Written by Wally Richards.
GENERAL GARDENING, BUMBLEBEES AND INSECT PESTS
THE PERFECT RAISED GARDEN
GROWING FOOD IN CONTAINERS
GARDENING FOR HIGH HEALTH NUTRITION
A NEW CALENDAR YEAR
AN INTERESTING YEAR
REVIEW OF CURRENT GARDENING PROBLEMS
TASTE THE DIFFERENCE
An alert for gardeners
CHRISTMAS GARDENING SHOPPING
GARDENING TIPS FOR LABOUR WEEKEND
MAKING BETTER PLANTS AND GARDENS
THE NEED FOR PHOSPHORUS
THE GARDENING MONTH, OCTOBER
LAWNS IN SPRING
FRUIT IN A CONTAINER
EARLY SPRING PLANT CARE
SOIL AND WATER
GARDENING TIPS FOR 2014
ON WEED TIPS AND CHICKENS
NEW SEASON TOMATOES
A TALE OF WOE AND A TIMELY WARNING
TWO TOPICS: CATS And NAPTHALENE Plus PLANT”S ROOTS INVADING
MESSING WITH NATURE
WINTER CLEAN UP
CARING FOR CONTAINER PLANTS IN WINTER
CLEANING UP MOSS, LIVERWORTS, SLIMES AND MORE
LAWNS AND GRUBS
LAWNS IN APRIL
RAIN AND HOW BEST TO STORE IT.
WINTER READY AND WEEDS
VEGETABLES THAT CAN HURT YOU
GARDENING IN MARCH 2014
WINTER READY YOUR PLANTS
BUXUS HEDGE DISEASE
GARDENING WITH CHEMICAL POISONS
CITRUS TREE CARE
PREPARING FOR WINTER
GARDENING FOR HEALTH
More gardening articles for 2013
A new article will appear on this page each week along with what to do in the garden.
Then these articles will go onto previous article pages.
GENERAL GARDENING, BUMBLEBEES AND INSECT PESTS
THE PERFECT RAISED GARDEN
GROWING FOOD IN CONTAINERS
GARDENING FOR HIGH HEALTH NUTRITION
A NEW CALENDAR YEAR
AN INTERESTING YEAR
REVIEW OF CURRENT GARDENING PROBLEMS
TASTE THE DIFFERENCE
An alert for gardeners
CHRISTMAS GARDENING SHOPPING
GARDENING TIPS FOR LABOUR WEEKEND
MAKING BETTER PLANTS AND GARDENS
THE NEED FOR PHOSPHORUS
THE GARDENING MONTH, OCTOBER
LAWNS IN SPRING
FRUIT IN A CONTAINER
EARLY SPRING PLANT CARE
SOIL AND WATER
GARDENING TIPS FOR 2014
ON WEED TIPS AND CHICKENS
NEW SEASON TOMATOES
A TALE OF WOE AND A TIMELY WARNING
TWO TOPICS: CATS And NAPTHALENE Plus PLANT”S ROOTS INVADING
MESSING WITH NATURE
WINTER CLEAN UP
CARING FOR CONTAINER PLANTS IN WINTER
CLEANING UP MOSS, LIVERWORTS, SLIMES AND MORE
LAWNS AND GRUBS
LAWNS IN APRIL
RAIN AND HOW BEST TO STORE IT.
WINTER READY AND WEEDS
VEGETABLES THAT CAN HURT YOU
GARDENING IN MARCH 2014
WINTER READY YOUR PLANTS
BUXUS HEDGE DISEASE
GARDENING WITH CHEMICAL POISONS
CITRUS TREE CARE
PREPARING FOR WINTER
GARDENING FOR HEALTH
More gardening articles for 2013
A new article will appear on this page each week along with what to do in the garden.
Written by Wally Richards.
GENERAL GARDENING, BUMBLEBEES AND INSECT PESTS
Recently I have bemoaned the weather conditions of the current gardening season and how unusual weather patterns with lack of strong direct sunlight as a result of hazy skies.
One Dunedin reader emailed me to say rubbish its been the best gardening season ever and some crops have done far better than normal!
Looks like gardeners will need to uproot and move to Southland where the air is fresh and clear, where vegetables, potatoes, roses, cherries and tulips grow the best by far.
I was in Wellington this week and visited a friend who is a retired plantsman. They live on Oriental parade up the side of a cliff overlooking the harbor with a million dollar view.
The cliff, many years ago was terraced out to accommodate all the houses and part of this terracing allowed my friend to have a couple of nice size vegetable gardens and a small glasshouse.
I looked at the sky and saw a lovely deep blue, I looked at his tomatoes and sweet corn all growing well and normal. No stretching, no stunted growth as I have in my gardens and similarly reported by many gardeners from other parts of the country.
Ample direct full sunlight and his only problem is keeping the soil moist. So all I can do is ask how come the skies are not hazy over Wellington as they are in many other parts of NZ? Has the Govt past some legislation to prevent haze over the Capital? Certainly a mystery!
This week a groundsman from a school in the north island phoned to tell me about the success he has had with their roses. Because of the poor spring early summer his roses (like mine) took a hammering and the stress caused leaf diseases such as black spot along with poor flowering.
So a few weeks back he gave all the roses a dose of Ocean Solids and Rok Solid, watered them in and according to him it was only a week or so and out came new healthy growths.
Now the roses are looking a treat going into autumn. Feedback like this is really good value.
Many gardeners are complaining about the lack of honey bees and bumble bees in their gardens.
The logic cause is some insecticides sold and used without consideration to our pollinators which are being killed as a result.
The honey bee was firstly hit by the varroa mite taking out likely all the feral honey bees in the country, then along comes Confidor to further destroy the bees.
Bumblebees are not affected by the varroa mites but their numbers have dramatically decreased in my garden and accordingly reported in many other peoples gardens.
This week I had confirmation on what I had suspected the reasons for their low numbers, I quote;
'The scientists fed bumblebees neonicotinoid at levels commonly occurring in agricultural concerns and then measured how it accumulated in their brains. They found that the insecticide impaired brain cell function in the bees, causing them difficulty with such tasks as realizing that flower scents imply food and being able to find their way back home after foraging.
Such problems impacted whole colonies, the team found.
By providing nests with the same amount of neonicotinoid in sugar water in a cup, the researchers determined that bumblebee colonies that had been exposed to the insecticide fared poorly in the number of bees in their nests as well as in the size and condition of the nests themselves.
"Our research demonstrates beyond doubt that the level of neonicotinoids generally accepted as the average level present in the wild causes brain dysfunction and colonies to perform poorly when consumed by bumblebees," said Dr. Chris Connolly, of the Dundee School of Medicine, in a statement.
Overall, the team documented that low levels of neonicotinoids caused a 55 percent drop in live bees; a 71 percent reduction in healthy brood cells; and a 57 percent drop in the total mass of a nest.
"This is not proof that neonicotinoids are solely responsible for the decline in insect pollinators," said Connolly, "but a clear linear relationship is now established.
We can now be confident that at these levels, neonicotinoids disrupt brain function, bee learning and the ability to forage for food and so limit colony growth”'
It is about time the EPA, ERMA, MAF banned the sale of neonicotinoid insecticides in New Zealand including the ones for the Home Garden Market, Yates Confidor, Yates Lawn Pest Control.
If we lose our bumble bees in our gardens the world becomes a sorrier place and our food crops that require pollinators suffer badly.
It would be good to see garden shops in NZ make a stand as has happened in the UK and in America by refusing to stock these insecticides, they are not needed as there are many safer alternatives.
There is one aspect about the weather not being more normal is that insect pest populations dont multiply as quickly as they would do under normal summer conditions. On the other hand disease problems become more troublesome.
February is usually the worst month for many insect pests, hot and dry with ample host plants growing in home gardens and commercial operations.
When you find an insect pest such as caterpillars, whitefly, leaf hoppers, vegetable bugs etc on your plants and you spray with an insecticide of your choice, dont just treat the plants you have seen the insects on. Check all plants and weeds in the area for the same pest and where found spray also.
If you dont you will find that there will be a re-infestation happening very quickly.
Sometimes you just have to spray regularly because over the fence there are thousands of the pests on plants. (Which your neighbors are not trying to control)
As the winter comes on then populations will naturally drop but then many of your crops will also be finished and only the winter vegetables to care for.
If an insect pest cant get to its host plant you have saved your self a lot of problems trying to control.
The new insect mesh called Crop Cover (by me) that is 4 metres wide and costs about $5.00 a metre length is ideal to put over your crop or even over branches of a fruiting tree to keep both insects and birds off the crop.
Once the flowering is done and hopefully a few bumblebees are available to pollinate then use the crop cover. It will not harm bumblebees. It would keep codlin moth, guava moth and other pests off the crop thus protected.
Alternatives which can be used include the following safe ones, Neem Tree Granules, Neem Tree Oil, Key Pyrethrum, diatomaceous earth and Liquid Sulphur (for spider mites only).
None of these would harm bumblebees unless they were sprayed directly especially with pyrethrum.
All spraying should be done just prior to dusk when the bees have gone home for the night.
Pyrethrum has a very short life of about 2 hours in UV light so less possible harm to beneficial insects next day. Neem Oil on the other hand does not kill any insect instead it (generally) prevents insects from eating once they have consumed a little of the oil. As beneficial insects don't eat our plants they are not affected.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
The Chinese have a saying; 'Have an Interesting Life' which on the surface sounds like a nice thing to say to someone but the real meaning is for the person to have many trials and tribulations which makes for an interesting life even if it is a hard one.
This current gardening year is certainly a very interesting one and looking at the recent night time temperatures we could already be into autumn like conditions.
This makes for the shortest summer ever and very bad for us gardeners.
My phone and email has had a constant stream of gardening problems much of which I would put down to insufficient DIRECT sunlight.
Cubits such as pumpkins having lots of male flowers and very few females and even hand pollinated fruit not growing then falling off.
No flowers on some other plants, or petals that form but fail to open, one lady complained that she has a rose that has opened but not fully as normal.
Seedlings bolting and going to seed prematurely adds to current problems.
With the rapid change to lower temperatures two problems arise, firstly its very easy to over water and kill plants that cant stand wet feet, sprays of Perkfection will help control those wet weather type diseases.
Powdery Mildew will abound on cubits, pansies and other plants which will make the problem of light and getting energy from the sun far greater and shortening the life of the plants concerned.
Two remedies, place a tablespoon of baking soda into a litre of warm water to dissolve and then add one mil of Raingard, spray the susceptible plants under and over the foliage.
Baking Soda will prevent or control powdery mildew, repeat 2 weekly.
The alternative is Liquid Sulphur with Raingard.
Rust will also like these conditions so spray the plants when rust appears with potassium permanganate, quarter a teaspoon to a litre of water, spray as needed.
Blight on tomatoes is another disease that like the current conditions and a spray of Liquid Copper with Raingard all over the plants every 14 days will help prevent and control. You can add the Perkfection once a month to give further protection and help keep the plants producing longer.
Dont stop feeding your tomatoes either as ample good tomato food with plenty of potash will extend the fruiting season.
This current gardening year has been the worse one I have experienced in over 60 years of gardening which I suppose makes it the most interesting. Even my sweet corn is really struggling at this time when in January/February it should be thriving.
I pity commercial growers who must be struggling with the unusual conditions.
I know many of you have suffered drought conditions but here in Palmerston North we have had no water restrictions so water is not a problem and recently we have had good prolonged rainfall as well.
The main problem has been lack of natural direct sunlight, instead getting hazy skies which, no way in all my life time, can be said to be normal or natural!
Weeds are always a problem for gardeners that cant get on top of them and I only suggest herbicides when there is no easy alternative to the problem but to keep them away from food crop areas.
Instead I prefer to recommend more natural alternatives which can still cause some harm to soil life but not as dangerous to your health as the chemical ones.
For instance common salt or agriculture grade 11 salt is ideal for controlling weeds where you dont want plants to grow other than well established trees or shrubs. On pathways, drives, cobbles and waste areas, throw on the salt, lightly water and kill the weeds.
Where you have weeds in gardens that can be selectively sprayed use vinegar or cooking oil on a hot sunny day but take care not to spray preferred plants.
A weed eater is also a good way to keep weeds under control.
Glyphosate is the most extensively used weed killer on the planet with millions of tons used annually. It is available in several brand names other than the original Roundup.
Monsanto invented the herbicide glyphosate and brought it to market under the trade name Roundup in 1974. But it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the use of Roundup surged, because of genetically engineered seeds to grow food crops that could tolerate high doses of Roundup.
With the introduction of these new GE seeds, farmers could now easily control weeds on their corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets and alfalfa crops--crops that thrived while the weeds around them were wiped out by Roundup.
Eager to sell more of its flagship herbicide, Monsanto also encouraged farmers to use Roundup as a desiccant, to dry out all of their crops so they could harvest them faster. So Roundup is now routinely sprayed directly on a host of non-GMO crops, including wheat, barley, oats, canola, flax, peas, lentils, soybeans, dry beans, carrots, parsnips, onions, potatoes and sugar cane.
I was made aware of the this recently from a retired carrot grower who said it is common practice when a crop is ready to harvest to spray with glyphosate which kills the top, prevents the crop from going to seed before its harvested. Root crops store food/chemicals in their roots which is what you and I are eating.
NZFSA does not test produce for glyphosate yet overseas where labs do test for the chemical it is found in high concentrations. Monsanto recently appealed to the FDA to increase the allowable level of glyphosate in produce.
Monsanto has falsified data on Roundup’s safety, and marketed it to parks departments and consumers as “environmentally friendly” and “biodegradable," to encourage its use it on roadsides, playgrounds, golf courses, schoolyards, lawns and home gardens. A French court ruled those marketing claims amounted to false advertising.
In the nearly 20 years of intensifying exposure, scientists have been documenting the health consequences of Roundup and glyphosate in our food, in the water we drink, in the air we breathe and where our children play.
They've found that people who are sick have higher levels of glyphosate in their bodies than healthy people.
Here is a short list of what health problems glyphosate can cause; Alzheimer’s disease:
Anencephaly (birth defect): Autism: Birth defects: Depression: (Glyphosate disrupts chemical processes that impact the production of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite and sleep. Serotonin impairment has been linked to depression.) Diabetes: Heart disease: Obesity: Reproductive problems: Respiratory illnesses. Reference and to see more goto;
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
Summer time normally means hot sunny days, cloudless blue skies and if you are lucky a good patch of rain every so often.
This year what we are getting is certainly a lot of hot days, not much in the blue sky department, instead cloudy to hazy blue skies and a sad lack of rain for many parts of the country.
Every now and then we get some chilly winds to add to the mixed pot of weather in my part of New Zealand.
I have also noticed some of my deciduous fruit trees already changing colour in their leaves as if its autumn already. Maybe the hazy and cloudy skies reducing the direct sunlight is bringing about the conditions of autumn out of season?
I have a conservatory that is used as a glasshouse and over it I have Quarantine cloth to prevent psyllids getting into the tomatoes. Last year I also grew snake beans in this house and harvested a good crop.
This year the beans have grown well but not produced flowers or beans.
I can see where the flower should develop but does not because the light is not strong enough to make it happen. No flowers no fruit. The quarantine cloth gives 25% shade factor and last summer it was still plenty of light level to produce flowers. This year not so, why? I can only assume its the blasted haze instead of clear blue skies. (Some say it causes a 20% reduction of sunlight. This means at 45% shade not flowers)
Also here we are in February, normally the best summer month of the year and what is happening with my pumpkins? Lots of male flowers and hardly a female flower. This is normal at the beginning of the season when the pumpkins run they produce male flowers and hardly any females.
As the light hours increase along with the strength of sunlight the reverse applies lots of females and not many males. They are all growing out of raised gardens as described last week and they have ample water so once again its lack of strong direct sunlight.
I dont know about what its like in your gardens and as far as I can tell the commercial growers are also having a hard time. Just look at the price of tomatoes over $3.00 a kg when at this time of the year they should be about a $1.00 a kg. It means that the home gardeners whose plants should be producing lots of tomatoes right now, they are not getting what was normal.
Price of produce is likely to be high in the coming months so it would pay to start planting up seedlings for autumn/winter. Having a good vegetable garden is like having savings for a rainy day. You never know when you might need your home grown food in the event of emergencies or for plain savings and better health.
Drought times, what can you do?
Firstly when soil dries out it creates a surface tension that water cannot easily penetrate.
This is easy to see in lawns which are watered every now and then during a drought.
Patches dry out and the grasses brown off because the water does not enter the soil in that spot instead it either sits there to evaporate or it runs off to where it will sink in.
The commonly seen result is a dead patch with nice green grass around the edges, we call it dry spot.
Some gardeners think its insect pests causing the problem and generally waste their money treating for them. Birds maybe digging holes to get dormant porina but other grubs are likely to be deep and out of reach of birds or poisons.
Dry patch can be in gardens also causing water stress in plants, dropping leaves and fruit.
Sometimes you may have one side of a bush die while the other side remains fairly healthy.
Two possible reasons, one side is drier than the other so that side dies off; or its the side with the prevailing wind which saps the moisture out of the leaves on that side.
For soil areas that do not accept water fill your watering can with warm water and a good squirt of dish washing liquid. Lather up with your hand and apply the soapy water to the dry area. It breaks surface tension and allows water to enter. Can be used on container plants and hanging baskets as well.
Now when you water it will go down into the root zone where its needed.
After giving a good watering conserve the moisture by placing a mulch over the bare soil. Sawdust, grass clippings, mulching cloth (which I see is available from some garden shops.)
During a hot day you may see larger plants such as tomatoes or pumpkins wilting even though the soil in the root zone is nice and moist.
The reason for this is the plant cant move water to the outer leafs fast enough to reduce the transpiration loss from the foliage. Later in the day towards dusk the leaves return to normal.
To overcome this and for any preferred plants you wish to protect against drought, spray the foliage under and over with Vaporgard. It will reduce the moisture loss by about 30%.
Excellent also on container plants that dry out faster than open ground.
The black patch under tomatoes is caused by insufficient moisture at fruit set time to move the calcium.
If you are wanting to plant out seedlings of vegetables only buy seedlings on the smaller size as larger ones could also have become stressed if they had dried out in punnets. This could mean that they go to seed after you plant them which is a waste of time and money.
With flowers its ok for the bigger plants as you want them to flower.
Grow the vegetables seedlings on to a bigger size keeping mix moist and spray them all over with Vaporgard which will reduce any stress when transplanted. Soak the container well before disturbing then plant out. Brassicas should have Neem granules in the planting hole and on the soil surface and for further protection crop cover over hoops to prevent white butterflies landing and laying eggs.
Further drought proof your existing plants by giving them a good sprinkling of Fruit & Flower Power as the potash in the product hardens up growth giving protection against droughts.
A spray over your preferred plants, vegetables and fruit trees of Magic Botanic Liquid every couple of weeks will certainly help their health and stamina. If you have spray the plants with Vaporgard then add Raingard to the MBL so the two films emerge allowing the plant to absorb the MBL.
I would like to thank Mike Campbell of Lower Hutt for taking the interest in reading my articles and writing into the Editor of the Tribune. Its good to see a member of the NWO is on the ball. Mike didnt like my comments about aluminium found in hail and rainwater and used the standard reply that 30 to 40% of arable land on the earth is less fertile because of it.
Mike states 'super-secret plans to kill us all from Geo-engineering and fluoride' ? I have re-read my past articles and no where can I find where I wrote that? Maybe Mike knows something most people are not aware of, maybe you should come clean and share, Mike?
Aluminum (Al) is a very abundant element making up on average 7% of the weight of the earth crust as alumino-silicate minerals
What we do not need is aluminium raining down out of the sky and hazy skies (how ever they got to be that way..) that interfere with crops in the home garden or commercially grown.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
This week we are going to talk about making and growing vegetables in a raise garden that I designed some years ago. But before that how about a couple of tips.
A number of people have contacted me recently in regards to zucchini and pumpkins rotting while still small. The reason is; the female fruits did not get pollinated therefore they will rot off even though they grow a bit. Sometimes they go yellow and stay like that for sometime before rotting.
The reason they are not pollinated is lack of bumblebees, the lack of bees is because they have died as a result of chemical sprays, neonicotinoids (a class of pesticides directly linked to the mass die-off of honeybees, bumblebees and native bees) Sold into the home garden market as Confidor.
A lot of gardeners including myself are very annoyed that these neonicotinoids are so ready available and the harm they cause to our bees.
You need to hand pollinate; so each morning look at your pumpkin/zucchini plants for female flowers, these have the embryo fruit behind the petals and the centre of the flower looks a bit like a small brain called a stigma. This is connected to the ovary.
If there are females then find a male flower which has a stamen in the centre of the flower covered in pollen.
Carefully remove the flower and then take the petals off exposing the stamen. Next wipe that across the centre of the female flower (Stigma) Job is done, fruit sets.
Here is an interesting one if you burn yourself cover the burn as soon as possible with common flour.
Flour has a heat absorbent property and also has a strong antioxidant property, thus it helps in burn patients if applied within 15 minutes.
I am told it is very soothing and can prevent scaring, leave on for 10 minutes.
Many pest insects are rapidly breeding with the hot dry conditions.
Leaf hoppers, whitefly, scale, mites, mealy bugs etc. Where you have a number of pests spray late in the day with Neem Tree oil and Key Pyrethrum combined and place Neem Tree granules in the root zone area of the affected plants.
Even if there is no major out break a preventive spray once a week will help greatly to maintain control.
Now about Raised Gardens; some years ago I built a raised garden using sheets of galvanised roofing iron with 100 x 100 posts. The sheets I used were 1.8 metres long. The standard width of these are 85cm. To build you need 3 of the 1.8 sheets of roofing iron; one of which you cut in half for the two ends. Two 100 x 100 fence posts 1.8m these are cut in half. Plus a packet of roofing screws.
Once the posts are cut into half you paint them all over with acrylic paint, allow to dry and then apply a second coat. The wood will have being tanalised and the paint helps seal the chemicals in.
The posts are only a few centimeters longer than the width of the roofing iron.
Lay a 1.8 sheet of iron onto one of the posts so that the iron's end is at the edge of the post covering the post.
The bottom of the iron should also line up with the bottom of the post. Now in place; drill holes through the iron and then screw your roofing screws though the iron into the post.
Now line up another post at the other end of the iron sheet and repeat. Move this to the place where you are going to have your raised garden. Repeat with the other sheet of 1.8 iron and the remaining 2 painted posts.
Once in place have someone hold the first sheet and posts upright so you can drill and screw one of half sheets to the post.
The 1.8 sheet and the 90cm will be butted to each other on the post at right angles. Then the other 1.8 and post to complete one end.
The final half sheet is screwed onto the other end. Making a oblong raised garden 1.8 metres long by 90 cm wide with posts a little higher than the iron.
The posts are not dug in and the whole structure can be easily unscrewed and removed.
Where to place your raised garden? It can be on any surface, lawn, existing vegetable garden or concrete. The main aspect on placement is to try and get one long side facing due north where it will get full sun. One important aspect is the raised garden should be at least 2 metres away from the drip line of any trees or shrubs.
Much further if possible because the roots of the plants will find their way to your raised garden and then create a mass of fibrous feeder roots, which will fill the whole of the garden over a couple of years.
If through lack of space you have to place it near a tree/shrub then pour a concrete base to sit your raised garden on.
Filling your raised garden starts off by placing all your organic waste into it such as lawn clippings, hedge trimmings, branches and pruning bits along with any spent potting mix or compost from old containers. Other materials such as leaves, sawdust, food scraps etc can be used.
Next if you have your own home made compost place that across the previous.
Now compress what you have done by standing on it and tramping down. The height when completed should be about up to half the height of the raised garden. (40 to 45 cm)
Next place a few layers of cardboard over the material.
Over this place a few bags of purchased compost that should take the height of the fill to about 50cm.
Then we place animal manures such as chicken manure over the compost. If using other than chicken manure they may contain weed seeds so then place a few layers of newspaper over the manure layer.
For the minerals sprinkle Rok Solid and Ocean Solids. Also dolomite and gypsum and if you are not going to grow either potatoes or tomatoes give a good dusting of garden lime.
Sheep manure pellets, Neem tree granules, vermicasts, BioPhos, OrganiBor (For Boron) before covering with about another 10cm of purchased compost. The total fill height will now be about 60cm.
This allows for a wind break and a man made micro-climate.
You can now plant seeds or seedlings directly into this top layer.
The first time I made this type of raised garden I planted some seedlings of silverbeet and some dwarf bean seeds (in January) it was only about 3 weeks later I was harvesting big silverbeet leaves and another couple of weeks later beans.
The sun from the north heats the iron which warms the growing medium and the air gap inside the raised garden.
Wind passes over so seedlings are not buffered around.
To prevent birds or cats getting into the garden you can lay either netting or plastic bird netting over the top with a nail into each post to keep tight.
If you want to extend your raised garden simply obtain two more sheets of iron and 2 more posts (1 cut in half) remove one end off and screw the two new sheets to the existing post and move the end sheet and two new posts at the new end.
A brace should then be placed across the two middle posts.
You can work around the raised garden from all sides, its age-proofed so there is no bending. When a crop is harvested simply add more goodies and compost and plant up again.
Enjoy your own home grown, healthy produce.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
Its been a busy time with lots of interesting emails and phone calls from readers that have noticed unusual things in their gardens and skies. (let me know if you come across anything)
For now let us continue with the theme of growing some healthy food in containers.
Last week we talked about growing wheat grass with all the known minerals and elements so that maximum goodness for your health can be obtained by juicing the young grass or making green smoothies.
All fruit and vegetables have different benefits so if we grow a range of edible produce naturally (without man made fertilisers and chemicals) incorporated into the growing medium, all the known minerals and elements, we will have some very tasty produce which will help you and your family maintain very good health.
When growing in containers you have to consider root room so the depth of the container should be about 15 to 20 cm deep or more.
Any large plastic pots will do as well as using 20 litre plastic Jerry cans with the top cut off.
My favorite is polystyrene boxes which are used in the fish industry for transporting fish.
Once used they cannot be used again for that purpose so are either sold cheaply or given away by wholesale fish suppliers or supermarkets.
These boxes come with lids and can vary in size but there are two more common sizes that have good depth and ideal for planting a few plants in each one.
For instance you can have half a dozen lettuce or silver beet, 2 or 3 brassicas, a dozen dwarf bean plants, about 18 onions, 20 or more carrots, a pile of spring onions. Also about 8 strawberry plants.
For plants like Zucchini I prefer to use a 20 litre container which is also ideal for pumpkins, dwarf tomatoes, cucumbers, egg plant, capsicum and peppers.
The first thing to do with the polystyrene box is to drill a few drainage holes in the bottom.
For the growing medium use purchased compost that is not from re-cycled green waste (you do not want herbicide residuals in your food) Use either Daltons or Oderings compost as both are good value.
(There are likely others but I am not familiar with their brands and there are ones that can be a waste of money and be expensive as well)
Fill the box or your container two thirds full with the compost and then you can add the additional foods and minerals.
If you have chook manure then place a layer of that across the compost, an alternative would be Sheep Manure Pellets or Yates Dynamic Lifter Plant food, add a sprinkling of blood & bone..
For minerals you add Rok Solid and Ocean Solids, a little BioPhos, Garden Lime, gypsum and dolomite. If you have a worm farm add some vermicasts and worms.
Then cover these with more compost up to about 15mm from rim.
This allows an area for watering.
You can now plant your seedlings or seeds.
Place the tray in a sunny situation and water (ideally with non chlorinated water)
If you do not have a filter on your hose tap to remove chlorine then fill a watering can with water and stand for 24 hours in a sunny position to aid in the removal of chlorine.
It is now a matter of keeping the medium moist while the plants are growing and about every two weeks spraying the foliage with Magic Botanic Liquid.
For those that have more room you can grow any fruit trees in containers ranging from about 50 litres to 100 litres. This means using plastic rubbish bins or plastic 200 litre drums cut in half.
Once again the same process for filling the container after drainage holes have been drilled.
Citrus are ideal for this; from limes to oranges you choose your favorites.
I have about a dozen different citrus growing in containers very nicely.
Feijoa self fertile types such as Unique are good value, in fact any fruit tree will do well enough as long as you root prune every 3 years.
Next week we will look at Raised Gardens.
Earth Soil Year is attracting attention and I received the following form the Internet this week.
'Generating three centimeters of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world's top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said on Friday.
About a third of the world's soil has already been degraded, Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told a forum marking World Soil Day.
The causes of soil destruction include chemical-heavy farming techniques, deforestation which increases erosion, and global warming. The earth under our feet is too often ignored by policymakers, experts said.
"Soils are the basis of life," said Semedo, FAO's deputy director general of natural resources. "Ninety five percent of our food comes from the soil."
Unless new approaches are adopted, the global amount of arable and productive land per person in 2050 will be only a quarter of the level in 1960, the FAO reported, due to growing populations and soil degradation.
Soils play a key role in absorbing carbon and filtering water, the FAO reported. Soil destruction creates a vicious cycle, in which less carbon is stored, the world gets hotter, and the land is further degraded.'
I wonder at the mentality of those people that tote 'Best Practice' as the excuse for farming and horticulture.
I remember some years ago a 'Soil Scientist' visited a friend of mine's Certified Organic Farm.
He was shown around fields of lush grass and saw healthy stock that never had a visit from a Vet unless they broke a leg.
After the 'Soil Scientist' found that no superphoshate or other chemicals were used on the farm his opinion was that within a couple of years there would be no more farm-able land as all nutrients (in his narrow view) would be used up. His reasoning was that left over fertilisers pre-organic was all that was left and would quickly run out.
Well here we are over 5 years later, has the farm become a desert waste as our 'Soil Scientist' predicted?
No in fact it is doing even better than ever much to the dismay of 'Best Practice, Soil Scientists' and their heavily funded fertiliser companies.
I believe that there are some good scientists that can see beyond the hype of the fertiliser companies just as there is some good Doctors that can see beyond that of pharmaceutical companies.
Here is a non gardening thought for the week, A sales person is employed by a pharmaceutical company given a few weeks sales training and then will go out and tell a fully qualified Doctor who has had many years of experience how to look after his patents? That came from a retired Doctor.
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Last week I suggested that anyone can grow some food crops for their health without having to be a active gardener, in fact anyone can grow a range of vegetables as long as they spend a little time in their care.
To start off with; I firmly believe there is a extremely important link between your gardening and your health.
The reasons for this are very obvious if you do a little research into what our current food chain contains and does not contain.
Conventionally grown food which uses chemical Fertilisers grows plants that sadly lack needed nutritional values; according to scientists only 20% of goodness when compared to the same crops 60 odd years ago.
This means we have lost 80% of the vital minerals, elements etc that our bodies need to maintain good health.
Because the conventional chemical crops are grown UN-naturally, they are weak causing the plants to attract diseases and insect pests. (The cleaners of Nature)
To keep the produce looking good for sale a number of chemical sprays are used which include fungicides and insecticides, these sprays are poisons in most instances (that is why they have with holding periods) When the plants are harvested they may contain residues of up to 30 different chemicals with a likely average of 10 to 15 chemicals that your body does not need.
When you buy your vegetables at the local supermarket you are purchasing something that is low in goodness and containing a cocktail of chemicals. Not only that they lack flavour to boot when compared to your own naturally home grown vegetables.
Buying organically grown produce is better than conventionally grown but in my opinion you can grow better yourself and save yourself money in your food bills and health bills.
Many years ago I heard about wheat grass juice and at that time I thought it was some new health fad and dismissed it for that reason.
It was a few years later that while I was researching minerals and elements I learnt that wheat and barley were two plants that will take up every mineral and element (114) if made available to them in the growing medium. (Tomato plants uses 56 elements out of the 114)
The logic of this would be that if you place all the 114 minerals and elements into the growing medium of either wheat or barley, then the foliage would contain those elements and then when consumed your body would receive all their benefits.
