any further notice. Then the phone started ringing with local gardeners asking what was the cover and where could they obtain some.
I had come across various crop covers in the past mainly used by commercial growers in limited situations.
It can work out very expensive to cover a hectare of land with a raised cover.
I also have noted that the new dreaded pest called the potato/tomato psyllid has big populations currently causing havoc with late crops of potatoes and ruining tomato plants.
Even down in Southland gardeners are not lifting the good yields of potatoes that they are accustomed to because of the psyllids. (They are luckier down there as the psyllid population take longer to get going so they get some reasonable size potatoes, which set earlier and then the smaller ones that were effected because they set later)
You can spray Neem Tree Oil regularly and apply Neem Tree Granules to the soil to reduce the damage but with each female laying 500 eggs its a battle.
Wouldn't it be nice if they developed a force field that you could put around your vegetable garden and it kept out all pests including insects, cats, birds and anything else that might harm our crops.
Well a crop cover might not be as good but it would do the same sort of job.
So I went in search of suitable crop covers and found two that would work well.
The first of these is a Insect Mesh that is 4 metres wide and whatever length required.
Its clear, 45gsm and gives a 15% shade factor. Rain will pass through but most insects, cats, birds would not. Ideal for larger insect pests such as white butterfly, moths, beetles down to about adult aphids. The gaps of the mesh would unfortunately allow some small insects such as psyllids to get through; though it could act as a deterrent. Nice price being about $5.00 a cut metre. (Ideal for whitebait nets)
The other one is a special Quarantine mesh, white, 125gsm 3.3 metres wide, 50 x 25 mesh with a 25% shade factor. This is the type that is used when quarantine situations are required in regards to imported plants, under which they are grown till they have met MAF requirements.
I don't think a very small insect like the psyllid would be able to get through this small gauge net. More expensive of course at around about $17.00 a cut metre, 3.3 metres wide.
Also these mesh products are fairly new in New Zealand and have mainly been used by commercial operators especially over entrances to glasshouses and tunnel houses.
I see a great potential for home gardeners to use them for crop protection.
For instance I am going to test the Quarantine one by planting a late crop of potatoes in one of my raised gardens. I will plant the seed potatoes deep using Neem Tree Granules and then cover the area completely with the Quarantine mesh. It will be raised about a metre above the soil to give ample room for the potatoes to grow and held in place so wind, rain and watering will not be a problem.
I think I will be able to achieve a late crop without having to spray Neem Oil for the psyllids. You may like to try either cover yourselves and as far as I am aware they are not available in Garden Centres only by mail order. (Contact me for details or visit www.0800466464.co.nz )
There are various ways you can make supports for the meshes, for small applications loops of no 8 wire, next would be plastic conduit pipe into larger hoops before having to build a structure out of wood or other materials.
Excellent for using over raised gardens.
The Insect mesh would be ideal at this time of the year for gardeners that are planting brassicas for their winter crops. Keeping the white butter fly off the plants along with grey aphids, moths, pesky birds and cats that like to dig up young seedlings.
The shelter offered by the mesh should also enhance the growth of the crops as well.
Given due care the meshes should last for many a season, so a good investment.
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JANUARY GARDENING

The weather has not made-for a good gardening season over the last few months. When I compare the plants growing in my glasshouse to those outside there is a remarkable difference.
Hardy plants have done fairly well outside because of the long hours of light more than the temperatures.
Its amazing how we can go from a really hot day to a chilly winter-like day in less than 24 hours; these conditions that more tender plants like tomato and cucumber hate.
I am seriously thinking of buying a large lean to glasshouse to put against a concrete block wall facing North West, ideal for protection of the more tender plants and to give a longer growing season.
Insect pest’s population growth, is affected by the temperatures and for us that live in places such as Palmerston North and some areas of the South Island, it is an advantage keeping populations in check.
The potato/tomato psyllid does not seem to be affected by the weather patterns and is causing havoc with both those crops and also with some other plants including Tamarillos (Tree Tomatoes) They have killed one of my tamarillos and a new one is under attack.
A friend in Taranaki told me that two commercial growers of tamarillos are out of business because of the psyllid. From my observation it would appear that initially the pest stops fruit development and later it stunts growth till the tree dies.
