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 was given my own little spade and wheelbarrow when I was about three and had a lot of fun moving the weeds my mum removed from gardens to the compost bin or to feed them to the chooks.
I 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 my gardens.
It was about that time, when I was given my own little plot of ground to grow plants in.
Seeds would be planted and I would be taught which seedlings were weeds and which were plants.
My own little watering can would nurture the baby plants till maturity.
A great ado would be made when one of my cabbages, silverbeet or lettuces was harvested for the evening meal.
Even though I hated eating silverbeet back then, I had to enjoy my own grown silverbeet, because I grew it!
It was the fuss that the adults made, that gave me a feeling of importance and likely kept me gardening for the rest of my life.
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 grow from seed; as a pot plant for a windowsill. Nice pink flowers also.
As the plant matures it has thorns on the branches which incidentally are another attraction for children – available from Kings Seeds.
Cacti with their prickles often appeal to young boys and I had a small collection when young and still keep a few.
Two awesome plants for children to grow are the super giant sunflowers and pumpkins.
Called My Giant Sunflower these extra tall sunflowers will grow up to 5 metres tall (17 odd feet), grown in full sun in soil that has excellent drainage.
The giant pumpkin is called My Giant Pumpkin and these monsters can weigh over 1000 pounds at maturity (half a ton).
Some garden centres run competitions for the tallest sunflower and the biggest pumpkin with various prizes for the winners. Check your garden centres.
Designed for children but may also be open to big kids like me. The seed packets contain information on growing and recording the progress of your plants.
Another interesting aspect is to encourage the children to give their giant plant a personal name after it is established.
Naming the plant makes the giant more personal and helps the children to have respect for plants and nature.
If I was going to grow either of these giants, here is what I would do: In an all-day-sunny area, I would 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 one seed in the middle of the mound and wet it 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.
After your plants are established and growing well, give them a drink using Cucumber Booster, once a week.
This is a high nitrogen product that is a combination of sulphate of ammonia and potassium nitrate, which you diluted 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 seedling starts to fill the bottle and needs more room.
With the Giant Sunflower a tall strong stake should be put in the ground at seed planting time on the edge of the mound.
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 way from the TV and video games, showing them there is more to life than a screen.
Around the garden
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 and Wallys Super Neem Tree Oil combined. 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 Liquid Copper Nutrient just to be sure,
but if the disease has finished for the season the sprays will help build up resistance for next season.
A few sprays of molasses at a tablespoon per litre of water will give the tree some extra carbs and help hold the crop.
Codling Moths will start to be on the wing about now so obtain a pheromone trap from your garden centre or from our Mail Order site at www.0800466464.co.nz so you can monitor the best time to spray. A number of gardeners have found that a spray of Wallys Neem Tree Oil with 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.
Repeat spray 14 days later and then wait for another influx of moths before repeating.
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 plants.
Had the case of a lady this week that used a common chemical rose spray on her roses for aphids and found that the roses shed many of their leaves a few days later.
Plants hate poisons as they kill all the beneficial things in nature.
I have a saying that if you work with Nature, you will have great gardens, if you try to work against nature, you have chemical warfare.
Happy, Healthy Gardening.
Image credit: Gerome Bruneau
Order from www.0800466464.co.nz.
Products mentioned are from Wallys Range of products and can be found in some garden shops or by Mail Order on www.0800466464.co.nz