I realised that growing wheat grass with mineral rich products namely Ocean Solids (all the minerals from the blue waters of the ocean) Rok Solid (minerals from ground up rocks) and Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL, minerals from prehistoric times) could make a difference to my health.
I was in my 50's at that time, I was feeling my age plus a heavy smoker as I had been since an early age. Even though I tended to look after my heath to a point it was more to balance out what I was doing that was departmental.
I purchased a manual juicer as I knew that the common juicers would reduce the goodness of the wheat grass by 40% and a expensive Oscar type juicer was beyond my means.
I could have grown the wheat in a raised garden or normal garden but I wanted better control over it so I obtained a few polystyrene boxes from a local wholesale fish supplier to grow in.
The trays have a good depth of about 18cm and this is important for good root development as you are sowing the wheat seed very thickly.
A few holes in the bottom of the tray for drainage and filled two thirds full with Daltons or Oderings Compost. (No possible green waste herbicides which are just more poisons)
Then a sprinkling of Ocean solids and Rok solid over the compost followed by another 20-30mm of compost. Next the organic wheat grass seeds sprinkled so they are about touching each other but not so thick that they are sitting on top of each other.
Then a good spray drench of MBL at 20ml at per litre to soak the seeds and compost.
Next the seeds are covered either with more compost or sand then lightly watered with non chlorinated water.
A sheet of glass over the tray will keep birds and mice from eating the seeds as well as keeping moisture in. (Leave the glass with a little gap to allow excess moisture to get out)
Place the tray in a good light situation but not in direct sunlight unless its winter time.
Lift glass off daily and give the contents a good watering with non-chlorinated water.
It is a bit hard having good drainage, to over water but be sensible.
If your watering is not sufficient you will find that the seeds around the edges of the tray will germinate in a good number but less in centre of the tray.
When the early grass reaches the glass, remove it and then place some curtain netting over the tray to keep birds off. This is the right time to start off a second tray also.
You can water once a week with MBL added otherwise just non chlorinated water daily.
Once a good show of grass remove the curtain cover and allow the grass to have either morning sun or late afternoon sun in summer or full sun in winter.
When the grass gets up to about 12 to 16 cm tall you can start harvesting. With sharp scissors cut the grass just above the growing medium, the amount you cut will depend on how many people you are going to juice for. One person about a couple of handfuls. Squeeze the juice out through your manual juicer to obtain about 30mils. Drink straight away on an empty stomach, best time is first thing in the morning.
If you have serious health issues or on chemo then 3 or more shots a day leaving 20 minuets before having food or other drinks but if taking MSM then that can be taken at the same time.
The green juice should be very sweet which indicates its high in goodness. Wheat grass that you sometimes can buy the is bitter and not mineral rich. Dried wheat grass which is sometimes sold is also a poor substitute for the real thing.
The alternative to juicing is to use a very high speed blender (40,000 rpm) along with other green plant material to make a green smoothie. The wheat grass can be cut fresh and added to salads also.
I read about a mother and daughter in second World War that hid out and at night would venture out to eat ordinary grass, they survived for months on the grass.
Once I started having my wheat grass shot every morning my health took a good change for the better, I felt a new man even though I was still smoking. It was some years later that I finally kicked the habit and now have been smoke free for about 4-5 years.
I have over the years promoted a number of people to grow and juice wheat grass and the reports back from them with health improvements are very notable.
Even very fit people have far greater stamina.
Some kidney dialyses people have increased the period of time between treatments.
Some have reported new vigor in their lives in and out of bed.
The key is regular (daily) shots of juice to reclaim your bodies health by providing the minerals and elements it needs to be healthy.
Growing mineral rich wheat grass could be the most important gardening you do health wise.
Let Food be thy Medicine and Medicine be thy Food.
Products mentioned including wheat grass juicing kits are at www.0800466464.co.nz
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Welcome back to another year of gardening.
It is not the beginning of a new gardening year in fact we are now just over halfway through the current gardening year.
The gardening year ended at the winter solstice 21st June 2014 with the new gardening year started on 22nd June 2014 (the day after the shortest day)
Sunlight is one of the most important aspects of plant growth, the more day light hours the more growth.
The more hours of direct sunlight the better the growth. Cloud, and haze reduces the amount of direct sunlight that our plants receive and slows their growth. Too shaded from direct sunlight causes plants to stretch towards the light source which can lead to weakness and diseases.
Our spring and beginning of summer was a disaster weather wise, too little direct sunlight and a wide range of temperature variations.
It is the first time ever that it took me three attempts to establish cucumbers in a glasshouse.
Many gardeners complained of seeds not germinating and very poor growth from heat loving plants.
Take corn for instance it needs about 960 hours of direct sunlight which equates to about 8 hours a day for 120 days. It also needs higher temperatures with an average daily temperature of 23 degrees or higher.
Looking at the maize crops planted in the Manawatu many have only grown between half a metre to a metre at this time. (1st January) when they should have been up to 1.6 to 1.8metres tall.
The reason is two fold, during spring the temperatures were too low with cold winds and murky, cloudy skies.
The weather controllers did a poor job for crops and gardening.
The previous season my sweetcorn suffered the same only growing about a metre tall before maturing making for a poor harvest.
This year I did not even think about planting corn till just after Christmas day so that the crop should do very well with a late harvest.
Strawberries have not fared as well as they should have but now the weather has settled and temperatures are higher they are responding and producing better.
You may not be aware that on December 20, 2013, the 68th UN General Assembly recognized December 5th, 2014 as World Soil Day and 2015 as the International Year of Soils. The official recognition of these events will emphasize the importance of soils beyond the soil science community.
This is a very important because the arable soils of the planet are quickly disappearing as a result of the stupid science of chemical fertilisers, chemical recovery sprays and herbicides especially glyphosate. (Roundup etc)
These methods referred to as 'conventional' have killed the soil food web and turned fertile soils into inert material that is prone to erosion through water and dust when dry and the wind blows.
This inert 'soil' will only produce crops or grass when feed massive amounts of fertilisers a bit like hydroponics without water. The produce and grass grown in this manner lack nutritional value and provide little or no health benefits to the animals and humans that feed on them.
I received a snippet from the Internet which I would like to share with you; I do not know how accurate it is but I think its close to the truth.
Entitled 'The Risk of Being Diagnosed with Cancer'
in 1900 it was 1 in 30 by 1980 it was up to 1 in 5. In 1990 you had 1 in 4 chances and five years later in 1995 chances up to 1 in 3.
In 2000 they say the chances are 1 in 2 or in other words a 50% chance of being diagnosed with cancer in your life time.
It was then stated 'We are doing something fundamentally wrong! Lets start with your plate'
I would add to that your food garden and your soil.
(Latest news is 'Cancer is just bad luck'; rubbish! If that was the case then bad luck has increased over the years. Ridiculous; a supposed scientific analysis such as this just keeps the money takers getting your dollars by keeping you in the dark and hiding the real causes.)
Let food be thy Medicine and Medicine be thy Food.
Just by the way, I have been asked to pose for a calendar (in my garden, I am not a Fireman!) and the inscription for that month is the quote, Let Food be try Medicine.
If you treat your soil right by using natural things such as; garden lime, animal manures especially chicken manure, sheep pellets, gypsum, Rok Solid, compost (not made from green waste) dolomite, BioPhos, OrganiBor, Fruit and Flower Power, Neem Granules, Mycorrcin, MBL etc you will build up the humus in the soil along with the soil life and the earth worm populations and the crops you grow will be brimming with healthy nutritional value.
Supplements such as Wheat Grass Juice, Virgin Coconut Oil, MSM, turmeric, cayenne pepper sprinkled on your food or placed into gelatine capsules are all natural, and greatly beneficial to your well being.
I have recently turned 69 and I dont think I have ever been as healthy (since I was very much younger) as I am now. ( I am totally medication free, sorry pharmaceutical companies)
I have talked to other gardeners of a similar age and many much older who have made a conscious effort to protect their well being; they grow whatever they are able to grow in the naturally way and their health benefits from their efforts.
What has changed since 1900 when you had a 1 in 30 chance of getting the Big C?
Lots of things have changed, a number of which do not make for good health but in my view number one is the loss over the years of real nutritional food, in fact if we are to believe scientists who report a whopping great big 80% loss.
Realise that the food you buy in the supermarket has only about 20% of goodness that your body needs to be healthy. Plus it will contain a whole range of chemicals that you do not need. If processed overseas there is a good chance it will possibly contain GMO's.
When we add to the conventional food chain all the hundreds (I am not joking) of different chemicals used in growing and processing food we have food that is certainly not improving health statics but making some companies a lot of money.
Its a New Year and a great time to take more attention to your health, the health of your children and your grand children. Get some real goodness into your body and beat the system that appears to be wanting you sick and dead before your natural time.
Your life, your dollar, your health, your garden.
I do not want anyone to say they cannot grow a bit of good food as I can easily show you how, even if you live in a 40 storey apartment with only a small balcony.
Watch this weekly column and I will over the next few weeks give you the benefit of 69 years of growing healthy stuff.
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The year is quickly drawing to a close with Christmas closer than ever, making it a very busy festive time for many people. Without further ado I would like to wish all my readers a Very Happy Festive Season and a better gardening year for the New Year.
This will be my last weekly article till just after the New Year so you can have a rest without me bending your ear.
Saying that I will be available on the 0800 466464 number if you have any gardening problems or things of interest to share. Alternatively you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been an interesting year for gardening, milder than normal winter, poor spring and not a great start to summer. Likely in the New Year we will get some better growing conditions.
During the year I think the highlights were reports from gardeners who placed Neem Tree Granules under their citrus trees to clean up insect problems in the trees. So simple and easy to do without out all that spraying. (No harm on the environment other that the pests)
Then there was the event of Cosio Industries who brought into New Zealand the products, Crop Cover and Quarantine Cloth to simply protect plants from insect pests. They are in my Highly Recommend list.
Karbyon was another new product introduced to help remove black sooty mould off plants.
The only comment I have received is that on thick layers of sooty mould more than one application maybe needed.
During the year a number of dangerous chemicals used in the home garden market were either removed or are in the process of being removed. These include Basamid and Shield, others are likely to follow as EPA work through the lists. Hopefully Confidor will be removed sooner than later so our honey bees and bumble bees have a better chance of survival.
I wrote earlier in the year about using my Secret Strawberry Food in conjunction with Mycorrcin to obtain some super big strawberries with good flavor.
Several gardeners have reported excellent result from using the two products and getting a good number of extra big strawberries.
The poor spring weather this season has meant that many plants have not preformed as expected.
The article I wrote two weeks ago about strange weather and hail stones with 25 times the allowed limit of aluminium in drinking water.
(The concentration of aluminium in Ray’s hail sample was 2.5 grams/m³, which is equivalent to 2.5 milligrams/liter!
The Guideline Value for aluminium in the Drinking Water Standards New Zealand 2005 (DWSNZ) (Revised 2008) is < 0.1 g/m³, which Ray’s hail sample exceeds by 25 times.)
That is a very high level of aluminium which obviously gets into our drinking water.
The article has resulted in a number of people contacting me about their concerns and evidence that not all is as it should be. (Others have had rain water tested and found abnormally high levels)
This has caused me to do a little research on the matter and some interesting coincidences have resulted.
Those that are on the Internet can, with a few key words into Google, discover the same or more than what I have seen. Here is some of what I saw.
Aluminum at high levels is toxic to you and all living things. Aluminum is the most common metal in our planets crust.
For our health: If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is because of aluminum toxicity.
These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions.
If you experience any one of them, see your physician, especially if you have kidney disease or are on dialysis .
Confusion, Muscle weakness, Bone pain, Seizures, Speech problems, Slow growthin children.
Complications may include: Lung problems, Nervous system problems causing difficulty with voluntary and involuntary actions, Bone diseases, Brain diseases and disorders, Anemia and Impaired iron absorption.
Alzheimer's is connected to aluminium poisoning and interestingly fluoride in water creates a far greater problem.
"In January 1987, experiments performed at the Medical Research Endocrinology Dept., Newcastle upon Tyne, England, and the Physics Dept of the Univ. of Ruhana, Sri Lanka, showed that fluoridated water at 1 ppm, when used in cooking in aluminum cookware, concentrated the aluminum up to 600 ppm, whereas water without fluoride did not. (Science news 131:73)
If there is aluminum in the atmosphere at levels not normal, because it has been put there, and that aluminium gets into our fluoridated water supply we have a major health problem in the making.
Last week the New Zealand government announced that they are asking for public submissions on a pending application to exempt fluoride (HFA and SSF) from the New Zealand Medicine's Act, with a closing date of 9th January 2015. http://www.medsafe.govt.nz/consultations/medicine-regulations-fluoride-in-drinking-water.asp (In case you want to submit).
More info and be quick as sunmissions close on 9th January 2015. http://www.sportsground.co.nz/files/site/219/10/Email/141207180314/
This would allow drinking water to be fluoridated without any right of appeal.
This also apples to our gardens as plants are greatly affected by aluminum toxicity as it inhibits root growth and thus the plants growth is slowed or stopped.
(I have had recent reports of this happening in pasture and food crops)
Combine that with low levels of direct sunlight caused by either clouds or haze preventing the suns rays from directly reaching plants. This causes a darker leaf colour than normal and stretching of plants making greater distance between leaves. This is not normal and I would like to know what is going on.
Plants ideally require 6 or more hours of direct sunlight at this time of the year each day.
Maybe questions should be asked and if there are chemicals being used in the atmosphere to reduce the effects of global warming and what is that doing to our health and food chain?
Here is the clincher that is really strange, Our friendly 'lets control the Worlds Food Supply' Monsanto has developed seeds that are Aluminum Resistant!
Reason given is that they will help farmers in poor countries grow crops. This is very doubtful as how can poor farmers afford expensive GMO seeds?
If pasture and food growing land become toxic because of aluminium poisoning then aluminum resistant seeds would be worth their weight in gold.
I think next year is going to be very interesting and its worth your time to do a little research to try and find out what is happening and for what reason?
Have a happy Christmas and New Year, drive carefully, think about what is happening around you and stay healthy.
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Most plants start from seeds unless they are cutting grown, layered or cloned from tissue culture.
There are not many plants that do not start from seed, one that comes to mind is our eating bananas which are grown from suckers.
I heard a story that in ancient times bananas were breed to be seedless, so we now find in the common eating banana the line down the centre where seeds would have been, but no more.
This is not completely true as there are lots of different types of bananas which do produce seeds and a search of the internet will likely amaze you on the seed varieties available.
A plant which has become totally dependent on man taking the seeds and planting them, so the species will survive, is corn or maize.
Once again a plant which mankind has developed from crosses hundreds of years ago to form the plant with the cobs that are common today.
If a mature cob falls onto the ground and the seeds germinate, because of their closeness they choke off each other and do not prosper.
When the kernels are remove by man and planted individually they grow well dependent on conditions.
The recent article I wrote on Dragon Fruit has resulted in a lot of phone calls and emails from gardeners showing an interest in growing this cacti.
The shipment several weeks ago came from Vietnam and my inquiries as to further shipments have not been answered.
However a week ago we spotted a few Dragon Fruit in a smaller Countdown in Palmerston North which were obviously old fruit left over from the earlier shipment.
The staff were not familiar with the product as they were going off which did not concern me as I wanted more seed.
My idea is to grow a good number of plants and sometime next year make them available to any one that would like to grow this interesting cacti.
I am surprised that the fruit actually had viable seeds in them as MAF usually has imported food stuffs irradiated for all the reasons that they believe is better for us and the environment.
Either the Dragon Fruit was not blasted with radiation or maybe the seeds were able to survive.
One of the annoying aspects of this irradiation process is that imported split peas are treated which is absurd as they would never germinate once split. It means they stay as hard as rocks when cooking soup instead of becoming mushy as they should do.
One of the concerning aspects with seeds is that multinational companies are endeavoring to take control of food seeds for their own personal gains.
A phase that is sometimes seen is along the lines of 'He who controls the seeds, controls the food supply and controls the world.'
Far fetched? When you hear of companies that control water supplies in poor or richer countries (Detroit America) and they shut off the water from those that cant afford it you start to realise what ends some companies will go to for money.
Monsanto is one such company that through their GMO seeds and purchase of traditional seed companies have acquired greater control over seeds both GE and conventional.
Not all have worked in their favour as we see from Canada. I quote:
“Thirteen years ago when GM soya and rapeseed was introduced in Canada (and in the US) the Corporations and Government told farmers that GM would increase yields, be more nutritious, use less chemicals, and feed a hungry world.
Now we will always have a sustainable agriculture, they claimed.
The Canadian Department of Agriculture figures states: Canola yields have decreased at least ten percent and soya at least fifteen percent, but worst of all, farmers are using three to five times more chemicals because of the GM superweeds that have developed.
The reality is that the nutritional content of all crops are down fifty percent of what they were before GMOs were introduced and now we have less yields and more chemicals used, exactly the opposite of what Monsanto promised.”
There is some speculation that legislation and TTP could have fish hooks whereby you are not allowed to collect your own seed of food crops from mature plants and even worse share them with your gardening friends. Beware Gardener's rights are possibly being eroded as are other human rights.
Sometimes gardeners are their own worst enemy when it comes to seeds.
Plants; both vegetable and flowers produce seeds when they reach maturity and will dispatch their seed as nature determines.
Flower plants are a very good example of this, when they set seed that seed will fall where they were growing or be carried by wind or water to a more distant space.
On the soil in the right conditions they germinate and produce numerous seedlings. These are what we call self sown seedlings and are free.
Where some gardeners make a mistake is that these young plants are confused with weeds and so they kill them off. When you can determine the difference between a weed seedling and a flower seedling you will save yourself a lot of money buying new plants.
On the road frontage where I live, I made a flowering garden about 3 years ago with a range of flowering plants, some annuals some perennials. They are allowed to preform as nature dictates which means they flower, seed and in the case of the annuals die.
Taking out the dead plants I always shake them over bare soil areas. The frontage will look bare and not so nice for a time until the seedlings develop into flowering plants at which time the area looks really great with a lovely show. (All at no further cost)
There are annual straw flowers (Helichrysum), Russel Lupins and Gazania along with perennials; geranium, gladioli, Jerusalem artichokes and climbing roses.
Pansy and violas are two very good self seeding plants which will pop up all over the place when allowed to.
If you have ever grown nicotiana rustica and allowed to mature you will have young tobacco plants popping up all over the place. My original came with some succulent plants that was given as a gift.
An awesome plant that catches hundreds of small pest insects on its sticky leaves, better than any man made trap. Petunias are related being part of the Solanaceae family along with tomatoes and nightshade.
Next time you are weeding your gardens try and distinguish what are weeds and what are flower seedlings and see if you can get some displays for free.
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December is upon us making now our official summer for the next three months.
The weather is a gardeners biggest problem to date, with too great a variation in temperatures, too windy, not sufficient sunny days and dependent where you are either a bit too wet or far too dry.
Last spring was about the same; though I think this one has been worse (or is that because its fresher to the mind?) Whether it is caused by global warming, global cooling or other factors its hard to say, other than we certainly do not get a good spring anymore. Here is an interesting aspect I received this week from a reader:
Earlier in November a severe hail storm destroyed apple and kiwifruit crops in the Tasman district of the South Island, causing extensive damage to orchards, destroying both fruit and netting.
A report I read said a chap called Ray noticed next day that the hail stones were not melting as they should so he collected a sample of hail and sent it to R J Hill Laboratories Ltd of Christchurch. (a trusted lab which is accredited by International Accreditation New Zealand)
Ray asked them to test for aluminium, barium and strontium, which are the principal components of aerosols. He received the results on November the 24th and the lab confirmed the presence of all three heavy metals and found that the level of aluminium was particularly high.
The concentration of aluminium in Ray’s hail sample was 2.5 grams/m³, which is equivalent to 2.5 milligrams/liter!
The Guideline Value for aluminium in the Drinking Water Standards New Zealand 2005 (DWSNZ) (Revised 2008) is < 0.1 g/m³, which Ray’s hail sample exceeds by 25 times.
The chemicals in the report apparently are used for weather control such as seeding clouds to make rain.
One thing that I have noticed in recent times in Palmerston North that when I take the dogs outside late at night for their comfort stop, that even on a cloud less night there are only a few of the brightest stars visible.
This would indicate that there is a layer of something (not clouds) between my eyes and the weaker light stars. Strange but whether it is a aspect of our weather or not which is effecting gardening I dont know.
What I do know is that even in my glasshouses things are not growing as well as they should at this time of the year even though we are quickly reaching the maximum amount of day light hours (December 21st.)
Reason could be a lot of cloudy days reducing the amount of direct sun that plants receive or some haze in the atmosphere deflecting sunlight.
I have also noticed that much of the foliage of many plants are a much darker richer green than I would expect at this time of the year.
Energy from sun light is absorbed by proteins called reaction centres that contain green chlorophyll pigments, when UV levels reduce the chlorophyll darkens to a rich green. Spraying a film over the foliage that acts as a sun screen will cause this effect. (EG Spray foliage with Vaporgard)
So if there happens to be particles higher up in the atmosphere (say aluminium, barium and strontium)
reflecting sunlight away from the earth surface during the day and obscuring the fainter stars at night, then we have something happening that is not normal and very likely man made.
If there is aluminium in the atmosphere then it can be assumed it will get into our drinking water which is a health risk.
Next problem is Curly Leaf in stone fruit; the time of this disease is fairly much passed and damage already done is what will make a difference to what fruit will be harvested. Lots of damaged leaves will likely mean no fruit, some damaged leaves will likely reduce harvest numbers.
The tree will produce more new leaves and the damaged ones will fall off.
You could spray with Copper and Raingard to help ensure the undamaged leaves remain undamaged.
A more pressing problem likely about at this time is grass grub beetles.
After emerging as a beetle they have about 6-8 weeks of mating, laying eggs and eating.
Damage can occur to a number of plants such as beans, cucumbers, roses, citrus, blue berries and many other plants. Holes in the leaves but no sign of the culprits as they only come out during the early hours of evening. Next day they are hiding away where you are unlikely to find them.
If you have plants that are being eaten then take a torch out after dark and check for the brown or bronze beetles, if there are a number of them then spray with Key Pyrethrum at that time to hit them with the spray. Repeat each night till the time of them is past.
Another method to catch and control the pest is a light trap.
In a window facing out where they are doing damage place a strong light and directly underneath the window pane place a trough two thirds full of water with a little kerosene floating on top of the water.
The beetles are attracted to the light, hit their head on the glass, fall into the trough, the kerosene prevents them climbing out. Next day flush them down the toilet or feed them to the chooks.
Codlin Moth is another pest that is around at the moment and will attack your apples by having the grubs eat into the apple where they grow, mature, then leave to pupate.
A spray of Neem oil over the apples will prevent entry. Use with Raingard and repeat about every 10 days till the new year. If you have not taken some action already you will likely have a number of damaged apples.
The Guava moth is a similar pest but one that has a very large range of fruit they damage.
Because the many different types of fruit damaged means they can operate all year round attacking each type of fruit as they come into season. As far as I am aware the pest is mostly in the North Island so far and particularly further north you go the more of a problem.
I would suggest that Neem being an anti-feedent and that by having a coating of the oil over any fruit when the grub takes a bite will stop it from entering and doing damage. Use with Raingard and repeat every 7 to 10 days.
Porina caterpillars also come from a moth and are active all year round in lawns and other areas.
The caterpillar comes up out of the soil to feed at night causing bare patches.
Cut the lawn and then spray the grass with Neem Oil seeking to get the spray to the base of the grass where they feed.
Repeat about every 3 months in areas where they are a ongoing problem.
Shield beetles, leaf hoppers, whitefly and psyllids are best controlled by a mixture of Neem Tree Oil, Key Pyrethrum sprayed late in the day when the sun is off the plants and the pests have settled for the evening. Not only will you need to repeat spray target plants but also check all plants in the area for signs of them as they will just re-infest.
Maybe over the fence next door is a big problem of pests which will keep you out spraying all season unless something is done about them where they are.
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Each week a good number of gardeners phone me with questions about their gardening. A good percentage of these callers are retired and have thus lived for a good number of years.
One of the advantages of living the years is remembering what things used to be like compared to how things are today.
When comparing the now time to the eras of the 50's, 60's and 70's its like we are on a different dimension and certainly not for the better.
Back in the 50's for instance if there was a murder in your locality it would be front page headlines in the local papers for weeks. Now days there is likely a murder every day and only mentions in passing unless it is an unusual case.
People were healthier, there was no waiting lists for medical attention, people were happier, there was no such thing as ADHS (which is Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, I had to look it up)
If you had a health issue you went to the doctor got diagnosed, given a prescription for a week or two and 99 times out of a 100 that was it, cured.
Now days the medicine cant be as good as often it has to be taken for ever and then other meds to overcome the side effects on what you are prescribed. Some people are taking 30 odd pills a day and they never seem to improve health wise.
The father of Western Medicine is Hippocrates and his most famous saying is;
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Likely the food back in 460BC to 377BC was different to the food we have today in regards to nutritional values.
Two other says from Hippocrates are;
“The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.”
“Everything in excess Is opposed by nature.”
I dont know and likely no one else can tell me what the nutritional value of the food was like in the years that Hippocrates lived but I can tell you how good it was 50 odd years ago.
Scientists tell us that it had 80% more nutritional value than conventional food these days.
Nutrition is the amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or healthy goodness in what you eat.
Vegetables grown from open pollinated seeds and heritage seeds only need a healthy soil food web to grow extremely well.
They do not grow quickly as it takes time for the plant to absorb the nutrients it needs to be healthy and resist pests and diseases. These plants tend to mature at different times which is ideal as not all will be ready at once.
The soil should be rich in humus, compost, minerals and elements. In soil like this there will be lots of earthworms along with beneficial microbes & fungi while the soil is kept moist .
Watering only with non-chlorinated water most important.
Gardeners can easily create these growing conditions by using raised gardens about 60cm tall
When you eat your vegetables grown in this manner, your body will be receiving the best medicine in the world. Strange as it may seem, they will taste very good having delicious flavors and your body will crave for repeated servings.
Now if we look at conventionally grown produce and the land that they grow in we are likely to find a vast difference.
Modern hybrid seeds which are fast growing and designed so that all will mature on the same day!
These seeds are so sophisticated that a commercial grower who wants to harvest say every two weeks a acre of cabbages would consult the seed merchant's chart then need to plant a different hybrid
seed each time. This is so the maximum growth is obtained allowing for seasonal change and day light hours for his location.
The soil that they are planted into will either be void of soil life or near enough to it. No worms just fragile dirt that is prone to blowing away if allowed to dry or washing away when it rains.
The plants grow because of chemical fertilisers are applied in heavy doses to force growth.
(Its very much like growing hydroponically but in dirt instead of water)
These forced unnatural plants have little or no defense against insect attack so they must be protected till harvest by regular applications of chemical insecticides and fungicides.
(We cant have any holes or blemishes can we otherwise it would not sell)
When you apply chemicals to plants and soil, the plants will take up those chemicals along with the chemicals to make them grow.
So when the crop is harvested what do we have? A perfect looking product that has very little nutritional value and is hiding a range of chemicals in it foliage or even worse in its roots.
It is likely to have between 10 to near 30 chemicals for you to chew upon and digest.
What about taste? Oops sorry we bred and grew that out so its going to be fairly bland to our taste buds.
But never fear we can fix that with various sauces laden with sugars and fats.
This is why us oldies who know better, encourage people to grow as much of their own food as possible using natural foods and minerals.
This means using good purchased compost such as Daltons or Oderings (no herbicides as those brands are not using green waste) Use animal or chicken manures, sheep pellets, BioPhos, blood & bone, garden lime, gypsum, dolomite, Rok Solid, Ocean Solids and Magic Botanic Liquid.
The easiest vegetables to grow are silverbeet and lettuces. Followed by spring onions, multiplying onions, parsley, cabbages and other brassicas.
These can all be easily grown in reasonable size containers or one of my favorites is polystyrene boxes which can be obtained from wholesale fish places and sometimes supermarkets, where they often give them away to get rid of them.
Adding some of your own home grown food to your food chain will make a big difference to your health. You can grow wheat grass with the minerals Rok Solid and Ocean Solids to obtain 114 minerals for your body when you either juice or use it in a green smoothie.
So easy to do and so good for you. If you are able and have the space build a raise garden or two using sheets of roofing iron.
A chicken house with a small number of good laying hens will give you more better tasting eggs than you can buy.
Just give them plenty of greens and cook up some pet mince with rice along with poultry laying pellets and wheat. They will also supply you with excellent chicken manure for your gardens.
You will taste the difference in your home grown and be far healthier for it.
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A few weeks ago while at our local green grocer we spied a new fruit call Dragon Fruit which looked very different and interesting.
We purchased one of the fruits to try it out and find out more about where it comes from and what benefits it may have health wise.
My partner who is from the Philippines did a bit of research on her Face Book and found that several people back in the Philippines were cultivating the fruit for health and income.
The ones that we saw were imported from Thailand (I think) and selling for between $5 to $8.00 each.
Since then we have seen Dragon Fruit in Supermarkets so they must be fairly readily available over most of New Zealand.
Dragon fruit are the seed pods of a cacti family which there are 3 species:
Hylocereus undatus (Pitaya blanca or White-fleshed Pitaya) has red-skinned fruit with white flesh. This is the most commonly seen "dragon fruit".
Hylocereus costaricensis (Pitaya roja or Red-fleshed Pitaya, also known as Hylocereus polyrhizus) has red-skinned fruit with red flesh.
Hylocereus megalanthus (Pitaya amarilla or Yellow Pitaya, also known as Selenicereus megalanthus) has yellow-skinned fruit with white flesh.
The fruit can weigh from 150 to 600 grams; some may reach one kilogram.
Dragon fruit is a hemi-epiphytic cactus which makes it very suitable to grow in a hanging pot.
Similar to what we know as the Christmas Cacti (botanically known as Schlumbergera or Zygocactus)
Once I realised it was the fruit of a cacti which when cut open reveals hundreds of tiny seeds.
I knew it would be no problem growing them.
My early days of having a nursery was specialising in growing cacti and succulents from either seed or offsets so I know how easy it is to germinate and grow many types of cacti from seed.
A search on the internet showed amazingly beautiful flowers of the Dragon Fruit Cacti which makes another very good reason to grow them.
If you would like to grow some of this healthy fruit then firstly purchase a Dragon Fruit and scoop out some of the many seeds and pulp. Place on a paper towel or similar and leave to dry.
A few weeks later place purchased compost into a seedling punnet and lay the paper towel over the compost. Spray the seeds and towel with MBL diluted to 20mls per litre then cover with sand.
Place on a shelf in a glasshouse or on a sunny window sill and moisten the sand by misting regularly.
It should only take a week or two to see that some of the seeds have germinated. Then if on a window sill you will need to move the punnet outside to prevent stretching and dampening off.
Placed in a light situation inside a deeper tray with a sheet of glass over would be suitable.
When the baby cacti get a few inches long they can be pricked out and placed into small pots to grow on. Use compost and and either Matrix or my Secret Tomato Food for growth.
During summer they can grow quickly into a nice size for potting into a big hanging basket.
Hang in a glasshouse or on a sunny sheltered porch where with food and sun they will flower and later produce the Dragon Fruit which has a bland to sweet tasting pulp..
The amount of vitamin C in dragon fruit is high, and because it is a natural fruit it provides you with a rich balance of nutrients coming along with the vitamin C.
Dragon fruit is a good natural source of anti-oxidants which help to prevent the dangers of free radicals that can cause cancer and other health problems.
Dragon fruit has lots of dietary fiber with almost 1g of fiber per 100g of the fresh dragon fruit.
My partner tells me that in the Philippines people eat the fruit to prevent cancer and also to assist in recovery. The other aspects they consider the fruit good for include:
Heart; this fruit has an amazing superpower that helps decrease bad cholesterol levels and replenish good levels. Dragon fruit is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, helping the heart stay in great condition.
