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Hello & Happy New Year!

I hope your gardens are surviving as we are now into the height of summer here in Perth.  I know our garden struggles with lack of water (we don't have scheme water and are pretty miserly with the bore) but mulching heavily and using overhead shadecloth keep things going until cooler temperatures return.  We are harvesting some greens, tomatoes & zucchini, and will have cucumbers coming along really soon.  Unfortunately our corn and melons were a bit neglected during their early growth phase so I am not expecting great things from them this year...

Gardening is always a learning experience, and it differs with conditions from year to year - I guess that's what makes it part of the fun!

I hope you've had some successes in your garden this spring/summer?  Don't forget to send us your photos and share them on Facebook - people love to see what can be achieved, and it's great for inspiring others.

Speaking of inspiring - are YOU going to enter our Tomato Contest this year? See below for the full details - there are lots of great prizes to win!

And in some other news - our own blend of Seed Raising Mix has just been awarded NASAA Organic Certification; the first commercial seed raising mix in Australia to achieve this!  So when you're ready to get your seeds going for Autumn crops, do give some a try; we know you'll love it!   

In this newsletter:

Jobs to do in the garden right now
What to plant
Tomato Contest 2015
Soil microbes
Water & Your Lawn in Summer
Super Summer Deal on Pea Straw

Jobs to do in the garden

Summer is a time of watching, nurturing and (hopefully) harvesting. The work you did in Spring to prepare your soil will be paying off.
  • Watch developing fruit to ensure it isn’t suffering from pest attack or sunburn. Treat as necessary.
  • Shade - gardens in Perth need shade to be productive. If you have no natural shade, then shadecloth is necessary. There is much debate about how much % blockout you should use for plants. It’s much less than we humans need. In horticultural circles, 30 - 50% is often recommended. This may work well if your garden is fairly sheltered and may receive some morning or afternoon shade from trees or structures, and is well-watered. Our garden is in a very exposed, hot spot and we have found that anything less than 70% is ineffective.
Always choose white or light coloured shadecloth in preference to green, black, blue or red. The darker colours affect the way light is received by the plants, and will have a detrimental effect on plant growth.

If you’re looking for shadecloth, we have white 70% horticultural grade shadecloth in stock. It is $18.50 per lineal metre, and is 3.66m wide.
  • Watering. Keep watering at regular intervals to reduce stress on plants (which may result in blossom end rot in tomatoes and capsicum). Water the soil, not the leaves of the plants (to avoid things like powdery mildew on cucumbers and pumpkins). If water isn’t penetrating the soil, use a soil wetter. We recommend Eco-wet as it is one of the environmentally friendly ones on the market. Using plain detergent and some of the cheaper soil wetting products can harm soil life and earthworms. Adding Sand Remedy (or any clay product) is a permanent way to help with water holding in your soil.
  • Assess.  Make some notes & take photos of how things are going in your garden, and where they are situated. It will help you next spring with your planning, and crop rotation. You can easily remember what worked and what didn’t, and improve your results.
  • Plan.  Start thinking about your autumn garden! Sure it seems a long way away, but now is a good time to start going through seeds, seeing what you need to re-order, and planning what you want to grow. Research new varieties, crop rotation and companion planting to give you inspiration and ideas. Consider which beds need rejuvenating prior to planting, and talk to us for recommendations of the most effective and best value ways to do this.

What to Plant Now

Anything you are planting out now (seeds or seedlings) is going to need some extra TLC to succeed.  But with enough attention and water, things will grow quickly with the warmth.  Some ideas to try are:

Beans Snake, Beetroot, Capsicum. Chillies, Carrots, Celery, Cucumber. Eggplant. Kale, Kohl Rabi, Lettuce, Spring Onions, Pumpkin, Radish, Melons, Silverbeet, Squash, Corn. Sweet Potato, Tomato, Zucchini

It's probably getting to the last chance to grow some of these summer crops (although of course it depends on when Autumn comes!), so get cracking.  Growing from seedlings will give you a head start.

2015 Moon Planting Calendars are now in stock, so grab one of these to help you plan the best time for your gardening jobs this year.

We have some great advanced Chilli plants in stock right now, so come and grab some bargains!  (Some of them are in the photo right here.)

Tomato Contest

TheoBring in your best homegrown tomatoes by 4pm Saturday, 31st January to enter the 2015 Tomato Contest!

Cost is a gold coin donation to enter; and you will need to complete a form (or you print it out in advance; it’s available online in the link here)

Tomatoes will be judged anonymously by our celebrity judge, Theo Kalogeracos (pictured above). Theo is the owner of Little Caesars Pizzeria, and has won national and international awards for his creative pizzas. He is renowned for using only the best local produce on his pizzas, and we discovered last year that his grandfather was a commercial tomato grower; so he knows a good tomato when he sees one!

