Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Moving a Tree or Shrub



Some shrubs and trees won't survive root damage if moved, but most make a good recovery if handled carefully, and moved when comparatively dormant.

Midwinter is the safest time for most. Exceptions are semi-tropical or warmth loving trees such as gardenias, acalyphas, and, in cool districts, hibiscus and citrus. The latter two would be best moved in early spring, when the worst of the cold is over but before new growth starts.

Move conifers in late autumn. Winter is second choice, and fairly safe. They move comparatively easily if not too large.

Trees that rarely survive moving include many native eucalypti, wattles, most grevilleas, banksias, pittosporums, and imports such as luculia, virgilia, bauhinia, daphne, diosmas, etc.

The surest are the deciduous trees moved when dormant, but many hard leafed evergreens are also reasonably safe: Camellias, citrus, cotoneaster, azaleas, holly, hibiscus, most viburnums, rhaphiolepis, abelias, oleanders. The last two, especially, need to be cut fairly well back.

With care, very large trees can be moved successfully. In Japan, a small forest of native ginkgos was moved to landscape the Olympic Games, but there is a limit to the size of tree worth moving, especially for the home gardener.

Apart from effort and manpower needed, the shock may be so great, that although the tree survives, it makes poor growth and never picks up.

Large trees should be conditioned gradually before a move. Mark a circle around them with a radius about four times the diameter of the trunk. Divide the circle into six or eight segments, and remove the soil in about a foot-wide trench from alternate segments.

The trenched sections are refilled with well-composted soil and fertilizer after jagged roots have been cleanly trimmed. Three to six months later, trench the remaining segments and treat as the first.

The soil within this circle is kept well watered, and new root growth mats in it. Later, a wide trench can be made outside this area, the newly formed root ball wrapped in hessian, base roots severed, and the tree finally lifted.

This is rather too involved for most home gardeners, but there is a modified version. For example, roots of the tree to be moved, could be severed gradually.

First place a few short stakes to mark a circle round the trunk, its radius about four times the trunk's diameter. Thus a tree with a trunk 3 inches across would be surrounded by a circle 12 inches in radius or 24 inches diameter - involving quite a weight of soil.

Small Trees

Plants such as thin-stemmed, tall camellias should have this circle a minimum of 7 inches from the trunk. Young camellias could be lifted right away, but for more doubtful ones, try this: Spade down almost vertically, but sloping slightly under the plant, to full spade depth, at alternate spacings around the circle. The idea is to cut half the lateral roots.

A few months later, if it is a safe time to make the move, spade the entire circle again, this time an inch or so outside rather than inside the mark.

Where the soil ball is only about 14 inches across, the plant usually can be lifted by spading around again and levering up gradually. Slip the root ball on to a sheet of canvas or hessian and carry the plant on this to its new prepared site. The new hole needs to be 1 foot wider than the root ball, or there will be no room to pack properly with soil, and dry air spaces may prevent new roots from developing. Make sure that the tree is not replanted deeper than before.

Larger Trees and Shrubs

Here, the depth of the initial spading needs to be deeper - about the same as the radius of the surrounding cut. This calls for a trench rather than spade cuts.

Most deciduous trees can be dug and moved safely in one operation, but for large evergreens it is safer to trench about halfway around the tree, taking out a segment on either side. Cut large roots cleanly with a pruning saw.

Fill in for at least a few months, then open the complete trench when ready to move the tree. This trench will need to be widened to 18 inches or so in two or three sections, allowing room to spade under and cut roots below the soil ball.

Also, cut well down on one side, forming a ramp so the tree can be manoeuvred out more easily.

After cutting in well under the root ball, rock the plant on to one side. Try moving it by levering below the root ball with a stout pole, using a wide piece of board to spread its force so it doesn't bite into soil and roots.

Once the tree is movable, rock it on to a sheet of canvas or hessian and drag it out. The correct procedure is to wrap the root ball carefully in hessian, then bind with stout ropes which are tied to a hessian-bound part of the trunk. Lash lengths of timber under these ropes as carriers.

If the move is only a short one, the tree can be half dragged, half carried on a bag without elaborate wrapping.

