A scene in the garden of Long Beach café, Waikanae.

by Wally Richards

GROWING WOES

For most of the country it was a dismal spring and now we are into the first month of summer things have not improved much.

Weather and conditions do vary across New Zealand depending on your region and even your own property if you have a micro-climate, but overall there is a thread of similarity.

I spoke this week to an agriculture/farm supplier representative and he said that growers and farmers were complaining about growth of plants and pasture.

So lets look at the facts, we are only about 10 days away from the longest day which means we are hitting 16 plus hours of day light which should mean maximum growth of plants with blue skies.

But we are not getting nice blue skies, lots of cloudy or overcast days and a fair bit of rain as well.

Temperatures for this time of the year are not great either and not our more normal warm temperatures day and night.

So lack of direct sun light and fluctuating temperatures do not bode well for plant growth.

Wet feet and lower soil temperatures is another plant growth factor.

Plants need adequate moisture, adequate nutrition, suitable temperatures, long hours of direct sunlight and CO2 to grow.

Currently the planet’s CO2 levels are only about 416 ppm.

You may not be aware of this but some commercial growers have in their glasshouses CO2 generators to increase the growth of their crops.

Most experts agree that 1,500 ppm is the maximum CO2 level for maximum plant growth, although any CO2 level between 1,000 ppm and 1,500 ppm will be very good. So a low amount of 416ppm is only half of what gives good growth.

Here is an interesting fact…The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was reduced by about 90% during the last 150 million years. If this trend continues CO2 will inevitably fall to levels that threaten the survival of plants, which require a minimum of 150 ppm to survive.

Does that ring any bells?

Half of the world’s oxygen is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis. The other half is produced via photosynthesis on land by trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants.

You know the old saying? ‘Breath out and make a plant happy’

I am surprised at the slow growth of vegetable plants in my gardens at this time of the year.

In my glasshouses growth is better as they offer better protection from the environment so tomatoes are doing great, cucumbers and good but chili plants are slow.

Chili love hot temperatures to really grow well.

Seeds sown in raised gardens are slow to germinate or rot out because of lower soil temperatures.

Outside seedlings of lettuce, carrots and pak choy are slow and that is how it is in my part of Marton.

Home gardeners will keep on growing their plants no matter what the conditions are like and do what we can to improve the results.

I would suggest a weekly spray of molasses and Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) to help improve vegetable growth. About a table spoon of molasses dissolved in a litre of hot water then 10mils of MBL added.

Give a small side dressing of Wallys BioPhos once a month.

If you have access to manure make up a compost tea by placing any animal manures into a plastic rubbish tin and filling two thirds full with non-chlorinated water.

Place about 50mils of Bio Magnus Fish fertiliser into the brew (This has live beneficial microbes which will increase their populations in the brew) You can further increase their population growth by adding Mycorrcin or molasses to the brew.

Stir and airate regularly, get a paddle to stir and a jug to fill and lift up high over the barrel then pour contents back into the brew. This gets oxygen into the brew.

Every so often take out some of the brew and water into the soil by where your plants are growing.

Add more manure and other components with more non-chlorinated water and you have a neat home made fertiliser for your crops.

Here is a interesting thing to do, take a plastic 2 litre cordial bottle, half fill with non chlorinated water, add to this about 10mil of Bio Magnus Fish fertiliser and a teaspoon of molasses, place cap on and give contents a shake.

Place outside some where in sun light and check often.

The populations of microbes will rapidly grow and the bottle will balloon and if left will explode when the plastic fractures.

When the bottle has expanded a bit then release pressure by removing cap.

Pour contents of bottle into your gardens for great benefit to the plants.

You as a home gardener can do things to help increase the growth of your crops which is not available for commercial growers to do.

Their answer is to apply dressings of nitrogen to the soil to force growth which is a problem for them currently as Nitrogen fertilisers are in short supply and what is available is much more expensive than normal.

So if you think $10 a cabbage is bad worry about it more when its $20 or $30.

There is currently a world shortage of food which as the months go by appears to be getting worse.

I have read calls for people overseas that have lawns to dig them up and plant vegetables.

Of course in many places and even here in NZ having a lawn is not a thing when the sections are small and the house takes most of the land you own anyway.

Woe is the loss of the good old quarter acre section which with a few chickens you could supply about 50% plus of your food chain for a small family.

Even though currently the growing conditions are not as good as normal for this time of the year at least they are better than they will be in a few months time.

For those that have room now is the time to start planting winter crops of brassicas, cabbage etc, if you like leeks they should already be in.

About every 2-3 weeks plant another small planting of the crops such as two or three of each so you have succession to harvest in winter.

If you are looking for a gift for Christmas then a copy of my Down to Earth Gardening Guide or my Glasshouse Gardening for New Zealand might be an idea.

I will autograph and place a message with the persons name/names in the book.

A gardener recently during a phone conversation told me of an old Chinese Saying:

To be happy for one day, Get Drunk.

To be happy for one week, Get Married.

To be happy for life, Get a Garden.

Phone 0800 466464
Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages at  www.sharpei.co.nz
Mail Order products at www.0800466464.co.nz