Gardening Articles for week ending 23rd DECEMBER 2017
Another calendar year draws to an end and we are now right in the middle of this gardening year.
To us older people there is a saying, 'The world has moved on' and it certainly is nothing like the world we grew up in.
Weather patterns have greatly changed and whether you relate to CO2 global warming or other factors which are naturally affecting weather patterns, or weather manipulations for nefarious reasons (maybe a bit of all three) it certainly does not always make for great gardening conditions.
The price of produce in the Supermarkets is very high for this time of the year and that is a direct result of supply and demand; not so much supply and the normal demand.
Food security is something that gardeners can make happen by ensuring that they have their gardens producing ample crops.
I can remember while growing up the amount of vegetables and fruit that our quarter acre was able to produce. What we couldn't eat would be preserved. No deep freezers in those times instead beans would be salted down, onions and cabbage pickled and fruit bottled.
When peaches, pears, nectarines were cheap and plentiful, boxes of them would be purchased and bottling would be the order of the day.
The expression food security was not used then, we called it financial survival. Parents that had known hard times and depressions were great at making sure they had good stocks of food fresh or preserved all year round..
I wonder how prepared many people are today in the event of some calamity?
My mum used to say; Better to be safe than sorry and that is very good advise.
Now that we are in the middle of the gardening year it is the time to start sowing and planting your winter vegetables.
The reason for this is because as from the 21st December the hours of light are going to decrease so as the saying goes, Make hay while the sun shines.
Vegetables such as brassicas and leeks are germinated from seed now for planting out about the end of January.
If you prefer then you can start planting leeks as soon as the plants come available and then plant some each month with last planting in March. Usually nurseries are late in producing good leek plants which is a waste of time as the plants are too small and do not make for good size leeks in winter.
With brassicas (cabbages etc) a monthly planting of a few seedlings is ideal till March then forget it.
In April or even May final plantings of hardy lettuce can be done.
One of the problems with brassicas is that they are going to be growing through the summer when the white butterflies are very active.
The best solution is some larger hoops made from plastic piping and Crop Cover over the hoops with the plants protected inside. This is also called Bug Mesh.
Late crops of dwarf beans, sweet corn and potatoes can be started now also an early planting of broad beans.
While there are still tomato plants and capsicums available you can pot a few up to grow into the winter and shelter later on a porch or similar to keep them going through the winter.
With tomatoes you can use the laterals as cuttings to strike (root up) for new plants.
The best tomato plants for winter production are the cold tolerant ones such as Russian Reds.
It is also the time to start off winter flowering annual plants.
While there are still good long hours of light you can get plants well on the way before growth slows in winter time.
Late plantings of vegetables in say April, May, June and July means they don not grow much, stop growing during the winter and then go to seed in the spring without maturing.
Broad beans are an exception to this and planting them during those months will be beneficial.
Sugar Snap beans are also another good winter crop. Parsnips and carrots can be sown now but ensure the plantings are kept very moist.
Watering over the next period will be the challenge for many gardeners and we wrote about that in the last couple of weeks.
Garlic once again has proven to be a problem this year with rust once again attacking the plants resulting in poor bulb development.
If the rust attacked late then your bulbs may have reached a good size and even though the foliage has been damaged you will get to harvest a reasonable crop.
I have an idea that the product we sell for Moss and Liverwort control could be ideal also for controlling rust used at the 25ml per litre rate at the first sign of the disease.
I would like to hear of results if you happen to try it.
If direct sowing seeds into gardens at this time you need to water twice a day to ensure the seeds germinate and establish otherwise they dry out and fail.
A way to help with the moisture retention is to take shredded newspaper and place in the furrow and wet it down before sprinkling soil over it. Water again and then place the seed.
If you have Magic Botanic Liquid then spray the seeds with that prior to covering. Keep area moist with likely two waterings a day.
If plants are suffering from lack of moisture during the heat of the day then water the soil in the root zone rather than the plant's foliage.
You can also spray the plants all over with Vaporgard to reduce their water needs.
Those with problems on tomatoes caused by the psyllid remember to spray the plants two weekly with the two cell strengthening products.
Strawberries in some areas have not liked the weather conditions and I notice that a number of my plants have created runners very early which means they suffered stress earlier on.
Two weekly sprays with Mycorrcin may help.
This is my last article for 2017 as I take the next couple of weeks off writing but still available to take emails and phone calls with any questions you may have over the next few weeks.
Products available from most Garden Centres and Mitre 10 otherwise by mail order.
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and New Year, drive safely and garden on.
Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz
Thanks again Wally, and Seasons Greetings to you all in Palmy.