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. 5th May 2007
Written by Wally Richards.
Written by Wally Richards. [Photo]

May is the last month of autumn and a month to prepare for the three months of winter ahead.
Growth of plants are now noticeably slowing, partly because of the lower temperatures but more so because of the shorter number of hours of sunlight. In fact we are now only 7-8 weeks away from the shortest day. Annual weeds become aware of the shorter hours and they strive to reach maturity and set seeds as quickly as possible. These seeds will become the new generation of weeds that will require attention in the spring. If you strive to remove all weeds now before they set their seeds you will have less weeding to do come the spring. Talking about weeds, during the week I was talking with a gardener who gave me a tip about how to completely clean up an area of oxalis.
What you do is place a netting cage over the area with a small chicken house attached (for the chickens to roost at night) Then place 2 or more chickens in the structure and as they only have access to the soil in the cage part, they will go to work scratching up every single oxalis bulb and eating them, even the very smallest that we would miss. After a few weeks work from our feathered helpers the area should be free of oxalis.
You need to supply the chickens with adequate water, grain and mash, morning and afternoon plus any kitchen scraps along with greens (weeds) from other parts of the garden.
The frame or cage can be made out of 50 x 50 mm wood a metre wide and about a couple of metres long. Cover with wire netting over the sides and top leaving one end open. At the open end you place  a hen shelter, which would be a box a metre square and 1.5 metres tall. Use the 50 x 50 mm wood to construct and cover all the sides with plywood leaving at this stage the bottom and roof open.
A suitable size hole is made on the cage side for the chicken?s access. Make a hinged roof so that you can open it to gain access to the eggs. Inside the house provide a couple of round poles or branches two thirds up for the chickens to roost at night. Do not use square perches as these cut into the chickens feet, the perches must be rounded with no sharp edges. Also about half way up inside the shelter place a couple of nesting boxes with straw in them for the chickens to lay their eggs. The hinged roof will allow access to the eggs. A small sheet of roofing iron is secured to the hinged roof at an angle so that rain will run off, away from the cage. Also at the far end of the cage make another hinged part so you can place their food into the cage along with their water bowl. A dogs bowl is most suitable for this as it will not tip over easily.  It is a good idea to place a bit of nova roof over this area to keep the rain off but don't cover the whole cage area without supplying a shaded area.
This chicken cage and house is very mobile and you can move it around your section to suit your needs and requirements. For instance in the winter months when areas of the vegetable garden are free of crops it is an ideal place to have your chickens as they will fertilise the area nicely for you while cleaning up all the weeds and weed seeds in that area. If you are worried about the chickens getting out when moving the cage and house simply do it at night by blocking their exit hole and lifting the house slightly off the ground (two persons) and moving it to the new spot while the chickens are roosting. Then move the cage and open the exit hole. Have a think about it as a few chickens are a great advantage.
With shorter day light hours deciduous plants, roses, fruit trees and ornamentals will start changing their leaf colour as the plants absorb what minerals they require from the leaves before they fall.
Diseases will also attack the foliage which is natural as nature works to break down the organic matter as it recycles, for future use. There is little point in trying to stop this natural process and if you have worked to build up healthy soil, the same diseases will not affect new season?s healthy growth.
On the other hand if you have been a user of chemical fertilisers and sprays, then these same clean up diseases will not have the natural balance of beneficials and your plants will be attacked in the new season. To illustrate this point here is an excerpt from the recent Acres USA publication written by Graeme Sait of Nutri-Tech Solutions, Australia; ?Plant production and protection are based upon nutrition, and nutrient density is a function of balance. Whether we speak of the ratio between calcium and magnesium, of fungi to bacteria, or the ratio of pest to predictor, the importance of this equilibrium is paramount. Disease and pest pressure are symptoms of an imbalance- the gardener?s role is to determine the nature of the imbalance and to address the root cause of the problem.
Conventional gardening is about treating symptoms, and it has proved a gravy train for the ?leak pluggers?(Chemical spray manufactures) because we never really solve the problem, there is no end to our need for their remedial products.?
Supplying our gardens with key elements such as calcium (Rapid Lime) magnesium (Epsom salts or Dolomite) Sulphur (Gypsum) then all the natural minerals (Ocean Solids, Simalith and Magic Botanic Liquid) we are well on the way to healthy soil and plants. With the above in regular use we just apply compost, animal manures, blood & bone and other natural foods.
We all know nitrogen is needed for plant growth and there is in fact 74,000 tonnes of atmospheric nitrogen hovering over every hectare of land. Which means you have a ton or more hovering over your garden, totally free, you just need to do to use it, is by having a healthy soil-food-web which contains azotobacter bacteria, also by growing legumes (peas and lupin fodder crops) and having good worm populations as their slime is nitrogen rich.
This is the perfect form of nitrogen to enhance plant health, and the nitrogen is supplied to the plant as is required by the plant, rather than the common practice of force-feeding.
Shorter day light hours means slower growth and less moisture requirements by plants. In gardens that are free draining plants will be happy with average rain falls. In gardens that are of heavy soils and poor drainage many plants will have a problem with root rots. We can overcome this to an extent by applications of gypsum, dolomite and potash. Spraying the foliage with Perkfection also aids the plants in overcoming wet weather diseases. With container plants keep the mix a little on the dry side only watering sparingly as needed. Ensure containers are slightly raised off the ground and any saucers used during summer are removed.
Winter brings us damp cold air which makes it more difficult for soil and our washing to dry.
A trench dug to the depth of a spade around a garden plot will greatly assist it in drying out the surrounding soil.
A tip for drying washing comes from when I was a young child and most houses had a coal range in the kitchen and a indoor clothes line high up near the ceiling. The same principal can be used these days by putting a couple of cup hooks in the wall about 30cm below the ceiling height. String a nylon cord tightly between the hooks and hang your damp clothes on this. Done in the heated lounge at one end, out of the way, you will find that your clothes dry in no time at all. There are two other advantages to this as the air will be moist keeping any plants growing in the room happy and your skin will also benefit as dry air dries out skin speeding up the aging look. It has an off spin to global warming as you will not be using power to run a clothes drier and your indoor heating will serve an additional function saving you money. If visitors are coming you can just take down the line. Clothes horses are nowhere as good as they are low where it is cooler, not high near the ceiling where the real heat is.

Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
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