Hello again and welcome (officially) to Winter!
The rain has been good; the storms not so good - but winter in Perth is a highly productive time to be out in your garden.
Providing you have enough sun, plants thrive in the slightly cooler conditions and with a regular drink provided by nature; things seem to grow without much input - so gardening is easier!
We've been out weeding our vegie patch - it seems the weeds have come out in force already. Something I read recently advocated the 10 + 10 weeding program to vastly reduce weeds among your vegies. When planting out, weed 10 days after planting and another 10 days after that. Supposedly, this catches the germination cycle of many weeds that may be in the freshly dug soil; and in theory there's less continual weeding necessary after that. It's a nice theory and one I'll try! (I'll let you know how it goes!)
Remember our NEW discounted delivery policy means - depending on where you live - you may be eligible for FREE delivery. All metro delivery rates have been reduced; so do ring us for a quote on your soil; you will be pleasantly surprised!
There's always lots happening @ Green Life. We hope we'll see you soon (maybe at Saturday's workshop?)!
Linda & The Green Life Team
In this newsletter:
Jobs to do in the garden
- Prepare for planting bare rooted fruit trees, asparagus or rhubarb crowns which will all be appearing in the shops over the next 4-8 weeks. Dig in well rotted manure and compost, and keep moist. By the time you're ready to plant the soil should be alive with worms & microbial critters that will get the plants off to a flying start. GLSC should have stock of rhubarb & asparagus next month - keep an eye on our next newsletter for more details.
- Once your deciduous vines & trees have lost their leaves, it's time to get pruning. Use sharp, clean tools and make sure you wipe down your secateurs or loppers between each specimen with 1% diluted household bleach in water, or tea tree oil for good hygiene.
- Build your compost! Put those weeds to good use and turn them back into plant food. There's heaps of information on composting in previous newsletter editions (see archives here - use the search box in the left column) and in other fact sheets here.
- Citrus crops will be starting to ripen. Keep an eye out for fruit fly & remember to check and refresh any baits used. Collect fallen fruit. Check for pests like scale and the recent arrival in Perth - the Citrus Gall Wasp (pictured right). This last pest needs to be reported to the Ag Department - see previously published information here.
- Liquid feed your developing crops. Brassicas & leafy greens in particular are hungry. Remember to provide a light liquid feed every fortnight for continued strong growth. Fish hydrolysate is ideal.
- Separate & tidy up your strawberries. Select healthy, strong runners and strike them into small pots of a coarse, free draining potting or propagation mix. Runners that have already formed roots can be carefully dug up and planted out. Remove any diseased/spent plants and trim up ones that are still going strong. Plant into rejuvenated soil, allowing enough space between plants (20 - 30cms).
What to Plant Now
It's time to plant the following:
Artichoke (globe & jerusalem varieties), Asian Greens, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Coriander, Kale, Kohl rabi, Leek, Lettuce, Onion, Peas, Potatoes (we have Delaware, Ruby Red, Dutch Cream seed potatoes now in stock!) Radish, Rocket, Silverbeet, Snow peas, Spring onions, Strawberries.
For a full list of vegetables and herbs to plant now in Perth, see our free downloadable planting guides here.
Wonderful Worms & Weird Wormy-facts!
If you're a keen gardener, it is really worth considering setting up a worm farm. Worms are wonderfully willing workers who turn waste products into gardener's gold - worm castings and liquid fertiliser - for free!
In addition, in Australia we are throwing away 180kgs of food waste per household per year - which right now is going into landfill and contributing to greenhouse gases from its decomposition and from the transport required to get it into landfill in the first place.
So all round, it makes sense to turn this problem into an opportunity... great for the planet AND great for your garden!
To start, you can buy a ready to go worm farm kit (like we sell @ Green Life) or make your own simple version from free resources. Polystyrene boxes from the greengrocer or supermarket are a good way to go (you can even make them multi-layered too, as the boxes can be stacked).
You will need to buy some "proper" composting worms (again - we sell these @ Green Life). Composting worms are different from earthworms. Garden earthworms like to burrow deep in the soil, and don't consume food as fast as composting worms - so they're not really suited to munching through food scraps or quickly producing castings.
Whether you make your own worm farm or buy a kit - start your worms off with the bedding material they come with. This will be a food source for them plus give them a moist, cool environment to live in. Add food for the worms to the top/side of the bedding material and eventually the worms will find it. Top tip - remember worms don't have teeth. They can't munch through broccoli stems; so bulky material will need to rot down or you can speed the process by chopping up or even blending big stuff before you add it to the worm farm. Worms need grit in their gizzards to process food; they normally eat a small amount of soil. A handful of rock dust once a year is a good idea - it provides the grit and a range of trace elements to the worm farm.
Generally worms can eat half their own body weight in waste a day. So if you start with 250gms of worms, you can feed them 250gms of scraps every second day; and gradually increase this as numbers build up. This will be slower to begin with - as worms will still be consuming their bedding material before exploring new food sources.
Worm farms need drainage - which is one of the reasons commercial kits are multi-layered. If making your own, it is a good idea to use a drainage box (punch holes in the floor of the top box if using 2 boxes); Ensure there is a drainage hole towards the bottom of the bottom box - you can add a piece of pipe or hose if you like to direct the draining liquid. If using a single box, add a couple of bricks and a false floor with a layer of shadecloth to stop the worms from falling through, and make sure there is a drainage hole to the outside at the lower edge of the box.
Worms actually LOVE a moist environment and can handle more moisture than you think - but they WILL DROWN if they can't escape the pool of water. Worms breathe through their skin which is most effective when their skin is moist. The worm’s body is comprised of about 75% water, and therefore if you keep their bedding at the same moisture level, they won’t have to work as hard to breathe, eat, or process their food.
Infact, tipping a bucket of water into your worm farm weekly is a good idea. Obviously this is where the drainage comes in - collect the resultant water, and use it to fertilise your plants. It is especially good for seedlings and when transplanting. If you are doing this weekly, there is no need to dilute the liquid. However, if you only do this once in while, you will need to dilute it down with more water. Ideally, any liquid worm whiz should be the colour of weak tea.
You may find sometimes when it's raining, your worms escape everywhere. This is a phenomenon we think is caused by the worms sensing the change in atmospheric pressure, and trying to move to higher ground. You might want to round up any escapees before the sun comes out and they dry to a crisp. If worms are always trying to cling to the lid of your worm farm, you may be keeping it too moist.
If you have ants and cockroaches in your worm farm it is a sure sign it is too dry, and you can start adding more moisture to discourage them. If it looks like the ants are trying to move in, you can stand the legs of your commercial worm farm in small dishes of water, or add a band of vaseline around each leg - ants won't cross it.
If you are getting little vinegar flies/gnats, or even maggots in your worm farm, it is a sign it could be a little too damp and acidic. Try adding a good pinch of dolomite lime to the worm farm weekly (or whenever feeding them). Sometimes food scraps do turn the worm farm acidic over time, and if it gets too rank, the worms will die as in a closed environment they can't escape. Maggots may be a sign you're over feeding, so cut back for a little while. Neither maggots or gnats will harm your worms.
It is probably obvious, but don't use fly spray or insecticides around your worm farm to kill any bugs - it will also kill off your worms.
Slaters in your worm farm can be annoying but they won't harm your worms. In fact, they assist with breaking down the material into a form digestible by the worms; so in a way they're helpful. Just watch it if you are using worm castings to plant out seedlings incase you are providing an instant supply of slaters too. You might find it useful to sieve the castings, or tip the castings onto spread out newspaper for a while and pick the slaters out. (Pictured here - a clump of worms enjoying some soggy, shredded office paper.)
It is a good idea to remove castings from the worm farm a few times a year. I have read that worm castings are infact toxic to live worms; which is why they migrate from mature castings into and around fresher food sources. To harvest castings, you will want to try to remove them without removing too many worms. You can do this by spreading castings out on a small offcut of corrugated iron. Leave it for 10 - 15 minutes and the worms will have worked their way to the bottom of the corrugations. You can then sweep off the loose castings to use.
Worms are blind but they can sense light (and don't like it) - so will always attempt to dig themselves downwards if exposed.
Worm castings are great to add to potting mix and when transplanting. They are rich in microbial life which is what makes nutrients available to plants. They are also great at holding moisture, so help prevent heat stress in summer. Don't let castings dry out, as they can be difficult to re-wet. Keep any harvested worm castings in a covered bucket or in a pile under plastic until you can use them.
Worms like temperatures between 10 - 30 degrees. In summer, you will need to make sure your worms don't cook. The black, commercial worm farms will heat up in the sun, so make sure you keep them in a shady spot and check regularly. On really hot days it might be an idea to add extra water and leave the lid off the worm farm. Keep a thick layer of wet newspaper, cardboard or hessian on the top to act as an insulating blanket. I have heard of people freezing a 2L bottle of water and burying it into their worm farm on extremely hot days. Or you could freeze an icecream container full of water and let the giant ice block melt into your worm farm. Just a couple of ideas to try!
Worms will breed up quickly in ideal conditions, and will self-regulate their population with the available food. We recommend starting your worm farm with 1,000 live worms. This number can reach 10,000 easily in 12 months in a properly managed worm farm. Worms lay egg capsules (pictured right) which may contain around 6 baby worms. They are hermaphrodites, and reach breeding maturity in around 60 days, so you can see the potential for rapid population growth. Worm egg capsules take around 21 days to hatch from being expelled from the body. Worms need to literally 'bump into each other' for a breeding opportunity, so a smaller worm farm will breed up numbers more quickly than a large one. Worms will breed more in spring/autumn rather than the extremes of summer and winter.
