Herb News


Gardening Articles for week ending  28th October 2006
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     Being a good spotter is half the battle in solving gardening problems. Gardeners that keep their eyes open as they go around their gardens can spot problems as they begin to happen.
One of the best times to do this is while you are hand watering plants with the hose; while the right hand is holding the hose, you can fold back leaves with your left hand and check for pests or problems.
Some problems are seasonal and come in cycles and the knowing of these cycles also makes you aware to be on the out look for them.
    Aphids are in season at the moment and they can be found on your roses and some other plants.
On the roses they will be around the new growths and the flower buds. If you just leave them, their populations will quickly build up and this will likely diminish the flowering display.
Aphids suck the sap of the plants and in doing so remove the plant’s energy resulting in poorer growth, twisted leaves and damaged flowers. Aphids are not hard to kill and if you only have a few roses you may simply run your fingers over the pests and gently squash them without harming the plant.
For those with a lot of roses it is better to use a safe spray to knock them over such as Key Pyrethrum.
Late in the day just before dusk make up say 5 litres of spray using 5 mils of Key Pyrethrum, 25 mils of Neem Tree Oil and 50 mils of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL). The Pyrethrum is a quick knock down that should kill off most of the aphids within a day. The Neem Tree Oil will aid in the control of any missed, or new aphids arriving for the next 7 odd days. This natural oil will also aid in the reduction of diseases such as black spot, rust and mildews. The MBL will also assist in keeping the roses free of diseases, supply extra minerals to the foliage and aid in the health of the plants.
     The reason for spraying near dusk is that Pyrethrum is quickly broken down by UV, in fact within a couple of hours, if sprayed earlier in the day. At dusk it is going to be active all night till the next day.
Now that your roses are coming into bud and flower start applying about a teaspoon of Fruit and Flower Power every 4 to 6 weeks. The potassium aids in flowering and the magnesium aids the deep green of the foliage. In fact any other plants that are coming into flowering or setting fruit will do better with a small regular dose of these two minerals.
Stone fruit trees will likely have distorted leaves unless you have been very vigilant with your spraying of Liquid Copper and Raingard. The curly leaves are the effects of the common disease, Curly Leaf and every leaf that is damaged means one less leaf for the tree to gain energy from the sun.
The damaged or curly leaves will later fall off the tree leaving only the leaves that are not affected.
Leaf loss means a smaller crop and maybe smaller fruit as well. You can offset some of the damage by spraying the good leaves with Vaporgard.
     Vaporgard acts as a sun screen reducing the UV levels which affect the plant’s ability to produce energy from the sun. One spray lasts for about 3 months on the foliage sprayed. Within a couple of days of spraying you will notice the leaves turning to a rich dark green which means each leaf is working at full capacity, gaining energy.
     Some gardeners like to spray Vaporgard onto the foliage of their roses to deepen the green colour and place a long term shine to the leaves. It also means your roses will be more vigorous and flower better.
One point to mention is that the film Vaporgard puts over the foliage makes it difficult for sprays such as Perkfection to enter the plant. To get around this add Raingard to the sprays.
    Tomatoes will be doing well if in a sheltered, sunny spot. Those out in the open will be much slower to grow because of the weather and cold snaps.
I have kept my tomato plants in containers in the glasshouse, waiting for the weather to settle before starting to put them outdoors. When I decide its time to put them out I will, a couple of days before hand, give them a spray all over with Vaporgard. This hardens the plants up and stops any transplant shock.
     Tomatoes in containers must be given adequate water to prevent the compost from drying out, if not you will get blossom end rot which is that black patch on the bottom of the fruit.
Removing laterals on tomatoes can allow diseases to enter the plant, which will often result in losses.
If botrytis enters the tomato where you remove a lateral or leaf, then it will cause a rotting on a branch or on the trunk. The plant begins to wilt and the wilting progressively gets worse till a branch or the whole plant is lost. There are two rules you must follow when removing laterals (side shoots) or leaves, do not do so when the air is moist as moist air carries the disease spores. Next; as soon as you remove a lateral, spray the damaged area with a squirt of Liquid Copper.
You can make up the copper in a small trigger sprayer and as long as you give it a good shake before using each time it will keep well.
     Oxalis is a curse for many gardeners and it is about this time of the year that the weed comes away.
A safe and cheap spray to use is baking soda at the rate of a good tablespoon full per litre of warm water. Stir a little till the mix stops bubbling and then add 1 mil of Raingard per litre.
Spray over the oxalis foliage, but it only works well when the soil is on the dry side and during a warm to hot sunny day. The oxalis leaves will dehydrate but other plants sprayed will not be harmed.
The first spray will remove the oxalis foliage but will not harm the bulbs. More foliage will appear and soon as it does repeat spray. After a few sprays the bulbs run out of energy as they have been denied leaves and then the bulbs fail.
 In the meantime do not work the soil, instead cover the soil with compost and plant any new plants into the compost. Over time you will be free of the weed.
     There are many ways you can control weeds without using harmful chemical herbicides.
I placed a number of these in my recent book, Wally’s Down To Earth Gardening Guide which is available from some garden centres, or by mail order from our web site or by phone.
     Slugs and snails do a lot of good in gardens breaking down decaying matter but they are a pest if they attack your plants. All the baits used are toxic to wild life, pets and children except for Quash.
The best method of keeping slugs and snails off your plants is to spray the plants with Liquid Copper and Raingard. Slugs and snails will not go near copper so also spray the soil under the plants.
Not only will you keep the plants free of them you are also protecting the plants against a range of diseases that could attack the plants also.
     Strawberries planted in winter should be doing well by now and if they are first year plants, still a bit on the small size, you should remove some of the early flowers so the plants can grow bigger before you let them fruit. Spray the strawberry plants every 2 weeks or so with Mycorrcin.
This simple, natural spray feeds the beneficial microbes, which will not only keep the plants healthy but can increase your crop yield by 200 to 400%. I had one gardener ring me a couple of weeks ago and tell of his success last season.
He had two beds of strawberries, one he sprayed regularly with Mycorrcin, the other he didn't. 
In all other respects the two beds were treated the same. The gardener reported that the difference was outstanding. The Mycorrcin treated bed produced masses of big, sweet strawberries where the other bed was just the normal so-so crop. He said if he had not done the trial with the two beds he would not have believed the possible difference.
     As I often say, when you work with Nature you get the results, when you try to work against Nature with harmful chemical fertilisers and sprays, all you have is a war zone.

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     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

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at www.sharpei.co.nz

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