After such a long, dry spell - the rains have finally arrived! That's great news for our gardens, and I'm sure you've noticed your plants responding with some lush, green growth. Welcome to June (and to the official start of Winter).
Winter is a highly productive time to garden here in Perth. You can still grow crops - check out our range of seedlings (certified organic and in season) that we have delivered every week (normally Saturday mornings) and get your vegie patch off to a flying start.
Sometimes in the cold and wet weather, OUR enthusiasm can be a little dampened though - so grab the opportunity on those days to get updated with some gardening magazines and books, and document what you've planted in your garden diary. (Your future self will thank you next year - believe me!) But if you want to potter around getting your hands in the dirt; why not get some pot plants going - either for productive plants outdoors, or some indoor greenery. Check out our article below on container growing for some ideas and tips. We also talk about micro-greens. Steve Wood at his International Permaculture Day talk discussed the nutritional benefits of these - and if you're interested in having a go, we've now got all the essentials (including bulk seed) available.
In other news, we recently took delivery of a bulka-bag filling frame - which means we can now easily fill bags of up to 1m3 with our soils and mulches. So if you've been wanting to purchase some bulk product but NOT have it tipped on your driveway or verge (and have to deal with the pile straight away), have a chat to us about how we can help.
NEW WINTER OPENING HOURS
From 1st July 2017 - we are trialing new opening hours over winter:
Monday - Saturday - open @ 8.30am - closing @ 4.00pm
Sunday - open @ 8.30am - closing @ 2.00pm
We're still open 7 days for your convenience. (And should you ever need to arrange a soil pickup outside of these hours - please call us to make arrangements.)
And in other news - we've recently joined Instagram... so follow us @greenlifesoil and join the fun! (and if you're on Facebook - we're there too!)
Enjoy winter in your garden & we hope to see you soon!
Linda & The Team @ Green Life Soil Co.
In this newsletter:
Jobs to do in the garden - June
What to Plant now
Container Growing - Small Space/Big Returns!
New @ GLSC
VIP Special Offer
June jobs to do in the Winter Garden
- Over the next month or so it's time to prune back your deciduous trees and fruit trees. Depending on the type of tree, look up a good gardening book or Youtube video to give you some pointers. Many people are unsure and a little nervous about pruning. The main things to consider are keeping the tree to a useful size, and ensuring good airflow and light penetration. If you keep these factors in mind, you will end up with a better tree as a result. Worst case scenario if you cut back heavily you may end up with less fruit next season - but you are likely to get a bumper crop the following year once the plant has recovered.
- Winter is also the best time to plant new deciduous and fruiting trees. Get some good advice on what varieties suit your situation (keeping in mind some trees will require a pollinator) and prepare the spot by digging in some aged compost/manure or our Green Life General Concentrate. In sandy soil you may consider incorporating clay for water holding and in heavier soils, perhaps some gypsum. If you have a narrow space or are looking at utilising a wall or a fence, consider espaliering. Again - check out some good books or websites that will give you ideas that will work in your situation, as everyone's backyard is different. Always consider the full size of the mature tree and ensure you won't be creating an expensive problem to deal with down the track, or something that may cause issues with neighbours. These days there are many options available - and it is worthwhile getting expert advice from a specialist nursery or grower.
- Mentioned last month - soon asparagus and rhubarb will be available, so prepare your planting spots the same way described for fruit trees. Bear in mind rhubarb doesn't cope well with our hot summers; so may be better in a large pot so you can move it around with the seasons. Asparagus (pictured right) is a long lived plant (20+ years) and does need a fair bit of space to spread out, but it's a very worthwhile plant to grow if you enjoy using it in your cooking.
- As the soil is now a little damp, I'm sure you've noticed that weeds are springing up everywhere. Do try to spend a little time regularly getting on top of them. Hand pulling, chipping them into the soil, or smothering with mulch are the most environmentally friendly options. Weeds at this time of year haven't developed seed heads, so it is perfectly fine to throw them into cold compost bins or to leave them on the soil to break down.
- Slugs & snails. Another 'favourite' pest once there has been some rain. Keep an eye on your young seedlings and if necessary go out at night with a torch. Doing this a few nights in a row will make a serious dent in the population very quickly. The snails can be put in half a bucket of hot water with some salt (a good couple of tablespoons at least) and this will kill them. You can always make beer traps for snails, (click here for more info) and if you must use pellets, choose the lower toxicity iron pellets available. (We stock Multiguard and the certified organic Protect-us pellets - pictured right).
- Fertilise your winter vegies every few weeks with a light liquid feed. Fish hydrolysate, kelp, worm wizz, weed/manure/compost teas are ideal. Click here for more info.
- Make compost! Use those prunings, fallen leaves and weeds to make some valuable compost which will be ready to use in Spring. If you're wanting to learn 'best practice' compost making - check out our 'Hot Piles' workshop on 10th June - click here for more details & bookings.
- Attend a workshop! Get out of the house, shake off the winter blues, meet some like minded folk and learn something. We've got a range of workshops over the next month (and more will be added for later in the year) - so check out the program here.
What to Plant Now
Check out our free downloadable 'When to Sow' guide on our website. Ideas include:
Globe artichokes, beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower (be quick), celery, garlic, jerusalem artichokes, kale, kohl rabi, leek, lettuce, onion, peas, potato, radish, silverbeet, spinach, snow peas, spring onions, strawberries, turnips.
Concerned about caterpillars? Interplant dill and sage around your brassicas - these herbs are reputed to be useful in keeping them off your vegies.
Most herbs (with the exception of basil) will do well planted now. Coriander is a great herb to plant now and grow over the cooler months. Consider some flowering annuals. Things like pansies, violas, nasturtiums, calendula, marigolds etc. will add colour and help with attracting pollinators and confusing pests. See our Herb Propagation guide here.
Watch for slugs, snails and slaters with new seedlings planted now. At this time of year, mulch isn't necessary in your vegie patch to keep moisture in the soil. If you're wanting to mulch (perhaps to add organic matter to the soil and help smother weeds) it is best to use a straw type mulch once the crops are well established. Always keep a bit of space around the stem of your vegies to ensure airflow.
Growing edible plants in pots can be a great way to get a big return from a small space. Obviously if you have a courtyard or balcony, it's pretty much the only option available. But those of us with bigger yards can still enjoy the benefits - it's very convenient to be able to pop out the back door to harvest your herbs rather than venture out into a dark, wet night when making dinner! With a busy lifestyle, a few pots right under your nose on a verandah are less likely to be overlooked. You'll notice if they're looking thirsty, or getting attacked by pests or disease and be able to deal with it before it's too late! Containers can be an extension to your vegetable garden in peak seasons if you need more space. And if you have a small household, pots also make it easy to manage crop rotation, as you can simply harvest and re-plant a pot at a time.
Selecting your Container
Get creative! It doesn't have to be a plant pot you grow in. Recycling & upcycling quirky containers is pretty cool. Just remember that drainage is important. You will need to make sure there are drainage holes; or you can manage if the pot is deep enough by adding rocks, or large chunks of polystyrene or something at the bottom so that roots do not sit in water. However, if you choose to do this, you will need to keep an eye on the plant to make sure that it doesn't end up waterlogged - even though the top of the soil may be dry. Using a bamboo skewer (push it right into the soil and leave it a while) to test for dampness or a digital probe might be necessary. Ideally, use these kind of pots for annuals. They'll give you the wow factor but you won't be devastated if your favourite house plant turns up its toes. Remember - you can always select a real pot to put inside a funky container of some kind... this 'double potting' will allow you to check for excess water from time to time. And if that's all too hard - self watering pots with a reservoir are very handy and avoid the problem of overwatering.
It doesn't really matter if the pot is plastic or terracotta. In summer, terracotta and unglazed pots will tend to dry out quicker. Consider sealing them to help with this if they're going to be situated in an exposed spot - it's worth the effort.
Try to make sure that any saucers don't stay full of water, as this will encourage mosquitos to breed.
Does size matter?
For root crops, selection of a larger container - at least 30 - 40cms deep is necessary. Larger leafed vegies (eg. cauliflower/broccoli) also need a larger container to support growth. But many other useful plants and salad greens will grow happily in a smaller, more shallow pot. Just remember in summer, smaller pots will dry out much quicker than larger ones and will need more water.
