Term 3 – Week 4 – Grow Safe

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Viola – ‘Sorbet Fire’

Spring is definitely in the air here in Central Otago. Things are staring to pop up all over the place. My violas are brightening up the garden. There have been a few frosty mornings this week but nowhere near as cold as it has been. The afternoons have been quite warm especially if you’re out in the sunshine.

On Monday and Tuesday I completed the Grow Safe certificate for horticulture and viticulture. It’s a course about the use of agrichemicals; being able to use them safely and effectively. It covered a lot of material, from basics like safety gear to how to manage the risks. Reading through the list of hazard classifications associated with some sprays makes it clear how seriously you need to take it.

For example:

6.7A – carcinogenic to humans
8.3A – corrosive to eye tissue
9.1A – very ecotoxic in the aquatic environment

Apparently 75% of agrichemicals are toxic in water so there’s a strong emphasis on not contaminating ground water or waterways. Pretty scary stuff.  Wayne (lecturer) mentioned how the safety recommendations are constantly being updated. One agrichemical he’s used for years and years is now considered much more toxic than previously thought and will probably end up off the market. I wouldn’t want a job as a sprayer where you are potentially exposed day in and day out.

Having said that, there are ways to minimise the potential harm with good spraying practices, like always trying to limit spray drift. That means only spraying when conditions are suitable. If wind is over 10km/h (a moderate breeze) drift will start occurring, especially if the spray is fine. And what’s the point of that? You would be wasting the chemical if it’s just blowing away.

You would also be wasting your spray if it’s too hot (the water evaporates in the air and the chemical never makes it onto the plant) or if it’s too cold (spray doesn’t dry and wrecks the fruit or leaves).

There was a practical test as well that included getting into the gear, measuring and mixing up a spray (it was just water for the test), spraying and emptying the tank correctly.

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Richard completing the practical test

On Wednesday we were back at Bannockburn Road campus to plant more of the new cherry trees. We ending up getting about 450 planted. Only 450 more to go!

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Trees transported by Trevor on a tractor

The plastic guards have been put on now. They protect the young trunks from rabbits and sprays. There is also going to be a rabbit fence set up to keep them out.

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Newly planted cherry trees at Bannockburn Road

Thursday was propagation in the nursery. Jo (lecturer) talked about tissue cultures that get sent to a lab for propagation, which was really interesting. Hopefully we’ll get to see some that have come from a lab at some point over the year.

Then we were onto practical work in the nursery. Sowing coriander seeds (which smell amazing!) and some odd jobs like weeding.

I added fertilizer to the chionochloa rigida (snow tussock) that are going to be planted at Lindis Pass. About 1/2 teaspoon per pot.

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Adding fertilizer to the chionochloa rigida

They are sub-alpine plants and are really important to the area. They prefer drier areas and grow above the tree line.

Michael and I drove through Lindis Pass at the start of autumn and it’s a stunning landscape.

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Lindis Pass

More proof that spring is on the way; Jo brought examples of snowdrops and snowflakes. Snowdrops only have one flower, snowflakes have several. Personally, I prefer the look of the snowdrops. I’m going to try to remember to plant some bulbs next year – so pretty!

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Snowdrop vs snowflake

Weather:

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