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Your garden needs wildflowers – here are the 4 steps to success

With the moon rising, it is the perfect time to sow wildflowers and beneficial insect flowers. If sown now, these will be up and flowering for early summer which is a great time to be bringing beneficial and predator insects into the garden.

How to sow these seeds

Usually I am a gardener that likes to throw seeds around and leave the rest to Mother Nature.

However, with these types of seeds I have found that ground preparation is important for successful germination. The seeds for these types of flowers can be very fussy, as they are not too happy to compete with weeds.

Here’s my steps for success based on the experiences I have had:

Step 1: Prepare an area of garden you want them to go in and weed thoroughly.

Step 2: Scatter some seed raising or potting mix on the areas

Step 3: Then scatter the seeds and cover with a light dusting of potting mix, pat down and water

Step 4: Cover with netting to prevent the birds or cats from disturbing the soil (eating or the other thing…!)

Top tip: I advise you not to put heaps of soil on top of the seeds, as too much will stop them from germinating. You can rake them into the prepared soil if you like, as this works just as well.

These seeds can be up and growing within a few days if planted at the right time of the moon. These flowers are not that hungry so huge amounts of food are not needed. A little lime can help sweeten the soil, but isn’t essential.

I never thin mine out as it gives a great blanket of flowers when fully grown. The flowers tend to germinate at different times so don’t worry if this happens. They will push their way through to give you a grand display.

Top tip: The key to longevity of some of these flowers is to always dead head them, as new flowers will keep coming all the time. Then, towards the end of the season, let them go to seed and collect this for next season’s growing.

I sow lots of these seeds in all different areas of my garden for a few reasons:

#1 to bring beneficial insects in for my vegetable garden

#2 for the pure beauty of the flowers

#3 when you plant them towards your boundaries, as well as close to your veggie garden, the more insects you will attract.

Top tip: As your seeds grow into tiny plants, make sure you know what types of weeds are in your garden, as these could sprout amongst your seeds and take over.

It is especially important in the first 6-8 weeks of growth. After this time they are pretty self-sufficient and will grow and bloom, bringing both you and the insects much pleasure and benefit.

If you live in the warmer parts of NZ, you can start your sowing now and continue sowing for the next few months. This way you will ensure a continuous blooming period.

Beneficial flowers do not require huge amounts of water as, when densely planted, they cover the ground, helping to retain moisture in the soil.

My last top tip: If you don’t have time to prepare the soil this week, I advise you sow them in deep trays and transplant next month. I have successfully done this in the past, as long as you plant them out before they are too big. Alternatively, if you have a container garden, they will go well in this area.

Happy gardening

When life gives you lemons – 8 tips you need to know about growing citrus

With citrus being the fruit of the month, I thought it would be a good time to address some issues around what these plants do and don’t like and what feeding they require.

The citrus family is large! Oranges, lemons, limes, kaffir lime, tangelos, mandarins, satsumas, lemonades, blood orange, bitter orange, grapefruit, pink grapefruit, clementine, buddah’s hand, finger lime, kumquat and ugly fruit – to name a few…

The citrus variety you can grow depends on your climate.

At this time of year citrus are hungry, as they are trying to burst forth with new growth, new flowers and still ripen fruit. All this energy takes a lot of food.

Citrus tip #1

Citrus are heavy feeders and I feed mine solid fertiliser 4 times a year and liquid fertiliser in the interim. When citrus are hungry their leaves turn yellow or could even drop off the tree completely.

Citrus tip #2

Citrus roots are surface feeders, so I find they benefit from a good mulch around the tree, especially in preparation for the hot summer that will arrive in no time. This will also help keep moisture in the soil and prevent weeds and long grass growing around the trunk.

Most diseases I find on my travels occur from weed-eaters hitting the trunks of fruit trees. Sometimes these go unseen and disease enters these vulnerable points. By mulching around the base of the tree this can prevent the ol’ whipper snipper getting too close and doing damage. I have even seen draincoil around the base of the tree as protection.

Citrus tip #3

In your citrus’ first few years of growth, it is best to keep the fruit to a minimum. In year one, I recommend removing the fruit, and in year two and three, only leaving a couple on the tree. I know it can sometimes feel heartbreaking to remove these first exciting fruits! However, in the long run it will benefit the tree as it will take the strain off the branches while they become stronger and also enable the roots to develop, which in turn will hold a good crop on your trees for many years to come.

