by Wally Richards
STARTING OFF THE NEW SEASON
The daylight hours are slowly extending and soon dormant plants are going to wake up and spring will be just around the corner.
Already I have been receiving phone calls from gardeners starting off seeds on their heat pads to have young plants to plant out in a month or so time. (Time waits for no one especially gardeners.)
One gardener told me that seed raising mixes she has tried were expensive and not much good and I totally agree. The gardener said she preferred to sieve potting mix and obtain the fines to use as a seed raising medium. I told her to go a step further and buy a good compost such as Daltons Value Compost and sieve that for the fines. I use either Daltons Compost or Oderings as neither of them use green waste in their compost so no herbicide residue to harm baby plants.
If preparing a seedling tray I firstly place a layer of straight compost in it to about half full; then onto that a sprinkling of Unlocking Your Soil after which I sieve more compost over that to create a nice bed of fine particles. Then I place the seeds which I spray with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) mixed at 20 mils per litre of non-chlorinated water.
Once the seeds and the medium have received a good wetting I then sieve more compost over to cover, or sometimes prefer to use sharp sand as the cover.
The cover is sprayed till nice and moist then onto the heat pad. The seedling tray needs to be sprayed 2 or 3 times a day to keep the medium moist. An easier way is to use peat pots.
You first soak the pots (expandable ones to expand and the other type you fill with compost as for a seedling tray then to soak use the MBL in the water..
The meat trays that you get from the supermarket are ideal to sit the peat pots on. Place the trays with the peat pots onto your heat pad and once a day you pour some non-chlorinated water into the dry tray. It’s best done each morning.
The heat pad by the way should be sitting on a thickness of polystyrene sheet so all the heat is driven upwards and not wasted downwards.
Depending on the seed type there is quickly a show of germination and as soon as that happens go out into the glasshouse onto the bench so the seedlings get overhead light and thus do not stretch and die. A window sill is not good enough as they will stretch to the glass.
A wooden box with a sheet of glass over it is ideal to place outside for overhead light. Now you need to be very careful not to over-water or to dry out completely.
Off the heat pad, the seedlings likely only need a misting once a day to keep them happy and the best time to do this is in the morning; and check them late afternoon before tucking them in for the night with a little lullaby. (Try adapting the words from Row, row, row your boat. Gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream. Change to: grow, grow, grow you little seedlings, gently during the day. Merrily, merrily, merrily Life is a real great plant.)
You maybe surprised at the results! Plus the comments from neighbors.
Light is so important to plants because that is what they use to make carbohydrates (sugars) which is their life blood to grow. Insufficient sunlight and plants suffer badly, they become weak, attacked by insects and diseases and likely die.
A little trick that I had forgotten about from commercial growers and in particular hydroponic growers is Panda Film which is a 125mu film that is black on one side and white on the other.
The black side is laid on the soil with the white side facing upwards so it reflects light up into the plants.
This does several things such as laid on soil it suppresses weeds and the white increases the amount of light the plant receives and in this case to under the leaves.
This means that the top of the leaf and the underside can both work to create energy for the plant’s growth. (You have greatly increased the energy gathering area of the leaf.)
Another advantage is that a number of insect pests hate the bright light from below and tend to be less a problem on your plants. A 200mm strip would be perfect to plant strawberries into; cut X in the middle.
A problem arises with too many hazy or cloudy skies these days. Last spring farmers had lots of grass here locally due to ample rain but found they had to buy in feed as the grass was sorely lacking and milk production was poor.
Talking about strawberries, they are starting to wake up now so it is time to start spraying the foliage 2 weekly with Mycorrcin.
This will get the plants producing fruit earlier, obtain bigger better fruit and keep them fruiting longer than otherwise.
You may also like to give them a little of Wallys Secret Strawberry Food about every two months which will give bigger berries and better flavor.
For brown rot on stone fruit a 2 weekly spray after the fruit is formed using 4 products, Wallys Liquid Copper, Wetable Powder Sulphur WP, potassium permanganate and Raingard. Repeat till harvest.
Plum trees that have been getting a curly leaf problem for some gardeners is actually caused by an insect called the plum aphid. It only attacks the leaves as they are emerging; you do not realise it is happening and later the leaves become distorted as the reach maturity.
Once the first sign of leaf emergence spray with Wally Super Neem Oil and Raingard and repeat every week till in full leaf.
It is also a good time to clean up trees that may have lichen on the branches.
Left too long these fungi like growths can damage your trees. Use Wallys Moss & Liverwort control at 25 mils per litre of water. Spray the lichen to obtain good coverage. Never mix any other sprays with this product.
Use it on paths for algae at 25 mils per litre, on gardens and buildings for liverwort at 50 mils per litre and adjust spray nozzle to make a jet and shoot it into the liverwort. Same applies for sphagnum type moss. It does not harm plants.
It is a new season starting and there are plenty of things to do when the weather permits.