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Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Mangawhai Focus

Along with writing for The New Zealand Gardener, Get Growing and Coastline, I also write a regular column for The Mangawhai Focus. My brief from the editor, Rob, is to keep the good people of Mangawhai up to date with the phases of the moon and her influence over their gardens. It's a little tricky sometimes, guessing at what conditions might be like in a town very far from Riverton, but the moon looks the same from there as it does from here, and plants are plants. Here's my latest column,fyi,  for those dedicated readers of my blog who don't receive a copy of the Mangawhai Focus on their doorsteps twice  a month.

Are you suffering the hot, muggy weather we are labouring under here in Riverton, I wonder?
Autumn is supposed to be cool and clear, at least here in Southland, but this year's season is doing something quite different. The exceptional global temperatures recorded in February should have been a heads-up, I suppose, especially when I read that El Nino's influence has a lag-time and the warmer oceans wouldn't release their stored heat until this month, but because warm weather is pleasant, I didn't worry. It'll be upsetting farmers and gardeners alike in parts of the world that are more than hot enough already and those who have been hoping for rain to break their killer droughts won't be thanking El Nino at all. Where ripening fruit is the focus; orchards commercial and home, the sticky, warm conditions will have fruit growers fretting about fungus. Rots of various sorts can ruin harvests quickly and the solution; spraying with fungicide, is not one the healthy would-be fruit-eater likes. Here in my garden, I'm hauling in baskets-full of pears, apples and plums and it's the latter that are most affected by the rotters. Fresh plums stored in boxes and baskets seem to be very attractive to a fungus that looks like white hairs and rapidly spreads through the harvest of plums. The moon won't be helping either, with her habit of lifting moisture out of the ground and holding it close to the soil. It's good if you are planting seeds or transplanting seedlings where moisture is the key to success, but if you are a soft fruit vulnerable to rotting, you'll be hoping the moon moves on to a phase that does the opposite; drawing moisture down and away from the surface. The Autumn solstice is approaching and will have those who take note of the progress of the seasons and the points at which those seasons meet their zenith will be celebrating in whatever manner their learning takes them. Some might like to drink to the Fall, and remind themselves that this is the time for making fruit wines from ripe autumn fruits. I'm an amateur cider maker and have already put down my first demijohn of Riverton's Best. I've set aside pears as well, not for cider, but for perry, made similarly but tasting quite different. I'm not sure how the moon will affect the yeasts needed to produce both of these brews, but I do know where to find out such details. The Biodynamic calendar, available from the Biodynamic Association of New Zealand, has a detailed, day-by-day description of exactly what the moon is doing and even throws in information of the planets and their contribution to plant growth.  

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