Citrus tip #4

When buying a citrus to take home, make sure you look thoroughly at the trunk to see if any ants are crawling up and down. If this is the case, follow the ants’ path and that will usually lead you to the pests or disease, like sugar-secreting insects including scale and white fly. In most parts of the country whitefly isn’t present at the moment, but scale will be.

Citrus tip #5

Also before buying a citrus tree, check the bag or the pot the citrus are in to make sure they are not root bound. A good healthy amount of roots should be present in the soil, however if they are root bound and the bag is jammed packed with roots, this means they will be suffering in the bag and will dry out quickly as there is not much soil to hold the moisture. Remember big is not always best.

Citrus tip #6

When planting a citrus, I tend to put a good layer of stones or rocks in the bottom of the hole as citrus hate wet feet. Where I live, the soil is heavy and mainly clay so this helps the water to drain away from the roots. Citrus love water but don’t like to sit in it – a bit like us really! Put a good quality compost layer on top of the stones and place the citrus on top, making sure that the roots sit under the soil line.

Citrus tip #7

Citrus love a good companion. When underplanted with borage and petunias, this helps deter pests and disease. Planting fennel, dill and yarrow near your citrus will attract beneficial bugs such as lacewings and ladybugs, which will feed on aphids and greenfly.

Lemon balm, parsley and tansy also attract beneficial bugs which prey on caterpillars. Sometimes it pays to think big picture when planning your planting to help yourself later on. If you plant beneficial plants you are more likely to have healthy citrus and the bad bugs will go elsewhere to the garden next door where they are not deterred!

Citrus tip #8

If your trees have a magnesium deficiency you can apply Epsom salts. Dilute approximately 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts to 3 litres of water and apply to the soil around your plant, especially the drip line of the tree and this should green up the leaves in no time.

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Citrus leaves indicating magnesium deficiency

Have a good look at your citrus today and happy gardening!

Practical advice: 8 things you need to do in your garden right now for a winter tidy up

While in the process of moving homes this past week, it has made me realise that there is so much to do in the garden right now and, with the moon waning, it is a perfect time.

As I look around my garden and start to trim back plants, I notice all the new self-sown flowers popping out of the ground. The main ones I can see at the moment are patches of new wild flowers appearing all over the garden, which must have been dispersed by the wind.

#1

Now is the time to prepare the ground ready to transplant the new seedlings into, or if you are on the move like me, getting the vessels ready to transplant them.

The phacelia and beneficial bee flower seedlings are coming through too. I find it is always good to transplant these at a smaller size, as the roots suffer less shock. I recommend that you dig deeper than the root and lift with the soil attached.

#2

Cleaning up your strawberries is another great thing to do this week, removing all the dead leaves and compost if they are not diseased. If they are diseased, I strongly suggest that you safely burn them in an incinerator to stop the disease spreading.

#3

I am also lifting my alstramerias this week, as I have nurtured these since a wee first bulb and I just love these for the weeks they last in a vase.

#4

Other plant tasks to do in the garden are to divide your rhubarb with a spade by slicing through the crown. Top tip to remember when replanting these is that they love horse manure.

#5

We are seeing buds move on roses in the more sub-tropical areas of New Zealand and a lot of people are tempted to leave these and not prune. The seasons can be tricky these days, however I am going to prune mine fairly hard with the hope of a good show for summer.

#6

Now is a great time to be planting natives, shrubs, fruit trees, deciduous trees and specimen trees. Remember when digging your hole to make it deeper and wider than the plant root ball. They need room to move and for their roots to grow.

Furthermore, when putting the plant in the hole, make sure there is enough space to put your compost on top and for their roots to be under the surface. Here on Waiheke we have quite heavy clay soil and, when planting in this kind of soil, I make sure I pierce the sides of the planting hole walls to allow the roots to start to wander. Sometimes if this is not done, the roots can just go round and round in a ball and stunt the growth of the tree.

#7

Take action this week to rake up your leaves and either make compost or keep them in a sack where they will turn into rich leaf matter for a spring planting.

#8

You will find that those stubborn weeds with long tap roots, like dock, will release from the ground easier with a waning moon. Soft ground makes for easier weeding all around the garden. However, remember after weeding that it is a good time to put a layer of mulch over the weeded area to preserve your hard work and keep it weed-free for spring.

