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

Gardening Articles for week ending 8th SEPTEMBER 2007
Written by Wally Richards.

September is the first calendar month of spring and even with the changed weather patterns of these days, it is still often a good month to start gardening in earnest. Day light hours are increasing and it will not be long before we start our new daylight saving time, being the 30th of September.
Plants and weeds respond to the increased hours of sunlight as plants obtain their energy from the sun, the more hours of sun, the more hours of growth. I remember some years back talking to a nurseryman from Alaska where in their summer months they have 24 hours of sunlight and plants that would normally take 6 months to mature in our part of the world, do so in less than 3 months with 24 hours of light every day, for several months.
Deciduous plants are now coming out of their winter sleep, producing new foliage to sustain themselves for another season. New leaves appear on our fruit trees and roses, to gather energy from the sun and start their flowering and fruiting cycle for another season. On some plants such as nectarines and peaches, the new foliage is attractive to a horrible disease called curly leaf. The leaves become blistered and distorted then eventually fall off. Later in the spring, when the time of the disease is past, the future leaves form perfectly. During the time of the disease the trees are unable to generate the full amount of energy they require and thus the season’s crop is affected. Less fruit and in some cases none at all.
The standard control of the disease is every 7 to 10 days to spray with Liquid Copper with Raingard added. The reason for the 7-10 day spray frequency is because you need to have a coverage of the copper over the leaf as it is growing to full size and then protected till the disease time is past.
The Raingard helps as it protects the copper particles from washing off in rain for up to 14 days.
No spraying oils should ever be used with the copper sprays as they reduce the effectiveness of the copper protection.
Some gardeners have also found better results by adding DE (Diatomaceous Earth) to the copper spray and the reason for this is likely to be the silica aspect of DE.
Another approach that I have taken to this and a number of other plant disease problems has been to introduce all the minerals and elements possible to the soil in the root zone of the plants.
This is done by sprinkling Ocean Solids and Simalith once a year, in the spring and drenching the soil with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL). Later the foliage and soil can be sprayed with the MBL either two weekly or once a month. Giving all these elements to plants for their use builds the plant’s immune system and as a result many disease problems just disappear. Plants are not dissimilar to ourselves, we also require a healthy diet, rich in minerals to have a healthy body and a great immune system.
Thus we have another advantage in adding the three products mentioned to our food crops in so much as our bodies will also benefit when we eat the fruit and vegetables.
It really does work but with plants with low immune systems in may take a couple of seasons to appreciate the benefits. The next aspect to this is to garden the soil instead of the plants.
This means looking after all the beneficial soil life that make for healthy soils and result in healthy plants. By not using anything that can harm the soil life is the key. This includes ALL man made chemical fertilisers, chemical sprays including chemical weed killers and tap water that has had chlorine added to it by our wonderful local councils.
Place filters on the taps, feed the soil with all natural products including all types of animal manures, Gypsum, Dolomite, Rapid Lime (where applicable with lime) blood and bone, straw, sheep manure pellets and compost. The gauge of a healthy soil can be determined by the number of worms per square foot. As one gardener said to me this week, he has over 50 earthworms per square foot. Now that is a healthy soil and it is what you need to aspire to. If you have few or no worms you have a problem and your roses and other plants will not be healthy. To keep the worms working along with all the other members of the soil life you have to keep the soil moist right through the summer. When the soil dries out too much then the worms go deep and dormant and most of the soil life shuts down.
Watering with chlorinated water only adds to the problem as many of you will have noticed in the summer months. Plants are attacked by diseases and growth is minimal but when it rains everything comes away with a great flush of healthy growth. The filtered water is not quite as good as rain water straight out of the sky, but it does keep the soil life working without killing them.
I had an interesting but sad telephone call from a lady gardener this week where she explained to me that 18 months ago she had planted up a sloping bank with Leucospermums and Leucadendrons.
These shrubs made a wonderful display from her home looking down the sloping bank.
Prior to winter she laid old carpet over the soil and covered it with bark thinking this would keep the area free of weeds and tidy. These shrubs come from South Africa where they live happily in dry sandy soil that is extremely free draining. The layer of carpet with bark meant that the winter rains soaked the soil and the water could not get away, all the roots of the shrubs rotted and the shrubs died.
A similar story also a couple of months back from a gardener in Blenheim that placed a staple manure/sawdust mix under all his citrus trees going into winter. The winter rains came and next thing the citrus trees started dropping their leaves. He rang at that time to say what was happening. On my advise the sawdust/manure mix was raked off and last week he phoned to say the trees had recovered and growing well again. The lesson for us all here is not to apply mulches around plants prior to wet seasons as this will retain too much water in the soil. Mulches should be applied after the rainy season when the ground has started to dry and then the mulch can be a great advantage in moisture retention during the dry times. Also plastic film and materials such as carpet are not to be used as they can prevent the soil from breathing and without oxygen the soil becomes anaerobic and plants will die.
But if you have a waste area where you do not want to grow anything then a sheet of black plastic over the area covered with bark or stone chips will certainly keep it clear of weeds.
If you have any plants that have suffered in winter and lost leaves etc then spray the remaining foliage with Perkfection as it helps overcome the wet weather diseases.
It is also a good cure for plants affected with Silverleaf disease and will control the problem as long as the rose or tree has not gone beyond the point of no return.
Remove the affected branches back to clean wood, seal the wounds with a spray of Liquid copper at double strength and then spray the remaining foliage with Perkfection for 3 applications and again 3 times in the autumn. Never prune a plant that is prone to silver leaf disease during cool moist times.
Another tip a gardener gave me a while back was painting full strength Liquid Copper onto the trunk of a tomato plant in the area affected with collar rot. If the disease has not spread too far and part of the trunk is still functioning he reckoned it would save the plant’s life.
Worth a shot as you have nothing to lose with the plant being on the way out anyway.

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