Sprays of Liquid Sulphur appear to be one of the most effective means of control found in the USA.
Liquid Sulphur will also control spider mites and a range of diseases including rust, black spot and powdery mildew.
If you dilute separately, Liquid Copper and Liquid Sulphur then mix them together in their water down state; that makes a great spray for most plant diseases in regards to protection and control. Its not silly to use that combination spray about every 3 months for prevention of diseases and build up; more frequently if there is a problem. Very economical as the Liquid Copper is used at only 1 ml per litre of water and the Liquid Sulphur at 2.5 ml per litre.
Don't spray Liquid Sulphur during high temperature as heat and sulphur can damage plants, use when cooler and also late in the day when sun is off the plants. By adding Raingard to the spray will keep the particles in place for up to 14 days come rain or shine.
My good news is that I have added a small hen house and run to my gardening activities this week then purchased three point of lay hens. The hen house is on a concrete pad making it easy to collect the chicken manure and now I have an alternative means of converting scraps and weeds into manure for the gardens. Chicken manure not only has the best NPK ratings of the animal manures it is always seedless, so no weed seeds recycling.
Of cause there is the advantage of having the best natural eggs as a bonus. (Taste the difference and see the rich dark yellow yokes) It cost me about $300 for the materials and I have seen much small hen houses advertised as kit sets for about $399 thats great for 3 to 6 chickens.
I received an email recently from Gloria Williams of the Monarch Butterfly Trust advising about a online Butterfly Gardening Course which you maybe interested in participating.
See http://www.monarch.org.nz/monarch/projects/butterfly-gardening-course/

Its a 5 week course from which you will learn a lot about butterflies and moths and how to encourage them to your garden including Monarch Butterflies. Gloria also said:
We would like your readers to be aware of the upcoming Butterfly Conference which we are sure will appeal to the many people wanting to create their own butterfly habitat. This takes place at Unitec (Mt Albert, Auckland) on the weekend of 16 and 17 March.
We are expecting 100 people at the two day event, the majority of whom will be teachers and gardeners interested in conservation. We have speakers coming from the USA and Australia and as well New Zealand's leading entomologists, plus Geoff Davidson who will give us an insight on planting native species for butterflies/moths.
As I am sure you are aware there is a huge resurgence of interest in insect life of which butterflies and bees are most important, and the Monarch our champion. Perhaps this interest has been aroused by a recent statement by David Attenborough:
"If we and the rest of the backboned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if [the invertebrates] were to disappear, the land's ecosystems would collapse. The soil would lose its fertility. Many of the plants would no longer be pollinated.
Lots of animals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals would have nothing to eat. And our fields and pastures would be covered with dung and carrion. These small creatures are within a few inches of our feet, wherever we go on land but often, they're disregarded. We would do very well to remember them."
And that is the purpose of our conference: to help New Zealanders understand what they can do in their "patch" - whether it's a school garden or a neighbourhood park or just their own backyard - to help our butterflies and moths and ecology, to understand Nature at work.
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BEE PROBLEMS

A number of gardeners have complained about the lack of honey bees in their gardens which affects the pollination of fruiting plants.
Fruiting trees, vines, plants and bushes will not bear fruit unless pollination has taken place. Those gardeners that are fortunate to have a nest of bumble bees somewhere nearby will be better off as bumble bees do a lot of pollination work for the home gardener.
Without honey bees or bumble bees all one can do is hand pollinate.
There are two reproductive parts of a flower; that are the Stigma (female) and the Stamen (male) There will be one Stigma usually in the centre of the flower with several Stamen around it.
In some plants such as Zucchini and pumpkin there will be two separate flowers one male and one female.
The female will have the embryo fruit at the base so you need to move pollen from a male flower to the Stigma of the female flower. With Zucchini and pumpkin, honey bees or bumble bees normally will do this for you as they are seeking nectar from the flowers. If they are not working the flowers then fruit will grow for a few days and then rot off.
It pays to hand pollinate pumpkins etc to ensure a good fruit set and the best time to do this is about mid morning.
