Articles 2006DISCLAIMER: Gardening information and articles found in these pages are written by Wally Richards (Gardening Columnist)
AROUND THE GARDEN IN NOVEMBER
VEGETABLES OLD & NEW VARIETIES
AROUND THE GARDEN
LABOUR WEEKEND GARDENING
PLANNING LABOUR WEEKEND GARDENING
OCTOBER IN THE GARDEN
JAZZ UP A GARDEN WITH GLADIOLI
BOOK: WALLY’S Down to Earth GARDENING GUIDE
NEW SUPERTOM TOMATOES
GROWING YOUR OWN
THIN TO WASTE
SWEET PEA-OLD SPICE ANTIQUES
HISTORY OF TOMATOES
SEPTEMBER THE FIRST MONTH OF SPRING
THINGS TO DO
NEW SUPERIOR LAWN SEED
FIXING UP YOUR LAWNS
VEGETABLES OLD & NEW VARIETIES
AROUND THE GARDEN
LABOUR WEEKEND GARDENING
PLANNING LABOUR WEEKEND GARDENING
OCTOBER IN THE GARDEN
JAZZ UP A GARDEN WITH GLADIOLI
BOOK: WALLY’S Down to Earth GARDENING GUIDE
NEW SUPERTOM TOMATOES
GROWING YOUR OWN
THIN TO WASTE
SWEET PEA-OLD SPICE ANTIQUES
HISTORY OF TOMATOES
SEPTEMBER THE FIRST MONTH OF SPRING
THINGS TO DO
NEW SUPERIOR LAWN SEED
FIXING UP YOUR LAWNS
Aphids are likely to be found on your roses at this time and they can easily be controlled with a safe spray of Key Pyrethrum and Neem Tree Oil combined. Spray very late in the day just before dusk to obtain the best results.
Stone fruit trees that had the curly leaf disease will now be producing new leaves free of the problem. The damaged leaves will fall off over time.
You can if you like, spray the newer leaves a couple of times with Liquid Copper just to be sure, but if the disease has finished for the season the sprays will not make much difference.
A spray of Vaporgard without the copper would be more effective in allowing the tree’s remaining leaves to gain more energy from the sun, which is needed to produce a good crop.
Codlin Moths will start to be on the wing about now so obtain a pheromone trap from your garden centre so you can monitor the best time to spray. A number of gardeners have found that a spray of Neem Tree Oil over the young apples, applied about 5-7 days after an influx of moths into the traps, has resulted in only a very small scar on the mature apple, where the grub took its first and only bite.
Repeat spray 7 days later and then wait for another influx of moths before repeating.
Add Raingard or MBL to the spray to assist and extend the control period.
Tomatoes should be doing well if in a sunny, sheltered spot. Only remove laterals on a sunny day when it is not humid or moist. Spray the wound immediately with Liquid Copper to prevent disease entering the wound resulting in the possible loss of the plant.
Ensure that the tomato plants are well supported on stakes during windy times. If you are concerned about blights spray the plants with Perkfection as a preventative, once a month. The same applies for your potatoes.
For general health of any plants, especially roses and food crops, a two weekly spray of MBL and Mycorrcin works wonders. Spray both the soil and the foliage.
Avoiding the use of chemical sprays and fertilisers is a must for healthy plants.
Had the case of a lady this week that used a common chemical rose spray on her roses for aphids and found that the roses shed many of their leaves a few days later. Plants hate poisons as they kill all the beneficial things in nature.
I have a saying that if you work with Nature, you will have great gardens, if you try to work against nature, you have chemical warfare. Happy, Healthy Gardening.
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The 2006 season so far has not been so good for gardeners. I have noticed in the past few years, the weather often does not really improve till after the shortest day.
Still we intrepid gardeners soldier on, protecting the most tender plants from the elements and looking for sturdy, steady growth. Potash is the key to this and being very careful on the use of fertilisers with high nitrogen content. Softy sappy growth not only can be damaged by unseasonal weather it is also very attractive to all the pests under the sun.
November should be a safer month to put out those more tender plants and in fact it was only at the end of October that I took my potted tomato plants out of the glasshouse and planted them out, after giving them a spray of Vaporgard a few days before. The Vaporgard gives the plants great protection for about 3 months.
The really good news this season is that a lot more gardeners are now growing their own fruit and vegetables. These intelligent gardeners want to know what is going into their food chain and the only way to be sure is to grow as much produce as possible.
You can increase the nutritional value of your home grown produce by using only natural products such as compost, sheep manure pellets etc. A bit of Ocean Solids and Simalith applied to the soil will supply many of the minerals and elements that your plants need.
Our health these days is a major concern for many and by growing as much vegetables as possible, will certainly ensure better health than by only buying the chemically grown stuff.
With Xmas looming up next month our attention is drawn to the festive season and what to give our family & friends. A neat way is to purchase a few ‘colour spot’ flowering plants, along with some nice looking containers. The containers should be about 150 to 200mm across the top and one colour spot plant such as petunia, impatiens, etc is planted in the pot using only a friable compost mix.
A few sheep manure pellets in the planting hole and maybe a bit of blood & bone is all thats needed for extra food. The compost retains moisture far better than any potting mixes and makes for a great savings in both money and water.
Your gift plants should be looking really great by the time you wrap them up and give them away.
For gardeners that cant get outdoors on odd days because of the weather give them a gardening book to assist them in their endeavours. My own first book, Wally’s Down To Earth Gardening Guide has received excellent reviews and could be just the ticket for many. Available from some garden centres, book shops or by mail order from 0800 466464
For more infomation on the book click here.
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This month two insects flutter around plants of the cabbage family, and though they are not in the least look-alikes, the result can be same -- lacey leaves.
The cabbage white butterfly is the most obvious and most visible and the familiar greenish caterpillars are familiar too.
The diamond-back moth also lays eggs on all cruceriferous farm and garden crops and the resultant caterpillars are as damaging as those of the cabbage white butterfly. Unfortunately the moth is small, about 8mm long, and often not noticed until the caterpillars do the damage.
A very simple method of prevention is to sprinkle Neem Tree Granules around near the base of the plants when planting out. Repeat the sprinkling of the granules about every 2 months till prior to harvest.
The granules work well in keeping damage to a minimum.
Gardeners that have the time to spare can check their plants regularly and remove the offending caterpillars. At the same time the under sides of the leaves should be checked for the small eggs that have being laid there. These can be rubbed off preventing them from hatching.
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With summer coming on, many gardeners be thinking of planting a hibiscus to brighten a particular corner or as a feature plant, to make a statement.
And in case the garden is exposed to cold winds or is a frost trap at certain times of the year, there are several hints which can get round the problem of growing a member of this striking family of some 250 species.
Not all have to have the tropical conditions of Hawaii so the decorative flowers can be stuck behind the ear of an attractive young maiden. In fact, good drainage is often is more importance than warmth.
They don't like wet feet. Hibiscus syriacus varieties, often called Rose of Sharon, are the hardiest and as the stems are deciduous they can be grown practically anywhere -- as long as they have good drainage.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is the evergreen Chinese species which does need a little more warmth, but again can be grown anywhere if protected from hard winter frosts. The range of cultivars of rosa-sinensis is much wider than syriacus, including flower forms as well as colours and petal shapes.
Unfortunately the flowers are short-lived, whether left on the bush or picked for indoor decoration. But their prolific output and long flowering season make up for that.
The more commonly cultivated varieties are easy to grow and are adaptable to a wide range of conditions, though only a few will do well in shade.
They like the brightness of full sunlight most of the day, if possible.
Shelter overhead from a roof overhang or such like will prolong the life of the shrub. They tend to be short-lived, borer often killing whole shoots. Apply Neem Tree Granules to the soil.
There are also herbaceous perennials, annuals and biennials in the larger malvaceae genus, and these also have the large showy blooms we have come to associate with hibiscus. A slightly acid, rich soil is preferred and extra fertiliser and moisture should be provided during the growing season.
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For gardeners that like to grow their own vegetables here is some useful information to assist in growing kumaras. A interesting plant to grow and if the right methods are applied then good size tubers are relatively easy to produce.
Firstly do not be in too much of a hurry to plant your kumera slips into the garden. Kumaras are a heat loving plant and will sit and sulk till conditions are right. You can grow your own plants by half burying a few small kumera tubers in sand.
Keep the sand moist and the young shoots will emerge quickly when they are kept nice and warm.
If a heat bed is available for this it is ideal. When the shoots are about 120 to 180 mm long they are ready to plant out. The alternative to growing your own is to purchase some plants at the garden centre.
Preparation of the ground is most important.
Kumaras send down roots into the soil and when these roots hit an obstruction or a area that is hard for them to penetrate then the root swells up forming the kumara tuber.
To create this situation dig out a bed to the depth of 300 mm removing all the soil.
Trample the base of this pit to make it hard.
Some place a sheet of weedmat over the base of the pit.
Backfill the area with a mixture of the soil and a good compost. Like with any tuber crop there should not be too much nitrogen present as this will tend to create lots of foliage and little tubers.
Additional potash and Biophos can be applied to benefit at the rate of about a handful per square metre. This can be mixed through the replaced soil and compost mix.
The back fill should be nice and friable.
To plant the kumera slips, lay them down on the surface of the soil with their roots pointing to the north. About 30mm from the root end of the shoot place your finger and press down gently so that the shoot is planted in a fish hook shape under the soil.
Water to keep the bed moist and when the runners start to root in, lift them to prevent secondary rooting. This should be repeated several times through the five months growing period.
If the runners start to invade the rest of the garden either turn them back onto the bed or cut them off at the edge of the bed.
The kumaras should be ready for lifting in about April. Care should be taken not to damage the tubers as these will not keep.
After lifting dry in the sun for a couple of days and then store in boxes covered with sawdust. Kumaras are not long keepers and should be used as quickly as possible.
Damaged tubers could be cooked and mashed then frozen for future use.
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There are two forms of azaleas, commonly called the evergreen and the deciduous, both have been bred from various rhododendrons.
In the 18th century they were given separate classifications but in the 19th century a botanist called George Don, realised there was no botanical difference between Rhododendrons and Azaleas and the two species were classified in the same genus Rhododendron. They remain so today even though gardeners prefer to talk of them separately.
The deciduous azaleas are best grown in cooler climates where they fair best.
The evergreen forms are more suited to a wide range of conditions but even when grown in hot climates a more shaded area suits them best.
Evergreen Azaleas are a popular flowering plant with many gardeners, being smaller and more compact they suit the smaller gardens we see around these days. Also they are ideal for shaded areas, borders and mass plantings.
Often when visiting gardens the writer notices a common fault with these plants, gardeners neglect to trim them back after each flowering and the result is taller woody plants with sparse foliage and flowers on the ends of their woody branches.
It is most important that after the plants have finished flowering that you give them a good cutback. They respond well to this giving you lovely compact bushes that are covered in flowers during the winter and spring.
Azaleas are also prone to trips and mites and by cutting back the plants as described will reduce the problem. A spray of Neem Tree Oil should be applied after cutting back and again in mid-summer when the pests are most prevalent.
After cutting back a layer of peat moss should be placed around the plants along with some acid fertilizer. The peat moss helps keep the fine root system cool in the summer and also helps with the moisture retention of the soil.
Additional plants can be obtained with layering or by taking cuttings of firm wood. These should be placed in sharp sand root up.
If grown in containers, place them in a shaded situation through the summer months, layer compost over the mix to keep moist.
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Written by Wally Richards.
Growing vegetables and fruit has always been one of my main concerns in gardening since I was a tot. If you can eat it, grow it, all other plants are for show. This does not mean that I don't like my roses, annuals, ornamental trees and shrubs. They all serve a good purpose which I can enjoy, when my belly is full of my own, home grown produce.
This thinking dates back to over fifty plus years ago, when many New Zealanders used to grow most of their own fruit and vegetables. In the last 50 years things changed, we started to depend on others to grow the produce that we put on our tables.
Initially this produce was healthy, grown with compost and similar natural products. It contained nutritional value and fed a growing nation.
Progressively things changed as super phosphate and other chemical fertilisers were used by the market gardeners. Nutritional values dropped, the crops were attacked by diseases and pests, chemical sprays were applied and the health of the nation declined.
The heartening news is; many gardeners have woken up to this problem and are now taking more notice of what harmful substances are in the food we eat.
I have spoken to a number of garden centre owners and they all report that they have never sold as many vegetable seedlings and seeds, this new season, than ever before.
I believe that people do not want to have illnesses such as cancer and that they realise that cancer and several other health problems are largely resulting from the chemicals in our food chain.
The answer is simple; grow as much as you can of your own produce so that your body receives a reasonable amount of wholesome goodness. The food tastes that much better and your health will be far better off as a result.
Dig up some lawn and make a plot for vegetables. Build raised gardens, grow in containers, remember where there is a will, there is a way and its your health we are talking about.
There are some basic rules to grow healthy produce;
1/ Remember that whatever you put into the soil will be in your food.
2/ Avoid all chemical fertilisers, sprays and chemical weed killers.
3/ Use only natural composts, sheep manure pellets, blood & bone, liquid manures, lime, gypsum, dolomite etc.
4/ Enhance the number minerals and elements in the soil by using mineral rich products such as Ocean Solids, Simalith and Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL)and Sea Weed Extracts.
5/ Feed the beneficial microbes and fungi with Mycorrcin and MBL.
Doing the above will build an excellent soil food web which is the key to the health of all living things on the planet.
The next question is what vegetables to grow?
