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January gardening

January marks the half way point of the gardening year and as we do in June, preparing for the following spring/summer, now we must prepare for the coming autumn/winter. Novice gardeners often miss this vital time in establishing vegetables for use later as the days shorten. It is those shortening daylight hours that brings urgency, because the growth of plants relates strongly to the amount of sun hours they receive. This month and then for succession over the next couple of months, we should be planting those vegetable crops that will withstand the cold temperatures and frosts making them available for the table in the heart of winter.

There are several good reasons to grow vegetables for all year harvesting; your own home vegetables can be picked fresh from the garden, full of taste and goodness, if you grow them naturally without the aid of chemical fertilisers and sprays. There is no comparison between natural home grown and the tasteless, chemically saturated produce you waste your money on in supermarkets. With the rising price of oil the cost of commercially grown food stuffs is going to increase as the price of oil affects the cost of transport, fertilisers and chemicals. To have a degree of self sufficiency in your food is becoming a priority and a natural hedge
against disasters, which are becoming all too common place these days. The amount of vegetables you can grow is only limited to the amount of garden space you have, the number of containers you can place and your time involvement.

So what should you be doing now?

Potatoes: the early ones are likely to be harvested or ready to harvest soon and a further crop of seed potatoes should now be planted to mature in autumn. This late crop need not be harvested when mature as they will keep better in the cold ground as long as
the area is free draining. Just dig for the table as needed in winter. Seed potatoes should be available from good garden centres at this time. Place a tablespoon of gypsum, a level teaspoon of BioPhos and a small handful of sheep manure pellets under each sprouted seed and water regularly till the rains take over. A spray every couple of weeks of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) will increase the size of the crop and the same applies to all other vegetables and plants.

Tomatoes: it is time to germinate some cold tolerant tomatoes from seed and one which I especially favor is a Russian Tomato called ‘Silvery Fir Tree.’ I grew this during last winter and found it to be a dwarf type plant, ideal for 20 to 40 litre containers. The fruit are of a nice red colour, excellent flavour, varying from the size of a golf ball to about a tennis ball in size. One plant has produced over 40 fruit so far and with more coming to maturity. (It was put in a 40 litre container) The others in 20 litre pots have produced about half that much with more to harvest yet. I never removed any laterals
being a dwarf, bush type and only minimal staking needed. The plant has a natural cascading form which flows over the sides of the containers. No disease problems either with ones started in last winter, still producing well but beginning to slow now. I do
give them my own secret tomato food about every 3 to 4 weeks.
Which is another point about your own tomatoes that are producing now. Many gardeners stop feeding their tomato plants once they start harvesting the tomatoes, this is silly as the plants run out of tucker and finish. Keep feeding and watering regularly and these
same plants can preform for you well into late autumn. Keep whitefly under control with Neem Tree Granules on the growing medium, in the root zone, pick off any loop caterpillars that may attack and a monthly spray of Perkfection along with MBL will help prevent diseases. By the way, seeds of Silver Fir Tree Tomato should be available in the Niche Seed Stands in good Garden Centres.

All the members of the brassica family can be planted now for winter harvesting (Cabbages, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Swedes, Brussel Sprouts, Mustard) In some ways this is the worst time of the year for brassicas as the white butterfly caterpillars can
devastate a crop. To overcome this problem place Neem Tree Granules in the planting hole and some on the surface of the soil. The granules are sprinkled every 6 weeks or so on the surface until the danger is past. I did this last season and found the only damage
was very small holes on the outside leaves. (The grubs hatched, took a small bite and it was all over Joe for them).

Silverbeet and spinach should now be planted for autumn/ winter harvesting along with parsnips, carrots, leeks, spring onions, celery, peas, snow peas, radish, lettuce and any other cold tolerant vegetables you like. A trick with lettuce is to place a small handful of chook manure in the planting hole, cover with a little soil and pop the seedling in. They thrive of this manure and grow big and fast.
Plant lettuce at this time in a shaded spot so they do not get all day sun. Later in autumn plant in full sun spots.

Seeing we are having a decent summer for a change, you can plant another two late crops of vegetables for autumn harvesting being sweet corn and dwarf beans. As long as you are in an area where the winter does not come too soon you can sneak a crop of both these in.

Problems that gardeners have contacted me about recently include; leaf hoppers on various plants, spray Neem Tree Oil on all plants where they are spotted and repeat about 7 days later till under control. Pear slug damaging, plum, cherry and pear leaves, spray Liquid Copper and Raingard over the foliage. They can’t stand copper and they fall off to die. Mites or spider mites on various plants, spray Liquid Sulphur (that is not Lime Sulphur) over and under the foliage as they cannot handle sulphur. (Do not use Neem Tree Oil or any EC sprays on the same plants while the sulphur particles are present). Whitefly; use the Neem Tree Granules and Neem Tree Oil spray to control.

If you wish to plant a new lawn or kill off an old one for re-planting now is the time to start preparations for sowing later.

Roses: Dead head roses that can have repeat flowering to encourage new buds. On first year roses only remove the head, no leaves. On established roses remove the stem down to 2-3 leaves.
A lady at my Bank told me the other day that she has, this season, followed my advise about spraying the roses with MBL, Mycorrcin and Perkfection and her comment was the roses have never been healthier and the perfume is so strong that if wafts through the
bed room window, when opened in the morning.Yes gardeners if you use the natural products on your beloved roses you will have great roses.Forget the chemical sprays and fertilisers they only sicken the plants.For powdery mildew spray the foliage with baking soda (Heaped tablespoon into a litre of warm water with one mil of Raingard added) Try the same for black spot especially on
apples. It is also a great spray to kill oxalis foliage if used on a sunny day when the soil is dry. Does not damage other plants and if repeated whenever more foliage appears you can beat the beast. (don’t dig or work the soil).

Happy summer gardening.

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