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Happy New Year!  I trust you had a lovely Christmas, and have enjoyed a little bit of downtime after the 'silly season' to recharge your batteries!  If you're still on holidays; enjoy!  I think 2016 is gearing up to be a busy one at GLSC, and we look forward to sharing a great year with you and your garden.

In this newsletter we focus on WATER use in the garden.  I'm sure you're hearing the message everywhere, but we really do need to ensure we manage this resource properly.

We also look at jobs to do in the garden, what you can plant now (and how to get the best results), and news about our 2016 Tomato Contest.  Also we plan to have more workshops running this year and we'd love to hear what YOU would be interested in learning about.

As always - we love feedback and seeing your garden photos, so please keep sharing with us either by email or on our Facebook page.  Our Facebook friends may have seen this photo at the December Organic Consumers Choice Awards Paul & I attended in Sydney.  We got to meet Costa ~ who is just as friendly and energetic in real life as on the TV screen.

costaHappy Gardening in 2016!

Linda & The Team @
The Green Life Soil Co

In this newsletter

Jobs to do in the garden in Summer
What to Plant Now
Water - don't waste a drop
Tomato Contest 2016
What's new @ Green Life (& VIP Special Offer)

Jobs to do in the Garden Now

  • Make sure YOU take care in the heat - slip, slop slap, and work in the cool of the morning or evening to avoid over-doing it in the heat of the day.  Stay hydrated and take regular breaks.  
  • Plants do well with a light feed to help them cope with the hotter conditions.  Don't over feed the nitrogen (which will give you weaker, leggy green growth that will just wilt!)  a balanced fertliser, (and a low-dose at that) is best.  Seaweed/kelp fertlisers are great to help plants cope with heat stress.
  • Check your pot plants from time to time.  Some that are more exposed than others will tend to dry out more - you may need to provide them with extra water or dunk the whole pot into a tub of water for an hour or two or so to allow soil to re-wet.
  • Mulch, Mulch, Mulch.  Of course, you applied mulch in Spring, right?  But it pays to check - particularly if you use straw mulches in your vegie garden - have they broken down and are they still being effective?  Sometimes you may need to apply a little bit more for best results.  If you have areas of the garden where no plants are growing, it is still wise to mulch the bare soil.  This will help protect soil biology and aid with water repellency problems.
  • Preserve the harvest.  If you're overwhelmed with zucchini, tomato, squash, corn, cucumbers - experiment with drying, pickling or preserving them!  There are so many excellent tutorials on line to look at.  "Homesteading" and the return to the "old fashioned" ways of making jams/chutneys - etc. is enjoying a revival at the moment, and you can probably find a workshop to attend near you and become quite the "FULL BOTTLE" on it (groan).  Harvest your cucumbers and zucchinis when they are small.  This will make sure they're sweet and tender.  
  • Dead head roses and tidy up bushes now.  This will encourage a great Autumn show in a few months.
  • Trim citrus trees lightly - keep branches a metre off the ground, and thin the canopy to allow good airflow.
  • Provide shade to your plants on the hottest days.  Just a reminder we carry white horticultural grade shadecloth in 50% and 70%, 3.6m wide.
  • Check out your seed stock of autumn/winter growing vegies.  Make a list of what is still viable, and what you will need to buy in fresh.  Make a note of what crops you are growing now and read up on Crop Rotation - where are you going to plant your next round of vegies?
  • Grab your 2016 Moon Planting Calendar - these are now in stock.  (or see below for our VIP January gift!)  

What to Plant Now

While January/mid summer isn't the ideal time to establish a brand new garden (you're better off waiting until Autumn - use the time to plan what you want to grow, research varieties and design your garden beds), if you are determined to get a few things going to extend your harvest, or want to top up your existing garden beds, providing you give the plants the TLC they need you can still have success.

Avoid planting leafy greens and soft herbs unless you have a very sheltered spot.  If you can provide shade and good soil moisture levels - go for it.  A Vegepod is ideal at this time of year for sheltering tender lettuce and basil seedlings.

You can still grow capsicum, chilli, eggplant, melons, pumpkin, sweetcorn, tomato, zucchini, sweet potato now - but ensure young plants are well cared for.  See our When to Plant Guide for more information.

Water - Don't Waste a Drop!

Perth is basically on the edge of a desert.  With climate change, we are told the temperatures are getting hotter and the rainfall is reducing.  We had low rainfall this past winter and I'm sure you're aware of the campaign the Water Corporation is running to get us to reduce our sprinkler usage.  You don't have to be Einstein to work out we're on the brink of having tighter water restrictions placed upon us - it is inevitable.  And water will definitely become more expensive - perhaps not a bad thing if it encourages better stewardship of this resource.

