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Battling the Bugs

Every season has its challenges against pests in the garden.  I’m talking about the winged, slimy and crawling varieties.  This time of year, when it’s still warm enough for the white butterfly, my brassicas usually become the dinner plate for the caterpillars.  I often don’t plant these until later, waiting until it’s too cold for the butterfly.  Then I found bug net.  What a difference this makes.  We have one garden here at work with Kohl Rabi and Brussel sprouts, that is thriving because we covered it as soon as we planted it.  Then there is the Kale bed that I didn’t cover and this has been my sacrificial bed for the butterfly caterpillars.  But I have found a solution.  Kiwicare Organic Caterpillar BioControl.  It’s a bacterium that is a biological pest for caterpillars.  You mix a sachet into a 5L sprayer to use and although it doesn’t kill them instantly it does work in a few days as the bacteria does its thing to the caterpillar.  As with most controls it not a one hit wonder and you respray every 10-14 days. I’ve used this at home and have recommended it to others who come into the shop.

One thing I would not do without now is my Solo Sprayer. This is a quality manual spray bottle available in either 1L or 2L. These have a great nozzle that can be turned to focus the spray on the underside of the leaves.

I recently found a selection of homemade bug spray recipes that I’ll share.  Not all are ultra-effective, but they are worth a try to keep it natural.   The soap and/or oil is added as a wetting agent and allows the mix to “stick” to the insects and leaves.  As with any type of insect control it’s the persistence and repetition that will get results.  The bugs don’t stop multiplying so we need to apply our controls frequently.  Add a couple of teaspoons of liquid fertilizer to foliar feed your plants as you spray.  Healthy plants will always be more resistant to damage by the critters. Good luck with these.

AutoPot News

We have a new AutoPot product in store.  Introducing the Auto8 AutoPot system.  This is a single tray with structure for either 8 15L pots, 8 8.5L pots or a mixture of both.  As this uses a single valve there is less maintenance than the standard twin or single tray systems.  Ideal for the vertical and smaller plants, strawberries etc.  I’m looking forward to getting ours underway with brassicas.

Currently in the green house our tomatoes are still producing well and the cucumber is exceeding my expectations.  I believe in multiple plantings to get the most out of the extended season a greenhouse can give.   Even now I have taken some of the laterals and put them in potting mix to start new plants of the varieties that did so well this year.  I’m hoping to winter these over as well as saving seed to ensure I have the prolific Orange Grape tomato again next summer.

The current tomatoes in the green house are planted in a new media we have named Canna Terra Professional. I am very impressed with the results in the AutoPot.  You can see from the thickness of the stems that these tomatoes are loving the environment they are in.  The Terra is a mix of Peat, Peat moss and perlite which gives the plant the right amount of air around the roots as well as retention of water.  Being a peat-based product it is high in nitrogen which has given the plants a roaring start.  It is designed to be used with the Canna Terra nutrient range but as you can see it’s doing beautifully with our Mr Bloom as well.

Kumera Harvest time

We bit the bullet this week and harvested the Kumera we had planted in October. Like potatoes, you never know what is underneath the lush growth. I worried that all the energy had gone into the abundant leaves and not the roots. I’ve used the young leaves in salads but as these young leaves were turning yellow and I had other seedlings to put in that bed, Heather and I decided it was time.

You have to dig deep to get all the kumera so we got the wheelbarrow and dug out some of the garden so we could take care searching. It was a most satisfying experience!! 15Kg of Kumera from a 1m x 2m raised bed. Well worth the effort.

You must be careful storing Kumera. Any bruised or nicked tubers need to be used straight away. The large ones apparently don’t store well so use them first. The small ones will be quickly boiled and then used in a stir fry. Finally, the medium ones will be put in a cool, dry, dark place until required.

Rok Solid competition

During April and May we have a competition to win a 10Kg bag of Rok solid.  Simply send $25 in store to go into the draw.  The 10Kg bag for April was won by Claire Crocker of Te Horo.  The last 10Kg bag will be drawn at the end of May.  We are down to our last few bags of this wonderful product so be in quick.

May Special

For the rest of May and June we will be discounting the Certified Organic Gardeners Choice compost by 20%.  Normal retail price for the 40L bag is $18 now $14.40. Great value for a certified organic compost.

Heather’s Corner

I’m sure I have written about whitefly before, probably several times. It’s a real problem in my garden at home at present.  Other years I have managed to keep it under control with a controlled spray programme, but this year, for a variety of reasons, I haven’t managed to do that, hence, once again it is out of control. I have always found that spraying regularly with Super Neem Oil has done the trick. I recently heard Rudd Kleinpaste talking about whitefly, and he said they have a waterproof coating, so oil is the thing to treat them with. Spray under the leaves as this seems to be where they congregate. My worry is, that now they have control of my garden, they’ll be over wintering in their nymph stage. The nymph is flat and scale like and remains under the leaves until they reach crawler stage. Keep spraying to get rid of the nymph over winter, otherwise, it’s back to square one next summer. They seem to like citrus and various ornamentals as well as the vegetable garden so keep checking everything. I’m also going to use neem granules in the soil. When planting, put a few granules down and the plant will take that up making it less attractive to whitefly. If you notice sooty mould on your plants you definitely have an insect problem and it’s time to start using neem. Spray in the evening when the bees aren’t around. Never spray oil in direct sunlight as it will burn your plant. As with any spray, always check the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Homemade bug sprays

Rhubarb Leaf Insecticide

Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid. This is toxic to aphids but safe to use around bees.  It does break down quickly so use it within a few days of mixing.

  • 1.5Kg rhubarb leaves
  • 30g soft soap
  • 3.5 L water

In a large old pot boil the roughly chopped rhubarb leaves, soap and water for about 30 minutes. Strain and cool before applying.

Buttermilk Mite Spray

Spray on red spider mites and their eggs every 10 days until you no longer see any.


  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 5 L water

Mix and apply undiluted.  You can mix a bit of oil as a wetting agent to ensure coats the mites

Baking Soda Spray

Use for rust and powdery mildew


  • 100g Baking Soda
  • 4.5L water
  • 45g soap

Mix together and apply undiluted to the leaves as often as required

Skim Milk Spray

Use weekly to control mosaic disease, powdery mildew and rust on roses, lettuces, pumpkins, strawberries, and tomatoes.  You must use Skim milt as the fats in whole milk can turn rancid and attract flies.


  • 450g skim milk powder
  • 1 L water

Mix and spray.

Chili pepper spray

Try this spray to deal with caterpillars or spray around the base of potted plants to deter nesting ants.  Cats aren’t fond of it so you can apply it to areas you don’t want them to soil.  Horses aren’t fussed with it either and I’ve used it on the stable gate to stop my young one chewing the wood.


  • 4 fresh red chili or 4 teaspoons chili powder – We still have some hot ghost chili available in the shop for a gold coin donation to HUHA
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 2 onions
  • 2L water
  • A squirt of dish washing liquid

Blend vegetables with 3 cups of water in a food processor.  Pour into a bucket and top up with remaining water.   Stand for 24 hours.  Strain and add detergent. Use undiluted.

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