Gardening Articles for week ending 12th APRIL 2008
Written by Wally Richards.
Now that daylight savings has finished for the current season,
gardeners have to re-organise themselves a bit more not having
that extra hour of light in the evenings.
One comment that tickled my fancy the other day was a diligent
home keeper who made the comment,
Thank god daylight savings is over, I was worried about
the curtains fading too quickly.
Makes one wonder about the education standards in this country.
You need a good sense of humor in this day and age and on
the radio the other day I heard the tale about a granny that
had acquired her first cell phone and was out visiting her
friend, Peggy. About this time her granddaughter rang her
cell phone and when Granny answered she asked her granddaughter,
How did you know I was visiting Peggy?
One of the best items that I came across this week was that
a number of scientists and researchers have determined that
one of the main areas of health concerns is our food chain.
They stated that the chemical additives were bad enough on
our health, but the biggest concern was that our food lacked
nutritional value. They believed that if our food had more
nutrition (minerals etc) then the harmful chemical additives
would be of less concern. This has also been a belief of mine
for sometime. Gardeners that grow their own fruit and vegetables
naturally, ensuring that the crops have all the minerals and
elements the plants need, know this also.
In my case I ensure my body has a daily intake of high nutrition
growing not only as many vegetables and fruit as possible
but also growing and juicing wheat grass, taking MSM, drinking
raw organic cows milk and having my own chickens. Since taking
these things on a daily bases, my health is far better than
it was a few years back. In fact I feel 20 years younger,
a lot more energy, clearer thinking, better memory and I don't
catch colds anymore.
Just recently I was in a local office fixing up some business
and the chap I was dealing with knew me and at the conclusion
of the business asked if I would mind answering a gardening
problem he had and could not solve. We sorted out the problem
and found a solution and then he asked if I would mind helping
another staff member. Always happy to oblige I was introduced
to a young lass likely in her late teens about a problem she
was having with a bed of silverbeet that she had started to
She is a first time gardener but very proud of her efforts
to the extent that she was able to show me a photograph of
the bed on her cell phone. The solution was likely a pH problem
and lack of food for the heavy feeding crop. Next, another
young lass popped in with a problem that she had growing in
a outdoor container. It is great to see young people being
aware of their health and vitality and wanting to grow at
least some good healthy food.
Both these girls were very proud of their efforts but lacked
the knowledge and experience that many readers of this column
We must look to pass on our experience to these budding gardeners
so that they have successes and don't become dishearten by
This might be a good time to give out some basic gardening
tips that are easy to use and will assist in success.
DOWN TO EARTH GARDENING
If you are making a new garden area select a spot that is
fairly sunny then after clearing the soil of whatever was
there previously (often this is done by digging and turning
over the soil to the depth of one spade or more)
While digging and turning over the bed you will be able to
see what sort of soil you have and what worms are present.
(Worms will only be present, if at all, if the soil has been
moist for a period of time.)
In heavy clay like soil, apply ample amounts of gypsum to
assist in breaking up the clay particles.
If very light soil then cover with compost and fork this into
the soil. Also untreated sawdust can be used as well.
Make the garden bed of a size that you can plant, weed and
work the bed without ever having to actually walk on it again.
A slightly raised garden with wood, bricks, concrete blocks
can be used to keep the bed from spilling onto the surrounding
Next spread a fast acting lime or soft lime such as Rapid
Lime over the area and rake in.
Initial food value can be obtained by spreading sheep manure
pellets and blood & bone over the area and lightly raking
In a sense the area is now ready to plant up but there are
likely to be untold numbers of weed seeds waiting and ready
to germinate so we need to make life a little harder for them
and reduce the amount of weeding we have to do.
Lay several thicknesses of newspaper over the area, overlapping
them and wetting them down as you go.
Do this on a calm day and have ready several bags of purchased
compost ready to cover the sheets of newspaper as you go.
The final thickness of the compost should be about 30 to 50mm
or even greater as your budget allows.