There are several possible reasons that there are no honey bees around, one is the viroa mite that decimated hundreds of hives and likely all the feral bees.
Since then we have another problem called Colony Hive Collapse which is happening when bees go out foraging for nectar and cant find their way home because they are disorientated.
A number of reasons for this have been suggested but the most likely one is a family of insecticides called Neonicotinoids. It has been shown that pesticides from that group in very small amounts do affect bees in their ability to return to their colony.
Sue Kedgley wrote an article in the Herald entitled; Government sits on its hands as honey bees die. Sub titled; The demise of our bees would be ruinous to our agricultural nation. In the article Sue states:
A Bay of Plenty beekeeper recently lost 230 of his beehives - or half of his operation. He's been beekeeping since 1981, and has never had losses like this before.
He says other beekeepers have experienced similar losses.
A Northland beekeeper recently lost 900 of his1000 hives;another has lost 400 hives, and others last year lost half of their hives.
This is serious stuff as our farming and agriculture in New Zealand are so dependant on bee populations for pollination of clover and crops.
The ‘powers that be’ should ban the use of all the family of pesticides called Neonicotinoids.
Alternatively farmers and horticulturists and seed merchants should boycott the same pesticides.
Note: Seeds are coated with the pesticide to protect the plant later on from insect pests which means the chemical is systemic and will likely be in the flowers of the plant.
The honey bee takes nectar from the flower which will also have a minute amount of the chemical, this disorientates the bee and it flies lost till it dies. If bumble bees are also affected we are in even bigger trouble.
What can you the home gardener do in this regard?
The pesticide that is readily available to the home gardener is sold under the trade name Confidor.
If you are concerned about bees and your garden you could boycott this product and maybe also point out to the retailers selling it, the harm the chemical can cause.
If enough people, commercial and home gardeners take action then the bees will have a chance.
No Bees equals Poverty and Starvation!
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HAPPY NEW GARDENING YEAR

Well here we are again back for another year of gardening, the world didn't end on the 21st of the 12th 2012 so now we don't know if or when the last day will come. (Thats life)
The most likely problems will be extreme weather patterns, causing all sorts of losses and grieve all over the planet.
This is a very good reason to ensure that you have a good garden of vegetables growing all year round as a healthy supplement to your food chain during both good and bad times.
I read with interest the Dompost this morning (5/1/13) on the front page about hardship many will face this coming year trying to stretch a budget to feed, clothe and home their families.
One of the factors quoted as raising the over cost of living is the rising price of electricity which is strange; as there is a surplus of power. Maybe someone wants to sell power companies, making them more attractive to potential buyers, while people suffer.
Whatever; growing your own vegetables is certainly a good way to help any budget.
Its back to the way we were 50 odd years ago, growing lots of fruit and vegetables, then preserve, bottle, freeze, make chutneys, sauces and jams.
It is so easy even for those that have no experience, just grab a copy of Edmonds Cookery book or Google on the Internet for how to do any of the above with your surplus produce.
I remember as a kid how the pantry would be well stocked going into winter with all sorts of goodies. A big saving on your weekly grocery bill also.
Over the holidays I was delighted to hear from several sources that lots of people have started the old practise of keeping a few chickens in their backyard. Small hen houses are in big demand for those unable to build one themselves. All you need is enough room to house 3 or more chickens.
Place a concrete pad for the floor of the chicken house so its easy to collect the droppings when they roost. This is the best natural manure for your gardens and free for the taking.
They need a run outside of the hen house which should go over a dirt area or lawn.
This gives them an area outside to have soil baths and scratch around.
Kitchen scraps, weeds from the garden along with the outer leaves of lettuce etc can be put into the run area for their diet.
Slugs, snail and caterpillars can also be collected and feed to them. Clean fresh water, (non chlorinated is best) some wheat and chicken mash each day and you will be rewarded with fresh eggs the likes of that are hard to buy.
My grandchildren in Auckland obtained a few hens recently and even at their young ages they are down feeding them first thing in the morning. Just like myself at their ages.
The weather in some areas has been a challenge for gardeners with lots of reports of successes and failures. Fluctuations of temperatures makes gardening difficult as it is easy to overwater or underwater plants when trying to judge what the temperature is likely to be.
Over watering will cause losses especially to young plants and also promote diseases.
Sprays of potassium permanganate (Condys Crystals; a few grains to colour up the water nicely will help control a lot of diseases) Use as often as required and just wash produce later. Potassium Permanganate is available from better garden shops, its no longer a chemist item or if it is, its very expensive from them.
The other problem is pest insects which should not be allowed to multiply in your gardens.
On the first sign of any pests spray with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum just before sunset.
Repeat every 7 days till under control. Look for the pests on other plants including weeds and even next door.
Now is the time to plant your winter crops of vegetables and flowers, repeat plantings every 3-4 weeks till end of March. Use Neem Tree Granules to help prevent insect damage.
Keep soil moist with non chlorinated water but don't over water.
Hopefully the rest of the season will be more favourable.
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WHEN TO PLANT

With a great number of first time gardeners growing their own vegetables, a question that I am often asked is; when is the best time to plant various crops?
This is a difficult question to answer as conditions vary greatly in different parts of the country. To make matters more complicated, you can have a situation where the growing conditions can be different just half a mile away caused by what we call micro-climates.
A gardener with a good micro-climate; as a result of the terrain, or by established trees, making a sheltered hot spot which can be planting out a month or more before it is safe for another gardener to do so, a bit down the road.
When you buy packets of seeds you will find on the packet the average best sowing times for various regions. This information is general and unless you know your own growing conditions, succession sowings should be made about 2 to 4 weeks apart.
If the early plantings fail through weather conditions, your later ones will be more successful, as the weather settles. Over a period of years you will become a better judge of when to sow and plant out. A gardening diary giving weather conditions each week and sowing times will make a great reference for the future plantings.
Keen gardeners like to beat nature and grow plants out of the normal season so they can have early crops and this can be done with a glasshouse, or the use of plastic film over wire hoops to warm the garden soil and protect the germinated seedlings from adverse weather conditions.
Early plantings can also be assisted by placing plastic bottles over the individual plants after cutting the bottom off and removing the cap.
The most important aspect is when not to plant out seedlings of vegetables.
Late plantings of vegetables towards the end of autumn means they have only a small window of growth, which is progressively slowing down day by day.
In mid winter growth can reduce to zero and immature crops will just sit waiting for better times. As the daylight hours extend and the soil warms, they then get a growth spurt but because of the previous conditions the plants feel their lives have been threatened and will grow on a bit and then go to seed. (Bolt)
Thus the crop is a failure, a waste of time and money. Crops of winter vegetables are planted in summer to grow to near maturity as winter sets in. In doing so they will mature ready for use in winter and hold nicely over the cold winter months.
For instance leek seedlings will be planted out in December through to February for succession, winter harvesting. Brassicas, such as winter cabbage and brussel sprouts will be planted out later in January through till March, dependant on varieties (maturity times) and succession requirements.
The worst problem with brassicas grown for winter is that the young plants have to face the problem of the white butterfly’s caterpillars when the pests are most active. By placing Neem Tree Granules in the planting hole and sprinkling some onto the soil, around the plants will greatly assist in control. Refresh the granules every 6 weeks with a few more onto the soil.
Stress on vegetables that are not grown for their fruit (cabbages etc as apposed to say tomatoes) can make them go to seed prematurely.
Two ways this can happen, one is purchasing seedlings that are in punnets and have become root bound and likely have suffered stress through inadequate waterings.
Always look for the very young fresh seedlings of non fruiting plants to purchase, even if you need to grow them on in their punnets till they are of a nice size to plant out.
The next problem can occur during the spring when weather conditions fluctuate from nice warm sunny days to cold miserable days. The plant’s growth responds to the sunny warm days and then they sulk in the cold windy days. This stress of change, makes the plants believe that conditions are not good and their lives are threaten, so all they want to do then is produce babies, then they go to seed.
Often not straight away as they have to reach a certain level of maturity to be able to flower and thus several gardeners have contacted me recently to ask why their early spring plantings have gone to seed. Either of the above can be the cause of bolting.
A number of gardeners also like to do late plantings if they live in areas not prone to early frosts. Late plantings of sweet corn in January can often result in a second harvest of cobs before winter sets in. Tomatoes sown from seed in December and January should give you more ripe fruit after your earlier plantings have finished.
You do not even have to sow seed, as you can strike the laterals (side shoots) to make a new young plant, once it has rooted up.
To do this; fill a small pot two thirds full of compost and fill the balance to the top with sand or fine pumice. Remove a lateral which should be about 6cm long and place it into the sand to about the depth of the sand. Moisten down and keep moist. When the plant stands up and shows some new growth then the early roots have formed.
If you spray the laterals with Vaporgard a day before you remove them off the parent plant, you will have a new young tomato plant quicker.
When removing laterals off tomatoes or old leaves, it is most important that you do not do this during humid or moist times as a disease can enter the wound and you lose a good plant.
Remove laterals on a nice sunny day when the air is dry and as you remove each lateral, spray the wound with Liquid Copper.
It is still not too late to plant seeds of summer crops unless you live in an area prone to early frosts.
Keep the soil moist at all times using non chlorinated water. (Put a filter onto your tap to remove the chlorine) It makes the world of difference and your crops will grow quicker and healthier.
Gardeners that use tank water or are fortunate to live in a town/city that does not dose the water supply with this chemical poison, do not have to worry about a filter.
If you do not have room for a vegetable plot then use containers or planter boxes to grow as many vegetables as possible. Fill the containers with a good purchased compost, not potting mix.
Much better for your health and pocket.
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CHRISTMAS TIME

Firstly I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Gardening New Year.

This will be the last weekly article till after the New Year which means I get to have a couple of weeks break from writing.

I am not going away and will be working on the non statuary days; thus I will be available to take your emails and phone calls if you have any queries or problems.

If I happen to go out there is a very good answer phone system where you can leave your phone number. Likewise if you have a gardening problem and you email me the details include your phone number as its easier for me to phone rather than reply to an email.

This is important if I need to ask you more questions to find the right solution to the problem.
Some gardeners take photos of the problem and email them to me; that is a good idea as it gives me a better idea as to what is happening.
I have been providing this service free to gardeners now for over 30 years and its always a pleasure to help.
Those that are going away over the holiday period should endeavor to have a friend or neighbour visit your home most days to attend to the garden in regards to watering, picking mature vegetables and fruit, looking after indoor plants, clearing mail and mowing lawns.
This not only keeps your gardens up to scratch but also provides security for your possessions.
If you have pets they can also tend to their needs but in the case of dogs it would be better to have a friend house sit while you are away instead of placing your loved pets in a kennel.
Dogs are a different matter compared to cats who don't mind a stay away as they are more aloof.
Dogs on the other hand love the security of their human pack and if not their humans at least their territory where they feel most comfortable.
Its also good piece of mind while you are away to know that someone is there looking after things till your return.
Make a list of what needs to be done in regards to watering, feeding animals etc so the home carer knows what to do and a phone call to them now and then will also be worthwhile.
As you harvest your summer crops and space is available start planting your winter crops.
Firstly put a good dose of manure (chicken manure if possible) over the garden, sprinkled some Rok Solid and Ocean Solids then covered with purchased compost which should be weed free and free of herbicides if purchased from a top brand such as Daltons or Oderings.
Likely you are going to be planting brassicas (cabbages etc) so sprinkle soft lime over the area and place Neem Granules in the planting hole and on the surface of the soil.
The worst aspect about growing winter brassicas is they have to grow through the worst time for white butterfly caterpillars.
The Neem Granules are a great solution for this and when working for you, then the caterpillars don't get past the first bite stage after hatching out of their egg case.
The granules on the soil under the plants should be refreshed about every 6 weeks.
If you want early leeks then they should be planted out as soon as possible.
Unfortunately most leek seedlings come in punnets and they are fairly spindly. The ideal planting out size is about as long and as thick as a standard pencil or nearly so.
If the plants are small then break them into clumps, make a deeper hole and half fill with chook manure place a little soil on the top of this then the clump of little leeks.