You can spade off a fair amount of the outer soil on deciduous trees, but for evergreens keep the root ball as intact as possible.

Points to note: Whether a tree is dormant or not, you must keep the roots moist during the move. If there is any delay, hose frequently with a fine spray, or cover with wet sacking.

When moving a plant, the soil should be just damp. The root ball will then hold together easily.

When a plant's root area has been suddenly reduced, it will have a better chance of survival if the top growth is pruned back to reduce foliage. This lessens the demand on the roots.

Remove about two-thirds of the foliage of a large evergreen, pulling leaves off it you don't want to cut branches. Remove young, sappy growth, as this is the most demanding - although the move should be carried out before this appears.

Young evergreens such as camellias won't need pruning if moved carefully.

Vigorous top canes of deciduous trees are usually shortened by two-thirds.

Roots of azaleas and rhododendrons are close to the surface. In this case spade well out, if possible almost to below the outer foliage, but go down only about 5 inches. Then slant in nearly laterally below the plant.

Lift gradually all round until it moves freely, then slide on to a sheet of galvanised iron or a wide board.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A New Taste in Vegetables



Some of the more unusual vegetables - capsicums, eggplant, dwarf tomatoes - not only add variety to the menu but are ornamental enough to use in rockeries, balcony pots, and planter boxes.

Here are some interesting vegetables:

Capsicums (sweet peppers)

One of the most popular varieties is Californian Wonder, a medium-sized green fruit that later turns red. Sweet Yellow is another prolific type, very mild.

Capsicums need just an average, well drained soil and an open, sunny position. A little well-rotted compost and about l-3rd cup to the sq. yd. of complete plant food would help.

Seed can be sown in boxes of crumbly soil or seed-raising mixture, and planted out about 18 inches apart when seedlings are about 3 inches high. As usually only a few plants are needed, they also can be sown in compressed peat pots, and kept on a windowsill or other sheltered position, then moved into full sunlight after germination. Sow two/three seeds per pot, later thin out to one or two.

You can sow direct - three or four seeds every 18 inches, covered with 1/4 inch crumbly soil or compost. Pat down, keep moist. Up to three weeks to germinate. Keep well watered. When flowering commences, feed fortnightly with soluble plant food. If leaves or fruit develop brown spots during wet (or over watering), spray with bordeaux mixture.

Chinese cabbage

The leaves are like lettuce, the stems resemble celery. Cooked like cabbage, it tastes somewhere between cabbage and spinach.

Grown through autumn and winter, they make hearts like large lettuce. In spring and early summer, they tend to run up to seed, but the side leaves are still edible. The sliced leaf stems at this stage are used in Chinese dishes.

Chicory

This was once grown mainly for the long, parsnip-like root which were dried and added to coffee. Now it is appreciated for the young shoots and leaves. These are blanched by wrapping or covering, and used as a flavorsome addition to salads.

Mature plants have attractive little flowers like pale blue cornflowers. Chicory is easily grown, requiring similar conditions to carrots - a moderate soil, with a little complete plant food added. Leaf growth may be encouraged by watering occasionally with soluble plant foods.

Eggplant

The plants are attractive when carrying the large, shiny, purple-black fruits. Of various ways to eat these, the most popular one seems to be slicing, sprinkling with salt, and frying.

They are grown similarly to capsicums, but need longer to mature, so are not suitable for cool climates with short summers, without glasshouses.

Dill

The chopped foliage and young stems add appetizing flavor to potato salads or white sauces. Dill seeds give flavor to gherkins. The fleshy root is also used as a vegetable or flavoring for stews, etc. Dill grows in average soil.

Add a little complete plant food and scatter seeds thinly along a row, cover about 1/8 inch deep. Firm down and keep moist. Seedlings come through in about ten days. Thin out to about 6 inches apart. Use the foliage from the time they are about 1 feet high.

Leeks

Leeks are tasty as a boiled vegetable. They are sown in summer to mature in winter. Seedlings are raised in seed beds or boxes. Firm into good contact with the soil. When 4 or 5 inches high, transplant about 4 inches apart in the bottom of 4 inches trenches in good, well fertilized soil. Only the green foliage is left showing.