Perennial plants and fruit trees will need a large pot to be happy. Remember that the soil contained is the ONLY option the plant has for its root development and to scavenge nutrients; so if you're expecting lots of flowers or fruit - you must provide a bit more TLC to something growing in a container. Sometimes plants in small pots will attempt to fruit prolifically - this is a symptom of stress - the plant doesn't fancy its chances for long-term survival, so is trying to madly reproduce. This natural reaction MAY be something to use to your advantage, but isn't a great strategy for a healthy plant specimen in the long run. You'll see plants like this stunted, with little foliage but loaded with flowers or fruit & begging to be fed!
Crops suitable for growing in pots include many leafy herbs - eg. Basil (summer), coriander (winter), marjoram/oregano, cress, mint, thyme, lettuce, parsley, lemon grass, ginger, silverbeet, dwarf kale, spinach, chillies, capsicum, sorrel, eggplant, bush tomatoes, chives, shallots, onions, garlic. Intersperse your edible plants with pots of in-season flowering annuals. They'll add colour, and help with attracting pollinators and confusing some insect pests.
Growing medium - what to use
It goes without saying the quality of diet you provide to your plants (by way of potting mix) will influence their growth and vigour. Use the best potting mix you can afford and you'll need to use less fertiliser, and the soil mixes will last longer. This is especially important in larger pots for perennials and trees, where it is going to be very inconvenient to re-pot and top up soil (although realistically - for absolute best results you should factor in doing this every few years - at least a partial top up/exchange of soil).
Ingredients like cocopeat/coir and our Charlie Charcoal are both very long lasting, and help with moisture and nutrient retention in pots. We use both of these products in our mixes, and you can buy them individually from us too.
If you're a Green Life customer you may wonder what's best for edibles in pots - our Potting Mix or our Vegetable Mix? The fact is, in anything less than 100L size, you're far better off using the potting mix. If you wish to add a bit of vegetable mix - that's up to you; but the potting mix has been formulated for container growing, while the vegetable mix is more suited to raised beds and larger growing areas.
If you're growing ornamental plants for indoors, similar rules apply. Often indoor plants will need less watering, but you'll probably need to adjust your watering regime with the seasons. Indoor plants might not need direct sun, but they still need filtered light. You might be best moving them around from time to time indoors and giving them a spell outside (in the shade or under a verandah). A plant that has led a sheltered existence inside will fry if you put it outside in direct sun. Sometimes it's good to take your indoor plants outside and let them enjoy a rainy day. It will wash dust off the leaves and give them a good drink.
Indoor plants can be prone to pests too - in particular scale and mealy bug which are sap-suckers. They can be controlled by using pest or white oil. You're always best to treat pests at the first sign than letting populations explode. If there's only one or two bugs you can simply remove them by hand.
Little gnats or pesky flies hanging around your indoor pots are a symptom the soil is too moist. These little bugs (fungus gnats) don't harm your plants but can be annoying. Trap them with a small amount of balsamic vinegar or red wine in a glass near the plant and you can make a dent in their population. Once the soil surface is dryer, you will break the breeding cycle and you'll get rid of them.
Eat your Greens!
Leafy green vegetables are some of the most nutrient dense foods you can add to your diet. Growing some in containers for a quick harvest crop is a fantastic idea, and is very easy to do. If you're short on space and patience - consider microgreens. Microgreens are different to sprouts (which are eaten seed and all - the seeds are sprouted in water, and you eat the whole thing once the plant has germinated). Microgreens are grown in soil, and are 'normal' plants (that if left to grow, would produce regular vegetable crops) but are harvested at a very young age (3-4 weeks) once they have developed their first true leaves. These baby plants are packed full of nutrients, and harvested with scissors just above ground level. The soil medium then can be mixed into a fresh batch, or added to a compost bin or worm farm - and you start again. Unfortunately, repeat harvests aren't possible.
Microgreen seeds are normal plants - but ideally, buy the seed in bulk, as a regular packet of seeds just won't provide you with enough for a decent crop, and it won't be economical either. (We do carry some microgreen seed @ GLSC.)
Steve Wood at his recent talk @ Green Life recommended growing microgreens in cocopeat/coir. This provides a light, fluffy mix for the seeds to germinate, and as the plant isn't designed to live in it long term, you don't really need to provide extra nutrition - other than maybe a watering in with kelp or similar to boost germination. (Note - cocopeat isn't a complete enough medium on its own as a longer term planting mix; but it is great to add to your soil & potting mixes.) