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Hello and welcome to Autumn! 

While we can expect some hot days to come, there is no doubt days are getting shorter, and the change of season is definitely in the air.  We are coming up to one of the most productive opportunities to plant and grow in Perth, so make sure you're ready!

To help inspire and inform you, we have Nick Bell and Leesa Caldwell coming in to store again over the next few weeks to talk to you about Square Foot Gardening, growing herbs & vegies; and of course Nick can provide you with a wealth of information about getting your lawn back into shape.  (Sat 14th March & Sat 11th April from approx. 10.30 - 12.30)

Come and talk to us about your Autumn gardening project, and we can provide you with advice on the best value methods to suit your needs.

We have introduced a great new referral card system too; with a free gift to your friend, AND a free gift to you, also.  We know many of you are already telling your friends, neighbours and relatives about us - and we really appreciate it.  Word of mouth is hugely important to small businesses like ours; so we hope you will take advantage of the referral card gift as our small way of saying THANK YOU!  Pick some up next time you pop in!!

So for now - Happy Gardening!

adrian tomato cropLinda & the Team @ The Green Life Soil Co.

In this newsletter:

Jobs to do in the garden this Autumn
What to Plant Now
Tomato Contest Winners
Straw Bale Gardens
Lawn consulting service - photos
VIP offers & Seasonal Products

 

Jobs to do in the garden this Autumn

  • Keep an eye on watering - as days are shorter & nights are cooler, hopefully we may need less water in the garden; but don't be caught out by hot days.
  • Trim & deadhead summer flowering plants & shrubs for a tidy up and to keep growth compact.
  • Remove spent summer crops & flowering plants.  Compost healthy material, bin anything that is diseased.
  • Prepare garden beds with a soil improver (like our Vegie Concentrate, General Concentrate or simply manure and compost) - incorporate to at least 10 - 20cms deep and water in well.  Preferably leave to sit for a week or two (keep it watered) before planting out.
  • Plan & plant your winter crops!  (Now is a great time to get seeds going in trays - we have a good range of heritage seeds available).
  • Revamp your pots & containers with fresh annuals & spring flowering bulbs.  Renew spent potting mix and hanging basket liners.
  • Now is a good time to take softwood & semi-hardwood cuttings from some of your flowering plants & shrubs;  use rooting hormone powder or honey to help ensure healthy, quick root formation.  See our fact sheet on propagating from cuttings.

What to Plant Now

Autumn is such an exciting time in the garden & is probably THE best season for gardening in Perth.  Check out our 'When to Plant Guide' for the full list & ideal germination tips.  But just to give you a taste, we are having new winter vegie seedlings coming on stream every week right now (here's some luscious looking pea seedlings Leesa brought in last weekend!).

It's time to plant:

Beans (be quick, before it gets too cold/wet) & Broad beans, Beetroot, Broccoli, Cabbage, Celery, Celeriac, Chillies, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chives, Garlic, Kale, Kohl Rabi, Leek, Lettuce, Spring Onions, Parsnips, Peas & Snow peas, Potatoes, Radish, Silverbeet, Spinach, Swede, Turnips

Tomato Contest Winners 2015

We had a really interesting selection of tomato varieties entered into our contest this year, including: Black Cherry & Green Zebra (the winners); Red Roma, Swanson, Super Sioux, Jaune Flamme, Green Grape, Tommie Toe and Big Red.

A huge thank you to those who entered our Tomato Contest.  Theo from Little Caesars once again kindly gave his time to judge the entries, and his selections were:

Livy Bowden - 1st place with 'Black Cherry'
Adrian Italiano - 2nd place with 'Green Zebra'
Lachlan Bowden - 3rd place with 'Green Zebra'

I visited Livy & Lachlan's garden, (pictured above right) and it was great to see the family are keen gardeners; growing many heritage vegies from seed in their Darlington backyard.  Dad (Brad) explained that the tomatoes bore well this year - especially after they netted the plants to deter pests (including birds and kangaroos; who regularly visit the garden to 'share' the bounty!).

Their family secret for growing great tomatoes (passed down from Brad's father) is to incorporate a bit of wood ash (from their fire) and worm castings (from their worm farm) into the soil when preparing for planting.

Adrians broccoliIt's always wonderful to see children in the garden, learning where their food comes from!  Livy selected Telethon as her chosen charity, so we have made a $50 donation to this worthy cause.

Our second place winner is a very keen young gardener, too!  Adrian is 18, and is already an experienced gardner.  He regularly shares pictures to our Facebook page of his garden produce (here's one to the right with a MONSTER broccoli he grew this winter), and looks after quite a large garden at his family's Millendon home. They're his tomatoes pictured above on the kitchen bench, and his tomato plants shown at the foot of this newsletter.

Thanks again & well done to EVERYONE who entered.

 

Straw bale garden beds/Hay bale garden beds

Many people like to grow in raised beds, but aren’t sure about what to use as the supporting material for the soil. Sure, there are many different choices - you can use steel, timber, bricks -anything from fancy, custom designed products to using recycled materials & DIY budget conscious versions...  But have you considered using straw bales?

garden diagramThe concept is to make a square or rectangle (or L-shaped!) bed out of a number of straw bales, stacked tightly end to end. You can make a quick, custom shaped design to suit your available area.

Bales can be left ‘as is’ or tied together - you can use a rope around the entire perimeter (for square/rectangular beds) or you can use fine bamboo stakes driven at an angle through two bales to pin them together or to the ground, or upright stakes through each separate bale directly pinning them to the ground.  If you wish to split bales to use half sized bales in your design, it is best done with two people with all the tools (binding twine or rope) at the ready.  Keep straw compacted and secure it tightly ASAP to retain it's shape and density.  Once a bale has 'decompressed' it is much harder to work with.

Worried about root competition or contamination from existing soil? Line the bed with a layer of UV stabilised black plastic. Add a couple of drainage holes in the corners that can be monitored for root intrusion.
cross section garden bed
The resulting garden bed space can be filled with soil, or use more broken bales in the bottom to take up space (or use your own garden waste, sticks, twigs - etc.) before adding a smaller layer of topsoil ready for planting.


The advantages of this method are:

  • L shaped garden bedCheap, simple and fast to make.
  • Recycling and recyclable. A waste product (straw) is put to great use.
  • Removeable. Great option for seasonal beds, or for renting.
  • Provides protection. The height of the bales - if not filled to the brim with soil - ensures some wind protection and shelter for young seedlings; or design of beds can have a higher wall to provide protection.

Doesn’t the straw break down?

YES! Of course it does. But not for a good few growing seasons; by which stage you’re likely to want to refresh your garden soil anyway. Then simply break up the older bales and use them in compost or in the lower layer of your NEW straw bale garden bed. Or simply spread them around the garden to use as valuable mulch.

Can I use Hay bales?

rectangular straw bale bedYES! Hay is the top part of the plant that contains the seed head, which means it is usually valuable for stock feed. Straw is the remainder of the plant when the heads have been harvested. While you will get some seeds, there will be fewer. This will mean the bales won’t sprout so much into green squares, and you may end up with less weeds in your garden as a result of using straw. But if Hay is cheap and readily available, there is no practical reason why it can’t be used.

How many bales you need is a matter of available space. On average, a bale is around 90 - 96cms long and about 45cms high and wide. We would normally recommend a growing depth of 30cms of good soil; so you will have a natural ledge of about 15cms to your garden; enough to allow for a layer of mulch and to provide some protection to young seedlings. 

Normally, you would only need one bale height to create a garden bed; however two or more layers stacked on top of each other can be used on one or two sides if desired, to provide additional protection from wind or sun.  Use additional height if you intend to lay shadecloth or insect netting over the top, as the extra height will allow for good circulation.

Other ideas:

tied round bale bedThis ‘retaining wall’ system of straw bales also makes a fantastic, large compost heap to compost autumn leaves, lawn clippings, mulched prunings - etc. No turning required, just water over summer and leave nature to do the work! In 6 - 12 months you will have lovely rich compost to use!
(The diagram shows a bale in the centre, placed on its end.  This give a high point in the middle of the bed that can be used to support shadecloth or insect netting draped over the bed, for improved airflow.)

Direct planting into Straw Bales

For this option I would definitely recommend using straw over hay; due to the amount of seed that will sprout in a hay bale. The idea is to use the bale itself as a planter! (Yes, really!)

Advantages of this method are:

  • straw bale gardenCheap & easy; straw bales are easy to source all year round.
  • Portable - excellent for renting and temporary gardens; perfect for brand new gardens.
  • Recyclable - the end product adds valuable organic matter to your garden.
  • Reduce bending - the height of the bale means less bending to tend and harvest.


This method is perfect for those who have NO garden – ie. Just built a new home & need time to properly plan and build their ideal garden. You can grow in the bales this season, then when they’re spent and decomposing, add them to the soil, or make compost to help build soil structure and build your “proper” garden beds.

You will need to use old bales that have aged and partially commenced breaking down; if they’ve been standing outside in the weather for a month or so, they’re probably OK; otherwise you will need to spend about two weeks conditioning a bale to get it ready for planting.

