Keep­ing spring gar­dens in check


There is an up­side for gar­den­ers to the wet spring.

The nat­u­ral rain­fall with at­mo­spheric ni­tro­gen added acts to stim­u­late the soil food web, pro­duce good growth and bet­ter qual­ity fruit.

There is no need to ir­ri­gate us­ing chlo­ri­nated tap wa­ter, so there is less harm to the soil life.

Plants have re­sponded and in most cases are grow­ing healthily.

How­ever, there is a down­side - tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions and damp con­di­tions can cause leaf dis­eases to run ram­part.

Gar­lic crops, for in­stance are be­ing attacked by rust.

To re­duce dam­age, spray every one to two weeks with potas­sium per­man­ganate ( 1⁄ tea­spoon to litre

4 of wa­ter with Rain­gard added).

Use the same spray weekly to com­bat curly leaf on stone fruit, and on any other signs of leaf dis­eases.

Ex­cess wa­ter around plant roots will cause leaves to yel­low. A monthly spray with Perk­fec­tion will help them re­cover.

‘Early’ po­tato va­ri­eties ma­ture in about 90 days and are con­sid­ered ready when they flower.

Those sown in Au­gust/Septem­ber could be ma­ture and ready to har­vest now.

Lift one plant to check the re­sults.

If of a good size, ei­ther lift the whole crop and store in a cool shed, or leave them in the ground. Lift­ing the crop will make that area avail­able for other veg­eta­bles to grow.

Ap­ply chicken ma­nure, blood and bone, lime, BioBoost, sheep ma­nure pel­lets, and Rok Solid, and lightly rake in ready for sow­ing or plant­ing.

Left in the ground, cut off the tops at ground level and cover the stub­ble with soil.

Seal the tops in a black plas­tic rub­bish bag.

The rea­son for re­mov­ing the tops is to pre­vent psyl­lids from dam­ag­ing the po­ta­toes when they feed on the tops.

There may be psyl­lids on the fo­liage and bag­ging it stops them mul­ti­ply­ing.

If the crop is not ready to har­vest, ap­ply Neem Tree Pow­der to the soil as a side dress­ing and spray the fo­liage with Su­per Neem Oil. Check again two weeks later. If there are only pea-sized po­ta­toes that are al­ready send­ing up shoots, it means psyl­lids have got to the plants be­fore they could grow. Black rings in­side the po­ta­toes will con­firm this.

It’s about now that psyl­lid pop­u­la­tions start to ex­plode.

Quar­an­tine cloth over the plants will help.

Quar­an­tine cloth has a 25 per cent shade fac­tor - OK if the gar­den is in all-day sun, but on dull hazy days it re­ally cuts down on use­able sun­light, af­fect­ing growth and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

An al­ter­na­tive is crop cover (bug mesh) with a 15 per cent shade fac­tor, which will keep out all in­sects ex­cept psyl­lids, as well as prevent­ing dam­age by birds and cats.

Use 13mm black alka­thene pip­ing to make hoops to raise the cloth over the crop.

Flow­er­ing tomato plants may need a lit­tle pol­li­na­tion as­sis­tance to set the fruit.

Out­doors, a breeze or wing vi­bra­tions from a pass­ing bum­ble bee will achieve this. In­doors, try the vi­bra­tions from a tun­ing fork held near the plants

Prob­lems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmer­ston North 357 0606) Email wal­lyjr@gar­de­

Gar­den plants mostly ben­e­fit from nat­u­ral rain­fall, although abun­dant mois­ture and fluc­tu­at­ing tem­per­a­tures can bring on leaf dis­eases.

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