This depends on the amount of garden room you have or alternatively grow in containers such as the polystyrene trays.
I grow the following in these trays; lettuce, silverbeet, spring onions, beetroot, dwarf beans, radishes, parsley, chives, garlic and my favourite ‘Bright Lights’ silverbeet.
The same trays are perfect to grow wheat grass for juicing which in my mind is the ultimate in nutritional value and health giving properties.
Lacking room? ‘Space Savers Vegetables’ are the answer, which are part of the Niche Seed’s range. These allow you to plant in small gardens and containers a number of vegetables such as the following:.
Mini Cabbage, Spitfire which has conical heads, sweet and tender ideal for summer salads, coleslaws and cooking; maturing in about 2 months.
Mini Cabbage, Gonzales, early maturing, sweetly spicy mini heads from 100 to 150mm in diameter. (maturity 2 months)
Mini Cabbage, Super Red, an early red cabbage with smooth, round, medium sized heads with superb flavour. Leaves are tender, crisp and pleasantly peppery.
Mini Cabbage, Savoy cabbage Alcosa, Small deep blue-green crinkled heads with very light cream interior leaves, ideal for growing in cooler temperatures.
Other Space Saver vegetables include; Baby Corn, Mini Pumpkin (Teddy Bear), 3 types of Rock Melon, Mini Leeks and Mini Onions.
Besides not taking so much room in the garden these vegetables are quicker to reach maturity from seed. For one or two person households, they are perfect for fresh use, without the waste of a larger item that needs storing in the fridge.
Capsicums and Peppers are great for your health and the Niche range of seeds provides 11 varieties plus a 4 pack that has two hot and two sweet peppers in separate packets on the main packet.
In fact the Niche range includes a number of multiple packets of seeds in one packet which gives you a greater selection to grow.
Many gardeners like my self, are always looking for something different to grow and those of us that like to do our Chef thing in the kitchen, when entertaining, just love a vegetable that is not commonly available.
Not only can you skite about say, the purple carrots you have included in a dish, you can also say they were grown by yourself with no chemicals to contaminate them.
Carrot Rainbow Selection has carrots of purple, white, yellow and red. These carrots have existed for hundreds of years and recent research has suggested that the natural pigments of the carrots may help prevent heart disease, cancer and reduce cholesterol.
These are the types of vegetables we need these days and though they grow with different colours, they still taste like carrots.
Another root crop is Salsify (Black Salsify) which is sometimes referred to as the vegetable oyster having a flavour that is oyster like.
Burdock Root Minto Shirohada, is grown like parsnips and has a crisp nutty flavour. Used in a number of Japanese dishes and stir fries.
For the unusual try any of the following also;
Gherkin Mexican Sour, vines produce masses of 50 to 77 mm fruits like miniature watermelons, which fall off the vine when ripe. They taste like a sweet cucumber which is contrasted by a surprising sourness as if they were already pickled.
Asparagus Pea is a true connoisseur’s vegetable producing copious quantities of delicious winged pods for about 10 weeks if picked regularly and kept well watered. Commence harvesting when pods are about 25mm long and cook lightly (steamed) to bring out their unique flavour. (bit like asparagus)
Okra Burgundy is a colourful, decorative plant with flashy red pods which turn dark purple when lightly cooked. Pods remain tender up to 175mm long. Shallots can be grown true from Niche seed for their mild onion flavour.
Zucchini Super Kumi is an interesting one to grow, developed from the original Kamo Kamo (Kumi Kumi). Picked when the fruits are 120 to 180 mm long they are zucchini, allowed to keep on growing they become 2kg Kumi Kumi instead of the traditional marrows that one obtains off normal Zucchini.
Is that enough to wet your appetite? You will find the full range of Niche Vegetables seeds in most garden centres, if not see my website at Seed list and prices To obtain the best flavours and results follow the information supplied above and remember you can only get out of your gardens what you put in.
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Being a good spotter is half the battle in solving gardening problems. Gardeners that keep their eyes open as they go around their gardens can spot problems as they begin to happen.
One of the best times to do this is while you are hand watering plants with the hose; while the right hand is holding the hose, you can fold back leaves with your left hand and check for pests or problems.
Some problems are seasonal and come in cycles and the knowing of these cycles also makes you aware to be on the out look for them. Aphids are in season at the moment and they can be found on your roses and some other plants.
On the roses they will be around the new growths and the flower buds. If you just leave them, their populations will quickly build up and this will likely diminish the flowering display.
Aphids suck the sap of the plants and in doing so remove the plant’s energy resulting in poorer growth, twisted leaves and damaged flowers. Aphids are not hard to kill and if you only have a few roses you may simply run your fingers over the pests and gently squash them without harming the plant.
For those with a lot of roses it is better to use a safe spray to knock them over such as Key Pyrethrum.
Late in the day just before dusk make up say 5 litres of spray using 5 mils of Key Pyrethrum, 25 mils of Neem Tree Oil and 50 mils of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL). The Pyrethrum is a quick knock down that should kill off most of the aphids within a day.
The Neem Tree Oil will aid in the control of any missed, or new aphids arriving for the next 7 odd days.
This natural oil will also aid in the reduction of diseases such as black spot, rust and mildews. The MBL will also assist in keeping the roses free of diseases, supply extra minerals to the foliage and aid in the health of the plants.
The reason for spraying near dusk is that Pyrethrum is quickly broken down by UV, in fact within a couple of hours, if sprayed earlier in the day. At dusk it is going to be active all night till the next day.
Now that your roses are coming into bud and flower start applying about a teaspoon of Fruit and Flower Power every 4 to 6 weeks. The potassium aids in flowering and the magnesium aids the deep green of the foliage. In fact any other plants that are coming into flowering or setting fruit will do better with a small regular dose of these two minerals.
Stone fruit trees will likely have distorted leaves unless you have been very vigilant with your spraying of Liquid Copper and Raingard. The curly leaves are the effects of the common disease, Curly Leaf and every leaf that is damaged means one less leaf for the tree to gain energy from the sun.
The damaged or curly leaves will later fall off the tree leaving only the leaves that are not affected.
Leaf loss means a smaller crop and maybe smaller fruit as well. You can offset some of the damage by spraying the good leaves with Vaporgard.
Vaporgard acts as a sun screen reducing the UV levels which affect the plant’s ability to produce energy from the sun.
One spray lasts for about 3 months on the foliage sprayed.
Within a couple of days of spraying you will notice the leaves turning to a rich dark green which means each leaf is working at full capacity, gaining energy.
Some gardeners like to spray Vaporgard onto the foliage of their roses to deepen the green colour and place a long term shine to the leaves. It also means your roses will be more vigorous and flower better.
One point to mention is that the film Vaporgard puts over the foliage makes it difficult for sprays such as Perkfection to enter the plant. To get around this add Raingard to the sprays.
Tomatoes will be doing well if in a sheltered, sunny spot. Those out in the open will be much slower to grow because of the weather and cold snaps.
I have kept my tomato plants in containers in the glasshouse, waiting for the weather to settle before starting to put them outdoors. When I decide its time to put them out I will, a couple of days before hand, give them a spray all over with Vaporgard. This hardens the plants up and stops any transplant shock.
Tomatoes in containers must be given adequate water to prevent the compost from drying out, if not you will get blossom end rot which is that black patch on the bottom of the fruit.
Removing laterals on tomatoes can allow diseases to enter the plant, which will often result in losses.
If botrytis enters the tomato where you remove a lateral or leaf, then it will cause a rotting on a branch or on the trunk. The plant begins to wilt and the wilting progressively gets worse till a branch or the whole plant is lost.
There are two rules you must follow when removing laterals (side shoots) or leaves, do not do so when the air is moist as moist air carries the disease spores. Next; as soon as you remove a lateral, spray the damaged area with a squirt of Liquid Copper.
You can make up the copper in a small trigger sprayer and as long as you give it a good shake before using each time it will keep well.
Oxalis is a curse for many gardeners and it is about this time of the year that the weed comes away.
A safe and cheap spray to use is baking soda at the rate of a good tablespoon full per litre of warm water. Stir a little till the mix stops bubbling and then add 1 mil of Raingard per litre.
Spray over the oxalis foliage, but it only works well when the soil is on the dry side and during a warm to hot sunny day. The oxalis leaves will dehydrate but other plants sprayed will not be harmed.
The first spray will remove the oxalis foliage but will not harm the bulbs. More foliage will appear and soon as it does repeat spray. After a few sprays the bulbs run out of energy as they have been denied leaves and then the bulbs fail.
In the meantime do not work the soil, instead cover the soil with compost and plant any new plants into the compost. Over time you will be free of the weed.
There are many ways you can control weeds without using harmful chemical herbicides.
I placed a number of these in my recent book, Wally’s Down To Earth Gardening Guide which is available from some garden centres, or by mail order from our web site or by phone.
Slugs and snails do a lot of good in gardens breaking down decaying matter but they are a pest if they attack your plants. All the baits used are toxic to wild life, pets and children except for Quash.
The best method of keeping slugs and snails off your plants is to spray the plants with Liquid Copper and Raingard. Slugs and snails will not go near copper so also spray the soil under the plants.
Not only will you keep the plants free of them you are also protecting the plants against a range of diseases that could attack the plants also. Strawberries planted in winter should be doing well by now and if they are first year plants, still a bit on the small size, you should remove some of the early flowers so the plants can grow bigger before you let them fruit.
Spray the strawberry plants every 2 weeks or so with Mycorrcin.
This simple, natural spray feeds the beneficial microbes, which will not only keep the plants healthy but can increase your crop yield by 200 to 400%. I had one gardener ring me a couple of weeks ago and tell of his success last season.
He had two beds of strawberries, one he sprayed regularly with Mycorrcin, the other he didn't.
In all other respects the two beds were treated the same. The gardener reported that the difference was outstanding. The Mycorrcin treated bed produced masses of big, sweet strawberries where the other bed was just the normal so-so crop. He said if he had not done the trial with the two beds he would not have believed the possible difference.
As I often say, when you work with Nature you get the results, when you try to work against Nature with harmful chemical fertilisers and sprays, all you have is a war zone.
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Labour Weekend puts us about bang in the middle of spring, which is the time deemed historically in New Zealand, as the best time to get your gardens planted out for the summer and autumn.
Keen gardeners have already made significant progress in their gardens and likely are into the final touches and daily care patterns of watering and nipping out those odd weed seedlings that pop up.
Even people that do not normally do much more gardening than mowing the lawn and spraying some herbicide around, tend to become more motivated about now.
It must be the spring thing which is often referred to as ‘Spring Cleaning’
This term actually came about in days gone by when the weather warmed in the spring and people would take out the old hay, which was used to cover the earthen, kitchen floor. Fresh hay would be spread and likely the old hay would be dug into the vegetable plot.
Spring is the time for renewal and all around us birds are sitting on their nests of hatchlings and causing a bit of havoc in gardens as they search for tidbits to feed the young. In fact I had a call from a gardener that had the problem of blackbirds chucking around his garden mulch in their quest for food.
There are two things to do to solve this problem and the first is to supply the birds with ample food for their young. This is best done by obtaining a bit of liver and chopping it up into small bits.
Place these in a pot with 3 cups of rice and sufficient water to cook. Stir occasionally till the rice is cooked. Place spoonfuls of the mix out in suitable spots for the birds to eat.
Do this 2-3 times a day and again after dark so the birds who wake up before most people in the morning, have the food for breakfast.
The rice mix keeps well in the fridge for a few days. To keep the birds off the areas where you don't want them you can string some Bird Repeller Ribbon which is available from most independent garden centres.
The desire to nurture their young is so great that the ribbon will be of little use unless you supply a good amount of food. Besides the rice, you can feed them bird seed, bread etc, but protein is what the birds want for their young and that comes from the liver and rice mix. I feed my chooks this mix every day for their lunch and they love it.
It is this ‘spring cleaning’ come nurture aspect which motivates our non gardening friends to get out and plant a few shrubs, flowers and even vegetables at this time of the year. If these plantings are successful they take pride in their efforts and start to become true gardeners in their own right.
When weather conditions or lack of knowledge results in failures, they consider that their thumbs are not green and carry on with their other normal pursuits.
Planting out of seedlings is one of the main tasks at this time along with germinating seeds for planting out later. Seedlings face three dangers that can decimate the young plants. Birds, which we have already mentioned. Cats, which just love freshly prepared soils as toilets. Slugs and snails that like seedlings.
To keep cats away from your new gardens obtain a product that is called ‘Cat Repellent,’ sprinkle some of the crystals around the area to protect, and over 95% of the local cats will stay away. As the crystals evaporate sprinkle a few more till the cats have formed new habits.
Slugs and snails also can attack seedlings and the best method of dealing with them is to spray Liquid Copper with Raingard added over the seedlings and surrounding soil. The slugs and snails cannot go over copper without being effected so they stay away from treated areas. Repeat treatment about every 10 to 14 days.
This method is far better than using poison baits which can kill pets and birds and are also dangerous to have around with small children. Slugs and snails are an advantage in the garden as they aid in the breakdown of decomposing organic material and are an important part of the soil food web. We just need to keep them off our living plants.
Germinating seedlings is a frustrating experience for many gardeners because they do not provide sufficient natural light for the new seedlings. The seeds sown in trays or punnets can be started off indoors but as soon as the first show of germination takes place they must be moved to a place where they have full light but not strong direct sunlight. Ideally a glasshouse with a bit of shade cloth is perfect.
Alternatively take an old drawer and place it in a morning or late in the day sun situation.