My challenge over the next week will be to gather the plants I want to take with me. I have been managing and developing a property over the past 3 years and now the project is complete, so it is off to a new garden for me… To where? I am not yet sure, so stay tuned.

Calendula cream will be ready by the end of next week, so I’ll be in touch again very soon with those who pre-ordered.

Happy gardening!

Planting by the Moon Step 2: What you need to know about full moon and what it really means for your garden

The full moon is when the whole of the moon’s disc is illuminated and the gravitational pull from the moon is at its peak.

Over the past two weeks, the moon has been waxing (rising), which in the gardening world means that the energy is going into the growth of the buds and leaves of the plant. This stimulates growth in these areas, reaching its optimum at full moon.

The gravitational pull of the moon is stronger than that of the sun, due to its closer proximity to the earth. At full moon, there is an increased water content in the soil, which is why germination can be faster at the full moon stage. There are a lot of different opinions about planting at full moon, so I will only share what I have learned from my experiments over the past 20 odd years.

A plant’s growing cycle is in tune with the moon as its rays penetrate the soil and are needed in plant growth, from seed to harvest.

When planting by the moon, I have found that your plants show increased vigour and grow at an optimum rate. This in turn will prevent pest and disease and crops won’t bolt to seed as fast as they would when planted by the wrong phase of the moon.

The full moon is exact at 8.20am on 28th July, so this is when I recommend to plant your early potatoes if your ground is not too wet. It’s also a good time to lay your kumara in sand to start the sprouting process, and begin to fertilise your plants, especially your citrus as these trees are hungry right now.

After full moon, as the moon wanes (descends), the energy is more focused on root production and the sap slows down. For this reason, next week is a great time to plant your new fruit trees, move your plants, sow root crops, plant bulbs, transplant and prune during this phase.

Over the next week, sow your early carrot and beetroot seeds for maximum success, along with Jerusalem artichokes so they can begin growing for the long season ahead they require.

We are heading towards less light hours from the moon over the following two weeks, less energy above ground and more focus on the roots. At this time, it pays to make compost, clear out old gardens and have a good old tidy up.

We all have busy lives and cannot always operate entirely around the moon planting phases. This is the reality, however the key is to start experimenting, do what is achievable for you and start to get yourself into the rhythm of the moon to watch the difference unfold!

This week, I have launched my Moon Challenge exclusively for my newsletter subscribers. Week one has already begun, but there’s still time if you want to participate!

Sign up to my newsletter today and we will send you the first challenge so that you can join us for the month of August and demonstrate before your very eyes the true results of planting by the moon!

Happy gardening!

Planting by the Moon Step 1: Five easy ways to plant by the moon this month and harness the benefits

The power and miracles that happen when you garden by the moon are incredible.

I have been learning this practice for the past 25 years and it really works. There are always miracles throughout the year when you practice this method of gardening.

Some people are quick to dismiss it, but you only have to observe the landscape around you to see right before your eyes that the moon affects many things in our world; like the tides, fishing, sea life, growth, animals – the list goes on! These effects are due to the strong gravitational pull of the moon.

In this blog, I am going to give you five practical examples that are easy to understand and apply to your gardening this month to start harnessing the moon for your benefit. Try them for yourself and it will be impossible to deny the impact of the moon.

Example one – plant up when the moon is waxing

From my experience and understanding, when the moon is rising towards Full Moon (also known as the waxing phase), the sap within all plants moves a lot quicker around it. This is why we see growth spurts at this time. This is a great time to plant anything that grows above ground, as the moon will literally help it to grow quickly, almost pulling it upwards out of the soil.

Example two – prune when the moon is waning

When the moon descends towards blackness (also known as the waning phase), the sap is much slower-moving and travels down the plant to store in the roots. This is when you should prune and when best to cut the grass for slowed growth.

Example three – why it is a mistake to prune when the moon is waxing

If you have a plant that has a high sap content and you cut it close to the full moon when the sap is running vigorously, this plant will suffer as the sap will start to leak from the wound and it will be highly exposed to pest and disease.

This can also lead to the sap running in channels down the stem, causing any forming buds to rupture, which can mean that your plant will fail to flower.

Example four – cut when the moon is waning before a new moon

If you are a carver and harvest your own wood, it is best to harvest this wood during the last few days of the cycle of the moon, as this will mean less water in the wood and more fibres, which in turn will help prevent the wood rotting and bugs getting into your wood.

