Gardening Articles for week ending 28th JANUARY 2017  Written by Wally Richards.


As gardeners we face numerous difficulties in raising plants and maintaining gardens in the manner we would like.

Weather has a big bearing on how well our gardens preform; temperatures, droughts, sunshine hours are factors to plant performance.

Having a glasshouse, conservatory or tunnel house allows us to grow more tender plants easier and also allows for a longer growing season.

If we bring in electricity to the glasshouse we can increase the daylight hours with artificial lighting and we can provide temperature controls such as fans to cool or heat pads for warming containers.

Also with electricity we can run a hydroponic system with a pump and a immersion heater.

An electrician can run power to a suitably located glasshouse or you could invest in solar power panels providing either 12volt DC or 24 volts DC.

If your pump, fans immersion heater etc work on direct current voltage (DC) then when the sun comes up power will be going directly to your appliances.

They will operate during the day and stop when the sun goes down.

If you obtain an Inverter you then can convert the DC voltage to 230v AC which gives you a better range of products to use.

For most power using appliances in a glasshouse such as pump for hydroponic and fans for cooling in summer the need for electricity is just during daylight hours so a simple system will work well for you even on cloudy days if you have good quality solar panels.

To be able to extend the hours of light using artificial lighting you need to be able to store power into special batteries than can be used after the sun goes down.

That is whats called an Off The Grid Solar Power System.

I have purchased such a system directly from China and I am very impressed with the amount of power collected even on a cloudy, dull day.

The system is designed to do 1KW with four storage cells at 55AH each.

The 4 panels are 200watts each and they are so efficient I have now ordered another 4 batteries to increase my storage of power.

One of the advantages of a system such as this is not only free power to run a few appliances in my glasshouses but also a power source for emergencies if the occasion arises.

If you have a power outage for a few hours or more then deep freeze contents are likely spoilt.

Areas that are prone to drought situations need to be able to store rain water so that they can keep their gardens alive.

Gardeners up in Northland and down in Canterbury are facing this problem currently and the gardens have to be shut down unless it rains sufficiently to keep them going.

There are many ways you can store water for your gardens and even for your own needs in times of emergency or droughts.

For instance I see on Trade Me: A Quality 500L Rainwater Tank Barrel Water Collection 2105102 for $79.50 plus shipping. On line from The Warehouse a year ago I purchased a much bigger canvas type water tank for a very reasonable price.

Tanks like this can be placed by a shed and the spouting diverted into the tank to collect rainwater.

The tank should be raised off the ground so that water can be collected out of the tap at the bottom.

A set of concrete blocks standing on their ends with a sheet of plywood on top of them makes a cheap suitable stand.

If you have a need to use the collected rainwater for drinking then you can always boil it to kill any bacteria or alternatively y
ou can use Potassium permanganate crystals to purify water.

Put a couple of crystals in a litre of water and let it sit for about half an hour. Once the colour of the water turns bright pink, it is good to drink. If it is a light pink, add another crystal.

Potassium permanganate is very handy stuff to have on hand and it is also very good for control or to prevent fungus diseases on plants.

Another way to store a large amount of water is in a swimming pool or one of those collapsible type Para pools. Observing what the local Council Safety concerns are and by having a cover over it so the evaporation is reduced you have a great supply of water for time of need.

A gardening problem that happens to some during the summer when insect pests are multiplying rapidly can be like one that a lady had who phoned me during the week.

The problem was that a excellent passion fruit vine growing on a fence was infected with leaf hoppers which were feeding on the plant causing some leaf drop and dehydrating the fruit.

Sprays of our Super Neem tree Oil with Pyrethrum were used prior to sunset which reduced the problem for a few days after which the pests were back with vengeance.

Repeat sprays of the same were only a temporary fix and on further investigation the lady noticed that next door there is a wisteria vine that was covered in leaf hoppers.

These were continually arriving from the wisteria to infest her passion fruit vine.

Not a hopeless case as I suggested that she obtain what I call crop cover and is sold by Garden Centres as bug mesh. Staple it to the top of the fence allowing it to drape down covering the vine completely then secured to the ground with lengths of wood and rocks or similar.

It could mean a bit of a frame made to suspend the mesh over the vine.

Now a good spray at sunset with the recommended safe sprays and with the mesh in place no further invasion from the leaf hoppers next door.

One problem arises out of this and that is the pollination of any new flowers which means every few days lifting the mesh back and hand pollination.

The crop cover is great in the vegetable garden or for raised gardens when large hoops are made of rigid alkathene pipe, placed over the area after planting seeds or seedlings to prevent not only most insects from establishing on your plants but also to stop birds and cats also.

I have to do this when I am planting up my raised gardens because there are so many earth worms in my gardens, the birds know this and just rip the gardens apart destroying seedlings in the process.

A further advantage of the mesh is it protects the establishing plants from wind and creates a micro-climate which means your plants grow quicker.

In flower gardens you can use Wallys Cat Repellent which deters most cats and likely applied fresh it will put off some birds as well.

Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
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Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
Make a habit of two things: to help; or at least to do no harm.
Walking is man's best medicine.
3 quotes from Hippocrates 460BC to 370BC Greece

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