Place your trays in the drawer with panes of glass over the drawer to protect the young seedlings from the elements. Raise the glass slightly for ventilation. Seedlings on a windowsill will stretch to the window and become weak and dampen off. When the seedlings have natural light from above they do not stretch, growing as natural, stocky plants.
Use potting mix for germinating seedlings as it is better and cheaper than special seed raising mixes.
Fill the tray two thirds full of the potting mix, sieve some more mix over this to obtain a layer of the finer particles. Sprinkle the seeds over the fine particles and sieve some more mix to slightly cover the seeds. With a fine rose watering can or a mist sprayer, moisten down the sowing with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) mixed with water at 10 mls per litre. This aids the germination. Keep the seeds moist but not over wet.
Once the seedlings have reached the second true leaf stage the tray should be soaked in the MBL and water mix and then the seedlings are pricked out into cell trays or small pots for later planting into the gardens.
When planting out a garden plot remove all the weeds by hand and hoe up the soil to loosen it, if compacted. Cover the area with a layer of compost which can be obtained these days from garden centres in bags or by the trailer load. Before spreading the compost over the prepared ground, you can enhance the mineral content of the soil by sprinkling Simalith and Ocean Solids. Sheep Manure pellets, Blood & bone, dolomite & gypsum can also be applied at the suggested rates on the containers.
Then an inch or two of the compost is used to cover these goodies. Now the seedlings can be planted into the compost and watered in with MBL and Mycorrcin. The later along with the MBL will start assisting the microbe populations to build up making for better healthier plants and gardens.
You may like to spray your seedlings with Vaporgard an hour or two before transplanting. This reduces moisture loss and makes a big difference in reducing transplant shock. The seedlings not only stand up quicker and start growing faster but it also protects them against cold snaps and late frosts.
Once planted and watered in you can sprinkle the Cat Repellent around if need be and spray the seedlings and mulch with Liquid Copper and Raingard to keep the slugs and snails at bay.
It is important that you water your new plantings lightly and frequently such as every day while they are establishing.
Here we bring in an interesting point; tap water in some areas has chlorine added to the water which is not good for the soil or plants.
The tap water will get dry soil moist, but it also kills beneficial microbes in the soil and on the plants, slowing down the plant’s growth and health. Some areas have greater amounts of chlorine in the water that others and you can smell this poison when you turn on the tap.
Also not good for your own health either.
When it rains you will notice that plants really come away as the rain water is much more beneficial for the gardens than the chlorine doctored tap water.
I overcame this problem recently by investing in a low cost water filter which is now connected to my garden hose.
Even after only a couple of weeks I can see better growth after I water, a bit like rain water results. If you are interested in doing the same, visit a Plumbing Merchant and pick up a ‘Filterpure W10PR 10”Filte Housing 20mm and a Filterpure AC-10 10”Carbon Cartilage. Costs about $100 and additional replacement carbon cartilages about $35.00.
The filters need only to be replaced in the spring each year. (Dependant on your water usage) An excellent investment, which removes another toxic chemical from our gardens (along with any other pesticides/chemical traces that are in many tap water supplies) Another step towards having healthy plants and gardens. Have a great Labour Weekend.
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Recently a reader from Marlborough emailed me about the lack of honey bees in his garden and more particularly on his fruit trees. Here is the readers email:
Here in Marlborough (and Nelson) a government funded programme is in force to eradicate the viroa mite from beehives.
I gather feral hives have been killed off.
This probably explains why we have no bees whatsoever in our garden now. They are normally here in droves at this time on all the blossoms.
What becomes of our raspberries, apples, kiwifruit, strawberries et al when there are no bees to transfer pollen for fruiting ? Can we do it manually by using air pumps ? Will nature take care of itself anyway, doing the job using wind ? Be very interested in your answer. Everyone will be interested to know the answer to no bees. Many thanks in anticipation.”
The Varroa (Correct spelling) mite has certainly caused major concerns to both bee keepers and gardeners since it appeared in New Zealand and was first found in April 2000. By April 2002 was widely spread through the upper North Island. By 2003 the mites had reached the Manawatu and I lost a bee hive myself about that time. From then onwards, I have treated my couple of hives; spring and autumn to control the mite. Earlier this year the mite was found in the upper South Island.
Knowing bees as I do, it is very likely that the spread will continue south and every district will be affected in New Zealand. The unanswered question in all this was how did it originally get into New Zealand?
Australia and the Pacific Islands are free of the mite.
There would have been a chance of containing the mite spread when first discovered in Northland back in 2002. Lack of action at that time allowed the Varroa to spread.
The Asiatic bee mite (Varroa jacobsoni) was discovered in Florida (USA) 1987 and from there spread through out both America and Canada indicating that it is a hard pest to stop spreading once it gets a foot hold.
Once the mite got to the Wellington region it was only a matter of time before it jumped across the Cook Strait.
Infected bees could easily be blown across, fly across, or jump a ride on any transport heading over the strait. Bees are held to their colony by the pheromone of the queen bee. But this is limited; when a colony swarm’s, part of the colony follows the old queen bee leaving the colony and part stays to attend to the new queen that hatches out and takes control of the colony.
Likewise when worker bees are out foraging they can be attracted to other colonies, domestic or feral.
This spreads the mites progressively till every colony is infected and dies. Our honey bees which are originally from Europe, have no natural resistance to the Asian Varroa mite and without man’s intervention all honey bees would succumb to the mite overtime, then the mites would be no more, having lost their hosts.
Two possibilities could happen, one is that some honey bees could become mite resistant or if all honey bees ceased to be then the mite may find an alternative host. Both of these are possibilities in Nature.
Even without the advent of the Varroa mite larger city’s gardens were doomed to be without the honey bee for one simple reason; lack of people keeping bees in the city as a hobby.
Once there were many hobby bee keepers that would have a couple of hives on their section for both pollination and a source of free honey.
Surplus honey would be given or sold to friends and neighbours.
All went well but our old bee keepers do not live forever and at sometime they would give up their hobby. Some younger people have taken up the cause but another handicap was put into place by the NZFSA as any honey sold has to be processed in a health approved packaging house with twice yearly inspections costing the hobbyist’s $50.00 a hour for the Inspectors time.
The costs to the big Apiarist firms are just added to the price you pay for the honey and in fact they encourage the regulations as it wipes out competition from small apiaries who cannot afford the overheads! Gone are the days of really free enterprise.
Even so I still recommend that gardeners that are keen should take up bee keeping as a hobby and gain both pollination and free honey. Just don't get caught selling it. There are bee keepers clubs for hobbyists which one should join to learn the ins and outs of the practise. Another alternative is if you can find a smaller apiarist company that will set one or two hives up in your section and allow them to service the hives for the charge of a few jars of honey each year, go for it. Trouble is that there is likely to be few apiarists willing to do so.
Every year about November /December a hive of bees will swarm unless it is controlled, to prevent it happening by killing off the new queen cells.
The bees that leave the hive with the old queen will settle nearby on a branch of a tree or similar and send out bees to find a new suitable home.
These swarms which once were common at those times of the year are seldom seen in built up areas these days. The swarms, if not caught by a bee keeper become feral bees living in a hollow tree, the side of a building or similar. With the Varroa mite they are likely to die within a year or two.
This brings us back to the problem of pollination in the home garden.
Honey bees were not in New Zealand prior to their introduction in 1839 yet all our native plants were pollinated prior to this by our own native bees, wasps and other native insects. In fact the honey bee is not such a great pollinator as many people think. Because of this four types of bumble bees from England were released in New Zealand back in 1885 and 1906 to pollinate red clover.
Bumble bees do more pollination in the home garden than honey bees do. The problem is that bumble bees establish their colonies a little later in the season and can miss the earlier spring pollination time.
This then brings us back to dependence on the native bees, wasps and other insects seeking the nectar of the fruiting flowers. Those gardeners that consistently spray chemical insecticides to control pest insects on their roses and other plants also kill these secondary pollinators and end up with few fruit on their trees.
Once again a good reason to use only products like Key Pyrethrum, Neem Tree Oil and Neem Tree Granules for pest insect control which should only be applied just on dusk. (This is the best time as pollination has finished for the day)
Last spring when my special kiwifruit vine, ‘Cocktail Kiwi’ came into flower I noticed an absence of bees working the flowers.
My two hives were on the other side of the house and the bees were off foraging elsewhere.
I felt like catching a couple and rubbing their noses in the flowers so they could go back and tell their mates where the vine was. I opted for a simpler, no sting method, and dissolved some honey in hot water and sprayed that over the vine.
A little later I checked the vine to see the results and found no honey bees but a few bumble bees and a few native bees/wasps doing the job.
Maybe gardeners can use this same approach to advantage. Mix honey, about a tablespoon into 1 litre of hot water and spray over the fruiting plants. Honey will attract a number of insects and that should help with pollination. Actually ants can be a help in the pollination also as any movement inside the flower can distribute pollen.
Sunny mild days with a little breeze can move pollen. Still sunny days and shaking the branches can move pollen.
I have been told that a tuning fork, struck and moved near flowers on a sunny day causes sufficient vibration to move pollen.
Maybe we don't need the honey bees after all but having a bee hive not too far away may increase the number of fruit set on your fruiting plants. If you are interested in obtaining a hive and further information look up Bee Keeping Supplies in the Yellow Pages.
ooooo Note since publishing the above, it was brought to my attention that a couple of points were not correct.
1/ The correspondent that email me the question about what to do about the lack of bees said in his email that bees had been poisoned in the region. This is incorrect, MAF was going to do so but the chemical company that manufactures the chemical that was to be used, prohibited the use of their product for that purpose.
Thus no poisoning has been done in the area.
2/ I mentioned the use of honey and water sprayed over fruiting plants to attract bees.
I had forgotten that the use of honey for that purpose should not be used as it could spread the bee disease, ‘Foul Brood’ people could instead use a mix of sugar and water and in fact likely a cordial would also attract the bees because of the sugar content.
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Labour Weekend this month and it is the traditional time for planting out most if not all plants including the more frost tender ones. There can still be late frosts and cold snaps so gardeners should be aware of this when planting capsicums, egg plants, Impatiens etc.
You can if concerned, give the plants a spray of Vaporgard to give them extra frost and cold protection.
Also applications of potash will harden up new growths and make them resistant to cold spells.
It is also a month when you need to think about supplying adequate moisture to new plantings as the soil tends to dry out quicker with wind and sun. At the same time you do not want to apply too much water as wet soil does not help growth on cooler days.
A daily sprinkling with a rose sprinkler on the hose can place a nice amount of moisture into the soil or containers without wetting them too much. Gardens should be given their annual dose of Ocean Solids and Simalith to ensure all the minerals possible are available for your plant’s needs.
These elements will make for healthier plants and less disease problems to have to contend with during the coming season.
Lawns should be sprayed for weeds and add some Thatch Busta to the spray. This will help the spray to work better and the weeds will disappear faster along with any thatch that has built up in the lawns.
Compost that you have made can be mulched over gardens and a fresh compost heap started.
There will be plenty of young fresh weeds coming up in gardens and harvesting them for compost is a great way to recycle.
Add some animal manure to the new green matter in layers along with garden lime.
Water some Thatch Busta into the compost as this is a great activator to get things going.
Do your gardening chores early in the day before 10 am or later after 3 pm. There is less UV at these times to be worried about and reduce the risks of skin cancer.
I read recently that Soda Water is a sun block. According to the source you spray Soda Water over your exposed skin and drink a small amount as well. I don't know how good it is but an interesting point.
I prefer to do my gardening late in the day after 4 pm and find it is more comfortable to weed and plant out. Freshly planted out seedlings do not have to face hot sun straight away and have till next day to settle in.
A spray of Vaporgard over the seedlings an hour or so before lifting and planting will stop most of the transplant shock and hasten establishment.
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There are a few herbs which are also attractive pot plants, and this is a good time to raise some for Christmas presents.
King of the potherbs is the calendula, not only useful, but a most attractive and showy plant in its own right. The seeds are large and easy to handle, and as almost every one strikes, germination is quick. The seedlings tolerate, in fact seem to like, the cold. Transfer each one to a small pot, not too large. The bright red, yellow or orange flowers will come quicker from a pot bound plant.
Nasturtium is another potherb with large, easily germinated seeds. Nasturtium leaves give a piquant tang to a summer salad and are said to be very good for the digestion. The flowers may be single in orange or yellow, or double and are attractive in whatever form they appear.
The third potherb which may be sown just now is borage. The leaves have a cucumber-like taste and are used in salads, but make sure you get the salad borage. It has a bright blue flowers and is quite ornamental.
Use a potting mix to raise the seeds, wetted and firmed. Push the largish seeds into the mix and keep in the dark until germinated. Transplant when large enough to a small pot.
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This weekend is the high point of the gardening year, with only a few days to the official beginning of summer, gardeners all through out the country are busy in their gardens.
More gardening items are sold in the two week period surrounding Labour day than any other two week period of the year. Labour weekend gardening is a tradition that dates back many years in N.Z. history.
The conditions for planting are at a peak, the soil is warm and moist, day light hours are lengthening and plants just thrive in this environment.
Spring growth is great, trees, shrubs, hedges, lawns and weeds are all desiring some attention.
The only other time of the year that can compare with now is in the autumn when the seasonal rains moisten a parched earth and the summer heat is moderated allowing all plants to thrive again.
With so many areas of the garden to be tended it is wise to make a list of all the jobs that require doing as you wander around your gardens.
Once you have your list then sit down and work out a order of priories. Place the most important tasks at the top of the list working down to the less important.