Fiber; They have a high fiber content, which can assist with poor digestion and constipation. Eating the flesh and seeds, which contain good protein, will keep your body fortified and satisfied.
Antioxidants; To rid the body of free radicals and cancer-producing properties, you can eat foods that contain antioxidants.
Diabetes; The high amount of fiber in dragon fruit can ultimately help regulate diabetes, as it can stabilize blood sugar levels by suppressing sugar spikes.
Reduces Signs of Aging; Eating a dragon fruit with its rich antioxidants can keep the skin tight and young. You can even make a face mask using the fruit combined with honey as a natural alternative to anti-aging masks.
Suppresses Arthritis; Arthritis directly affects the joints and causes severe irritation and immobility. Adding dragon fruit to your diet can help you fight these ailments. Dragon fruit’s benefits for people suffering from arthritis are so great that it’s commonly referred to as the “anti-inflammatory fruit.” Avoiding Acne; This treatment is not just for teenagers.
Rich in vitamin C, this fruit becomes a great topical ointment. Turn a slice of dragon fruit into a paste and apply it to your reddened areas on your face or skin, then rinse with water. For best results, use twice daily.
Great flowers, healthy fruit all for the small price of a fruit to get started and growing.
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MPI was informed on Thursday 6 November 2014 that an observant home gardener in Temuka had found an unusual stink bug in his garden.
He provided a photograph and the bug was tentatively identified by MPI as a yellow spotted stink bug (YSSB). The specimen was collected on Saturday 8 November 2014 and the identification confirmed as an unmated female YSSB (Erthesina fullo).
We are taking this find seriously.
A key aim of the response is to determine presence/absence of a population.
We are really pleased that the householder did the right thing and notified that he had found the bug.
The householder has also carried out repeated inspections of his property and found no other similar bugs.
As a precaution we are stepping up awareness about this bug.
We will be asking the local community to help out by keeping an eye out for any more of these bugs and to call our Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline (0800 80 99 66) if they spot anything.
A communications plan is being implemented.
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A couple of weeks ago I was wondering why my strawberries were not preforming as well as they should be for the time of the year.
I suspected the weather because of too many days of cloudy skies and chilly winds with lack of warm direct sunlight to ripen and sweeten the berries.
I had broken up the beds in June and replanted a lot of the runners coming off my best parent plants.
I left a few of the parent plants to preform another season with lots of fresh young plants.
The older plants were doing better than the young plants which is logical as they have better established root systems.
Then I noticed while spraying the plants with Mycorrcin, small white flakes on some leaves.
By turning over a few leaves I found the main reason for lack of vigor, lots of very small aphids which obviously were sucking the goodness out of the plants.
The white flakes are the spent shells from their molts.
To get a sense of what this is like to plants you have to imagine that you have lots of fleas, lice and leeches on your body feeding. Not nice and very energy sapping.
So not only is the poor weather a problem but also thousands of sap suckers.
Its a good time to check all your plants and take particular attention to any not doing so well.
I made up a spray of Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum and Raingard in a pump up sprayer which was employed to eradicate the pests.
I love using this spray mix as it is totally safe (unless you have an allergy to any of the components) I can fold back the leaves with one hand and spray under the leaves where the pest are without any health concerns to my well being. I cant say that about all the chemical insecticides available.
Neem Oil is not a poison as it does not kill anything directly, instead its an anti-feedent and growth regulator.
Not harmful to beneficial insects or bees as it will only have a direct effect on the pest insects feeding on foliage.
A few years back the following statement appeared on NZ Food Safety Web site; 'Neem has been determined to be of very low toxicity.
Extracts of Neem have been used historically in parts of Asia for skin and dental treatments for what has claimed to be over 2000 years.
Parts of the Neem tree are consumed in certain Indian and Southeast Asian dishes. Neem is used in human medicine for skin and acne treatment and for the control of scabies and head lice.
The active component azadirachtin has also been demonstrated to be of very low toxicity.
Neem and azadirachtin do not represent a dietary intake risk from consumption of residues on treated food commodities.
Toxicological / Public Health Assessment : It has been determined that the use of Neem as an insecticide for use on all food producing plant species is very unlikely to pose any health risks from consumption of the harvested commodity'.
Key Pyrethrum on the other hand is also a natural insecticide which effects the nervous system of insects and fish causing death. It will affect all insects that come into contact with it, pest or beneficial.
Pyrethrum is very quickly broken down by UV so within about a couple of hours of sunlight it is no longer active.
New Zealand Bee Keepers are running a public awareness campaign to educate gardeners not to spray chemical insecticides over flowering plants because of the danger to honey bees and bumble bees.
This especially applies to chemicals from the neonicotinoid group which includes Confidor.
This is a systemic chemical (means it spreads through the whole plant) and stays inside the plants for considerable periods of time.
For the periods of withholding time from web site http://www.agtech.com.au/label/bcsnz/CONFIDOR_12104540.pdf it says:
Onions… 7 days; Vegetable brassicas (cell transplants) - 70 days; Lettuce(cell transplants)….. 35 days; Grapes…fruit from treated vines must be destroyed, with no fruit harvested for human or animal consumption until the next season.
Remember that is the recommendations for human consumption which means that the toxicity of the chemical has fallen to the level that is presumed safe for us to eat. Not that the chemical is gone but still in the plant and in the flowers where bees will enter weeks or even months later and die as a result.
In parts of Europe where these chemicals have been banned it has been found that bees populations are recovering which is good anecdotal evidence that it does contribute to bee hive colony collapse.
Bayer the manufacture of Confidor is in the process of suing the EU because of their restrictions on using chemicals from the neonicotinoid group.
A few weeks back I wrote about the disappearance of what we used to call water tables a good few years back. In winter time you would dig a hole and it would fill with water and stay as a small pond for a long time unless you were in a very free draining area.
Back then you would only have to water in very dry times as there would be ample moisture rising up from deep down to keep plants happy.
That is all changed and this week I had confirmation of this by the following;
'An alarming satellite-based analysis from NASA finds that the world is depleting groundwater - the water stored underground in soil and aquifers - at an unprecedented rate.
A new Nature Climate Change piece, "The global groundwater crisis," by James Famiglietti, a leading hydrologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, warns that "most of the major aquifers in the world's arid and semi-arid zones, that is, in the dry parts of the world that rely most heavily on groundwater, are experiencing rapid rates of groundwater depletion."
Where is the water going? It is been piped up for irrigation systems in agriculture at phenomenal amounts.
The draw-off is greater than the aquifers ability to re-fill.
Logic tells me that we now have to irrigate more during the growing season than we did say 40 years ago. When the same is applied to agriculture; more and more water is needed to maintain grass and crops, the more water drawn up through wells, the less water available. Commonly called a death spiral.
Maybe something the EPA should look at before its too late for agriculture and us gardeners alike..
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Christmas is getting very near with only about 6 weeks till Xmas week.
Many of you will have already started putting a lot of thought into what gifts they would like to give and some will have completed most of their Christmas shopping already.
Others like myself are still thinking what to give to someone that is so hard to buy for.
A gift that is perfect is one that brings pleasure to the receiver as well as the giver.
This means giving a gift that has really been thought about and often will have some personal input from the giver.
For example young children making something, or drawing a picture, to give to their grandparents are treasures to be carefully stored and enjoyed for years.
Perennial plants are like that, they keep giving for years making them excellent gift choices for loved ones and friends.
I know this because people will phone me asking about a plant that they were given in the past that is not faring so well and they need to revive it because it was a special gift.
Think about this; a young couple with a family are given an apple tree to plant on their section for Xmas. Within a few years that tree is producing a great harvest of fresh, healthy apples for the family to enjoy. As long as that tree is providing an annual harvest the giver will be remembered, even from beyond the grave.
I know of roses that were gifts 30 to 40 years ago still producing an abundance of blooms each year given by a mother or grandparents, long passed but cherished in memory through the annual flowering.
Fruit trees, roses or a specimen plant gift can make the giver, in a sense, immortal for a long time.
This Christmas think gardening and the pleasure plus health benefits it can have for the receiver.
Besides you can contribute not only with your money but also with your labour in making the gift more personal.
Here are a few ideas starting with a glasshouse either A-frame or lean-to they come as kits and you can help put it together for the receiver. I recommend a glass, glasshouse as they will last for a life time and only need panes replaced if broken.
I have 3 glasshouses, one a lean to, one a 2 x 3 metres and the last a old Eden Conservatory, all of which are over 40 years old and going strong.
A glasshouse for a person or family that loves to garden creates a new dimension to their gardening.
It allows growing out of season tomatoes and capsicum, perfect for germinating seeds and striking cuttings, ideal for growing those more tropical plants that wont do well outdoors in your climate.
There is nothing better on a miserable winters day than to be pottering around in your nice warm glasshouse.
More information about glasshouses can be found in my recent book Wallys Glasshouse Growing for New Zealand.
How about a raised garden for a elderly parent or a young family to grow vegetables in?
You can construct an ideal one on site using roofing iron and 100 x 100mm posts (painted to keep the chemicals sealed)
The structure just sits on the ground (can even be on concrete) it makes an excellent place to grow vegetables, once it has been filled to two thirds with organic waste and compost.
(My book Gardening & Health explains the process.)
Next to consider is a compost maker and by far the best are the tumbler ones as they will convert organic waste to compost in the quickest time.
I purchased one some time ago as I wanted a way of making some use out of my dogs toilets.
Having just about all concrete outside the warehouse (where we live above) means a daily poo collection.
The tumbler I purchased has their droppings along with green waste, kitchen scraps and spent compost mixed together, garden lime is added along with tiger worms that I have in abundance.
The end result is an interesting compost which I recently placed in one of my raised gardens and have let the weeds grow to further make use of the dog manure.
Its funny that any manure from chickens, horses etc I happily put into a vegetable garden but with dog/cat manure I hesitate to go direct. Even though I know under established trees and shrubs it certainly feeds the plants very well. (Maybe its the meaty thing)
A worm farm is also another excellent gardening gift producing worm casts and worm pee to the benefit of your gardens as well as recycling all kitchen green wastes.
A rose in a container makes a lovely gift and now is the time to purchase and pot up.
You need, one bush or standard rose, one container that is about 20 litres or more, a bag of compost, a punnet of trailing lobelia or alyssum.
Make sure the container selected is either straight up and down or that the top is wider than the base with no middle bit wider that the top. (The rose has to be removed and root pruned every 2-3 years and if the top is more narrow than any other part you have to smash the container to remove.)
Fill the container with purchased compost to about half full and place some Sheep Manure pellets, blood & bone, Rok Solid and Neem Granules before adding the rose removed from its bag or pot.
The final height should be about 2-3cm from the rim to allow for food and watering.
Plant the lobelia or alyssum around the edge so they will trail over. Not only does it make it more decorative but the foliage helps reduce moisture loss from mix and they certainly let you know when the mix is drying out. Place the rose in a good light shelter spot outside till you are ready to wrap and give.
A final touch can be spaying the leaves with Vaporgard to make them really green and shiny.
Similar can be done with a fruit tree but then the container wants to be about 50 litres or more and instead of planting flowers around the rim go for either a herb such as parsley, thyme or basil.
The fruit tree can be any variety you would like to give from citrus, feijoa, to pip or stone fruit.
Dwarf types are good but not necessary as they all need root pruning in the future.
Annual flowers or herbs can be potted into nice containers using compost as the growing medium.
Pot up now with colour spots or herb plants then they should be putting on a really good show about Xmas time. Children can help potting up for grandparents and then can proudly say they did it.
Inexpensive and very much appreciated.
Garden shops these days have lots of interesting nick knacks and gift ideas besides their normal lines of plants and things. Soaps, cosmetics, bird feeders, crockery, fountains, statues and in some cases even water beads & artificial snow for decoration.
It is surprising the variety of products and ideas one can find in your local garden centre that you will not find in main stream retail. Makes Christmas shopping easy.
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After many years of gardening and as a nurseryman, there are two things which never fail to thrill me.
The first show of seeds germinating, bringing new plant life into the world is number one in my book. When I had nurseries in the past this would often be a daily event with trays of seeds sprouting out of the growing medium seeking light to sustain their growth.
The other event is when a crop reaches maturity to be harvested and the pride one has from seeing the results of your care from germination to harvest.
This not only applies to food crops it can apply to annuals, ornamentals and trees.
When plants are a bit more difficult to grow and reach maturity then the reward of seeing the final result is even better.
I remember how I used to germinate hundreds of cyclamen in a hot water cupboard during winter for growing on later in the nursery..
Cyclamen germinate best in warm dark situations and once they sprout, they produce a round bulb about 2mm in diameter with one baby leaf protruding from the top.
As soon as this happens the seedling tray is taken out of the dark and placed in a shaded area of a glasshouse to prevent stretching of the foliage.
Its the middle of winter and the day light hours are short so very little growth is seen till the spring.
With increased light hours the bulb expands to 3 or 4 mm and more tiny leaves join the one.
More leaves means more energy from the sun and its not long before each tray with say about 300 baby cyclamen become a bit crowded.
Time to prick out and place each baby plant into a 'grow' tube. In its individual small pot the cyclamen bulb will grow on to about 10mm diameter with a nice number of leaves, progressively getting bigger.
Cyclamen do not like heat and full sun; they need to be moistened down but not over watered which would cause rots and loses. About the beginning of summer they are ready to pot up into a 8 cm pot where they will grow to the size of a miniature cyclamen.
The danger of over watering in the heat of summer is a problem and there is the chance the crop with be attacked by grass grubs (who love eating the bulbs from underneath) along with possible attacks from aphids and mealybugs. The plants are kept in a shaded, cooler area and given sufficient water to prevent drying out.
As summer days start to shorten about February to March the cyclamen are repotted into their final pot size of 20cm. Its a big pot which allows ample root room for development making for a mass of foliage.
The cooling temperatures and the shortening day light hours trigger the plant's need to reproduce so flower buds are produced.
The need for shade is not longer applicable so the full autumn sun can bath the plants in a well ventilated glasshouse. The first flowers open and the sight of a few thousand cyclamen ready to be sold is a real thrill. There often has been losses along the way and that is just part of the game and is expected, but hoped that most of the crop would reach maturity.
The final pleasure would come from customers that would phone to proudly say that their cyclamen now has over a hundred flowers and is also a pride and joy to them.
All from a little seed about 1mm in diameter and one year in the making.
If the plant is placed in a breezy situation many of the flowers will set seed and the large seed pods can be harvested later on to start the cycle all over again.
Successful germination depends on a number of factors which can vary greatly from species to species.
Some species must have stratification prior to germination.
This means in nature that these plants will flower in summer/autumn, drop their seeds onto the soil where wind and rain will help cover them. There they sit through winter in a cold to very cold soil which is their prompt to prepare to germinate.
When the soil temperature warms to 10 degrees or more then germination will happen.
For us to achieve the same results we need to store the seeds for a number of weeks in the fridge. The length of time will depend on species and information of the time needed can be found in propagation tables.
I prefer to place all my seeds into a fridge inside sealed glass jars to store. They always germinate better after their artificial winter. I even have tomato seeds over 30 years old stored in this way and when taken out they still have a 25 to 50 % strike rate.
When you come to germinate seeds the first rule is; They will grow a better plant if germinated in the soil where they will mature.
The reason for this is that the initial germination sends out a tap root (in many plants) which is very fine and will penetrate deep into friable soil.
If germinated in a seedling tray that root does not go very far and the resulting plants will never be quite as good as they could be.
When grown in the garden the initial root/s will attract beneficial fungi which greatly improves their development.
If we take an extreme example of say a carrot or parsnip seed and germinate in a container to transplant later we would end up at maturity with a short stubby carrot if we are lucky.
Beans, peas, pumpkins, zucchini, carrots, parsnips are all best germinated where they will mature and it is amusing for experienced gardeners to see seedlings of these for sale.
Buy a packet of seed as its a lot better and cheaper or collect your own seed when able to.
If you allow plants to mature and seed then collect the seeds to grow the following season. This can be repeated again and again, year after year then you will produce a strain of plants they have adapted completely to your growing conditions and will produce better plants every year. Choose only the best plant to allow to go to seed.
All vegetable plants should be direct sown from seed for best results.
If you compare a self sown tomato plant to a seedling purchased and transplanted into the garden you will notice a marked difference in most cases.
If you want to germinate seeds in a seed tray then your success will be increased if you have a propagation heat pad to sit the seed tray on. The underneath heat with ample moisture are a must for good strike rates. Spray any seeds you wish to germinate in the garden or in a seed tray with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) it can help reduce the germination time by half obtaining a better strike.
As soon as the seeds send up a shoot get the tray out into good over head natural light otherwise the plant will stretch and fail.
Use only non chlorinated water (filtered water) and talking about chemicals in water “A recently-published Harvard University meta-analysis funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has concluded that children who live in areas with highly fluoridated water have "significantly lower" IQ scores than those who live in low fluoride areas.” The poison contributes to behavior problems as they grow also.
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Labour Weekend is our big gardening event of the year and seeing the weather has been favorable recently with rain and sun, let us hope it continues for Labour Weekend.
Gardening over the weekend is historically recommended from past weather conditions showing that there is only a small likelihood of frosts between now and Xmas.
Frost tender plants such as tomatoes, pumpkins, capsicums, impatiens etc can be planted out and with any luck will not be harmed by a late frost.
How much gardening you achieve over Labour Weekend will depend largely on the weather and your desire to garden.
Let us assume that we wake up on Saturday the 25th to blue skies and light breezes; then taking a look outside we can see a lot of things need doing which automatically puts a damper on our mood.
So the best thing to do after your morning ritual is to start up the lawn mower with the catcher on and mow the lawns. Once this is completed have another look around and if by magic everything looks ten times better than our orginal look.
A freshly mowed lawn transforms the outdoors from shabby to promising and gives you a lift to tackle the gardens.
You should also have a nice pile of lawn clippings that you can use later on as a mulch if you have not applied a lawn herbicide to your lawns in the last 18 months.
L:awn weed killers that kill weeds but not the grasses dont just disappear over night.
A common one such as Turfix can have residues for about 6 months, Yates Hydrocotyle Killer which has the chemical Triclopyr and sold under brands such as Grazon,Brush Off, Scrubcutter and Victory has; I was told recently, that it can be active in areas sprayed for up to 14 months!
You would not want to put compost made from herbicide affected lawn clippings around your roses and tomatoes!
I prefer to be completely chemical free so when it comes to weeds you may choose to use the same methods as I do.
A Weed Eater fitted with a disk attachment called Pivotrim Pro which eliminates those dreadful spools of trimming line which makes the use of a weed eater a frustrating chore.
The Pivotrim Pro are available from Mitre10 Mega stores and maybe Mitre 10 as well.
There are 4 slots which you easily tread the Premium Replacement Lines making 8 cutting lines about 12cm long on their swivels. Because the lines fold away when they encounter a solid object they do far less damage to trunks of shrubs and trees and last much longer than the frustrating trimming lines.
Weeds in gardens where it is not advisable to use a weed eater without damaging preferred plants can be weeded by hand.
Small weeds recently germinated and up to a few centimeters in height can be cut off just below ground level with a sharp carving knife or by scrapping the knife across the soil surface.
Larger weeds can also be treated the same by cutting through the root system a couple of centimeters below the soil surface.
Leave the cut weeds on the soil surface where in sunlight and with microbial action they will break down quickly feeding the soil life.
When I am hand watering with a wand, I often wet down the soil, pull out weeds growing between plants and because of the wet soil they come away easy. Then I wash the soil off the roots and lay them onto the soil to break down.
Watering daily keeps raised gardens and container moist and progressively weed free.
In areas where there are cobbles, cracks or waste areas where you do not want any thing to grow, use salt.
Obtain a 25kg bag of salt from a stock and station agent and liberally apply.
Salt can be used to kill Wandering Jew in areas with established trees and shrubs. Also I am told that sprays of Baking Soda (likely at rates of 3 tablespoons per litre water) will also kill Wandering Jew.
Gorse can be killed over time with heavy applications of garden Lime.
Vinegar and cooking oil are two cheap products that can also be used to spray weeds safely but not preferred plants.
Here is a suggestion for those that have recently purchased triple grafted fruit trees.
It is difficult in the early days of establishment to have all three grafts grow with the same vigor. Often one of two will leap ahead to the demise of the other which may remain stunted or even die.
The secret is to keep all three (or two) growing at the same rate till they are well developed.
Now if you were to cut back the dominate branches they will just re-branch and become more vigorous.
The key is to increase the growth of the inferior branch and a simple way to achieve this would be to spray its foliage with Vaporgard.
This will allow the leaves to gather more energy from the sun and become stronger. Do not spray the dominate branches with Vaporgard which would defeat the purpose.
A further method could be applied by removing some leaves off the dominate branches reducing their energy collect from sunlight.
Talking about gardening and sunlight this is your chance to obtain your bodies vitamin D requirements while working in your garden. The thing is to be sensible, starting with short periods of exposure while protecting your exposed skin with Virgin Coconut oil. After showering apply the same oil to nourish your skin.
Sun Screens are good except they block the ability of your body to create Vitamin D and as we are told people with cancers have low levels of Vitamin D and worst cases down to no Vitamin D.
Lastly, many of you will be purchasing punnets, cell packs and pots of plants for planting out.
If you want to give them a great start to establish then spray the foliage all over with Vaporgard. This reduces moisture loss out of the foliage and takes the stress out of the transplanting. Then leave for a few hours to dry in a shaded spot.
Next soak the container by plunging into a bucket of non-chlorinated water till it stops bubbling.
This prevent damage to root system when removing from the container.
Place into the bottom of the planting hole some Rok Solid, Neem Granules and a few sheep manure pellets. This will help root development and protect roots from soil insect pests as well as feed the plant..
Have a great Gardening Labour Weekend.
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A question that is often asked by gardeners, 'how can I improve my gardens?'
There is a list of things that can be done to improve the soil, plants and gardens.
If you can tick all the boxes you are well on the way to improvements.
Firstly Chlorine in tap water designed to kill bacteria will kill beneficial bacteria in the soil and on your plants which is the last thing in the world you want to have happen.
The simple answer to this is a housing with a 10 micron carbon bonded filter placed between your tap and hose to remove the chlorine (and other chemicals) making the water healthy to drink for you and your plants.
Out lay about $140 with replacement filters at $40 each. Filters are good for about 16000 litres in sediment free tap water.
Mainly only use natural foods for your soil and garden which include animal manures, blood & bone, garden lime, gypsum, dolomite, Bio Boost, Rok Solid, compost etc.
Avoid man made fertilisers and chemical sprays including herbicides.
Small amounts of man made fertilisers can be used sparingly.
What we are looking to achieve is a very healthy soil teeming with soil life and earth worms.
We need to supply calcium with chemical free organic matter and special food for the beneficial fungi; use Mycorrcin as a spray and occasional soil drench.
Keep the soil from drying out by using natural herbicide free mulches and watering with non-chlorinated water builds humus and great gardens.
What if you are doing most of these things and still not achieving the results you want?
A few years ago an Auckland gardener contacted me in February to tell me about his roses.
Auckland is a difficult place to have good roses because of the humidity and climate.
Roses start off great in spring have a nice flowering period and as summer approaches they fade with leaf diseases appearing such as rust and black spot.
The gardener had heard about Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) which is Humate and Fulvic acid.
He had obtained some in the spring and every two weeks sprayed his roses with it.
This according to him, made the world of difference to his roses, in February still flowering beautifully, lots of buds coming and very little sign of disease.
Where his neighbors roses had finished flowering for the season and were covered in rust and black spot.
The gardener was so thrilled with the results from using MBL he had to phone me.
Another interesting aspect I was told, was some roses he had, which had never displayed a scent before now had lovely scents.
A year later the same gardener phoned to say he had won the gardening competition for the street all thanks to MBL and his other gardening practices.
The following year another phone call from him telling me of his disappointment about being banned from the gardening competition because his gardens were too good.
What a difference Humate and Fulvic acid can make not only to your roses but also to all your preferred plants including vegetables and fruit.
How does this relate to you and your garden? There are many applications that MBL can be used for, some of the most interesting include; Unlocking chemicals in the soil. (If you have been using fertilisers in your garden for sometime you will have a lot of fertiliser locked up in the soil.)
Drench the soil with MBL and these the become available to the plants. You could have a lot of dollars locked up in your gardens and lawns.
I t will also clean up many undesirable chemicals in the soil and in one trial I heard about, contaminated land was transformed into certifiable organic within 12 months.
A lady gardener phoned me during the week in desperation as plants in her garden would not grow, they just sat and sulked. The cause, continued use of nitrophoska blue which harms the soil life and locks up elements in the soil. MBL can unlock the damage done.
MBL is a growth booster for plants, it makes for much bigger root systems, stronger and healthier plants.
Another email I received this week reads; My Dad, a commercial flower grower for 45 plus years, has had some amazing results with MBL. He says he would have preferred to remain cynical and put it with all the other wonder product discards, but it very much has his attention ….
MBL benefits can include; Aids and speeds up germination of seeds. (That is a fact amazing germination times when compared to controls)
Helps to release locked up fertilisers from past applications especially phosphates.
Helps increase availability of chemical fertilisers and organic foods for plants.
Helps reduce many common plant disease problems.
Cleans up many toxic compounds, chemicals and oil spills in soil.
Helps to establish plants in areas where they cant or struggle to establish.
Stimulates growth of soil micro organisms.
Increases root respiration and formation.
Increases availability of micro nutrients.
Can increase permeability of plant membranes, which will enhance nutrient uptake.
Increases vitamin content of plants. Stimulates plant enzymes.
Contains a number of trace elements such as Si, Mg, S, Mn and more.
Increases ability of photosynthesis.
Contains silica which strengthens cell walls, helps block disease and regulates cell temperature which increases drought and frost tolerance.
Increase pH buffering properties of soil. Retains and releases water soluble fertilisers for plants when needed.
Increases soil aeration. Improves soil structure. Makes soil more friable.
Has a capacity to detoxify chemical residues and heavy metals. A powerful, natural chelating agent. Improves taste and shelf-life. Fulvic acid can promote prolonged production, as it tends to delay the aging process. Fulvic acid increases the metabolism of proteins.
Used at the rates of 20ml per litre as a soil drench as required and 10ml per litre as a foliage spray once or twice a month.
A must for roses, tomatoes and all vegetable and fruit crops. Green keepers are using it for better turf so onto the lawn for better healthier lawns. If you have brown patches on the lawn where dogs have urinated use MBL to help restore or re-establish grass.
Use on your flowering annuals for bigger displays and you will need less plants to fill beds. (with balanced NPK or organic mulches etc)
MBL is available from leading garden centres and some Mitre 10.
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When we buy plant foods or fertilisers for our gardens we see on the products the letters N:P:K followed by numbers which indicate the amounts of each of these elements. The NPK stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium.
Nitrogen provides growing power and helps make plant leaves and stems green.
Nitrogen is used to form basic proteins, chlorophyll, and enzymes for the plant cells. In short, a plant can't grow without it.
Phosphorus stimulates budding and blooming. Plants need phosphorus to produce fruits, flowers, and seeds. It also helps make your plants more resistant to disease. Phosphorus doesn't dissolve like nitrogen. The soil will hang onto phosphorus, not releasing it into water.
Potassium promotes strong vigorous roots and resistance to disease.
Potassium is a nutrient your plants need for good internal chemistry. Plants use potassium to produce the sugars, starches, proteins and enzymes they need to grow and thrive. Potassium also helps your plants regulate their water usage, and better withstand the cold.
I believe of the three elements its the phosphorus that is least understood by some gardeners.
In the distant past phosphorus was obtain from manures especially bird or bat droppings called guano. Phosphorus was also obtained from Reactive Rock Phosphate which is a hard phosphatic rock. In most soils it dissolves very slowly.
To make the rock phosphate more readily available to plants it was discovered that a process using sulfuric acid, early in the 1900’s, would breakdown the reactive rock phosphate so a new agricultural fertiliser was created called Super or Super Phosphate. It became a boon to agriculture and farming with tons of Super been spread to cause fast growth in fields and crops.
Unfortunately like a number of discoveries such as DDT and Asbestos, there was a hidden price to pay. Super phosphate kills soil life and with their demise leads to unhealthy plants/grasses.
Not only that, it is now known that Super laden plants and grasses can cause health problems in stock including cancers.
(Chlorine and acidic products also destroy soil life including earth worms. Overt time through continued use soil becomes inert or lifeless)
I read a very interesting book some years ago called ‘Cancer, Cause and Cure’ written by an Australian farmer, Percy Weston.
Percy observed the results of the introduction of Super on his farm and the changes that occurred.
If you are interested the book can be obtained by mail order. The book made me reconsider the use of Super phosphate in garden fertilisers.
Interestingly I have never been an advocate of Super phoshate and to the best of my knowledge have never purchased it as a stand alone fertiliser for my gardens. Though I have on odd occasions in the past used General Garden Fertilisers.
Fortunately I have always preferred sheep manure pellets, animal manures and natural products as my general plant food.
Now days I avoid using chemical fertilisers or chemical sprays including any herbicides anywhere on my property.
But I have noticed, that even though I have obtained good healthy crops and plants, there is some factor that appears to be missing and the crops are not as lush as I feel they could be.
I have often thought that I am not getting sufficient phosphorus in my composts and mulches.
This caused me to do a bit of research on the Internet and found to my delight a company in New Zealand who make a product called BioPhos. They take the rock phosphate and break it down naturally with micro organisms making it as readily available to plants as Super phosphate is.
The company sent me a email booklet and it showed trials that proved that not only did BioPhos work as well as Super, but actually better as it did not have a ‘peak’ growth on application and gave 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.
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.
Percy’s Book, showed in a practical and logical manner a obvious connection between arthritis, cancers plus other health problems and Super Phosphate, in animals, and later in his own health. He was able to cure problems by stopping the use of Super, using other minerals to flush excess phosphates out, and to go onto diets that were low in phosphate.
He cure himself and his wife of cancers, (twice each) along with others that sort his advise. He lived to be over 100 years old and write this interesting book of his personal experiences.
Manufacturer’s of Super Phosphate also create a incredible pollution problem for the environment see http://www.fluoridealert.org/phosphate/overview.htm
Very interesting if you have concerns about fluoride in your tap water.
A 5 or 10 micron carbon bonded filter will filter out chlorine, fluoride and other chemical residues from your tap water making for healthier gardens, for your pets and you.
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October is here along with the approach of Labour weekend, which is New Zealand's traditional planting time for vegetable gardens.
In the past gardeners could be fairly confident that there would be less likelihood of late frosts after Labour Weekend plus they had a long weekend to spend gardening.
Tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins,. Capsicums, lettuce and lots of other vegetables would be planted.
In the flower gardens Mum would plant out her favorites such as inpatients and petunias.
Much of this has changed because of different weather patterns and new pest problems.
The weather is much milder than in the past, less frosts even though we can have a cold snap every so often to let us know what winter used to be like.
Not only are our winters milder but in areas such as Palmerston North the summers are also milder.
Winds with a chill does not make for happy times gardening or for plants to grow well.
In areas where the potato psyllid is a problem such as here in Palmerston North, I advise very early plantings of potatoes so they miss the build up of the psyllid populations and can be harvested early without damage to the tubers.
Late plantings, October onwards, should use both Neem Tree Granules and Quarantine Cloth over hoops to prevent damage from the pests.
Note; the normal crop cover which comes in 4 metre wide rolls will stop most insects but not the psyllids. It is perfect for white butterfly control.
Tomatoes and Tamarillos will also suffer badly from the psyllid, with tamarillos dying before they crop.
One aspect with unsettled weather it helps prevent pest insects becoming a problem till the weather settles.
It is very frustrating now we have daylight savings and more time in the evening to spend in the gardens to see our plants struggle because of the weather conditions.
There are two answers to this, the first is to have raised gardens using roofing iron sheets making their width the height of the garden. Filled up to about 20cm from the top makes for a excellent wind break on a garden that is about a metre wide.
