Gardening Tips – potatoes, Oxalis,

This week I thought it would be a good idea to pass on a number of gardening tips which are topical at this time of the year.

The idea came about when a reader emailed me this week to get some inside information on growing potatoes. His family have an annual competition on growing spuds, to see who can grow the biggest potato, the biggest crop off one plant etc. All members of the family grows the same variety of potatoes for the competition and the type each year, is chosen by a non-family person, making all things equal at the start.

Here is my reply to him; ‘First it depends on the soil you are growing in…Generally you should deep cultivate and incorporate a good amount of compost into the soil making a friable loam. Make a trench about 20cm deep and ensuring the soil underneath is friable and mixed with the compost, (Daltons or Oderings Compost is good), place about a handful of Sheep manure pellets, a tablespoon of gypsum, and a teaspoon of BioPhos and a teaspoon of potash, cover lightly with a little soil and sit the potato on it with the eyes pointing upwards. Cover with soil/compost mix about 3 cm over seed and water in with Magic Botanic Liquid.
As the shoots come through the soil, lightly cover with more mix. Keep doing this until you have a mound about 12cm tall then allow the tops to grow. Spray the tops two weekly with Magic Botanic Liquid and Mycorrcin. Sprinkle a few of the Neem Pellets or Granules on the mound, by the shoots, in case of soil insects eating into the tubers. The soil should be kept moist at all times but not wet.’

That maybe helpful to others also and if growing potatoes in buckets I am told the one most suited to this is Moonlight.

Here is a tip a gardener told me to reduce codlin moth damage in apples, he reckoned he is able to greatly reduce damage by sprinkling Epsom Salts under the apple trees at this time of the year and watering it in. I don’t know how effective it is but certainly worth a shot and the magnesium from Epsom salts would be good for the trees.

Oxalis is a problem for many and the easy way to knock it back is with Baking Soda. Mix a heaped table spoon of baking soda into one litre of warm water, stir to dissolve and add one mil of Raingard. Spray the foliage of the oxalis on a sunny day when the ground is a bit on the dry side. It burns the oxalis foliage without harming any other plants. New foliage will appear and this should be also treated in the same manner as soon as it shows. If you stop the bulbs from having leaves they will run out of energy and die. DO NOT work the soil as this only brings fresh bulbs to the surface and extends the problem. Instead cover the soil with fresh compost and plant into this.
The same solution of baking soda and Raingard is the best spray to prevent and control powdery mildew on any plants affected with this disease. The Raingard spreads and sticks the baking soda and prevents it from washing off in the rain for up to 14 days. This also applies to all contact type sprays such as copper. If you add Raingard to any chemical weed killers your kill effective rate will be increased by 50% according to trials I have read.

About this time every year I have gardeners complaining about their broad beans flowering but no fruit setting. (Beans are fruit technically as they have seeds inside which we eat) The reason for no beans forming, after the flowers fall is due to no pollination, which is due to there not being any bumble bees around early in the season to do the job. Bumble bees have to emerge as queens out of their winter Hibernation and start forming a colony, till this happens and numbers increase not many beans set. Later on the plants produce well. Some gardeners make bumble bee boxes for the insects to nest in and have these scattered around their gardens. This is a good idea these days especially in the North Island where there is a much lower population of honey bees in the cities.

Another thing that you can do to encourage any native bees or bumble bees to pollinate the broad beans is to spray them with sugar and water. Dissolve a couple of table spoons of raw sugar into a litre of warm water and spray the plants. The same can be applied to any fruiting plant or tree that requires pollination. Why raw sugar? Because it is natural and more appealing to the insects, it is also far better for you to take than white, refined sugar.

A lot of us will be germinating and growing seedlings for pots and gardens and every time we transplant, the young plants suffer. This can be simply overcome by spraying the plants a couple of days beforehand with Vaporgard which greatly reduces transplant shock and is ideal to spray onto foliage you are going to cut for cuttings. (For cuttings dip the end in a bit of honey or spit on them, either helps). If planting out in a windy area or near the sea you can give the plants a far better start by spraying them with the Vaporgard.

Increase the yield, size of the fruit and flavour, of strawberries by spraying them every 2 weeks with Mycorrcin. Trials showed an increase of 200 to 400% and thats a fact.
For best overall results in the garden apply sheep manure pellets or Bio Boost (both are good) instead of any chemical fertilisers. Spray the preferred plants (roses etc) and food plants with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) every two weeks. Spray the soil around the plants at the same time. Gardeners that have been using this natural spray have reported that they have never had such great gardens and crops before. MBL makes a really big difference to the health of the plants and soil and you will be impressed.

Many gardeners will be spraying with copper sprays at this time and here is a big one, DO NOT mix any spraying oils with the copper. Sure you have been told in the past to mix the two together and many do so through force of habit. The fact is the oil greatly reduces the effectiveness of the copper and helps wash the copper particles off faster in rain when compared to not having the oil. Then ask yourself why is the oil used? The simple answer is, it is used to smoother scale or thrip insects. If you have no scale or thrips present, why waste your money? If the pests appear at anytime you can use an oil then, to control them. Liquid Coppers are more user friendly than powdered ones as they do not block your jets like the powders do.

Soon aphids will appear on the new shoots of roses and other plants; if you have any of those yellow cakes of Sunlight soap, simply lather some up in warm water and spray the aphids. Best done when the sun is off the plants, later in the day. The fatty acids from the soap break down the aphid’s bodies. If you do not have any of those yellow cakes then use Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum added.

Whitefly on tomatoes is a great problem for many gardeners and by simply placing some Neem Tree Granules around near the base of the plants, will help prevent their populations from building up without the need to spray much if at all. The granules need to be repeated about every 6-8 weeks.

If you have worms in your lawn causing worm casts that you do not like, then add some Cold Water Surf to warm water and throw that over the lawn. The worms will come to the surface where you should then pick them up and bury these valuable creatures back into your gardens. Someone said recently that it will also bring grass grubs to the surface where the birds will eat them. Not sure if this is correct or not but worth a shot. Do early in the morning as that is when the sparrows etc are looking for breakfast.

There are hundreds of gardening tips but space has run out again, more can be found in my book, Wally’s Down to Earth Gardening Guide. Happy Gardening.

3 comments on “Gardening Tips – potatoes, Oxalis,

  1. Charles Chastain on said:

    This appears to be really valuable information.
    I am going to try the Oxalis suppression steps,
    as the darn stuff is taking over my whole yard.

  2. Warren von Batenburg on said:

    I am looking for a good spray to kill oxalis without killing other plants

  3. Hi Warren,

    There is a product called death to Oxalis – it is natural – made from some cooking accident. Boiling water can work, Chickens do too. See what other come up with.



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