Mexican Villains

mexica10The kitchen garden is really happening now with harvesting our produce a daily job. It’s also a time to take stock of our successes and failures and keep a vigilant eye out for insects and birds trying to steal from us! This month is a very active month especially for the lady beetle that is busy consuming 50-70 aphids a day. The beetle will probably consume about 5,000 aphids in her lifespan. These beetles are very beneficial for the gardener as they keep our infestation levels down and help to biologically control aphids so we can avoid using chemicals on the food we eat.
The good Lady beetle has 18 spots and is a nice red colour. You have to be quick if you’re going to count the spots but the secret to this is that the wings are identical. You only need to count one side before she takes flight to work out if your lady beetle is a beneficial insect. If you discover the counted spots are 28 or 16 you just may have discovered a vegetarian villain!
Introducing the ‘Mexican bean beetle’, he looks like a lady beetle but not so nice. This little devil is a bit rounder and bigger with a pale orange colour and 16 spots. The Mexican bean beetle is very active at the moment making a mess of our beans, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and zucchini leaves. They suck the life out of the foliage leaving it pale and mottled. Without the green chlorophyll in leaves it’s very difficult to photosynthesis, a process essential for plants to produce energy and food. The Mexican bean beetles favourite food is actually the weed Deadly nightshade. The beetle usually starts on the weed and then moves onto your vegetable garden. Good housekeeping is a good deterrent; control your weeds regularly as a preventative. The organic way to get rid of this pest is good old fashioned labour, hand pick the beetles and place in a bucket of soapy water. Look for the yellow , spiny larvae underneath the leaves and squash them. Make yourself up a quantity of soapy water spray or pyrethrum and garlic spray and regularly spray the leaves if you have noticed them in your garden. Soapy water is a good natural insecticide for sucking and chewing insects. To make the spray it’s as simple as choosing a natural dishwashing liquid and give a big squirt into a watering can or bucket , pour straight on or make up a batch and pour into a spray bottle.

plants to keep cats happy!

Cat planterCat lovers will understand there’s a need to satisfy our feline friends who choose to live with us and often rule the roost. There’s something very special about watching the magic of a cats curiosity as they wonder through the garden. Cats seem so enchanted by insects and butterflies, fishponds and bobbing flower heads. The love stops when they completely destroy your favourite plant or use your vegetable garden as a personal bathroom!
Plants for cats will draw your furry friends away from the garden collectables and provide them with a cat friendly sanctuary, enticing them to sleep, roll and enjoy a sensory explosion. Plants for cats can be used indoors and outdoors. Planting clumps of Cat grass will entice them to nibble and play with the grass. Portable trays can be planted up with Cat grass, use an old seedling tray filled with seed raising mix. The grass will divide once established. The tray can be moved around indoors to counter act the boredom when you’re not home or outdoors to attract them to a spot in the garden just for them. If you plant up several trays then it’s easy to replenish them by swapping them over with fresh new trays of Cat grass every so often. Cat grass contains nutrients essential in their diet and it seems that rabbits, guinea pigs and even dogs like to nibble it.
Catnip’s botanical name Nepeta cateria tells us the plant originated in the Italian town of Nepete and cateria is the latin word for cat. The plant itself is a lovely little soft perennial with heart shaped leaves, silvery light green appearance and something of a culinary delight for your pussy cat. This plant could grow in the ground or in pots. Catnip will sooth your cat and makes him sleepy with pleasure. They just love walking amongst it and experience a natural high, so to speak. Use this plant along borders and direct your cat’s path of play. Catnip is a sun loving plant and would prefer regular watering once a week with a soil that is well drained. Planting Cat grass and Catnip together is the modern Kitty’s salad bar! Even if you don’t have a cat this plant is a beneficial pollinator for your garden. It has pretty little pink or white flowers depending on the species and there is also a lemon scented cat nip too.
But wait there’s more.. Valerian is a well-known herb for its beneficial sleeping properties for people and has the same effect on cats. They will scratch around this plant as the attractive part for them is the roots. Valerian flowers are dense clusters of tiny flowers in various colours with a wonderful vanilla fragrance in summer. The plant is a soft perennial reaching a height of around 60-90 cm. Lemon Grass fits into this culinary delight perfect for kitchen gardening and perfect for your cats senses. Choose one plant or all and create a garden of bliss for your feline friend and yourself!