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Welcome to our December newsletter.  So Christmas is just around the corner again.  I hope you're ready for it - if you need ideas for Christmas gifts for gardening friends & relatives, see our suggestions below for inspiration, or browse around our revamped website (Do you like it??  The idea was to make it easier to navigate and it's also now fully mobile responsive).

December marks the official start of summer.  We've experienced a mild spring so far with a few hot days - but we know there's more to come very soon!  If you need to top up mulch, it's definitely time to take action.  We've got a range of new mulches available - so why not drop in and check them out?

Most of you know that we've had major roadworks happening on Farrall Road.  It has been quite disruptive (especially when the excavator managed to dig up the Telstra cable) and we'd like to thank the loyal and intrepid customers that have negotiated the ever-changing access to get to us.  We're still open as usual through all the kerfuffle - but remember you can only get to us via the Morrison Road end of the street.  It is supposed to be all completed and back to normal by Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, this year GLSC will be closing at 5.00pm Friday, 23rd December & closed Sat/Sun/Mon/Tues and reopening Wednesday, 28th December.  We'll also be closed New Year's Day 1st January but other than that, we'll be open as normal, 8.30am - 5.00pm, so if you have got time off over the Christmas/New Year period, it's a great opportunity to get those bigger gardening jobs tackled, and we'll be here if you need us!  The cut off date for online orders to ensure you get delivery prior to Christmas is 12 noon; Monday 19th December. Regular deliveries - you have a few more days but please try to give us as much notice as possible to avoid disappointment.

So THANK YOU for joining us in 2016 on the Green Life journey.  We really appreciate your support and would like to wish you & yours all the very best for a happy & peaceful Christmas and holiday season.  See you next year!

Happy Gardening,

Linda & The Team @ The Green Life Soil Co

In this newsletter:

What to plant right now
Jobs to do in the garden in December
Christmas gift ideas for the gardeners in your life
(and VIP specials)
Heat & Plants - why greenspaces are SO important
Shadecloth - protect your plants

What to Plant Now

I'm sure you'll remember it was a late start to Spring, so many things got off to a later start this year.  Given that some of the first plantings of summer crops are still growing and are barely producing yet, there's plenty of time to get seeds started now for succession planting.  However, do be mindful of hot days and how important it is to keep the soil surface moist, otherwise seeds may germinate but die off before they've even broken the surface of the soil.  It's a delicate balance between moist and too wet (where seeds can rot) but using things like cocopeat and worm castings can help, and lightly misting with a spray bottle a couple of times a day.  Keep seedlings out of direct sun at this time of year and 'harden them off' gradually by exposing them to your 'normal' garden conditions while in trays/pots a little each day to avoid transplant shock.

See our 'When to Plant' free downloadable guide (we've got one for vegies and one for herbs) - and here's some ideas right here:-

Globe artichoke, Asian greens, Beans, Beetroot, Cabbage*, Capsicum, Chilli, Carrots, Choko, Cucumber, Eggplant, Ginger, Kale*, Leek, Lettuce, Okra, Parsnips, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Radish, Rocket, Rockmelon, Rosella, Silverbeet, Spring onions, Sweet corn, Sweet potato, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Zucchini.  

*Brassicas planted now will need protection from cabbage moth and should be grown in a sheltered spot.

It is also a great time to plant many herbs like Basil, Chives, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Thyme - there's so many lovely herbs to try!  I'd avoid Coriander at this time of year but that's about the only one I can think of!

Why not grab some lovely, healthy herbs and pot them up as a Christmas gift for friends & family?  They look great and make a useful gift.

Jobs to do in the Garden

For many of us, summer & Christmas holidays means having friends and family over.  It can be a busy time and our gardens can be neglected; so hopefully work you've been putting in up to now will have paid off!  Here's some last minute jobs to give to your teenagers when school's finished (good luck with that) to help get your place spruced up!