Example five – how to make the most of in-between the phases

Plant growth is affected by the light and gravitational force of the moon. The moon cycle is split into four quarters and it is said that, when the moon goes from one phase to another, (approximately every 7 to 8 days) the moon is void of course for 12 hours before and 12 hours after this transition.

During this time, it is best to avoid sowing, planting or pruning. Instead during this nullified time, it is good to tend to your soil or do other garden tasks like planning. There is always some planning to do and I often hear ourselves saying we don’t have time, but I have found the perfect moment by using these void of course pauses every week or so!

Over the next few weeks, I will be explaining the phases of the moon, the best time to sow which vegetables, when to plant trees and shrubs for maximum success, and explaining the terminology of the moon. By the end, you will be confidently gardening in sync with the moon’s cycle and Mother Nature will love you for it!

Your challenge

I will also be challenging you to experiment – as there is nothing better than the proof in your own pudding! I have designed an exciting moon challenge exclusively for my newsletter subscribers to try at home and watch the miracles unfold.

Sign up to my newsletter to receive the instructions for next week’s moon challenge…

 

Happy gardening, and stay turned for more lessons on planting by the moon

The Magic and Power of Calendula Officinalis – how to use Calendula

This week I want to share with you the magical medicinal properties of Calendula Officinalis. Last week, we learned culinary, beneficial and sacrificial properties of Calendula. If you missed this blog, check it out here.

In my opinion, Calendula is one of the most medicinal flowers that grows easily in your garden. From this magic flower, you can make creams, balms, oils, washes, gels, compresses and tinctures.

It is antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antispasmodic and an antioxidant. Phew! It is gentle enough to use on babies right through to the elderly.

I have been using the petals in a medicinal way for over 25 years and I want to share with you some of the wonderful applications I have found for this miraculous flower.

How do I use Calendula for skin conditions?

The reason I started making Calendula oil and cream was because, when I first landed in NZ all those years ago, I was eaten alive by mosquitos and sand flies. The Calendula cream took away the itch and healed the scars caused by scratching. I found it was also a wonderful healer for sunburnt skin. Here began my love affair with Calendula!

When my daughter was a young baby, I would use the cream to heal nappy rash and for cracked skin and grazes. I would also make an eyewash to help expel conjunctivitis from her eyes.

Calendula will heal cuts, scrapes, burns, cracks, sores, eczema, dry skin and it is a great moisturiser when applied on the body before bed – just apply on hands, legs and face.

As a gardener with my hands in the soil most days and constantly out in the harshness of all weathers, I find my hands can get very dry and cracked. I am not one to usually wear gloves either, so I’m a real test case!

After my daily shower, I lather myself in the cream, covering my cuts and scratches from the day’s work, and my dry hands and legs too, and in the morning, my skin is totally restored like magic.

It is a great solution for skin inflammation. It helps new tissue grow to aid the rapid healing of wounds on the skin, and it increases blood flow and oxygen to wounds. Further testimonials from my elderly clients endorse its amazing properties for healing their skin, especially scars left from having skin cancers removed.

Calendula is a great addition to your first aid kit in a domestic kitchen, helping to heal burns and knife wounds. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend Calendula for is to use it on an infected wound, as it could heal the skin over the infection before it has been resolved.

How do I use Calendula for internal conditions?

Calendula petals can be used to make a fantastic tea, which can help reduce gastric ulcer symptoms, cramps and help with hot flushes. I wanted to share my recipe with you for calendula tea, so that you can enjoy some of this potent flower’s magic too.

Calendula Tea – AVOID IF PREGNANT

Put 1-2 tablespoons of dried calendula flowers in a mug and pour over hot water, cover with a saucer and steep for 15 -20 minutes then sip slowly.

 

Seven ways to use Calendula tea

I have found that Calendula tea can be used for the following symptoms:

  1. Mouth rinse for inflamed gums or thrush
  2. Use for inflamed skin conditions – pour over the skin and use as a face wash, including acne and pimple outbreaks
  3. Great for itchy eyes – use as an eye wash
  4. Conjunctivitus – also use as an eye wash
  5. Can help in a foot bath for fungal infections
  6. Great as a hair rinse to relieve itchy scalp
  7. Apply to your animals if they have itchy skin or rashes

 

Your chance to get on the wait list for my next batch of Calendula cream

I am well known for my Calendula cream – I have spent many years perfecting my extraction to create a cream that I see time and time again really works.

I am brewing up my next batch and have already received many requests to be on the wait list – thank you for getting in touch!

I expect to release my next batch within the next few weeks, and I always create a limited amount, so if you are keen to purchase some, please contact me as soon as you can to be added to the wait list.

I will be supplying three different sizes – 28g, 60g, and 200g and prices are listed below. I hope that you too get growing Calendula in your gardens and give it a try. Please let me know how you get on – I love to hear your feedback!

Until next time – happy gardening!

 

Pricing

Grow Inspired Organic Calendula Cream – 28g, $15.00

Grow Inspired Organic Calendula Cream – 60g, $29.90

Grow Inspired Organic Calendula Cream – 200g, $87.90

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Testimonials

“I had been trying a pharmacy-recommended cream for a rash and getting no results, so I went to my faithful jar of Claire’s Calendula cream.

“Result? Improvement in two days!

“After a full time career and years of working outside, Claire’s own use of her cream is a testament in itself. Throw out your old creams, and use this all purpose wonder cream!”

MARION BRIDGE, CALENDULA CREAM CUSTOMER

 

“I have always had great skin, but suddenly I broke out all around my nose and mouth with a severe kind of eczema. I tried everything I could think of – nothing worked. It lasted for months without improvement and really affected my confidence. Someone suggested I try Claire’s Calendula cream. I put it on each night, and within just a few days, it had disappeared. Amazing!”

KATY, CALENDULA CREAM CUSTOMER

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Why you absolutely need to plant Calendula this year

This week I’d like to share with you the magic and wonder of the flower, Calendula Officinalis.

For me Calendula Officinalis is a wonder plant – it is medicinal, edible, sacrificial, beneficial and a great companion plant, as well as a deliciously edible addition to any salad. What’s not to love! I think it’s an example of Mother Nature at her most generously creative.

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Calendula Officinalis has orange petals and orange centre

What you need to know about Calendula and why I love it

Calendula grows most of the year round in New Zealand and self-seeds easily in most soils and conditions. If it starts looking a little scraggy, you can cut it almost all the way to the ground and it will grow again.

Top tip: Remember to always cut on an angle to enable the wound to heal and to prevent water sitting on the cut and causing the plant to rot.

You can either choose to leave it to go to seed; harvest the flowers at the appropriate time for making oil or cream; scatter the petals in a salad; or dead head the flowers as they die off. Calendula is not fussy about soil type and is pretty drought-tolerant too, as long as your get your plants established by December.

Calendula is of great benefit to all gardens.

 

Calendula as a sacrificial plant

In late spring and over summer, Calendula can attract numerous pests and trap them away from your garden. The petals, leaves, and centre of the flower are quite sticky, which cleverly traps pests like whitefly, blackfly and greenfly, keeping them away from your vegetable garden. Thanks Calendula!

They also attract green shield beetles, in turn also keeping these away from your tomatoes.

When using Calendula as a sacrificial plant make sure to plant at least 2 metres away from your producing garden to keep the pests a safe distant from your plants. The pests will therefore infest your Calendula and stay away from your precious produce.

Leave the Calendula plant alone whilst it performs its martyrdom; observation is the only action necessary. Eventually the plant will lose its life force and die. This is OK.

The pests will hang on to your Calendula for the rest of the season; some living and some dead – this too is OK.

Top tip: It is best to space your plantings out for maximum effect over the summer months. Plant every two weeks or every month. Remember that you are planting for this purpose – the plant could die and that is OK. It is nature’s way of taking care of itself.

 

Calendula as a companion and beneficial plant

Calendula is an amazing companion plant – it’s your garden’s best friend. Calendula attracts a wide variety of beneficial pollinating insects, such as butterflies and bees, and the pests that get trapped in the flowers attract ladybugs, lacewings and hoverflies.

Win-win!

I told you it was a magic plant!

Its roots are very beneficial for the soil, repelling soil nematodes and asparagus beetles, whilst opening up the soil with its vigorous root. Calendula is the plant that keeps giving, as it will produce new flowers over the whole season.

Top tip: Companion planted with carrots, chard, parsley, thyme, peas, cucumbers, asparagus and tomatoes will greatly increase the health and vigour of these plants. Healthy plants are not attractive to pests – they would rather go for the weaker ones.

