Digger Dan’s gardening tips

Digger Dan gives us the lowdown on what needs to be done in our gardens.

Harvesting garlic: this is the time of the year when your crop of garlic can be harvested – once the garlic leaves show symptoms of drying out, dig out the whole plant and shake the soil off it. Trim off the roots and (in warm dry conditions) lay the bulbs on the garden soil for a day or so to dry off. Now the garlic is ready to be dried: Hang in bunches or dry laterally under cover for at least week.

Hazelnut pollination: lately Digger’s been munching on ‘Uncle Joe’s’ Marlborough grown hazelnuts -once you taste these you’ll never eat the imported ones. In the growing passion to grow food those of you who have planted your own nut trees should be aware that your  hazelnut trees can prove tricky where pollination is required: While many hazelnut trees are monoecious (they have male and female flowers), the flowering times can be out of sync meaning that female flowers are not always fertilized because the male flowers  have finished. If this appears to have happened to your trees make a note to plant extra varieties such as ‘Kentish Cob’ or ‘Merveille de Bowiller’ – these are great pollinators.

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Wally Richards: Paw Paw – nature’s super fruit

For fun and health reasons try germinating some Paw Paw seeds.

Paw Paw fruit  are also known as Papaya, particuarly in the Philippines and the majority of New Zealand’s Paw Paw imports come from there, where the trees grow wild.

A while back a gardener contacted me in regards to his Paw Paws that he was growing in Wellington in containers, indoors, in front of a sunny window. From pictures, the plants appeared to be doing ok in these conditions, except he was over watering for the time of the year. I suggested that the light situation also was not so good indoors and they should be getting more light by been outside and protected.   I was told that they flowered and produced fruit alright which surprised me.

As I enjoy eating paw paws, I often buy one or two when they are not too expensive and I am always taken back by the number of round black seeds in the centre of the fruit.

Thinking back to the chap in Wellington I decided a few weeks ago to take a few of the seeds and place them in a dish to dry out. After a couple of weeks they had dried down to about half their size and were ready to sow. I placed the seeds into seedling trays with compost then onto the heat pad which I use for germinating more difficult seeds. I sprayed (misted) the growing medium every day and now I have been rewarded with a strike of about half a dozen Paw Paw plants.

As soon as they germinated and as the first embryo leaves were forming, I took them out to my glasshouse so they would receive maximum light. You never want to let any freshly germinated plants stretch for light as you will likely lose them. So now they are still in their seedling trays and when the first true leaves are formed I will transplant them into small pots and grow them on individually. Maybe I can eventually get them to fruit, who knows and its a lot of fun having a go.

You might like to try doing the same and not only with paw paw but with any fruit you buy including tomatoes, capsicum, peppers, melon etc the seeds are free with the fruit and its a lot of satisfaction growing plants from seed.

Paw paw or papaya are very low in calories (just 39 cal/100 g) and contain no cholesterol; but are a rich source of phyto-nutrients, minerals and vitamins. Papayas contain soft, easily digestible pulp/flesh with good amount of soluble dietary fiber that helps to have normal bowel movements; thereby reducing constipation.

Fresh, ripe fruit is one of the fruit with highest vitamin-C content (provides about 103% of DRA, more than in oranges, or lemons). Research studies have shown that vitamin C has many important functions like free radicals scavenging, immune booster and anti-inflammatory actions.  It is also an excellent source of Vitamin-A (provides 1094 IU/100 g ) and flavonoids like beta carotenes, lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthins. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is essential for vision. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties; help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play role in aging and various disease processes. Consumption of natural fruits rich in carotenes known to protect body from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Papaya fruit is also rich in many essential B-complex vitamins such as Folic acid, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin, and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish and play vital role in metabolism.

Fresh papaya also contains good amount of potassium (257 mg per 100 g) and calcium. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids and helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure countering effects of sodium.
Papaya has been proven to be a natural remedy for many ailments. In traditional medicine, papaya seeds are anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, and analgesic, and they are used to treat stomach-ache and ringworm infections.

Its well worth buying papaya for both the heath aspects and the lovely flavour when the fruit is ripe which means Papaya  skin slightly turning to yellow and skin slightly yielding to touch.

Unripe fruits can be kept at room temperature for few days but ripen ones should be stored in the refrigerator. Bring back the fruit to normal temperature when it is to be eaten to get their natural taste and flavour. Wash papaya fruit thoroughly in cold running water to remove dust and any pesticide residues. Skin is bitter in taste and inedible. Remove skin with “peeling knife”, cut the fruit longitudinally in to two equal halves. Gently remove seeds and thin slimy layer loosely adhering to the flesh. Cut the fruit longitudinally like melon or cut into small cubes.

Ripe papaya can be safely used by pregnant women. Unripe green papaya should be avoided in pregnant women as it contains lot of papain, a proteolytic enzyme that used commercially to tenderize meat. Unripe papaya fruit, seeds, latex, and leaves also contain carpaine, an alkaloid which could be dangerous when eaten in high doses. Unripe papaya, however can be used safely as a cooked vegetable.  Plants grown from seed can produce both male and female plants which the males never fruit but the females apparently are self fertile.
They need to be protected against adverse weather and frosts and best grown in containers so they can be moved before winter. Keep the mix on the dry side in winter.

Tekapo detail2

Subalpine beauty in the Mackenzie Basin – a Findaplant.co.nz article

The Montane garden, Lake Tekapo.

An article by Philip Smith, O2 Landscapes

The diversity of New Zealand’s flora is, in large part, due to the kaleidoscope of landscapes that we possess. Ranging from sub-tropical forests in the north to the alpine herbfields of the South Island, our country provides us with a myriad of ecologies to study and use as inspiration for making gardens.

Amongst the most interesting of these are the subalpine scrub and dry grasslands that characterise the Mackenzie Basin and nearby natural areas (such as Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park).

Wally Richards: rain + wind = havoc in the garden

The weather is playing havoc with gardens and plants throughout New Zealand.

Too much rain and then not enough, too much wind and temperature fluctuations.  Not ideal gardening conditions and plants suffer as a result.

I have had a number of people contact me in regards to three main things that have been happening to their tomato plants so let’s look at them and suggest what can be done to help or prevent the problems.

1. Temperature fluctuations can cause both Early and Late types of blight in tomatoes and the prevention and control is the same for both.

Early blight:  finding small spots turning to a dark mould on older leaves will indicate the presence of this problem. It occurs in warm wet weather, but plants can be protected with a monthly spray of Perkfection Supa.  If you know the disease recurs in your garden, give additional sprays of  Liquid Copper and Raingard every 10 to 14 days.

Late blight:  Here, you will notice brown, irregular patches on the plant’s stem and leaves.  This problem is particularly bad in cool humid weather, and it can be controlled using the same methods as for controlling early blight. If you have not applied Perkfection Supa and the disease strikes, spray the affected plants immediately with Perkfection Supa at 7ml per litre of water. Add to this 3.5ml of Liquid Copper per litre, with 1ml of Raingard per litre, and spray the plants for total coverage of the foliage.  Two weeks later, reapply just the Liquid Copper and Raingard, then after another fortnight, apply the same again with Perkfection at 4ml per litre. That programme will normally be sufficient to see the problem off, but if either blight returns, re-start the spray programme.  Late blight is common later in the season, but under the right conditions will strike in the spring.

Potatoes and pepinos are also affected by this disease, but you can give them a similar level of protection using the same sprays as outlined here.

2. Next we have the dreaded collar or stem rot disease where we watch a mature plant with lots of green fruit slowly collapse over a period of a few days.

The disease will make itself apparent with the development of a darker area on the trunk – that is where the rot will be happening, blocking the flow of moisture and nutrients from the roots.  Little bumps of aerial roots will often appear just above the rot area. If there is foliage below the part where the rot starts, particularly if it is producing laterals, then you can cut the top off and allow the good part to continue growing.  The chances are you will avoid this disease completely if you don’t remove any laterals, and if the plant succeeds in avoiding any damage arising from being rubbed on a stake or something similar.  One of the ways to prevent any problems is to remove the laterals when they are very small, which means checking the plant every day or two.  Remove them only on warm days when there is low humidity, and spray the cut area immediately afterwards with Liquid Copper. You can make up a solution of this product in a 250ml trigger spray bottle, and it will keep for some time.  Just remember to shake the bottle before spraying.

Removing older leaves might also make the plant vulnerable to disease.  This is another job which should be done only in conditions of low humidity, and always remember to spray to protect.

Humidity levels will often be much higher in a glasshouse, which means special care must be taken to open up the greenhouse and remove some of the air moisture before taking off the laterals. I have heard that if the rot on the trunk is not too far advanced then painting undiluted Liquid Copper onto that area may save the plant.

3. Finally the unpredictable growing conditions may cause damage to leaves especially the lower ones which may twist, curl and be spotted, wither and brown off.  Two aspects here – one is that a lot of tomato strains have a virus which does cause distorted leaves in maturing plants, there is very little that can be done about it other than removing those leaves when they are obviously not gathering further energy from the sun. Weather damage can be reduced by giving the plants more protection by spraying with Vaporgard, erecting windbreak cloth, adding more stakes for support and applying potash once a month.

Another problem a couple of gardeners have mentioned is blotchy ripening fruit which additional potash is needed. If you are using my Secret Tomato food and this happens then it would likely be the weather causing lock ups in the soil. Ensure that you have applied Organi-Bor to the area in the last 3 years (for Boron) and then drench the soil with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL). Sprays of MBL over foliage every two weeks will make for stronger plants with less health problems.

Neem Tree Oil can be added to the MBL which will then give further disease protection as well as a control for the insect pests such as white fly and the dreaded psyllid.

Talking about insect pests, this morning I was out inspecting what damage the wind had done to the plants and whether the plants in the glasshouses needed a drink or not. On the cucumbers which are coming away nicely I noticed a few small aphids on the fruit that was forming. A closer inspection and the turning over a few leaves I found hundreds of aphid pests on the underside of several leaves, not good, so tonight they will have a bath in Neem Oil and Key Pyrethrum spray. I had the same problem last year on zuchini and because the pests are under the leaves and not readily seen nothing was done till the plants actually started to die off prematurely.
A spray of the Neem and Pyrethrum knocked them back and the plants started to recover.
So with your cubit plants which also includes melons and pumpkins check under the leaves now and then for pests.

Leaf hoppers (the young are called fluffy bums) vegetable beetles, psyllid and other pests must be controlled on plants now otherwise you will have a real battle in weeks to come. Sprays of Neem Tree Oil with Raingard added can be applied late in the day, just before dusk to great advantage in keeping diseases and pests at bay. If you do not add the Pyrethrum you will not harm beneficial insects and only add the pyrethrum when you have a out break of pests on a plant/s so the spray is focussed on the pests. Not a broadcast spray which will affect both good and bad insects.

That’s another of the problems with all the chemical insecticides: they take out all beneficial insects and with some of them they don’t even harm the pest ones, which have now gained resistance to the poisons. Waste of time and money not to say anything about your health aspects.

On the other hand Neem Oil is not a poison and it does not kill anything unless the oil smothers a few pests such as scale and thrips. Instead it either shuts off the insects ability to feed or grow and when that happens they will die after a few days.

Happy gardening!

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.

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