  • Mow the lawn!  Not too short - you don't want it to burn, and do the lawn edges.  Amazing what a transformation this one thing can make to your home's appearance!
  • Pot up some potted colour, tidy up your pot plants and get rid of those that *ahem* need serious attention/replacement.  Refresh the soil with new potting mix and add a layer of mulch (something like lupin mulch works well on pots).  Having well kept pots around your path/doorways & entertaining areas can add a splash of colour and make your home even more welcoming!
  • Mulch!  It will not only make your gardens look good, but it serves the valuable purpose of protecting your plants and soil biology.  Mulch slows down water loss from the soil and plants, keeping them less stressed and more drought tolerant.  There's a range of mulches available to suit your garden style and whatever kind of plants you're growing.  Talk to us for advice.
  • Deadhead your roses & other plants that have finished flowering.  It may well encourage another flush of flowers, and will help keep growth compact and tidy.
  • If you have some downtime over Christmas, make some plans for your garden for the new year.  Read some gardening magazines and collect pictures that inspire you.   Have fun! 

Christmas Gift Ideas

We've got lots of things BIG and SMALL for the gardeners in your life...  Things like:-


- we've got a whole CONTAINER LOAD of stock arriving this week, so there's PLENTY available for Christmas...  PLUS new stands with wheels! Perfect for patios and courtyard spaces, so you can move your Vegepod to follow the sun - or shade as required!


- we've got NEW titles in store:

'Edible and Useful Plants for the Swan Coastal Plain' - written by Fremantle horticulturalist & permaculturalist, Vicki Boxell.  This book provides information about plants that are edible or have other uses. They can all be grown in Perth, Western Australia and would also grow in other places with sandy soils with a temperate or Mediterranean climate. The sands of the Swan Coastal Plain are particularly poor and sandy and require special attention to become productive. This book is a comprehensive guide that would be suited to keen gardeners wishing to expand their knowledge and grow successfully in Perth. Price $22.50

'The Essential Edible Pharmacy'

written by clinical nutritionist, Sophie Manolas.  This is an Australian book that looks at over 60 of the most commonly available nutrient dense foods.  It explores their health benefits and provides yummy recipes.  With lots of colourful photos, this book would make a great gift for gardeners who love to cook and would appreciate ideas on how they can use their produce.  Price $34.95

'How to Permaculture Your Life' written by Mundaring educator & permaculturalist, Dr. Ross Mars.  This book contains practical permaculture advice on topics like how to build gardens & improve our soils, nutritious food & fodder plants, how to make simple food and fermented products, strategies for rural properties, how to harvest, store, conserve and reuse water and energy.  Perfect for people wanting to learn about and practise self sufficiency strategies in their own back yard.  Price $30.00 

'Square Metre Gardening' by Mel Bartholomew has been revised for Australia and contains lots of useful gardening tips & advice, as well as being the bible for Square Metre Gardening; containing planting guides, spacing information, etc. for those wanting to experiment with this intensive method of food production for small spaces.  With lots of pictures and easy to follow instructions, this book makes a great gift for new gardeners.  Price $29.95

2017 Moon Planting Calendars; these have been ordered and will be in stock VERY SOON.   Keep an eye on our Facebook page as we'll announce when stock arrives (and they'll be added to our website for purchase).

Aracaria Growing Guides - we have a range of these available.  Laminated, fold out guides that contain practical information on a number of topics; including:  Biodynamics, Permaculture, Vegetable Growing, Herbs & medicinal plants, Green Smoothie Guide, Fruits & Berries, Seed Collecting, Propagating, etc.  At $12.00 each, they make a great gift.


- new!  Lightweight, comfortable and in a range of sizes.  Great stocking-stuffers at $5.95.


- Mini-greenhouses.  At $18.50 they make a great gift.  Add a bag of seed raising mix and packet of seeds or two and your friends will be green thumbs in no time!


- not only do we carry an extensive range of vegetable seeds, but we now have seeds of some flowering annuals and beneficial insect attracting plants in stock.  Give the gift of future food & flowers!  All seed packets are $4.00 each and are non-hybrid varieties.


- Produced by PIP permaculture magazine, these 2017 calendars feature a seasonal recipe and lovely photo each month.  Price $14.95

Plus there's lots of bits & pieces that a gardener will appreciate... what about a bag of potting mix and a nice pot?  A ho-mi garden cultivator/tool.  A bag of the fabulous Growsafe fertiliser.  A worm farm.  A Mushroom Kit.  A pH test kit.  A bale of pea straw.  A selection of culinary herbs...

And - if you're STILL not sure - GIFT VOUCHERS are available in store or online.

