Healthy soil, happy worms, lovely roses

The Tribune (NZ) - - THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT - WALLY RICHARDS wal­lyjr@gar­de­

There are sev­eral things vi­tal to a healthy plant. Along­side sun­light, food, wa­ter and a healthy ‘soil food web’ are the mi­cro-or­gan­isms and ben­e­fi­cial fungi which not only live in the soil but are also ‘in’ and ‘sur­round­ing’ a plant. Earth­worms are also vi­tal to healthy soil and plants. If earth­worms are lack­ing, you have a prob­lem. Gar­den­ers can­not hope to have a re­ally healthy gar­den (soil) un­less there are good worm pop­u­la­tions.

This ap­plies to food crops and to hav­ing great roses.

First, let’s look at dis­ease. Plant dis­eases are na­ture’s garbage re­movers, as­sist­ing in the de­com­pos­ing of plant ma­te­rial that has done its time, and con­vert­ing it back to or­ganic food for other plants to live on.

Plants that be­come weak­ened for some rea­son are rea­son­ably sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­eases. Pests also tend to home in on weaker plants rather than on the strong healthy ones.

So, what can you do to grow healthy roses? The same as for pro­mot­ing the health of other gar­den plants.

Firstly, stop us­ing chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers and sprays.

Chem­i­cally made fer­tilis­ers knock back soil life in­clud­ing res­i­dent worms. In­stead, use or­ganic com­post and mulches from a gar­den cen­tre that con­tain an­i­mal ma­nures, not ones made from green wastes. Roses die if they come in con­tact with com­post made from her­bi­cide-af­fected ma­te­rial.

Con­sumer tri­als sev­eral years ago showed that sheep ma­nure pel­lets were the best all-round gar­den fer­tiliser. Other prod­ucts that are ben­e­fi­cial to the soil in­clude blood and bone, sea­weeds, gyp­sum, gar­den lime, dolomite and any other an­i­mal ma­nures.

Her­bi­cides also knock back soil life and can have long-term residues. Weed­killers con­tain­ing glyphosate, the most used chem­i­cal in agri­cul­ture, not only dam­age the soil, but are now listed as a prob­a­ble car­cino­gen by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Fungi­cides may con­trol some dis­eases but they also kill the ben­e­fi­cial fungi that plants need for good health.

Adopt­ing this ap­proach will help re­store and feed the soil life of your gar­den, and there are prod­ucts such as Magic Botanic Liq­uid & My­cor­rcin which can as­sist in re­pair­ing the dam­age done by chem­i­cals.

To build up the health of de­pleted soil can take a sea­son or two. Dur­ing this time there is the need to pro­tect plants from dis­eases and pests with­out us­ing chem­i­cal so­lu­tions that are go­ing to af­fect the soil life.

Neem tree oil is a way of con­trol­ling these pests.

Neem oil also tends to re­duce the prob­lem of black spot, although black spot along with dis­eases such as rust, pow­dery mildew and botry­tis can be con­trolled by sul­phur sprays.

A film of sul­phur over the fo­liage ev­ery 14 days with Rain­gard added, will give good ex­ter­nal pro­tec­tion. The al­ter­na­tive is to spray with potas­sium per­man­ganate, or Condy’s crys­tals.

Cop­per is best for treat­ing blights, downy mildew and bac­te­rial dis­eases, as well as fruit tree dis­eases. For in­ter­nal pro­tec­tion, boost the plant’s im­mune sys­tem with once-amonth-only ap­pli­ca­tions of Perk­fec­tion Supa.

The best way to in­crease the num­ber of worms in the gar­den is to buy them by the bag. Put some into a worm farm and seed the rest into the gar­den.

Do this by plac­ing shred­ded wet news­pa­per and kitchen scraps into a hole in the soil. Place a hand­ful of worms into the hole and cover them over with wet pa­per and com­post. Carry out in each ma­jor gar­den plot such as rose beds and veg­etable gar­dens. To keep the worms happy and mul­ti­ply­ing, mulch the gar­dens a cou­ple of times a year with wet news­pa­pers cov­ered with an­i­mal­based com­post or mulching ma­te­rial.

It is also im­por­tant for the health of both worms and soil life not to wa­ter gar­dens with chlo­ri­nated tap wa­ter. Put a 10-mi­cron car­bon bonded fil­ter on your gar­den tap to re­move the chem­i­cal from the wa­ter.

Roses also need a cer­tain amount of mag­ne­sium, potas­sium and trace el­e­ments. These are eas­i­est to ap­ply as Rok Solid plus Fruit and Flower Power. The small amounts re­quired will not af­fect the soil life while ben­e­fit­ing your roses.

A two-weekly spray of My­cor­rcin, MBL & Wally’s Neem Tree Oil, adding Perk­fec­tion Supa to the mix at the lesser rate listed on the la­bel ev­ery sec­ond spray (ie once a month), should be part of a healthy plant care pro­gramme.

The re­ward will be per­fectly shaped roses, lush green fo­liage and a mild to heady per­fume.


A beau­ti­ful ex­am­ple of ‘Paddy Stephens’, voted by NZ Rose So­ci­ety rosar­i­ans in the NZ Rose Re­view as the top favourite rose in New Zealand for 11 years run­ning. With proper care, there’s no rea­son why lo­cal rose grow­ers shouldn’t achieve high qual­ity blooms.

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