Every week water some liquid chook manure and Magic Botanic Liquid over the clumps until they get to a better size for lifting and planting out.
It is also a good time to plant some late tomatoes, sweet corn and cucumbers so that as your older plants start to fizz there will be fresh ones producing into winter or till they are knocked out.
If you don't have room in gardens then plant in larger containers using purchased compost with animal or chook manure added.
A good planting of silverbeet about now will give you heaps to crop right through winter.
Silverbeet is usually free of most insect pests problems and if not planted too close together; so there is good air circulation, then leaf diseases will be reduced.
By harvesting the larger outer leaves on a regular bases will also assist in better growth and less problems.
Where ever you see pest insects, get onto controlling them as quickly as possible as where there maybe a few one day in next to no time there can be hundreds.
Sprays of Neem Tree Oil will help keep the pests at bay without hurting beneficial insects.
The oil will also help protect against a number of leaf diseases such as black spot, rust etc.
It apparently helps keep possums and rabbits off roses and other plants and great for fleas on animals.
If you add Key Pyrethrum to the oil you have a fast knock down and control combination but this spray will affect beneficial insects as well as the pests for up to a day after spraying.
Hopefully you are organised for Xmas and the New Year and if not going away spend some time gardening.
If neighbours or friends are going away you could offer to check their gardens and water as need be. It is also good to pick any ripe fruit while doing so as either the birds will be encouraged to peck the fruit or it could rot where it is and cause premature rotting to other fruit nearby.
Once again have a great Xmas and travel safe.
Wally Richards

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DECEMBER 2012 GARDENING

The year has rolled around quickly and we are very nearly in the middle of growing season with just over a week away from the longest day.
It has been an interesting season so far with most areas having ample rain fall and even a few summery days before chilling down again.
Roses have bloomed very well in many area even if there has been some disease damage as well as weather damage to the foliage.
With the weather being up and down, increases the possibility of disease problems, but keeps pest insect problems low.
Likely the weather will improve early in the new year (as it has done for the past couple of years) and that will be when the pest insect populations will start to multiply out of sight.
As you are wandering around your gardens have a good look at your plants for any sign of pest or disease problems starting to happen.
Look under and over the leaves and check for holes in the leaves also. If there are holes in plant leaves such as beans, citrus, roses, feijoa, blue berry etc but no sign of any pests then likely it will be beetles feeding and more than likely the grass grub beetles.
I wrote recently about two methods of control, the light trap and also by spraying the effected plants in the early evening when the beetles are feeding. Spray them with Key Pyrethrum and Neem Tree Oil combined.
The same spray can be used any where you find pests starting to build up their populations.
Check other plants including weeds nearby and if found, spray them also to stop re-investing.
Every pest you kill now means there will be between 30 to 300 less to deal to in a month or mores time.
I am very impressed with potassium permanganate (condys crystals) as a spray for fungus type diseases on plants. The weather conditions recently caused moulds to start to grow on the lower leaves and trunk of some of my tomato plants. I mixed about quarter a teaspoon of the granules into a couple of litres of water, sprayed and next day the moulds were arrested.
In previous articles I have written about potassium permanganate’s virtues in controlling rust on plants and leaf diseases on roses, it works very well and is a lot better than many of the expensive chemicals which are no good for your health.
Condys crystals are a chemical that you would not want to start drinking or get in your eyes but I do remember as kids we used to gargle using a mild solution for sore throats. (worked a treat) A gardener who used it as a spray recently rang me to say it stained the fence and house.
Yes its a good stain and can be used for that purpose on timber but will weather off if not sealed in with a lacquer. Beware if used near buildings etc to have a drop sheet if you don't want it to be stained.
It will also stain your skin so wear latex gloves if you are spraying it and don't want to discolour your hands.
Sometime ago a lady told me that during the 2nd World War she and her girl friends would apply a solution of Condys Crystals to their arms and shoulders to create the appearance of a tan before going out to dance with the American Soldiers in Wellington.
Talking about tans and sun I mentioned recently the virtues of protecting your skin from the sun by applying Virgin Coconut Oil before venturing out. The oil protects the skin and allows your body to make the essential Vitamin D that you need for good health. Its been shown that people suffering from numerous types of cancer are low in vitamin D and that been low in this essential vitamin is very likely to contribute to cancers. The expensive sunscreen lotions prevent your body making vitamin D so the Virgin Coconut oil is the answer along with due care when in the sun.
The season has been fairly good to me and in the last week of November I was able to eat my first ripe tomato from a Russian Red plant in a container outside.
The early crop of potatoes has matured with excellent size tubers thanks to the protection Neem Tree Granules gave the plants against the potato psyllid.
I have a second crop half way to maturity and will be interested to see how these will fair. In areas where the psyllids are a problem it is not a good idea to plant a late crop at this time unless you want to do a lot of spraying to protect.
Winter/spring flowering plants are likely to be finishing about now so its time to lift and tidy up the plots, refresh the soil with manures and compost (keep it natural if you want good results) before planting summer annuals.
Spring bulbs should be lifted, dried carefully (out of sunlight) and stored in an airy situation for replanting in early autumn. Only lift when the foliage has died back to a reasonable degree, as the leaves produce energy for the bulbs to give them the power to flower well for you next spring.
Earlier plantings of Gladioli and liliums should be budding up well and start flowering soon.
Keep them free of thrips and aphids with sprays of Neem Tree Oil.
If you want a instant good show of colour then purchase a number of colour spots. That is the term used for annuals that are flowering in about 4 inch pots, well on the way to maturity and a great show if feed with the likes of manure and blood & bone.
The younger plants in punnets can also be purchased and place inbetween the colour spots. (Ensure you allow room for future development of both. Kept moist with non-chlorinated water they will rapidly grow.
Those gardeners that have read my books and have planted fruit trees in large containers such as 100 litres, there are two points to remember; as the trunk is in the middle of the container there is ample room between it and the rim. This is an ideal place to plant salad type plants such as lettuce, parsley, radish, beetroot, spring onions, onions, dwarf beans etc. Not only does it make the space productive but it also helps retain moisture in the container.
Which brings me to the second point; a tree or shrub is normally conical in its shape which means the outer leaves will guide rainfall to the area that we call the drip line, this is where the feeder roots are.
When we place this tree in a container likely the foliage will divert rain water outside of the container with only a small amount actually wetting the mix.
Even after a good period of rain you may have to get the hose out and water your more established containers as they will be fairly dry.
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GROWING TOMATOES

I remember one time, that a novice gardener asked a gardening guru how do you grow a great tomato? The reply was, ‘get a tomato plant!’
So far this season it is shaping up to be a good one for growing tomatoes so lets have a look at a few of the aspects related to the successful growing of tomatoes.
You are likely to be in one of the following categories at this time;
1/ Started plants off in a glasshouse before winter and now are enjoying ripe fruit.
2/ Started plants of in a glasshouse in winter and now have plants covered in fruit waiting to ripen. (thats me)
3/ Started plants off in the last couple of months and they are growing well and first fruit have formed.
4/ Started off plants recently and they are growing well.
5/ Yet to start off plants. For this later group it is a good time to obtain a few plants from a garden centre and pot them up or plant them out.
They should reward you with ripe tomatoes in a couple of months time.
Also in January and February I will be either sowing seeds of more tomato plants or taking cuttings from my existing ones so that I will have tomatoes right into winter.
Often we find that these later tomato plants do better than the very early ones.
The tomato plants that have done best for me so far are the cooler type Russian Red.
A strong growing bush tomato, growing up to a metre or so tall with lots of medium size tomatoes.
I prefer these dwarf or bush type tomatoes as they are just allowed to grow without having to remove any laterals (side shoots). Russian Red is a popular one along with Scoresby Dwarf.
Besides not having to remove laterals they are tomatoes that will produce pollen in cooler temperatures and thus set fruit when other types will not. (These are the types to start off next year to have fruiting in unheated glasshouses over winter)
Talking about laterals or the side shoots that grow out between the trunk and leaf; on tall growing tomato plants, these are usually removed so the plant is more manageable and bigger fruit are obtained.
(The growth goes into the fruit rather than creating more plant) If you don't remove the laterals you tend to use a number of stakes to support all the growth.
You get lots of smaller tomatoes rather than fewer, larger tomatoes. If you want really big tomatoes, from tomato plants that will produce the monster fruit such as the Beefsteak types (One slice covers the sandwidge) then you remove all laterals allowing only the fruit trusses to form from the main and only trunk.
A problem can arise when removing laterals or leaves from a tomato plant and that is a disease can enter the wound and kill your plant.
Only remove laterals or leaves on a sunny day when the air is dry, not humid, also make up some Liquid Copper in a trigger sprayer at higher than the normal rate (5ml per litre) and immediately on removing a lateral spray the wound. The copper solution will keep ok in the trigger sprayer, just shake well before using.
If Botrytis enters a wound it will form a rot on the trunk which initially appears as a darker area, as this rot develops the plant starts to have the top foliage cut off from the root system and the eventual collapse of the plant and death.
One gardener last season told me that he painted undiluted Liquid Copper on the dark area when first noticed and was able to save the plant. (Worth a go as you have nothing more to lose once it happens) Blight and Botrytis are the two greatest disease problems for tomatoes and you can protect them with a monthly spray of Perkfection.
You may find that tomato plants growing in full all day sun tend to curl their leaf surfaces away from the sun. Where tomatoes growing in morning or later afternoon sun do not show this tendency. I believe that it is the UV causing the problem and tomatoes are one plant that dislikes too much UV.
It does not harm the plant but the amount of energy gained from the sun is reduced which will slightly diminish the size and number of fruit. As the ozone hole mends in the new year this problem also disappears.
Another aspect that worries some gardeners is the lower large leaves become distorted as the plants mature. As far as I am aware this is a virus that has infected a number of varieties of tomatoes and other than the distorted result no other harm comes to the plant.
Later I usually remove these leaves.
Tomato plants need ample food and moisture to fare best. There are several special tomato foods available including my own one called ‘Wally’s Secret Tomato Food’ which has added potash and magnesium, both which are vital to having a healthy plant and good flavoured taste.
Regular applications of this food should be applied to the root zone and ideally watered in with Magic Botanic Liquid.(MBL) The same product can be sprayed over the foliage every couple of weeks for better results.
Growing tomato plants in containers is a neat and easy way to obtain a good crop of fruit.
The larger the container the better and the minimum should be about 20 litres size for dwarf type plants, 45 odd litres for average plants such as Moneymaker and closer to 100 litres for the big Beefsteak types.
Use a good friable compost with a little top soil added, don't waste your time and money using potting mixes. Add a few worms to the mix along with goodies such as sheep manure pellets and blood and bone. Do not overwater while the plants are establishing but once their roots have filled the pot, water well at least once a day.
Blossom end rot happens when the fruit is setting and there is insufficient moisture to move the calcium to the setting fruit. This means a black patch forms under the fruit making it just about useless.
If you find that one watering a day is not adequate then place a tray under the container so there is an extra volume of water to soak up as the plant uses the moisture out of the compost mix.
There are three pests that can cause you problems, whitefly, psyllids and caterpillars.
Placing Neem Tree Granules on the soil in the root zone tends to reduce these pest problems.
Sprays of Neem Tree Oil can also be useful and important as the season progresses.
A number of gardeners in the past have used special sprays to aid the setting of fruit.
These sprays are not available anymore and they are not needed anyway. If the plants are outside the air movement is sufficient to move the pollen and set the fruit. If in a glasshouse then on a sunny day simply go into the house and tap the stake or plant to cause a vibration, this will set the fruit.
Often the reason that plants do not set fruit even though they are flowering, is because the temperatures are not high enough for certain varieties to create pollen. Growing cold types will help overcome this.
Birds can attack ripe or even green fruit and the use of Bird Repeller Ribbon will assist in this.
Fruit starting to colour up can be picked and ripened indoors as an alternative.
There are ample natural products you can obtain to supplement the diet of your plants from liquid seaweeds though to making your own liquid manures from any animal manure or sheep pellets.
Diluted and watered into the root zone can assist in obtaining a bigger and better crop.
Hopefully your biggest problem will be what to do with all the ripe tomatoes you collect.
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