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Gardening Articles for week ending  27th  January 2007
Written by Wally Richards.

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 in spring.
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 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 needs.
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 work.
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

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