As growth progresses, the trenches are filled in, and eventually the soil is hilled around them, encouraging maximum length of blanched bulb.

Snake beans

Snake beans are a pleasant change from the ordinary french beans, and easily grown. Being climbers, they are sown along a trellis or a wire-netting covered sunny fence. The long, thin, string-like beans are chopped into sections and lightly cooked.

Dwarf tomatoes

Dwarf tomatoes such as Tiny Tim or Epoch are heavy croppers and pleasantly flavored. The first is only cherry size, and adds a decorative touch and pleasant flavor to salads. They are small enough to grow in large pots.

Egg tomatoes are easy to grow, fairly disease resistant. Modern types have pleasant flavor and are very meaty. Treat tomatoes like capsicums. Parsley prefers the same lime-free soil, can be grown at base of plants.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Home-grown Vegetables



The main standby lines to sow in spring for summer harvest are beans, beetroot, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, marrows, squash, pumpkin, melons, parsnips, radish, silver beet, and tomatoes.

Add for interest, sweet corn, capsicums, eggplant, okra, mustard and cress, and some new varieties among the old range. One is spaghetti marrow, which grows like a marrow but cooks like tender, pleasantly flavored spaghetti.

It is also worth growing a row of dill, which gives an appetizing, tangy flavor when chopped like parsley in potato salad, savories, or sauces - the flavor in dill pickles that changes pickled cucumbers to appetizing gherkins.

Being a quick-growing annual, dill may not find a place in the main herb garden. Just sow direct, then thin out the fine-foliage plants to about 6 inches apart. Use leaves and young stems once the plants are 12/18 inches high.

Eggplant

Eggplant is decorative and different. The large, oval, shiny purple-skinned fruits can be used in many ways. One is to slice, salt, then fry golden brown.

Eggplant grows in all but very cold districts with short summers.

Sow in seed boxes or pots, and keep in a warm, sunny corner. Plant out when about 2 inches high, once frosts are over, in a fairly sunny, well-drained soil, with about half cup to sq. yd. of complete plant food, mixed in before planting.

If available, add about 1 inch layer of well-rotted compost and dig in with the fertilizer. Give two or three good soakings each week, but let the surface dry out between times, without surface watering. Feed fortnightly with soluble, complete plant foods as fruits form.

Capsicums

Capsicums are wonderful for salads, barbecues, and savory dishes. Grow as for eggplant. They can get a fungus disease causing brown spotting of fruit and foliage in humid conditions. Control with bordeaux spray.

Californian Wonder, which changes from green to red, and Sweet Yellow, a long, mild, creamy yellow, are popular.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes also need similar treatment and conditions. The large-fruited, tall growing types such as Grosse Lisse or College Challenger are best on stakes.

Semi-dwarf types such as Epoch have small to medium-sized fruit, and small, sturdy bushes that would grow in large pots on balconies or terraces.

Tiny Tim is smaller still, and looks comfortable in 4 inches or 5 inches pots. The fruits are in cherry-sized clusters and look well served whole.

Marrows

Spaghetti marrow grows on a vine that runs no more than about 6 feet. The creamy yellow fruits can be 10 inches long and about half as wide. Smaller ones can be boiled whole, others cut in halves. After 15 to 20 minutes' cooking, the yellowish flesh is lifted out in spaghetti-like strings. It tastes something like well-buttered sweet corn.

All marrows and squashes are easy to grow once the soil warms up in spring. Give them a well-drained, sunny position, some complete fertilizer and compost (as for eggplant). A little lime helps if the soil is inclined to be acid. (A shovelful of incinerator ash to the sq. yd. could substitute.)

Some people plant vine crops on "hills," which is a good system. Don't make high mounds, but rake up circular rims of soil about 2 feet across, dished in the center. Six or eight seeds are sown round the raised rim, then thinned out to the three strongest. Give frequent soakings in the early stages, less when fruit begins to set.

All the bush marrows are worth growing, especially for cooking whole while up to about 5 inches long, when they have their best flavor. The same applies to golden bush squash about 3 inches across.

