Eplants.co.nz............ New Zealands Plant Portal........ Over 6,500 Kiwi Plant People and Services
The only site in the World with Live Images from Chelsea, Melbourne and Ellerslie Flower Shows.
WebCams | The Search | Plantfinder | This Weeks Tips | Featured | Eplants Home |

New Herb News Here


Welcome to New Zealands Plant Portal. Wally Richards Weekly Garden Tips & Advice.

Gardening Articles for week ending 29nd DECEMBER 2007 and January 5th 2008
Written by Wally Richards. Gardening

Compost is the very best thing that you can use on and in your gardens, for producing strong healthy plants.
It is how nature and the soil has maintained itself ever since the first plant life appeared on the planet. Its the way plants naturally obtain their needed nutrients. The plants along with the soil life, worms, micro organisms and beneficial fungi, work together to produce outstanding gardens. Chemical fertilisers are not natural and do affect the balance, but can be used if so desired, very sparingly. Likely the slow release types are best as they do less damage and give an extended period of continual nutrients.
In a natural situation, plants grow and die, leaves fall, animals leave their droppings and these are found as a natural mulch which is broken down by micro organisms to fed existing plants and nurture seed grown plants.
For the best gardens you need to follow the same process, mulch compost onto gardens between plants or dig into new gardens that you are establishing or re-planting.
Compost can be made by using green waste and kitchen scraps plus animal manures.
You can use a compost bin to keep material tidy or just dig a shallow pit and progressively fill up till you have a good size mound. If you have a worm farm then you can use that to convert kitchen wastes to rich soil. Both these methods I highly recommend to gardeners that are serious about gardening. You can buy chicken manure from poultry farms, horse manure from staples etc. Animal manure is very important and all the composts that you can buy contain mostly manure with other materials. I have two compost bins a worm farm, two chicken runs and yet I still buy bags of compost in. Having so many fruit trees, container plants and ornamental trees/shrubs as well as a good sized vegetable garden, takes a lot of compost.
Making compost is easy, just throw a mix of materials into a pile with a bit of lime and water some Thatch Busta in now and then to activate. There is very little that you cannot use from kitchen wastes, tea bags, coffee grinds, some lawn clippings (but not too much) other green waste, paper, any animal manure, weeds before they set seed,
dust and dirt from sweeping etc, old woolen clothes, ash from fires of untreated wood. The list goes on. The more different things, the better the compost. If you have a lot of grass clippings then add some each time you mow to the heap and put the balance spread under trees and bushes or over gardens as a mulch. When it starts to breakdown after the heat process spray with Thatch Busta to aid the final conversion.
DO NOT use lawn clippings that have been sprayed with a herbicide till they are safe to use (Check the packet or bottle label) Also if you miss mowing and the grass sets seed don't add this to where you don't want grass weeds to appear or into the compost.
You can also place a pile of grass clippings in a drum and fill with water. Stir occasionally and use the water taken off, diluted as a plant booster. Put some animal manure into the same drum for an even better liquid, plant food.
You can buy bags of compost from most garden centres and some have bulk compost available for trailer loads and bulk delivery. The most common type is likely to be Mushroom Compost and it is my number one choice for gardens. It is a must if you have heavy clay soils or light sandy soils. It breaks down clay soils over time making for great gardens. Simply spread over gardens and plant into it. Great way to overcome problems of oxalis as you bury the bulbs over time. Two or more applications of Mushroom Compost per year for 2-3 years will give you the best of growing soils on heavy clay gardens. For light soils it builds up the humus and aids water retention giving you a good garden to grow in, over time. Mushroom Compost does contain Lime and one should be careful not to apply it around acid loving plants without adding Sulphate of Iron or similar to the area to counter the lime pH.
The next common compost is animal manures such as pig, horse and chicken mixed with bark fines and decomposed together. This makes an excellent topping on gardens, ideal for a bed to sow seeds in and cover with same. I use this type of compost in all my larger outdoor containers. Its cheaper that potting mix and
Does not dry out as quickly as potting mix.

A number of people either live near the sea or have holiday batches they stay at as they can. These days the seaside properties have escalated in value and made the owners more conscious of their now investment in owning this type of holiday home.
Thus the sections are looked after better and more plants are used for decoration and shelter. One problem arises is that storms, spray drift and wind burn can quickly destroy many plants or harm their foliage on the windward side.
Certain native plants are not affected after they become established but even these can suffer some damage when young. Most of these hardier plants are recognized by their white or silvery foliage.
People that live full time at a seaside home are able too, after a storm, wash salt spray off their plants with a hose and reduce the damage that can happen.
Those that are only able to visit as time allows don't have this advantage.
It is very frustrating to go to your batch in a weekend with a nice range of shrubs and bits to enhance the section. These are planted with care, often with lots of compost and peat moss to assist the plants in root development in the sandy soil. Then watered in followed by a good mulch to preserve the moisture.
You leave the batch to return home, proud of what you have accomplished.
A week or two later you return to find your plantings damaged by sea spray, some burnt on one side and maybe some that will only be good for the compost heap or dry arrangements. You have lost money and time and not achieved your desired beautification program. Is there and easy answer? Yes there is and that is by spraying the plants, after planting out, with Vaporgard. The Vaporgard puts a protective film over the plants that will reduce the damage for about 3 months or longer.
New growth will not have the protection of the film and may have to be spot sprayed again in that 3 months odd period if there is a good amount of new growth, that you want to protect. Interestingly also, is that Vaporgard will reduce your plants need for water as the film reduces the loss of moisture through the foliage. This is especially so if you spray both sides of the foliage so all leaves has the protection film completely over them.
If you use this organic product, your new establishing plants will have less need for water, less chance of damage from the elements and a better chance to establish and enhance your property. A boon for those that visit their seaside homes infrequently.
The product can also be used by people not by the sea, but where they are planting in open areas and there is a likelihood of windburn.

