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Patch from Scratch – April

Patch from Scratch - Organic vegetables in your backyard

Patch from Scratch - Organic vegetables in your backyard

It’s official, vege gardening is the hottest topic around and everyone is eager to know more!  Last year, the Autumn home show surveys filled in by attendees indicated that vege gardening was the No.1 interest that people wanted to find out more about.  In response to that Patch from Scratch were invited to exhibit there this year and give talks every hour for the 3 days duration. Tui Garden products kindly supported us by providing compost and pelletised pea straw and our fab friends at Oakdale organics provided us certified organic seedlings.  Aside from leaving me literally speechless, (my voice seems to have left me and been replaced with a husky croak!) it was absolutely fantastic.  We had a bustling stand and met so many passionate gardeners from absolute beginners through to old hands and a few returnee gardeners too!  It was great chatting with other gardeners as it can be a bit of a solitary hobby and I love hearing other peoples’ secret tips!

Now, I think everyone should have a guru in their life, someone you can turn to when you get stuck, I’ve got two! The first is my Milly, (mother in law) who is my general guru and knows random things such as how to get grease out of clothes (Eucalyptus oil dabbed on before a wash by the way).  The other, is my gardening guru, Bob. He lives round the corner from me and it’s not uncommon to see me racing round to his with some peculiar insect I’ve found in my garden.  He’s very elderly but full of beans (quite literally I think)! He’s the kind of guy who’s always got some project on the go.  Not only does he grow all the veges for the family, he even built the friggin’ house- back in the day!

Gardening is one of the few hobbies that anyone and everyone can have a dabble at or get into seriously.  You don’t need a lot of money, space or time and it’s great for crossing the generations too. My little Renée loves showing granny what she has growing in her garden – and in turn, Granny loves to pass on a few of her secret tips!    So, if you know someone who’s into gardening, have a chat with them, you may just be fascinated by what you find out!

Our Patch Helping Hands program aims to support communities who want to get a garden up and going and need help.  This month we are pleased to have been able to lend a hand to Greenlane Christian Centre who are setting up edible gardens to help stock their food bank which helps those in need.

Beetroot
Beetroots are great to grow at any time of the year, as they can just as easily be added to a salad as they can a roasting pan.  Easy to grow, beetroots are heavy feeders, meaning that they need more than water and what’s in the soil for them to grow best.  If you have a worm farm, worm castings are an ideal source of food, if you don’t, organic sheep pellets are the simplest option, and readily available in most garden centres.  I also like a new product, Natures Curator that I keep hearing and reading about.  I saw quite a dramatic difference in my beetroot after just the first feed.

Beetroot are best grown from seed as they don’t like to be moved or transplanted.  Soak seeds overnight prior to planting to soften the outer coat of the seed.  Plant the seeds about 12mm deep and 6-9cm apart, then cover with fine soil or seed raising mix and press it down gently.  It will take about two weeks before the seeds germinate and you will see little shoots appear.  They generally take 60-70 days from planting the seed to harvesting.  Beetroot like to grow in a sunny spot, and grow well near to leeks and onions. Keep them a good distance from beans though as they inhibit each others growth!

You can eat the leaves whilst the fruit is still growing. They are very tasty and a great addition to salads for both their flavour and to add a splash of colour.  Start picking the leaves about 30 days after planting, just pick a couple from each plant and make sure you leave five central stems.

There are many types of beetroot available, round, oval, stripy, golden yellow and red.  My personal favourite is bull’s blood.  It always amazes me how many people only know beetroot sliced in a tin can and have never seen a whole beetroot. It’s a waste of money to buy the tinned stuff when it’s such an easy vegetable to grow.

Leaf Mould
Instead of sweeping up all your leaves and throwing them away this year, use your autumn leaves to make a leaf mould which will give you an excellent soil improver that can be used in your beds, as a potting mix or as mulch.
Firstly make a wire netting bin by putting 4 stakes/ bamboo poles in the ground in a square about 50cm apart.  Wrapping chicken wire (about 50cm high) around them and bend the joining wires together to keep the shape.
Pile in your leaves, (don’t include evergreens or those affected by rust or other diseases) watering and pushing them down to keep everything compact as the pile grows.  It will take about a year, sometimes two to decompose but eventually it will become crumbly and fibrous.  Speed up the decomposing process by mulching the leaves and mixing in ½ a bucket of fresh grass clippings every 2 months.

Potato Blight

potato-blight

photo from gardenersworld.com

We had one of our readers email us asking why his potatoes were dying off and quite soft when he dug them up. Not something we have had a problem with (as yet), so after a bit of research we found out it was potato blight.

This fungus loves warm, humid weather, so whether or not you are growing your spuds in raised beds, at this time of year the conditions are perfect for it. It’s probably too late to save the current crop, but minimise the chances of getting it next season by taking these measures:

•    Follow a four yearly crop rotation
•    Remove and burn diseased leaves or plants
•    Mulch with seaweed
•    Make compost tea using 1 part well rotted seaweed or composted horse or cow manure with 6 parts water. Stand for a week to brew before spraying on foliage at weekly intervals. This makes it hard for potato blight to get started.
•    Air circulation around plants is important so space them appropriately at planting time
•    Plant marigolds in your potato plot

What to plant in April
Beetroot    Bok Choy     Broad Beans    Broccoli
Cabbage    Carrot    Celery    Chinese Cabbage
Cauliflower     Lettuce    onion    Leeks
Peas     Parsnip    Potato     Rainbow Chard
Silverbeet    Kohlrabi    Spring Onion    Perpetual Spinach

If you want to grow your own veggies 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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