Taking us to Chelsea in 2007.
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Gardening Articles for week ending
27th January 2007
Written by Wally Richards.
WINTER CROPS AND FLOWERS
Timing is one of the most important aspects of gardening if you wish to
have fresh vegetables to eat straight from the garden during winter and
colourful flower displays in your borders and containers.
Timing requires that you plant about now, seeds or seedlings that will
just about reach maturity as winter sets in.
If you leave it too late the plants will still be young as winter sets
in and they will only slowly grow on and not mature till the spring. With
vegetables the slow winter growth followed by the quicker spring flush
forces the plants to bolt, or in other words, go to seed. This makes them
only fodder crops, to be dug in, composted or feed to the chooks.
With flowers it means you will have little winter colour but a good show
When you are buying vegetable seedlings or seeds check the maturity times
on the labels or packets.
For planting over the next few weeks the plants should have a maturity
period of about 4 months.(120 days)
This means that they will be reaching maturity about May at which time
the daylight hours will have reduced along with the colder conditions
the plants will hold well over the June/July period.
You then can harvest your vegetables fresh as required for use, from the
outdoor like refrigerator.
Vegetables sown in March should be ones that mature in about 90 days.
April sowings would be 60 days to maturity.
Brassicas such as cabbage and cauliflower will be young small plants during
the worst time of the year for white butterfly damage. Too much damage
to the leaves will slow their growth and delay maturity.
A simple answer to this is to place a heaped teaspoon of Neem Tree Granules
under each seedling at planting time and a similar amount on the soil
near the base of the plant.
How this works is when the Neem Tree Granules breakdown, they release
the Neem properties which are taken up by the plant’s roots. This means
when a caterpillar hatches out and bites into the leaf it will get a small
amount of Neem in its guts and will never eat again. The only damage that
is done is a very small hole in the leaf. You need to apply further Neem
Tree Granules around the base of the plant about 6-8 weeks later to keep
the protection going while the butterflies are still around. Normally
two applications per crop are all that is required.
A gardener last summer told me about this use for Neem Tree Granules so
I tried it out and was very impressed with the results through the summer
months, when white butterflies are at their worst.
There are a good range of vegetables that you can grow for winter cropping
and one of my favourites would be Rainbow Beet, the colourful silverbeet.
Having a sweeter taste than the dark green silverbeet it not only tastes
great but looks good giving a bit of colour to the veggie plot.
In fact it would not be silly to plant a few in a cottage type garden
amongst the flowers.
A number of gardeners have taken my suggestion in using polystyrene boxes
for growing vegetables in.
The boxes are discarded by the fishing industry and are either free or
very cheap to buy. All you need find is a local wholesale fish outlet
to obtain them. They come in a few sizes and most are about 20cm deep
which is ample root room for several types of vegetables.
A nice story one gardener related to me this week was about friends that
had returned from overseas after being away for several months. The gardener
had being able to provide their friends with instant vegetable gardens
by giving them a number of polystyrene boxes, each with a different type
of vegetable just about ready to harvest.
Simple to use, just obtain the boxes and drill a number of drainage holes
in the bottom, fill the boxes with a good compost adding in a couple of
handfuls of soil or vermicast. If you can, put a few worms in each box
to keep the compost open. Sprinkle a little Ocean Solids and Simalith
Rock Dust into the mix so that your crops will have the entire mineral
range they need and better flavour.
You can either plant seeds or seedlings and it is not too late to do a
box of dwarf beans for harvesting in about 60 odd days.
Now is also the right time to start off tomato plants for winter cropping
and those with glasshouses should consider doing so. If you do not have
a glasshouse then you will have to be careful where you have the plant
in winter. I like Russian Reds as they are a cold resistant tomato which
means they will still set fruit in cooler times, unlike many other tomatoes
types, as gardeners have found over the last few months.
The colder spring and early summer has seen tomato plants flower and not
set fruit as the flowers of many types only produce pollen when its warm
enough. These tomato plants should now be starting to set fruit. A mistake
that many make is that they stop feeding their tomato plants once they
start harvesting the first ripe fruit. If you continue to feed, the plants
can go on producing right into winter.
You might like to try my own tomato food called, Wally’s Secret Tomato
Food either straight or with Neem tree Granules added. The Neem Tree Granules
help keep the plants free of whitefly and caterpillars. The secret of
growing tomatoes in a glasshouse through winter is to always keep the
mix a little dry and never water too much, just enough to keep them from
drooping through lack of water.
Growing your winter tomatoes in a 45 litre container means you can control
the moisture level and move them around if need be.
BIRDS AND FRUIT
Birds love fruit as much as we do and if you are not careful birds can
get all the fruit off a tree or bush before you do. There are several
ways you can ensure that you have ample fruit from your garden leaving
surplus for the birds to finish off.
Many types of fruit can be picked when they are near ripe to ripen indoors.
Much of the fruit sold has been picked at the near ripe stage which gives
the suppliers a longer shelf life.
Fully ripe fruit can be held longer in the fridge but in doing so often
the sugar levels and flavour is reduced.
Bird netting is another way to reduce bird damage but can be difficult
to put over and take off many trees. Ideal for smaller fruiting bushes
where you can make a frame over the bush to support the netting.
From America we have the imported ‘Bird Repeller Ribbon’ which is a highly
reflected ribbon with holograms imprinted into the ribbon. The ribbon
is strung between branches with twists to it so it will move more in the
breeze. The light reflected from the ribbon is startling and very off
putting to the birds. Over time the ribbon will fade and birds will become
accustomed to it so it pays to only use it when the first sign of damage
is noticed and remove it as soon as the crop has been harvested.
By using two or three of the above you should have ample fruit for your
Another gardener told me that spraying Neem Tree Oil over the fruit can
also deter birds.
If this is so it would be that the oil has a foul taste and an oily smell
which could be off putting to our feathered friends. You would only need
to wash the picked produce under a running tap to remove the oil.
Likely regular sprays about 5 days apart would be needed if it was to
Farming gardeners have reported that regular sprays of Neem Tree Oil have
kept possums off their roses and other garden plants. Another farmer told
me that he uses the oil for fly strike in sheep and reports that it works
as well as the chemicals and more pleasant to use.
Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz
Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages at www.sharpei.co.nz
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