I have seen some very interesting discussions on social media/forums recently about water use.  It's true that industry uses more water than residential homes.  It's true that we have all seen wasteful examples of government/shire land reticulated during rainy weather, or with broken sprinklers that water nothing more than the carpark or the road.  It's also true that we have had successive Governments failing to spend money to repair ageing infrastructure - with reports that as much as 30 times as much water as Subi oval could hold if filled to the top of the goal posts is lost through leaking underground pipes in 12 months.  (It's a very scary story - here's the source article if you care to read it.)  It is also true that future fracking projects would use insane quantities of water.  

Sometimes we feel powerless and that our individual use hardly amounts to anything.  But collectively, we DO make a difference.  How about next time you see a council or business sprinkler system not working well, pull over your car, take a photo on your phone and share it to their facebook page or send it in an email to their administration?  Chances are that they simply don't know about it and will be grateful for your feedback.

By being aware of our own water usage, and ways to reduce it, we will help conserve this valuable resource.  The Water Corporation has useful information on its website about ways to reduce water usage around the home.  Check it out here.  

As far as water use in the garden goes, here are some acknowledged ways to reduce your use:

  • Install a rain sensor on your retic.  There is no point watering when nature is doing it for you!  If you aren't in a position to install one, keep your retic on manual.  That way you can never forget to turn it off if rain comes - you just need to remember to turn it ON.  Set a reminder on your phone for your watering days; and perhaps the sight of your plants looking thirsty may be enough of a reminder??

  • Upgrade to drip irrigation.  There are several options available.  Get in an expert for advice or go talk to someone at one of the retic specialist shops around town.  They can offer the best advice for your garden & budget.  Fix broken sprinklers/valves/solenoids/taps to prevent leaks and keep your system effective.

  • Water to the roots.  As gardeners, you know that plants drink through their roots - very little moisture is absorbed through the leaf surface.  So it makes sense to apply water where it is needed - in the ground.  Watering the leaves either by hand or overhead sprinklers is inefficient and can in fact spread fungal diseases like mildew throughout your garden.  (This is why drip irrigation is so effective.)

  • Select appropriate plants.  Choose plants that can cope with lower water usage.  If you MUST grow delicate specimens, select the best place in your garden to grow them, group them together, and provide them with the microclimate/conditions they need to thrive.  That way you can enjoy them but have the rest of your garden planted with lower water use plants.  See your local nursery or get in a landscape designer to help you with plant selection.  It is worth taking the time to plan out your garden - you will save money and heartache later on by not having to replace things that struggle.

  • Re-think your lawn.  Grassed areas are great - if you use them.  Lovely lawns are attractive, help cool your home, and provide great spaces for entertaining, and kids and pets to play.  But if you have a huge lawn that is simply a water guzzler - perhaps it's time to replace sections of it with waterwise gardens instead.  If you are about to lay new turf, get advice to choose the right lawn variety for your location & needs, and (I can't stress this enough) PREPARE THE SOIL PROPERLY.

  • Greywater = water recycling.  This can be an elaborate, fully plumbed system (see our friends at Greywater Reuse Systems) or simply collecting water in buckets from your shower when waiting for the water to warm up.  Personally, I collect water from the rinse cycle of our washing machine and use that in various spots around the garden.  If using washing water, do use a phosphate free/eco friendly detergent and don't use the water on your vegies.  It's fine for ornamentals and fruit trees, although use it in different places in rotation around your garden rather than in the same spot every time.  Get into the habit of watching where water (literally) goes down the drain and think creatively about ways that water can be harnessed and re-purposed outside.  Maybe you could wash up in a plastic tub rather than directly in the sink.  Maybe you can save your kids bath water and use it when cold to water your pot plants.  (I'm sure you get the idea.)

  • Provide shelter to your plants.  Shade cloth and wind breaks reduce stress and transpiration of your plants; meaning they 'sweat' less and therefore need less water.  Shade and windbreaks can be temporary or permanent, depending on your garden environment.  You can have fancy shade sails or drag out an old sheet to lay over plants on 40° days.  Old curtains from op shops make good shade shelter, or you can buy shadecloth for your garden.  If buying shadecloth do use white - it allows the full colour spectrum of light through which means you get even growth.  Darker colours like green and black are more comfortable for humans, but not so good for plants.  See us @ GLSC - we stock white horticultural grade shadecloth by the metre.

  • Mulch.  There are lots of different mulch types available - one for every garden style you can think of.  The idea of mulch is to provide a protective blanket for your soil; one that keeps the sun off and reduces evaporation, but ideally still allows water to penetrate between the particles to reach the soil below.  Avoid mulches that are themselves absorbent (the karri & peat mulches of old, for example) - you want the water to go through the mulch into the soil rather than be soaked up by it.  Generally, lighter colour mulch with large particles is the best.  Woodchip mulch is excellent for this & is relatively inexpensive.  For vegetables and herbs, most people use a mulch like straw or pea straw - it does break down quicker, but this serves to add valuable organic matter to the soil.  Heavier mulches on vegie gardens can be problematic when digging over the soil to replenish crops at the change of season.  See our free Mulch guide for more information.

