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Patch from Scratch – February

It’s a wonderful time in the vege patch just now, with all that sunshine really helping you to reap the rewards of your hard work. My prize plant this year is a Rockmelon that is coming along nicely.  I have put an old brick underneath it to keep it warm and encourage it to grow. Beautiful summer evenings are perfect for picking fresh salads straight from the beds, snacking on beans and tomatoes as you collect.  Don’t rest on your laurels though, keep planting out quick growing summer crops such as lettuce, mizuna, rocket and mesclun.  Also, think longer term, and start planting out your autumn crops late February, to ensure you have a continuous supply of vegetables once summer ends and the vines shrivel up!   There are a few veges that are particularly versatile and I always keep a good supply of them so if summer carries on longer I can use them in salads and cool dishes and if it finishes sharply they are just as good in a hot dish.  These are my top 5 ‘change of season’ fruit and veg:  Spinach, carrots, beetroot, celery and rhubarb.   Also, I’ve been obsessed with inspecting Praying Mantises knees over the last couple weeks, find out why in our insect section!

One of my clients put me onto The Crowe’s Nest organic home delivery service a few weeks ago, which I have to say has been fantastic.  We grow all our own veges so its really only fruit we need. Anyway, I ordered a fruit box and was thoroughly impressed with their service, quality and also the quantity that you get in a box.  I make a smoothie everyday and the family each have 2-3 pieces each a day, so I was expecting to have to get a few fruits to tide us over towards the end of the week but actually we still had enough for another couple of days.  If you’re thinking of getting home delivery these guys are well worth looking into.

Crowe’s Nest Organic Home Delivery
09 570 4848 or email sales@crowesnest.co.nz

How does your garden grow?
Plants are the only living organisms that can make their own food. This process is called photosynthesis, the single most important chemical reaction in the world, and it takes place in your vege garden.

The green leaves are where it all happens, and it is in the chlorophyll, which gives the leaves their green colour, where the reaction takes place.  Energy from the sun, carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) are the magic ingredients to make simple sugars which the plant then uses to make starch, protein and fats and we eventually eat them.  The by-product of this reaction is oxygen which we also need to stay alive. This complex little reaction that we very rarely think about is what keeps the whole planet powered and keeps the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Interestingly, these powerful little chlorophyll cells are very close in chemical make-up to our own blood. The only difference is a single atom in the middle, which is iron in blood and magnesium in chlorophyll. Not only is the place where photosynthesis takes place doing incredible things for our planet, when we eat chlorophyll it can do amazing things for our health. It only takes a quick Google search to find out some of the amazing health benefits chlorophyll has such as aiding tissue growth and repair, neutralising pollution in our bodies, and stimulating red blood cells to improve oxygen supply.

Hopefully this inspires you keep planting salad greens each month to ensure a constant supply of the sun’s energy and powerful but humble chlorophyll is on your dinner table.

Praying Mantises

New Zealand Praying Mantis adult- care of Hortnet

New Zealand Praying Mantis adult- care of Hortnet

Praying Mantises are most famous for eating their mates and apparently they can eat up to twenty flies a day! This impressive appetite makes these masters of camouflage an important ally in your organic garden.  They will devour those creepy crawlies that are sucking the life out of your vegetable patch, so don’t go spraying these alien looking creatures with your tomato leaf insecticide, let them do the work for you.  But like an insecticide, these predators will also kill off beneficial insects – so don’t let them get over populate your patch.

New Zealand has a native Praying Mantis, which unfortunately is being outnumbered and eaten by the South African Praying Mantis that found its way to our shores in the late 70s. These South African ones live longer, are hardier, surviving the winters, and hatch before the New Zealand ones then eat them! As a result our native will most likely disappear altogether in the next few years.

How do we tell the difference? The New Zealand Praying Mantis has a purple patch on the inside of its front legs that distinguishes it from the South African one. New Zealand Praying Mantises prefer the top of leaves, while South African ones prefer the underside.

South African Praying Mantis(

South African Praying Mantis

New Zealand Praying Mantises egg in winter

New Zealand Praying Mantises egg in winter

New Zealand Praying Mantis nymph

New Zealand Praying Mantis nymph

Photos care of Landcare Research

Patch helping hands
This is the community involvement part of the business, where we give back and try to spread the knowledge by helping community groups get a vege patch up and growing.  Patch from Scratch worked with a range of charity projects last year and we are currently looking for more charity projects for 2009 within the Auckland area.  If you know of a group that would benefit from starting up a vegetable patch or having an existing patch revitalized please email us on sarah@patchfromscratch.co.nz

What to plant in February
Beetroot    Carrot    Celery    Dwarf beans
Leeks    Lettuce    Onion    Parsnip
Perpetual Spinach     Potato    Pumpkin    Radish
Rocket    Silverbeet    Spring Onion

If you want to grow your own veges and could do with a helping hand to get the right start, then you may want to seek help.  Patch from Scratch offers an all inclusive service building and maintaining veggie beds for beginner organic gardeners and busy people.  We also offer Kits sets for DIY enthusiasts and a consultancy service for people who really want to do it all themselves but just need a bit of guidance.

For more on our services go to www.patchfromscratch.co.nz or call us for details 09 525 7897 / 021 334 603.

Happy Gardening!

Sarah Davies

Patch from Scratch Ltd
PO Box 11105
Ellerslie 1542, Auckland
phone 09 525 7897
mobile 021 334 603
email sarah@patchfromscratch.co.nz

www.patchfromscratch.co.nz

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