 

Calendula as an edible flower

Calendula is a great addition to any salad, cake or muffin. Just pick a good-looking flower and pluck the petals off, then scatter them on top of your salad. They especially look stunning on the top of a beetroot salad!

Similarly in a cake or some muffins, scatter the flowers on top of the mix just before putting in the oven. It is also great as a decoration on top of a rice dish to add vibrancy and colour.

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Calendula as a medicinal plant

In the next blog, I’ll be sharing more about the true potency of this incredible plant, including the benefits for medicinal use. Many of you know about my renowned Organic Calendula Cream that I produce once a year. This wonderful stuff always sells like hot cakes, so I want to give you an exclusive chance to get on my wait list ahead of the next batch…

More next week, but if you want to beat the crowds and get your hands on my Organic Calendula Cream first (your hands will love you for it!) then email me here, and I’ll add you to the wait list!

 

Get growing Calendula and show your garden a bit of Mother Nature’s magic.

How to control Slugs and Snails the organic way right now

Slugs and snails are everywhere at this time of year, especially with all this wet weather, so this week I thought we would take a look at them. We’ll cover how they affect your garden, where they like to hang out and how to control them in an organic way.

Many people look at these creatures simply as annoying pests that destroy their vegetables, however, I believe it is better to look at them in a more rounded way – as I look at any other pest. They are part of the cycle of nature and they just happen to like your veggies – as well they should, they’re delish!

So what exactly are we dealing with here…?

Did you know there are around 1,400 varieties of slugs and snails in New Zealand?? It’s not surprising then that some get into our gardens!!

The largest snails can grow up to 10cm across! They move around on a flat muscular foot and they eat by using a tongue-like organ called a radula, which is covered with rows of teeth. Slugs and snails have both male and female sex organs and one or two pairs of tentacles on their heads, the larger of which usually has eyes at the end.

Where do slugs and snails hang out?

Most snails live on the ground in the leaf litter that has fallen; under your mulch or around dark damp places, where they are unseen. The giant snails live mostly in Northland and grow up to 10 cm. These snails come out in the dark of the night to eat slugs and worms.

There are about 30 odd native species of slugs, and they eat algae, fungi, and tiny organisms that live on plants. However, most of the slugs and snails that eat your garden are not native to New Zealand and have travelled here from other countries! Like most other introduced pests in New Zealand, they are very destructive to the home and the commercial gardener.

Remember – slugs and snails are in our gardens all year round – it is just in winter and spring they do the most damage because of the climate. During the warmth of the summer sun, they tend to stay in dark, damp places.

They come out after dark. This time of year, I have noticed they start appearing after 8pm and in the spring, it is more like 10pm.

How do slugs and snails affect my garden?

Slugs and snails feed on fruits, vegetables, the soft stems of plants as well as the leaf tissue. They are especially partial to new transplants, as these are soft and tasty to them. That is why a newly planted bed can disappear overnight, causing much despair to a loving gardener the following morning!

Plants that have many leaves altogether like the brassica family, lettuce and spinach seem to attract a lot more slugs and snails. In my experience, this is because these plants offer dark and cool shelter for the slugs and snails during the day and then, at night, they don’t have to travel far for their food. Pretty smart really!

If you are growing your winter broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and spinach, pop out to the garden now and gently peel the leaves back during the day and look closely at where the leaves attach to the stem. You will more than likely find the little creatures asleep there. You can also look for a poo trail, as they leave a trail behind them when they munch your leaves…!

So what are the organic ways to control slugs and snails?

The tiger slug was introduced into New Zealand from Europe. I find these slugs a beneficial pest, as they will eat other smaller slugs. They will still eat your veggies (!) but they can be a natural control for smaller, more vulnerable slugs.

Tiger slug

tiger

One of the most effective controls I have found is to snap the lower leaves off of your brassicas and place them around new seedlings in a circle. The slugs and snails would rather eat what is in front of them than use the energy to travel up a plant. In the morning, look under these leaves that you have placed on the soil and remove any that are present.

Beer traps are another goodie. Place shallow lids on your soil, pushing them down slightly so they are at soil level and put some cheap beer in them. No need to waste the good stuff! They love this and will flock to the beer and drown while drinking. Make sure you clear them out every couple of days.