It is NOT true that worms cut in two will make two worms... Although if it is just the tail separated from the body's internal organs, worms can grow a new tail.
If you're going away, you can give your worms extra food and not stress about them for several weeks. We have information on what to feed your worms here. Basically, any natural material that will break down; but it is best to avoid things that are too woody as they will take too long. I have successfully processed heaps of gum leaves through my worm farm (interspersed with thin layers of manure) - but they do need to be kept moist.
Shredded paper is also fine to feed them; so you can recycle your junk mail and newspapers. Just make sure you wet them down thoroughly (pre-soaking is ideal) as worms won't go near dry material, and you don't want it to wick out moisture from their bedding. (Unless of course you think the worm farm is TOO wet - then it might be a good idea!)
If you are looking to fatten up your worms (to help them grow & breed quicker, and to consume more scraps); you can give them 'supplements' - like a sprinkling of powdered milk, flour, soggy chicken layer pellets, wheat meal, bran or pollard (pictured on the right, lightly applied. It is available from stock feeders). Only use a LIGHT sprinkling no more than once a week; using too much will attract rodents. This is also a good way to attract worms to a particular area of your worm farm. After a few days many will have congregated around the food, meaning you can harvest the other areas without removing worms.
Worms can live for up to four years; after which they die and become food for the other worms. So nature's recyclers are ultimately recycled themselves.
If you would like to know more about keeping live worms - come and learn from the experts from The Worm Shed. They are running a workshop @ The Green Life Soil Co Saturday, 15th October. Keep an eye on our Events page for the opportunity to book for this workshop soon.
What's New @ Green Life
Workshops & more workshops!
11th June - Herbal Teas - what to use and how to make them
18th June - Natural Pest Control
9th July - Fermented Foods
20th August - Propagation
27th August - Permaculture Garden & Yard Design
See our Events page for booking information.
Many more AWESOME workshops are on the drawing board and will be going live SOON.
We're talking , Intensive Food Growing with Harry Wykman, Composting, Basics of Landscape Design, Worm Farms, Organic Hand Cream Making, Grafting... and more! Anything you want to learn? Drop us a line with your suggestions!
Bookmark the Events page and check in regularly (and keep an eye on our Facebook page) to make sure you're in the loop.
Soil Recipe Improvements
Over recent months, Paul has been working with a soil consultant to look at fine-tuning our soils; in particular trying to improve the nutritional balance for better, and continued availability of nutrients in the mixes. We have had a program of soil testing at various ages of soil, before and after crop cycles.
This has resulted in a few changes to our recipes; so some mixes may look a little different. Please feel free to talk to us about it next time you come in if you have any queries.
Turf Trials @ Cyril Jackson Senior Campus
Under the guidance of Turf Expert, Nick Bell, Cyril Jackson Senior Campus students are going to be conducting turf trials using Green Life Soil mix over the coming months. These trials are endorsed by the Water Corporation, and are focussing on how to get the best results using minimal water. Students will be managing and monitoring the trials as part of their studies - stay tuned for an update on this exciting project!
New Products - Vegepod Stands
Custom made, powdercoated steel stands for Vegepods have arrived! These DIY assembly stand kits raise your Vegepod up to about 80cms or average waist height, so no more bending to tend your garden.
Come in and check them out! Our Vegepods are selling well - they really are an easy way to get great crops and beat the bugs. The covers help even out temperatures and keep your plants warmer overnight; so growth is more rapid even in the cold weather.
Who Gives A Crap
This 100% recycled toilet paper stands out from the crowd. It is great quality, great value ($1.00 per 1000 sheet two ply roll - compare it with your current loo paper) - and best of all, 50% profits from the company go directly to Water Aid - a charity providing toilets and providing sanitation in the third world. Give it a try today!
Perfect to add to your propagation mix, perlite is a natural mineral product, expanded in a heating process. It is lightweight and useful to add water and air holding qualities to soil. It is sterile, weed free, and being a mineral is almost permanent in the soil. It is useful to add to pots and planter boxes to reduce weight (so ideal to use on balconies).
Now available in 15L bags for $15.00.
VIP Special Offer - FREE SEEDS!
This month, we'd like to give you some free seeds to say thanks for your continued support.
When you come into store and buy any 4 packets of seeds, you'll get a 5th packet free. Stock up on your seeds for spring planting while you're grabbing your garden goodies.
Please ASK for the VIP offer. Online customers can ring us if they would like to add seeds to an online order to take advantage of the deal.
(Offer available until 30 June, from available selection in store. Applies to individual seed packets, limited to one free pack per customer.)
So thanks for reading this far! Your feedback & suggestions are always welcome.
Until next time - Happy Gardening!