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

Gardening Articles for week ending 3rd NOVEMBER 2007
Written by Wally Richards.

I am writing this on the 27th of October and this morning as usual, I was up early, taking my five Shar Pei dogs for a walk in the paddock across the road. Overcast day with a chilling wind and as I looked into my glasshouse where I have several tomato plants in containers growing, I thought how happy and snug they were, and how they would sulk if outside with me and the dogs.
It maybe sometime before they get to have a bit more room outside of the glasshouse, in the mean time tomatoes are forming nicely and even though my ‘Russian’ tomatoes did not produce ripe fruit for me by Labour weekend they did produce green fruit. By the way if you have tomatoes in a glasshouse then to ensure a fruit set you should tap the plants or stake to cause a bit of vibration occasionally. Do this on a sunny day and the movement will set the fruit. I used to have problems with whitefly in the glasshouse but once I started applying Neem Tree Granules to the top of the compost where the tomatoes are growing, the whitefly problems disappeared. I still see a few adult whitefly winging around, but no population buildup.
Unless you are living where the weather is warmer than Palmerston North, I would suggest you protect or avoid planting out ‘warm loving plants’ such as tomatoes and cucumbers till the weather improves.
They will just sulk and do very little till the conditions are better.
Outdoors you can solve the problem by placing 4 bamboo stakes in the ground in a square about 30cm or more apart with your tomato or cucumber inside the square with its own stake support.
Around the square near the base run plastic food wrap, in this manner, which is the same as freight pellets are wrapped. Squash the end of the food wrap to make a rope like end and tie this to the bottom of one of the stakes and then run the open wrap three times around the lower part of the stakes. Once you have your three runs over the stakes then work the plastic upwards over lapping the existing plastic till you have an enclosure a metre or so high. This plastic protection will aid the plant to grow better and faster having removed much of the wind chill. If it looks like a late frost then simply place a sack over the tops of the stakes. Later if need be, you can add more food wrap to increase the height of the enclosure.
I answered an email problem this morning which is one that may concern other dog owners.
Here is the query; “Hello, you wouldn't know of a magical solution to stop our female dogs pee from killing off our lawn. We have tried dog rocks, a pet shop solution that did nothing but leave us broke!!! People have suggested both yeast and vinegar, I am not sure the dog would approve!!! But will try anything if you think it would work. Thanks, Gillie Watson.”
My suggestion was this; There is no magic solution that is not detrimental to the dog's health.
It is usually the first pee in the morning that is the worst.
Bearing this in mind and if the dogs live indoors with you then you could construct an small area of bark which is enclosed and is the only place the dogs can go to when first let out. You may find that the girls will tend to use this area during the day also, once they have the morning habit established.
Another aspect is if they feel their territory is threatened, such as knowing there are dogs next door, they will mark out their territory with their pee rather than use the place where you want them to pee.
From my own experience marking pee is much stronger than ordinary pee.
Where damage is noticed try sprinkling some Rapid Lime and watering in with Magic Botanic Liquid.
This should assist in the quicker recovery of the grasses.
Another problem that I am often asked is in regards to club root. Club root is a disease that affects the roots of brassicas such as cabbages etc. In some cases it will also attack radishes. Club root is a soil borne disease and is usually introduced into the garden by bringing in contaminated soil on tools or plant’s roots such as bundles of plants that have been grown in contaminated soil.
Once you have the disease in your soil it can take many years of not growing the host plants to overcome the problem. As most gardeners want to grow a range of brassicas then you need to sterilize the planting hole with the following; dissolve a quarter teaspoon of potassium permanganate (Condy’s Crystals) with 3 desert spoons of salt into one litre of warm water then add this to 9 litres of water. Place one litre of the mix into each planting hole. This sterilizes the planting area and in most cases allows the brassica to mature with little or no root damage. Planting quick maturing brassicas such as the miniature types will ensure greater success than plants that take more months to mature. A number of garden centres stock Potassium Permanganate with the above recipe on the container.
Another reader contacted me this week and asked about spittle bug. This is an insect that forms a froth around itself to protect it, while sucking on your lavenders and other plants.
The lady concerned did not want to use a chemical spray (It is amazing how many gardeners now days are avoiding chemical sprays where possible) and was looking for a safe alternative.
My suggestion was to firstly, with the hose, rinse the the spit away to expose the pest and then about half an hour later spray the affected plants with Neem Tree Oil.
Fortunately spittle bugs are a short term problem and it is only about this time of the year they are active and once they have done their thing disappear till next season.
Other pest insects such as leaf hoppers, whitefly, mites and thrips become worse problems as their populations build up and the temperatures rise. The first of these pests emerge and start breeding when the conditions permit and often they go unnoticed by gardeners. If they are seen, there are so few of them, one tends not to do anything. This quickly changes over the following weeks, when their populations really multiply. Often by the time we come to realise there is a problem it is already getting out of hand and much more difficult to control. The answer is one of two things, if you have good eyesight and are very observant, then at the first sign of a few pests spray with Neem Tree Oil. If you are not sure, then a 2 weekly spray of the same oil should be applied.
Past experience is a great advantage and if you remember what plants were affected last season then you can start a preventive spray program now.
The preventative spray program works well except for one thing, a neighbour that does not spray and allows a big build up of a pest insect on their property. These next door pests will keep invading your garden till winter comes and knocks their populations back.
Gardeners that live in rural situations and have problems with possums or rabbits eating their roses or other garden plants have told me that the preventative spray program, every 2 weeks with Neem tree Oil not only keeps the pests insects populations down but also reduces damage from the possums etc.
I believe this works because the Neem tree Oil tastes foul and possums etc seek their food with their noses. If they eat a bit of your roses that has the Neem Tree Oil on it they relate to the smell of the oil in the future and leave the foliage alone.
Aphids on roses at this time should be sprayed with Key Pyrethrum late in the day just before dusk as pyrethrum is de-activate very quickly by UV. The ‘late in the day spray’ will be active all night so you really get your moneys worth. Add Neem Tree Oil to the spray to give longer term control.

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

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

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