  • Soil preparation.  Most of Perth is situated on an ancient sand dune system that is acknowledged as being some of the worst in the world for agriculture.  So it stands to reason we're not going to have much luck growing gorgeous gardens without doing adequate soil preparation.  Our sandy soils need organic matter/humus to provide a food source for the beneficial microbes that help plants grow.  Our sandy soils benefit hugely from incorporating clay.  Clay bonds with sand to help create a loam - the ideal medium for growing.  Clay can hold many times its own weight in water, so by incorporating clay into the top 20-30cms of soil, you can help store water right where plants need it - the root zone - rather than water soaking away through layers of sand or sitting on top in puddles caused by water repellency issues.  At The Green Life Soil Co we specialise in making soils & soil improvers which contain clay, trace elements and other essentials for healthy plant growth in Perth.  Please feel free to talk to us about your requirements - we're happy to provide free advice.  Also check out our product - Sand Remedy - designed to be incorporated into sandy soil to help with water conservation & nutrient retention.

  • Grow with the seasons.  This really applies to vegetable crops and some flowering plants.  Work with nature by growing plants in their correct season instead of trying to grow things that are going to struggle from the outset.  Many people in Perth only grow vegies over autumn/winter/spring - leaving beds fallow over the hottest months, and start again when conditions are kinder.  This is a decision you need to make for yourself, based on your experience, dedication and resources.  But be aware this is certainly an option!  If you are going away for summer holidays - it also takes the stress out of trying to keep your garden alive while you're not around.  Consider growing a few 'essentials' in containers - our Vegepods are ideal - you can care for a few pots on your patio far easier than a large garden bed which cops full sun in your backyard.

  • Install a rainwater tank.  Catching even some of your own rainwater to use on the garden is beneficial!  Always go for the largest tank you can fit in (or can afford) as many people wish they had 'upsized' once they see the potential to catch and store the run-off from their house or shed.  Some government rebates do apply IF you have the tanks plumbed in to your house - you will need to check on the details.  Small barrel systems are even useful for renters, and can be made DIY from recycled products fairly easily.  The internet has lots of great 'how to' videos.

So hopefully this has got you thinking creatively about how you can save water this summer.  Any ideas and great tips you have would be greatly appreciated - we are always happy to share them with our Green Life community!  We're in this together, and one thing is for sure - Water is going to be hugely important to us and to future generations even more so.

2016 Tomato Contest

t's on again!!!  Time to put your home grown tomatoes to the test!  We all know there's nothing like the flavour of home grown tomatoes; and if you've been enjoying eating them over summer; why not enter our Tomato contest?

You could win some great gardening prizes, plus the kudos of being a champion tomato grower!!!

Tomatoes need to be brought in to Green Life Soil Co on/by close of business, Sunday 31st January.  See our link here for full details.

What's New @ The Green Life Soil Co

Recently, we took over the large shed at the front of the property once more (customers who have been with us since the early days may remember we had it back up until about 2008).   The shed & extra land we have will come in handy for future growth plans; however right now we have a little more space than we require.  If you know of anyone who is after some warehousing space, or in need of space for a business operation, we'd be happy to have a chat and see what we can work out together.

We intend to use some of the space to get a classroom operational - so we can hold a range of workshops to help gardeners in Perth grow a better garden. We'd love to hear your ideas on topics you'd like to see presented, so send those ideas in.

New Retail Outlets & VIP Special Offer

Did you know some nurseries & stock feed supply stores sell a selected range of Green Life Soil Co bagged product?  Garden Elegance in Subiaco sells our potting mix, and Stanbee Stockfeeds in Jandakot also has our premium bagged soils (potting mix, vegie mix & vegie concentrate).  See our website for details of other stockists near you.  Nobody close by?  If you have an outlet you think would benefit from carrying our product, let us know.  We'd be happy to talk to them.

And last but by no means least...  As our way of saying THANK YOU for being a wonderful Green Lifer - for the month of January, VIP members can pick up a 2016 Moon Planting calendar for FREE - with any purchase over $100.


So come and grab some top-up bits & pieces for your summer garden AND score a funky calendar!  (Maximum of 1 per customer, valid until 31st January or while stocks last.  Calendars are normally priced at $11.00 each)

VIP customers making an on-line purchase should request their free calendar in the delivery notes/comments section of the order process.

So until next time...  THANK YOU for your support & see you soon!

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