The heat from the sun on the galvanized steel will warm the bed and increase the soil temperature promoting better growth. Protection and warmth are the two critical requirements for good growth after supplying nature foods and minerals into the growing medium.
The first raised garden I ever put up using roofing iron, amazed me because young seedlings of silverbeet were big enough to start harvesting within 4 weeks of planting with dwarf bean seeds sown at the same time produced the first young beans about 2 weeks later.
By that time the silverbeet were massive in size. In an open garden it would take twice as long.
The second answer is to buy or build a glasshouse, new or secondhand.
A quick look on Trade Me I found both secondhand and new available, one a new polycarbonate double skin 12 foot by 6 foot under $800. (I prefer a A-frame glasshouse to a tunnel house after having grown in both.)
It would need a concrete floor with a wooden base bolted to the concrete so the frame's base can be secured to it. (Your glasshouse needs to be secured against high winds)
Some of the small units advertised would need to be placed in a very sheltered spot as they have little strength to with stand gales.
Shelter and warmth are important for growing good tomato plants and other more heat loving plants such as cucumbers, okra, chilies and sweet capsicums.
A glasshouse will give you the ideal growing conditions if you regulate the temperature on sunny days.
It can be kept relatively free of insect pests if you place Quarantine cloth over the vents and doorway to prevent insects getting in.
This allows for the door and vents to be open to allow airflow and help reduce the temperature on sunny days.
You need to be careful that the plants you bring into the glasshouse are not carrying pest insects or their eggs. Spray the plants all over with Neem Tree Oil before bringing them into the glasshouse and repeat about a week later to kill any grubs that may have hatched out.
When I wrote my last book called Wallys Glasshouse Gardening for New Zealand, I talked about various methods of cooling the glasshouse down to under 30 degrees in summer such as wetting the concrete pad. (Evaporation cools the air)
One method I have only just realised recently is to use 12 volt extractor fans connected to a 12 volt solar panel.
This makes perfect sense as when the sun hits the panel it produces electricity and runs the fan.
A panel and fan could be obtained new for under $200.
Totally automatic, no sun no fan, full sun, fan at max. You dont even have to turn it off at night.
Solar Power is free after set up costs and becoming an interesting possibility to save a lot of money in the long term by going off grid.
Having a glasshouse you must ensure that any insect pests that get into it must be controlled quickly.
I use Neem Tree Granules in the growing medium and on top of it which helps a lot.
At any sign of insects a spray of Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum sprayed just before sunset over all plants in the house, including any weeds.
You should have a small bench in the glasshouse so you can pot up, germinate seeds and raise seedlings.
This work place is a great boon on a winters day when your green fingers are itching.
Diseases can be a problem if the humidity becomes too high so good ventilation and an extractor fan will help greatly. Spays of Liquid Copper, Liquid Sulphur or Condy's crystals can also be used.
Water your plant's containers with a hand held soft wand on your hose.
The water should be though a 10 micron bonded carbon filter to remove the chloride and fluoride poisons from the water.
No matter what the weather, a glasshouse makes gardening more enjoyable while increasing the range of plants you can grow to obtain better results.
You will discover things such as snake beans can do well in a glasshouse because they are self fertile not like most other climbing beans.
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Lawns are an integral part of your gardens and no matter how wonderful your gardens look, a poor lawn is going to spoil the overall appearance. From my experience when judging gardens, I have found that a really good looking lawn will make, ‘a not so great’ garden, look far better than they are.
It’s a bit like putting a really great picture frame around a so-so picture.
Your attention is drawn to the frame and the picture’s value is lifted. On the other hand, I have seen many really great gardens that have lost lots of points with the judges, because the lawns were so poor in appearance.
It is not too hard to achieve a really great lawn, its more a matter of knowing how to go about it.
The first problem to contend with is the thatch that builds up in the root zone of the lawn’s grass.
This is the debris accumulated over time, compressed through traffic, reducing drainage, aiding in moss establishment and poor aeration. It makes the lawn feel spongy to walk on.
This can be one of the main reasons why lawns don’t improve even though they are feed, watered and weeded.
Thatch causes the roots of the grasses to grow up into the thatch area instead of penetrating down into the lower soil areas. As long as the thatch holds food and moisture the lawn appears to be growing well.
When the thatch dries out, things take a dramatic turn for the worse. Not having deep roots into the soil the lawn dies of thirst in a short period of time. The thatch can damage your lawn making ideal conditions for diseases and moss development.
To solve the problem you need to run a Scarifier (sometimes called a Thatcher or Verticutter) over your lawn. The blades will rip the thatch up, open up the soil and allow the grasses to root down for the coming summer.
Some hire centres may have machines for this function, or you could buy a Scarifier Rake.
The Scarifier rake effectively clears thatch and moss that has previously been treated with Moss and Liverwort control spray. The head swings back as it slides forward when pushed to dig its teeth in when pulled back. Best used after mowing your lawn.
The much easier way is to apply the product called Thatch Busta to your lawn this feeds the microbes, increasing their population which breakdown the thatch converting it to food for the lawn.
Given average conditions a Thatch Busta application can clean up an inch of thatch in a month.
If you have “Scarified” the lawn areas in the two directions, North-South and East-West you then should over-sow with a good lawn seed such as Super Strike.
This over-sowing is designed to thicken up the lawn making it difficult for weeds to establish.
If you have a weed problem in your lawns then you need to either hand weed or kill the weeds by using a lawn weed killer which can be applied with a Lawnboy. Most garden centres have Lawnboys available for hire.
Fill the tank half full with water, add the weed killer as to the instructions on the bottle for 10 litres of spray, then add 10 mls of Raingard (which increases the effectiveness of the spray)
If you have moss in the lawn then you need to spray with Moss and Liverwort Control separately.
Don't use sulphate of iron as it only burns the moss and does not kill it.
Remember when mowing your lawn raise your mowers height so you are not cutting the grasses too low and scalping your lawn.
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Container grown plants need not only be decorative but can also be very productive, supplying you with fruit for the family. There are special dwarf stone fruit trees which when mature, will only grow to just under 2 metres, yet produce good crops of normal size fruit.
These dwarf trees are ideal, because these days, not so many people bother to bottle fruit to make use of heavy crops from full size trees..
The larger the container you select for your dwarf tree will determine to a degree the ultimate size of the tree. Do not use a container where the top tapers back on itself, as in years to come you need to take the tree out of the container for root pruning and replacement of the compost mix.
Some of the trees available are, Nectarine, Nectarina which has medium sized, golden fleshed fruit.
Nectarine, Garden Delight which has red skinned, yellow fleshed fruit.
Peach, Garden Lady with yellow flesh, red over yellow skin and freestone.
Not only are these trees a delight to see in containers, they are easy to care for and at harvest time it is easy to protect the ripened fruit from birds but difficult to protect from little hands.
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Each year our plants are subjected to attacks from pests and diseases and how the plants fair is dependant on several factors such as weather, heat, moisture and human intervention.
There is little we can do weather-wise outside of creating micro-climates through our plantings of shelter, wind breaks or using extra protection such as glasshouses or shade houses.
We can however protect our plants by providing a good healthy diet, adequate moisture and preventive spray programs. I think we would all agree that a healthy plant is less likely to be attacked by pests and diseases as the weakest plants are attacked first.
Natural plant foods are better than chemical fertilisers and you have a great selection available including; Blood & Bone (dry or liquid) compost, sheep manure pellets, Bio Boost, Gypsum, mulches, garden lime, Rok Solid, Dolomite and chicken manure to name a few.
Early Spring spray programs can keep pest and disease problems at a minimum and if the sprays are natural and safe to use then one is inclined to maintain the program.
Safe sprays include, Liquid Copper, Liquid Sulphur, PerKfection, Neem Tree Oil, Key Pyrethrum and Raingard.
I am surprised at the number of gardeners like myself who used to use chemical sprays and now give them a big miss because of heath reasons and also to protect bees and bumble bees from the likes of Confidor.
For your roses you can spray with Neem Tree oil and Raingard for insects especially aphids and early fungus diseases such as mildews. For your fruit trees; Liquid Copper and Raingard and the same on your stone fruit for Curly leaf disease. Citrus trees will benefit from a spray of Liquid Copper and a sprinkling of Fruit & Flower Power.
On strawberries sprinkle Wallys Secret Strawberry Food and spray the foliage with Mycorrcin Stopping diseases and pests getting a foot in the door at this time of the year, will make for a more enjoyable gardening season..
Ooooo TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
As usual its Saturday morning and I am at the computer writing the weekly article.
The date is the 13th of September and here in Palmerston North we have finally had some rain with a reasonable likelihood of some more over the next few days.
For New Zealand in general its a very dry spring with even normally wet places like the West Coast being exceptionally dry.
Farmers after a mild winter are very worried about getting grass growth before summer along with every possibility of drought conditions to make matters worse later on.
I can remember years back when the expression 'Water Table' was often used.
The meaning from Encyclopedia Britannica is; 'Water table, also called Groundwater Table, upper level of an underground surface in which the soil or rocks are permanently saturated with water.
The water table separates the groundwater zone that lies below it from the capillary fringe, or zone of aeration, that lies above it.
The water table fluctuates both with the seasons and from year to year because it is affected by climatic variations and by the amount of precipitation used by vegetation.
It also is affected by withdrawing excessive amounts of water from wells or by recharging them artificially.'
I can recall for years that in winter you could dig a hole and it would immediately be filled with water from the water table. Later you could dig a hole to find the soil one or two spade depths down, to be damp, even if you did not see any actual water. This does not happen any more!
Now days when it rains for a couple of days and gives the soil a nice soak there is only another one or two days afterwards when the gardens need watering again. (spring, summer or autumn)
The reason is that there is no water table to retain moderate to moist soil for a reasonable period before you need to water.
Lets read again the last bit from my online Encyclopedia, It also is affected by withdrawing excessive amounts of water from wells or by recharging them artificially.'
Obviously the underground water has gone and one can only assume that is caused by wells and irrigation of agriculture land.
Climate change is greatly contributing to this problem such as an unheard of dry West Coast.
Our problem as gardeners, is to able to have sufficient water for our gardens during dry times especially when water restrictions are implemented. The extension to that is having sufficient water for our own needs if our taps run dry.
Country living folk collect rain water off their roofs and store it in tanks for their day to day use but in dry times their tanks also run dry. The answer would to store more water by putting in more tanks.
Some older houses in towns and cities may still have a tank along the side of their house and in my opinion that is a very wise thing to have for dry times.
If we collect rain water when its raining and store it for future use in the garden or in a worst case for our own use, then that makes sense to me.
I note than there are two types of plastic tanks that are available, one that can be connected to a down pipe with a tap near the base. Raised off the ground on a steady structure holding 500 or 1000 litres would certainly help keeping plants alive when you need to.
Another more expensive one is balloon like bags that are placed under your house between the piles where the rainwater is stored and then pumped up for use.
Not everyone has suitable homes to have any tanks connected to down pipes but a few plastic containers of say 20 litres can likely be stacked up somewhere as a back up.
My business has for instance lots of 20 litre containers that would be ideal for storing water in. I give them away free to anyone that picks them up from the warehouse in Palmerston North.
(Phone 3570606) Ideal to hold worm pee and other liquid feeds also.
The next step in gardening is conserving/storing water in the gardens by building up your humus in the soil which can hold 80 to 90% of its weight in water.
Here are some facts: 'Wheeler and Ward (1998) estimate a 25mm rainfall event over one hectare contains 250,000 litres of water. Their studies suggest that soils with only 1% humus would be able to store less than half of the water in a 25mm rainfall event. A 2% increase in humus would store all the 250,000 litres and have a capacity for a further 70,000 litres.'
You can increase the humus percentage in your gardens by using natural products such as composts, animal manures, blood & bone garden lime, dolomite, gypsum, mulches and drenching the soils with a combination of Mycorrcin and Magic Botanic Liquid every 3 months.
You need to avoid chemicals including man made fertilisers such as superphoshate , herbicides and the chlorine in tap water as they kill the soil life you need to promote.
Mulches of organic material such as herbicide free grass clippings, newspaper and compost will assist in water retention. Spaying the foliage of plants with Vaporgard will reduce the plants need for water by about 30% and also give the plant more energy.
Monthly sprinklings of potash also helps plants to handle drought conditions better.
Mulches will help prevent surface soil from drying out causing surface tension where water cannot penetrate. Water crystals (coloured) can be used on the bare mix of container plants, very decoratively, as a mulch.
A very big benefit of building up humus percentages in your soil is carbon-sequestering which meas, the plants collecting carbon and then stored in the humus.
According to a recent study by the Rodale Institute, if regenerative agriculture were practiced globally, 100 percent of current, annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would be sequestered. That’s a compelling statistic, backed up by Rodale’s Farming Systems Trial (FST), the longest-running test comparing organic and conventional cropping systems.
Conventional cropping and farming has removed the humus from soils through their use of chemical fertilisers and sprays, making for inert soils, devoid of soil life with grass and crops force grown by chemical fertilisers.
Agriculture/farming in the last 60 odd years has contributed greatly to the carbon problem through the way the industry has used the land in NZ and else where in the world releasing trillions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Here is a statement from the Rodale Institute;
'Total global emissions of greenhouse gases in 2012 were about 52 GtCO2e.2 Annual emissions must drop to ~41 GtCO2e by 2020 if we are to have a feasible chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C.2
Regenerative organic agriculture can get us there.
Simply put, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials show that we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive management practices.'
I dont think the fertiliser companies would like that and I will likely have 'expert' agriculture consultants
saying that their 'Best Practice' is right.
As Tui would say 'Yeah Right'
Wrong science in favour of big money is outdated and should be replaced for better practices.
See: http://rodaleinstitute.org/assets/RegenOrgAgricultureAndClimateChange_20140418.pdf for common sense information by scientists that care about the planet and for all creatures well being.
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This week I thought it would be a good idea to pass on a number of gardening tips which are topical at this time of the year.
Growing potatoes; Firstly it depends on the soil you are growing in..Generally you should deep cultivate and incorporate a good amount of compost into the soil making a friable loam. Make a trench about 20cm deep and ensuring the soil underneath is friable and mixed with the compost (Daltons or Oderings Compost is good and free from herbicides to the best of my knowledge as not made from green waste)
Place about a handful of Sheep manure pellets, a tablespoon of gypsum, and a level teaspoon of BioPhos and some Neem Tree Granules, cover lightly with a little soil and sit the potato on it with the eyes pointing upwards. Cover with soil/compost mix about 3 cm over seed and water in with Magic Botanic Liquid.
As the shoots come through the soil, lightly cover with more mix. Keep doing this until you have a mound about 12cm tall then allow the tops to grow. Spray the tops two weekly with Magic Botanic Liquid and Mycorrcin. Sprinkle a few of the Neem & Sheep manure Pellets or Neem Granules on the mound, by the shoots, in case of soil insects eating into the tubers. The soil should be kept moist at all times but not wet.
If you know that the potato psyllid is a problem in your garden then you should have already planted your seed potatoes or even better, use Quarantine cloth over the crop to protect.
Later plantings should always be protected with Quarantine Cloth.
Here is a tip a gardener told me to reduce codlin moth damage in apples, he reckoned he is able to greatly reduce damage by sprinkling Neem Tree Granules under the apple trees at this time of the year and watering it in. Later set up a pheromone trap (You can use Treacle in a container inside a onion bag hanging in the tree) First sign of the male moths start spraying the apples (not the tree) with Neem Oil., repeat about every 7 days till no more moths are trapped.
Oxalis is a problem for many and the easy way to knock it back is with Baking Soda. Mix a heaped table spoon of baking soda into one litre of warm water, stir to dissolve and add one mil of Raingard.
Spray the foliage of the oxalis on a sunny day when the ground is a bit on the dry side. It dehydrates the oxalis foliage without harming any other plants. New foliage will appear and this should be also treated in the same manner as soon as it shows. If you stop the bulbs from having leaves they will run out of energy and die. DO NOT work the soil as this only brings fresh bulbs to the surface and extends the problem. Instead cover the soil with fresh compost and plant into this.
I am told baking soda spray at about 3 tablespoons per litre of water is a good control of wandering willie or wandering jew.
The same solution of baking soda (one tablespoon only) and Raingard is the best spray to prevent and control powdery mildew and black spot on any plants affected with these diseases.
The Raingard spreads and sticks the baking soda and prevents it from washing off in the rain for up to 14 days. This also applies to all contact type sprays such as copper.
If you add Raingard to any chemical weed killers your kill effective rate will be increased by 50% according to trials I have read.
About this time every year I have gardeners complaining about their broad beans flowering but no fruit setting. (Beans are fruit technically as they have seeds inside which we eat) The reason for no beans forming, after the flowers fall is due to no pollination, which is due to there not being any bumble bees around early in the season to do the job. Bumble bees have to emerge as queens out of their winter Hibernation and start forming a colony, till this happens and numbers increase not many beans set. Later on the plants produce well.
Another thing that you can do to encourage any native bees or bumble bees to pollinate the broad beans is to spray them with sugar and water. Dissolve a couple of table spoons of raw sugar into a litre of warm water and spray the plants. The same can be applied to any fruiting plant or tree that requires pollination. Why raw sugar? Because it is natural and more appealing to the insects, it is also far better for you to take than white, refined sugar.
A lot of us will be germinating and growing seedlings for pots and gardens and every time we transplant, the young plants suffer. This can be simply overcome by spraying the plants a couple of days beforehand with Vaporgard which greatly reduces transplant shock and is ideal to spray onto foliage you are going to cut for cuttings. (For cuttings dip the end in a bit of honey or spit on them, either helps)
If planting out in a windy area or near the sea you can give the plants a far better start by spraying them with the Vaporgard.
Increase the yield, size of the fruit and flavour, of strawberries by spraying them every 2 weeks with Mycorrcin. Trials showed an increase of 200 to 400% and that is a fact. For extra big strawberries you may like to try my 'Wally's Secret Strawberry Food'. Strawberries bigger than apricots are possible.
For best overall results in the garden apply sheep manure pellets or Bio Boost (both are good) instead of any chemical fertilisers. Spray the preferred plants (roses etc) and vegetables with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) every two weeks. Spray the soil around the plants at the same time. Gardeners that have been using this natural spray have reported that they have never had such great gardens and crops before.
MBL makes a really big difference to the health of the plants and soil and you will be impressed.
Many gardeners will be spraying with copper sprays at this time and here is a big one, DO NOT mix any spraying oils with the copper. Sure you have been told in the past to mix the two together and many do so through force of habit. The fact is the oil greatly reduces the effectiveness of the copper and helps wash the copper particles off faster in rain when compared to not having the oil.
Then ask yourself why is the oil used? The simple answer is, it is used to smoother scale or thrip insects. If you have no scale or thrips present, why waste your money? If the pests appear at anytime you can use an oil then, to control them.
Liquid Coppers are more user friendly than powdered ones as they do not block your jets like the powders do.
Soon aphids will appear on the new shoots of roses and other plants; if you have any of those old yellow cakes of Sunlight soap, simply lather some up in warm water and spray the aphids.
Best done when the sun is off the plants, later in the day. The fatty acids from the soap break down the aphid’s bodies.
If you do not have any of those yellow cakes then use Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum added.
Whitefly on tomatoes is a great problem for many gardeners and by simply placing some Neem Tree Granules around near the base of the plants, will help prevent their populations from building up without the need to spray much if at all. The granules need to be repeated about every 6-8 weeks.
If you have worms in your lawn causing worm casts that you do not like, then dissolve some Cold Water Surf in water and throw that over the lawn. The worms will come to the surface where you should then pick them up and bury these valuable creatures back into your gardens. Someone said recently that it will also bring grass grubs to the surface where the birds will eat them. Not sure if this is correct or not but worth a shot. Do it early in the morning as that is when the sparrows etc are looking for breakfast.
There are hundreds of gardening tips but space has run out again, more can be found in my books, Wally’s Down to Earth Gardening Guide and Wallys Green Tips for Gardeners.. Happy New Season Gardening.
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Well its September already and a very busy time for us gardeners planting seeds, seedlings and all the other bits that go to make our gardens great while keeping us happy.
First a massive tip that was given to me by a fellow gardener at a talk I gave about a month or so ago.
The tip is about controlling a plant which is sometimes sold as a container plant in the variegated form and in the non-variegated green leaf form is a really pest of a weed.
Tradescantia fluminensis is the botanical name but commonly referred to as Wandering Jew (oops that might be a naughty word) or Wandering Willy (Much naughtier word according to Billy Connolly who often refers to his 'Willy')
This is a real naughty weed as once established, it forms mat-like layers and spraying simply kills the top layer while a new layer springs to life underneath. Pulling it out is a problem too, as every tiny piece
left in the soil will root. It also is the cause of allergic dermatitis in dogs and other animals.
I actually have two solutions for control; one I have talked about previously and that is throwing lots of salt at it and after the first layer has died back spot treating fresh outbreaks with salt.
Salt in larger quantities is a very good weed killer and prevents fresh re-emergence of new weeds for a period of time. (Great on cobbles)
The new tip is to make up a spray using about 3 tablespoons of baking soda to a litre of water with a ml of Raingard added and spraying the foliage.
According to my 'tipper' it works a treat (Now I am sounding a bit like that whale fellow)
It would likely require further sprays until no new growth is forthcoming.
The same spray will also dehydrate the foliage of oxalis and assist in its control also.
Best time to spray is during a sunny day when the soil is on the dry side.
Baking Soda can harm some other plants at the strength suggested but at one tablespoon per litre is a control for powdery mildew and black spot.
Simple and cheap without having to use harmful herbicides.
I find one of the aspects of having lived for over 60 years and retaining a good memory of what things were like years ago along with untold experiences, so that one can use Common Sense and Logic in regard to problems and situations.
I sometimes have some academic pop up and say where is your scientific evidence?
My answer is Science is not like maths; maths is finite and and exact science. All other science is evolving and what is right today maybe very wrong tomorrow. So scientific evidence is a will-o-the-wisp
and these days with corporations controlling what scientific evidence it wants published and how they ostrichsize independent research when the research interferes with their bottom line. Hopefully common sense will prevail in the end which leads me to my next subject, chickens.
The plight of chickens in cages unable to preform their natural functions is a total money making disgrace. The answer is to have a few chickens in your back yard. I know its not practical in some cases
but I would think there must be about 70 to 80% of homes with a back yard suitable for a small hen house and run.
They are the best recycling operators that you could ever wish for. They will take in kitchen wastes, weeds and organic material and pop out manure that has a good NPK rating and is weed free.
Not only that, they will produce you eggs that are superior in every way over and above any eggs you can buy in a supermarket. (I sell my surplus for only $2.00 a dozen which pays for pellets and wheat for 6 chickens)
Dark rich yokes with a wonderful favor what I would call real eggs. That is if you have your own chickens and feed them ample greens such as grass and silverbeet along with some wheat and poultry layers pellets.
Add a bit of garden lime to their food for calcium every now and then keeping firm shells.
I see in some chain stores and pet shops small hen houses with runs for sale which would allow you to keep two or three chickens.
Better still if you are handy with a hammer and saw you can soon knock up a hen house that is about a sqM in floor area, 2 metres tall along with a nesting box which can be accessed from the outside. A
corrugated iron roof and a run attached that stands about a half metre tall with netting. A trap door on the run to enable you to place food into the run and fill their water bowl.
Part of the run should be covered to protect against the elements.
A concrete floor should be laid inside the hen house to keep it dry and then covered with non-tantalized wood shavings or sawdust. Every few weeks you clean out the wood shavings and manure to use in your gardens. Best free fertiliser you could wish for.
The perches should be placed higher up inside the house using branches of varying diameters so that they do not have their feet wrapped around the same size night after night which can result in harm to their feet.
Also no sharp edges such as in timber 50 x 50. If using timber then plane off the sharp edges so the chickens down lose claws overtime.
I find that even though chickens can fly they prefer not to unless they need to so; so supply some further branches on an angle so that they can climb up to their perches at night is a good practice.
The house is simply made out of 50 x 50 wood for frame with treated ply board for the walls.
Place straw in their nesting box which should have a lid that you can access from the outside.
You can obtain a few hens from a poultry farm in two types, point of lay which are young hens just about ready to start laying or what are called spent layer being chickens about a year or so old that have done a hard life of laying and their laying potential is reducing because of their environment.
These are cheap to buy and I have found that given the proper environment to live in with freedom of movement, soil to have dirt baths in, sunlight to sun bathe in and real food they will produce many more eggs. You may allow them to have a wander around your back yard as long as they are protected from dogs or cats. (Cats are not normally a problem unless they are feral)
If you obtain baby chickens you will likely have some roosters in the batch and that you dont want in town.
Give your chickens some meat such as dog roll every few days and you will get more eggs for longer periods. (They love the protein)
The down side is having to eat all the great eggs or give them away when there are too many.
You need to have a friend or neighbour come in daily to feed and water the chickens if you go away.
(Their reward is free wholesome eggs)
When you are weeding or trimming up vegetables then into the chicken run with the foliage.
Slugs and Snails can be collected and fed to the chickens. (One man's pest is another chickens delight)
Get your children or grand children involved, the young ones will love having chickens to care for.
I know, as I still have very fond memories as a young boy with my own pet chook called blackie.
Think about it, if sufficient people kept a few chickens then a number of poultry cages would disappear, you would have better gardens, better health from eating real eggs and if you do baking (say no more)
Picture attached is my own chicken house at the back of the warehouse.
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Practical advise is worth its weight in gold. Every problem has a solution and if you have a better understanding of the problem and how a solution will solve the issue, then you will have a satisfactory outcome.
For instance if you ask someone advise and they tell you to do such n such, you have not really learnt anything but if you do verbatim what was told you likely solve the issue. (Still none the wiser)
If instead; its explained the reason for taking certain actions and why they work, then you have a greater understanding and your knowledge base is increased.
Experience is the greatest teacher, learning by mistakes, using a combination of logic and common sense are all attributes to obtain and use in your gardening endeavors.
When we read about the experiences of other gardeners and how they found answers to their problems we can use their knowledge to fast track our own endeavors.
A few weeks ago I was send a private publication of a book entitled 'Planting for Birds, Bees and Farm Stock' by Jan Wagtendonk and asked to comment on it.
Originally published in 2001, Jan decided to update and re-print this valuable book. (2014 publication)
It all started on 60 acres of land north of Tauranga which was considered 'A rundown wilderness' that had allowed wildlife to flourish.
Instead of cutting down native bush and running stock Jan looked at enhancing what was already there.
Planting food sources for birds and bees thereby creating a paradise to not only live within, but to share with other people seeking peace.
This 136 page book is not only ideal for life-styles and gardeners with larger sections but also any gardener that wants a bit of heaven around their home.
It should be compulsory reading for farmers as it would improve their bottom line by providing a better environment for their stock.
The chapter on bees gives great advise on how to protect and feed our vital pollinators which is applicable to the home gardener with fruiting plants as well as the orchard owner.
Planting for Birds, Bees and Farm Stock is a very good read with lots of valuable information which would appeal to most gardeners.
The book is only available directly from Jan Wagtendonk at email@example.com, or phone (07) 5490 962. (r.r.p $30.00) You may like to look at their web site at http://warmearthcottage.co.nz/ where they have accommodation for getting back to Nature stays. A great book and an inspiration for many I am sure.
A reader this week sent an email with a problem I had not heard of previously:
We have uninvited clover mites taking up residence in our house. I googled the lovely little things and found out they are clover mites. It started in summer at the bedroom (east ) end of our 3yr old house.
In the mornings there would be, hundreds of the little critters on the wall behind the bed head, if I squashed them they left a green mess so I had to carefully get rid of them with wet paper towels
I got the bug man in, he never knew what they were but sprayed the windows that were affected and 5min and $70.00 later he left. I must add that we always get the outside of the house sprayed for spiders and that was done in January by the same man I got back later.
That spray only lasted a few days until the mites put gumboots on and carried on walking over the stuff.
We purchased a spray bottle of 'No Bugs Super' professional strength for indoor and out door. Again the clever little critters found out how to get over this as well. We had not as many in the cold but now they are back. In the winter I think they were shifting house and we now have them from the front of the house to the back. Not every window is affected yet.
At the front of the house the dear little things can be seen right up to the roof on the outside. Two of the double glazed windows also have hundreds of eggs in between the glass. I will give the builders a call about that to get the windows cleaned out.
What can I do to stop these little critters putting on gum boots and breading like wildfire.
We have gardens next to the house except for under the east end of the house and that is what passes for lawn in Kapiti. I look forward to your reply and advice. Joy W.
My first response was to Google them and yes Clover Mites they are as; described above.
I phoned Jan and had a talk about possible solutions to the problem.
Indoors it would appear that a vacuum cleaner with a vacuum bag would be the answer to suck them up and afterwards, remove the bag and either spray fly into the bag or sprinkle in Sulphur powder.
Then place the bag in a sealed container till next time you want to vacuum up more of the critters.
The sealed container is to stop them getting out if the Sulphur or fly spray didn’t kill them all.
The main thing is to kill the critters outside and seeing they are voracious feeders of plant tissue that means they are on garden plants. Sulphur is a well known and effective killer of mites so a spray of all the garden plants with Liquid sulhpur and Raingard would be practical.
That would likely need to be repeated say a couple of weeks later and until the problem is solved.
Jan told me that the neighbors did not have a problem only her home which means that the pests were brought into the property on either plant material or a compost/mulch.
Another device that I have found effective on keeping ants out of the kitchen or other rooms is one of those things you hang on the wall that dispatches a shot of pyrethrum out every few minutes. It may also work on the clover mites.
Hydrogen Peroxide is effective on mites that attack skin by spraying the effective skin and a second application a few minuets later.
This could be tried indoors but test any wall paper or material first to see that it does not bleach the colour.
Spring is happening early and you can start to look at controlling insect pests now so that the early ones do not get a chance to breed and cause you lots of problems later on.
Yellow Sticky White Fly Traps can be placed near plants prone to pest problems.
Sprays of Neem Tree Oil as a prevention along with Neem Tree Granules on the soil surface will help keep control. Sprinkle under citrus trees and root mealy bugs, whitefly and scale. Under apple trees for codlin moth. Under roses for aphids. Under rhododendrons for thrips.
If we have a week of warm weather it will bring out the early pests. These need to be controlled.
If the weather turns with a cold snap after a week of nice weather then Nature will knock out most of the early pests as it did in many areas last year.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
Now that we are into August, it is the right time to start thinking about tomatoes for the new season.
The traditional time for planting tomatoes outdoors in many parts of New Zealand is around Labour Weekend which is about 10 odd weeks away.
That does not mean that you have to wait till then to buy a few plants for the garden.
Tomato plants planted out in Labour Weekend are unlikely to produce ripe fruit till early in the New Year except for a few quick maturing types such as the Sweet One Hundreds.
On the other hand if you were to start now with seeds you are likely to have plants with fruit on by Labour Weekend and have ripe tomatoes before Xmas.
Garden Centres are likely to have a few varieties of tomato plants about now including the first of the grafted tomatoes and that even puts you further ahead for possible ripe fruit say about November.
Gardeners that are fortunate in having a glasshouse can sow some seeds and buy a couple of plants for growing on.
For those that do not have a glasshouse there is no reason that you can not get an early start as well, it just takes a little more care.
Let us look at how to go about this without a glasshouse but similar applies to glasshouse owners.
Purchase a packet of tomato seeds from your garden centre and one that I would recommend is Russian Red.
I have grow this tomato for a couple of years and they are perfect in a 20 to 40 litre container only growing about a metre tall and very bushy with lots of medium size fruit.
It is a plant which you do not remove laterals, you just let it grow.
The first thing to do is germinate a few seeds and this can be done in a old punnet or cell pack.
Fill the punnet with a good potting mix to about two thirds full then place say 6 seeds nicely apart or one seed per cell on top of the mix.
Next spray the seeds with a solution of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) at 20mils per litre of non chlorinated water, so that the seeds and the mix are nicely wet.
Cover the seeds lightly with either a little more mix or alternatively use sand or fine pumus.
Spray the surface to moisten. The seedling tray can now be placed onto a heat pad (if you have one) or alternatively in a warm room for germination. Every day spray the surface to keep it moist.
Dependent on the amount of warmth will determine when the first show of foliage appears.
Once a show of foliage appears the seedling tray needs to be moved to a spot outside that is sunny but sheltered from frosts.
The easy way to do this is to take an old drawer and place the tray inside it with a sheet of glass over to cover. If it looks like there maybe a frost, place a sheet of cardboard over the glass with some stones to hold it in place or alternatively place the cardboard under the glass for the night. Remember next morning to remove the cardboard.
Other punnets of vegetable seedlings can also be placed inside the drawer for early plantings.
Mist the young plants every day or two to keep the mix moist. Do not over water.
When the plants have established their true leaves (the first leaves are the embryo leaves from germination) then you can wet down the tray and carefully lift the young plants out without disturbing the roots and damaging them.
They are now ready to go into their first small pot which should be no wider than about 50mm and up to 70mm tall use a good compost as the new growing medium.
A little of my own Secret Tomato Food with Neem Tree Granules can be applied to the surface of the compost but not against the trunk of the plant. If your drawer is deep enough the small pots can be placed back inside with the glass to cover.
If there is not sufficient height then place the pots in a sunny spot and protect from frost.
You may want to move them indoors or onto a covered porch or into a shed overnight when it looks like a frost. They should also be protected against cold wind and rain during the day.
The secret is to keep the mix just a little moist and certainly not wet as it will make it colder for the plants.
When the plants get up to about 100mm tall in their pots then it is about time to re-pot them into a 120mm pot using compost once again. When you transplant them this time, you will bury the plants deeper, up to about their first set of leaves.
This then allows the plant to root up the mix covered trunk increasing the amount of roots to nourish the young plants.
Apply a little more tomato food and spray the plants every couple of weeks with MBL.
The above last part would also apply to purchased tomatoes in punnets, cell trays or grafted tomatoes which come in a smaller pot.
(With Grafted Tomatoes never plant deeper than the graft union which should be above soil level.)
When your plants reach about 200mm tall then re-pot them into 200 to 250mm pot.
At this time you will likely have the first trusses of flowers and the beginning of fruit set.
Allow the plant to grow on to about 500mm tall and then if conditions are favorable they can be planted outdoors with protection or repotted into a 20 litre container for dwarf type plants or into a 50 litre or larger container for tall growing types, as their final home.
When repotting wet the mix down first and transplant without disturbing the root system by tapping the edge of the pot on a bench to remove while supporting the plant with your other hand.
Apply more tomato food with Neem Granules at each transplant time.
A problem these days are with a pest called the potato/tomato psyllids, these insects suck on the stems and leaves of the plant and release a toxin which prevent the fruit from growing much larger than a marble in both tomatoes and potatoes. Bad infestations will kill the plants.
My possible solution for overcoming the problem is to use the Neem Tree granules around the root zone on the growing medium and to place more about every 6 weeks.
Spray the granules and the plant all over with Neem tree Oil every two weeks with MBL added and once we are into summer fully, spray with the same every week.
In the early part of the season there should not be a problem until the pests start to appear, as the weather warms up. Once their populations start to build, then regular sprays will need to be used.
The same applies to your potato crops.
A monthly spray of Perkfection will assist in preventing diseases.
When removing laterals or any leaves spray the wound immediately with a solution of Liquid Copper to prevent disease entering the plant.
Lets hopefully look to a good season and lots of fresh home grown tomatoes, they certainly taste far better than the purchased ones.
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Recently a reader sent me the following email:
You may not recall but some months ago I emailed you and sent a picture of the damage to a large number of my roses.
I wondered if it was Verticillum Wilt as the pictures looked very similar.
You suggested the damage might also have been caused by herbicides.
Initially we thought that could not be the case as we had not brought in any soil for the rose beds but, after talking it over, we recalled that we had had a large load of twig mulch brought in and most of this had gone into the rose beds.
We have just had our roses pruned by someone who is an authority on roses who has confirmed that the damage was, as you suspected, caused by herbicides in the twig mulch.
In addition to losing half of my roses (about 40), many of the remainder are not looking as robust as they did last year and it will be touch and go as to whether they revive in the Spring.
I could end up losing more! Sadly I have learned my experience is not unique and that others have suffered similar destruction through no fault of their own.
My struggling survivors will receive all the organic TLC possible in the coming months and it is hoped that by continuing to build up the goodness in the soil organically the remaining roses will recover.
As gardeners we think we are doing the right thing giving our plants compost and mulch from specialist firms but neither they, nor us, know what is in the green waste they are recycling - whether someone has included garden waste sprayed with Turifx or other herbicides. You can't tell whether you are bringing in a load of goodness or destruction for your plants.
A sad tale but one that I have heard of frequently over the years caused through green waste recycled as compost and animal manures from stock feeding in pastures that have been sprayed with herbicides to kill thistles and other weeds. (The herbicides dont kill the grass but do effect the health of the stock.)
I have had reports from gardeners that they have placed composts from major suppliers around sensitive plants such as tomatoes, beans, potatoes and roses to have either strange new growths appearing or dead plants.
In non-sensitive plants you would not see any noticeable damage other than maybe yellowing of foliage.
Roundup when used around plants and gardens will over a period of time cause yellowing then a slow and eventual death of the plants, shrubs and trees. Roundup Does Not break down to be harmless in the soil, its there for a half soil life of about 22 years.
Lawn Weed Killers that dont kill the grass unless the grass is in stress can have a very long residue period from a few weeks to many months dependent on type and application rates.
Green Waste centres have no idea if organic material they take in are contaminated with chemical herbicides. People dumping their grass clippings are not going to say. Lawn Mowing Contractors may or may not know.
The recyclers turn the green waste into compost and sell it directly to you the home gardener or sell it to major garden companies to supply garden shops in their company's branded bags.
Another problem can be that maybe most of the bags of compost you buy are safe because they happen to be free of herbicides then the next time the same company's bags are deadly.
I only know of two brands that I have never heard of problems from and that is Daltons Composts and Oderings. I think Yates are ok but not sure.
I was told by a green waste recyclers that it takes up to 18 months of compost turning, to leach out the herbicides and make the material safe for around sensitive plants!
If you buy some compost that you are not sure of there is a simple test you can do before you spread it all around your gardens.
Take a little of the compost out of each bag and place into a seedling tray. Plant some bean seeds into the mix and germinate. If the seeds dont germinate then you need to repeat the same but also using a control medium such as soil from your garden in another tray to prove the seeds are good.
If containing herbicide, the new growths will come up stunted and distorted which means its very likely that herbicide is in the compost. Take the bags back to the seller, complain and get a refund.
Please let me know the brand so I can warn other gardeners.
Is herbicide affected compost safe to use around non-sensitive well established plants, shrubs and trees?
The short answer is no as it does affect a healthy plant even if not visible signs are noticed.
The first sign is yellowing in leaves but that may not happen for sometime.
Dont put herbicide treated lawn clippings into your own compost bin or on your gardens. If you have a waste area dump them there otherwise dont collect the clippings just leave them to bio-degrade back into your lawn where you may get more killing of weeds for your money.
All chemical herbicides can be a solution for fast weed removal but can also have drastic consequences for your gardening.
The proof is in the pudding as my mum used to say; so I would like to share this snippet from overseas with you: Two years ago conventional media used a meta-analysis by Stanford University to cast doubt on the value of an organic diet. This despite the fact that the analysiswhich looked at 240 studies comparing organically and conventionally grown foodfound that organic foods are less contaminated with agricultural chemicals.
In an effort to further clarify the 2012 findings, a group of European scientists recently evaluated an even greater number of studies, 343 in all, published over the last several decades.
Here’s what they found.
Not only do organic foods have more nutrients, including cancer-fighting antioxidants, but they also contain far fewer pesticide residues. This is a no-brainer given that monoculture chemical and GMO farmers kill the soil with toxic chemicals and climate-destabilizing nitrate fertilizerwhile organic farmers feed the soil with compost, nurturing the soil food web.
But the key nutritional difference between conventional and organics? Anywhere from 18 to 69 percent more antioxidants.
This is a very good reason to grow more of your own fruit and vegetables naturally this spring.
Plant now brassicas and lettuce and any other hardy vegetables dependent on your own local climate
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A few weeks back moth balls were banned in New Zealand as a result of the Ministry of Health issuing the following: On the 04 June 2014
All currently available mothball products are being removed from the market as a result of concern about the risk of poisoning to children.
Three agencies are involved in the action. Trading Standards (part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) has contacted distributors and retailers and asked all retailers to remove products from the shelves.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has advised that the chemicals in these mothballs are not approved for use as a pesticide and the Ministry of Health is warning the public to return any mothballs they have to the retailer they bought them from or to dispose of them in the rubbish. End
One of the three possible chemicals used in moth balls is Naphthalene.
Naphthalene has for over 30 years been used as an effect cat deterrent keeping most cats off gardens, doorways and other places where they foul.
Moth balls have been used to protect clothes, carpets, books etc from the likes of moth and silverfish damage. Naphthalene was never registered for this purpose yet moth balls were sold as an insecticide, which violates the regulations..
I contacted the EPA and inquired about the product, Cat Repellent which contains Naphthalene crystals.
The reply was that they were not aware of this use (Cat Repellent) and they would have to look into the matter. After a week or so the answer came back that Cat Repellent could be sold for that purpose as it did not require registration but it could only be made available in a child resistant container with new warnings on the label.
All these matters have been completed and approved so you can still obtain Cat Repellent from most local garden centres and Mitre 10.
Young children these days can mistake a round object such as a moth ball for a lolly.
One elderly reader told me that in his day lollies were never seen in the home except maybe at Xmas time where a few might be in a Xmas Stocking.
It makes one wonder about other round objects such as marbles, though not toxic certainly not good to swallow.
It is good news for gardeners that are plagued by neighbor’s cats digging up freshly planted beds of seedlings and fouling gardens.
Over the 30 years I have been associated with the sale of Cat Repellent I have accessed that it deters about 95% of cats with a few odd ones not affected.
It is a chemical that when freshly applied can be irritating to both cats and some people.
It should not be placed on bare soil where food crops are grown instead place in lids or plastic ice cream containers so its not in direct contact with the soil.
Problem Number Two: An email recently from a reader asked: Hi Wally
Having just read your article in our Rotorua Review I believe you may be able to advise me on what to plant along my fence line (wooden).
For the past 4 years I have had bush roses planted in this area but on the other side of the fence are agapanthus!!! (I thought they were classed as noxious weeds!)
I have struggled for the last 4 years to try and stop the roots from these strangling my roses. I gave up this year and moved the roses (after pruning).
I now have a blank garden and would like to plant either shrubs or something that will resist or fight the roots taking over. Can you suggest anything hardy and strong – please dont suggest more agapanthus.
Look forward to hearing from you. Cheers Pat
My reply was: Hi Pat
You are a mind reader as I read I immediately thought of Agapanthus (Fight fire with fire)
Unfortunately you would spend a lot of time and heart ache trying to establish most things there.
That is while the roots of the ags can reach in and suck the goodness out of the soil, even if they cant produce foliage on your side. I presume that the ags are the next door neighbors and you cant kill them.
Ok plan B takes a bit of work but can allow the planting of your preferred plants there.
A trench needs to be dug down about 3 foot cutting all the roots coming under the fence till there is no more lower down.
Then sheet metal or roofing iron is placed in the trench directly under the fence to extend the fence downwards by about 3 feet. Then back fill with soil dug out and plant up.
The barrier should last many years and greatly reduce the problem. Ensure the metal over laps and no holes for the roots to penetrate.
Invasive root systems are a curse of gardeners and can be the likes of bindweed coming under a fence line or trees and shrubs on the other side sucking all the goodness from your gardens in their root zone resulting in barren areas.
Raised gardens within a metre or more of tree/shrub root zones are attractive sources of food.
The offending plant extends its feeder roots into the raised garden and then populates the area with a mass of feeder roots. Your raised garden becomes a useless ornament.
You can do one of two things, situate your raised garden at least two metres away from the drip line of any tree, shrub or climber. If that is not convenient to achieve then place a concrete pad where you wish to have your raised garden. Make the pad about 10cm larger than the area of the raised garden.
If you think that a raised garden will not work on concrete I can assure you they do as all my raised gardens are on concrete. You can get some leaching out into the surrounding area otherwise no problems that I have noted.
The best raised gardens heights are the width of a standard sheet of roofing iron.
That gives a nice height to work at without bending much.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
This is the very best time of the year for planting trees, shrubs, roses, perennials also hardy vegetables and annual flowers.
This is because the daylight hours are extending, which encourages new growth and the plants will have several months to establish before summer dry spells occur.
It is also an excellent time to transplant any existing plants that you wish to move.
Container plants with ornamental plants such as roses or fruit trees that have not had their roots pruned for a couple of years should also be attended to now.
Large plants in big containers will require two or three strong people to remove them from their containers so their roots can be pruned and placed back into the same container.
A little while back a gardener asked me what gardening tool did I consider the most useful?
The answer gave the person a bit of a shock when I said my 2.5 ton forklift.
Seeing most of my gardening is done in containers and in raised gardens, because we are living above a warehouse with 90% of the outside area in concrete.
The forklift allows me to move container plants around and using protection for the trunks of the trees and a rope, makes it easy to lift them out of the containers for root pruning.
Every gardener should have one, say I smiling.
A gardener phoned me recently asking how to give the fruit trees and Natives they are going to plant a really good start in establishing.
An excellent question and an ideal topic at this time of the year.
What I am going to say is what I believe is the ultimate in establishing new plants, you need to decide whether you want to use all or some of the procedures in your own plantings.
I remember years ago when I had a garden centre we used to have a product that was a slow release over a couple of years to be used when planting shrubs and trees. (Not sure if its still around hopefully not)
The theory of the fertiliser was to feed the plant for 2 years and not have the food leached away during that period.
I dont know if that actually worked or not but obviously that was the claim by the manufacture.
The fertiliser had Nitrogen (N) 7.0% : Phosphorus (P) 17.0% : Potassium (K) 5.0% and Magnesium (Mg) 12.0%.
I dont know what the magnesium was supposed to achieve in assisting development? I would have thought calcium and sulpur far better minerals.
We have learnt that microbes, Mycorrhizal fungi, earthworms and other soil life are of utmost importance to healthy plants and that acidic compounds such as superphoshate and chlorine in tap water kills the soil life. This being so why would one place a fertiliser with 17% phosphorus (Super phosphate) in the hole where you want the best for your new plant?
For food obviously a little mild food in the form of Blood & Bone and Sheep Manure Pellets would be perfect as they will encourage growth and help the soil life to grow also.
If you have good fertile, humus rich soil, all you need to do when you plant is dig a hole add a few goodies and plant.
Many gardeners will have either clay or sandy type soils and that is where you are best not to make a normal planting hole.
Instead make a hole twice the depth and width than you need. Mix the diggings in your wheelbarrow with a good purchased compost about half and half.
You line the bottom of the hole with this mix to about the right level to plant. Now here is the next consideration to make, dependent on the plant and whether the area is prone to drought or flooding.
If the plant hates wet feet then to compensate you need to plant it higher than the surrounding soil in fact on a mound.
If the area is prone to drought then plant deeper than the surrounding soil so its in a hollow that will easily catch water when you water or it rains.
Besides the foods mentioned, I would highly recommend that you place some Rok Solid in the planting hole along with some Gypsum and a little bit of BioPhos. The BioPhos is natural phosphorus broken down by microbes instead of acid.
Thus you are adding more soil life to the new plants root zone.
If you are wanting to give the plants an extra good start then drench the soil after planting with Mycorrcin and Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL)
The Mycorrcin is a food for Mycorrhizal fungi which attach to the roots of plants and extends the effective root system by about 800%.
The microscopic threads of the fungi gather nutrients and moisture for the plant in exchange for carbohydrates. The fungi also aids the production of humus which is what we need for the ultimate in soils.
The MBL supplies minerals to the soil, releases locked up minerals and cleans up chemical residues from the past.
Doing what I have described would give your plants the best start in the soil that I am aware of but only part of the plant is in the soil, the foliage is going to be effected by wind, sun and climate; so for one final big help in establishing, it would be to spray all the foliage, under and over with Vaporgard.
Vaporgard puts a film over the leaves sprayed that lasts for about 3 months. The film not only protects the leaves from the likes of wind damage it also protects the chlorophyl from UV allowing the plant to generate more energy from sunlight. The plant benefits with frost protection down to minus 3, plus the film reduces the transpiration by about 30 to 40% reducing its water needs.
I have heard cases where plantings in more adverse conditions using a number of the procedures described have achieved a 3 to 5 years head start on the new plants when compared to ones that were just planted without. These plants struggle for years to establish before they can preform.
Whether its seedlings you are planting or specimen trees, the more care you take in the planting will determine how soon you will achieve the results desired.
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Many years ago I read a science fiction story about a couple who invented a time machine and traveled back to prehistoric time. While in the past a large beautiful butterfly fluttered by and they caught it as a specimen.
When they traveled back to their own time, the world had changed greatly, different Government, different weather conditions, different species etc. How much difference would one butterfly make if prevented from living and dying as it originally did?
Man kind is the problem messing with nature and the natural order of things for either greed or their own ego.
For instance the early settlers in New Zealand introduced a whole range of plants, insects and animals from England because they wanted to make New Zealand more like England.
Rabbits, hares, gorse, hedgehogs, numerous birds, deer etc.
Some have adapted to our conditions and not caused too many problems where other introductions have become a curse. Rabbits for instance have no natural predictors in NZ and our pastures and crops suit their ability to breed massive populations destroying farms.
Even when the settlers cut and burned native bush to create paddocks the grass planted became a massive food source for the native grass grub and porina caterpillar making real problems for gardeners and farmers ever since.
Likely the natural enemy of the two natives would have included moa and kiwi along with other native birds. The scales of balance disappeared with fewer native birds for control and massive numbers of the pests.
If we take a plant out of its natural habitat where it is controlled by climate and predators and plant it in an environment which it can thrive with no natural controls, we are creating a noxious weed.
Ecological systems have evolved over thousands of years, all with their balance and counter balances but we as a species can in no time at all disrupt the natural order of things and cause immense problems for hundreds of years to come.
This is why we now have far stricter controls at our borders with Bio-security.
If a predator insect or a bacteria is going to be introduced to control an introduced pest problem, a lot of research is done to find out if beneficial life forms will be unduly affected as well.
We can determine this to a reasonable degree but have no idea what the long term affects will be because nature is not constant, it is always changing and that is how it survives.
Simply speaking the logic is that man kind cannot control Nature, Nature controls itself.
A few years back a pest insect from Australia was able to establish in New Zealand commonly called the potato psyllid, MAF researched the pest and found in Australia it was not a major problem commercially or for the home gardener and because of lack of funding decided not to do anything about it.
Sure the psyllid is not a problem in Australia because it is controlled by their climate in which the higher temperatures regulate their breeding.
Place the pest in New Zealand where the temperatures are congenial to their breeding and we now have a massive problem commercially and in our gardens, dependent on climate season to season.
We are told by our scientists that the use of antibiotics in animals, plants and people has reached the point where bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics.
We now get a small dose of antibiotics in our daily food chain. Bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics pass this resistance to the genes of their prodigy who improve on the resistance.
Bear in mind a lot of bacteria have a life cycle of about 8 hours and during that time reproduce like mad in favorable conditions.
Could a thorn prick when pruning your roses mean a death sentence? Our scientists tell us in the near future, likely yes.
Here is another folly of Monsanto recently uncovered by gmwatch.org I quote;
'GMO soy, corn, and cotton crops in Brazil, along with non-GMO crops such as tomatoes, beans, and sorghum, are being devoured by voracious caterpillars that were not a problem prior to the use of genetically modified seeds.
Brazilian farmers are facing huge losses (now totaling ten billion REAL’s, the national currency) as a plague of the caterpillar pestscalled Helicoverpa armigera or the “corn ear worm” are devastating fields. The insect’s natural predator, another variety of caterpillar with cannibalistic tendencies called Spodoptera, was intentionally eliminated as a result of the cultivation of transgenic maize engineered with Bt toxin, designed to kill off the primary species.
Unfortunately, 90% of the secondary caterpillar species proved immune to the pesticide, allowing it to multiply unchecked and to eat to its heart’s content in the absence of natural enemies.
At a recent conference specifically dedicated to Helicoverpa armigera, conducted by Brazil’s Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, scientists, farmers, students, and government officials gathered to discuss the problem and propose control measures. Declaring the infestation a “phytosanitary emergency to cotton and soybean crops,” a working group was formed to sketch out a disaster plan in an effort to reverse the caterpillar’s impact.
A method of attacking its reproductive cycle is being considered…and so mankind’s tampering with nature continues, no doubt with even more unpredictable consequences on the horizon. End.
I have yet to see anything positive from mankind tampering with Nature through Genetic Engineering. All that I have heard of is disasters and adverse health effects on humans, animals and the environment.
When will we ever learn?
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Its this time of the year that fruit trees are readily available from garden centres and it is the best time to plant them, as they have the rest of winter and all of spring to establish before they hit their first summer. I love fruit trees and other fruiting plants, having gathered a nice collection of various types, over a period of time.
When choosing what fruiting plants you are going to grow it is important to select the types of fruit that you and your family most enjoy and then to pick the cultivator that is most suitable and productive for your locality. It is a waste of time buying say an apricot that needs a cold winter followed by a warm spring if these climatic conditions don't exist in your region.
It is better to buy one that bears well without a real winter chilling. A number of fruiting trees require a suitable pollinator to obtain good crops, which means you need to buy two different cultivators to ensure that you have a good fruit set.
Now days we can find plums for instance that have a double graft, meaning that two varieties of plums will be produced on the same root stock. The varieties chosen for the grafting will often be the pollinators, so only one tree is needed but two types of plums will be harvested.
For a time some nurseries were producing triple or more varieties onto the same root stock. These were more difficult to produce and often one graft would fail in preference of the other two. Even if the 3 did take nicely it would mean some complicated pruning to ensure that the 3 parts preformed equally and in many cases one would ultimately fail.
I not sure if these multi-grafted trees are still available and in many ways they can be a waste of time and effort. Even with a twin graft one has to monitor the two aspects to ensure both are growing equally well without one superseding the other.
In the likes of apples and some other grafted fruit you may have the choice of the type of root stock such as MM106 etc. The root stock type will help determine the ultimate size of the tree and thus the amount of fruit it can bear. These are MM106, 4-5metres MM793, 3.5-4metres and EM9 2.5-3m The later is also referred to dwarfing root stock. This can be a great advantage for people with smaller sections.
Some types maybe labeled ‘Self Fertile’ which means you have no need for another tree as a pollinator. Others may have their name on the label along with recommended pollinators. These are important aspects to consider when you are buying any fruiting tree.
Self fertile will produce good crops but better again if there is a second suitable cultivator or the same species planted nearby. Another tip, because of the lack of feral bees in parts of New Zealand, if you plant your fruit tree down wind (prevailing wind) of your pollinator, you will likely have a better fruit set due to pollen been breeze carried.
Having little open ground, I now grow most new fruit trees as container plants.
There is many advantages to this, you can grow many more trees in containers than you could ever grow in open ground. The containers restrict the root system making for smaller trees, no matter what root stock they are on. Smaller trees are easier to manage, spray, and been in a container, less loss of nutrients from leaching away.
Crops are smaller but minimal wastage, as you tend to eat all the fruit produced.
They are easier to protect from birds as the fruit ripens. If you move house you can take your fruit trees with you without too much of a hassle.
For those that are interested in this method here is how I do it. Firstly choose the largest plastic rubbish tin you can find. (About 76 litres) Avoid black plastic ones, as they can cook the roots if in strong direct sunlight.
Drill about 40-50mm wide holes in the sides of the bin about 100 mm up from the bottom for drainage. This leaves an area at the base, for surplus water in the summer.
You can partially dig into the soil and if you want the roots to enter into the soil, place about 4 holes 40-50mm wide in the bottom as well as 4 at the cardinal points on the sides. (If you move you can easily wrench the tree and container from the ground) I have used this part buried method in the past, for my citrus trees and passion fruit vines to avoid root rots in winter.
Now for a growing medium to fill the containers, don't waste your money on potting mixes as they lack the long term goodness that a tree needs. Instead use a manure based compost. There are organic mulches and composts available from most garden centres, that are made of bark fines, composted with animal manures. Add to this a few handfuls of clean top soil, mixed or layered through. I also add in worm-casts and worms from my worm farm.
The worms help keep the heavier composts open and also supply a continuous source of nutrients. You add in sheep manure pellets and Rok Solid.
Plant up your tree so that the soil level is about 100mm below the rim of the container. This allows for easy watering and feeding. I mulch the top of the mix in spring with old chook manure and apply Fruit and Flower Power (Magnesium and potassium) once a month during the fruiting period.
Other foods can be applied as needed. If the roots are not allowed into the surrounding soil, you will need to lift the tree out of the container every 2-3 years and root prune by cutting off the bottom one third of the roots with a saw. New compost and a bit of soil is placed in this area vacated and the tree put back in the container. This is best done in winter when the tree is dormant.
Another interesting thing to try is making a grape vine into a column or weeping vine.
I saw these a few years back, where grape vines had been grown in containers and pruned so that they were just a upwards growing pole-like plant (when cut back in winter) These grapes stood about 2 metres out of the containers and had trunks up to 100mm in diameter. The new laterals would appear off the trunk in the spring and with the weight of the grapes made a nice looking weeper covered in grapes.
To achieve this, simply obtain a grape vine that has a reasonably tallish trunk and leader. Secure these to a suitable stake and remove all other laterals while its dormant.
The following winter prune side laterals to two or three buds and repeat every winter.
As mentioned before, garden centres now have their range of fruit trees in. If you cant find a particular specimen there, have look for nurseries on the internet.
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During the week I had a phone call from a reader who was looking for some potassium permanganate or its more commonly known as, Condy's Crystals.
I often have suggested the use of the crystals dissolved in water to control fungus problems on plants or skin such as athletics foot because its an oxidizing agent.
The Lady whom phoned told me she had another use for it and that was keeping lettuce nice and crisp in the fridge for up to 3 weeks!
I was told that you take about a quarter of tea spoon or so of Condys crystals and add to water in the kitchen sink filled to a depth that allows you to completely submerge the lettuce.
Beware that the Condys Crystals may stain your sink and hands so maybe it would be best to use a bucket and wear latex gloves. In a bucket you will have less water so use less of the crystals. (Likely a few grains will colour up the water nicely. Soak the lettuce in the solution turning it around , back and forth to get the liquid right through the lettuce.
Lift and once again turn it around, back and forth to drain the liquid out of the lettuce.
Once you have drained it then place a paper towel into the bottom of a plastic bag, sit the lettuce on the paper towel in the bag, seal and then into the fridge.
When you bring out the lettuce to use, remove the leaves that you require and rinse them under a running cold tap. According to our reader lovely fresh lettuce leaves for up to 21 days.
I don’t know how well it will work on purchased lettuce from a supermarket (as its already several days old when you buy it) but fresh lettuce from your own garden should work very well.
Likely the reason it works is that it kills bacteria which cause the aging and decay process.
While on the subject of chemicals you will likely be aware of the banning of all moth balls including those made from naphthalene. This also effected the Cat Repellent which is naphthalene crystals.
The product Cat Repellent is a very effective way of keep cats away from where you don’t want them to go and foul. It has about a 95% success rate (Does not work on all cats) and its use was a tip given to me by a gardener about 30 years ago.
Anyway the concern with naphthalene was that some children had put moth balls into their mouths and required medical attention. Also naphthalene is not registered as an insecticide and moth balls were used to control moths.
The question was raised with the Environment Protection Agency about whether naphthalene could be used in its crystal form as a cat repellent? After some debate it was approved but had to be placed into a child resistant container for safety and a lot more information needed to be placed on the label for the safety of users. Cat Repellent will be available again for the new season of gardening.
One of the label aspects is 'Suspected of causing cancer' which puts it into the same category as a number of commonly found chemicals including Glyphosate (such as Round up) as well as a number of gardening & household chemicals.
With the numerous chemicals in our food chain these days it is no wonder cancer cases are rapidly increasing every year. My advise is grow some good wholesome vegetables and fruit naturally to offset the poisons in our water and food chain.
I see that new season potatoes are available in some garden shops now and even though its only July it is a good time to purchase and sprout them ready for planting.
So far we are having a mild winter and in areas where the risk of late frosts is small and where the psyllid damage is making the growing of potatoes areal problem then a very early start is a good tip.
I am looking to plant my early and only crop in a week or twos time.
I have raised gardens so I will be planting the sprouted tubers into holes about 180mm deep.
In the bottom of the hole I will place a few Sheep Manure Pellets, about a table spoon of Neem Granules, a pinch of BioPhos (Natural Phosphate) a teaspoon of Rok Solid and a dusting of Gypsum.
A little compost to cover and then sit the potato onto the compost, cover with more compost till the sprouts are hidden.
Its just a matter of checking every few days and if sprouts appear then cover again with compost.
If it looks like a frost then check to make sure any sprouts are covered.
Once the hole has been filled in then you can start mounding to keep the tops covered.
This process should, if all goes well, not only protect the potatoes from any frost damage but also encourage the new potatoes to form all the way up the sprouts.
Once the mounds reach a height where its not practical to mound any more then give the mound a good sprinkling of Neem Granules, Rok Solid a little more sheep manure pellets along with a light sprinkling of BioPhos. Have frost cloth or crop cover ready to put over the foliage if it looks like a frost.
Plastic Pipes made into hoops over the crop spaced about a metre a part will make a good support for either cloth.
Getting the crop in early with faster maturing varieties (90 days) with planting July/August and harvest in October not only allows you to obtain a good crop without damage from the psyllid but frees up the garden for planting up other summer vegetables around Labour Weekend.
If you want to plant your potatoes later in the season and you know psyllids are a problem then you will need to obtain Quarantine cloth which is available in 3.3 metre wide lengths (crop cover is 4 metres wide) and has a much finer mesh than crop cover.
I used Quarantine cloth 2 seasons ago on a late crop planted in January when the psyllid number were at their highest and harvested a great crop undamaged in May.
Where there is a will there is away.
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The shortest day is past, slowly the day light hours are extending and with it a new season begins.
There are many tasks that should be completed over the next month or so before its too late.
These involve such things as root pruning container plants, treating deciduous plants (rose & fruit trees)
for diseases and pests harboring over from last season, sorting out strawberry beds, pruning, mulching green crops and so the list goes on.
This week we are going to look at winter clean up and one of the main aspects of this is with deciduous trees and roses using an old control called Lime Sulphur.
Many years ago I penned an article for several newspapers that I write for, one of which was the Timaru Herald. A couple of weeks after the article was published one of the garden centre owners phoned me about the article.
He told me that he was annoyed about my article and I asked him why?
I was told that he had about half a dozen bottles of Lime Sulphur on his shelves which had been there for some years then all of a sudden they all sold and because of the dammed demand, he had to buy several more cartons in. That is the power of the word and press for you.
Deciduous plants such as roses and a number of fruit trees, have either lost their leaves or in the process of doing so, this can be greatly assisted with a spray of Lime Sulphur.
Lime Sulphur does several things which are an advantage to both gardener and plants.
It burns and should not be applied to evergreen plants as it will damage the foliage.
It should not be applied to apricot trees, some pear varieties (I dont have a list of sensitive ones so best not any) and any other Sulphur sensitive plants.
The burning action assists in the final removal of foliage, burns disease spores and insect pests that maybe harboring over in nooks and crannies wanting for better conditions in the spring to emerge.
If you can greatly reduce both disease and pest problems now, then you will have better results in the spring/summer period with less spraying to do.
With bush and standard roses I suggest that you cut back all the growths to half.
This means if the bush roses that are about a metre tall cut them back to half a metre.
At the same time remove any dead or diseased wood along with spindly stems.
Pick up all the bits and debris on the ground and then spray what is left with the Lime Sulphur.
This does two important things, it reduces the amount of plant that you are going to spray and it makes the rose ready for final pruning later in July.
If there are not plants growing under the roses then also spray the soil with the Lime Sulphur also.
If you have roses by a wall the Lime Sulphur will likely stain the wall so a sheet to protect the wall is a good idea.
If you have had problems last season with diseases then you could, in the beginning of July, make up a solution of Condys Crystals (about quarter a level teaspoon to a litre of water) and spray the plants and soil underneath with this.(It stains also)
With climbing roses just firstly tidy up the plants then do your spraying.
For gardeners that have peaches and nectarines that suffer from curly leaf each season then according to an article I have read from England, the Lime Sulphur spray is a must to assist in reducing the number of spores that cause the problem later on. I tried that last winter and it made a big difference.
I would also follow up with the Condys Crystals as well.
With other Deciduous fruit trees (not apricots) spray the Lime Sulphur as best you can (if they are big trees) and do any pruning you want to do next month.
Remember that Silver Leaf disease is about in winter when its cool and damp so any cutting back and pruning should be done only on sunny days when the soil is on the drier side.
Wet times brings about a number of unwanted growths such as moss, molds, slimes, liverworts and lichens. These growths are unsightly and can in some cases be dangerous where one walks such as paths and steps. ACC might look after you but its not worth the pain and discomfort you have to endure especially seeing a simple spray or two will remove the problems.
Moss in lawns does cause problems for the grasses and should be controlled if you want a nice lawn.
Don't waste your money on treatments of Sulphate of Iron as it only burns the top of the moss which soon reappears again.
There are sprays that can be used such as Moss and Liverwort Control that will assist in control of these growths without damaging your garden plants.
Just follow the instructions on the bottle for best control and use.
Containers with perennial plants (roses, shrubs and trees) need to have their roots pruned about every 2-3 years.
This time of the year is the best time to do it. Remove the plant from the container and with a crosscut saw, saw off the bottom third of the roots and mix. If you notice white whispery bits in the mix or on the side of the container you will have root mealy bugs which will need to be treated.
Place fresh purchased compost in the bottom of the container up to the level of the removed root system.
Sprinkle Neem Tree Granules, Sheep Manure pellets and Rok Solid onto the compost then place your plant/tree back into the container. Ensure that the top of the mix is about 20mm below the rim of the container making for easier watering. Sprinkle Neem Tree Granules and Rok Solid over the top of the mix and a thin layer of compost to cover. Any weeds on the top should have been scrapped off to clear the top before applying fresh compost etc.
If you have noticed mealy bugs on the container and in the mix wash the container to clean those ones before reusing.
After completing the above take 25mls of Neem tree oil into a litre of water and water this into the container. (More for large containers a bit less for smaller.
If you have containers that curve back on themselves at the top and have planted perennials in them then there is no way you are going to remove the plant to root prune without smashing the container.
Those containers are ok for annuals which will die at the end of each season anyway.
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I am amazed at the price of New Zealand grown garlic is at about $2.00 a bulb of cloves.
I think what has happened is a couple of years back the market in NZ became flooded with cheap garlic from China.
The NZ growers could not obtain a reasonable price for their produce and as a result a number of growers changed to more profitable crops.
In the meantime we found the cheap garlic from China was of poor quality and suspect of unhealthy aspects.
So the tide turned and we looked for NZ grown high quality garlic but alas fewer growers makes for less supply and up goes the price.
We used to see the same thing happening years ago with potatoes, not from overseas competition but from seasons of glut followed by a season of low production resulting in high prices.
This would encourage growers and farmers to plant for the following season causing a glut and low prices.
It would seem the potato industry has got its act together better these days.
Back to the topic which is garlic and the traditional planting on the shortest day.
There is a very good reason for the shortest day planting as the day light hours are increasing and that promotes the crop to grow and later for the bulbs to form prior to harvesting on the longest day.
If there is just one vegetable that anyone can grow it has to be garlic, as one plant needs only 4 inches (100mm) of room to grow in fertile, free draining soil.
The end result of what you obtain, be it a lovely big bulb with lots of cloves or a dismal excuse for a bulb depends on a few factors.
Garlic is a member of the onion family and so it likes similar conditions. They prefer a good amount of natural nitrogen in their initial development, so the use of animal manure especially chicken manure is important.
Garlic requires ample moisture but hates wet feet which leads to root rots and failures. They relish a friable soil with a harder clay pan underneath. Best grown also in a sunny exposed situation where they can be chilled in winter.
Choose a site for planting that is free draining and will not be water logged in winter.
Work chicken manure and Rok Solid into the area to be planted and also apply BioPhos (the Organic form of super) Ensure the top 75 to 100 mm of the soil is worked well to make the area friable.
Gypsum and sheep manure pellets can also be applied to the planting area.
Place the cloves about an inch deep into the soil in spacings of 4 inches apart with the point just poking out of the ground.
Water in MBL (Magic Botanic Liquid) which acts as a catalyst aiding the uptake of goodness you have applied to the soil. An occasional spray or drink of the same product will be to benefit, over the growing period.
What happens is firstly the clove will produce a massive root system of white tender roots and a small green sprout. As the chills of winter occur this will initiate the side buds which later, with the lengthening day light hours and warmer temperatures, will fill out to become cloves. When the tops die back the new bulbs will be ready to harvest.
They should then be stored dry, in a cool airy situation and checked regularly for rots.
To prevent bulbs re-sprouting lightly burn the remaining roots with a candle flame. If you want to keep your own cloves for the following seasons crop, then select the best cloves and don't burn their base roots. Now is a good time to plant.
There are many reasons to grow your own garlic besides saving you the cost of buying what someone else has grown. You will know that your garlic is free of chemical sprays and has all the goodness in it that nature and your soil can provide.
You will have ample garlic for cooking with and for health aspects that this wonderful plant provides.
We know that garlic is wonderful for your health and in particular it is excellent for preventing abnormal blood clotting, angina attacks and strokes.
Also for stimulating the immune system so is beneficial to all cancer patients.
It seems to act by suppressing, preventing or inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, and can even cause the death of some cancer cells due to the allicin content of the garlic.
If you are like myself and don't wish to have a cancer condition then a regular intake of natural garlic is worthwhile. Garlic is more effective than vitamin C to prevent the conversion of dietary nitrates and nitrites into carcinogenic nitrosamines.
Garlic has the ability to rid the body of many harmful bacteria such as e.coli, salmonella and shigella, and to destroy viruses, is well researched, as is its ability to lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar in diabetes and lower LDL cholesterol.
Try this for babies, children or yourself to relieve a nasty cold, peel and crush a clove of garlic and steep it in enough olive oil to cover. Leave for at least an hour then smear the oil on the soles of the feet. Put socks on and retire to bed.
It is said that home made garlic oil transverses the body extremely fast and within about 10 minutes of applying to the soles of the feet it can be smelt on the breath of the patient.
Spots on teenagers can be stopped by rubbing the area with a bit of cut garlic.
You can often stop a cold by carefully peeling a clove and placing it between the gum and the cheek in the mouth and leaving it there.
Ideally you should eat some garlic every day and grow sufficient to cater for your requirements and your family. If you cant peel a clove and chew it to shallow then make the garlic oil and place into a salad or meal.
If you are worried about the smell of garlic on your breath then chew a sprig of parsley.
Parsley is another herb that you should always have a plentiful supply of in the garden. Its a must for poor blood circulation and for people that have chilblains in winter.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
Garden Centres in most areas will have the new seasons strawberry plants available for gardeners. You may find a range of types but likely the most common variety found these days is Pajaro.
Pajaro; An excellent all round variety, large fruit with a lighter flesh. Firm with excellent flavour. Early to mid-season cropper. A very popular variety grown by many commercial growers in the North Island.
Chandler; A variety with medium red fruit with light red flesh. More resistant to wet weather. Suggested as the most suitable variety for home gardeners in the North Island.
Camerosa; Medium red flesh with large, firm berries. Good flavour. Wet weather resistant.
Sundae; Large red fruit, oval in shape. Firm red flesh with excellent flavour. Suitable for northern and central regions.
Supreme; Very large bright red fruit. Very firm red flesh with excellent flavour. Suitable for northern and central regions. Yield is very good.
Seascape; A variety producing medium dark berries of moderate size. Good flavour, firm and conical in shape. A good late season variety, suitable for most parts of New Zealand. Harvest late season. Best grown in drier areas.
Temptation; Medium bright red shiny fruit. Pale, firm flesh with excellent flavour. Tough and resilient in relation to pest and diseases. Ideal to grow nationwide. Consistently high yields of berries ripening over a long period from October to March.
Albion; If you are lucky enough to find some plants it would be the best strawberry going and often the berries seen for sale in fruit shops. Excellent flavour and large juicy berries.
Alpine (white strawberries) which I find are delicious when fully ripe even though the berries are a bit small. The alpine produce just about all year long.
South Island readers are likely to have Aptos which are; Day neutral, UC variety. Bright, dark red. Goes very dark as it becomes over-ripe. Size medium - large. Plants shows Potassium deficiency symptoms, especially late season, showing up as purple margins on leaves.
Large fruit number per truss with last fruit tending to be very small. Flavour is good but can be slightly astringent in some conditions. Slightly soft. Excellent yield.
Ensure good plant size before allowing flowers to form fruit to minimise small size tendency. Maintain good potassium levels late in the season. (Fruit and Flower Power) Difficult to produce quality fruit on second year plants. Sensitive to mite attack.
You also find some older varieties such as Red Gauntlet and Tioga.
The Alpine strawberries are likely to be found in with herb displays. You only need one or two plants to start with as they self seed easily and pop up all over. A nice ornamental plant also for under trees and shrubs.
One of the problems with buying strawberries from your green grocer is that commercial strawberries are often grown with excessive nitrogen which means if you place them in the fridge they go mushy in a few days. Home grown strawberries, grown correctly, do not go mushy they dehydrate in a fridge. (Interesting bit I learnt a while ago)
You can either grow strawberry plants in the garden or in containers especially in troughs about 16cm deep.
In the garden you can work in animal manure based compost, mixed half and half with untreated sawdust. (Native timber is preferred but pine will do. Strawberries are a woodland plant and you are providing the right micro-organisms with the sawdust mix.) For containers use the above compost and sawdust mix with a little top soil added. (about 10%)
The sooner you get your new plants in the better. I find that first year plants produce reasonably if in early (about now) where they preform better the second year onwards to about years 3 to 4.
They need then to be divided and fresher plants re-planted. I like to place a few sheep manure/Neem pellets and some Gypsum in each planting hole. Water in with a mix of Mycorrcin and MBL (Magic Botanic Liquid) Mycorrcin which is an organic feed for soil life can make a big difference to your crop size as trials have shown a 200 to 400% increase in berries and size of berries.
Then a 2 to 4 weekly spray of the two products will ensure greater returns and healthy plants. By using these products I am able to keep plants producing well for about 4 years. Side dressings of Fruit and Flower Power and either sheep manure/Neem pellets or Bio Boost gives the extra food for replacing the original compost goodness.
Last season a reader told me that she also used my Secret Tomato Food as a side dressing and the result was enormous berries with excellent flavour. Some much bigger than apricots.
I tried it towards the end of the season and had a great crop of extra large berries to finish the season.
Each winter place fresh saw dust around the plants. If mites or aphids attack the plants spray with Neem Tree Oil on both sides of the foliage, late in the day after the sun has gone off the plants. (Alternative is Liquid Sulphur for mites)
If conditions are damp and botrytis is noticed spray the plants once a month with Perkfection.
If you have any dry berries (Downy mildew) then also spray with Perkfection.
My favorite method of growing is in a widow box type trough on the top rail of an iron fence. If its a location which gets a reasonable amount of sun the plants will do well. I find that the plants tend to cascade over the open side of the trough with many of the strawberries growing over the edge. This makes it difficult for birds to get the hanging berries. To solve the bird problems use wire hoops with bird netting over the crop/trough.
The main points to remember are the use of sawdust or fine bark chips, regular sprays of Mycorrcin. Use no chemical fertilisers or sprays as these harm the natural healthy environment you are trying to maintain. Your feeding should only be natural products that will ensure healthy plants and great berries.
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Grapes is a gardening topic that I have never written about previously, other than ay times various mentions in relation to other subjects.
An email recently from a reader asked:
Hello Wally, Now that the end of the grape season is over. I wondered if you might consider writing an article about pruning, disease, and general care of the vines; getting ready for next year.
My grapes are 20 years old and normally they are a beautiful black grape with a delicious flavour.
In the past few years they have formed lovely branches but as they develop, some fruit that matures well while the others turn into raisins spoiling a perfect bunch.
I've sprayed with Neem oil, copper and even one dose of condies crystals. This year has been a disaster - the fully matured grapes have not turned black and have not got their usual nice flavour, while the undeveloped tiny grapes [all on the one bunch] have turned black and have their delicious flavour.
The vine is against a garage wall, plenty of sun and well drained soil. there is no wet feet problem. What is going on ???? This year is supposed to be a bumper year for Grapes at Ohau vineyards, so I’ve been told.
l live at Manakau quite close to Ohau so the climate or area should not be an issue.
l have considered cutting the vine right back to the original trunk, but l am not sure this is a good idea or not.
I've found over the years that very little is written about table grapes, l feel sure l cannot be the only one with problems.
Hope you can assist me with this problem. Thanks.........................Frances.
Hmm, likely that is the reason that many of us do not write about growing grapes.
I always envy those gardens that have a large rambling grape vine, years old producing an abundance of juicy grapes every year with little or no problems.
I have yet to achieve that goal and know that the reasons is wrong growing conditions and even when in the past the conditions were right I would move house and leave a nice vine for the next owners.
I have over the years purchased vines, taken cuttings from vines I would die for and even grown seedless grapes from seeds.
I even relocated one vine several times over a number of years to different spots in the garden and ended up in a container and the end result after about 10 years and only the odd grape to eat it finally died likely from confusion.
Grapes need a cool winter while they are dormant and a warm/hot summer when in foliage and producing fruit.
Different types of grape have different temperature needs so one should try and find a vine type that is suitable for their climate.
Early autumn frosts can wipe out a crop and late spring frosts can damage new shoots.
A mild summer will effect a crop by not ripening properly and lack the sugars to sweeten the fruit.
Humid summers will effect the fruit causing diseases to attack and thus loss of the crop.
With our changing climate a vine that was once a great producer having a cold winter followed by a hot, dry summer, becomes a poor producer with disease problems because of the climate.
This can also be part of the reason of our reader's problem with humid conditions or a milder summer and needing a better spray program to overcome the diseases.
Commercial growers are much more on the ball to compensate for possible problems as their livelihoods are at risk plus they likely have commercial experts to guide them in disease prevention etc.
Grapes are best grown on free draining soils of low fertility. Feed your grape and you are likely to have a great canopy of foliage at the expense of the fruit.
Grapes will grow on most soil types as we see in New Zealand.
If grapes are not pruned each year, they develop many unproductive shoots and soon become a tangled mess of leaves and stems. At least 90% of the previous season’s growth is removed each winter.
Vines are either spur pruned; this is where one or two branches are permanently trained along a trellis or wire and the side branches are cut back to two or three buds. This is often what you see when you travel past a vineyard.
Otherwise they are cane pruned, where one or two new branches are selected each winter and trained along the wires, and the rest are removed.
There are two main pests of grapes a small aphid that feeds on the roots and mealy bugs.
Using Neem Tree granules in the root zone and Neem Oil sprays in the foliage will help control these pests.
Diseases include powdery mildew which you can use baking soda and Raingard to prevent and control.
Downy Mildew; a month spray of Perkfection Supa will help control and can be added to the baking soda spray.
Botrytis is a grey mould that is prevalent in warm, damp conditions, and rots bunches of grapes. Growers reduce the risk of botrytis by plucking leaves around the berries, allowing air to circulate. Very occasionally a condition known as noble rot develops in botrytis-infected grapes. The berries shrivel, then dry out and do not rot.
They produce a sweet, full-flavoured wine. (Another aspect of our reader's problems)
Liquid Sulphur is the best control of botrytis-infected grapes but should not be used if Neem Oil was used recently. Regular sprays of Condys Crystals can also help.
One thing is that grape vines can not handle herbicides such as Roundup as they are very sensitive like tomatoes.
Talking about Roundup or glyphosate, Monsanto is getting a hard time with hundreds of thousands people in 420 cities in 50 countries protesting against Monsanto's chemicals and seed controls on May the 24th last.
Also two activist groups; Moms Across America and Thinking Moms Revolution, want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recall Monsanto’s Roundup, the most widely used herbicide/pesticide in the world. Now's the time to do it, they say, because the EPA is conducting a registration review of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup.
Representatives of the two groups contacted the EPA to request a meeting. When the EPA ignored them, they rallied supporters. Over a period of three days, about 10,000 moms from all over the country rang the phones off the hook at the EPA.
A week later, five Moms Across America leaders were sitting around a boardroom table with nine EPA employees who have the power to recall Roundup. What was supposed to be a one-hour meeting turned into two.
The EPA employees stayed glued to their seats as one mother after another shared heart-wrenching stories of their experiences parenting children with life-threatening allergies, severe gastrointestinal problems, mysterious autism-spectrum disorders, and major nutritional deficiencies.
The common thread in those stories? Exposure to glyphosate.
You would not want to be a share holder in Monsanto and if the truth comes out on what they have being hiding from us for many years they will have their pants sued off them..
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A question that I am often asked is about the need to sterilize soil in areas where a crop is grown each year, such as tomatoes or potatoes.
The reason that a number of gardeners wish to sterilize the soil in a given area is because they believe that the process will clean up pathogens (diseases) that have occurred while growing the previous season’s crop.
Some gardeners go to great lengths to remove all the top soil from a plot or glasshouse and replace it with fresh top soil.(that is a lot of work and expense)
There are also other gardeners that have reported to me that they have grown their tomato plants in the same area, year after year (one said 30 odd years) with no problems.
Some gardeners will remove their tomato plants before they start to go off, at the end of the season and send all the material to a landfill to be safe.
Others let the plants die in place and even dig the decaying material into the soil where they are going to grow again next season. These gardeners feel that the dead material contains the elements that the next crop needs and the recycling of the material is of benefit. In most cases they have healthy plants year after year outside of seasonal problems.
Another set of gardeners doing this, will find that they have diseases attacking the new establishing crop and will have many failures. Some gardeners do not want to take any risks and practice high hygiene standards.
If we take a situation of a tomato plant growing in the wild from a seed dropped in a bit of bird poo, that plant matures and produces fruit. The fruit rots on the ground and when conditions are right a bunch of seedlings will appear all in competition with each other. Many of the plants will grow to maturity and repeat the cycle, year after year.
Maybe some years a disease will strike and wipe out the plants, but likely new seedlings will appear the following season and do well.
The question must be asked, how can some gardeners grow in the same area every year without problems where others must adhere to rotation cropping over a three year cycle to avoid losses?
I believe that two aspects come into play one of which is very interesting and is likely not to be considered a possibility by many. It is the power of the mind and influence your thoughts have over plants. If we have a gardener that is worried about planting his tomatoes in the same spot as last seasons crop he somehow conveys these thoughts to the new crop and maybe creates them to fail.
Another gardener may only think of the positive aspects and sees in his mind’s eye the seedlings growing strong and true and the delicious tomatoes that he will enjoy in days to come.
Do the plants pick up these thoughts at some level we do not understand and then grow to for-fill them?
Is this the same power that we acknowledge when we say ‘that gardener has green thumbs’?
Do these green thumb gardeners have a very positive attitude about their gardening thoughts and have formed a link with their plants to the benefit of both?
I feel that there is some truth in this and the closer one feels to nature the better the results.
On the more practical side of things, that can be measured scientifically, we can see two types of gardeners in their different methods.
One gardener will use chemical herbicides, fertilisers (without thought), chemical sprays and water with chlorine in it..
The damage done by these chemicals to the soil life is great, then pathogens run rife having no beneficial soil life to balance them out, or control them.
Common weed killers such as glyphosate (Roundup) linger in the soil for 22 years (half life) and plants growing in those treated areas will not be as good as plants of the same type grown in non treated areas.
A fact of nature is if the soil life is diminished in an area then any ensuing crops are more likely to have more health problems.
Now take the gardener who avoids the use of chemicals and may only use very small amounts of man made fertilisers as a boost for a crop at the right time. The same gardener will be building up their populations of beneficial microbes in the soil by applying natural products of animal manures, calcium, composts and other minerals. Their soil teems with life, including good worm populations and the plants growing there will be strong and more able to overcome any diseases that may be floating around.
Many gardeners over the years have used a product called Jeyes Fluid or in more recent times the same but called Natures Mate. 80 mils of this product would be added to 10 litres of water to saturate the soil in one square metre. Many gardeners swear by this but a problem has arisen that the product is not so readily available.
Many years ago a gardener from Invercargill gave me a solution to control the root disease of brassicas (Club Root) It is a simple recipe where you take a quarter teaspoon of potassium permanganate (Condy’s Crystals) and 3 desert spoons of table salt into one litre of warm water to dissolve, then added to a further 9 litres of water. One litre of this solution is placed in each planting hole to reduce the damage of club root. It works well for this problem.
Potassium permanganate is a strong oxidizing agent of which the sodium chloride (table salt) complements its action in soil.
Taking the aspect of how well it helps to control club root disease (which most other chemicals do not) then it is a logical assumption that it can clean up other diseases or reduce their number in the soil.
I have suggested in the past to gardeners that wish to clean up areas in their glasshouse or soil where a crop of tomatoes is to be grown, to use the above recipe at double the rate (half teaspoon of potassium permanganate with 6 desert spoons of salt to drench 5-10 square metres of area. Leave for a couple of weeks then flood the area with water.
Once the soil has dried to moist then apply Rok Solid, Dolomite & Ocean Solids (for the minerals and calcium) Cover with a layer of animal manure based compost. Use Mycorrcin and Magic Botanic Liquid as a soil drench to feed and promote the beneficial soil life, after which you can plant up. A number of garden centres have 150 grams of Potassium Permanganate available.
If you feel the need and peace of mind to sterilize a garden area and are unable to obtain Jeyes Fluid then this would be a good alternative.
On the other hand if you have the right frame of mind, looking after your soil and the soil food web then nature will work for you controlling the diseases giving you healthy plants with crops of nutritional density.
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Winter can be a tough time for plants that grow in containers either outside or indoors, unless you take some special care of them.
Before we look at the problems these plants face, let us consider the difference between plants growing in the garden and the ones in containers.
Garden plants have nature to look after them, sunlight, rain and the soil provide for their basic needs.
It is only during times of low rainfall that you need to assist in keeping them alive with regular watering.
There are other functions that you provide such as preventing them from choking out each other with a bit of pruning, removal of competing plants (weeds), staking against damage from wind and providing extra nourishment as need be.
By in large most of the time plants in the garden can fend for themselves with what nature and the weather provides.
When we take a plant and place it into a container, we become very responsible for its well being.
Outdoor container mixes can dry out quickly during the summer and daily or even twice daily watering maybe needed.
During wet times we need to ensure that the outdoor container plants have free drainage if they are rained on. This means removing any saucers and raising the containers off the ground with a couple of slats of wood.
Over the next few months, without rain, you are likely to be only giving those containers an occasional light watering, maybe once or twice a week.
Indoor plants are much more dependent on your care as they have a harder life because many of them are living in a space where there is no natural overhead light.
In most homes, light comes only through windows and dependent on which direction a window faces will determine the amount of light the plant receives. Windows facing north obtain the most direct light where east and west facing windows are likely to receive only half as much direct light in a day.
South facing windows receive little if any direct light from the sun. These same rooms will be the coolest or coldest rooms in the house dependent on the time of the year.
A plant sitting in front of a window facing either west, north or east will receive very good light in summer and only a fraction of that in winter. If you have a sun screen curtain across the window, you have reduced the amount of light the plant receives by half. Move a plant a metre or more away from a window then the amount of direct light drops off considerably.
The further away the less light which then becomes reflected light off other surfaces.
You likely have seen plants that are stretching towards the window to gain more light, becoming ungainly and weak.
There are many different types of house plants, each type having different requirement for the amount of light they receive.
A general rule of thumb is that plants with the largest leaves will survive better in lessor light situations compared to smaller leaf plants.
Most flowering plants require plenty of direct light to be able to produce buds and have those buds open.
If you have an indoor flowering plant and it either does not produce flower buds or the buds fail to open, falling off after forming, then the plant is telling you it needs more light.
In winter the light situation becomes even worse for indoor plants. The hours of natural light are shorter as the sun is at a lower position in relation to the horizon. Plants need light to grow and as the amount of light decreases so their growth slows or stops.
Indoor plants do receive a bit of extra light from us when we turn the light switch on after dusk.
If we are using the power saving lights, then the type of light the plants receive is a little better suited to their requirements when compared to the incandescent lights.
When indoor plants are receiving less light their needs for moisture greatly reduces.
This is a key point at this time of the year and one of the main causes of plants dying.
Wet potting mix in cool weather means root rots, which cause leaves to fall and likely a loss eventually of that plant.
So in winter you must be very careful with your watering of indoor plants.
You need to check every plant every few days and basically only give them a little drink when the foliage starts to droop through lack of moisture. (Beware also that plants that are too wet will also have drooping foliage and to give them more water is likely to be fatal.)
Plant food is not needed for house plants at this time of the year unless they are flowering or still actively growing. Wait till the plants start showing signs of new growth in the spring before you start to feed again.
Avoid re potting into larger containers in winter as this also can cause wet feet till the roots once again fill the container.
You are the care giver of your container plants both indoors and outside so be aware of their needs and look after them accordingly.
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Bryophytes and Embryophytes are the botanical names given to mosses, lichen, liverworts, hornworts, molds, algae and slimes. These are what one could label primate plant-like forms which were the first land type plants on the planet, millions of years ago.
It was as a result of these primitive plant forms that began the process of building soils from rocks split and powdered by the action of water and ice.
Members of this diverse plant family are found all over the world, many growing in places where no other types of plants could grow, so in a sense they are still creating growing conditions for higher plant forms to grow.
Many bryophytes are very attractive with feather or fern like structures where others look more like something from a alien landscape.
When bryophytes grow in places we do not want them to grow they become a nuisance just like weeds.
Lichen and liverworts appear to be able to grow on most surfaces including glass, public footpaths, fences and roof tiles which are favorite spots for them. Vertical glass is difficult for them but glass roofs of glasshouses are not.
Algae and mosses growing on paths make for a slippery condition when wet and dangerous to those that can occur serious injury if they slip and fall.
Lichens that colonise on the trunks and branches of plants and trees look unsightly and can lead to rots and losses.
Mosses growing in lawns are another annoyance, not only making the lawn unsightly but also suffocating our preferred grasses.
More often than not, wherever bryophytes appear, it means a war to eradicate and control. When action is not taken they prolificate, spreading out to cause more harm.
Bryophytes cannot be controlled easily by scrapping off, as residues will be left that allow them to re-establish.
In lawns so gardeners resort to sulphate of iron to burn off mosses, which is only a very temporary fix as the acidity of the iron only burns off the top of the moss, allowing it to re-establish again fairly quickly.
There are various products advertised to clean up bryophytes such as ones that are sprayed on, then left for weathering to remove. Many of these are fairly expensive and bryophytes are like ants, you can never eradicate them as they will always come back .
Bryophytes multiply by spores of which they create vast numbers, carried by water and air they will always return.
Some years back a chemical called benzalkonium chloride, which was used in the medical industry for sterilizing instruments, was discovered to be a boon in the control of bryophytes without harming other plants.
Benzalkonium chloride is an interesting chemical been an aqueous solution and used as a detergent, fungicide, bactericide, and spermicide. It is still widely used in mild solutions for eye-washes, hand and face washes, mouthwashes, spermicidal creams, and in various other cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants, though there are some concerns on its safety as it can be a irritant, even in mild doses and very much so in stronger solutions.
The first product to use benzalkonium for the control of mosses etc was Surrender and the writer picked up on this many years ago and introduced its use to gardeners in Palmerston North though the garden centre I was operating at that time. It became very popular but was only available in the commercial pack of one litre.
I convinced Yates NZ to market the product for New Zealand gardeners, at which time it became available in 200 ml bottles. A ‘me-two’ product emerged with the same formulation called Yield and McGregors came out with McGregors Yield Moss Control also in a 200 ml bottle at a more competitive price.
These proved very popular and effective resulting in other chemical controls on the market, for the home garden to disappear.
Over the following years these brands of the chemical benzalkonium have become fairly expensive leading to complaints from gardeners as to their cost effectiveness.
The products are formulated at 500g / litre benzalkonium chloride in the form of a soluble concentrate and used at the rates of 25 to 50 mls per litres of water making the 200 ml bottle only able to produce between 4 to 8 litres of spray.
Not a lot if you have a big area to cover and the need to re-apply when the problems reappear.
Many mosses and liverworts need the 50 mls per litre dosage to have effective control where some other bryophytes such as lichen and algae can be controlled successfully at rates of 10 to 20 mls per litre.
Unfortunately the strength of only 10 to 20 mls for lichen and algae information is not always made available and gardeners can waste product using unnecessarily at the higher rates on these easier to control bryophytes.
Another brand is available from some garden centres using the same formulation and called Moss and Liverwort Control. Available in both 200 ml and 500 ml containers making it more affordable in comparison to the previous brands.
Another interesting aspect is that the chemical benzalkonium chloride is a track able chemical by ERMA which does not affect the home garden market in quantities of up to 1 litre.
But if a gardener has in storage over 1 litre of the concentrate then they must by law have a handler’s licence.
This is obtained by sitting a one day agrichemical course and passing.
I congratulate ERMA in taking tighter controls on agricultural chemicals which is in the interest of us all and the environment.
The new regulations also means that more safety information must be on the labels of many chemicals, which should help users to be more careful while handling and using.
Moss and Liverwort Control’s labels has all the new requirements for safety which at first glance may give the user concerns about using the product. This is good in actual fact as more care is likely to be taken and a great advantage to the user as you would certainly not want to get a splash of the concentrate (or the diluted product) in your eyes.
By wearing rubber or latex gloves, gum boots, protective waterproof clothing, eye protection and a spraying mask while mixing with water and spraying should keep you nicely safe. One of the great advantages of this product is that you can safely spray it over other plants without harming them but to be sure of this, it is advised that you should water the preferred plant’s foliage with the hose, 30 minutes after spraying. It only takes 30 minutes for Moss and Liverwort Control to get into the target bryophyte and do its job. If it rains or you water after that time the product will not be deactivated.
When using the product adjust your spray nozzle away from a mist to more of a jet as it needs a bit of force to get into the bryophyte. The product is systemic as it goes right through the bryophyte killing it completely and often making the target area difficult for re-establishment for sometime.
The product must not be mixed with other sprays to avoid chemical reactions but other sprays can be applied to the target area later. For instance if you have moss in a lawn; firstly spray with Moss and Liverwort Control and next day a lawn herbicide and Thatch Busta could be applied, mixed together. The Thatch Busta will also help clean up the material left behind by the dead moss.
Once sprayed and the area lightly watered 30 plus minutes later the re-entry of children, pets or wild life can be allowed. The product can be used indoors in the weaker solutions to control molds in showers, on the backs of curtains etc.
With the right knowledge and precautions applied, makes this product very efficient and safe to use.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
So often, grass grubs are blamed when patches of grass turn brown which could be the case.
The grass could be browning up for several reasons, including dry spot and porina. It doesn’t make economic sense to go out and buy a treatment for a specific problem until it has been positively identified.
You can make an intelligent guess on your brown patches by knowing a little about the life cycle of the grass grub.
Those grass grubs which hatch from their eggs 200mm or so deep in the soil in January will start feeding on roots at that level. If this happens during a dry period, the hatchlings will stop eating and will head into summer dormancy until such time as the soil becomes moist again – which is sometimes not until autumn. So brown patches appearing at this time are more likely to be dry spot. Once the soil becomes moist again, the grubs will start eating the roots of the grasses at those lower levels within the soil, and will continue eating their way to the surface.
It might be that they only get to eat most of the grass’s roots in the period from May to July, by which time the weather is cool to cold, and there is plenty of moisture around, both in the soil and in the foliage. This means that the grass, which may have little of their root systems left, will still look reasonable. A practiced eye, however, would be able to tell that the lawn was in a state of partial stress.
Having passed through their 3rd instar (development stage of the larva), the grubs then burrow down into the soil to enter what’s called their prepupal stage (when they empty their gut and become flaccid) before pupating about 100-250mm under the surface of the soil. Later in the year, they’ll emerge as beetles.
The problem of dead patches will arise when the grasses battle to grow again in the spring because their roots are long gone. The new foliage doesn’t receive sufficient food or moisture from the reduced root system - so the grasses fail and turn brown. And yes, while it was certainly grass grub which caused the problem; but as they are pupating well beneath the surface and there’s no way in the world you are going to kill them then without digging over the lawn and letting the birds eat the cocoons.
So you see how easy it is for gardeners to be sucked into spending their money on treatment for grass grub when it is very possible it won’t work as there is no grubs to kill.
My recommendation to those who believe they have a grass grub problem is this.
First, lift some turf at various parts of the lawn and see if you can see any white grubs. They look a little like small, whitish caterpillars and they curl up when exposed.
To lift the turf, simply take a sharp-bladed spade and cut a square in the lawn, about 4 to 6cm deep, with the sides being the width of the spade’s blade. Under the final cut, slide the spade into a horizontal position and lift the square of grass. Examine the area you have uncovered, and the earth on the underside of the square you have removed. Don’t worry unduly if you find the odd grass grub, and if that’s the case, don’t bother to treat the lawn.
If, however, you find a number of grubs, then put the square of lawn back and launch into a treatment programme. By lifting a number of squares over a lawn, spacing these apart in a grid formation, you’ll find out what areas are worst infested.
This process won’t harm your lawn, and the squares can easily be stamped back into place to make them level with the rest of the lawn. It is important, however, to make sure the soil is moist (but not too wet) and not dry when you lift the squares. If the soil is very dry, the grubs will be too deep down to spot.
It’s worth paying particular attention to areas of your lawn where there has historically been a problem with grass grubs, and areas which are exposed to light at night. You will need to decide on a suitable treatment in the event of finding areas of lawn with real grub problems.
Grass grubs can also be dealt to using natural controls. Birds and hedgehogs will work the lawn where they find grass grubs near the surface. Flocks of birds ripping your lawn to bits is a very good indication that they are after some protein. (grubs)
It is possible to control the pests in pasture and on playing fields by using heavy rollers in areas where the grubs are near the surface and the soil is moist. In those conditions, the rollers will crush the pests. Some farmers use their cattle in a similar manner, by over-stocking the paddock and using the animals’ weight to crush the grubs.
A safe to use spray is Professor Mac's 3 in 1 for Lawns. You attach your hose to the 2 litre container and spray the lawn with the water and contents. The active ingredients are Eucalyptus oil and Tea Tree oil along with natural plant foods in the form of manures and seaweed/fish extracts plus a wetting agent.
Safe for children, pets and wild life. The 2 litre container will treat 100 square Metres.
There is another product on the market for lawn pests that also snaps on the hose using the chemical, Imidacloprid (Confidor).
This product is extremely harmful to bees and lasts for a long time in the soil and plants and can effect bees visiting any weeds that flower in the lawn for weeks later..
Gardeners who don’t mind using a chemical, and who don’t have children or pets using the lawn, are able to do what many green keepers do, and that is to use Pyrifos G or called Lawn Pest Control. These are prills which are spread at the rate of 2 grams per square metre, using a lawn spreader for even coverage. The product should be applied either just before rain, or it should be well watered in to increase its efficacy. The 500 gram pack covers 250 Square Metres and gives control for about 6 weeks without harming bees.
One of the best ways to control grass grub problems is to get at the beetles when they are in flight in early summer using a light trap
It’s not worth treating the grubs themselves with any of the methods mentioned unless you have found them in larger numbers. And always remember to take particular care if using a chemical control method.
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We are now just about 7 weeks from the shortest day and very nearly half way through the calender year. This is the time to tidy up outside, remove spent plants to the compost; or if you have no compost bin then lay them on the soil and nature will do the rest.
A few months ago I purchased a tumbler compost device which has this barrel shaped container on a pivot so that you can turn it 180 degrees every day or two.
There are lids at either end that you remove to place material into it.
My main intention was to use it to decompose my dog's droppings.
To facilitate this I also add spent compost, kitchen scrapes and plants that have finished for the season.
Having ample tiger worms I have also thrown them in to help with the breakdown.
It works a treat and a great way to re-cycle animal droppings which later on I will add to raised gardens or use as a mulch over my gardens.
Leaf fall is starting to happen about now and recently I was asked to supply a reader the information about converting autumn leaves to leaf mold.
There are two processes you can use with one being faster than the other.
Collect fallen leaves and stuff them into a black plastic rubbish bag after spraying them with either Thatch Busta or Mycorrcin. When the bag is full tie it off and then punch small holes all over the bag using a very small screwdriver or nail.
Toss the bag somewhere out of sight but in a place where it will be heated by the sun for part of the day.
Every month or so pick up the bag and shake it and lay it down again with the previously underside facing upwards.
In about a year or sooner you will have a nice pile of leaf mold.
The alternative is to lay the fallen leaves on the lawn, where it does not matter and run over them with a rotary mower collecting the cut up leaves in the catcher.
Spray them as described above before stuffing them into the bag. They will break down faster and likely have good leaf mold next summer.
May is also the month to sort out your strawberries.
If you have allowed the runners to root into the soil you will have a crop of new plants which you can either use to replace old plants or replace plants that did not produce well this last season.
Any spares left over can be given to family or friends.
I have my strawberries in troughs suspended on a fence and they have grown well with lots of runners dependent on variety. (I have about 7 varieties including one new one, Albion which produced very large sweet berries and another old variety called Red Gauntlet which did very poorly)
I think it will be out with the old and in with the new. I also learnt from a reader that using my Secret Tomato Food for the strawberries along with regular sprays of Mycorrcin produces extra large juicy strawberries and according to the reader bigger than apricots.
I took the advise and gave a feed of the tomato food towards the end of the season and was surprised at the size of some of the fruit which were just about too big to put in your mouth.
If you have strawberries in containers or troughs then lift them out and place fresh compost and manures under them. The same can be done on open ground ones making fresh mounds to plant back in either existing plants or the new runners.
Don’t forget to use the Mycorrcin as a spray 2 weekly it does increase your crop potential by 200 to 400%.
There are some interesting things currently happening overseas which will have positive effects in New Zealand in time to come.
Monsanto the worlds biggest GMO company is pulling out all its new applications to grow GE crops in Europe as consumers do not want 'Frankenstein' foods.
Instead they are going to concentrate back into the USA where even there there are changes in the wind.
It the USA there is no mandatory labeling of food stuffs which contain GMO's and Monsanto and the Grocery Manufactures Association have been spending millions on advertising to prevent Americans from knowing what is in their food.
Referendums in California and in Washington states have been narrowly defeated by 70 million dollars worth of advertising.
Vermont is the first state to pass their H 112 bill for compulsory labeling of GMO's in food sold in that state.. Several other states are also in the process of passing similar bills.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is a multi-billion lobbying group representing more than 300 food, pesticide and drug makers, are trying to pass their “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014,” introduced recently by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), intended to strip Vermont, and all other states, of their right to pass GMO labeling laws.
It is expected that Congress will not pass this law, dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, which seeks to deny consumers the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered, and deny states the right to enact laws designed to protect public health.
How bad is that?
It only takes a couple of States to pass legislation in regards to labeling then manufactures will have to label all their products for all states about the GM content or change to non GE ingredients.
GE farmers will not likely be able to sell their products as a result and a great reason to keep our own country completely free of Ge and GMO products.
The other bad news for Monsanto is the peer reviewed studies that link Roundup to numerous health problems some studies saying that Roundup is a far worse chemical than DDT.
Also pro-GMO scientists have started to have their past studies reviewed and thrown out as being inaccurate. (Companies such as Monsanto presumably pay scientists and Universities to produce results that they want)
Agricultural chemicals are progressively making their way into your body whether you are trying to avoid them or not, according to several recent studies in the US and Canada. A prime offender is glyphosate, the main toxic ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup.
Glyphosate is both an herbicide and a pesticide. Multiple scientific findings suggest that Monsanto and global regulatory bodies have been wrong about the lack of bio accumulation of glyphosate-based agricultural chemicals.
This also applies to our own food chain in New Zealand from conventional farming.
Toxic Herbicides Now Common in Pregnant Women’s Breast Milk, Placentas, and Umbilical Cords is the title of an article by a Dr. Mercola. (USA)
Is it any wonder that many babies have health issues never seen in such numbers in the past, overseas and here in New Zealand?
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Now that the rains have moistened up the soil in many areas, it is the right time to sow new lawns, patch up or over-sow existing lawns, to thicken up the grasses.
If you want a really nice lawn you must have top quality lawn seed.
Some garden centres do have excellent lawn seed mixes which they, more often than not, obtain from the same sources that supply green keepers.
If you don't want a really nice lawn preferring a green area that covers a area of bare soil that you mow short the least number of times a year as possible, then buy any cheap seed and sow it.
For those that are more discerning and do want a great looking lawn which is a lovely green carpet, then you are on a mission to get the best seed possible.
There is an alternative, and that is to buy instant lawn which comes in strips, which you lay on a prepared area. I did that some years ago where I had a small area that I wanted a really great lawn for show. I checked out the instant lawn people and selected a pure fescue type which was stunning. Seeds are certainly cheaper but if you don't end up with the lawn you prefer then the ready to lay lawns are good value.
There is less work with a instant lawn, it can be laid by the supplier or yourself and then its just a matter of ensuring adequate moisture and a bit of food.
If you going to sow a lawn or do some patching (with patching make sure you have the same seed mix as the rest of the lawn in that area) then you need to ensure that any weed seeds in the area have sprouted and been removed first.
The best value lawn seeds are uncoated simply because seeds are sold by the kilo and if you have a coating on a seed that weighs as much as the seed (or more) you are getting far less seed than uncoated.
Every seed is a prospective plant, the more grass plants in a given area makes for a better lawn, thicker and less chance of weeds establishing later.
I always note with amused interest, that both uncoated and coated lawn seeds have a recommendation of 1 kilo to do about 33 square metres. Yet with the coated seeds you have about half or less, seeds in a kilo. Why the coating? Reasons often stated are, bird repellent (doesn't work) fertiliser, fungus control, pesticide and moisture retention.
The coating may be for one or more of these aspects. Green Keepers say, ‘You treat the problem (if there is one) Not the seed’. So the coating does not serve any great purpose other than to give you less seeds for your money. Very seldom would you find a green keeper buying and using coated lawn seed and they are the experts.
Once you have found a good, suitable lawn seed, but not sure of its viability (germination percentage), take a small amount of the seed and sprinkle onto some potting mix in a seedling punnet. Sprinkle a little more potting mix to just cover and wet down the mix. Place a meat tray under the punnet and keep the unit moist. Place on a windowsill above the kitchen sink (or similar) so you can keep an eye on it.
Then sow the rest of the seed outside, where required. Now if you find that the seeds outside don't do well and your punnet does better then you have not looked after the new seeds outside right. If you get a poor strike in both punnet and outside then likely the seed is faulty and you should return the packets to the supplier and ask for a refund. If you use new potting mix in the punnet and you get weeds germinating amongst the grasses you also have a reason for complaint.
If I was going to sow a new lawn I would broadcast the seeds, then sprinkle Gypsum over the area, mixed half and half with sharp sand, (plasters sand) to cover the bare seed. Next I would drench the area with MBL (Magic Botanic Liquid) mixed with water at the rate of 20ml per litre of water. These natural products will greatly assist and speed up germination.
If birds were a problem (after sowing) I would place some Bird Repeller Ribbon over the area. The area would be lightly watered with a hose once or twice a day if it did not rain. After the grasses were established and had the first mowing then I would give the area a light feed with a slow release fertiliser such as Bio-Boost.
If you are wanting to thicken up your existing lawn then the best way to do it is to hire a scarifier and cut the grooves in the lawn (as well as lift the thatch) north/south, east/west (mow the lawn first). Then broadcast your new lawn seeds with Gypsum. Water to settle in seeds or use MBL in a watering can to do the same. Roll the lawn with a hire roller to press seeds into the soil and grooves. Keep the area moist.
For general care of existing lawns you should check the lawn for weeds, thatch and moss. If there are a number of weeds, you can either spot spray them or use a lawnboy to do the whole lawn. Use a suitable spray for the types of weeds found.
Add Thatch Busta to the spray to remove thatch at the same time or if there is thatch in the lawn just use the product on its own. Thatch is the debris that builds up in a lawn on the surface of the soil and makes for bad drainage, moss and diseases if not cleared.
Thatch Busta is a easy to use product that you just spray over the lawn at 100 mls to 10 litres of water to cover 100 sqM. It stimulates the natural micro-organisms to eat up the thatch, converting it to food for the grasses. It will eat up to an inch of thatch in a month.
The best lawns are obtained from sowing top quality lawn seed, never mowed low, fed with slow release foods, de-thatched spring and autumn, cultivated to form a dense mat of fine grasses that make it difficult for weeds to establish.
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The autumn rains have started at last, bringing much needed relief to parched gardens in much of the country.
It has been a crazy season for gardeners in many areas and due likely as a result of the changing climate.
What we once considered normal and took for granted can no longer be relied on.
Weather events that only happened occasionally such as once in a hundred years have started to happen in more regular cycles. It was only a few years ago that scientists were telling us that climate problems were emerging, which in the next 100 years, would be devastating. The speed of the problems are increasing at such a rate, that we are already experiencing global events, never before seen in such proportions during anyone’s life time.
Oceans rising, storm surges; are not familiar words from the past and obviously with a rise of a metre level in oceans along with a storm surge will leave coastal and riverside properties worthless.
The answer to reduce the problem is very simple but not in the interests of money making multinational and national companies.
Humus in soils can store large amounts of carbon, up to 50-300 tonnes per hectare, which is equivalent to 180-1100 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is called Carbon Sequestering.
Humus stores or sequesters carbon for decades, or even centuries. Imagine if farmers started cultivating their soils to create humus rather than to destroy it? What a difference it would make to their income and the health of the country?
Each week I receive a newsletter from a organic farmer namely, John who has a block of 'paradise' land in Taranaki called Avonstour Organic Heritage Farm. (Look it up on the net)
In his latest newsletter he said; 'We are real dry in the back country against new Plymouth but once I got out of Hawera toward Wanganui it was supper dry even the saved grass paddocks and the side of the roads just a few broken sticks of seeded grass standing. No wonder the price of hay has gone though the roof. The problem will get worse in winter as the grass wont have time to grow so I’m real happy we fallow farm and have grass and feed in bulk.'
Fallow Farm? I know the principal in so much as you leave one seventh of your land fallow for a year but was not sure what this did in a farming sense so I emailed John and asked.
His reply was,
We Sabbatical fallow farm .....we shut up 1/7th of the farm for 12 months usually at the shortest day when feed is short and then we use it like standing hay.
This naturally balances the soil ,,suppresses weeds ,,gives more and better topsoil, retains water in the humus layer to give better growth.
The seed formed is the best grasses for our soil and farm .
It powers fallow land to grow well for 7 years.
The biggest thing is livestock health we never have a vet here (Well only to castrate a horse or two )
Conventional farmers cant say that as they spend a fortune on Vets.
My research on the internet found:
'Farmers who defy economic logic and leave their lands fallow for the Shmita (agricultural sabbatical) year. According to the Torah (Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:1-7 and Leviticus 25:18-24), every seventh year, must remain fallow. Agricultural work is prohibited, especially sowing, pruning, plowing and harvesting.
Sabbatical fallowing is written about in the Bible, Koran, Torah and other historical documents as the main method used thousands of years ago to retain and build up fertility in soils.
Its still very popular in many parts of the world and is used in many countries changing over to organics.
The method entails each year shutting up a different 7th of your farm from Spring right through to late winter / early spring when it can be trampled and eaten off.
The paddocks grow up to an outsiders eye like an untidy, uncut, Hay paddock, then composts and decomposes, its about 11 tonne a hectare of organic compost that feeds the worms and increases microbial activity, improves soil structure, increases soil aeration, drainage & water holding capacity. The Pastures root density & depth of penetration is improved. Due to additional food supplies earthworm numbers increase which enhances the rate of nutrient cycling.
We have observed much larger numbers of earthworms high up in the soil feeding during very heavy frosts. We have found Sabbatical fallowing enhances trace elements and fertility, increases nitrogen accumulation and conservation, gives a new covering of seeds and organic matter and gives the paddocks a rest too !
"You end up with a rich, biologically active, deep humus layer over the blocks." It gives you a HUGE feed bank of standing hay for the winter. The paddocks perform much better in Droughts and drain better in wet conditions.
Another very valid point is humus can hold 90% of its weight in water.
That is a incredible reservoir of water in the soil, available for plants as they need it.
(Thousands of litres per hectare)
Farmers like John laugh during drought times as their water is stored where wind and sun cant evaporate it. This makes the storage of water in dams or open reservoirs for irrigation a joke and a waste of money.
Change the soil husbandry and solve the problem of droughts.
Coming back to your garden and section you may not have sufficient land or gardens to leave a seventh of the land fallow but you can still use many of the principals to achieve a great garden soil that is full of humus.
Mulching of organic material, straw, weeds, fodder crops will build better soils.
Supply ample calcium in the form of garden lime, gypsum and dolomite.
Drench the soil with Magic Botanic Liquid and Mycorrcin, 3 monthly to start with and 6 monthly later on.
Sprinkle Rok Solid and BioPhos over garden areas. Do not use chemical fertilisers and chlorinated water on your gardens.
When you get your soil right you too will laugh at droughts and help with global climate change.
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The first frosts are likely to strike at any time in frost prone areas. Some of you may have already had a frost or two so far.
There are a few things you can do to offset damage to frost sensitive plants and assist cropping plants to keep on going a bit longer for better returns.
First of all you can spray sensitive plants with Vaporgard which is very simple to use; mix 15 mls per litre of warm water and then spray over plants for a good coverage. Vaporgard is a natural product that provides a long lasting (2-3 months, longer in winter) film over the foliage which protects down to –3 degrees C.
New growth requires further applications but as there is very little growth through winter, this is not needed till the spring.
Note; for the full protection that Vaporgard can give against frost and chilly wind damage comes into effect in about 3 days from application.
Putting on frost cloth and taking it off is a chore and more often or not, one either forgets or you get caught out. Vaporgard overcomes these problems and becomes an all winter, first line of defense against the chills.
In areas where there are harder frosts than –3 you will still need the extra protection such as the traditional frost cloth (Good quality frost cloth protects down to –5), combine the two together and you will have increased protection. Note, several frosts in a row will result in damage still unless you use frost cloth as well as Vaporgard..
You can further harden up plants by sprinkling potash over the area where the roots of plants are.
This can be combined with magnesium to keep foliage green through the winter.
The two are found together in the product, Fruit and Flower Power.
Weeds taken care of now, before they reseed, will reduce problems in the coming spring.
Though I am not a fan of chemical weed killers sometimes they are the quick and easy way to control the more difficult weeds.
A few gardeners recently have complained about suckers coming up in their gardens after a tree has been removed.
Some trees create lots of suckers from the still alive roots which will send up saplings to keep themselves alive.
The first answer to the problem is prevention by ring barking a tree first, that you intend to fell.
This allows both the top and the roots to die and once that has happened then you can cut down the tree.
It does not always work and if suckers start to appear from the old root system then my suggestion is to mix Roundup and Woodyweed killer together with Raingard added and paint this onto every sucker that appears. It may take sometime but in the end you should win.
Oxalis is a bulb that throws up a set of leaves, gains energy from the sun and produces hundreds of bulblets or baby bulbs.
If you take a heaped tablespoon of baking soda and add it to a litre of warm water, stir to dissolve, then add one mil of Raingard, you have made a potent foliage dehydrator of oxalis.
This spray does not harm other types of plants and can help with powdery mildew and black spot prevention..
You need to spray this formula over the oxalis foliage on a sunny day when the ground is on the dry side causing the leaves of the oxalis to shrivel and die.
It will not kill the bulb which will then produce another set of leaves. As soon as these appear you either apply the same solution or cut them off at ground level.
If done quickly enough at the emergence of the new leaves the bulb has not gained energy but has been weakened. Again it will try to produce leaves which should be quickly removed.
At some point of time the bulb does not have any more energy left to produce foliage and it rots in the soil. Goodbye oxalis.
There is a further aspect to the oxalis problem and that is all the baby bulbs attached to the now dead parent, if you disturb the soil you will bring these babies nearer to the surface where they will also produce leaves to start a bigger problem. What you need to do is cover the soil with a layer of compost and plant any new seedlings into this layer. This action further buries your oxalis problem.
Do not disturb the soil and when your flowers or vegetables are finished or harvested, just cut them off at ground level and cover the area with more compost. Simple and effective.
Wandering jew. Go to a grocery wholesaler such as Toops or Bin Inn and buy a 25 kilo bag of table salt, which will cost you between $10 to $15.00. Broadcast the salt over the area where the wandering jew is growing, its cheap, so throw it on.
You will find that the weed dies off leaving bare ground. Some new emergence will then occur and you spot treat these with a handful of salt. Later rake the area to remove the stubble and then you can lime the area and apply Magic Botanic Liquid to bring the soil back for planting up in a preferred plants.
If you have other plants growing in the area they will likely die also but well established trees and shrubs should not be unduly affected. Now $15.00 worth of salt goes a long way and is cheaper than a little bottle of chemical weedkiller for $30 which does not go far. If you have pavers/cobbles and weeds growing in the cracks just sprinkle some of your salt.
Another one is sulphate of ammonia which burns out weeds. I have used this on low weeds growing in a gravel drive. Sprinkled the sulphate of ammonia over them and they brown off and die.. Ideally you should lightly water the weeds about an hour prior to applying the sulphate of ammonia so there is a little moisture to start the burning action. The advantage of sulphate of ammonia is a short residue period, unlike table salt which is much longer.
In your kitchen you already have a couple of neat, environmentally friendly weed killers, vinegar and cooking oil. These can be sprayed over the foliage of weeds on a sunny day when the ground is on the dry side to burn off the weeds. Add dish washing soap to the oil so it mixes with the water.
Dependent on the type of weed you can dilute either of the two products with water to make them go further and be more economical. You need to experiment a bit to find out what dilution rate works best for each type of weed.
Once again buying either a cheap cooking oil or vinegar in bulk, works out very economically on the purse and you are doing far less damage to the environment or your own personal health.
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I am often asked, 'how do you work out what you are going to write about each week?'
There are 3 sources that I use; if something interesting occurs while I am tending my gardens and plants sometimes this can lead to an article.
If I get stuck then its a matter of looking back over the last 30 years of articles for ones written at that time of the year, to promote a new article.
Thirdly and the most used, happens because someone contacted me during the week with a gardening problem or a gardening solution and that is the beginnings of a new article.
This last week is no exception as two very interesting conversations transpired, one of which will very likely lead to a new natural way of controlling insect pests; there will more about this in the future.
The other was from an 80 year old lady who now is unable to do much in her well established gardens so she has a chap come in to do the manual bits.
The problem is a very old rose bed with about 20 very old roses.
The bed has become a problem because of oxalis and convolvulus, these two weeds have taken over and ruined the rose garden.
The question put to me was if the roses were pulled out and the soil removed (with the weeds) and new tops soil placed in the bed could grass be sown successfully and change the area back to lawn. .
I agreed it would work but also involved a lot of work and expense which likely both are not an easy option.
The removal of the soil and replacement would not likely make the area weed free so you can forget about that.
The area could be treated with herbicides to kill the oxalis and convolvulus but once again an expense and a long term program to ensure the offending weeds were cleared out.
The easy solution would be to remove the roses, rake out the bed and sow the new grass seed.
This would mean the weeds and grass would be in competition but the lawn mower would keep them at bay.
The next question would be about the roses and what happens to them?
The lady said they would have to be dumped as they likely would be carrying weed bulbs and bits in their root systems.
My immediate thoughts were; here are 20 odd roses likely 40 years old, varieties that may be rare and they are going to the tip.
I am sure there would be gardeners out there that would love to have one or more of these old specimens and all that needs to be done is to lift them in winter, wash the root system clean, then replant in a new home.
I know of two very active rose societies within 'cooee' of her residence so I suggested that she phone the President and see if there are society members happy to come in, lift the roses and take them home.
Seeing that the roses are for free they could also prepare the area for sowing lawn seed.
I asked if she would be sad to lose all her roses and the answer was yes, so I said why not pot up the ones she liked?
I was asked if this could be done because she had two or three favorites.
My reply was no problem and if a rose society was involved they could lift the roses she would like to keep and pot them up into the containers which she supplied.
The moving of the roses would be done about June, the canes cut back and then the roses roots cut with a spade so they could be wrenched.
The root system washed clean and most importantly kept moist till replanted.
The containers to plant them in would have to be at least 45 litres or larger and potted up using purchased compost which is weed free. My recommendation is to use Oderings or Daltons Compost.
Hopefully my suggestions will work out and well within the Lady's budget.
If you are moving deciduous plants such as roses or fruit trees the best time to do this is in winter when they are dormant.
You can start preparing to move at this time by cutting to the depth of about two spades a half circle out about 30cm or more from the trunk leaving an open trench.. This will cut a lot of roots and the cut roots will start to side root, making for a whole bunch of new roots.
In winter the other half of the circle would be cut and the plant lifted.
This makes for a better transplant.
With evergreen plants this can also be applied but because the plants are always in leaf it also pays to remove some total branches to open up the plant.
Less top growth takes less stress on the damaged root system.
Both these actions can be done between now and winter when the final lifting will occur.
On evergreen plants another action should be taken and that is to spray the foliage all over with Vaporgard about a week before lifting. This reduces moisture loss and takes a lot of stress off the plant's move.
Now is also about the right time to spray your more tender plants with Vaporgard to give them winter protection.
One spray lasts for about three months giving down to minus 3 frost protection within 3 days of spraying.
Vaporgard works well to prevent damage from winter's chills and the occasional frost.
If there are two or more frosts in a row then additional protection is needed to allow the cells to heal before being hit again.
If you are going to transplant seedlings a spray over their foliage with Vaporgard a couple of days before moving will make the world of difference to the establishment.
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I love roasted parsnips and decided this season to grow a crop in one of my raised gardens.
Parsnips are difficult to germinate from seed for two reasons, the seed has to be very fresh and the older the seed (over 12 months old) may not have a good strike rate.
The seed needs plenty of moisture to germinate so you need to keep the area damp.
The purchased seed packet gave me about a 25% strike rate which was not too bad from packet seed that is likely to be a lot older than 12 months.
This week as I was watering the patch and admiring the strong foliage of the parsnips I remembered an article I wrote about 5 years ago about the danger of parsnips and a number of other plants.
Now is a good time to re-visit that article for those that may not be aware of this problem and end up suffering as a result.
The following is the tale of a keen gardener who wrote to me and promoted the article:
‘I thought you might be interested in my sorry little tale of a vegetable attack.
I Put in a couple of double rows of Parsnips this year - for a change, and for our winter needs.
Read in a gardening article once, that if their tops get too big its OK to cut them back a bit if they interfere with your other vegetables.
So about a week ago, - on a very hot day, in shorts and jandals, and with bare arms - I gave them a short back and sides with a pairs of hand shears.
Took off two barrow loads of leaf cuttings.
Two days latter I'm starting to look like the lead part in the movie "Return of the Monster from the Toxic Waste Dump".
Both legs and arms are covered with severe red burns and large blisters, some as big as ten cent coins. A trip to the doctor confirms that it's what he calls "Wild Parsnip Burn". A fairly distressing and painful business that requires medication and some time for the skin to heal. And it can take years to get rid of the nasty red and purple scars.
The problem seems to be, that contrary to inference there's really no difference between the so-called "wild" and the "garden" parsnip - i.e. pastinaca sativa - and this kind of nasty burn can happen to anyone.
Nearly all of my older gardening friends have never heard of this problem before and were quite surprised.
Must admit I've grown parsnips before without any problems, but then I've never trimmed them back quite like this before.
So thought I'd just remind you of this little known danger of parsnips, - just in case you ever feel the urge to write an article on "The Dangers of Growing Vegetables"
Best Regards, Stuart Rae.’
I had never heard of this previously but were aware of things such as stinging nettle which can be irritating when handled. Also Primula Obconica a lovely flowering plant which a number of people can have a reaction to if handled with bare hands.
The juice or sap from parsnips causes photochemical burn.
The plants are not a threat unless you cut into the green parts and get the juice on your skin.
There is no immediate effect when you get the juice on your skin. But, if the skin is exposed to the sun, the burning starts to happen about a day later, and the skin will actually blister. If you got a lot of the stuff on your skin, you could have some pretty serious and painful burns.
The scars can last up to 2 years.
To investigate the matter further I looked up ‘Photochemical Burn’ and found that the following plants and vegetables can cause the same problem.
Family Genus: Species: Common Names: Main Compounds
Umbelliferae : Amni majus: Queen Anne's lace, Bishop's weed: 8-methoxypsoralen (8-MOP), 5-methoxypsoralen (5-MOP), imperatorin
Heracleum sphondylium: Cow parsnip: 8-MOP, 5-MOP, imperatorin, phellopterin
Pastinaca sativa: Parsnip: 8-MOP, 5-MOP, imperatorin, isopimpinellin
Apium graveolens: Celery: Psoralens, 8-MOP, 5-MOP
Rutaceae: Citrus: bergamia: Bergamot lime: 5-MOP
Citrus: maxima: Zabon: 5-MOP
Dictamnus: albus: Gas plant: 8-MOP, 5-MOP
Moracea: Ficus: carica: Fig: Psoralens, 5-MOP
Leguminosae: Psoralea: corylifolia: Bavchi, Scurf pea: Psoralens
Now it is the juice of these plants from cut foliage that can or will cause you problems.
The best way to overcome the situation is to wear vinyl or rubber type gloves and do not allow any exposed skin to come into contact with the foliage. Long sleeves and trousers with footwear such as the good old gum boots.
Place the cut foliage into the compost or lay on the soil to breakdown.
Once the foliage has decomposed there is no further danger.
I see a potential danger if young children are playing in areas where wild parsnips or any of the other plants mentioned; they could bruise or damage foliage and get the juice on their bare skin.
As the reaction time is a day or two later you would not be aware of the cause.
Careful removal of these plants would be best when children are involved.
Live and Learn.
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This week a couple of events that occurred maybe of interest; the first was from a gardener that was concerned about their pH levels. A meter they purchased to read the pH was giving some readings which would result in many plants being either dead or very sick.
I asked how are your plants looking and the reply was very healthy and growing well.
So what is the problem with your pH I asked? The gardener had read somewhere about pH levels and how some plants like Camellias like a more acidic soil where others such as cabbages love an alkaline soil, all which is very true.
So to find out what is what with the pH in their gardens they purchased a meter that you push the probe into the soil and it gives you a reading.
A reading between 6.6 and 7.3 is considered neutral.
A reading of 7.4 to 7.8 is slightly alkaline, 7.9 to 8.4 is moderately alkaline 8.5 to 9.0 strongly alkaline and 9 to 14 heavily to extreme alkaline.
On the other side we have between 6.1 and 6.5 slightly acid, 5.6 to 6 moderately acid, 5.1to 5.5 strongly acid, 4.5 to 5.00 very strong acid, 3.5 to 4.4 extreme acid and 3.5 to 0.0 ultra acid.
Most plants are either happy with or can tolerate soils with a pH of between 6.1 to 7.8.
Outside of this plants will not grow so well, or not at all, dependent on their preference for alkaline or acid conditions.
For instance brassicas love a very alkaline soil so you can dose the area well with a soft garden lime before planting. If you did the same to where gorse was growing it would not be able to feed and it would die. Best to keep garden lime away from citrus, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas to name a few acid preferring plants.
A small dose of sulphate of iron watered into their root zone once or twice a year will keep them happy or as was done in days gone by a few old rusty nails.
There is an easy test for plants that like an alkaline soil which I like to use and that is to plant two small rows of peas about 300mm apart, on one row give a sprinkling of soft lime.
If that row grows better than the other row then the vegetable garden could do with a dose of lime.
Do not place lime where you wish to grow potatoes or tomatoes as they like a slightly acidic soil.
In New Zealand in many areas our soils tend to be slightly acid but not where there is limestone.
Overtime with rain and weather the soils do become more acidic.
Using manmade fertilisers and watering with chlorinated/floreinated water also leads to more acid.
Gardens that host alkaline plants, which is mostly your vegetables, should be given a sprinkling of soft lime about every three months. This will supply the calcium that the soil life and worms require and keep the soil alkaline.
In other areas the products to use are dolomite and gypsum. These both are pH neutral but will supply the calcium the soil needs as well as sulphur and magnesium.
These two products can also be applied to vegetable gardens for these extra elements.
If you are really serious about pH readings you need to purchase a calibrating type pH meter and use buffer solutions to calibrate, not cheap.
Alternatively the litmus paper used for testing swimming pools can be used.
Place a small sample of soil into a clean bottle along with distilled water, shake vigorously for several minutes and then place your litmus strip into the solution. Take a comparison of the colour to the chart supplied. This will give you a good indication of the pH of the sample at little cost.
To another subject; last weekend I thought it would be a good time to germinate some seeds of the special mini cucumber, Iznik Mini F1 Hybrid. Last year my summer Iznik Mini carried on in the glasshouse, giving a few fruit now and then through the winter, without any supplement heating.
How much better would new plants do? Hopefully very well dependent on how winter goes in Palmerston North this year. I had also acquired some winter lettuce seeds and Russian tomato seeds from the Silvery Tree Fern tomato plants that I have grown in the past.
The best way to germinate is on a heat pad indoors so the seeds were sown in separate punnets with the cucumber in a cell pack. After filling each punnet to two thirds full with compost the seeds were sown, then sprayed with a solution of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) before covering with vermiculite and wetting that down with more MBL solution.
This was done on Saturday afternoon and by Sunday nite the cucumber had sprouted so that pack went to the glasshouse so they would have ample light and not stretch.
By Tuesday the first of the lettuce had spouted and on Wednesday the first show of the tomatoes.
Now is the fast or what? Its the MBL along with the under heat and regular sprays of non-chlorinated water to keep the medium moist, that does the trick.
Mind you even I was impressed with the speed of the cucumbers.
These plants will grow on in their punnets then be transplanted into larger pots before being potted up into their final pot size or planted out in a raised garden in regards to the winter lettuce.
MBL is Humate and Fulvic acid.
This natural product has numerous advantages to gardens and plants. as many gardeners have found out to their benefit over the last few years.
To start with it helps undo the damage that man-made chemicals do to the soil and plants, turning so-so gardens into healthy ones you can be proud of.
Well its March so winter vegetables and flowers must be started off this month to gain the most from the daylight hours that are slowly decreasing. Don't waste time and miss the seasons.
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Winter is a hard time for many plants when they are of a tender variety or if they do not like wet feet.
Water logged soils, chilly winds, frost and snow don't bode well for lots of plants.
There are a number of things you can do now that will help your plants get through the winter better.
Plants such as citrus trees cannot stand their roots in water for prolonged periods and if this happens they are likely to die.
You will be aware of areas on the section where water tends to pond and if there are any plants nearby such as a citrus tree, which don't like wet feet, then the best thing you can do is dig a trench just beyond the drip line.
The depth should be about a spade depth or more and left open.
The trench may go right around the tree or if near a fence at least in a half circle.
The idea is that rain water will drain into the trench and as it is exposed to sun and wind it will evaporate fairly quickly taking the moisture away from the root system.
If you have a vegetable plot it is good gardening practise to have a trench all around the plot for the same reason.
If you don't like trenches then its a matter of installing a drainage system to remove surplus water.
To assist in the prevention of wet weather diseases you can spray all susceptible plants and preferred plants with Perkfection Supa.
Perkfection is used for recovery from/or prevention of, the following problems, Black spot, Downy Mildew, Phytophthora Root rot, Canker, heart rot, damping off, crown rot, leaf blight, silver leaf, late blight, collar rot, pink rot, brown rot, Armillaria, and gummy stem rot.
This fortifies the plant’s cells, increases the plant’s immune system and makes your plants less susceptible to invading pathogens.
The recommendation is to use Perkfection at 4 ml per litre of spray once a month.
The next step is to make the plants more cold hardy and to keep the foliage green; for that we need a combination of magnesium and potash which is available through Fruit and Flower Power.
Magnesium is involved in chlorophyll production, which converts sunlight into sugars and in activating enzymes. Because of its role in chlorophyll, the first symptoms of magnesium deficiency show up as yellowing, usually between the veins of the older leaves. In severe deficiencies, the entire leaf will turn yellow or red and then brown, with symptoms progressing up the plant.
There are numerous plants that show this tendency, citrus, Daphne, rhododendrons, tomatoes, passion fruit, roses to name a few. In winter because of the cold, yellowing of foliage is more common because of low levels of magnesium.
Once the yellowing starts to appear then already the plant is having problems and even when magnesium is supplied, it takes several weeks or months before the lovely dark green colour is restored.
During this time the plant is weakened, as the chlorophyll is not working to its full potential which makes the plant more susceptible to diseases and pests.
As the weather cools and winter approaches, plants feel the chill like we do, but plants cant put on a jersey like we can. Plant’s protection from chills and frosts comes from having adequate Potassium in their diet to harden up growth.
Thus us gardening commentators always suggest to gardeners to supply potash to their plants as winter starts to approach and to avoid too much nitrogen.
Apply Fruit and Flower Power once a month from now and through winter to ensure firm growth and green foliage.
Vaporgard is a ‘spray on’ frost protection that is used at 15 mils per litre over your more tender plants.
One application will give frost protection down to minus 3 for 3 months within 3 days of application.
Even if you are in an area where frosts are not normal, the film of Vaporgard will protect the plant from winter chilly winds and rain.
Vaporgard works a treat except when there is two or more frosts in a row, the cells in the plant do not have a chance to recover before the next frost and damage will occur unless extra protection is used such as frost cloth.
The big advantage with Vaporgard is that you don't get caught out by a sneaky frost.
Vaporgard also acts as a sunscreen against UV so the foliage of the plant will become a darker rich green within a couple of days of spraying and the plant will gain more energy from the sunlight.
If you have sprayed your plants with Vaporgard and later on you want to spray Perkfection Supa again then you need to add Raingard to the Perkfection spray so the two films merge allowing the Perkfection to enter the plant.
Hardy plants such as brassicas also benefit from protection and the easy way to supply this is with crop cover. Not only will it reduce insect pest problems but it will offer protection from elements, bird and cats.
Will we have a mild winter like last year or will the winter be more along the lines of what has happened in the northern hemisphere?
Who knows but if we winter proof our gardens and plants now one thing is for sure, they will better handle what ever Nature throws at them.
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It is March already, first month of autumn and only 5 weeks till daylight savings ends.
Daylight savings gives us a perception that the days are still long, with a good amount of time in the early evening to do a few jobs outside as well as water the gardens.
We run by the clock on the wall or our wrist, while plants run to the universal clock of the sun.
They (the plants) have been watching the days shorten and they know that winter is looming. Strawberries are right on the button with the seasonal change and have for a few weeks now, been producing runners which create new strawberry plants.
Strawberries have the ability to reproduce in three ways, seeds on their outer skins, runners in autumn and by clumping.
A few newer gardeners have asked me recently what to do with the runners on their strawberry plants.
It all depends on whether you would like some new young plants for your own use or to give to a friend. If this is the case then all you need to do is ensure that the runners move over the soil so the young plants formed at the nodules can root into the soil.
You leave them attached to the parent plant till about May and then you can cut the runner and lift the new plants for re-planting.
If you do not want any new plants for yourself or friends then the best thing to do is cut off the runners as they appear and keep all the energy in the parent plant.
Either way, to promote healthy plants, new or old, a 2 weekly spray of Mycorrcin should be applied to both.
Mycorrcin is magic on strawberries and with its use can increase your crop by 200 to 400% as well as assisting in keeping the plants healthy.
A healthy bed of strawberries can produce well for several years till the clumps get too big and production falls.
On some varieties of strawberries you will find a late crop of flowers and berries, on others they will be finished fruiting for the season.
March is also the last month to plant out vegetables you will require in the months of winter.
Any vegetable that takes 90 days or longer to mature should be planted as soon as possible.
Growing those vegetables from seed is now really pushing it so you are far better to purchase seedlings and plant them out.
When buying vegetable seedlings look for young plants in punnets or cell packs.
Larger plants have likely being stress and will then go to seed rather than mature later on.
Beware of club root problems if buying bundles of plants which are soil grown.
Planting seedlings next month or even later of plants that take about 90 days to mature will also likely go to seed.
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower are good value to plant now. The only problem is the caterpillars from butterflies and moths that can quickly destroy a crop.
Place some Neem Granules in the planting hole and on the soil surface to assist in control.
Then place crop cover over the plants supported by hoops of alkathene pipes to give the plants ample growing room.
It is also a good time to plant silverbeet and winter lettuce. (Yes there are varieties of lettuce for summer and winter.) For instance Great Lakes is a summer lettuce where Cisco and Cool Season Winguard are for the winter time.
If you are fortunate to own a glasshouse now is the time to start off seedlings of frost tender but cold hardy plants for growing through winter.
In very cold areas the glasshouse can be invaluable for growing lettuce and other hardy plants that would not do well outside.
I found last winter in my glasshouse that the mini cucumbers called Iznik Mini F1 Hybrid survived and produced slowly through winter so I have just ordered some more seeds from Egmont seeds to start off some fresh plants for winter in the glasshouse.
I also have already, from self sown seedlings, a few Russian Red tomato plants which will hopefully do well in winter.
Many tomato types will grow in winter when in a glasshouse but will not fruit unless they produce flowers and pollen in the colder temperatures.
In recent articles I have spoken about how chemical companies like to fool us into believing that their toxic sprays are safe by stating ‘Sound Science’ as proof of their claims.
In this regard I came across the following which makes a good quote for the week;
'Sound science' is only a term, an ideological term, used to support a particular point of view, policy statement or a technology. 'Sound science' is little more than the opinions of so-called "experts" representing corporate interests.
Simply put, 'sound science' always supports the position of industry over people, corporate profit over food safety, the environment and public health.
TO THE LIST OF ARTICLES
I am writing this article in the last days of February; for general publication on the 1st March 2014.
That means we are now just about at the calendar start of Autumn; in real terms we have had autumn-like weather for a few months now with only a few summer days, most of which are very recent.
Maybe we are getting a late summer which would be nice rather than miss out altogether.
The advantage for gardeners in regions where the weather has been poor is low numbers of insect pests on outdoor plants. In sheltered areas and in glasshouses the conditions have been more favourable to insect pest populations growing and needing frequent spraying.
On the other hand the weather conditions have been stressful to many garden plants such as roses where we see the results in blackspot and rust. Even mildews have happened which is not normal for the months of summer.
A few years back a disease started attacking the box hedging and topiary of the very common Buxus sempervirens and several other species.
For those gardeners with specimens of the buxus you will likely be very familiar with the symptoms.
Box blight is the name of the disease effecting the leaves and stems caused by two fungi, Cylindrocladium buxicola and Volutella buxi. The two are often found together.
This is a disease specific to Buxus.
Both fungi cause leaves to go brown and fall, leading to bare patches; C. buxicola, the more damaging of the two also infects young stems causing black streaks and die back.
In wet conditions the spore masses of the fungi may be seen on the under sides of infected leaves, white for C. buxicola and pink for V. buxi.
I have written on the subject previously and recommended to ways to control.
The continual trimming of the foliage causes a dense plant which hampers air circulation and this means moisture hangs around making a perfect breeding ground for the diseases.
Rather than continual trimming of the foliage the removal of some branches to open the plant up to better air circulation is an obvious remedy.
Then to further prevent the spore of the diseases settling on leaves a 3 monthly spray of Vaporgard is used for complete coverage..
This puts a film over the leaves making it difficult for the spore to establish.
Gardeners that have used both these two methods have been successful from the feedback I have heard.
Now a gardener this week sent me an email which read:
Happy New year to start with.
My message relates to a problem buxus hedge plants which over a number of years decided to turn sickly, example;
The leaves turned a coppery colour . To try and find a cure I approached and spoke to some staff at Mitre 10 Petone. Their answer was that they had other people also asking about this problem and they had made contact with the growers who also were stumped on a solution. Now the moral of my story is that nothing ventured nothing gained so on went Perkfection Supa.
This took several months before I noticed fresh growth appearing , but rather sparsely .This was back in 2012. This year these plants have almost resumed original coverage. This may be useless info for what it is worth but some one may find it helpful. This has been on my mind for some time so I thought I would pass it on. Regards John.
The information is far from useless and will likely assist a lot of gardeners to retain the beauty of a neatly trimmed Buxus hedge
Perkfection Supa is ‘Synthetic Organic Phosphates’ so what you are doing, is placing this valuable material, onto the foliage of your plants, where it is very readily absorbed and transferred through the whole of the plant.
This fortifies the plant’s cells, increases the plant’s immune system and makes your plants less susceptible to invading pathogens.
Excellent stuff for helping to safely control many diseases on your preferred plants. Perkfection Siupa will also control silverleaf disease if used before the disease has progressed to the point of no return.
If you have a Buxus with the disease spray Perkfection Supa at 7 ml per litre of non chlorinated water.
A month later spray at 4ml per litre and repeat monthly.
If you want to use as a preventive the 4 ml rate should be fine. Repeat monthly.
Autumn and spring are the more critical times but during adverse weather conditions summer and winter you may also use or at the first sign of any problems.
You can also increase the health of the plants by sprinkling Ocean Solids at the prescribed rates once a year, Rok Solid twice a year, spring and autumn.
Placing Magic Botanic Liquid and Mycorrcin in the Perkfection spray will also greatly enhance the health of the plants and the soil.
The above can be used to benefit on food and ornamental plants as many gardeners have found out.
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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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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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Growing citrus trees for their fruit, glossy foliage and heavenly perfume is a New Zealand tradition.
In years gone by just about every garden had a lemon tree which was a handy source of lemon juice for colds and sore throats.
Many gardens would also sport an orange, grapefruit and likely a mandarin.
These were valuable specimens for vitamin C, eating and drinks.
Back in those times before manmade chemical sprays and fertilisers came along, the citrus trees would be of high health with little problem from disease and pests.
Oh how the world has changed and certainly not for the better when it comes to health of plants and people.
I had a email this week from a reader that I would like to share with you:
I've been meaning to relate my experience with your Neem granules back to you which may be of interest.
I inherited a small citrus patch when I bought my place in Auckland a few years ago.
There are about about 15 trees which were small then (but quite a lot bigger now) - and planted closer together than is ideal.
So a perfect scenario for a severe Whitefly outbreak which is what I had about last October.
Spraying with Neem Oil etc was problematic as it's very difficult to coat the back of every leaf.
Anyway, I used about 1/2 kg of Neem granules around the drip line of each tree.
I'd say it took about 6 weeks to fully activate but I have since not had a Whitefly problem at all - if a couple of small Whitefly patches appear even now, they're gone the next time I check.
No signs of borer or other sap suckers this year either.
Most satisfyingly, because I haven't sprayed, the trees are covered in Ladybugs which can keep on top of the massively reduced levels of pests.
I have often suggested the use of Neem Tree Granules to use around citrus trees as a mulch and to assist in getting rid of pests in or on the tree.
Citrus trees when not pruned correctly become dense and very difficult to spray so pests and diseases can have a field day.
Back in days when New Zealand was a happier place and people were a lot more healthy, we used to care for our citrus trees by feeding them with Blood & Bone, chicken or other animal manures, potash, Epsom salts, urine every so often and the tea pot leaves now and then.
About once or twice a year a spray of copper would be used to keep diseases from establishing.
We would always plant our citrus where they would be free draining as we knew they would die if they had wet feet.
We would never cut the end off a branch as we knew that would only cause the branch to sprout lots of new branches making the tree too dense.
Instead we would remove total branches right back to the trunk if the need arose.
Often the great citrus trees we would see in gardens were grown from pips by a caring gardener.
Years ago during my travels to the Hawkes Bay, as a sales Rep, I would marvel at some of the citrus trees that I came across often reaching heights of 30 feet or more.
Now days we tend to have a lot more problems with our citrus trees and I put a lot of that down to fertilisers such as Citrus Fertiliser and Fruit Tree Fertiliser.
Nasty concoctions that harm the soil life, give a quick feed and then nothing till the next application.
Feast or famine stuff.
Then there are the chemicals such as herbicides that are used around the trees to control weeds.
The manufactures say they don't harm established trees unless directly sprayed but thats rubbish they get into the soil and do effect the health of both soil and established plants.
Research has shown that Roundup has a soil residual of 22 years!
Then if chemical fungicides and insecticides such as Confidor are used you don't only effect the health of the tree but your own as well not to mention the bees honey bees and bumble bees that will die if they visit your tree. (This can still happen weeks later when the tree flowers)
Most citrus diseases can be easily controlled or prevented with sprays of Liquid Copper and Raingard.
If there is a problem spray a couple of times a month apart, or as a preventing, spray twice a year, spring and autumn.
Our gardening friend has the answer for insect pests on your citrus trees by using Neem Tree Granules which most garden centres stock otherwise can be obtained by mail order.
Sprinkling granules is much quicker and easier than spraying.
The new strain of whitefly that love citrus trees are a problem easily solved by this method along with scale and mealy bugs and the beauty of it is, no harm to lady birds or bees.
(Its the emerald green ladybird we see on citrus trees)
The black Sooty Mould that is formed by the insect pests peeing honey dew over the foliage can now be remove with the new product Karbyon.
Simply spray Karbyon onto the foliage, leave for 48 hours and hose off.
Heavy deposits may need more than one treatment.
Leaves with sooty mould on them cannot gather energy from the sun so the production from your tree will be reduced.
If your fruit lacks flavour or juice then you need to apply Fruit and flower Power every month.
(You should be doing this anyway during the tree’s time of flowering and fruiting)
Follow the old ways of care and feeding and you will be rewarded with lots of great healthy fruit for you and yours.
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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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New Zealand has 11 known native ants yet there are many more that have found their way here to set up populations. We have an additional 29 ant imports most of which have arrived from Australia.
The World Conservation Union lists the Argentine ant as one of the world's worst invasive species.
The Argentine ant originally established in Auckland in 1990, and is now a problem in an increasing number of towns and cities throughout New Zealand. From one urban area to another, Argentine ants hitches rides in freight, potted plants, rubbish, vehicles and other such goods.
I have not come across this ant myself and from what I have heard from some gardeners I am very lucky.
Each of you reading this will know whether you have an ant problem or whether you have some ants that go about their business outside without concerning yourself.
The first problem is ants invading your home, especially in the kitchen where they are seeking food.
I remember visiting my brother in Napier some years ago and being up early in the morning I made myself a cup of coffee.
The taste of the coffee was really horrible and I found that ants had got into the sugar container (even though it had a lid on) and left their pheromone trails through the sugar.
(Some species of ants secrete pheromones to mark their trails for other ants of the colony to follow to food sources, bit like a GPS.)
The taste of the pheromone is not pleasant and its a memory I can easily recall.
Over the years I have heard some incredible stories of home invasions by ants.
People opening their wardrobe and moving the hanging clothes to find thousands of ants falling out.
Light switches on the wall bursting into fire caused by electricity arcing across the dead bodies of ants.
Piles of dead ants in heaps several inches high on the ground from the ceiling where dead ants are tossed out of a nest in the eaves.
Benches in the kitchen black with thousands of ants.
Even outdoors there have being cases where some one walking across the lawn is suddenly in a hole up to their knees when a ant nest under ground has collapsed with the persons weight.
One ant problem gardeners often ask me about is ants climbing up into their plants such as citrus trees etc. If you see ants on plants then the reason is that there are sweet substances that attract them such as honeydew or nectar.
Honey dew is the more common one and this is caused by pest insects such as aphids, scale, mealy bugs or thrips sucking/rasping on the plants foliage and then peeing out honeydew which turns to black sooty mould. Ants collect this sweet substance and take it back to their nests.
To stop the ants in the tree you need to firstly get rid of the insect pests causing the problem.
A spray late in the day with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum will knock back the pests. The spray should be for total coverage under and over the foliage followed up about a week later with another good spray of the same.
The black sooty mold is not nice and it does effect the health of the tree as those leaves do not get energy from the sun because of the mould.
There is a new product called Karbyon which comes in a 500 gram container.
You simply take 50 grams and dissolve in 5 litres of water then spray the mix to run off over the foliage with sooty mould on. You leave it for 48 hours then hose off.
This should wash off the mould unless its a very heavy layer and a further application maybe need to break down what is left.
You can do either kill the pest insects first and then attack the mould or do the mould first and insects second. Do not mix Neem Oil etc with Karbyon.
Karbyon is available from a number of on the ball garden centres or otherwise by mail order.
I have recommended over the years a number of solutions for ant problems and here they are again.
Ants coming into the kitchen simply set up one of those can things that hang on the wall and sprays every so many minutes a dose of pyrethrum.
Ants sense the natural product and stop visiting as long as the can is working. When the can runs out of pyrethrum then about a week or two later ants will start to appear.
If ants are in cupboards/pantries where the pyrethrum spray is not reaching then remove all the food and containers and spray the walls and shelves with X-it Ant.
The product lasts for months affecting any ant/cock roach etc that may come into contact with it.
If you wash the cupboard after about 2-3 months you will need to reapply.
Do not food on the bare shelves, its low toxicity but not good in your diet.
X-it Ant is not cheap at about $50 a container but still less cost than to have an exterminator come and use it.
Also you should treat the ants outside and the cheap way to do this is to use either Borax to make up a powder bait or to use Granny Mins ant Bait for a liquid one.
For Borax you measure an equal amount of Borax with icing sugar, mix the two together and place the bait outside where there is ant activity. If concerned about pets place the bait in a small glass jar and lay on its side, with a little sprinkling of bait from trail to jar. This is a good method to use anyway as rain will not wash your bait away.
Granny Mins Ant Bait comes a jar that contains Borax and Boric Acid in equal amounts. You follow the recipe to add water, sugar and honey to the contents to make up just under a litre of liquid bait which can be used in bait stations as above. If your ants prefer protein then add either of the above to sloppy cat food and place safely in a bait station. These products are available in many garden centres and some Mitre 10 stores or by mail order.
Outdoor areas of concrete, walls etc can be sprayed with X-it Ant and will effect ants and other pest insects that come in contact with it for a good period of time.
On soil areas or container plants where ants are use Biforce granules which is the same pyrethrin as X-it Ant.
These two are mainly available in stock and station agents or by Mail order. If you cant find just ask me.
Finally if there are ant nests in your lawn then sprinkle some Lawn Pest Control over the entrance and lightly water. This also is excellent for wasp nests. Available once again from a number of garden shops and by mail order.
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It may sound a bit unusual but now is the time to get organised with your winter gardens.
With both vegetables and flowers its over the next couple of months you need to plant up seeds or seedlings so that you will have crops to harvest and displays of flowering plants, in the middle of winter.
If you plant late; say April through to June then there will be not much growth till the spring and then the vegetables will go to seed and be a waste of time. For flowers plants it is not a problem.
Planting vegetables such as brassicas at this time of the year can be a problem because of white butterflies and their caterpillars devouring your young plants.
The best solution I have found for this is the following;
If growing winter cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli from plants then check the plants you buy for the little yellow eggs of the white butterflies and rub them off the leaves so the plants are clean.
Also don't buy seedlings that are big as they are likely to have been stressed and may go to seed prematurely.
Instead look for nice young plants and if a bit too small to transplant don't worry they are good value for you to grow on till they are big enough to transplant.
I like to spray the seedlings a few days before transplanting with Vaporgard as this reduces the transplant shock and the plants stand up without laying down as you often see with transplanting seedlings. They get away to a quicker start.
Also remember to plunge the punnet into a bucket of water to throughly wet the mix before removing the seedlings. This reduces root damage.
When you make the planting hole, place some Neem Tree Granules into the base of the hole alone with some Rok Solid. Also sprinkle the same onto the soil around the seedlings.
The Neem Granules help to protect the plant from insect pests and the Rok Solid assists in root development and supplies about 80 odd minerals and elements for a healthier plant and more nutritional value for you.
Doing this only will help with caterpillar control but the next step will make sure you don't have the pests on the plants and in amongst the curds of cauliflowers and broccoli when you harvest.
The total protection is by using hoops of alkathene pipe and crop cover mesh.
You place lengths of the pipe into the soil making a hoop thats about 1 metre tall over the row of plants.
The pipes are spaced about 50 to 70 cm apart.
Then take your crop cover which is 4 metres wide and place it over the hoops and on the windward side cover it with soil to hold secure. On the ends and the other side place lengths of old 100 x 50 (4 x 2) wood to hold in place. This allows you to open up and weed as needed.
The rest of the time the plants are protected from insects, birds, cats and strong winds.
The cover gives at 15% shade factor which in a sunny situation is also good value.
It allows rain or overhead watering with a soft wand to wet the soil still.
Winter vegetables such as leeks should be planted as soon as and followed up with your brassicas over the next month or two. Remember to add natural products such as animal manures, blood & bone and Garden Lime. If you don't feed the soil you don't get the results.
Palmerston North has had unusual weather patterns since August.
August was a brilliant month after a mild no frost winter here; since then its been very piece meal.
Ample rain but chilly winds and not many hot summer like days.
What I have noticed as a result is very little damage by psyllids on tomato plants outside and I have not seen any white butterflies except the odd ones.
Last season I could not grow a tomato plant out in the open so this year I am using a Quarantine house and insect proof glasshouses to grow tomatoes and other crops.
Aphids and whitefly are in the glasshouses; weekly I need to spray for control, but no psyllids.
The weather here has been such, that populations of psyllids have not grown and thus outdoor tomatoes are doing well so far.
The glasshouses are a real asset and I highly recommend you keen gardeners to invest in one before winter so you can extend your growing season.
In some areas like here in Palmerston North it is the only way to grow some heat loving plants such as okra, luffa, cucumber, chilli and capsicums with a good degree of success even at this time of the year.
For instance outside in the open dwarf beans and normal type climbing beans are doing well but snake beans are struggling. Not enough heat.
If you are going to buy a glasshouse type unit then the best is definitely glass as opposed to plastic or other materials. Glass may break if you play cricket on the lawn but it will out last as many years as you can garden, otherwise.
Its easy to clean and maintain and unlike plastic film or similar materials it is not effected by UV so does not have to be replaced every few years.
By placing quarantine cloth over the vents and doorway you can make your glasshouse fairly insect proof. (You can take insects into the house on plant material or even in soil/compost mixes.)
If you need some information on glasshouse growing you can grab a copy of my book; Wallys Glasshouse Growing for New Zealand.
With the world’s weather patterns changing it could mean a glasshouse is the only way to have a reasonable control over the environment and be able to grow the plants you want.
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Welcome back to a new year of gardening columns and hopefully your Xmas and New Year was good and relaxing.
Relaxing in the garden is an excellent way to relieve day to day stress.
Pottering around, mowing the lawns, watering the plants are great activities to take your mind off problems, letting it flow with Nature.
While outside you can also get your body’s much needed dose of Vitamin D if you use Virgin Coconut Oil to protect your skin instead of sun screens.
Sun screens prevent the body gaining Vitamin D and lack of this vitamin leads to cancer as research has found. People with cancers have low levels of vitamin D and in worst cancer cases, nil.
You have to be sensible about it and apply the Virgin Coconut Oil before going out into the sun and not staying too long initially, building up to longer periods as your tan develops.
When returning indoors wash and apply more Virgin Coconut Oil. It repairs and protects your skin and reduces wrinkles and blemishes.
Its getting out into sunlight after winter that helps give us that come alive feeling in spring.
During the holidays one of the many phone calls I received was from a retired farmer who told me that if it was not for his gardens he would go mad. (I feel the same way)
He also told me of a neighbour with a young family that was struggling so he offered them one of his 5 gardens to grow some vegetables for themselves. They never took up the offer.
I have since wondered if it was because they have never gardened and did not want to look silly in front of him.(Obviously an expert gardener)
Digging over land and making a garden is a daunting task and what results are achieved maybe poor unless a lot of preparation goes into making a good vegetable garden.
The simple and easy way is to grow in containers using purchased compost as the growing medium.
Then raised gardens, using roofing iron are excellent for growing lots of vegetables.
You may think what is the point when you can buy produce fairly cheaply dependent on the time of the year. Unless that produce has being grown organically you are really buying a pot pori of chemicals all of which can accumulate in your body making way for cancer and many of the other health problems we see today.
The produce not only contains numerous chemicals and more often than not it lacks flavour as well.
Scientists tell us that this chemically grown produce has only about 20% of the goodness that your produce you can grow has.
No wonder there has been a major increase in health problems over the last 40 years and getting worse year by year.
If you want good health then get a few containers and start growing some really healthy vegetables.
Use only natural products such as animal manures (sheep Manure pellets) blood & bone, Bio Boost, garden Lime, gypsum and dolomite. For the minerals and elements your vegetables need; use Ocean Solids, Rok Solid and Magic Botanic Liquid.
Grow your own lettuces, silverbeet, radishes, spinach, dwarf beans and spring onions to start with as they are easy and require little effort to obtain good results.
Avoid chemical sprays including herbicides.
During the holidays I received an email from a reader which I would like to share with you.
The America Author, Jeffrey Smith apparently was in New Zealand at sometime and recorded a short video clip about glyphosate weed killer.
The email read:
Monsanto have been convicted for misrepresenting glyphosate as biodegradable In fact, it has been recorded still active more than 20 years after application....
Glyphosate does not biodegrade when applied in waterways....... it is toxic!
Please take time to watch this (just under six minutes) on glyphosate (Roundup and others) and what it does to our environment, all living beings and our country. End
The link is http://vimeo.com/82810923
I have written similar in the past to try make gardeners aware of the health issues this chemical causes.
Grow as much as you can naturally and your health and the health of your children will be far better for it.
I recently turned 68 (just a baby as one 86 year old lady said to me on the phone today) and by taking care of my health and well being I can say for a fact that I feel and are a lot healthier than I was 8 odd years ago. I get up in the morning and feel really good, no niggly aches or pains or health issues.
I put this down to being more careful about what I eat, preferring food from my container gardens.
Taking a few natural health giving foods such as Virgin Coconut oil, MSM and capsulated herbs that we capsule ourselves such as turmeric, cayenne pepper and ginger.
Did you know that cayenne pepper with ginger is great for your heart and circulation?
If you want to look after your heart health then do some research on Heart Food.
I have a friend that loves hot chilli peppers and has done so all his life. He grows the hottest ones possible and eats them like candy. Now he is 86 years of age (looks more like 50) and has never had any heart disease. Unfortunately I cant eat hot peppers but in capsules its not a problem as long as taken with other food.
Your health is your greatest asset and as Hippocrates said, Let Food be thy Medicine and let Medicine be thy Food. (Best out of your own home garden)
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