Steps to prepare a bale

  • Site the bale preferably where you want it to grow your plants; once it is holding water it will be quite heavy to move.
  • Use the edge of the bale rather than the flat top with strings (see picture). Leave strings intact.
  • For a week, daily add a minimum of a good watering can to the bale slowly – you want the water to permeate the bale to allow it to begin partially composting. In hot conditions, add more or perhaps do twice a day to ensure the centre of the bale becomes damp.
  • Then, daily for about 5 - 6 days, add some liquid fertiliser (fish hydrolysate, kelp, etc.) to the watering can and water into the bale.
  • After the fertilising days, revert to water for about 3 - 4 days and by then your bale should be ready. 
  • During the conditioning process, the centre of the bale will heat up as it begins the breakdown process. You can check the temperature with a compost or meat thermometer if you like. By the time you plant, the temperature should be lower - normal air temperature or close to it so you don’t cook any seedlings you plant. If you don’t have a thermometer that’s OK - you can feel the temperature with your hands when you’re ready to plant.  Warm is OK but you don't want it to be hot.

Steps to planting

  • Work out what seedlings you are wanting to grow. As a rule, you are better with lower growing plants rather than tall plants (eg. Corn) which may be top-heavy or require support. 
  • Decide on spacing (probably 3 - 4 plants per bale - depending on your choice) and using a trowel, chip into the bale and pull out some of the straw to make a spot for your seedling.
  • Carefully place the seedling, and place some good quality potting mix around the root ball to provide extra nutrition and a growing medium to get the seedling established.
  • Water in well, and continue to provide a light liquid feed every week during the growth/productive life of the plant, as it won’t be accessing many nutrients from the straw bale itself.

Follow our Facebook page to see photos & updates of my strawbale planting experiment I am trialling this March!


Consultancy Service Takes Off!

Nick Bell has been very busy over recent months helping many people around Perth with their lawns & gardens.  Nick's service includes a site visit, and a written report with his recommendations and suggested timing of remedial work to be done.  He can help keep your lawn healthy and doing really well - here are some photos of jobs he has done recently, with a brief explanation of each. 

This photo (above right) shows "beautiful functional Empire Zoysia Lawn maintains strong healthy growth in a root zone prepared by incorporating fully mature compost, Zeolite and Bentonite clay into the soil in prior to laying the turf."

 

"Soft Leaf Buffalo lawn in alkaline soil at Swanbourne transformed after the application of Shades of Green Lawn Fertiliser plus Sulphur." 

 

 

 

 

 

"Soft and lovely to walk on bare foot joy ‘Sapphire’ Soft Leaf Buffalo pool side Lawn in Dalkeith, in soil improved with Green Life ‘Lawn Dress’."

 

 

 

 

 

And remember Nick is our own Square Foot Gardening expert - these shots are of his own Maylands garden growing really well over summer. 

The picture to the right shows "Tomatoes, Blue Lake climbing beans, and Golden Nugget Pumpkins growing in harmony.  The trellis is attached to an eWood Square Metre Raised garden Bed."

 

 

This image shows "Sweet Corn, Tomatoes and Spinach supporting each other and flourishing in an eWood square metre raised garden bed filled with Mel’s Mix for WA."

Mel's Mix for WA is made by The Green Life Soil Co (the mix is more commonly known as Square Foot Garden Mix) - especially formulated for water retention and supplying nutrition for optimum growth in shallow garden beds; comprised of cocopeat, compost and vermiculite with added trace elements and nutrition.  It's great for container growing, too.

Nick will be in store Saturday 14th March and 11th April to help you with advice and information generally about setting up your own hightly productive garden in a small space.  If you have been thinking about getting your garden whipped into shape - NOW is the time to do it, and we're here to help you.

VIP Member Offers

Remember that our VIP customers who sign up on our website have regular access to discounted products either on line or in store.

adrians tomato plantsHere is another SUPER SPECIAL deal - valid until end March 2015  - to get your garden booming for Autumn...  All Fish Hydrolysate fertliser sizes HALF PRICE... 

1L for $6 (normally $12)
5L for $14 (normally $28)
20L for $40 (normally $80)

Valid with any purchase.  Online customers can find these special priced offers in the Members Only section of the website (so you'll need to log in to access them).

If shopping in-store, please ask for the VIP members special prices when purchasing.

Reminder - we stock HEAPS of products to help get your garden booming & blooming; like:

  • Potting Mix & Seed Raising Mix - both Certified Organic and available in store & on line!
  • Soil Mixes made in house for YOUR growing conditions - for vegetables, fruiting & ornamental trees, flowering plants, natives, acid loving plants - just ask!
  • Soil Improvers made to turn sand (and clay) into perfect soil for growing.
  • Non-GMO, heritage seeds & certified organic seedlings for healthy growing plants & healthy eating produce!
  • Natural pest control products - to help you keep things in balance for a healthy, environmentally friendly garden.
  • Minerals & fertlisers - you'll get the best results AND the best value with our range of products.

Visit us in store or shop on line for 24 hour convenience.

 

 

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