by Wally Richards

ENCOURAGING CHILDREN TO GARDEN

We need to encourage our children and grandchildren to appreciate Nature by including them in some gardening activities.

I believe that young children have a natural infinity with plants and insects when they are allowed to explore our gardens.

Children learn many things by mimicking their parents and are often keen at a young age to assist in various gardening activities.

I remember as a toddler spending many hours in the garden collecting caterpillars off the cabbages and feeding them to our chooks.

I also can still remember how good it felt to be part of Nature back then and the same feeling pertains today when I work or wander around gardens.

Plants that ‘move’ have a fascination for children and a great one for this is Mimosa pudica, the Sensitive Plant, which folds up its leaves when touched.

They are easy to germinate from seed, grown as a pot plant for a windowsill. (Available Kings Seeds)

Nice pink flowers also. As the plant matures it has thorns on the branches which incidentally are another attraction for children.

Cacti with their prickles often appeal to young boys and I had a small collection when I was young and still keep a few.

Two awesome plants for children to grow are Giant sunflowers and Giant pumpkins.

Giant Sunflowers; these extra tall sunflowers will grow up to 5 metres tall.(17 odd feet) Grown in full sun in soil that has excellent drainage and lots of manure.

The giant pumpkins can be monsters which in some cases will weigh over 1000 pounds at maturity. (Half a ton)

If I was going to grow giant pumpkin, here is what I would do:

Obtain the Giant pumpkin seeds from a seed supplier. (Atlantic Giant is the type of seed you need again Kings Seeds)

Pick an all-day-sunny area, then dig a hole about a spade depth and width, chop up the bottom of the hole, so the soil is loose, then fill the hole with chook manure to about two thirds full.

(Other manure could be used if chook manure is not obtainable, but chook is best)

Fill the rest of the hole with a good compost and soil mix, 50/50 making a small mound about 12cm tall above the filled in hole.

Place three seeds in the mound and wet them down with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL), (20 ml of MBL to 1 litre of water.)

Water the mount to keep moist with plain water and then every 2 weeks with the MBL.

Overseas the biggest record vegetables have been achieved with products very similar or the same as MBL. Spraying the foliage of your Giants every 2 weeks with MBL (10 ml to a litre) will also assist in a bigger healthier plant.

When the seeds germinate select the two smaller ones and carefully remove letting the best one grow on.

After your pumpkin is established and growing well, give them a drink using Wallys Cucumber Booster, once a week.

This is a high nitrogen product that is a combination of sulphate of ammonia and potassium nitrate, which you dissolve in water.

Cucumber Booster is excellent for any plants that enjoys a boost of nitrogen after establishment. It is used for growing cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchini and gourds.

The MBL and Cucumber Booster can be combined for watering into the soil near the base of the plant.

Because of the weather patterns we are experiencing, after you plant your seed, cut off the base of a 2 to3 litre plastic fruit juice bottle and place this over the mound, with the cap removed.

This will give your seed and seedling its own little glasshouse. This is removed once the seedlings germinate prior to culling out the two.

With the Giant Sunflower a tall strong stake should be put in the ground at seed planting time on the edge of a mound as described previously..

This will be needed later to give extra support to the plant.

Another interesting thing to do is once the sunflower gets up about a metre tall, plant 3 or 4 climbing bean seeds at the base of the plant.

These will grow up the sunflower and also provide extra nitrogen for the sunflower.

It is a lot of fun plus a great way to get the children away from the TV and video games, showing them there is more to life than a screen.

Some garden centres run competitions for the tallest sunflower and the biggest pumpkin with various prizes for the winners.

Aphids are likely to be found on your roses at this time and they can easily be controlled with a safe spray of Wallys Super Pyrethrum. Spray very late in the day just before dusk to obtain the best results.

Stone fruit trees that had the curly leaf disease will now be producing new leaves free of the problem. The damaged leaves will fall off over time.

You can if you like, spray the newer leaves a couple of times with potassium permanganate and Raingard just to be sure, but if the disease has finished for the season the sprays will not make much difference.

A spray of Vaporgard without the potassium permanganate would be more effective in allowing the tree’s remaining leaves to gain more energy from the sun, which is needed to produce a good crop.

Codlin Moths will start to be on the wing about now so obtain a pheromone trap from your garden centre so you can monitor the best time to spray.

A number of gardeners have found that a spray of Super Neem Tree Oil and Raingard over the young apples, applied about 5-7 days after an influx of moths into the traps, has resulted in only a very small scar on the mature apple, where the grub took its first and only bite.

(Note Wallys Super Neem Tree Oil has been cleared by EPA to sell again, just waiting on the new approved labels to arrive later this month)

Repeat spray 7 days later and then wait for another influx of moths before repeating.

Add Raingard or MBL to the spray to assist and extend the control period.

Tomatoes should be doing well if in a sunny, sheltered spot. Only remove laterals on a sunny day when it is not humid or moist.

Spray the wound immediately with Liquid Copper to prevent disease entering the wound resulting in the possible loss of the plant.

Ensure that the tomato plants are well supported on stakes during windy times. If you are concerned about blights spray the plants with Perkfection as a preventative, once a month. The same applies for your potatoes.

For general health of any plants, especially roses and food crops, a two weekly spray of MBL and Mycorrcin works wonders. Spray both the soil and the foliage.

Avoiding the use of chemical sprays and fertilisers is a must for healthy gardens and plants.

Problems ring me at 0800 466464
Email wallyjr@gardenews.co.nz
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz