Herb News


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

         With the second month of spring upon us it is a good time to review what we should be doing in the garden. Over the next few weeks you should be getting both your flower and vegetable gardens planted up with all the types of flowers and vegetables that you wish to grow over the summer months.
This means that most flowering plants will be well established and flowering before Xmas and some vegetables such as lettuces you can be eating in December. Early potting up of tomatoes or planting out may mean you can have some ripe fruit by Xmas. This would be especially so with the smaller cherry type tomatoes. You may like to put in a small row of peas so you can shell them on Xmas morning.
          Another option would be to plant the pea seeds in a larger container such as a 45 litre one. By wrapping some wide mesh netting around the container will give the plants ample support.
Give the area you plant the pea seeds a good dose of a soft garden lime and use a good compost as a light mulch to cover the seeds. Birds sometimes nip off the pea shoots as they appear through the soil.
They think it’s a worm coming up. As the seeds start germinating sprinkle a thin layer of grass clippings over the emerging seeds and the birds will leave them alone.
         Talking about containers and planting them up for outdoor growing, don't waste your money on potting mixes, they dry out too quickly, are hard to water and there is only minimum nutrients. Buy instead the cheaper priced composts and use them in the pots. Ensure that the composts you buy are friable and not too heavy. Add a little top soil to the compost in the pot as this will introduce more microbes and help the plants grow naturally. Potting mixes are good for seed raising and indoor plants in pots.
        From my own experience I find a fine particle potting mix is far superior than the seed raising mixes for germinating seeds. Fill your trays or punnets to about two thirds full with the potting mix and water. With the aid of a kitchen sieve, sieve some potting mix over the top. Space out your seeds and sieve some more mix to just cover the seeds. Mist the planted seeds with diluted MBL after sowing for better germination. When direct sowing seeds in gardens prepare the soil and then sieve some soil over the area where you are going to plant the seeds. Cover them with more sieved soil.
        Talking about seeds I am currently reading a book called ‘Hard to Swallow’ published in NZ by Craig Potton Publishing. It is an eye opener and a must to read for anyone concerned about their health and the environment. It tells (amongst many other things) how multi-national companies such as Monsanto are trying to eliminate all natural seeds in the world, giving them total control of what we can grow.
They are working to achieve this dominance by 2014 to 2020. Order the book at your local book shop or visit www.craigpotton.co.nz for mail order.
          Slugs and snails can attack young plants in your pots or gardens. Though considered a pest by many gardeners they also do a lot of good breaking down organic matter and decaying material for the benefit of the soil and plants. Rather than laying baits that are going to kill them and possibly poison pets, simply spray the plants and surrounding soil with Liquid Copper and Raingard. This will keep them off the plants as they will not go near copper, this lets them do good for you, rather than harm. Repeat the copper spray about every 10 to 14 days.
A sowing of a quick maturing potato variety about now will enable you to still have some new potatoes for Xmas.
            There are two important requirements we want from the vegetables and fruit that we grow in our gardens or containers. Nutritional density and excellent flavour. This means that not only do they taste good but they also have all the vitamins, minerals and enzymes possible making them most beneficial to our health. You are not going to achieve either of these two goals if you use chemical fertilisers and sprays. (You might as well forget it and buy the non organic stuff they sell at supermarkets)
         Instead use natural products such as blood and bone, sheep manure pellets, dolomite, compost etc.
Enrich the soil with minerals from Ocean Solids, Simalith and MBL. Not only will your crops grow full of goodness, they will be less prone to plant diseases. Nature and the soil is a wonderful place and when you work with it you will achieve great results.
         Here is an interesting tip, collect a couple of cups of worm casts or buy the same from a garden centre. Fill a 10 litre bucket with water and run a air pump with an air stone so it bubbles away for a few hours. This is to get rid of the poison, chlorine they put in our water supplies. Then add the worm casts breaking them up so the water becomes muddy. Run the pump for a few hours and then stir in a couple of tablespoons of molasses and 20 mls of Mycorrcin. These are high energy foods for the soil microbes you are breeding. If you have an aquarium heater run this at a temperature of 25 degrees C in the brew. (not important but will increase the value of the brew.
Run the system for another 24 hours. A nice earthly smell should be noticed.
While the brew is bubbling away stand a further container of water outside in the sun to remove the chlorine so you can use this to dilute your brew later. Dilute the brew 50:50 and water into the soil or compost around your plants late in the day after the sun is off the garden.
You have now boosted the soil food web to great benefit of the plants. Another way is to spray the foliage after diluting one litre of brew to 5 litres of de-chlorinated water and putting it through a fine mesh kitchen strainer so it does not block the jets. Once again use late in the day when the sun is off the plants.
You can also add more Mycorrcin to the drenches and sprays to further feed and build beneficial populations. This is a simple compost tea that will keep your plants healthy and make for far better gardens.
Roses are a preferred plant by many gardeners and the requirement for perfect roses with unblemished foliage is a must for some. Once again it is a simple fact that roses respond well to the natural foods and do poorly in comparison when rose fertilisers and Nitrophoska foods are used.
The health giving suggestions above will promote the desired perfect roses over a season or two.
Drench the soil around the roses with MBL each month for three months. Then spray MBL over the roses two weekly. Provide sheep manure pellets, animal manure based composts and dolomite.
Once a month sprinkle some Fruit and Flower Power in the root zone.
Strawberries should be coming on well now and the first flowers and fruit forming.
I had a call from a gardener the other day and he told me last season he had two plots of strawberries which he treated the plants in both plots just the same with one exception. On one plot he sprayed the plants with Mycorrcin every two weeks. He said the difference was amazing, the Mycorrcin treated plants produced bigger berries, better flavour and three times the amount of fruit.
This is just another example of working with Nature by feeding the microbes, which feed the plants, such as strawberries in this case, you obtain far better results than any artificial chemical food ever can.
It is a busy month so get cracking.

     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)
wallyjr@gardenews.co.nz Email
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz

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