Gardening information – Wally Richards

Gardening is made a lot easier if you know what you are doing rather than just guessing.
There are many problems that can arise while gardening such as pests, diseases and weed control, any of which can be very complexing for the novice gardener and even the experienced can get stumped at times. Gardening does not come naturally unless you have grown up in a gardening family and even then, only if you had taken an active interest and participated.

So where do you go for information when a problem arises and you don’t know the solution?
There are many sources of information (and unfortunately mis-information) available, which leads to another problem; is the information correct and useful or is it a waste of time? To even further the complexity we can have situations where a remedy will work for some but not others. Confused? Yep it can be, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. If you have a friend, neighbour or relation that is a great gardener you can always have a chat with them and gain knowledge from their experience.

The Internet can be a great help if you know the key words to put into a search engine. Look at the answers given from a few sites and compare them so you can make a decision on which method would suit you best. There can be several answers to any problem and two that are often given are chemical solutions and natural solutions. You then need to decide which is more suitable to your circumstances.

In the past there were few if any garden centres, instead there were nurseries with maybe a small shop attached for door sales. The owner would be a nurseryman and very knowledgeable in their profession and able to give you down to earth information. There were also a scattering of small garden shops in towns often owned by retired nurserymen who once again knew their stuff.

This changed over time as non nursery people saw that the selling of garden products and plants could be a very profitable business. I remember one such person many years ago telling me that he could buy a rose plant in for five shillings and sell it before lunch for ten shillings. Five bob (shillings) back then was good money, likely the equivalent  of about $50.00 today in what it could purchase.

Garden centres evolved overtime and some of these are owned by knowledgeable people in gardening and some are owned business people with sparse knowledge.
Even the very best of garden centres will have some staff with good knowledge where other younger staff employed to assist, may have little knowledge. We all know a little knowledge is dangerous when giving advise.

Our next point of call is gardening programs on TV and some of these are very good to learn basic principals and obtain good gardening tips especially some of the UK programs. Most radio stations have a gardening program where you can ring in and get your gardening questions answered on air. Once again from listening to numerous ones over the years I have heard some good answers and some answers that I hope the people never used. There is a lot of misinformation out there from people that don’t really know all the ins and outs on gardening.

Some are heavy users of chemicals and cant see that that is not how every one wants to garden. Joining a local garden club is also a great way to learn more about gardening but here again some of the real experts can get you bogged down in botanical terms and plant correct Latin names that cause confusion. Even I have to ask at times, someone who can correctly pronounce the complicated Latin name of a plant what it actually is.

There are experts out there that often amaze me, in so much as you can produce a leaf of just about any plant and they can give you instantly the botanical and common name along with every aspect of its culture. Not a lot of use to the person that only wants to grow a few healthy cabbages.

Gardening magazines can be a good source also if they are not bogged down with grandiose garden pictures that one may dream about but be far removed from your budget and space. Newspapers and columns such as this may be a good source of information or maybe not dependent on your point of view and the content.

Finally we come to books on gardening which range from those that are suitable for coffee table gardeners to ones that are a great assistance in identifying garden plants and problems. Too many publications are UK originals (sometimes USA) which have been rehashed to try to suit New Zealand conditions and gardening practices.

The most sold gardening book is of course Yates Gardening Guide; first published in 1895  and over the years has sold over 7 million copies in Australia and New Zealand. Now up to its 77th revised edition and retailing for about $40.00. I look back on earlier editions and reckon that they appear more balanced between natural methods and chemical ones. The more recent ones tend to lean towards chemical solutions and methods rather than the more natural.

The next best seller is; The Native Trees of New Zealand by J.T. Salmon (Reed Publishing NZ)
Which is a great book on that topic. (Gold award)
Then we have The Gardener’s Encyclopaedia of New Zealand Native Plants by Yvonne Cave & Valda Paddison (Random House NZ) (Silver award) Another fine book. (Silver award)
In the Bronze awards we have The Life-Size Guide to Insects; The Life-Size Guide to Native Trees;
Which Native Fern? ; Which Native Forest Plant? ; Which New Zealand Bird? ; A Guide to the Identification of New Zealand Native Trees; all by Andrew Crowe (Penguin Group NZ)
Nature Guide to the New Zealand Forest by John Dawson & Rob Lucas (Random House NZ)

If you are interested in purchasing these books, visit

It would appear that there is a lot of interest in our natural flora, native insects and birds which is great also. Several of the above books are in my personal library and are great reference books. But where are the practical books in the best seller lists or are they still gaining sales over the years to reach the magic 10,000 copies needed to become a bronze award?

Two years ago I published my first book; Wallys Down to Earth Gardening Guide which is now in its third printing having sold over 4000 copies.
Over the last 12 months I have written a second book which is now available called, Wallys Green Tips for Gardeners. It is aimed at complementing the first book and being a quick handy reference for lots of gardening problems. Lots of tips on planting vegetables as there is a growing interest from people getting into growing their own food crops. Tips on dealing to all the common insect problems, a chapter on plant health (disease) and tips on common household items and products that can be used to advantage in your gardening efforts.
For those that get stuck on gardening terms there is a gardening dictionary also. There is a strong focus on gardening for better health and using natural products.
The book can be obtained through a number of garden centres, book shops or by mail order for those of you that maybe interested.

5 comments on “Gardening information – Wally Richards

  1. Wally re the books you like. Do you know that I have rwitten and have had published 23 gardening books so far. 14 years presenting Dig This on TV nearly 30 years on radio. I have just rewritten my citrus book and sell it from home for $21 posted. We produce and market a Organic Liquid fertiliser called Dig This @12.75 for a 500 ml bottle. My address is 135 Hampton Downs Road, RD2 Te Kauwhata 3782 0272509182
    regards to all Eion & Ann Scarrow

  2. Hi Eion, Thank you for your comments and information about your work. I am sure our readers would be interested in your vast knowledge and experience – please feel free to contact me about writing regular blog articles.

    Kind regards

    Tim Durrant
    CEO /Editor Ltd

  3. Firstly the page above I have read is brillant. Secondly I am a bit of a novice gardener and didn’t do to well in the vegetable garden last year, with my carrots and parsnips. I think that I sowed the seeds to soon after fertilising the ground and maybe sowed them to late in the year. For Canterbury when is the best time please to sow seeds for carrots and parsnips.

  4. Rachel Doré on said:

    Hi Wally,

    If possible, can I have a telephone conversation with you, please?
    I am freelance a writer/gardener in Manawatu/
    I am currently attending an organics course (in hopes of rectifying some of the soil issues I have where I live), and your name came up recently.
    Since I am unsure whether this email message is ‘pulicised’, perhaps you could email me with your response to this request, and I can supply my telephone number, or telephone you direct.

  5. Kaye Hope on said:

    hi there…am about to use LIQUID COPPER for the roses but it has solidified into the bottom of the container..checked in the garden centre and their unopened ones are the same…Any hints on getting it mixed as I have shaken the heng out of it, put it in warmish water and poked a skewer in to mix it….some has moved but would like it at full strength for the roses and with no sprayer blockages ..would welcome a quick reply as the weather is warming and I used this as part of your suggested spray programme last season with great success….K

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