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
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
Does not dry out as quickly as potting mix.
SEA SPRAY AND WIND BURN
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
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
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
You leave the batch to return home, proud of what you have
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
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
Any Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz
ABOUT CUCUMBERS, PUMPKINS and other CUCURBITS
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
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
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
Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston
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