Gardening Articles for week ending 2nd DECEMBER 2017
Written by Wally Richards. 


REDUCING DROUGHT PROBLEMS 

It would appear that we are in for a drought over most of the country during this growing season.

There is a web site called weather New Zealand .com which gives you the areas and main cities/towns to see what the weather is likely to be over the next 14 days.

Scanning through it is very noticeable that cloud cover of 100% dominates many areas low humidity and low wind activity.

That means not much direct sunlight, dry air and just mild breezes for many areas on NZ.

Dry air causes moisture to be sucked out of the ground which makes for a drought even if you dont have direct sunlight and wind to help evaporation.

If anyone has the knowledge of why it not the normal patterns for much of NZ ? To have it so dry after a wet winter and having so much cloud cover(well the water has to go somewhere I suppose) 

It does not bode well for our gardens and plants or for farmers/agriculture/orchards/grapes etc.

Insufficient direct sunlight that plants need to gain energy from the sun is severely hampered by continuous cloud cover or hazy skies..

You have heard of the saying a nuclear winter? That is when the sunlight cant piece through the fallout in the atmosphere and it can become fairly dark during daylight hours. 

Volcano eruptions also can cause the same conditions and if too little sunlight for too long plants cannot survive. Vegetables at very expensive which means there is a shortage of them and thus high prices for this time of the year. 

Most unusual which makes me reflect on the following: Kissinger’s infamous saying in the early seventies:

“Who controls food, controls the people, who controls energy controls entire continents, and who controls money controls the world”. 

Weather controls have greatly advanced since the second world war so who knows?

While water restrictions are still low you have to take precautions now to protect the plants and garden areas that you do not want to see damaged or lost in the event of a long term drought.

If you wet down soil and then trap that moisture by reducing evaporation from happening you have improved the situation.

If you harden up your plants so that they can withstand low moisture problems they will fare better.

If you reduce the amount of moisture your plants require then their water needs will be lower.

So how are we going to achieve this?

The first step is to harden up the plants by applying Wallys Fruit & Flower Power granules to the root zone.

This does two things: Magnesium is involved in chlorophyll production, which converts sunlight into sugars and is involved in activating enzymes. 

Because of its role in chlorophyll, the first symptoms of magnesium deficiency show up as yellowing, usually between the veins of the older leaves. 

In severe deficiencies, the entire leaf will turn yellow or red and then brown, with symptoms progressing up the plant. 

Once the yellowing starts to appear then already the plant is having problems and even when


magnesium is supplied, it takes several weeks before the lovely dark green colour is restored.


During this time the plant is weakened, as the chlorophyll is not working to its full potential which


makes the plant more susceptible to diseases and pests.


During drought conditions, plants suffer and one important aspect to assist in this is Potassium.

It regulates water absorption and retention, influences the uptake of some nutrients and helps to increase disease resistance. 

Repeat the applications of Fruit & Flower Power every month.

Next we need to reduce the amount of water the plant requires and the major factor concerning the plant's water requirements is the moisture loss through the foliage.

During low humidity times plants pump water from the roots up into the leaves to keep them from drying out. The moisture is sucked out of the leaves by the dry air around the plant and the roots have a big job taking ground moisture up to the leaves.

You will have noticed in summer on a hot sunny day that plants such as tall tomatoes in the heat of the day, the top foliage will droop. Later when it cools down that foliage stands up again (if not damaged during the dry time)

The ground may have ample water but the plant cant lift water up to the top leaves fast enough because of the moisture they are losing.

You will also notice that the foliage all over a plant will droop when the plant needs moisture and there is insufficient in the soil. The plant has closed down a lot of its growing operations and instead is trying to conserve what moisture is present and trapping soil moisture with its foliage. 

If we spray the plant's leaves under and over with Vaporgard we can reduce the moisture loss through evaporation out of the leaves by about 40%

That can make a big difference and also the Vaporgard film which lasts for about 3 months on foliage sprayed helps the plant gain more energy from what direct sunlight it receives.

Plants use approximately the 400nm to 700nm part of the light spectrum for photosynthesis (we call this the PAR ­ Photosynthesis Active Radiation). UV light is below 400nm and is not used for photosynthesis. Clouds reduce light levels but do not prevent UV from passing through.

