Gardening Articles for week ending
18th AUGUST 2007
Written by Wally Richards.
Cherry trees in blossom herald the beginning of spring, not
only in New Zealand but in many parts of the world. In Japan
there is a believable legend that each spring a fairy maiden
hovers low in the warm sky, wakening the sleeping Cherry trees
to life with her delicate breath.
We can divide the cherry family Prunus
into cherry trees grown for their fruit and those that are
grown for their ornamental value, especially the spring flowering.
The later is often referred to as flowering cherries and it
is these that make the really spectacular displays in spring.
For instance in Japan the cherry blossom (sakura)
is noted as Japan's unofficial national flower. It has been
celebrated for many centuries and takes a very prominent position
in Japanese culture.
There are many dozens of different cherry tree varieties in
Japan, most of which bloom for just a couple of days in spring.
The Japanese celebrate that time of the year with hanami (cherry
blossom viewing) with parties under the blooming trees.
Many gardeners love to have a flowering cherry tree as a focal
point in their gardens and now is an excellent time to purchase
a new seasons specimen from your local garden centre.
Flowering cherry trees are available in several forms, upright
columns, spreaders, weepers, etc as well as the fruiting varieties.
The key to successful growing of a cherry tree is a good free
draining situation as they cannot handle wet feet. Many a
cherry tree has been lost in a wet winter when the roots have
been submerged in wet soil, for too long a period. Interestingly
the tree actually dies in winter while dormant, with much
of the roots rotting away, but in spring there is a sufficient
sap store to rise and produce one last display of blossoms.
Some leaves will then form but having too little root left
they fall and the tree is no more than firewood. Because of
our climate change it is more important than ever to ensure
that your cherry tree will be able to survive a wet winter.
The easy way to achieve this when planting out is to make
a mound 30 to 40 cm tall and plant your new tree into this
mound with suitable staking.
The mound should comprise of friable soil and sand mix with
a little compost added.
Cherry trees are not great feeders and a few handfuls of sheep
manure pellets a couple of times a year along with a scoop
or two of Fruit and Flower Power should do just nicely.
For those that have an existing cherry tree and are concerned
about losing it to wet feet, can do two things to reduce this
possibility. Just beyond the drip line dig a trench about
a spades depth, this allows the water from the wet soil
to drain into the trench, which will evaporate quicker with
sun and wind, making for a drier area around the roots. A
couple of sprays over the foliage in autumn and repeated when
the foliage is out in the spring, with Perkfection, will assist
the cherry tree to overcome those wet weather diseases such
as root rot.
slugs are likely to damage the foliage in the summer time
as they feed on the leaves. Simple to control with one or
two sprays of Liquid Copper, as the pest, like ordinary slugs
cannot handle copper.
Follow the above and you will have a wonderful display of
cherry blossoms for many springs to come.
The first tomato plants for the season are arriving in garden
centres at this time. These include the normal tomatoes as
well as the grafted ones which are called Supertoms. Supertoms
have a dual rooting system which means they have more roots
than a non-grafted tomato. The extra roots means that they
will grow bigger, faster and can give about three times the
crop compared to a straight tomato plant.
That is if they are cared for correctly and given ample tomato
food for their needs.
Many years ago I developed a special tomato food called Wallys
Secret Tomato Food which is a high powered, quick slow release
food with additional magnesium and potash added.
It is available in two forms, straight and with Neem Tree
The Neem Tree Granules are interesting, as many gardeners
have discovered, that by applying this special mix to the
soil near the base of the tomato plant, keeps the whitefly
populations from building up.
Whitefly are the enemy of the tomato gardener especially in
a glasshouse when it takes no time at all before thousands
of these pests are populating your tomato plants.
By having the Neem Tree Granules at the base of the plants
right from the start of the season and giving repeat applications
every 6 to 8 weeks should keep the plants fairly clean of
With the aid of the granules I now can grow tomatoes in my
glasshouse through the season without ever having to spray
Last season I received many complaints from gardeners that
the tomatoes they were growing, grew well but did not set
any fruit till much later in the season. If fact many varieties
did not set fruit till after Xmas even though the plants were
tall and flowering well. The reason for this was that the
temperatures during last spring and early summer were mild
and lacking in heat, the flowers of these varieties did not
produce the needed pollen to set the fruit. The same problem
could easily occur again this year and to overcome the difficulty
you need to choose cold setting types such as Russian Red,
Early Girl and Taupo. The small fruiting types with the bite
size, cherry tomatoes did not seem to be affected by the cooler
temperatures and produced good crops early also.
When you buy your first tomato plants they should be potted
up into a 10 cm wide pot using a good compost mix plus sprinkle
a little of the tomato food mentioned, on top of the mix.
The plant is then placed into the glasshouse or in a nice
sunny sheltered spot.
Some gardeners will place the plants in their pots or into
the soil on a northern facing aspect, sheltered from the wind
and elements by constructing a plastic frame around the plants.
This can be simply done by inserting 4 strong stakes into
the ground making a square that is about 40cm wide on each
of the four sides. Plastic food wrap is wrapped around one
stake and then run around the four stakes twice to secure
and then progressively wrapped higher and higher till you
reach the top of the stakes. This creates a plastic house
for your tomato plant to grow inside, well protected from
the elements and a heat trap for the sun. If it looks like
a frost at night an old sack can be placed across the top
of the four stakes to give overhead protection from frost.
During cool times you need to be careful not to overwater
your tomato plants as wet feet makes the cold more intense
and losses can occur. Keep the growing medium between moist
to dry, just giving the young plants sufficient water for
their needs. Later when things warm up and the plants are
bigger, then progressively greater amounts of water can be
Stem rot or collar rot is one of the great disasters of the
tomato gardener. Plants are normally well developed with a
good setting of fruit on them when the disease strikes. The
plant starts to wilt during the day, coming right late in
the day, but as the disease progresses the wilting becomes
worse till the plant dies. You will notice a dark area around
part of the trunk and aerial roots forming above this area
as the plant tries to produce roots to save itself. The disease
enters any wound on the plant during moist or humid conditions
and once in is usually fatal. Removing laterals during humid
times without applying a protective spray of Liquid Copper
Added protection can be applied with a monthly spray of Perkfection
starting off as soon as you pot up the plants. One gardener
told me that he saved a plant by painting undiluted Liquid
Copper onto the area where the rot was happening, before it
progressed to far. Worth a try.
Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz