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

Gardening Articles for week ending
2nd FEBRUARY 2008
Written by Wally Richards.

Weed barriers are a means of preventing weeds from growing in gardens or the roots of certain weeds invading into your property from next door.
The most common barrier is weedmat and it is a woven plastic mat which is spread over the surface of the soil that stops all weeds (with the exception of one or two types of grasses) from emerging in the garden.
This is a very effective barrier that works where there is a reasonable area covered with the mat. Where the mat is cut to allow preferred plants to grow or around the edges weeds will still appear.
Because the mat is woven it allows moisture and some water carried plant foods to pass through the mat to the soil below. It also allows the soil to breathe, preventing an anaerobic situation occurring.
Older gardeners will likely remember in the past that black plastic film was laid down in gardens and scoria (volcanic rock, reddish in colour) was laid over the plastic.
Gardens that were treated as such, over time, became anaerobic (lacking in oxygen) and the plants growing there would eventually die. People that lifted the scoria and plastic film would be greeted with a horrible smell.
Gardeners that like the scoria look can safely apply the rocks to cover weedmat.
Weedmat only works in one direction, preventing weeds from growing upwards. Weed seeds that land on the mat or in whatever material that is used to cover the mat, may germinate and their roots will penetrate the mat downwards and thus the weeds can grow. These weeds are easy to pull out as they cannot establish a secure root system.
The weedmat should be covered with material such as bark or stones so it is not exposed to UV and by covering you should find that the life of the mat is very long. (Likely over 25 years)
You must be careful about what you use to cover the mat if you do not want birds flicking lighter material off the mat. To prevent this bark nuggets (large bark pieces) or even better some suitable stones would be best used.
Gardens such as vegetable and flower beds are not so practical for weedmat and on these I would suggest that a number of sheets of newspaper be laid and soaked with water and then a purchased (weed free) compost be placed as a cover over the paper.
Cardboard can be used instead of newspaper if you have a good source of this material.
Either method will create a nice temporary weed barrier and you can plant your seedlings directly into the compost. Three other advantages of using cardboard or newspaper are; the worms love it, moisture is retained better and you are putting carbon into the soil.
One of the worst problems is when you have an invasive weed such as convolvulus or twitch grass coming through from next door into your gardens.
You can repeatedly eradicate your side of the fence of the invading roots only to find more emerging sometime later. Unless the weed is also cleaned up next door, you have many years of weeding till you move house. The long term solution is to dig a trench along the fence line about 20 to 30 cm deep and line the fence side of the trench with sheets of galvanised iron. Back fill the trench so that the iron is deep in the ground and protruding a few cm above the soil level (if it is safe to leave it so) don't leave the iron above ground if there is any possibility of feet or hands being cut on the metal. You could however place a row of old bricks along the side of the protruding iron sheet.
If because of the construction of the fence you cannot get the iron flush with the fence and there is a bit of a gap between fence and iron then the weed is going to appear in this gap. Simply pour salt down the gap whenever you spot the weed appearing.
Talking about salt it is excellent way to control weeds growing between pavers or in cracks in drives or paths. The salt will prevent weeds reappearing for sometime.
Using the above methods for reducing your weed problems will make your gardening more pleasurable.

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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

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I have, like yourself, a number of favourite plants that I enjoy growing and maybe if you do not have these growing already, you may like to give them a shot.
Thyme is a great container plant or hanging basket plant to grow. I placed on of these into a pot some years back and when it was well established I placed the pot on top of the mix of a large container that I am growing a Persimmon in. The thyme soon rooted itself through the drainage holes into the larger container’s mix and it grew prolifically. The thing I like about the thyme is that it flowers most of the year with the best displays through spring and autumn. The plant has a natural cascading habit so it flows all over the place making for an excellent display. Handy too when you require some fresh thyme for the kitchen.
Petunias have been a favourite of mine for many years and some of the newer types have really spectacular flowers. I grow mine in 15-20cm containers using purchased compost and add in a little extra food such as Bio Boost or Sheep Manure Pellets. When the plants get a bit scraggly simply trim them back a bit to tidy up and they will produce new growth and a lot more flowers.
When winter starts to set in give them a cut back and spray the remaining foliage with Vaporgard and move the pots to a more protected spot where they are not going to get rained on.
Every so often in winter, you will need to give them a little drink but you can keep them going for years if you wish. Too much water in winter and you are likely to lose them, losses can occur also if not protected from frost.
Another family of plants you can keep for several years is peppers or capsicum that you grow in pots.
Once again always use compost (potting mix is useless) and keep them protected and dryish in the winter.
Feijoa ‘Unique’ is an excellent variety of feijoa to grow either in open ground or for a smaller specimen in a large container. This variety produces large fruit, does not need a pollinator and you are likely to obtain a small crop within one to two seasons of planting.
I have two growing, one in a container the other in open ground and both are a delight to own.
Surplus fruit can be made into relish or chutney and this also applies to your surplus of tomatoes at this time of the year.
Often when one has a well established fruiting tree or bush, you have more fruit than you can easily use. The answer is to make some jam.
Jam is easy to make and tastes far better than the chemically flavored jams that have become common in the supermarket.
Times are a changing and we will need to get back to doing some of the things our parents or grandparents used to do, in our gardening and dealing with surplus at harvest.
It is a great saving and better for your health.

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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