Recently I received a couple of new tips which might be of interest to you.
The first was about the pollination of bean flowers early in the season from a bee keeper in the south island, which I heard on the radio. Apparently if you flip down the bottom, jaw part of the bean flower and let it spring back it is sufficient to transfer the pollen and set the bean.
Now that is very handy in the early part of the season when your broad beans are nicely in flower and there are no bees around to pollinate them.
Every time you past by the beans flip a few flowers. You won’t get all the flowers to set unless you spend a lot of time doing the flipping but the more you do, the more beans to eat.
Unfortunately with low honey bee populations in many areas, we have to depend on bumble bees and native bees, wasps and flies to do more of our pollination work. You can attract potential pollinators to fruiting plants in flower by dissolving raw sugar in hot water then spraying the solution over some of the foliage. You don’t want to supply too much sweet syrup as the pollinators will only work that not the flowers. Having a nest or two of bumble bees near your home is a great asset.
You can build Bumble Bee Nest Boxes and place them around your section and hope that they will be accepted by a queen and used.
See http://www.bumblebee.org/nestboxes.htm For a lot of great information on how to do it.
Another interesting one came by email and concerns plastic water bottles and sunlight.
Your plastic water bottle left out in a car or in sunlight will heat up the water and in doing so, dioxins can be transferred into the water from the plastic. The dioxins can cause cancer and apparently breast cancers in particular. The same aspect applies to any plastic used in microwaves for warming or cooking food or liquids. Apparently there has also been concerns about plastic babies bottles, heating milk. The world was a safer and better place when it was glass used instead of plastic. Glass can be recycled easier and does not contain cancer aspects. For gardeners that prefer not to have to spray for insect pests they can sprinkle Neem Tree Granules onto the soil in the root zone of the plants. For trees apply to the drip line area. The application can assist in reducing the pest insect problems in some plants with other plants not so affective.
A while back a gardener told me that he had a crop of beetroot in and they were not doing as well as they should. A friend told him to give the plants a drink with diluted sea water which he did. Apparently it worked, the crop took off and I was told that some of the best beet root in size and flavour were harvested. You might like to try this yourself and if not near the ocean, then use Ocean Solids dissolved in water.
Here are a few more tips from my book; Wally’s Green Tips for Gardeners.
Baking soda is a very useful spray for assisting in the control of powdery mildew and control of the weed, oxalis. Mix at one heaped tablespoon of Baking soda to one litre of warm water to dissolve and then add one mil of Raingard and stir.
Used on oxalis when the soil is dry and on a hot sunny day it will dehydrate the foliage without harming other plants. Repeat sprays will be needed till the bulbs become exhausted.
For powdery mildew and black spot it can be used as a preventive or control.
CONDYS CRYSTALS (Potassium Permanganate) Assists in the control of club root in brassicas. The recipe is a quarter teaspoon of Condys Crystals dissolved in one litre of warm to hot water along with 3 table spoons of salt. This is then added to nine litres of water and you place one litre of this mixture in the planting hole before planting a cabbage etc. A mild solution of Condys crystals is good for control of rusts on plants. For sterilizing soil, the above can be used but I would recommend doubling the ingredients but still only in 10 litres of water to drench the soil where required.
Later flood the area with water to remove the residues.
What mix to use when planting up containers?
If it is for indoor pot plants then use a good potting mix.
If it is for outdoor containers don’t use potting mix, shrub & tub mixes as they are a waste of time and money.
Most potting mixes contain bark fines and plant food with maybe a few other additives in the more expensive ones. (Some potting mixes maybe peat moss based or have peat included)
These mixes dry out too quickly outdoors, difficult to re-water without plunging in a tub of water and they lack guts for real good growth.
Instead find a brand of compost that is friable for drainage, add a little soil or worm casts to the compost and other natural foods such as sheep manure pellets, blood & bone etc. Sprinkle Bio Boost or Break Through pellets on top of the mix. (If you have a supply of worms add a few to the mix as they assist in keeping it open)
Daltons and Oderings (Brands) both have good composts for container growing. (Likely there are others)
They have better food values, retain moisture better and are easier to re-wet when they dry out.
Use for vegetables, flowers, shrubs and fruit trees.