Okra

Okra is different. The 3 feet to 4 feet bushes carry an abundance of fruits like small, fleshy, dull green marrows, held erect. Pick these regularly or they become stringy. Okra is used as a green, but is often cooked with tomatoes to add thickening and flavor. The sliced young pods cook to a jelly-like mass, so are also used for thickening stews, etc.

Sow okra direct, in rows, with soil prepared as for marrows. Give a fair amount of water.

Sweet corn

Sweet corn is delicious if cooked when just mature - when the silky tassels at the top of the cob have withered. When a grain is punctured it should exude a creamy substance. If thin and milky, it has not matured enough: if dry, is too old, and not worth eating.

Soil as for marrows. Sow corn in a block of 4 or 5 short rows, to give protection to the tassels and help pollination. If pollination is faulty, the cob won't be filled with grain. Soak regularly in hot, dry conditions.

Beans

Beans are a wonderful standby and give a good, quick yield. Give half cup of complete plant food to each yard of row, spread about a foot on either side, and half cup lime, unless naturally limy.

Sow 2 seeds about 1 inch apart, every 5 inches. Soak with soluble, complete plant food as beans set on the plants.

Sow an 8 feet to 10 feet row each fortnight and have fresh beans all summer. All varieties are suitable for September/October planting.

Early Planting Vegetables


Vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, beetroot, and spring onions will mature in about 3 months' time during warmer weather when salad vegetables will be in demand.

Carrots need two and a half to three and a half months to mature. Top weight is one of the most popular varieties, quick-growing and resistant to virus.

Radishes are quick workers and mature fully in a month to six weeks from seed-growing.

White turnips take two and a half to three months and swedes three and a half to four and a half months.

Kohlrabi takes two and a half to three months to reach full size. It should not be left to become too mature as it will become woody and inedible.

Onions and leeks are long-season crops and take up to seven months to mature, but young onions may be pulled when they reach pencil size for salads.

Cabbages, cauliflowers, and broccoli vary in maturity from four to six months, as also do parsnips, celery, and salsify (oyster plant).

Silver beet takes two to three months to reach harvesting size, depending upon the soil fertility and your treatment. It can be helped along by fortnightly feeding with a liquid fertilizer.

In the coldest climates vegetables planted at this time of year would be limited to white turnips, onions, carrots, and beetroot.

Lettuces grow well during winter in all but the very coldest areas and may be sown in the open throughout the year.

Peas are usually sown in cool districts from spring to autumn; in temperate areas from autumn to early summer; and in sub-tropical places during autumn and winter.

Rotational cropping - making sure that members of one particular family of vegetables are not continually grown in the same plot - is helpful, especially in a small garden, but it's not as important as it used to be before the introduction of complete fertilizers.

These quickly replace what preceding crops have removed from the soil.

The ideal rotation would be leaf crop, root crop, legumes - for example, lettuce, carrots, beans, then tomatoes or potatoes before this cycle is repeated. It is better not to follow tomatoes with potatoes, as they are of the same family and susceptible to some of the same diseases.

How to Care for Succulents

Growing Succulents

These remarkable plants, modified by nature to withstand drying winds, blistering sun, severe cold, and long drought, nevertheless appreciate a little care and understanding.

Succulent and Cactus

Succulent is a fairly loose title applied to any plant with fleshy leaves and steins capable of storing water to tide the plant over lean periods.

Nature has modified these plants to lose very little moisture to the atmosphere, and to store reserves in their thickened stems or leaves.

All cacti belong to the one botanical family - distinguished by the fact that all have groups of spines that radiate from regularly spaced hairy or woolly sections known as areolas. The breathing pores of the plant are protected below this woolly covering.

In the Epiphyllums (strap cactus) or Zygocactus (crab's claw) these areolas, less obvious than on the desert varieties, are tucked away in the notches of the stems, or between stem segments. Although size of bloom varies greatly, all cacti have the same characteristic flower formation at the end of a fleshy, pear-like ovary or fruit.

So, technically, a succulent may or may not be a cactus, but you can refer to a cactus or any other plant of similar nature as a succulent.

Most of the true cacti originate from American desert regions, but are not necessarily exposed to the full fierceness of the sun. Many of the smaller types grow in the part shade of the tall cereus or candle cactus, of sparse desert shrubbery, or sheltered by craggy rocks.

So, in the garden or indoors, they need plenty of light, but not necessarily full sunlight. Under poorly lighted indoor conditions they become drawn and thin, sometimes weirdly elongated when in shade for a long time.

Desert soils are sandy or gritty and water drains away rapidly, but usually they are well supplied with organic matter from spent annual growth that matures rapidly in the showery season.

These low-rainfall desert areas are usually rather limy. Most garden loams can be made more suitable for cacti by raking in a 1 inch layer of coarse river sand or twice this amount if the loam is heavy.

A good pottery mixture would be about 2 parts medium garden loam, 2 parts coarse river sand, 1 part well-rotted compost. Unless the soil is limy, add about 2 teaspoons of garden lime or dolomite to each 2 gallons bucket of soil mixture.

Use at least 1 inch of broken crocks or coke in the base of the container to ensure good drainage, making sure that this material doesn't block the holes.

See that the plant isn't covered deeper than its previous level. Set it with its base at soil level, about 1/2 inch below rim of pot.

Firm it well, then scoop about 3/4 inch of soil from round the rim so water drains quickly away from the stem. Prevent the soil from leveling out by covering with about 1/2 inch of scree - blue-metal screenings, small pebbles, or crushed tile.

This surface covering also stops soil from splashing on to the stem of the plant and causing stem rot.

Most fleshy-leafed succulents also respond to the conditions suggested for cacti, although some also tolerate comparatively moist conditions in a well drained garden soil. Roughly, it is the grey- or downy-leafed types that need best drainage and limy conditions.

Watering

Water is needed most when new growth starts. In succulents, new shoots are an obvious indication of this. Cacti usually show brighter-colored new spines.

Many succulents from Africa and the Mediterranean areas make new growth in winter. With cactus it is more frequently in spring, and at this time the plants will benefit from watering two or three times a week.

Wet the soil in the containers evenly. If the plant has been dry for some time, stand the container for about ten minutes in a bucket of water. Let the soil dry out between waterings. True cacti especially need little more than a fortnightly watering during their dormant period, which is usually in winter.

Feeding

Avoid heavy feeding. Slow acting bone-dust or cotton-seed-based fertilizers such as rose foods or seedling starters are ideal - a level teaspoon scattered round the edge of a 5 inches pot and scratched in lightly. In early spring.

Repotting

Small, rapidly growing plants are best repotted each year, more mature plants every two to three years, preferably in early spring. Containers shouldn't be more than a couple of inches wider than the plant's spread, as the surplus soil is too slow to dry out.

A painless way to handle prickly plants is to fold a length of paper into a band, encircling them with this, and using the surplus ends like a cup handle. Pack soil round the plant with a pencil.

Propagating

The usual method for branching succulents is by cutting. Use pieces of any length, cut cleanly with a sharp knife or razor-blade to avoid bruising. Leave fleshy stems for a few days until the cut section dries out.

Pot in a sandy, well-drained mixture with a minimum of water for the first few weeks. Some succulents form plant lets at the base of severed leaves left to rest on a bed of sandy soil.

Cacti are usually propagated by removing "pups" or new divisions that form round the plants. Large sections can be cut from tall types such as cereus. Don't bury them too deeply, but tie to a stake with the dried-out cut section covered by about 2 inches of sandy soil.

Raising cacti from seed can be fascinating. Scatter the seeds thinly, press into the surface of shallow trays of 3 parts sand 1 of moistened peat moss; or of seed-raising mixture. When about small-pea size, transplant about 1 inch apart in seed trays or boxes. Pot individually the second year.

Pests and Diseases

Mealy bug is the worst enemy of cacti and some succulents - a small, downy, white-aphis-like pest found in ridges of the plant at the base of the spines, sometimes in the roots. Small infestations are controlled by touching them with a camelhair brush dipped in denatured alcohol. It is best to repot.

Control widespread attacks by spraying with rogor or malathion, adding about a teaspoon of household detergent to each quart of spray. Also water round each plant to wet the roots thoroughly.

Red spider or similar mites may also attack cacti or succulents, especially when under cover in a dry atmosphere. Symptom is a dull, lustreless or mottled appearance. Spray as for mealy bug.