Wally Richards – May gardening

Time flies faster these days than it ever did when I was young; now its May already with only a few more weeks till the shortest day and the beginning of a new gardening year.

May is the time to preserve and protect what we have in our gardens so that all will be in good stead for the new gardening year.
The extended mild weather that most of the country has been privileged with, has kept things in the garden going longer than normal, with only the every shortening of daylight hours making the gradual seasonal changes.
I note with interest that my deciduous fruit trees and roses are still fairly much in full leaf, not having a cold snap to change them into their autumn colours.

This raises an interesting point in my mind in that having nice green leaves on my deciduous fruit trees, so much longer than normal, gathering energy from the sunlight, will this mean better crops in the spring/summer period?
It will be interesting to see but as the same plants do enjoy a rest, so a good hard cold snap is needed to put them into dormancy even if it is only for a short time.

On Anzac day I was able to spare a bit of time to winter proof my gardens and plants in anticipation of a cold snap and possible frosts.
The first aspect was out with the potash and magnesium (Fruit and Flower Power) to give a liberal dosage to the garden plots and fruit trees, especially the citrus.

Winter chills tend to lock up some elements in the soil if there is insufficient amounts of them available to plants. Magnesium is vital to maintain green foliage and that is the reason for applications of the element at this time.
Potash (sulphate of potassium) hardens up plant growth giving the plants the natural protection they need against the cold, frosts and drought conditions.
A sprinkling of these two elements into the root zone or drip line of your plants should be applied now with a further dose in about a months time.

Frost protection for areas that have frosts normally in winter and even for those gardeners that are frost free, there is still the chilling of winter winds that make life unpleasant for our plants.
Each winter I wrap up my more tender plants in a natural film of Vaporgard which gives them initial frost protection down to minus 3 degrees for a period of about 3 months from one application.
The film is slowly broken down my UV over the following months.
There are several advantages in having this film placed over the foliage of garden plants.
The film acts as a sunscreen against UV allowing the chlorophyll to work to maximum producing energy from sunlight for the plant’s needs.

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 glycols are like the anti-freeze we place in our car’s radiators and hence the plant produces its own anti-freeze system. This works very well on tender plants such as tamarillo when there is an occasional frost every so often. If there is a series of frosts night after night, then the plant cells do not have time to recover from the previous frost and damage will occur. Frost damage will be seen by the leaves going black as the cells in the leaves have frozen and not recovered.

When it appears that there are going to be two or more frosts in a row additional protection is needed in the form of Frost Cloth or other insulating materials such as newspaper and sacks.
The frost protecting spray film has another advantage in that if you spray under and over the foliage you reduce the amount of moisture loss (transpiration)  which means that the water requirements of the plant reduces by about 30%. This advantage can be used at this time of the year on evergreen plants or shrubs that you need to move from their present location. Simply spray the foliage, under and over with Vaporgard, wait about 3 days for the full effect to kick in, then lift the plant and move it too its new location.

Winter is by far the best time to relocate plants as there is less stress on them and they have right through till next summer to re-establish.

Deciduous trees should also be moved or new ones plants during the next month or two while they are dormant.
The sprayed on film smothers any insect pests that may be still present on the foliage of plants treated, giving you the advantage of cleaning up pest insects such as scale, thrips, aphids etc.
The film can also be used to protect a plant’s leaves from leaf diseases such as black spot, mildew and rusts.

Gardeners that have stored produce such as potatoes, kumara and pumpkins should check the produce every few weeks for rots. Also beware of those little mammals on four feet called mice and rats as they can get into your pumpkins and ruin them.

Weeds are much easier to control in winter and there are several less harmful ways to eliminate them when compared to using a harmful chemical herbicide.
The best way is to cut them off just below ground level with a sharp knife and leave the foliage on the top of the soil to be broken down naturally. Don’t leave foliage that has produced seeds as these will only appear as many more weeds in the spring.
Sprays of vinegar or cooking oil used on a sunny day will dehydrate the foliage of the target plants.
Salt can be applied to weeds in cobbles or areas where you are not concerned about other plants growing for a period of time.

In those areas where you do want other plants to grow apply sulphate of ammonia directly to the weed’s foliage when the foliage is dry. If there are taller weeds then these need to be cut down low before applying. The sulphate of ammonia burns the foliage and crown of the weed and being nitrogen dissipates fairly quickly without leaving any longer term residue as will the salt.
This treatment (sulphate of ammonia) can be applied to weeds in the lawn also and if any grasses nearby get burnt they should recover.

Lawns can still be de-thatched with Thatch Busta at this time but do so soon as the results will take longer as the cold creeps in.
Clean up grass grubs and porina in you lawn areas with the new natural control of Professor Macs 3 in one for lawns.

Over the next few months you can get organised for your vegetable gardens in the spring.
Give a thought to making some raised gardens for vegetables, they are easy to work and produce some great produce if done correctly.

Happy gardening.


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