There will be prizes of gardening vouchers, pizza vouchers, books - and certificates for the prize winners. Depending on the entries received, we will award prizes for top tasting, biggest, smallest, most unusual - or anything else we believe is worthy of special mention!

It’s always a bit of fun, so we hope you will enter. As they say “you’ve got to be in it to win it” - so get those tomatoes flourishing, and bring them in to us for the contest!  (See 'rules' and full details  here - click on this link.)

Soil Microbes

microscopic soilPaul recently attended a workshop held in WA by the Soil Foodweb International to learn more about soil microbes, and identifying them by microscope.   In 2015, armed with this new knowledge and a microscope, we are conducting trials with our soils to monitor microbial activity and plant growth.

We are dedicated to continually improving our soils so that you get the best results in your garden and the best value for money.

Paul would be happy to share what he’s learnt with you, and we hope to soon offer a service to analyse your soil for microbial activity - watch this space!

Water & Your Lawn - Summer Survival

Nick BellYou may know that Nick Bell is working with us to provide a consultancy service for Square Foot Gardens and Lawns.  He has been busy over recent weeks responding to cries for help from many people who are finding their lawns are not doing well at the moment.

Nick is available to come and check out your lawn, and provide a personalised report - see this link for more information.

Nick is finding that many problems are originating from lack of sufficient water - here are his tips on how to make sure your lawn receives adequate moisture in summer and remains healthy.

Lawn Health in Summer  -  by Nick Bell, Advanced Diploma Horticulture-Turf.

lawn rollsWhen lawns are suffering from heat stress they draw moisture from the leaf.  The turf loses turgidity (ie. wilts), the colour turns blue/brown, foot prints are left when the lawn is walked on, and the grass blades are scorched.  In most cases however the lawn is not dead and will recover from stolons and rhizomes which are underground after adequate watering.

From the beginning of December until the end of February hand-watering or watering with portable above-ground sprinklers is often needed to supplement Water Corporation allocations.

But the first thing to do is to do a test on how efficient your sprinkler system is.  You may be able to adjust it, or fix the system to bring your lawn back to health once you know how much water it is receiving - you might be surprised by the results.

Catch cups (graduated measuring containers) are a valuable tool in testing how efficiently a sprinkler system is operating.

Calculate the run time required to deliver a standard drink by testing how efficiently the sprinklers are operating. Spread catch cups randomly around the watering zone. Make sure they are at least 1 metre from the closest sprinkler. Note how long it takes the sprinklers to fill the catch cups to the depth required. For example, on a sandy soil a standard drink is 10mm of precipitation so the average depth of water in each catch cup needs to be 10mm. If there is a larger variation in the depth of water captured by the various catch cups then the sprinkler system is not applying the water evenly and should be checked for design or maintenance faults. Once the faults have been corrected run the test again to determine how long to run the sprinklers to deliver the standard drink.

The following Catch Cup DIY Test will enable people to determine the amount of water applied with sprinklers.

1. Place straight sided coffee mugs midway between sprinklers.
2. Run irrigation system for 10 minutes and use a ruler to measure and record the water in mm collected in each mug.
3. Divide the total amount of mm collected by the number of catch cups (mugs).
4. Repair or if necessary replace broken or malfunctioning nozzles or sprinklers.
5. Adjust the run time on each station to ensure that an average of 10mm of water is collected on each of the allocated watering days.

Lawn inspections, consultations and reports and recommendation can be arranged through the Green Life Soil Company for $55.00.  Click here to get in touch with Nick.

Super Special Deal on Pea Straw

One of the best ways to protect your garden in Summer is using mulch. And sometimes, by the end of summer, topping up your mulch is a good idea. Some of it may have begun to breakdown (and feed the soil), some may have blown away, or the dog may have eaten it! (strange, but true).

One of the best mulches for vegie gardens, roses, pots, young fruit trees, cottage gardens and general gardens/shrubs is Pea Straw. 

  • Pea straw adds valuable organic matter to the soil which feeds soil microbes.
  • As a legume, pea straw contains nitrogen which acts as a fertliser to your plants, once it breaks down.
  • Light in colour, pea straw reflects heat and helps keep your soil cool.
We have a fantastic deal for you up until the end of January. VIP members can buy pea straw at the ultra-special price of $13.00 per bale (save $5.00/bale on the normal VIP price and $8.00/bale on the standard price).
  • Valid with any purchase of $50 or more 
  • Limit of 5 bales per customer
  • Offer valid intil 31st January 2015
  • Bales can be purchased in store or added to any bulk order or online order (online customers, purchase the 5 bale pack 'summer deal' in the members/VIP product section - please note you will only be allowed to add 1 pack/5 to your order, or ring through).

While we normally do carry a good stock of pea straw - if you are coming any distance to pick some up from GLSC, please ring ahead to ensure we have sufficient stock on hand - it will sell very quickly with this offer! 

Until next time - happy gardening!  From the Team @ The Green Life Soil Co

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