Herb News



Proudly Taking us to Chelsea in 2007.
Live images in March from Melbourne & Chelsea in May.
Please tell your friends. No one else will.

Written by Wally Richards. 28thApril 2007
Written by Wally Richards.
Written by Wally Richards. [Photo]


Everyday a number of gardeners through out New Zealand contact me by phone or email with the problems they have in their gardens. I am happy to assist in this manner as it is better to find a suitable  solution, than to endure an ongoing problem.
Gardening is a learning curve and no matter how experienced we are, there is always new things to learn  and often I am also given tips that are practical and useful to pass on to other gardeners through these weekly columns or in the book I wrote. (Wally?s Down to Earth Gardening Guide)
      A Doctor who is a keen gardener from the lower South Island gave me a tip last week which is very useful to prevent damage to wood from borer and rots. He phoned me in regards to obtaining a quantity of Borax, and as this is a more unusual request I asked what he required the borax for.
He explained that you make up a solution of borax at the rate of 150 grams to one litre of water, dissolving the powder in the water. This is then either sprayed or painted onto raw wood and allowed to dry. A second or third coating may later be applied. The ends of the wood should be especially treated and the borax is absorbed into the wood. Later the wood can be painted or vanished if required.
The borax will last for years inside the wood killing any borer that may attack it and the borax also helps stop wet and dry rots developing. This is a safe treatment when compared to the harmful chemicals that are used in treating wood. It is also an inexpensive treatment to apply.
Not suitable for wood that has already being painted or vanished as the borax would not penetrate the coating. However if you squirted the solution into borer holes it might do the trick.
Also not suitable for outdoors where the wood would be subjected to rain as the borax would be washed away unless the wood had been painted. Obtaining a supply of Borax, is not easy like it used to be back in the good old days when hardware shops etc would have supplies of it for sale.
I was however able to assist the Doctor in obtaining the product.
This brings me to a question often asked by gardeners about using treated timber to build raised gardens or for garden edging and the poison that may leach into their food crops.
The simple solution to this is to give the wood a couple of coats of acrylic paint to seal the wood before building. If you use untreated wood then treat the wood yourself with the borax solution and then paint the wood to seal the borax in. Untreated pine is cheaper than treated but I prefer to use macrocarpa untreated as it will last longer with or without treatment.
Talking about wood leads us to trees and a regular complaint that I get is trees growing on a neighbor's property that affects the quality of life, through the trees shading of adjacent properties.
Once when there were big sections, big trees were never a problem if planted well away from boundary lines. With infills of these larger sections, often these big trees are not removed and the new home owners can find views and shading affected. Deciduous trees are not so bad as they shed their leaves in winter allowing more sunlight through and they can be an advantage in summer for the shade they offer.
Keen gardening neighbours also reap a harvest of leaves for composting or leaf mold each year. Not so happy are the non gardening neighbours whom see fallen leaves as rubbish and a chore to dispose off.
What to do if a neighbor's tree affects your quality of life? The first step is to have a chat with the neighbour and explain your problem and often the consented removal of a few branches every few years
keeps everyone happy. By the way branches that are growing over your fence line can be cut off at the fence line and tossed back over the fence as they belong to the neighbour. Likewise roots growing into your property can be cut off and dug out. Before doing any of these actions it is best to inform the neighbour of your intentions as they can be peeved to come home and find a pile of branches and roots in their backyard. Avoid where possible making enemies. If the shading of a tree on a neighbor's property is making for a cold damp house and your neighbour will not do anything about it, then you need to approach your local council and find out what can be done. You should also have a look at the trees on your property and ask your neighbours if they have any problems in their regard. Common cutesy. The big problem arises when non-gardening folk obtain a little tree or shrub and plant it on their section and it grows up to be a monster. Some trees have very invasive root systems that just love to travel great distances for available water sources which often are in sewerage pipes.
The roots clog up the pipes and cause a ?S? load of problems. This can also be from your own trees and the easy solution is to pour a kilo or more of blue stone (Copper Sulphate) into the toilet and a few flushes through normal use will progressively send the copper down and burn out the roots.
A very recent email asked the following; Dear Wally, I enjoy reading your weekly column. We are shifting in two weeks time and was hoping to take some of my plants with us. We have a 4metre pittosporum, 3metre silver birch, 4metre cherry tree and a daphne bush. Can these plants be shifted, would like some advice if they can, thanking you, Anne. My reply; You have some major moving problems with the 3-4 metre tall trees. The Daphne should be cut back by removing some branches and then spraying the remaining foliage with Vaporgard under and over the leaves. Then lift taking a reasonable amount of roots undisturbed in the soil. That one would be easy.
As the silver birch and cherry are deciduous it would be a waste of time spraying the foliage with Vaporgard, but by removing some branches, will take some of the stress off the damaged roots. With a bit of luck they will re-establish. The pittosporum would resent moving but maybe by reducing it to about 1.5 metres and using the Vaporgard you might be successful. A big truck and some strong helpers would be needed. Also with the larger specimens some strong staking would be needed at their new home till they are established. (Note it would have been better to move the deciduous trees when dormant in winter.)
Another gardener asked what to do with surplus lawn clippings. These are very useful if spread out under established trees and shrubs as a mulch keeping moisture in, suppressing weeds and feeding the trees. Even if a herbicide has been used on the lawn this should not affect established trees unduly and the residue of the herbicide will help kill weeds in these areas. Later a drench of Thatch Busta and Magic Botanic Liquid will help undo the damage the chemical does to the soil life. Do not put herbicide treated lawn clippings in the compost or in other garden areas where preferred plants are growing.
Also do not send them to a green recycling centre where they are going to be made into compost for other gardeners or yourself to buy. It can be a real disaster. If you do buy any compost from one of these places do not put onto gardens without testing its safety by cutting a slit in each bag and planting a few bean seeds. If the beans sprout and grow nicely then use the compost. If they don't, or grow with distortions take the compost back and get your money refunded.
Another question often asked is how does one find the pH of a garden? A very simple way in the vegetable garden is to plant two small rows of peas side by side about 18 inches apart. On one row use the new Rapid Lime when sowing the seeds. If the treated row grows better plants than the other control row then you need to use the Rapid Lime over areas where you are not planting tomatoes, potatoes, blue berries and strawberries.
Frosts are starting to happen now so all tender plants should be sprayed with Vaporgard to give them frost protection down to minus 3 for the next 3 months. A further spray should be done about July.
Works a treat within 3 days of application but if you have a series of frosts, night after night additional protection is needed. Happy Gardening.

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

Please check out the Event Calendar. If you want your activity included, just let us know. Thank you.