Now the neat part, time to plant up. Select vegetables that
are suitable for the time of the year and likely punnets of
seedlings are best value at this time. Lettuce, silverbeet,
spinach, miniature brassicas, spring onions, garlic, herbs
of choice and maybe a stand of broad beans at one end furtherest
from the sun so they don't shade the smaller crops. Plant
all these directly into the compost layer. If in punnets,
plunge the punnets under water to soak before trying to separate
the seedlings for planting. This reduces root damage. A small
hole is made into the compost to the depth where the newspaper
layer is and the seedlings placed in the hole (roots down)
and compost pushed over the exposed roots to cover them with
the base of the plant been level with the soil surface.
Watering; it is important that you keep the bed moist and
without rain it means you need to hand water. Do not use tap
water that has chlorine in it as you will do more harm than
Obtain a number of cheap buckets and fill them with the chlorinated
water and leave them to stand in the sun for a day. Pour the
then de-chlorinated water into a watering can and water the
garden with it.
Then refill the buckets ready for the next time. These should
be on hand ready to use directly after you have planted up
Check your local papers for poultry farms and give them a
call to see if you can obtain some chicken manure. You don't
need much but many of them do sell bagfuls.
Obtain a big container like a plastic rubbish tin which can
hold about 75 litres and fill the bottom third with the chicken
manure then fill about two thirds full with de-chlorinated
water. With a suitable paddle like stick give the whole mix
a good stir. Top up with some more water to about 50mm from
the top and give a light stir. Now you have made up a heavy
duty feed for your new garden.
Water some of this into your garden every few days in this
manner. In a 10 litre watering can place one litre of the
food and add 9 litres of de-chlorinated water to it and water
over the seedlings.
Afterwards give the contents of the rubbish tin another stir
before placing the lid back on. More water and manure can
be added as required.
Weeding: some weeds will appear in your new bed and these
are valuable to building up the soil food web you are creating.
Let them grow up to about 50 to 60mm tall and then with sharp
scissors cut them off at ground level and let them fall onto
the surface of the soil where they will be broken down, feeding
the soil life. Don't pull them out as their roots left in
the soil to rot are very valuable.
Now you are getting into what is called Permaculture. A self
sustaining system that mimics what naturally happens in nature
amongst many other aspects.
Likewise when you harvest vegetables of the types such as
lettuce and brassicas cut the heads off with a sharp knife
leaving their roots to decompose in the bed. (Some vegetables
will need soil disturbance to harvest such as potatoes and
carrots but try to keep disturbance to a minimum.)
There are products you can buy to further enhance your plants
and increase either their nutritional value or increase the
soil food web populations. One of these has to be Magic Botanic
Liquid which can be used occasionally as a soil drench or
sprayed over the soil and plant foliage on a two weekly frequency.
The golden rule in starting off is never bite more than you
can comfortably chew in other words start off small with say
a garden strip about a metre wide and a couple of metres long.
It is not a big area but is one that is easy to manage. You
can, in that area, by not walking on the soil get about 3
rows of plants
such as silverbeet, lettuce spinach and miniature brassicas.
Clumps of spring onions, carrots and broadbeans.
For your herbs they also can be part of the bed or alternatively
planted into about 20cm pots using purchased compost, a little
soil added along with the food mentioned above.
These can sit spaced out around the outside of your garden
bed to make the whole thing look more attractive and productive.
If you do not have any area where you can make a garden bed
(like in a flatting or town house situation) not all is lost
as you can grow a vast selection of vegetables in containers
and polyestrene boxes that are 150 to 180mm deep. Don't use
potting mix instead use a friable purchased compost with a
little soil added and follow the above instructions.
You can plant about 8 silverbeet plants into one of these
boxes with holes in the base for drainage and once established
you can start harvesting the outer leaves. A box as such will
give you a few cuttings each week for a long period (dependant
on time of the year). Use the food as above.
Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston
Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages at www.sharpei.co.nz