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Popeye was right!

Courtesy of Yates.

Spinach is laden with fantastic antioxidants and is high in health-benefiting carotenoids — although you can’t see them because they are masked by spinach’s high chlorophyll content. Spinach is also a good source of vitamins, fibre and protein, so Popeye was one smart cartoon character to love this leafy green so much.

Wintery goodness

Winter Queen is a tasty, prolific and early- maturing spinach variety with large deep green leaves. It can be sown throughout New Zealand in June and it's as easy as sowing a few seeds in a clump, directly where they are to grow in a sunny spot in the vegetable garden.

Seeds will take one to three weeks to germinate so don't give up on them too quickly. You can be harvesting leaves in as little as eight to 10 weeks. The beauty of loose, leafy vegetables like spinach is that you can harvest individual leaves as you need them.

No vegetable patch? Not a problem. Winter Queen can also be grown in pots filled with a good quality potting mix like Yates Premium Potting Mix. Choose a sunny spot on a patio or balcony and it's helpful to rotate the pots 180 degrees every week so that as many of the spinach plants are exposed to as much sunlight as possible.

To keep your spinach productive and flourishing, feed each week with Yates Thrive Vegie & Herb Liquid Plant Food and pick the leaves regularly.

Pest watch

Keep an eye out for caterpillars on your leafy greens. Caterpillars are voracious chewing pests that can devour entire plants if left to their own devices. Keep caterpillars under control with some regular sprays of ready-to-use Yates Natures Way Organic Citrus, Vegie & Ornamental Spray, ensuring you spray on both sides of the foliage as that's where caterpillars often hide.

Baby beets

Beetroot is a versatile and delicious vegetable that's low in fat and is a rich source of folate and fibre. The red pigment in beetroot is also reported to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant health benefits, so there are lots of fantastic reasons to eat beetroot.

The root part of beetroot can be grated into salads, roasted, used in relish, hummus, soups and sandwiches and the colourful leaves can be mixed into salads.

If you love home-grown beetroot but don't have a big vegetable patch, then Yates Baby Beets is an ideal space-saving variety. They are perfect for growing in pots or troughs, are tender and sweet and are ready to harvest only six to seven weeks after sowing.

Here's how to grow your very own baby beetroot in a pot:

1. Choose a pot or trough with good drainage holes and fill with a good-quality potting mix like Yates Premium Potting Mix. Position the pot in a spot that receives at least six hours of sunshine a day.

2. Each seed is a cluster of one to four true seeds in a corky outer coating. Soak the seed for two hours before sowing to ensure water penetrates to the seeds.

3. Sow the seeds directly into the potting mix, 12mm deep.

4. Seedlings will emerge in 10 to 14 days.

5. Once the seedlings are established, feed each week with Yates Thrive All-Purpose Soluble Plant Food, which is a complete and balanced fertiliser that contains nitrogen for healthy leaf-growth as well as phosphorus and potassium for strong root development.

6. Baby beets can be harvested after six to seven weeks. A few young tender leaves per plant can be picked earlier for use in salads.

Baby Beets can also be grown in a sunny vegetable patch and seed sown directly where they are to grow. Enrich the soil beforehand with some Yates Dynamic Lifter Organic Plant Food. It adds rich organic matter to the soil which helps improve water and nutrient-holding capacity and provides gentle slow-release nutrients to the beetroot plants as they establish.

World Environment Day — June 5

World Environment Day is all about connecting with our natural environment. This year the theme was “Celebrate Biodiversity”. With 1 million species facing extinction, there has never been a more important time to focus on biodiversity.

Here are a few ideas to help the little people in your life get outside and become closer to nature:

• Lie on the lawn in your backyard (or local park), look up and gaze at the clouds. What shapes can you see? Watch the trees sway in the breeze and listen to the birds. Be still.

• Get your old clothes on and dig in the dirt. It's immunity-boosting and fun. Make mud pies, finger paint with mud or feel it squelch up between your bare toes. Did you know that June 29th is International Mud Day which aims to connect children around the globe by playing in the mud? What a perfect excuse to get grubby.

• Plant something. Grab an old plastic pot, fill it with potting mix and sow some big seeds like snow peas or broad beans. Watch the wonder of seed germination.

• Go on a bug hunt and look for creatures like grasshoppers, butterflies and ladybirds in the backyard or park. Take a magnifying glass and notepad to record your cool natural discoveries.

• Collect leaves, twigs, grasses, seed pods, bark and flowers and create a nature collage. It could be an abstract design or make petal people, their name or initials or leaf animals.

— Courtesy of Yates

A thriving spinach field.