(That is the reason you can get skin burnt on a cloudy day) UV also interferes with photosynthesis and the Vaporgard film acts as a sun screen against UV allowing the plant to operate better.

The cell strengthening kits which we have to make the plant's cell tougher will also help the plant gain more energy from what sunlight it receives. When sprayed onto foliage after having used Vaporgard you need to add Raingard to the spray so the films merge.

Trapping moisture in the soil after it has been deep watered.

If the soil is very dry then break surface tension by adding dish washing liquid to warm water in the watering can, lather up and soak the dry soil. Then water will penetrate.

Then place several layers of newspaper over the pre-soaked exposed soil up to the trunk of existing plants; wet it down before covering with a layer of compost.

For planting of new seedlings do the above and then after spraying seedlings with Vaporgard plant them through the compost/newspaper layer. An alternative to newspaper can be cardboard.

Panda Film can also be a temporary solution and used to advantage to not only reduce moisture loss out of the soil but to reflect light upwards.

Panda film is likely available through hydroponic outlets; it is a plastic film that is black on one side and white on other. Laid down with white side upwards.

This could be a good way to grow some crops such as brassica season after season. Lay the panda film across the bed and cut small x's into it at the right spacing for brassicas and plant seedling in each hole.

After crop is harvested lift the film, wash, dry and put away for next season.

In the area it was placed should be limed and prepared for another type of crop without panda film so the soil can breathe.

Two interesting aspects this week; while watering the other night I saw a young bumble bee sitting and dying in the middle of a rose flower. His last sanctuary after being poisoned with sprays such as Confidor.

While I was visiting a garden centre, the manager told me they had sold $1600 worth of vegetable seeds to one lady that day. 

Reason? Survival. 

Wally Richards

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Replies to This Discussion

Great to be learning this stuff as I am planting lots right now too...

4 newly planted Bananas (3 Missy Luki and one Goldfinger) already have a whole new leaf out and The Passionfruit (which was there but I supported it better) has 100's of fruit the size of large Eggs!

For breakfast I had a 900gr Cherimoya from big tree's that were here too..biggest one I've ever seen, lucky bastard...

Interesting observation too: I would never spray roundup, but the place has a large gravel area  (the driveway sort of surrounds the house) which is great for accessing all the growing area's and the previous owner must have sprayed it regularly as it was squeaky when I bought the place 8 months ago.

Now, if any "normal" Kiwi saw it there would be a lot of tut tutting as there are large dandelions and all sorts of other weeds coming thru the gravel everywhere. Whilst wondering what to do (I still have not fixed the lawnmower) I noticed that the Parrots (Rosellas) and the finches love to eat the dandelion flowers (I know, the dandelions are big enough for parrots to sit in them!). 

Meanwhile the Cherimoyas, Loquat's and Avocado's, all full of fruit have not been touched, apart from the odd one, and Rosellas are notorious for destroying fruit en masse and there are whole flocks of them here, the previous owner warned me...little did he know the merits of having an "untidy" yard (and not mowing your "lawn")!

And not poisoning everything in sight, and paying for it!

Thanks Wally! and Rose

Scruffy Eastern Rosella--Australian Invader (Cant say I blame it for leaving tho)

Beautifull Plumage!

Cute, sometimes we get this flock of (probably illegal) Australian green immigrants come to visit and eat all the seedheads off our extremely untidy unsprayed/unmanicured everything.

We are an oasis of mess amongst the obsessive. Why do people bother going rural if all they want to do is spray and mow the crap out everything? I'm sure its the randomness of nature they are scared of, but to me its a symphony of directed chaos, the ultimate creativity.

Humans desperately need to take a chill pill.

Hahahaha! "An Oasis Of Mess" I love it! Pure Poetry.....

Yeah at least here we even give Australian Refugee's Residency AND the Benefit....of living in my "symphony of directed Chaos!"

We're a definite match CJ; we're both unmanicured and I haven't even shaved, but I hope you have....haha(only joking!)

rosellas here don't come by the house as much as a few yrs ago but I see heaps in the pines on my walks also lotsa loquats and purple passion fruit growing wild most likely the seeds spread by these cheeky guys

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