Daylight saving: time for pottering & planting tomatoes

by Wally Richards.

Daylight saving has started which means you have extra time to potter around the garden.

The important thing to remember this season is to garden the soil instead of the plants which means you put most of your efforts into producing great soil and then the plants will look after themselves much better.

Don’t water your garden with chlorinated tap water, place a filter on the outside tap to remove the chlorine. This costs about $140 to set up and then about $40 dollars every year or two to replace the filter depending on your water usage.

Avoid using cheap chemical fertilisers and if using any man made fertilisers do so sparingly so there will be minimal damage to the soil.  Avoid using chemical herbicides around food and preferred garden areas such as rose beds. The chemicals from these weed killers do affect soil life and the health of your plants.

Feed the soil with natural products such as animal manures, compost, blood & bone etc.

For pest and disease control there are several natural products such as Neem that can be used when required. Don’t waste your money on the chemical ones which have got so expensive now and can do more damage than good. They damage the health of the plants, the health of the soil and the health of your wallet.

Mineralize the soil as our soils are now thousands of years old and they have lost the goodness/minerals
they had a million years ago. Where did those minerals go? Easy, they went out to sea, got locked up in fossil deposits and have also survived in rocks. To return them to our gardens we can use Ocean Solid, Rok Solid and Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL).

Follow these guide lines above and you should see a noticeable difference in your gardens this season.

Before you do anything in the garden ask yourself this simple question; Is this good for my soil?  If yes, do it; if no then avoid it.

I have reports coming in regularly from gardeners telling me that their gardens have improved out of sight since using those simple methods. Their wallets have been a lot fatter too.

Tomato time

It is about the right time to get your tomato plants either potted up or planted out depending where in the country you are.

The new pest call the tomato/potato psyllid and the old pest called whitefly will affect your crop this season unless you protect the plants and keep the pests numbers low.

What is likely to happen is the first fruit when they ripen will be of good size and about normal but as the season progresses the fruit will get smaller and smaller.

In some cases plants will be lost due to heavy infestations of the pests feeding on the plants. You can liken this to having lots of blood sucking parasites on your body sapping your energy and not only that injecting into your body toxins which will make you sick and eventually kill you, unless you take remedial action. It’s a real thought when it happens to ourselves and a very unpleasant one so imagine how your plants feel when it happens to them. The plants do have defense mechanisms far better than our own antibodies and immune system but these systems  only work in plants  when the plants are in a healthy state as a result of very healthy soil. See the reason for gardening the soil?

Anyway a bit about the dreaded psyllid from my revised book, Wallys down To Earth Garden Guide;

The tomato/potato psyllid is going to be a big concern for many gardeners this season as well as commercial growers.
(From Crop and Food Research web site) The tomato potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli) is a pest attacking tomatoes and capsicums (both indoors and outdoors) and potatoes in New Zealand and can cause a reduction in fruit yield and quality. The nymphs cause plant damage but adults also feed on the plants.

While feeding, the tomato potato psyllid (TPP) nymphs inject toxic saliva into the plant, causing the condition known as “psyllid yellows” in potatoes and tomatoes. In capsicums young plants can be severely damaged by direct feeding of the nymphs.

Psyllid sugar is the symptom that you are most likely to see on your plants. Nymphs and possibly adults inject a toxin into the plants when they feed. The toxin causes discoloration of leaves and the plant to become stunted exhibiting psyllid yellow and purple top. Leaf edges upturn and show yellowing or purpling. The plants internodes shorten and new growth is retarded.  If the psyllids are removed, the plant may start to grow normally.

In tomatoes, psyllid feeding can cause plants to produce numerous small poor quality fruit or prevent fruit forming.

Solanaceous species (capsicum, egg plant, potatoes, tomatoes and black nightshade) are the preferred hosts, but it may breed on species of Convolvulaceae, including kumara, especially if high populations are nearby.

As from my earlier articles on this pest some gardeners have found that the use of Neem Tree Granules placed in the planting hole and sprinkled on the soil surface has assisted in the pest’s control. This should also be supplemented by spraying Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum just prior to dusk, over and under the foliage of crops affected for a complete coverage. The same spray can be applied over the Neem Granules on the soil to increase their potency.
The granules should be refreshed about every 6 to 8 weeks to keep a continual supply of the active ingredients entering the root system of the plants.

Originally I was under the impression that only tomatoes and potatoes were affected but now it has been shown that capsicums, (peppers) egg plants, Cape gooseberry and possibly kumara can be damaged. Refer to the above for other plants and ornamentals that can be hosts to the pest such as nightshade.

The removal of these plants or controls as suggested should also be applied to them to prevent re-infesting on your target plants (tomatoes etc).  If there are host plants growing nearby such as in neighbouring properties then your control sprays will need to be increased in frequency.

The facts as I see them are; they are hard to spot and many gardeners will suffer crop losses thinking their crops are ok and not apply any controls, a female laying up to 510 eggs in 21 days makes for massive population increases which means they become harder to control. Your best bet is preventative controls used from the time of planting and right through the growing season.

If you had the problem last season, then as sure as apples you are likely to have the problem again.

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