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Hello and welcome to our July newsletter!
While the garden has been loving the sunny days, the lack of rain is a concern. Hopefully that will change before too long.
While mornings have been chilly, the fine days have been perfect for gardening, and there's been lots happening down at The Green Life Soil Co.
In this newsletter:
Experts in Store
Nick Bell will be at GLSC Saturday, 11th July to share his knowledge. Nick will be revamping our Vegepod garden bed, and is happy to show you how to grow lots in a small space with the Square Foot Gardening technique. Come in between approx. 11 - 12.30 and have a chat. Nick is also a lawn care expert, so is happy to help with questions about how to restore your existing lawn, or what you need to do if you are thinking about planting a new one.
Nick's sessions are free, and casual - feel free to drop in any time.
As an ADDED BONUS, VIP Members on Saturday, 11th July in store only can pick up 4kgs of our quality blood & bone FREE (with any purchase over $45) So ~ for example ~ buy 5 bags of potting mix or vegie mix and pick up 4kgs of our blood & bone (with added rock dust).
Keep Saturday, 1st August free in your diary for our next 'meet the expert' session with native plant specialist and landscaper, Sue Torlach.
What to Plant Now
There is still time to grow some lovely winter vegies in your garden.
Check out our 'When to Plant Guide' for more information. (Asparagus & Rhubarb crowns will be in stock very soon!)
Jobs to do in the Garden Now
Vegepods - grab one for Spring!
We recently told you about Vegepods, a fantastic wicking bed growing system WITH COVER that we discovered and brought to WA. We have been notified that there is going to be a Spring price increase, so come and grab one from our existing stock before the prices rise.
There are three sizes, and including our wonderful Square Foot Garden Mix to fill the Vegepod, and delivery within Perth metro area, prices are (while stocks last):
Even if you're not quite ready to set one up right now, grab a kit & store it (or we can set it aside for you) and beat the price rise.
Chooks in Winter - How to keep them Happy & Healthy!
Keeping your own chickens is a rewarding experience. They are relatively easy to look after and there are the benefits of eggs (obviously), food scrap recycling, supplying valuable manure, entertainment and they are a great opportunity for kids to learn some responsibility and animal husbandry with their daily care.
The basic requirement for keeping chickens is a roosting/nesting area that is warm (in winter) and dry, and secure from foxes. Their run doesn't need to be massive, but chickens that are allowed to free range are healthier and happier. It may surprise you to know that foxes can be a problem in suburban areas, so don't assume hens are safe in the city!
You will need fencing of some kind to keep chooks out of your garden. They will naturally scratch and dig for bugs and worms, and can make a real mess of your garden beds, paving areas and lawns.
Allowing them access to areas you permit, and when you permit it, is the key.
A chicken tractor might be a great solution. (We don't mean anything the chickens can drive, by the way!) A chicken tractor is the name given to an enclosure that is designed to be mobile. This can be small - something you can lift and plonk in a spot. You may make it so that only a couple of birds can be placed in it at a time, and you rotate access among your flock. Or it may be an elaborate system designed to fit over raised garden beds, or on wheels to be pushed into its position. I have collected a range of pictures showing a variety of chicken tractor designs.
The benefits are that chickens can be given access to weeds (a great source of winter greens), used to loosen soil ahead of spring planting, and a useful part of a crop rotation system.
Tractors should be open at the bottom to allow your chickens to scratch. Depending on your location and fox risk factor, you may choose to provide a tractor for the day, but to lock your hens into a more secure pen at night time. (This tractor is made around an old table!)
The permanent chicken house should have raised perches - chickens like to sleep high up and off the ground. You will find in the pecking order the top ranked chook will often get the highest perch available. (For short term/daytime housing in a tractor, a perch isn't really necessary.)
The permanent chicken house should be well sealed from draughts and possibly insulated. Chooks will stop laying if stressed, and in extremes of heat and cold.
Winter can be a little challenging for chickens. Naturally, they tend to moult in Autumn and go off the lay for a period that can extend right through winter, depending on the breed and age of the hen. Chickens' egg laying cycle is affected by daylight hours, which is why commercial egg farms use lighting in chicken houses to stimulate egg production. Modern egg laying breeds like Isa Browns have been bred to lay every day, and this requires a huge amount of energy from their body. In winter, their metabolism needs to use energy to keep the body alive, which can lead to reduced egg production. Although fluctuations of egg production are natural and to be expected, there are some things you can do to boost laying over the cooler months. Here are some ideas:
Keep lots of fresh, clean straw in their nesting boxes, which helps with insulation.
Change their diet. Laying pellets and poultry feeds often have boosted protein levels to encourage laying. It may pay to check the label for protein levels, make a comparison, and try a different feed type.
Giving chooks meat will help. Chickens in the wild are naturally cannibalistic, so don't be concerned with feeding them chicken scraps. (Of course, this is personal choice but it will not do the birds any harm if you do.)
Left over dog or cat meat is great, and also cat biscuits! They are usually very high in protein; especially the fishy ones - again; compare labels for comparison. This can be an easy way to provide some extra protein and they certainly love them.
Warm mash. Giving your hens warm food - particularly on chilly mornings - helps birds conserve energy. Warm mash may be as simple as soaking their pelletised food in a little boiling water for a while before feeding (long enough to soften the pellets), but you can use the opportunity to give them helpful supplements at the same time.
Milk or milk powder and yogurt is also a good source of protein and can be added to mash.
Some useful additives to mash include bran, pollard, soy meal, (these are available from good stock feed merchants) meat meal, oats, and sunflowers. Milled grains will absorb moisture more readily than whole grains. You can also add stale breakfast cereal, porridge, crushed stale biscuits, bread, cat biscuits, etc.
A clove of garlic (crushed) can be added to help with intestinal worms, and/or you could add a handful of wormwood and tansy tips from your garden. Avoid feeding garlic more than a couple of times a week to your hens otherwise eggs can be tainted with the taste.
Mash should be served warm, not hot, and in a container to avoid waste. It doesn't keep, so what your chooks haven't eaten in a day dispose of to avoid attracting rodents. It should be the consistency of gluggy porridge and not too runny.
Remember to still provide fresh water to your chickens throughout winter.
Seed Packs - Herbs for Chickens and Vegetables for Chickens.
Herb pack includes 1 packet each of: Fennel (sweet), Hyssop, Stinging Nettle, Rue, Tansy.
Value: Individual packets of seeds are normally $4.00 each. Buy our "Seed Packs" and SAVE 5% - 5 packets for $18.00