Herb News


Gardening Articles for week ending  2nd December 2006
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Written by Wally Richards.

Gardeners desire variety in their gardens. The more variety of the types of plants we have, the better we love our gardens and efforts put in. There is nothing more pleasing to be able to show off to family and friends the rare and unusual plants when they visit that we have obtained and cultivated.
When I come across seeds or plants that no one else is likely to have and they appeal to me I will obtain and grow them with pride. I have a good number of such plants, the odd one or two, just about impossible to obtain and others which you would have to really go looking for to find.
Many years back before trading in general shops became a 7 day affair; it was garden centres that were open on Saturdays and Sundays. Gardeners on a Sunday would hop in their cars and take a tour around all the local garden centres to see what was new and different. Often a few gems would be picked up on this tour. Likely there still are people that go seeking different plants and in the true garden centres you are still likely to find an unusual specimen or two.
A complaint that I have received from several gardeners is that the more modern chain store type garden centres are rubber stamps in the plants and products they sell. You can go from one brand chain store to another and find their layouts are about identical and the plants and products are the same.
Its even worse, you go to a different chain store group and about the only thing that has changed is the name above the door! Sure they have a selection of about 10-15 different types of pansies which is a small offering out of maybe 50 or more types that could be made available. Maybe 5 types of petunias, 8 types of impatiens and so the list goes on.
Those wallars that work in head office, dictate what each store in a chain sells. They commission a nursery to grow for them vast numbers of each plant selected, to go to each of the numerous stores. They have taken away your right of choice and imposed their choices on you.
This is not good business thinking as it opens the door for the owner/operator garden centre to supply the must needed varieties of plants and products that us gardeners want. You may pay a little more to obtain a plant that has not been massed produced but has been lovingly grown by a smaller nursery, trialled for suitability and then made available to the independents.
When I owned a garden centre/nursery some years back I would go out seeking unusual plants or seeds to sell. Thus my garden centre was very popular with the local gardens. Every week, just about, there would be new and interesting plants available. When you visit a garden shop and find the selection is ho hum then ask the owner if he could source some new and interesting plants to make your visits worthwhile.
Gardeners do not enjoy Mediocrity! We are not robots.

I received emails this week that went like this:
“Crop & Food Research in the South island have applied to ERMA (the Environmental Risk Management Authority) for a 10-year field-trial of Genetically Engineered brassicas. The plants will have genes spliced from bacteria and viruses, including ‘Bt’ (Bacillus thuringiensis) which can kill some insects. These GE field trials lack credible benefits and should not be approved.
The GE plants could never be used without contaminating GE-free production.
Most New Zealanders and overseas markets have rejected GE foods. Community values and this economic reality must be respected. Even trace-levels of contamination are a risk to farmers and the economy. Public funds are better invested in researching long-term sustainability for our agricultural production not short-term fixes. Scientific interest claimed for the trial can be delivered by fully contained experiments.”
I don't know how you feel about the GE or GO thing but I find it total madness especially after reading a well written book called, ‘Hard to Swallow, the Dangers of GE Food’ by Jeffrey Smith, Craig Potton Publishing. The book gave me a good understanding of the dangers and pointed out the many failures of GE crops allowed with the risks to health and the environment.
Monsanto is the company that is mostly concerned with establishing GE crops through out the world with sales last year of 4 billion dollars worth of GE seeds. What do they say about it?
Notable historic quote: "Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." - Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications. "Playing God in the Garden" New York Times Magazine, October 25, 1998.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration USA) is supposed to ensure that products such as GE are safe for the American people and even our own NZ Food Safety Authority takes advice from them.
Do they (FDA) do a good job? Here is another email about this just received:
FDA Bureaucrats received a kick in the butt this week from Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), the newly elected chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Kennedy slammed the FDA for endangering public health by ignoring science and serving as a puppet for big business. "The dedicated professionals at the FDA have been pressured to trim their scientific views to the prevailing political winds. These are symptoms of a serious illness, and we should act without delay to provide the cure," the senator said. Kennedy said the committee will hold a series of FDA oversight hearings in early 2007 to force the agency back on track. FDA advocates responded by saying the agency can only become scientifically credible if Congress increases the FDA's budget in order to supplant the millions of dollars it now receives from industry. End.
Getting back to putting the protein of Bt or other viruses into brassicas to keep them free of caterpillar damage.
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring bacterial disease of insects. These bacteria are the active ingredient in some insecticides. Bt insecticides are most commonly used against some leaf- and needle-feeding caterpillars. Commercially, Bt insecticides are available for farmers in NZ to use on crops as a spray to kill caterpillars. It was for a time available to the home gardener from Yates but as the product had an expiry date and did not sell well enough, it disappeared off the home garden market.
Bt is a good safe product which used as a spray, in germ warfare to kill caterpillars, without hurting other life forms.
As a spray I highly endorse the product but to put foreign bacteria into your cabbage’s DNA can be liken to playing Russian roulette as Genetic Engineering is NOT an exact science and even the scientists do not know what can happen or go wrong.
Most European countries have rejected GE food stuffs because of health concerns and this has cost billions of dollars to farmers in USA in lost markets, and the only one to benefit apparently is Monsanto (who has 90% of the world’s GE seeds)
I for one would not eat a cabbage that had bacteria inserted into it which could cause me health problems. I can not see any benefit in conducting this type of research by a government owned facility wasting tax payer’s dollars while they could be using the same money to put more nutritional values into our food chain and working towards the removal of Super phosphate and other harmful chemicals.
Mind you, it is a crazy world we allow to happen.

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Christmas Present Idea

     It is now 23 years since I wrote my first weekly gardening article back in 1983. Back then it was pen to paper, long hand with numerous re-writes before the editor received the copy. Once computers started to become available, I spent $15,000 on a Armstrad IBM compatible computer and a HP scanner/printer. This made life easier in some ways but a learning curve to ensure that the PC worked correctly.
     Later on when the very popular garden writer, Nick Scott retired, I took over his syndicated column of newspapers which meant weekly publication in several papers, nation wide. 
During the following years more papers were added to the list and in some areas of the country I was replaced with local writers. Now days I am published in up to 30 odd papers either regularly or occasionally each week. Regular publications have brought a following of gardeners who prefer my more natural methods of gardening. Many gardeners over the last few years have asked if I had written a book.
The answer had always been no.
So this last winter having reached 60 years of age, I decided it was time, and that there would be a book by spring 2006. Once committed it was many winter days and nights with the heater and the computer, typing out information from years of experience.
    I could have just taken the past article files off the computer and put them together in a reasonable order and  published. Instead I felt that many would have these articles in scrap books already so much of the book was written fresh, devoting much more material to main areas of gardening such as Roses, Lawns, Tomatoes, Weeds, Vegetables etc. than could be placed in a 1000 word article.
The book has resulted in 340 pages of information, A5 size with soft cover. There are very few diagrams or pictures, just information.
The book is divided into 5 sections which include some past articles brought up to date plus information on natural products, soil health, plant health and our own health.
Not finding a publishing house that was interested in a first book from myself, it was decided to print and distribute the book as well as write it.
Thus Wally’s Down To Earth Gardening Guide is now available from some garden centres or by mail order from 0800 466464 or on the web at www.gardenews.co.nz
Some book shops may stock the book later on as well, but in the meantime if you are interested ask at your garden centre and if not available, use the above contact details.
A book review is likely soon from the Gardening Editor or Editor of a number of the papers that publish my articles each week. The book’s recommended retail is $27.95.
I have endeavored to make the book a good read as well as supplying lots of helpful advice.

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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