by Wally Richards


It is certainly interesting times we are living in and there are also some gardening problems to overcome.

Recently I went looking for some vegetable seedlings and seed packets of vegetables that I wish to add to my gardens at this time.

I was after cauliflower seedlings to grow and harvest in winter and some onion seeds to sow now.

I had to visit several gardening places before I found the items I required.

This means that a lot of people have woken up to the fact that fresh produce in the supermarkets is several times dearer currently than it would normally be in March.

In fact, in March there should be a glut of cheap fruit and vegetables available from spring and summer crops. There isn’t.

The supermarkets are now starting to import vegetables that are normally available in abundance from NZ growers — but they aren’t.

Imported produce is much more expensive than local grown, hence if you are paying $5 for a small cabbage now soon you will be paying $10 or more.

I was talking recently to a check-out operator at the local supermarket who said there are several customers that are not at all friendly now. I can understand why: people with limited money for buying food can’t afford all the groceries that they are used to buying; their budget just does not stretch that far. Hence they can be grumpy and even a bit nasty to the supermarket staff.

The same people are in a Catch 22 they don’t have the money to grow their own produce and/or don’t have land that can be used for gardening.

Readers of my columns are good gardeners, in the main, and even if on a budget they are able to grow a reasonable amount of their own food which is not only a big saving but also much more healthy for us.

There are problems that are currently happening and one of these is, as I found, a shortage of seeds and seedlings in many gardening outlets.

Cabbage and cauliflower seedlings I have purchased recently have caterpillar eggs on the leaves and if you don’t rub them off they will be eaten alive not too long after planting.

So check leaves for the little lightly yellow eggs and rub them off before you plant.

I use Wally Neem Granules when I plant cabbages etc a little in the bottom of the planting hole and more on the soil surface by the seedlings.

This has a very good control of the caterpillars and even though I have caterpillar eggs on my plants and holes on the leaves there is not any caterpillars on the foliage.

The holes are made by hungry birds not caterpillars.

It is even worse on my silverbeet which young seedlings I planted have either disappeared or they have damaged foliage.

More mature silverbeet will likely have a lot of leaf damage from birds feeding.

The best way to keep birds off silverbeet and brassicas is to use what I call Crop Cover or what shops call, Bug Mesh.

Either laid loose over crops or supported over crops with hoops made from ridged plastic irrigation pipe or number 8 wire.

The crop cover is good for many seasons and will keep birds and just about all pests off your crops include neighborhood cats.

Old curtain netting could be used instead of the more durable crop cover.

When you buy vegetable seedlings look for the smaller, fresher ones not the over grown ones which have likely been stressed and will go to seed prematurely.

Even if you take them home to grow on a bit to make handling easier, then do so.

First thing I do when I get punnets home is plunge them into a bucket of water than I have thrown some sheep manure pellets into some time ago.

I hold them down into the liquid manure and watch them bubble away.

This not only gives them a good soaking of the mix but some nature liquid food as well.

Let them drain and place in full sun till you are ready to plant them. Water as need be in the meantime and prior to planting plunge them into the bucket again.

Seedlings will pull apart better when the mix is wet and they have ample wet mix on the roots when you plant. After planting give them a watering with the hose to bed them in.

Then you can put your crop cover over them if you are going to use this method.

I wrote recently a quick way of converting some existing lawn area into a productive vegetable patch.

For those that missed it here it is again:

If you want to convert a part of your lawn to vegetable growing then mow the chosen area (a sunny area is best by far) as short as possible (called scalping).
Around the lawn edge of this area dig a small trench about half a spade depth. The soil and grass from this trench can be stacked some where for future use.
The trench will assist with drainage and as a mowing strip between the vegetable garden and the existing lawn. Place the lawn clippings caught in the catcher over the scalped area. (Extra food for your vegetables crops)
Now cover the scalped lawn area that has the lawn clippings with a layer of cardboard or alternatively several layers of news paper. You can find cardboard from recycling places, super markets etc.
Sprinkle any animal manure you can get hold of or blood & bone with sheep manure pellets.
A sprinkling of Wallys BioPhos and Wally Ocean solids will complete the nutrient requirements.
Then over this place a layer of purchased compost which I prefer Daltons as it does not container green waste and thus herbicide problems.
This layer need only be about 5cm thick just deep enough to plant seeds or seedlings in.’ end……..

The problem that we all have had this season is the lack of direct sunlight.

Called ‘dimming’ the sun is obscured by hazy skies or too much cloud and not enough ‘Blue Skies’.

Plants are slow to grow, flower buds don’t form or don’t open and solar panels don’t make much power as they do in direct sunlight. It can’t be helped with solar panels other than wash them to make better use of the light available.

For plants provide them with Liquid Sunlight by dissolving a tablespoon of molasses into a litre of hot water and when cooled down add some Magic Botanic Liquid and spray foliage of your plants.

Repeat every few days. Likely you will notice the leaves will get much bigger and that is good.

It may attract ants if they are a problem where you are so then make up some of our Granny Mins Ant Bait and use that to kill the ants. (Old recipe, lots better than most baits and cheaper also.)

Off topic — with the flooding and forest waste problems I wonder why they dont control burn it?

I think they used to in the past as the ashes are great for planting more trees. Of course they may not be allowed to because of obsession with CO2.

Workers not allowed to take it for firewood apparently and logging companies say it’s too expensive to do. But a lot more expensive is the damage it does. Also they used to dredge rivers to make them deeper so more water could flow without flooding surrounding areas — but oops, not allowed to, upsets river life: PC gone mad.

Simple remedies that we used to use: burn the slash and dredge the rivers!

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