If you're a Green Life VIP member (which involves signing up on our website), you can access a special member's only page, which entitles you to discounted prices on some items.  I'm in the process of updating this page now with some Christmas specials - so remember to check in over the next few days/week to see what's been added.  Christmas specials are available while stocks last.

Sizzling Summer Surfaces - Cool your home with living plants

The information below is taken from an article which appeared in 'Greenworld' Magazine a few years ago.  Acknowledgement goes to Todd Layt who wrote the original article.  He is the Director of Ozbreed, a Victorian company that produces drought tolerant plants and turf varieties.  I thought it was very interesting at the time as a comparison of summer temperature readings taken on various landscape surfaces.  I filed it away and came across it again recently so decided to share it with you - I hope you'll find it interesting!

Tests were done on a number of surfaces on 40° days, and the results were interesting.  Not surprisingly, the coolest temperature taken was the surface water of a large pond, which was exactly 40°.  The next coolest surface in full sun was that of green grass on a sports field which measured 45.65°.  Dry grass was 51.5°.  Green grass growing near gravel was 52.15° while dry grass next to gravel was 62.2°.  Gravel in full sun was 77.78°.

Shaded turf near concrete was 47.2° while the concrete itself was 49.8° in the shade.  

Concrete surfaces in full sun near a house measured 74.75°, while a concrete tennis court was 78.27°.  Fake grass in full sun measured 66.95°.

The interesting thing that the study found was how growing plants significantly impacted soil temperatures.  Gravel in full sun was 77.78°.  Growing in the gravel was strappy leafed Lomandra tanika - and right next to the plant, soil temperatures were down to 53.9°.

Timber surfaces measured as follows:
treated pine 62.35°
painted timber park bench 67.9°
hardwood timber 72.6°
fine grade wood mulch 61.45° (bare soil nearby 68.05°)

However, living plant tissue was quite different.  A living tree trunk in full sun measured 53.25°.  Dead wood, like concrete, has no moisture content or circulation, while green life has the ability to keep itself cool and thus also cooling the immediate environment around it.

Concrete absorbs and stores and radiates heat, which is why turf in the shade but near concrete had a higher temperature than an expanse of grass did.

This is why there's a 'heat island' effect in most cities that have lots of concrete and hard surfaces, and little green life.  This is why it's so important to keep mature trees and gardens in and around new housing developments, and to plan our gardens with appropriately sized trees and green spaces; for wildlife and for our own human comfort and for reduced energy consumption.

Other materials tested included:
dark concrete driveway 78.27°
light concrete paving 67°
light coloured clay paver 67°
mid coloured clay paver 69.1°
dark coloured clay paver 73.65°
road bitumen 69.55°
sawn sandstone 66°
natural limestone 64°
reconstituted limestone 61.4°
wetcast limestone paving 61.9°
wetcast quartz paving 59.1°
timbercrete paving dark 56.75°
timbercrete paving light 55.8°
clay brick retaining wall 67.2°
plastic playground equipment 70.25°
metal playground equipment 62.35°

And for fun, they tested:

A bare head - with full head of hair 58° and a bald head 47.8° - with blood flow near the skin surface and sweat obviously having a cooling effect.
Lastly, they tested a vinyl car seat in full sun, which measured a scorching 88.4°!  (Don't we all remember what THAT feels like??)

In closing, the article states that between 10 and 20 readings were taken in each situation using a fully calibrated temperature gun.  They waited until 2pm and on the day it did get hot early.  Subsequent testing on days which also reached 40° but later in the day showed that if the day takes longer to get hot, surface temperature readings were not as high.  Cloud cover or a cool breeze also dropped the surface temperatures.

Given that shade provided by trees can reduce concrete surface temperatures by up to 28.47° (comparing concrete tennis court to concrete in shade) - I'm sure you'd have to agree that we need to be more vocal to our councils and politicians with the cry of "more trees please" in our cities and suburbs.

Ideas to cool your garden & home include:

  • Have a pond or water feature.  Water provides cooling (and the ambience of cooling) to your garden.
  • Design a vertical garden.  Unfortunately these tend to 'cook' against fences in the full sun and can be difficult in Perth.  But if you have a partly sheltered area and select the right plants, they can soften and cool hard landscaped areas.  
  • Climbing plants - vines and climbing plants can be edible or ornamental; evergreen or deciduous.  They can provide shade and prevent reflected heat from fences, walls, etc and protect the surface itself.
  • Use tough, strappy leaved plants among or near pavers to break up the surface heat.
  • Select appropriate sized tree species for your yard.  Whether planted in the ground or in a pot, get advice on the right sized tree for your site.  There's something for every garden.  Deciduous trees let in winter light but provide valuable shade in the summertime.
  • Awnings, shade sails, umbrellas can provide shade for your garden and your house.  
  • Keep windows & curtains closed from early in the day to keep out heat.  When the temperatures drop in the evening and (hopefully!) sea breezes arrive, open everything up!
  • Consider awnings, or tightly woven bamboo blinds or shadecloth hanging outside your window to stop at least 60% of the sun's heat getting to the window glass; at least on the side/s of the house that get the most sun.  This is much more effective as a heat barrier than good curtains inside the window.
  • Do you need to use the a/c?  A fan uses between one-25th and one-50th of the energy of a small reverse cycle air conditioner, and you are unlikely to notice any increased costs in your energy bill.

Shadecloth - provide sun protection for your plants

Now that summer's here, many of us find growing edible plants difficult in Perth's conditions.  No wonder really, when most of our vegetable plants originated from cooler parts of the world, and from places with decent soil.  Stick them in our heat and sand and expecting them to perform well tends to bring disappointment.  However, the good news is that with some selected breeding and natural adaptation, some vegies are doing better in our conditions, but to help them along through the really hot spells, we need to provide some shelter.

Shade for your garden can be as expensive, complex and thorough as you choose.  Or, it can be simply draping an old bedsheet over your plants on your way out of the door on your way to work.  Really, it depends on your enthusiasm and budget.

At home, we use shadecloth on a pole & wire structure that Paul has fashioned; removing it over winter but keeping it in place from about December to March.

There are plenty of plans and ideas available online for designing and building a shade structure; from PVC pipe, reticulation pipe - etc.  You can build small little individual shelters or make something tall enough to walk under - again; completely up to you!  Just consider air circulation.  Things like cucurbits which can be prone to fungal problems may need small shelters removed overnight or on milder days to help with air flow (and pollination).

You will also need to decide on whether it will be a seasonal or a permanent structure.  There are advantages and disadvantages of both, so consider which works best for you.

Permanent structures can be 'set and forget' - potentially needing sturdier construction methods.  But remember in winter some things may not do so well growing under shade; so bear this in mind.  Shadecloth also loses some of its effectiveness as it ages; depending on the UV stability and quality of the material used, you may find the shadecloth on a permanent structure needs to be replaced more often.  If you're storing your shadecloth away over winter, obviously it will last longer - assuming rats don't eat through it while it's in the shed - but of course that's more work to do each year.

What type of shadecloth to use is always discussed passionately on social media.

Some garden experts in the media advocate about 30%.  Personally, I don't think this is adequate for Perth.  It might be fine in Albany, or if you have a Perth garden that is quite sheltered with trees and gets protection from nearby buildings or fences.

I would recommend at least 50%.  At home we now use 70%.  We're in the Perth hills where it's often a degree or two hotter than down 'on the flats'; and our garden is in a very exposed spot.  We tried 50% but have found 70% much more effective.  Plants will still wilt on very hot days but they don't get sunburnt and recover after a drink.

Shadecloth for humans is usually at least 80% or higher, so remember if you're working in your garden under 50% or even 70% shadecloth, you will still get sunburnt.

How much wind is your garden exposed to?  This should also factor in your decision.  Hot, drying winds dehydrate plants, so extra protection and/or windbreaks may be essential; at least on the side of the prevailing summer wind.

I would recommend a white or light coloured shadecloth.  White allows the full colour spectrum of light through.  Darker colours (green, burgundy) are preferable for humans (presumably because they don't reflect glaring light back at us) but not as good for your plants. 

Interestingly, black shadecloth is supposedly better for plants than other colours - again this has something to do with the spectrum of colours and their effect on growth.

Other ideas to provide shade for your garden include old net curtains - try your local op shop.  These may also be useful to double up for insect protection. Basically anything you can rig up for a stinking hot day - a tarp, old sheet or blanket - is going to save your plants.  

If you're looking for a more permanent solution, The Green Life Soil Co sells both 50% and 70% white shadecloth by the metre.

Thanks & see you soon!  

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