From your list make out a shopping list of what tools, plants, seeds and other gardening products that you are going to require to complete the list of tasks.
Once you have your lists, then check the gardening shed to see what sprays and fertilizers you have available then adjust the list to suit.
Now take your shopping list down to the garden centre and pick up your requirements. Good planing will save you valuable time.
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Labour weekend has being the traditional time to plant tomato plants outdoors in New Zealand. This time of the year the conditions are usually right, but this is also dependant on how the season is. If the growing conditions are still not good then only a small planting of tomatoes should be done with further plantings done as conditions improve.
Early plantings are sometimes superseded by the later plantings.
No matter how good the conditions are, late frosts which can sometimes occur right up to Xmas which can do a lot of damage to your plants. Crop covers should always be in the ready to place over the plants when there is any likelihood of a frost or spray the plants with Vaporgard.
Choose a site for your tomato plants, it should be in a very sunny area that gets all day sun if possible. Against a wall or fence is also ideal as this will give reflected light and heat.
When planting tomatoes out, make a deeper hole so that the whole of the stem up to the first leaves are buried. The plants have the ability to 'root up' the whole stem and this creates a greater root system allowing the plants to feed better and grow faster.
Slow release fertilisers designed for tomatoes ( Wally’s Secret Tomato Food) are best to use as they give an even amount of food to the plant with each watering.
Tall growing types need stakes or wire supports and should be tied to the support with old nylon stockings or similar material. Laterals or side shoots should be pinched out as soon as they are big enough to do so.
Once the weather conditions become warmer watch out for the tomato caterpillar and white fly as they can do a lot of damage to the fruit and plant.
Place Neem Tree Granules near the base of the plants every 6-8 weeks to reduce these pest problems. Ensure that the ground is kept evenly moist as uneven watering causes blossom end rot.
When growing tomatoes in glasshouses try to ensure even temperatures to prevent tops of the plant from curling.
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Cynara scolymus, the globe artichoke, starts shooting tender buds at this time of the year which are a gourmet's delight. Gathered young and tender and cooked with butter, the dish is considered a treat.
What these gourmets are eating is the inner petals and the base of the bud of what would be a flower, unlike the -- no relation -- Jerusalem artichoke, where the tuber is eaten.
The ornamental, silvery thistle-like foliage of the globe artichoke will choke out all but the toughest of weeds, so the plant can be consigned to an odd corner of the garden and neglected -- until spring, when the buds are gathered.
As the buds are not critical to the survival of the plant, like asparagus spears, there is no harm in gathering and eating the buds in the first year. In fact, apart from the ornamental nature of the blue thistle-like flower heads, the buds can be cut off each year, whether for the table or not. Again like the thistle, the flowers develop into seed heads bearing feathery, dandelion-like seeds which drift in the wind.
Fertilisers? No worry. Watering? Only if the drought is severe enough to kill most of the other plants in the vicinity. The plant has deep roots.
Pruning, spraying? Forget it.
This is an easy care plant which needs little attention apart from tidying up the dead leaves towards the end of winter.
The plant is quite ornamental and need not be grown in the vegetable garden, though destined for a vegetable dish. It can be given a back corner among the flowers, as it can reach two metres.
After a few years it will be in a position to provide a few offsets for friends. Rooted suckers will grow like weeds if planted in autumn in a sheltered area, plant in spring if frosts are hard. The dying foliage provides an insulating blanket against hard frosts, or a layer of straw may be applied instead. Definitely an easy care gourmet plant.
If you do not have a friend that you can obtain suckers from then you can grow artichokes from seed. Kings Seeds list three types available, the common Globe Artichoke, Purple De Jesi and Purple Romanesco.
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A reader, in their email recently, asked if I could write an article on Companion Planting.
As many of us are busy planting out seedlings into our gardens, it is an opportune time to have a wee look at what can be planted next to each other for some benefits and what should not. In fact this latter aspect of what should not be grown near each other is in my mind more important.
Anything that reduces good growth or creates other problems is a negative and as some gardeners do have problems anyway why add to them?
To start with let’s look at our gardening friends that live in the soil, microbes (bacteria) and fungi.
There is a ratio that forms in soils where one of these will be more dominate that the other while both will provide vast benefits to your plants. We find in natural forests that the fungi are kings, where on natural grass lands the microbes rule. Thus our trees and shrubs (small trees) prefer lots of the many various fungi to do best. Our lawns, vegetables and flowers want their mates the microbes.
There are exceptions to this rule as nature is not finite in its preferences such as woodland plants like strawberries live and perform best in soils with ample beneficial fungi and fewer microbes.
We notice that grass and a number of other plants do not do well near trees and shrubs.
Certainly it can be the aspect of shade and the trees taking out moisture and nutrients from the soil. When we apply ample moisture and nutrients, as well as removing the lower branches to afford reasonable natural light to these plants and grasses they still do not do as well as the same plants a bit further away.
The added moisture and food certainly makes the trees grow bigger and faster. It is to do with the balance of the soil life. I love trees for the shelter and shade they provide but have always found my vegetables growing near the trees are never as good as the same ones a bit further away.
There is a certain amount of proved science about some companion planting and the rest is unproven but have been noticed by gardeners over hundreds of years which are termed traditional knowledge.
One of my favourites is the planting of corn seeds and once these plants are up a foot or so then bean seeds (or peas) are planted next to each corn plant. Later when the beans have started to climb up the corn squash seeds are planted in amongst them.
This is a traditional planting by the North American Natives in some tribes. One can see the immediate benefit of the beans or peas having the taller corn plants to climb up or support and the larger leaves of the squash aiding in the retention of soil moisture.
But another aspect pertains, beans and peas are nitrogen fixers and corn and squash need heaps of natural nitrogen to grow well. This same planting can be applied to tall growing sunflowers too.
We have in these two cases very beneficial companion plantings. Clover is also a great nitrogen fixer.
Here is an interesting case I was told about in regards to clover and Roundup.
The group of farmers who use the mineral rock dust they call ‘Probitas’ did a trial in two paddocks next to each other.
One paddock was sprayed with Roundup to kill the grasses and weeds then ploughed.
The other paddock was just ploughed with no herbicide used.
Probitas and lime were applied to both paddocks and then tilled.
Then clover seeds were drilled planted in both.
The clovers grew in both paddocks but the non Roundup treated paddock had better looking plants.
Later some clovers were lifted in both paddocks to check the root nodules which fix the nitrogen.
In the Roundup treated paddock the nodules were small and sparse.
Where in the non Roundup treated paddock the root nodules were large and like bunches of grapes.
A very interesting result which shows how much harm is done to the soil with these types of herbicides.
Another reason for planting different plants together is insect pest control.
The African marigold releases thiopene which is a nematode repellent, making it a good companion for a number of garden crops.
There are plants that attract beneficial insects because they provide a nectar source for them. Phacelia Lacy has proved popular with some for this purpose attracting bees and predictor small wasps. (The wasps kill the aphids by laying their eggs in the aphid’s body)
Another way is to plant a Shoo fly plant which attracts white fly and helps keep the pest off your other plants. (I don't know how well this works in reality but the Shoo fly plant certainly gets covered in whitefly)
Now lets look at a few examples of common vegetables and what can be planted next to them and what should not.
Asparagus likes tomatoes, parley and basil: Climbing beans like corn, summer savory and radish but not onion, beets kohlrabi and sunflowers.
Dwarf or bush beans don't like onions but like potatoes, cucumber, corn, strawberry, celery and summer savory.
Brassicas (cabbages etc) like aromatic herbs, celery, beets, onion family, chamomile and chard but not dill, strawberries, climbing beans and tomatoes.
Carrots like peas, lettuce, rosemary, onion family, sage and tomatoes but not dill.
Celery is happy with onion & cabbage families, tomato, dwarf beans and nasturtium.
Corn likes beans, pea, pumpkin, cucumber and squash but not tomatoes.
Cucumbers like beans, corn, peas, sunflowers and radish but not potatoes or aromatic herbs.
Eggplant likes beans and marigolds. Lettuce prefers carrot, radish, strawberries and cucumber.
Onions do well with beets, carrots, lettuce, cabbage and summer savory but not beans or peas.
Parsley prefers tomatoes and asparagus.
Peas like carrots, radish, turnip, cucumber, corn and beans but not onion family, gladiolus or potatoes.
Grow your spuds along side of beans, corn, cabbage family, marigolds and horseradish avoiding pumpkin, squash, tomato, cucumber and sunflowers.
Pumpkins get on well with corn and marigolds but not potatoes. Radish like peas, nasturtium, lettuce and cucumbers but avoid hyssop.
Tomatoes prefer onions, nasturtium, marigolds, asparagus, carrot, parsley and cucumber but not potatoes, fennel and cabbage family.
Turnip like peas but not potatoes.
Likely there are many others but this is a good starting point for those that wish to use the system of companion planting.
I remember once that I converted some waste land for a crop of potatoes and found that mint was growing in the area. I left the mint to grow hoping that I would not need to mint the potatoes when boiling. It didn't work the potatoes never gathered the mint flavour.
Another interesting aspect is gardening by the moon phases.
For instance it is said that you should plant seeds when the moon is ascending and harvest when descending. I understand that when the moon is up and especially around full moon time on a clear night that the sun light reflected off the moon gives plants some light which allows them to grow when compared to a no moon time.
When I was a nurseryman I was planting seeds virtually everyday and never noted a better response to ascending or descending moon. I also asked other nurserymen the same and they also said it appeared to make no significant difference. (Moon light or artificial light at night will make sprouted seeds grow bigger quicker) So is there any truth in gardening by the moon to obtain better results?
I believe so because of our own conscious thoughts. If we believe something is going to grow better because of an X factor and hold that thought in mind while in the presents of plants they will respond.
It is like growing two identical plants in pots near each other. One you tell how much you love it and the other you say how bad it is. Do this daily and the bad one will fair poorly and likely die where the good one will grow lush and happy.
Now if I could only apply this to my weeds I would solve a problem.
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With the second month of spring upon us it is a good time to review what we should be doing in the garden. Over the next few weeks you should be getting both your flower and vegetable gardens planted up with all the types of flowers and vegetables that you wish to grow over the summer months.
This means that most flowering plants will be well established and flowering before Xmas and some vegetables such as lettuces you can be eating in December. Early potting up of tomatoes or planting out may mean you can have some ripe fruit by Xmas. This would be especially so with the smaller cherry type tomatoes. You may like to put in a small row of peas so you can shell them on Xmas morning.
Another option would be to plant the pea seeds in a larger container such as a 45 litre one. By wrapping some wide mesh netting around the container will give the plants ample support.
Give the area you plant the pea seeds a good dose of a soft garden lime and use a good compost as a light mulch to cover the seeds. Birds sometimes nip off the pea shoots as they appear through the soil.
They think it’s a worm coming up. As the seeds start germinating sprinkle a thin layer of grass clippings over the emerging seeds and the birds will leave them alone.
Talking about containers and planting them up for outdoor growing, don't waste your money on potting mixes, they dry out too quickly, are hard to water and there is only minimum nutrients.
Buy instead the cheaper priced composts and use them in the pots. Ensure that the composts you buy are friable and not too heavy. Add a little top soil to the compost in the pot as this will introduce more microbes and help the plants grow naturally. Potting mixes are good for seed raising and indoor plants in pots.
From my own experience I find a fine particle potting mix is far superior than the seed raising mixes for germinating seeds.
Fill your trays or punnets to about two thirds full with the potting mix and water. With the aid of a kitchen sieve, sieve some potting mix over the top.
Space out your seeds and sieve some more mix to just cover the seeds. Mist the planted seeds with diluted MBL after sowing for better germination. When direct sowing seeds in gardens prepare the soil and then sieve some soil over the area where you are going to plant the seeds.
Cover them with more sieved soil.
Talking about seeds I am currently reading a book called ‘Hard to Swallow’ published in NZ by Craig Potton Publishing. It is an eye opener and a must to read for anyone concerned about their health and the environment. It tells (amongst many other things) how multi-national companies such as Monsanto are trying to eliminate all natural seeds in the world, giving them total control of what we can grow.
They are working to achieve this dominance by 2014 to 2020.
Order the book at your local book shop or visit www.craigpotton.co.nz for mail order.
Slugs and snails can attack young plants in your pots or gardens. Though considered a pest by many gardeners they also do a lot of good breaking down organic matter and decaying material for the benefit of the soil and plants. Rather than laying baits that are going to kill them and possibly poison pets, simply spray the plants and surrounding soil with Liquid Copper and Raingard. This will keep them off the plants as they will not go near copper, this lets them do good for you, rather than harm. Repeat the copper spray about every 10 to 14 days.
A sowing of a quick maturing potato variety about now will enable you to still have some new potatoes for Xmas.
There are two important requirements we want from the vegetables and fruit that we grow in our gardens or containers. Nutritional density and excellent flavour. This means that not only do they taste good but they also have all the vitamins, minerals and enzymes possible making them most beneficial to our health. You are not going to achieve either of these two goals if you use chemical fertilisers and sprays. (You might as well forget it and buy the non organic stuff they sell at supermarkets)
Instead use natural products such as blood and bone, sheep manure pellets, dolomite, compost etc.
Enrich the soil with minerals from Ocean Solids, Simalith and MBL. Not only will your crops grow full of goodness, they will be less prone to plant diseases. Nature and the soil is a wonderful place and when you work with it you will achieve great results.
Here is an interesting tip, collect a couple of cups of worm casts or buy the same from a garden centre. Fill a 10 litre bucket with water and run a air pump with an air stone so it bubbles away for a few hours. This is to get rid of the poison, chlorine they put in our water supplies.
Then add the worm casts breaking them up so the water becomes muddy. Run the pump for a few hours and then stir in a couple of tablespoons of molasses and 20 mls of Mycorrcin.
These are high energy foods for the soil microbes you are breeding. If you have an aquarium heater run this at a temperature of 25 degrees C in the brew. (not important but will increase the value of the brew.
Run the system for another 24 hours. A nice earthly smell should be noticed.
While the brew is bubbling away stand a further container of water outside in the sun to remove the chlorine so you can use this to dilute your brew later. Dilute the brew 50:50 and water into the soil or compost around your plants late in the day after the sun is off the garden.
You have now boosted the soil food web to great benefit of the plants.
Another way is to spray the foliage after diluting one litre of brew to 5 litres of de-chlorinated water and putting it through a fine mesh kitchen strainer so it does not block the jets. Once again use late in the day when the sun is off the plants.
You can also add more Mycorrcin to the drenches and sprays to further feed and build beneficial populations. This is a simple compost tea that will keep your plants healthy and make for far better gardens.
Roses are a preferred plant by many gardeners and the requirement for perfect roses with unblemished foliage is a must for some. Once again it is a simple fact that roses respond well to the natural foods and do poorly in comparison when rose fertilisers and Nitrophoska foods are used.
The health giving suggestions above will promote the desired perfect roses over a season or two.
Drench the soil around the roses with MBL each month for three months. Then spray MBL over the roses two weekly. Provide sheep manure pellets, animal manure based composts and dolomite.
Once a month sprinkle some Fruit and Flower Power in the root zone.
Strawberries should be coming on well now and the first flowers and fruit forming.
I had a call from a gardener the other day and he told me last season he had two plots of strawberries which he treated the plants in both plots just the same with one exception. On one plot he sprayed the plants with Mycorrcin every two weeks. He said the difference was amazing, the Mycorrcin treated plants produced bigger berries, better flavour and three times the amount of fruit.
This is just another example of working with Nature by feeding the microbes, which feed the plants, such as strawberries in this case, you obtain far better results than any artificial chemical food ever can.
It is a busy month so get cracking.
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Gladioli are a great flowering summer bulb for gardens and later as cut flowers.
There is a fantastic range of colours to choose from starting with pure white and creams then into pinks, reds, yellows, greens, blues, purples, lavenders, oranges, apricots, browns to almost black.
Solid colours plus ones with throats of different colours, plain & ruffled petals, tall, medium and dwarf types which all adds to a full orchestra of variety.
Your problem is choosing which ones to plant and having such a great range to select from, you can be creative to your hearts desire.
Gladioli need a rich but free draining soil in a sunny, sheltered position. A sunny area near the house where the home shelters the plants from prevailing winds would be ideal.
Work a good, well decomposed, animal manure based compost into the growing spot and if the area is not free draining add course pumice or bark chips. Making a mound about 15 to 20cm tall in areas which has very poor drainage can certainly help prevent losses as the corms will be well above the wetter soil.
The corms are best planted in clumps of 5 to 7 corms or more, 10cm apart and 10cm deep (4 inches).
Make a hole about 13cm deep, place a few sheep manure pellets, Neem Tree Pellets and a little Simalith at the base of the hole. Cover this with a little soil (or if drainage is not good use a little sand or pumice) so the hole is about 10cm deep.
The corm then is then placed on this with the scar of last years roots downwards. Cover with friable soil. Mark the spot with a small stick and later replace with a bamboo stake for supporting the taller types.
The reason to use the Neem Tree Pellets in the planting hole is to assist in keeping the plant free of thrips. Later when the foliage appears sprinkle some Neem Tree Granules near the base of the foliage. If any sign of thrips appear on the foliage, (which can be seen as a mottling on the leaves) spray the foliage with Neem tree Oil. Often the pellets and granules usage will keep the pests at bay.
Thrips is the worst pest problem when growing gladioli. Sometimes slugs and snails will also damage the foliage and a spray of Liquid Copper over the foliage and ground below should keep them away nicely while the copper is present.
This copper can be used on any other plants instead of the poison baits which are very dangerous for pets and young children. The copper does not kill the slugs and snails but they will not go near or over copper covered surfaces.
Slugs and snails are really a benefit in the garden as they will graze on fungi, algae, lichens and rotting organic matter. They speed up decomposition and decay by shredding their food before they consume it.
Slugs spend most of their time under ground doing good work in the soil food web and only about 5 to 10% of their time above ground. Our only problem is both creatures like a bit of fresh food in their diet so if we can keep them off the plants with Liquid Copper then they are of benefit rather than a curse.
One old gardener told me some years ago that he had big populations of slugs and snails in his gardens but they never bothered his plants as he always had lots of rotting organic matter for them to feast on.
Back to our gladioli, from planting to flowering is about 100 days so you can plant a clump every few weeks up till December or as long as the corms are available. They need regular watering but don't over water.
If cutting the flowers for vases indoors the best time to cut is when the first flower bud is starting to open. Run your knife down the flower stem till you reach the leaves and then cut through the stem without damaging the leaves. The leaves are important to corm as they provide the energy from the sun to ensure a good plant next year.
Allow the corms to stay in the ground till the foliage turns yellow then lift them and dry off in the sun.
Remove the dead foliage and dirt from the corm which is then stored in a single layer in an airy shed. If you dip the corms into a solution of Neem Tree Oil and allow to dry before storing, should take care of any thrips on the corms.
Baby corms can be kept and planted into seedling trays and these will take about two years to reach flowering size.
Gladioli are a great flowering plant to grow and by following the above procedures you should have good success.
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It is now 23 years since I wrote my first weekly gardening article back in 1983.
Back then it was pen to paper, long hand with numerous re-writes before the editor received the copy. Once computers started to become available, I spent $15,000 on a Armstrad IBM compatible computer and a HP scanner/printer. This made life easier in some ways but a learning curve to ensure that the PC worked correctly.
Later on when the very popular garden writer, Nick Scott retired, I took over his syndicated column of newspapers which meant weekly publication in several papers, nation wide.
During the following years more papers were added to the list and in some areas of the country I was replaced with local writers.
Now days I am published in up to 30 odd papers either regularly or occasionally each week.
Regular publications have brought a following of gardeners who prefer my more natural methods of gardening. Many gardeners over the last few years have asked if I had written a book.
The answer had always been no.
So this last winter having reached 60 years of age, I decided it was time, and that there would be a book by spring 2006. Once committed it was many winter days and nights with the heater and the computer, typing out information from years of experience.
I could have just taken the past article files off the computer and put them together in a reasonable order and published.
Instead I felt that many would have these articles in scrap books already so much of the book was written fresh, devoting much more material to main areas of gardening such as Roses, Lawns, Tomatoes, Weeds, Vegetables etc. than could be placed in a 1000 word article.
The book has resulted in 340 pages of information, A5 size with soft cover. There are very few diagrams or pictures, just information.
The book is divided into 5 sections which include some past articles brought up to date plus information on natural products, soil health, plant health and our own health.
Not finding a publishing house that was interested in a first book from myself, it was decided to print and distribute the book as well as write it.
Thus Wally’s Down To Earth Gardening Guide is now available from some garden centres or by mail order from 0800 466464 or on the web at Click here for book information
Some book shops may stock the book later on as well, but in the meantime if you are interested ask at your garden centre and if not available, use the above contact details.
A book review is likely soon from the Gardening Editor or Editor of a number of the papers that publish my articles each week. The book’s recommended retail is $27.95.
I have endeavored to make the book a good read as well as supplying lots of helpful advise.
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Riverview Growers from Kakanui, Oamaru (The originators of Supertom Tomatoes in NZ) contacted the writer this week about the release of two new varieties of Supertom Tomatoes.
Theses are AshkAR; a high production, strong open plant with excellent setting abilities which is suitable for both indoor (glasshouse) and outdoor growing. The fruit are flat round in shape weighing between 150 to 180 grams.
Also, BLACK MAGIC which has excellent flavour and is a heirloom type tomato.
Black Magic can be picked at ripe red stage or when still green in the shoulder of the fruit.
They are delicious in salads and sandwiches or baked with some olive oil.
For those that love a more acid taste tomato they can pick the fruit when still half green. If not like a higher acid content you simply leave the fruit till the fully ripe stage for a less acid flavour.
Normally each year I grow a few Supertom tomato plants as they can with a little care and feeding out produce non-grafted tomatoes. This is because tomato varieties are grafted to a vigorous root stock giving them a dual rooting capacity (bit like the old double carburettors on cars for higher performance) this means they not only take up more moisture and nutrients they tend to be more healthier and disease resistant.
That is of course, dependant on the number of minerals the plants have available to the degree of immunity along with moisture and weather. The method used to obtain a Supertom tomato is to transplant two seedlings side by side as closely as possible. One seedling will be the special root stock, the other been the variety of tomato you wish to produce. Once these two seedlings have established then the trunks of the two are fused together in a grafting method. Tape is placed around the fusion area and the plants are allowed to grow on.
Once the union has fused then the top of the rootstock plant is cut off leaving the preferred tomato with a dual root system. The plant is grown on and then sent to the garden centres for your purchasing.
When you buy your Supertom you will see that the graft tape is still in place. This should be left on in the meantime. Later the growth outwards of the trunk will often open the tape but if this does not occur then the tape should be split open with a razor or a pair of thin bladed scissors, being very careful not to damage or cut into the trunk. If you do by accident cut the trunk then spray the wound with Liquid Copper. Another point of caution is never plant a Supertom deeper than just below the grafted area.
I made that mistake one season and found that moist soil over the grafted area opened up the scar tissue and allowed botrytis to enter and resulted in an untimely death of the Tom.
A question that is sometimes asked of me is, ‘If I collect the seed of my Supertom tomatoes and grow them next season will they be Supertoms?’ The answer is definitely no, but they will grow as ordinary tomato plants of which ever variety the Supertom was. Likewise if you strike the laterals (cuttings, rooted up) of a Supertom tomato the resulting plants will be ordinary tomato plants.
This striking of laterals is a good method of obtaining plants for later crops and on a few of the expensive to buy ordinary tomatoes (non grafted) you can obtain a good number of extra plants for nothing. The laterals or side shoots should be a couple of inches long before you take them as cuttings.
If you were to spray the laterals with Vaporgard a couple of hours before cutting them off the parent plant, you will increase your chances of success. Each cutting should be placed in a small pot that has been filled to two thirds with potting mix and the about an inch of sand on top.
(Alternative would be medium fine pumas) The cutting is slipped down into the sand just about an inch deep. Place the pot on a morning sun window sill and keep the sand just moist, not too wet. Using the Vaporgard you will notice that the cutting barely droops compared to a cutting that does not have this film over it. After about a week you will notice that the cutting has started to grow which means that roots have established.
Once reasonable growth has been observed you should then take the pot outdoors into a sunny, sheltered spot or into a glasshouse to grow on and then later transplant into the garden or large container.
When I buy Supertom plants I place them firstly into the glasshouse to grow on further. If you do not have a glasshouse place outside in a very sunny sheltered situation. Ensure that the plants are kept moist but don't over water. Place a little of Wallys Secret Tomato Food with Neem Granules on the surface of the mix. Once they have grown up taller and the roots of the plant are coming out of the drainage holes you should then pot them up into about a 6 inch pot. Use good friable compost for this.
Apply some more of the mentioned food to the top of the mix.
In a 6 inch pot the plants should reach about 18 inches tall before they require transplanting into the big final container or garden. By this time the weather will be better and the plants can fairly safely be planted outside where they are going to grow for the season. If you desire to obtain the best flavour and healthiest plants you should on this final planting apply a little Simalith and Ocean Solids to the soil or mix near the base of the plant, in the root zone.
The amounts would be half a level teaspoon of Simalith and about quarter a level tea spoon of the Ocean Solids. One full scoop of the Secret Tomato food should also be sprinkled on the soil just away from the trunk. Water in the above with a drink of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) and also spray the foliage of the plant with the same.
Make up a 500 ml trigger sprayer with 5ml of MBL and water, use this to mist the tomato plants every 2 weeks. Store the trigger solution in a shed out of sun light and shake each time before using. The same solution is great to use on any preferred plants such as your roses and vegetables.
The Secret Tomato Food with Neem Granules is applied at 1 scoop full every 6 to 8 weeks. The food contains ample magnesium and potash along with basic trace elements ( NPK of 14.4:3.2:17.0 + 5.2mg 11.0 s + basic trace elements.)
The Neem Granules that have been added to the above at 50/50 are a great aid in keeping the tomato fairly free of whitefly and caterpillars. This means a great reduction in the need to spray for these pests and in some cases no spraying at all.
If whitefly or caterpillars do happen to establish on the tomatoes later on then a spray of Neem Tree Oil under and over the foliage keeps them at bay.
(Note Neem Tree Oil in New Zealand is not registered as an insecticide on food crops so it is at your discretion whether you apply it or not) I use it as the natural oil is certified in some countries for this purpose such as in Australia where it has limited registration for organic crops.
Another tip with ordinary tomato plants when you transplant them, bury deep, up to the first set of leaves. Tomatoes are one of the few plants that will root right up the trunk and these extra roots will give you greater success.
The training of a Supertom is important and can be done in this manner; you leave on the plant the two laterals after the first flower truss. All other laterals are removed as they appear. These two laterals are allowed to grow and each of them along with the main growing leader will have their own individual stakes. You will then have three leaders growing off one root stock.
If you leave other laterals to grow you will end up with a massive plant and smaller sized fruit.
It is important that you only remove laterals on a warm sunny day when the humidity is low. Diseases easily enter the fresh wound and can cause the death of the plant. To further prevent this spray the fresh wound with some Liquid Copper. A monthly spray of Perkfection is also good value to prevent blight and other disease problems from affecting the plants.
Who is going to have the first ripe tomato? The biggest tomato? The most tomatoes off a plant this season? It could be you.
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There are big savings to be made in growing your own plants from seed, if you go about it in the right manner. With flowers and vegetables you have a far greater range from seed selection than you do when compared to buying seedlings. This is especially so when you have a good garden centre with a large seed range or a mail order catalogue such as Kings Seeds.
I browsed the seed stands recently in a store which had two brands of seeds and was surprised about how expensive some seeds had become. The expensive seeds were mainly hybrid types and the reasonably priced seeds were open pollinated.
The difference between the two types is that the hybrid seeds have been specially bred for certain characteristics in the mature plant where open pollinated are seeds that have been collected from mature plants that have pollinated naturally.
Hybrid seed grown plants tend to be uniform in growth, all mature about the same time and very similar in appearance and attributes. These are the seeds most commercial growers use in vegetable and flower production.
They are great for the market gardener that requires a field of cabbages all of which are ready to harvest at the same time. For the home gardener they are a waste of time and space as most of us can’t eat a dozen cabbages in a week or so. We gardeners want our cabbages to reach maturity several days apart so we obtain the full benefit of our efforts and not have lots of waste.
The cheaper seeds give us this as they are open pollinated and will be staggered in their maturity. Besides when it comes to vegetables the open pollinated will likely have far better flavour when grown naturally and have less disease problems.
It is from these plants you can allow one to go to seed and collect your own seed for future plantings.
For the more unusual plants that you would like to grow you can expect to pay a little more whether they are open pollinated or hybrids. For common vegetables and flowers you are best to choose the less expensive seed packets. When you buy some types of seeds such as lettuce, you will not want to sow all the seeds, in fact you may only sow a dozen seeds each time. The remaining seeds should be then stored in their original packet and put inside a seal-able glass jar and placed in the fridge.
There they will keep for many months and even years with little loss of vitality. One garden centre chain has a number of their seed packets with two separate foiled packs in the main packet. This is great as you are assured that the unopened ones will keep longer. Store them also in the fridge opened or unopened.
The fridge storage of even unopened packets is a good move as this gives the seeds a false winter so when you bring them out to germinate they will think its spring and strike quicker.
Use either old punnets or seedling trays to germinate your seeds in dependant on the number of seeds you wish to strike. Don't worry about the fancy seed raising mixes as a reasonable potting mix is far better and cheaper. Fill the tray to about two thirds full with the potting mix and then with a kitchen sieve sprinkle a layer of the finer particles of the mix over this.
Next evenly as possible sprinkle the number of seeds you wish to germinate. If you want 6 plants to plant out then sow 12 seeds.
You can later on select the 6 best plants for growing on. The other seedlings can be discarded or kept in the tray to grow on for a future planting. Next with the aid of the sieve, sprinkle a little more of the mix to just about cover the seeds. Many seeds prefer a little light to germinate well, so don't cover too much.
Next take a trigger sprayer and place a few mils of Magic Botanic Liquid into it with water. Spray this over the mix and seeds to wet the mix. The tray then should be placed on a heat pad or in a warm situation to aid germination. Ensure that the mix is kept moist and not allowed to dry out, misting with the sprayer two or more times a day. The tray should be in good light but not strong direct sunlight.
Germination time varies from plant to plant and often the packet may give an indication of the number of days required. On germination the embryo leaves and growing stem will appear.
This is the time that many gardeners stuff up and losses occur. Embryo seedlings need overhead light as soon as they appear or within at least 12 odd hours. If not, the seedlings will stretch to the natural light and become weak making them vulnerable to dampening off and diseases.
The tray should be moved to a glasshouse bench where it is lightly shaded from strong direct sun.
If you do not have a glasshouse then with either an old draw or a polystyrene box and a sheet of glass you have an excellent propagation unit. Place the trays of freshly germinated seedlings in the box with the sheet of glass over it but slightly raised off the box with ice cream sticks or similar at each corner, to allow heat and moisture to escape. The raised glass should not be too high so as to leave an easy entrance for slugs or snails.
The box should be in an area that only gets early or late sun. Not direct sun from say 10 am to 2 pm. Ensure the mix is kept moist by misting.
In the box or glasshouse the plants will grow straight up with sturdy growth. If there is any danger of slugs or snails getting to the seedlings then spray them and the surrounding area with Liquid Copper and Raingard. The pests will not go over a film of copper without dying. (If your hostas or other plants in the garden are being attacked use this method, its safer and better than poison baits)
Once your seedlings have reached the first true leaf stage and are big enough, they should be carefully pricked out and planted into small pots or spaced apart in punnets or cell packs.
Before doing this spray the seedlings with Vaporgard and leave for an hour or two. Next water the tray well so the mix is very wet. This means there will be less root disturbance when you lift them out.
You can make a neat tool to do this by carefully hammering a teaspoon flat and then making a blunt point with a file. It is like a little spade that allows you to free each seedling out of its growing medium.
The seedlings can be transplanted into pots or trays with potting mix. Keep the mix moist and weekly water in a good plant food such as Matrix Reloaded. When the plants are of suitable size to plant out then spray them once again with Vaporgard and leave them for three days before planting out.
This spray will harden the plants off and protect them from the cold and late frosts.
When buying seedlings of plants in punnets or cell packs it is a good idea to spray them with Vaporgard when you get them home and then leave them for three days before disturbing them and planting out.
It greatly reduces transplant shock and increases the success rate while establishing.
If cats in gardens are a problem then after planting out your seedlings sprinkle some of the product called Cat Repellent around the area. A spray over the area including the seedlings using Liquid Copper and Raingard will stop slug and snail damage.
Seeds of plants such as pumpkin, cucumber etc should be sown into jiffy pots so there is no root disturbance when you plant out.
There are a number of vegetable seeds that need to be direct sown such as peas, beans, corn, carrots, parsnips and sweet peas. They resent root disturbance and it is silly to buy them as seedlings.
The soil temperature needs to be 10 degrees or better for good germination.
For an early row of dwarf beans make a low tunnel house out of plastic grower’s film and no 8 wire loops. Place this over the area you wish to grow a row of beans. Leave for a few days to warm the soil and then plant the seeds.
It is a lot of fun growing your own plants from seed and a big savings to boot.
Just follow the guide lines above and don't attempt any expensive seeds till you are proficient with the common seeds. Even experts like me can have failures with hard to grow seeds where very special techniques need to be employed.
The secrets are a heat pad, good moisture without been wet and overhead natural light.
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September is the wake up call for gardeners, summer is coming along with Xmas and then a new calendar year. New Zealand is now coming out of a real winter, the likes of which we have not seen for sometime.
A real winter gives a fresh start as many of the natural problems of pests and disease will have suffered and hopefully they are at a low ebb. If our activities over the next few months work with the clean up nature and winter has provided us, we should have a great gardening year dependant only on weather patterns.
I obtained a book recently from Touchwood Books called ‘Teaming with Microbes, A gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web.’ A very interesting book and well worth obtaining.
The book confirms what I have been trying to convey through these columns for sometime.
Work with Nature, Not against it. The authors of the book put it in a nut shell; when we apply man made fertilisers to our soil (general purpose, citrus, rose fertilisers etc, along with Nitrophoska Blue) we kill the microbes in the soil. This leaves both plants and soil in a sick state.
The good microbes are wiped out leaving many of the baddies to take over. The chemical rescue sprays that are used to help the weakened plants, to overcome their problems of pests and diseases, only compound the situation.
Making matters worse are chemical weed killers including any of the glyphosate ones such as Roundup.
You end up with black spot, rust, mildews etc along with all the pest insects attacking your roses and other plants. You have caused this to happen by the applications of destructive fertilisers and chemicals.
Besides that you have wasted a lot of money and still will not have healthy plants.
If you want a great garden this year having healthy roses, trees, flowers and vegetables then stop your old ways and start making it right.
Use only natural products that will strengthen your plants and the soil life. These include, compost, sheep manure pellets, blood and bone, animal manures, pea straw, Bio Boost or Break Through, gypsum, dolomite, garden lime, potash, Epsom salts and BioPhos.
Then further improve the health of the soil and plants with regular applications of MBL (Magic Botanical Liquid)
Increase the mineral range of the garden’s soil with a once a year dressing of Simalith and Ocean Solids.
If and when normal pest problems arise use natural products such as Neem Tree Granules, Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum. It is not hard to have healthy gardens and plants but if you use the conventional harmful products it is hard to get the health restored till the following season.
This is the heart of the matter and the choice is up to you, health or sickness.
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Growing of tuberous begonias has become very popular with gardeners over the last few years and there are good reasons for this. An easy summer plant to grow and with a little effort you can grow something that you are really proud of.
Gardening has fashions and like all fashions these change over the years. A few years back another plant was very popular in summer and that was the coleus, now days you don't see these lovely colourful leaf plants around so much. Though total different species both have that same characteristics of growing very large very quickly if given the opportunity to do so over the summer months.
Tuberous begonias can be purchased reasonably cheaply as corms and they come in two forms, upright and cascading or basket types. The corms are best started off in this manner, use a seedling tray or punnet and fill half full with potting mix. The next 25 mm over the mix should be filled with sand. Push the rounded bottom of the corm into the sand so that the sand is level with the top.
Place in a bright light situation and if you have a heat pad place the container on that to hurry the shooting. Allow the sand to dry between watering and do not over water. Too much water can rot the corms. It is my experience that some corms just do not shoot, but that is usually only the odd ones.
Once the new foliage shoots are up about 25 to 50 mm tall the corm should have developed a nice root system. Place a finger in and under the sand by the corm and lift it up roots and all, it is now ready to pot up. It is better to pot into a smaller container for a start to grow your plant on, a 100mm pot is ideal. At this stage bury the whole corm under the potting mix.
When the plant is about as tall as its new container then it is about ready to either place into a large container or plant out doors. Remember that the larger the container the larger the plant and the better show you will have. They are hungry plants and you should keep them well feed, slow release fertilizer is ideal. Indoors the plants require plenty of light and direct sunlight through a window is about right with the plant been within a metre of the window.
If the buds drop without opening then there is insufficient light and it needs to be moved nearer to the light.
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There are many occasions, especially at this time of the year, when sowing seeds
out of doors, when one should "sow to grow and thin to waste."
It means sowing the seeds where they are to grow, and thinning the unwanted ones and throwing them away. Wasteful? Yes, but it is interesting to see how quickly many plants grow when cultivated like this, and how often they resist many soil-borne and even air-borne diseases.
I have always advocated raising cabbage seedlings and planting them out, snipping off the base tip of the root before transplanting. This encourages the development of a strong, fibrous root system and eventually better development.
But there are exceptions, and cabbages sown now for summer coleslaws do better sown where they are to grow and thinned to waste. After all, there is the potential for up to 100 plants from a packet of cabbage seed -- and a neighbour may like to take the spare plants off your hands.
Asters and a number of summer annuals also do better sown where they are to grow, and this is usually recommended for asters which are described as wilt- resistant or antirrhinums described as rust-resistant.
Sowing in straight lines does not give an attractive display of flowers, though it is better for vegetables, to make hoeing for weed control easier. But if the flower seeds are sown at the corners of squares thinning will be easier, yet viewed from a pathway or a lawn the effect will be of random spacing.
Drop the seeds in groups of three or even four where the lines of the squares intersect and the resulting seedlings will be properly spaced. Hoeing in between will be easier. Later on a feed of liquid fertiliser in the centre of the square will provide all four plants at the corners with nutrients.
If all seeds at each station germinate, snip off the stems of the weakest ones with scissors, leaving only the sturdiest. Do not pull out the discards. That will disturb the root system of the strong one which is to be retained.
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There is a great passion in many gardeners to grow the lovely flowering annual
There is a good selection of types to choose from that can be found on most seed stands.
Alternatively try the old world Sweet Peas called "Old Spice Antiques"
Dated from the 1700's to the early 1900's the range not only brings us new and exciting colours, bi-colours and shades, it also brings intensely fragrant flowers in climbing varieties that have extraordinary heat resistance making them very suitable for summer plantings.
Its is not only the colourful show that sweet peas can give to a garden setting that entices gardeners, its the heavenly fragrance the flowers emit whether in the garden or cut for vases indoors.
This new, or should I say old collection, is reputed to be very fragrant, an aspect that has unfortunately been breed out some of the modern sweet peas in the search for new colours and forms.
The Old Spice Antiques mix range includes the following:
Painted Lady; The oldest developed sweet pea still in existence and grown in England since 1737. Highly scented rose and white bi-coloured flowers growing on vines from 160 to 180 cm tall. (Note all the following have similar heights as well). American; Introduced 1896- crimson stripes on white.
Black Knight; Introduced 1898- maroon/violet bicolour. Cupani; Introduced from Sicily in 1699. A robust strain with beautiful flowers having mauve wings and a maroon standard and, of course, highly fragrant.
Janet Scott; Introduced 1903-flowers are bright, deep shell pink tinged buff. King Edward V11; Introduced 1903-vigorous, with bright crimson flowers.
Lady Grisel Hamilton; Introduced 1899, shining pale lavender blue flowers.
Lord Nelson; Introduced 1890- navy blue pure colour.
Mrs Collier; Introduced 1907-cream.
Miss Wilmot; Introduced 1901, deep orange pink.
The above are available in colour group packets or a mixed packet is available with all the types mentioned plus a few others as well.
Available by mail order from Kings Seeds or if you are on the Internet try www.kingsseeds.co.nz
The plants, being suitable for summer growing, which many sweet peas are not, as they prefer a cooler time, will make these winners for many gardeners.
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I wouldn’t have a clue how many different types of tomatoes there has been in the world but my bet would be that there have been many hundreds of types. Many have been lost but new varieties are produced every year.
The Tomato belongs to the nightshade family, which makes it a cousin of the potato and the aubergine. It is a native of South America. Native to Mexico and Central America, tomatoes were cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas dating back to 700 AD.
The Spanish explorers took the plant back home with them, but for some time the tomato remained unpopular in Spain because it was thought to be poisonous. However, in France they were called pommes d'amour or "love apples" for their supposed aphrodisiac properties.
Today tomatoes are on our highest perch, but in 1887 in America, they had their day in the highest court of the land. Are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable? Ponder that--and that's exactly what the Supreme Court did on February 4, 1887 when tomatoes were elevated to the highest perch in the land, the United States Supreme Court.
It's hard to imagine that tomatoes were the subject of a Supreme Court decision that officially labeled them a vegetable.
The court decision stated, "Botanically, tomatoes are considered a fruit of the vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in common language of people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not like fruits generally, as dessert."
On the other hand, the British did not place tomatoes on the highest perch but instead rejected tomatoes because they believed them to be poisonous. The early New England colonists also carried this belief until 1812 when the Creoles of New Orleans happily showed them how tomatoes enhanced their gumbos and jambalayas. By the mid 1800's tomatoes became a popular kitchen garden cultivar in the colonies. Tomatoes were in such demand that when the cold weather of the northern states halted their production, Florida became a burgeoning center for their growth.
The English word 'tomato' comes from the original Aztec word, 'tomatl'.
For many years, tomatoes were grown in Britain and the rest of Europe as ornamental climbers and were cultivated for their decorative leaves and fruit.
The Elizabethans thought the bright red colour of tomatoes was a danger signal and regarded them as dangerous fruits. In fact, tomatoes are related to the nightshade family, which includes the poisonous henbane, mandrake and belladonna.
The first known British tomato grower was Patrick Bellow in 1554.
Legend has it that the first tomato to be eaten in the United States was consumed in a public demonstration by John Gibbons, at Salem in 1820. He did not fall to the ground, frothing at the mouth, or get appendicitis, as had been predicted.
It was not until the 19th century that commercial cultivation began. The first commercial glasshouses were built in Kent and Essex in the mid-19th century when large-scale production of sheet glass was developed.
Today, tomatoes are the most widely grown vegetable in the world and are cultivated as far north as Iceland and as far south as New Zealand. Tomato seedlings have even been grown in Space.
Health wise, tomatoes are on the "highest perch" because they contain the antioxidant lycopene, noted for its ability to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men who consume 10 servings a week. Tomatoes also contain vitamin C and carotenoids, beta carotene being one of the most familiar, which are antioxidants. These offer protection from free radicals that cause premature aging, cancer, heart disease, and cataracts.
Loaded with antioxidants and high in potassium, tomatoes are one of the healthiest "vegetables" around. Another benefit--they're low in calories, about 35 for a medium tomato.
The above are bits from various web sites on the History of tomatoes.
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September heralds the spring, beginning another round of seasons. What we do in our gardens over the next 8 to 10 weeks will have a big bearing on the rest of the gardening year. The question you have to ask yourself is whether you want a great and healthy garden for the next 9 months or not?
I remember when I was a boy, 60 years ago, that at this time of the year gardeners would be busy digging in their green crops, mucking out the chook house and spreading this wealth of manure over their gardens along with material from the compost bins. Lime and potash would also be applied to gardens and all worked into the soil with a garden fork.
The thousands of worms that would be exposed briefly as these actions proceeded would be amazing. Hardy plants would be planted out next followed by the more tender plants around Labour Weekend. By summertime the gardens would be bursting with produce and flowers.
It was a wonderful sight having great tasty vegetables and fruit for the table along with flowers for the vases.
Reflecting back and comparing the same with many gardens of today, we find a few things missing in those days, lack of diseases such as blackspot, rust and botrytis. No sprayers in the garden shed, no bottles of chemicals to rescue plants falling sick, and no bags of man made fertilisers.
In fact the garden shed only comprised of a few garden tools, a lawnmower and other garden accessories such as stakes. The soil was healthy, teeming with microbes and worms, the plants were healthy and so were we.
Sadly we changed all that over the following years. Super phosphate was introduced along with man made fertilisers and everything went down hill.
Sure plants still grew, often faster than before but these plants were inferior and required chemical sprays to keep them from succumbing to a number of diseases.
Super phosphate kills the soil life and in my opinion should be banned because of the harm it does to our food chain. All the man made fertilisers contain super phosphate in some form including the now popular Nitrophoska fertilisers. Chemical herbicides only make matters worse.
This spring you can make a difference if you wish, use only natural products in your gardens similar to the ones we used in the 1950’s. Blood and bone, sheep manure pellets, garden lime, gypsum, dolomite, animal manures, bags of compost and natural liquid plant foods.
Avoid if possible chemical weedkillers especially around food producing plants and preferred plants such as your roses. A natural alternative would be to use a cheap cooking oil or vinegar as a spray.
The amount of water to the cooking oil ratio you will need to experiment with, start with say half and half. Place say 500 ml of warm water into a sprayer and then 500ml of oil, shake well so they mix and then spray the contents over weeds on a sunny day when the ground is on the dry side. Used in full sun the spray dehydrates the weeds and any other plant that maybe sprayed by accident.
The vinegar spray is 500 grams of refined salt (table salt) 4.5 litres of vinegar. Add the salt to a small amount of hot water to completely dissolve then add to vinegar with 5 mls of Raingard. This spray does have a residue and may for a time affect growth in that area.
Alternative is to use either Yates Greenscape or Interceptor. (Both are oils from either coconut or pine trees)
Actual weeding by hand, with a Dutch hoe or weed eater is best overall.
What happens when we use chemicals or man made fertilisers we kill the beneficial soil life and some of the baddies but a lot of the baddies survive to do damage to your plants in the form of diseases.
The good microbes that control the undesirables are not there to do their job. (The same thing happens in our bodies, the beneficial micro organisms keep the disease ones under control when we are healthy.)
Insect pests are also attracted to the weakened plants causing you more problems.
In the average garden one would find on a soil test, that a lot of man made fertiliser and contaminates that are locked up.
You can release these and remove them by drenches of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) and Mycorrcin. Place the products into a watering can and water across your rose bed, vegetable garden and flower gardens. Do this once a month for two or three months and see how the plants respond. Use the same products to spray the foliage of the plants growing in those gardens also.
This will give the plants a natural protection from diseases. You can also further strengthen the health of the plants by supplying them with all the minerals possible.
This is achieved by sprinkling some Ocean Solids and Simalith over the soil and watering in. The program would be for your vegetable plot and roses (plus any other area you wish to treat) is to apply a little garden lime, dolomite and gypsum, ( 3 forms of calcium plus sulphur and magnesium) along with some blood and bone, Fruit and Flower Power (Potash and magnesium) sheep manure pellets or animal manure.
Sprinkle a little of Ocean Solids and Simalith, then cover with a mulch of compost. Then water in with the MBL and Mycorrcin. The beneficial microbes in the soil will grow and control the baddies. The plants such as your roses will have all the elements and minerals they require along with a lot of excellent natural food. As the days go by you should begin to see the healthy difference.
To guard against pest insects sprinkle some Neem Tree Granules around the plants you wish to protect and if pests start to build up on a plant spray with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum combined.
It is a fact, that the way we used to garden for hundreds of years, is the only way to have really great gardens with healthy plants. The use of man made fertilisers and chemicals destroys the natural balance of nature and leads to major problems from the health of the soil too your own health. Work with Nature not against it.
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Sprout your certified seed potatoes so they can be planted out soon. Plant the early or fast maturing potato types so you will have them ready for Xmas. The main crop types can be planted around Labour Weekend for maturing in the New Year.
Strawberries should be coming on nicely now and a two weekly spray of Mycorrcin will keep the plants healthy and increase the crop by 200 to 400%. Spray fruit trees with Liquid Copper and Raingard to control curly leaf and bladder plum. When the trees are in flower only spray late in the day when pollination has finished for the day.
Sow the new lawn seed Superstrike ‘Easy Care’ for a great lawn. It contains only turf rye and fescue seeds, very finely coated to aid establishment. (Coating only adds 1 gram of weight to a kilo of seed unlike other coatings that double the weight) This lawn mix is ideal for patching and new areas.
Kill moss with Surrender; remember it has to be sprayed on to the moss as a jet not as a mist to work properly. Good lawns need to be de-thatched twice a year especially if there is brown top in the lawn. Remove the Thatch the easy way with spray on Thatch Busta.
Buy your early tomato plants and pot them up to grow on in a glasshouse or protected spot.
Apply the new version of Wally’s Secret Tomato Food with Neem Tree Granules combined, to feed the plants and keep whitefly away.
Make sowing of vegetables and flower seeds into trays for planting out later. Seeds of plants such as cucumber, pumpkin and zucchini should be sown in Jiffy Pots or similar so there is no root disturbance when planting out. A row of dwarf beans can be sown soon if done under a plastic hoop frame.
Winter vegetables will start to go to seed soon as the new season’s growth happens. Harvest what you can and then dig in the balance once they bolt. Hardy herbs can be planted out now and the tender ones such as basil grown in containers protected from frost.
Roses should have been pruned by now, if not prune soon, as they are already shooting away for the new season.
It is a busy month in the garden.
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Readers that follow my weekly columns will be aware that I am very critical in regards to the lawn seed that is made available to the home gardener. (The quality of seed, its germination percentage and the heavy coatings that are applied to a number of brands.)
These aspects are not in the interest of the gardener that requires a top quality lawn that they can be proud of.
A new lawn seed has recently become available through garden centres from Tui Products Ltd called Superstrike®. Superstrike® grass seed has a unique filmcote containing a combination of chemical additives specifically formulated to enhance the establishment and performance of turf seed.
The filmcote contains both an insecticide and fungicide to protect the seedling grasses during establishment. The filmcote is so thin it does not impair the germination rate of the treated seed and it only adds one gram of weight to a kilogram of seed.
Tui Products Ltd has Superstrike® ‘Easy Care’ which is the ideal combination of Turf Ryegrass and Turf Fescue making for a lush green lawn, tolerant of drought and slow growing.
Not having Brown Top in the mix means that thatch problems are greatly reduced.
The seed sown from this combination will show new grasses up and away within the first week as the rye grass is very quick to germinate, given sufficient moisture and reasonable soil temperatures.
The fescue will germinate during the second week from sowing building up the thickness of your new mat of grass. Initially the grasses will establish quickly and then their growth will slow, which brings in the less mowing aspect. Once the new grasses reach a height of about 50mm then 15mm can be mowed off the top.
This first and next few mowing’s are to strengthen and thicken up the grass and should be of similar heights as with the first mowing. Once well established then you can mow the lawn to a desired height of 30mm or taller but never mow more than one third off at any one mowing as this will weaken the grass. Never Scalp a good lawn or let a lawn contractor do the same!
Ensure that the freshly sown area is kept moist during the establishment period but don't over water.
The colour of the coating may deter some birds but the real answer is to place cheap fresh bread outside every night, on the other side of the house so the birds get a full tummy of fresh bread and leave the lawn seed alone. Putting the bread out at night overcomes the problems of the early birds in the morning.
For those that have existing lawns that you are not happy with you can do one of two things; kill off all the grasses/weeds and then rotary hoe the area. Level off and keep moist to germinate the weed seeds. After these have sprouted and been killed you can then sow the Superstrike lawn seed.
The alternative is to first spray the lawn to kill the weeds (if there are weeds) then to hire a Scarifier and scarify the lawn north/south, east/west.
This will open up grooves in the lawn and allow you to over sow with the new lawn seed. Next autumn you will then once again scarify and over sow again.
This can be repeated till such time as you achieve a good thick mat of grasses.
Once the thick mat of grasses is obtained you will find that very few weeds can appear, those that do can be cut out with a sharp knife.
Feeding a good lawn is just as important as is keeping the lawn soil from drying out.
Lush lawns are best feed with a slow release lawn fertiliser as these give a continual supply of food till they expire, unlike Lawn Fertiliser which is only a flash in the pan food and likely to more damage than good. One type of slow release that I strongly recommend is Bio Boost which is mainly available through PGG Wrightson, Fruit Fed and some garden centres.
Bio Boost releases over 12 months but should be applied to lawns twice a year, spring and autumn.
The natural product has a good iron content which keeps the grasses a nice dark green. Applied after mowing, to the lawn when the soil is moist, the lawn should then be rolled to press the pellets into the soil. Most important if you have a rotary mower and these mowers tend to suck up like a vacuum cleaner. To further improve the health of your lawn a monthly spray of Magic Botanical Liquid (MBL) is good policy (from spring to the end of autumn.)
Easy Care, Superstrike® has another advantage, besides giving you a great easy care lawn it is also fairly hard wearing so does not need molly codling.
As with all the superior products in this world you can expect to pay a bit more for Superstrike® but in the long term it works out at great value when compared to the cheaper lawn seeds. Ask for it at your local garden centre. ooooo
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The beautifully fragrant Daphne is a feature and hot selling item in garden centres at this time of the year. Every year hundreds, possibly thousands of Daphne will be sold which should mean that by now every home in New Zealand could have at least one Daphne in their gardens.
This unfortunately is not so, as many of the Daphne sold will die in the first year of planting out.
It is not the fault of the nurseries that propagate and make available these wonderful plants.
The fault lies with us gardeners that do not understand the requirements that Daphne need to be successful.
Daphne requires very free draining soil. I will say that again, Daphne require very free draining soil.
Planted in any situation that is not very free draining and they will die.
Heavy soils or clay soils are not suitable. I have seen Daphne plants growing under the eaves near the back door of homes, happily growing for many years without any problems.
The reasons for this is that the area is very dry and most back doors face either south, west or east which means they do not get all day sun. This is another aspect that Daphne does not like, full sun.
Early morning sun or late afternoon sun is best for them.
Even in a suitably free draining situation that is shaded from the midday sun some preparation should be done at planting time. Dig a hole twice as deep and twice as wide as the root ball of the Daphne you are going to plant. Next take half the soil removed and mix it with a course bark.
Use this to line the base of the hole and back fill so the Daphne is slightly raised from the level of the surrounding soil.
Sprinkle some sheep manure pellets, a little garden lime, Simalith and Ocean Solids over the top of the soil and then cover these with a mulch of compost. An occasional spray of the foliage with MBL and Perkfection will also assist in keeping your Daphne healthy. Once a month from spring to autumn end apply a small amount of Fruit and Flower Power to the soil around the Daphne.
By the way Daphne is not an acid loving plant as they prefer a pH of 7 which is neutral.
As New Zealand soils tend to be acidic, naturally, that is why a small amount of garden lime is applied. Daphne can be grown in a container by using a very free draining mix that is half coarse bark, a quarter each of potting mix and compost all well mixed together. Place the container in a situation where it only receives early morning or late afternoon sun.
Watering a container or a soil planted Daphne is done very sparingly. The best way is to wait till the foliage starts to droop from lack of moisture and then give the plant about a litre of water. Do not apply any more water till the foliage starts to droop.
Do the above and you should have a happy Daphne giving you years of pleasure and not having to buy another next winter.
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We all stop and admire a nicely groomed lawn; they really stand out and grab your attention. It is excellent to see that more gardeners have great lawns growing, much to the envy of those that don't.
It is not hard to obtain a good to a very good lawn, but it does take a little time and effort.
There is a series of conditions that must be met to start with which are; inspect the lawn and determine what problems exist. If the lawn is prone to flooding and has poor drainage then this needs to be rectified.
Lawns need to be sloped slightly to allow excess water to run off. If this is not possible then drainage pipes need to be installed connected to the storm water system.
The soil should be friable to a good depth so that the grasses roots can forge deeply.
On heavy clay soils you can apply, every few months, a dressing of Gypsum to open up the clay particles.
Next check the lawn for moss and if found obtain a one litre container of Surrender from a farm supply outlet and use this to control moss problems.
Weeds growing in the lawn are unsightly and will need to be sprayed with a suitable weed killer that will not harm established grasses.
Once you have corrected the above aspects you need to hire a motorised Scarifier that will rip out the thatch in the lawn and leave grooves in the soil which we will use to facilitate the over-sowing of fresh lawn seed. The lawn is scarified in two directions, north/south and east/west.
It should only be done when the soil is moist, not dry or wet.
Once we have scarified the lawn we can now broadcast fresh lawn seed.
The choosing of the lawn seed is very important as we found out when Consumer did trials on all the brands of lawn seed available to the home gardener a year or two back. (Not good if you want a really great lawn)
Also an interesting aspect is the use of Brown Top lawn seed in the lawn mixes. Many years ago Brown Top was used in lawn mixes as the rye grasses in those days was of pasture quality not lawn quality.
Things have changed a lot since then and the new rye grasses are low growing with thin leaves making them one of the best seeds for a classy lawn. (Fescue is the other good one to use in a mix)
Brown top seeds are poor choices as they are prone to give you thatch problems every year and Brown Top looks out of place in a nicely groomed lawn as the difference in structure and growth to rye and fescue.
So don't buy mixes with Brown Top seed as a component.
One of the very disturbing aspects of Consumers lawn seed report was the number of weed seeds in many of the brands.
When sowing a new lawn you do your best to remove all the weed seeds in the area by germinating them and then killing the young weeds.
It is very pointless then to sow a lawn seed mix that is going to give you a new batch of weeds.
A top quality lawn seed should be certified 99% pure with a germination rate of 95% or better. It will not be coated, as any coating can slow down germination and no matter how thin the coating is, it adds weight to the seed so you get less seeds in a kilo. Which obviously means less grasses and it is a thick mat of grasses you are seeking.
The new strains of rye grass are very fast to germinate and establish and you will under average conditions see new grass within a week of sowing.
Fescue types do take about another week or so.
The experts on lawns are Green Keepers and they do not use coated seed for the majority of their sowings.
Some gardeners think that the coating will deter the birds, this is not so as the birds will eat coated seed just the same as non-coated.
Birds can be fooled by sowing the lawn just on dusk when the birds have gone to bed for the night.
You can place Bird Repeller Ribbon over the area if you wish and also on the other side of the house throw out a lot of fresh cheap bread.
If their tummies are kept full for the week, while the rye seed is germinating you will suffer little lose of seed.
Once the seed is sown onto the moist soil or into the grooves the Scarifier has made then the lawn should be rolled.
You can hire a roller that you fill with water from hire centres. The rolling will press the seeds into the moist soil.
Keep the soil moist by frequent waterings once or twice a day when it does not rain until the grasses are well established.
Feeding the grasses is important and I don't recommend the powder type lawn fertilisers as they do not give a sustained feed. Slow release types are best and my pick of these is a natural one called Bio Boost.
A number of Green Keepers use this one as it releases over a period of 12 months and has good iron content for nice rich green grass. The product should be applied spring and autumn.
How many times should you oversow your existing lawn to obtain a great lawn? About 2 to 5 times with a new sowing each spring and autumn till you have a dense mat of grasses that you desire.
Once you have this mat the cutting height should be between 25 to 50mm and never more than one third removed on any mowing.
The dense mat of grasses will prevent 95% of weeds appearing and the few that do can be nipped out. This is a big saving on lawn weed sprays.
It is important that you supply the lawn with adequate moisture during summer and never allow it to dry out. Using the likes of dolomite, some garden lime, gypsum, and a slow release food such as Bio Boost will build up the soil life and humus levels which reduce the need for lots of watering.
You can enhance the grasses health and soil life with products such as Perkfection, Thatch Busta and MBL sprayed over the grasses from time to time.
(Thatch Busta twice a year, spring and autumn)
Additional minerals can be supplied once a year with Simalith and Ocean Solids (the later dissolved and sprayed)
Using these and as long as the lawn soil is not allowed to dry out, should overcome common disease problems that lawns have.
For those that own a home but are not fussed on lawn care, should think again. A nice looking front lawn will enhance the value of your home by many be thousands of dollars.
A thickly sown lawn using one of the new strains of rye grass will require less mowing to keep tidy than a scrappy lawn of weeds.
Cut it about 30mm tall and put the sprinkler on in dry times.
Once you start to see what a difference a neat lawn makes you will want to keep up its appearance.
Points to remember:
•Over sowing is the way to improve an existing so-so lawn.
•For best results you need the best of seed, ask for certification like the Green Keepers do.
•Don't have Brown Top in the seed mix. The best seed is not coated.(Except for a range called Superstrike. More next week)
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Tomatoes were once called ‘Love Apples’ (Pomme D'Amour) and the fruit were believed to be poisonous when first introduced to Europe from South America. Related to potatoes the leaves of both plants are poisonous as is another plant relation, nightshade.
Tomato growing is a love/hate relationship for many gardeners who just love harvesting lots of ripe tomatoes as early in the season as possible but hate it when things don't pan out that way.
Tomatoes are certainly an interesting plant to grow and some years little needs to be done to achieve a great harvest, where on other years you can really look after all their needs and fail.
The big secret of success is fairly constant temperatures, adequate moisture and the right type of tomato food. Tomatoes are a warmth loving plant, coming from South America, they are a sub tropical.
Cold winds and cool temperatures make the plants sulk slow to grow and produce.
Early plants are best placed in a very sheltered situation that receives ample sun.
The best way to achieve this is to plant the seedlings into 6 inch pots using a good compost and then growing them in a glasshouse or in a sunny sheltered spot outside. Pots are easy to move and on calm sunny days they can be placed out in the open to grow. As the day closes in you bring the plants back onto a sheltered porch or similar. The plants can stay in their sheltered spot on days when the weather is poor. (Ensure that they have some direct sunlight for part of the day)
When the plants fill their pots and the roots start to come out the drainage holes repot into a larger container. This process can be repeated until the weather is favourable to plant in open ground or grow in a final 45 litre container.
Tomatoes need adequate moisture but hate wet feet so your watering of the plants while in containers must be done carefully. A young plant in a 6 inch pot needs little water to start with, just enough to moisten the compost. When the roots begin to fill the pot the water needs and frequency increases.
Tomatoes grown outside in open soil do not need this attention till the soil becomes dry later in the season. A common defect in ripe tomatoes is blossom end rot where the base of the fruit is black. This is caused by insufficient moisture in the growing medium as the flowers are setting. Common in container grown tomato plants because the mix has become too dry between waterings. This is less common in open ground till drought times happen.
There are a number of diseases that can affect and even kill tomato plants.
I read Dr Maynard Murry’s book ‘Sea Energy Agriculture’ where he grew tomatoes that had been supplied with all the known natural minerals and elements as part of their diet. He then proceeded to spray the plants with various deadly tomato diseases. The control plants all died where the mineral rich feed plants never showed any symptoms of the diseases.
This season I am going to give each plant 2 or 3 grains of Ocean Solids and about a quarter teaspoon of Simalith each time I pot up or plant out. I will also water or spray the plants every couple of weeks with MBL. These three products are very mineral rich and should give the tomato plants every element they need for strong healthy growth.
For the plants main food I will use my own popular, Wally’s Secret Tomato Food which has a NPK of Fertiliser 14.4: 3.2: 17.0 + 5.2Mg 11.0 S. + Trace. This has ample nitrogen and potassium for strong growth and good flavour. The food should be applied about every 6-8 weeks; a small amount for the seedlings and larger amounts as the plants are re-potted.
If all goes well then the plants should not be affected by any diseases unless they become stressed for some other reason.
White fly and later the tomato worm (caterpillars) can be a problem for tomato plants.
I have found that placing Neem Tree Granules near the base of the plants every 6-8 weeks has kept both these pests at bay. Even in summer in my glasshouse whitefly is not a problem when using the granules. You still see the odd adult whitefly flying around but the tomato plants don't become in festered. You need to start using the granules right at the first potting up and continue right through the season.
This year the two products, Wally’s Secret Tomato Food and Neem Tree Granules have been packaged together with a measuring scoop plus instructions in a 750 gram jar. You have your perfect food and pest deterrent, all in one. Ask for it at your garden centre.
There are two problems that you need to watch out for, letting disease enter the plant when you remove laterals and UV radiation.
Laterals are removed on the tall growing type tomato plants to prevent a massive tall bush and to increase the size of the fruit. On dwarf type tomatoes such as Scoresby Dwarf and Russian Red you do not remove the laterals, just let them grow. These plants grow about a metre by a metre and produce good sized fruit.
They are ideal for 45 litre sized containers.
If you let all the laterals grow on a tall growing type, you will have to supply many stakes for support and the size of the fruit will be smaller than otherwise, as too much energy is going into the growth.
Hence we remove the laterals or side shoots. This should only be done on a sunny day when there is low humidity as a disease can enter the wound causing collar rot on the trunk and the loss of the plant.
If you make up a trigger sprayer of Liquid Copper and Raingard and spray the area where the laterals has been removed, this will assist in preventing the disease from entering into the plant.
I have noticed that tomato plants that are exposed to all day sun tend to curl their leaves away from the sunlight. It is if they are trying to reduce the surface area of the leaf that is exposed to sunlight.
I believe this is their way of trying to avoid the UV radiation from the ozone hole.
Tomato plants grown in a glasshouse; show less signs of the problem than those directly outside the glasshouse. The reason is that glass does filter out a degree of UV.
I also notice the problem becomes worse approaching December and lessens from December onwards.
This follows the ozone hole problem. Also talking to gardeners in the south or on higher altitudes the problem appears greater. (Higher levels of UV)
The only remedy that I know of is to spray the foliage early in the season with Vaporgard and repeat spraying new foliage every few weeks till December. The Vaporgard acts as a sunscreen and will reduce any UV damage allowing the plant to grow better and be under less stress. Remember its stress that makes plants vulnerable to diseases, just as stress does to us.
On the other hand cucumber plants seem to love the UV and they grow madly in the months prior to Xmas often producing ripe fruit long before the tomato plants do. I also notice that the cucumbers do not grow as well after Xmas when the tomatoes are really taking off.
With the tomatoes it could also be a case where the plants should only receive sun either early morning or late afternoon. The danger period for UV radiation is from 10am to 2pm (11am to 3pm daylight saving time). At least 60% of the day’s UV radiation is between these times; these are the hours when you’ll burn fastest and plants that do not like UV will suffer.
It is worth thinking about.
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