>>>>>> CONTINUED >>>

Any Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Email wallyjr@gardenews.co.nz
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz

Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages at  www.sharpei.co.nz


Cucumbers are a very popular summer vegetable for salads, sandwiches and relishes.
Cucumbers are a heat loving plant/vine that only do well in warm temperatures times, in a sunny, sheltered situation. Like rock melons, water melons and some gourds, all of which are members of the cucurbit family, which need good summer weather to do well.
Poor weather gives poor and often no results. Given good conditions, cucumbers take about 60 odd days (dependent on type) from seed to fruiting. This means you still have ample time to plant and grow cucumbers for use in autumn. If you can find young plants in your garden centre all the better, as this gives you about 3 weeks head start.
A nice young cucumber plant, planted in a good situation, will show the first set fruit within a couple of weeks. As they are not a large sprawling plant like a pumpkin or gourd they can easily be grown in a good sized container with a stake or two for support upwards.
Vines bear two kinds of flowers, pistillate (female) and staminate (male). The first flowers are staminate, will drop from the vine and will not bear fruit. Subsequent flowers will include both male and female and pollination will occur. Recently, gynoecious plants (those bearing female flowers only) have been introduced. The seed packet will have specifically marked seeds indicating that the marked seeds must be planted as well for proper pollination. Some are also self-fertile.
Now pollination means fruit and non pollination means the fruit often forms, grows, turns yellow on the end then rots off. The same applies to Zucchini, pumpkins, squash, melons and gourds. Bumble bees are the common pollinators and if they are not around when the flowers are ready for pollination, then it pays to do it yourself. The female flower (pistillate) has the embryo fruit below the flower so it is easy to recognise. The male flower (staminate) does not. To pollinate, I pick a male flower that has lots of pollen on the staminate and remove all the flower petals. Then I wipe the staminate onto the pistillate ensuring pollination. (The plant may blush if it is shy) Do this on a nice sunny day about noon for best results. It certainly increases the number of fruit you obtain. All the cucurbits like ample moisture yet free draining so they do not have wet feet. They also love a nitrogen rich diet and Cucumber Booster should be applied to the plants once a week.
Cucumbers are one of the common fruit and vegetables that The NZ Food Safety Authority found to contain 3 or more insecticides in their tests. A very good reason for growing your own as the ones you buy can contain a toxic concoction if they are not organically grown. Cucumbers and other cucurbits can suffer from aphids, whitefly and powdery mildew. To control you can use Neem Tree Oil for the pests and baking soda with Raingard for the mildew.
Take away the insecticides and cucumbers are a very healthy food their analise been..
Cucumbers are 96% water by weight!
Calories 39 % Calories from Fat 7.8
Total Fat (g) 0.4 % Calories from Carbohydrates 73.8
Saturated Fat (g) 0.1 % Calories from Protein 18.5
Monounsaturated Fat (g) 0.0 % Refuse 3.0
Polyunsaturated Fat (g) 0.2 Vitamin C (mg) 16
Cholesterol (mg) 0 Vitamin A (i.u.) 647
Carbohydrate (g) 8.3 Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.13
Dietary Fiber (g) 2.4 Vitamin B12 (mcg) 0
Protein (g) 2.1 Thiamin B1 (mg) 0.07
Sodium (mg) 6 Riboflavin B2 (mg) 0.07
Potassium (mg) 433 Folacin (mcg) 39.1
Calcium (mg) 42 Niacin (mg) 0.7
Iron (mg) 0.8 Caffeine (mg) 0.0
Zinc (mg) 0.6 Alcohol (g) 0.0

So grow a few cucumbers this summer.


I have noticed recently an influx of leaf hoppers around my garden and also a number of people have rung me up to say that they have the pest too. In one case I was told the damage to some plants had actually killed the plants.
Leaf hoppers are a small flying insect about 1 cm across their wing span and can be a darkish browny/gray in colour or green. The green ones usually sit with their wings up like a white butterfly at rest, where the others, at rest, will spread their wings making a triangle shape. Both will often appear to jump away when disturbed giving the common name, leaf hopper to them.
These are not just a harmless insect that jump around your plants, they suck goodness out of the plants that they have as host plants causing stress, lack of vigor, fruit drop and in bad infestations death of the plant.
There is the passion fruit vine hopper that will cause the immature passion fruit to fall and sometimes kill the vine. Leaf hoppers like; ferns, figs, brambles, bracken, flax, beans, privet, fuchsia, lantana, coprosma, kiwifruit, jasmine and various other plants and weeds. Not an easy pest to control and as far as I am aware, none of the chemical sprays commonly available to the home gardener, have any effect on them these days.
But the natural Neem Tree Oil does and it will kill the pests and help control their populations, but a few spray applications maybe needed. I would suggest a spray program about every 5 to 7 days and then extended to a fortnightly and finally once a month till their time of the year is past. If you have leaf hoppers, say on your passion fruit vines, then check all other plants in about a 10 to 20 metre radius for the pests as well. If found on other plants, spray them too or otherwise the pests will just come back to the passion fruit over time.

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.


Chelsea Flower Show

Taking us to show you
the Worlds Greatest Garden Shows. Live.

Thank you. Eplants Email