Wally Richards – managing winter in the garden

Over the next  three months we can expect a number of frosts and wet weather, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages for our gardens.

The advantages are the killing off of some insect pests and wiping out a few disease spores. The disadvantages are possible loss or damage to plants that are susceptible to winter’s chills and ills.

There are a few things that you can do to help prevent damage and losses, making life a bit better for your plants.


Firstly, the problems of excessive water causing root rots in a number of plants in your gardens such as citrus etc.

If you used mulches in the summer to conserve moisture then these mulches should be raked away from the root zone of any plants that detest wet feet.  This allows the soil to breath and water to evaporate faster. Mulches can be deadly in a wet winter.

If your section suffers from ponding then a submersible pump would be a good investment. Make a hole in the area where ponding is the worst and place a suitable size plastic container into the hole. Drill large holes in the bottom and sides of the container and place your pump inside of this. Place a few planks of wood or similar over the hole to prevent accidents. The outlet of the pump can be directed to a storm water outlet or out to the street drains. The pump will turn on automatically when the container fills with water and turn off again when its empty. Simple and effective.

Sprays of Perkfection over your garden plants at this time will fortify them against wet weather diseases. Spray again a month later. A couple of sprays in the spring will also be to advantage.

Next obtain a bag of sulphate of potash and sprinkle that around your gardens. It is very good value in assisting plants to harden up, making them more robust in handling frosts, wet times and winter winds. The more cold sensitive plants will need further protection and the first step of this is to spray their foliage now with VaporGard.
The commercial product called ‘VaporGard’ is available to the home gardener and this product has a multitude of uses including a spray-on-frost cloth. Very simple to use, mixing 15 mls per litre of warm water and then sprayed over plants for  good coverage.

In cold weather place your bottle of VaporGard into a jug of hot water for about 5 minutes to assist in making the fluid easier to pour. VaporGard is organic and it provides a long lasting (2-3 months, longer in winter) film over the foliage which protects down to 3 degrees C.  New growth requires further applications but as there is very little growth through winter, so this will not be needed until the spring.  NB:  the full protection that VaporGard can give can take about three days to come into effect (see below in regards to UV protection).

Putting on frost cloth and taking it off is a chore and more often or not, one either forgets or you get caught out. VaporGard overcomes these problems and becomes an all winter, first line of defense against the chills. In areas where you have harder frosts than 3 degrees you will still need the extra protection such as the traditional frost cloth (a good quality frost cloth protects down to -5 degrees), combine the two together and you will have increased protection. Note, several frosts in a row will result in damage still. If you have a second frost within a day or two of the last frost then frost cloth should be used over the Vaporgard protected plants.

As mentioned, VaporGard has a multitude of uses.  It can be used to advantage on transplanting seedlings and established plants as it reduces moisture loss though the foliage and thus reduces transplant stress or shock. This factor can be used to great advantage in summer on your container plants when they start to suffer through drying out. Just spray the plants and they will require far less watering. In a glasshouse, or on very hot days in summer, plants such as tomatoes and curbits can droop during the day. At that time they have stopped growing. Just spray with the product to reduce this problem also.

Another interesting aspect is that VaporGard develops a polymerised skin over each spray-droplet, filtering out UVA and UVB. This provides sunscreen for the chlorophyll, which is normally under attack by UV light and results in a darker green colour of the foliage within a few days of application. The chlorophyll build-up makes the leaf a more efficient food factory producing more carbohydrates, especially glycols giving stress protection from moisture loss and extra fuel for better growth and faster maturity. The film also offers some protection against some fungus diseases.

Sprayed on fruit it will give your fruit better colour, reduce splitting problems, increases sugar content and earlier maturity. The picked fruit will store for longer also. This aspect also applies to vegetables, potatoes and pumpkins, sprayed before or after harvest they will keep longer.

You could also use it for keeping cut flowers longer. A magic product that has uses year round.

A few “don’ts” though: never put chemicals in the spray mix if using on food crops as the harmful chemical will still be present when you harvest. Safe products such as Neem and Perkfection can still be used. Do not spray blue conifers with VaporGard as it will turn them green for about a year. Otherwise no other problems just advantages.
Note: when bottle is empty pour some warm water into the bottle to get the last approx 5 ml of the product out. Made up spray should be used within 24 hours as it may not keep. Store your VaporGard bottle out of direct sunlight.

If you have sprayed plants with Vaporgard and you want to say spray them with Perkfection then simply add Raingard to the new spray and it will merge with the Vaporgard film allowing the Perkfection to pass through.

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