Wally Richards: January gardening

It might be the beginning of a new calendar year, but we are now actually halfway through a gardening year and there’s plenty to do.

The daylight hours are already beginning to shorten, though most of us will not notice the slow change until daylight savings ends.

Plant leeks now for winter

However the plants do notice and over the next few weeks the decreasing hours of light can be the trigger to flower and reproduce themselves before winter.

The weather forecasters tell us that we have a mild La Nina summer which can keep the normally dry areas wetter and the wet areas a bit drier. That bodes well for gardeners who are having a nice amount of rain falling on their gardens regularly, good plant growth and less need to water.

The downside is that with warmth and moisture comes leaf diseases that will run wild especially where foliage is dense and air circulation is reduced. Powdery mildew, black spot and rust are three common problems that are likely to occur if they are not already giving you problems.  Baking Soda; about a tablespoon to a litre of water with a ml of Raingard added is a great control of powdery mildew and will help prevent it as well. The same can be used for black spot as a preventive to the spread because the alkaline nature of baking soda helps prevent the disease getting started.

You can use the same to dehydrate the foliage of Oxalis to assist in its control without harming other plants. For this purpose use on a sunny day when the soil is on the dry side. With black spot damaged leaves will remain till they are naturally replaced.  Leaves that have black spot on them should not be removed as the rest of the surface area will still collect energy from the sun to the plant’s advantage.

Rust is very unsightly and it can be prevented with sprays of potassium permanganate (Condys Crystals)
The dose is about a small quarter of a teaspoon of the crystals to a litre of water, no Raingard added and spray to prevent or control. The same may also work ok on other fungal diseases as its an oxidizing agent. It is used for athletics foot as a cure.

Potassium Permanganate is available though better garden centres as most chemist shops that used to supply it now don’t, as they have changed to more supermarket like stores.

Talking about more of the old natural type remedies, Borax is one that you can mix half and half with icing sugar as a great control for ants. Just put the mix anywhere there are ants and that will knock them back. You can also dissolve the borax in water (add some baking soda to help dissolve) and paint the mix on wood surfaces to control borer. The surfaces applied must be out of weather otherwise the powder will just wash off.

Borer in trees can be controlled, I have found, by injecting Neem Oil into the borer holes of the tree. Dilute the Neem oil to 50/50 with water. Neem Oil can also be used mixed 50/50 with dog shampoo for control of fleas.
A number of people have told me that the flea controls which are chemicals don’t work so well any more and besides they are expensive. I have also heard that some people use it in shampoo for head lice with apparently good results.

Rain can help reduce the insect problems but experienced gardeners know that the summer time is the time of the insects and they will do their best to keep the populations down.  Sprays of Neem Tree oil with Raingard added applied late in the day just before dusk will help keep pest numbers down. You need to spray for total coverage, under and over foliage and repeat about seven days later, After that apply as needed to keep control.
Yellow sticky pads are also a good help to keep numbers of  flying adult pests such as white fly and psyllids under control. Just hang the pads on or near the plants you want to protect.

The psyllid problem is a real worry and one gardener that contacted me recently said that the pests had completely ruined her tomato plants. You need to spray frequently all the plants that are host to the pest, tomatoes, potatoes, tree tomatoes, capsicums, peppers, egg plants etc. Use a combination of Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum sprayed just before dark.

Now is the time to plant your winter vegetable and flower gardens.

Plants such as leeks should be planted now to ensure they will be ready in winter. When planting brassicas for winter place Neem Tree Granules in the planting hole and sprinkle some on the soil. Repeat the soil application about every 6-8 weeks for reducing the problem of white butterfly caterpillars.

Weeds will be a problem if you let them get away on you when you don’t remove them before they flower and seed. Weeding the garden early morning or late in the day when the sun is not a problem for you is best. Also after rain when the ground is moist makes the removal of weeds so much easier. Difficult to control weeds can be taken out with the new Cut n Paste applicator.

Xmas lillies that have finished flowering; do not cut back the green foliage until it naturally dies back. Removing the foliage too soon will affect the flowering next Xmas.

I am always amazed at what a difference Mycorrcin makes to strawberries, a fortnightly spray will increase your cropping  200 to 400 % and make for larger berries with better flavour.

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