Gardening Articles for week ending 29th SEPTEMBER 2007
Written by Wally Richards.
ABOUT POTATOES, CODLIN MOTH AND OTHER TIPS
A wealth of knowledge and interesting tips on gardening are
gathered by gardeners over the years and passed onto gardening
friends over a talk around the garden, or over a cuppa.
I am in the fortunate position, as a result of my availability
to gardeners through my 0800 phone or the Internet to be a
catalyst to receive interesting gardening tips, having both
the press and my book to pass many of these valuable hints
to a vast number of interested gardeners.
Now and then some real pearls of information come to hand,
recently an elderly lady gardener from the South Island and
the writer spent some telephone time, chatting together.
After sorting out a couple of problems, the lady concerned
said, now I will give you a couple of tips.
The first was in regards to growing potatoes and it is basically
similar to the Straw Potato information
in my book, Wallys Down to Earth Gardening Guide, with
a neat new twist.
For many years this gardener has being growing potatoes by
covering them with Pea Straw but prior to this she not only
sprouts them up but also roots them up as well.
The process goes like this, and I am certainly going to do
the same this season.
You obtain your seed potatoes and place them in a warm situation
such as the hot water cupboard or indoors to get the sprouts
to form. Once formed the potatoes are taken outside to green
up and harden the shoots prior to planting. When that
is done you then obtain a bag of untreated sawdust and put
a layer of that into a tray. The sprouted seed potatoes are
laid in the tray with their sprouts facing upwards and covered
with more sawdust. You then drench the sawdust with Magic
Botanic Liquid (MBL) mixed with water at the rate of 20 mls
of MBL to one litre of water. Leave the potatoes in the tray
for a week or more keeping the sawdust moist. The potatoes
will form young roots in the moist sawdust and once this has
happened they are now ready to plant. (I was told that this
pre-sprouting and rooting up can cut up to 3 weeks off the
time it takes to harvest and you can also increase the crop
Next an area of ground is selected to plant the potatoes and
the top crust of the soil is broken only by means of a rake
or hoe. Place your favorite potato recipe food straight on
the ground in the spots where each potato is to grow. My food
selection is; a tablespoon of Gypsum, a small handful of sheep
manure pellets, a teaspoon of potash and about half a teaspoon
of BioPhos (The natural alternative to super phosphate) This
little pile of goodies is covered with a little soil and the
sprouted/ rooted potato sat on top of the soil. Next take
your pea straw or ordinary straw, tease it out and cover the
potatoes with it. As the new shoots come through the straw,
add more teased out straw. You keep doing this each time the
potatos shoots break through till you have a layer of
straw 200 to 300 cm tall then you let the tops grow free to
the sun. The new potatoes will form in the layers of straw,
completely clean, free of soil. Later as the plants are reaching
maturity you can put your hand into the straw layers and pull
out a few of the larger potatoes if you wish, prior to harvesting
the crop. On harvesting try to pick the new potatoes out without
disturbing the straw too much, also just cut the tops off
the potatoes to lay back on the straw after harvesting. Once
harvested you now cover the straw and potato foliage with
a layer of compost and plant up a crop of greens such as cabbage
etc. A side dressing of Rapid Lime should be applied to the
cabbages, etc at this time. While the potatoes are growing
a spray over the foliage every couple of weeks or so of MBL
will also increase the size of the crop and the size of the
A neat system and one worth trying.
Another excellent use for ordinary straw or hay (Not pea straw)
can be used by gardeners with ponds.
After cleaning out your pond for the new season, take a plastic
bag, place a rock in the bag and then stuff the bag full of
straw or hay. Tie the bag off and then punch a lot of small
holes in the bag with a nail or similar. Toss the bag into
the middle of the pond and you should find that it will prevent
algae forming in the pond for one season. If you have a large
pond in a rural setting then just toss a couple of bales of
straw into the pond to do the same. Simple and effective.
Now here is a really interesting one in regards to codlin
moth which attacks apples, pears and walnuts.
Before I divulge the tip lets look at the pest and how it
operates. At this time the moths will be in their cocoons
waiting for the right conditions to emerge, mate, and then
for the females to lay their eggs on the leaves of your apple
tree. This will not happen till young immature apples have
started to form.
If you have an apple or pear tree like I have, well away from
any other trees infested with the pest you are unlikely to
have any problems for years or maybe never. The pests are
very territorial and spend each generation in or near your
infected tree. They can infect from next door, but unlikely
if the closest infected tree is some good distance away, that
is unless a fertilised female is blown by the wind into your
garden. This means if you can clean up your neck of the woods
you will be clean of the problems for years. There have been
numerous ways of reducing the codlin moth problems such as
sticky grease bands around the trunk of the trees at this
time of the year to catch the moths climbing up the tree.
Corrugated cardboard around the trunk in summer to catch the
grubs crawling down the tree. (hard to get the corrugated
cardboard these days as the new types are not suitable). Planting
lots of highly aromatic plants under the tree to confuse the
moths. Placing pheromone traps to catch the male moths and
determine the best times to spray. In the past, the chemical
Carbaryl was the spray mostly used but this is not longer
readily available. (Thank goodness) Neem Tree Oil is the best
natural control with several sprays used over the period of
time when the eggs are hatching. The spray is applied to cover
and protect the young apples. It works in this manner, the
grub hatches out of its egg and heads off to the nearest apple
where it starts eating its way in. If there is a film of the
Neem Tree Oil over the skin of the apple then the grub only
gets to take one bite and eats no more. (Anti-feeding properties
of the Neem) On maturity all that is noticed is a tiny pin
prick scar where the first bite was made.
Now back to our lady gardener in the South Island who told
me of a method that she came across 25 years ago and has used
it ever since. Over that time she has little or no damage
to her crops of apples.
What you do is partly fill a tin or similar container with
treacle and hang that in the tree. Apparently the treacle
has a similar smell to the female codlin moths pheromone
and the males race to the tin where they come to a sticky
end. (Obviously not the sticky end they had hoped for) The
tin will need to have a little more treacle added from time
to time during the season and according to our gardening friend,
the weather does not effect the results.
She usually hangs the tin by placing it in an onion bag, but
last season did not have one of these holey bags, so just
hung the tin with cord. Later she noticed that the wax eyes
were feeding on the treacle so there is another excellent
predator that you maybe able to entice into your garden with
a little treacle.
Wax eyes and Fan tails are excellent hunters of pest insects
and should be encouraged as much as possible.
My suggestion would be to hang your treacle tins up now, check
them every few days, when a number of moths are found then
spray the young apples with Neem Tree Oil. Repeat every 7
days or when new batches of moths are noticed in the tin.
With any luck within a season or two you should have eliminated
the codlin moth from your section and will only have any further
problems from neighbor's infected trees.
Any Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz