Protect seedlings from creatures great and small

WALLY RICHARDS
Last updated 07:40 02/11/2012
Seedlings
Fairfax NZ
It's time to get those seedlings in the garden – but make sure you protect them from pests.

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Now is a good time to get your gardens planted out for the summer and autumn.

Keen gardeners have already made significant progress in their gardens and are likely into the final stages with daily patterns of watering and nipping out the odd weed seedlings.

Spring is the time for renewal and all around birds are sitting on nests and causing a bit of havoc in gardens as they search for titbits to feed their young. I often get calls from gardeners that have problems with blackbirds mucking up their gardens and mulch in the quest for food.

There are two things to do to solve this problem and the first is to supply the birds with ample food for their young. This is best done by getting a bit of liver and chopping it up into small bits. Place these in a pot with three cups of rice and sufficient water to cook. Stir occasionally till the rice is cooked. Place spoonfuls of the mix out in suitable spots for the birds to eat. Do this two to three times a day and again after dark so the early birds have the food for breakfast.

To keep the birds off the areas where you don't want them you can string some bird repeller ribbon (available from most garden centres). The desire to nurture their young is so great that the ribbon will be of little use unless you supply a good amount of food. Besides the rice, you can feed them bird seed, bread, etc, but protein is what the birds want for their young, and the liver and rice mix is a good source.

Planting out of seedlings is one of the main tasks at this time along with germinating seeds for planting out later. Seedlings face three dangers that can decimate the young plants. Birds, which we have already mentioned, cats, which just love freshly prepared soils as toilets, and slugs and snails that like seedlings.

To keep cats away from your new gardens obtain a product that is called Cat Repellent. Sprinkle some of the crystals around the area you want to protect. As the crystals evaporate sprinkle a few more till the cats have formed new habits.

Slugs and snails also can attack seedlings and the best method of dealing with them is to spray Liquid Copper, with Raingard added, over the seedlings and surrounding soil. The slugs and snails cannot go over copper without being affected so they stay away from treated areas. Repeat treatment about every 10 to 14 days. Slugs and snails are an advantage in the garden as they aid in the breakdown of decomposing organic material and are an important part of the soil food web. We just need to keep them off our living plants.

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Germinating seedlings indoors is a frustrating experience for many gardeners because there is not enough natural light for the new seedlings. As soon as the first show of germination takes place the trays or punnets must be moved to a place where they have full light but not strong, direct sunlight. Ideally a glasshouse with a bit of shade cloth is perfect.

You may like to spray your seedlings with Vaporgard an hour or two before transplanting. This reduces moisture loss and reduces transplant shock. The seedlings stand up quicker and start growing faster and it also protects them against cold snaps and late frosts.

Once planted and watered in you can sprinkle the Cat Repellent around if need be and spray the seedlings and mulch with Liquid Copper and Raingard to keep the slugs and snails at bay.

It is important that you water your new plantings lightly and frequently.

- The Southland Times

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