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Proudly Taking us to Chelsea in 2007

Gardening Articles for week ending  30th December 2006
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Written by Wally Richards.

Well folks it is about time again to remove all the old 2006 calendars from their places and put up the new 2007 calendars on the 1st day of the new year.
There has being a lot of changes over the years and one of those that I have noticed is the lack of free calendars from firms each year. There are still a number of places that give away a decent calendar, but many of us need to go out and purchase what we require, for the year ahead. Maybe someday someone will invent a electronic screen calendar that hangs on the wall and changes at midnight at the end of each month. This would never need replacing as the program could cover months for hundreds of years into the future. A simple program could give you pictures of your choice that would change monthly, or even daily. Another program could give us warnings of events coming up such as friends or families birthdays, which would be a great help for those of us that sometimes forget. Anyway a very happy New Year to all you gardeners and may the next few months provide better weather than what we have had so far this spring/summer.
Our attention has been drawn to global warming in recent months and the resulting problems that can happen.
If I was told that we were heading towards an ice age I would agree, as it has been the coolest spring/summer that I can remember in Palmerston North. Heat loving plants such as passion fruit and rock melons are now very difficult to grow outside when compared to a few years back. The melons grow once the weather warms, but tend not to produce well in the shorter season they have.
Passion fruit vines do well the first summer but tend to flag and fade the following year.
Gardening methods may have to be changed to grow a number of plants or we just stop growing some of the more tender types and replace them with hardier ones.
Recently I was talking with my brother Peter Richards who has been involved for a number of years in contract growing of maize in the Manawatu. The cooler weather and increased rainfall in the area has reduced the ability to obtain good crops of maize resulting in many farmers changing to other more suitable crops. On the east coast the problem is too hot and dry for maize in many areas.
The Chinese have a saying, ‘Living in interesting times’ which is a good way of looking at how the weather and world is changing. Still we as gardeners will fight against the odds and have great gardens for our pleasure. Happy New Year. Wally Richards

In the Manawatu we have had a lot of rain over the last few months which has been interesting as the gardens have had ample moisture to do well.
One thing I have noticed this spring is a great fruit set on all my fruit trees and the likely reason is ample rain water from the sky.
Often in the past the trees have flowered well but the trees have shed a lot of the immature fruit after pollination. I must remember to water more in the spring while the fruit are forming if there is not sufficient rain.
Rain water is still the best water for our soil and plants, it is live water, (to use a simple term) carrying organic nitrogen (especially when lighting is about), and plants respond quickly after a good shower of rain.
Tap water on the other hand, is in comparison, dead water, treated with chlorine to kill bacteria if it comes from town supply rather than tank water. The chlorine put in town supply water can harm the beneficial microbes in the soil and on plants, which makes the plants and soil more prone to disease attacks.
You can water your gardens during dry spells and never see much more than slow growth, when a shower of rain comes along the plants respond with a great show of growth.
You can put filters on your hose taps to remove the chlorine and your gardens will improve as a result.
One thing that really concerns me is that when there has being a break of two or three days without rain, how fast the soil dries out. Weeds in areas not watered; start to die very quickly within 2-3 days of no rain. This means that water tables are either very low or non existent.
The likely reason for this; is that too many farmers and agriculture areas are sucking out the ground water to irrigate their land.
Also to add to the problem is the chemical fertilisers that kill off the soil life and the humus in the soil is non existent. Humus is the buffer that holds moisture in the soil giving plants ample water for their needs. So what happens is that it rains, the rain is sucked down into the dry subsoil and down into the under ground streams to be pumped out some distance away for irrigation.
Gardens or pastures that lack in a good layer of humus dry out quickly from evaporation off the surface soil, requiring regular irrigation to keep the plants or crops alive.
Super phosphate and urea kill off the soil life which builds up the humus levels through their life cycles, and our plants suffer. The glue that is created by the soil food web is lost and erosion takes place.
Inert soil does not have the means to build up humus and is easily washed away with a down pour of rain. Then farmers, whom pour urea and super phosphate onto their land, to force the grass to grow, then have to irrigate to keep the nutrient deficient grass or crop alive.
Over time the situation gets worse and worse, stock are unhealthy and crops lack nutrition value making for a poor food chain. It is about time farmers, agriculturists and gardeners woke up to this destructive cycle and stopped their present practice of using chemical fertilisers.
It is relatively simple to achieve by either applying Dicalcic fertilisers or by using mineral rich rock dust and calcium on their pastures and gardens.
Get those soil food webs growing and thriving with all the zillions of microbes and beneficial fungi that nature intended. Their dead bodies make the humus and seeing many only have a short life of 6 hours it does not take too long before benefits are noticed. Within a few seasons the soil is full of life with worms and microbes giving us healthy plants and crops. Stock grazed on this type of land are healthy and do not create the massive vet bills that many farmers pay for remedies which unhealthy stock need.
We all benefit, when our food chain improves, so does our health as we are finally getting the minerals, vitamins and enzymes that our bodies need. The planet becomes a healthier place for all living things both below the soil and above.
It is a very simple formula, dead soil below, unhealthy animals and people above.  Healthy soil below, healthy animals and people above.
Something to think about during the New Year.

Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz

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Please check out the Event Calendar. If you want your activity included, just let us know. Thank you.