Regularly check all the dark, damp places around your growing bed, as they will be asleep in the day and are easy to see. They like to be under lids, wood, mulch and the corners of your raised beds.

Hedgehogs and birds are natural predators, so we welcome them wholeheartedly into our gardens at this time of year. Plenty to go round, and no fruit to protect from the birds!

I also recommend feeding your slugs and snails away from the bed with old brassica leaves in a pile. I tend to put my pile at least 3 metres away from my bed and they love it.

As an organic gardener, I must advise you…

SNAIL AND SLUG BAIT – NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!

I have recently encountered several gardeners who profess to have an organic garden, but yet they use snail bait! Unfortunately, this is misguided. Just to see the bright blue colour of the bait, you know it is toxic!

Snail bait contains metaldehyde which breaks down into our water ways, and is highly toxic to animals. This bait can be attractive to animals as it is often mixed with bran, molasses, soya beans and rice to bulk it out. Please, please try the methods above and avoid bait at all costs.

I adamantly believe with all my gardening passion and 30 years of experience that chemicals have absolutely no place in our soil, or our eco-system. We ingest what we put out into the world, as we are all one. These organic methods are truly effective, and I challenge you to try them and feedback if they are not…!

Check your garden out tonight for these little creatures, try some of my suggested methods and let me know how you get on.

Happy gardening!

 

Winter Solstice – the perfect time to celebrate Grow Inspired’s first birthday

Winter Solstice is a very special time of year for me, as it means a great big fire, toasting to the shortest daylight hours of the year, mid winter celebrations and huge gratitude to the garden for all the delicious organic produce it has produced for me and others over the past year.

What does Solstice mean?

The word ‘Solstice’ comes from Latin word ‘sol’, which means sun and ‘sistere’, which means to “stand still”. For winter Solstice, it means the sun’s path has reached its southernmost position and the next day, the sun will start its path northward.

This is the slowest growth time in the garden and traditionally a time to plant garlic, however living in the warmer part of New Zealand, growing good healthy garlic is a hard thing to do now with the temperatures rising and a lot of rust affecting these plants coming up to summer. The moon is also rising towards full moon, so not a good time to plant root crops. I will plant a couple of cloves on the solstice just out of tradition.

Celebrating the shortest day of the year for me means a great time to plan for spring, as the light will increase by a minute a day from now on, meaning spring will be here in no time! What motivation!

Solstice really signifies the first day of winter or summer, depending on what hemisphere you are in.

Planning for your spring garden can start now by doing things like preparing your beds for your spring plants; making a list of the plants you would like to grow; and planning your crop rotation, so your crops will grow in a different place than last year. This helps to utilise different parts of your soil and to ensure that the soil doesn’t harbour disease. Learn more about crop rotation here.

I generally spend this time preparing the garden, sorting out my seeds and making my plan for the spring ahead. This is so valuable as, then when spring arrives, I know exactly what I am doing and where everything is going to grow. This gives your plants their best chance for a productive season, harnessing the strengths of mother nature.

I also tend not to plant at this time of year, as the plants will just sit in the ground and look sad. This is not motivating for any living thing!

Saying that, the plants I put in the ground in May are going great guns! I’m just about to harvest my first cauliflower and my leeks are plumping up nicely. Also the green manure crop has grown to cover the soil, fixing its nitrogen content and the miraculous warmer temperatures mean I am still picking basil and tomatoes! A very strange feeling for winter – aren’t the seasons re-writing themselves! It makes it hard to keep up for any gardener!

A reminder to you all that this week’s newsletter is the launch of the ‘Knowledge Bed’, where you are invited to send me your questions to answer and we will build up your own beds of knowledge, sharing the learnings. Please keep them coming – I love to hear your frustrations and challenges, and to be able to help you to find solutions. To submit a question for next week’s Knowledge Bed, email me here. This content is exclusive to my newsletter subscribers, so sign up here if you haven’t already.

CELEBRATING – Grow Inspired turns one!

Wow! That year went fast! It was the first year of working for myself and it was a whirlwind.

I am proud to say that we have:

transformed over 100 gardens

started 80 new vegetable gardens

planted over 300 fruit trees

held 15 compost workshops

set up large scale composting at 5 restaurants/vineyards

consulted on over 50 gardens

developed 1 website

wrote and produced 45 blogs to share my knowledge

been featured on the front cover of Viva with a 2-page article

appeared in Nadia Lim’s magazine sharing 2-pages of tips to reduce waste

travelled to 5 projects around the country

had my first international skype consultation

and educated over 300 school kids on growing food.

Not a bad achievement for 365 days!

The highlight of this past year for me was my visit to the EM (effective microorganisms) Centre in Saraburi in Thailand. This was an amazing and inspiring experience, which has led to even more knowledge in my brain bank and, this spring, after 6 months of trials, Grow Inspired will be launching two new EM products into our online shop.

The first will be a supercharged microbial liquid organic food for your garden and the second will be a Septic Balance for your toilets, pipes, showers and septic tanks/fields. These products will be available to you from the middle of August.

Remember to sign up to my newsletter which gives you tips and tricks for the week, a guide on what to plant in alignment with the moon, exclusive special offers, first access to my workshops and the chance to be part of the ‘Knowledge Bank’.

To all of you out there who have been part of this incredible journey; from my incredible, hard-working team and my awesome, treasured clients, to my fellow gardeners who read my blogs and take the time to share your feedback and your questions; I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You each inspire me every day.

Sharing knowledge, connecting and supporting my community is a precious gift.

Happy gardening and Grow Inspired!

How to rescue your citrus trees from pests and disease

How to rescue your citrus trees from pests and disease

As citrus are ripening now and over the next few months, I thought it would be a great idea to talk about a few of the pests associated with these plants, and most importantly, what you can do to protect your citrus from them.

Enemy number one: Scale

Scale are sap sucking insects that are found on the leaves and branches of your citrus trees. If your tree is looking unhealthy, inspect the branches for ants climbing up and down your tree. This can be a sign of scale, as they secrete sugar which attracts the ants.

scale1

There are different types of scale, from the hard shelled brown ones to the soft white ones.

Scale insects attach themselves to the leaves or stems of your citrus and start to suck away at your plant. They excrete honeydew that is attractive to ants, which in turn creates sooty mould. When your plant is infested with scale, the leaves usually turn yellow. Also if you have cracks in your bark, scale can live in these, which are quite hard to see. It pays to examine your tree thoroughly.

If scale is left unchecked, your tree could become very weak and unhealthy.

Remedy number one: Fight scale organically

To treat scale, spray with a good oil. I use EnSpray 99, as I have had great success with this. Spray the infected areas and this will suffocate the scale and cause the scale to die. When you touch it, it will fall off the tree or you can rub off with a cloth. Repeat spraying if the infestation is bad. This year, I have found scale on many, many plants – even natives – so it is not really specific to tree varieties.

Enemy number two: Borer

How do you know if your citrus tree has borer?

The tree will lack vigour and have holes along the branches. In some cases, you will even be able to see mounds of sawdust.

Remedy number two: How to remove borer

Borer grubs are dormant for the next couple of months, so it is an ideal time to cut out and remove any borer. This is your time to act! Really, when it is dormant is the only time to cut it out, otherwise the grub will lay egg on new cuts and then they will bore into the new growth of your tree.

It is SO IMPORTANT to remember to either burn or dispose of your infected branches. The totally organic way of dealing with borer is to insert a G string from a guitar down the hole to pierce the grub, however this could take some time (and patience!). At Grow Inspired, we typically use a squirt of CRC down the hole, as this smothers the grub and causes it to die, without harming the trees. Following this, apply pruning paste over the holes or wounds to protect them from further infestation.

Last year, I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to see three borer grubs and I was shocked to see the size of them. Fat and juicy, and half the thickness of my pinky finger!!!

borer grub

Borer can kill citrus trees if left untreated. Also you can keep your tree alive by removing the dead wood and keeping an eye on your tree, looking for new sawdust trails. Over the past year, I have had a client lose a huge branch from their lemon tree due to borer, where the wood was completely eaten through.

Take action and save your trees.

If you inherit land with an old lemon tree full of borer, you might well be wise to invest in a new one in case the old one is not able to be brought back to life.

Here’s hoping your plants have all survived the waterlogging we have had over the past few days and that you have time to observe your garden over the next wee while that the growing slows as we approach the shortest day.

Sign up to my newsletter for tips, tricks, and to access even more learnings as I launch my new weekly ‘Knowledge Bed’ to answer your questions direct.

 

Happy gardening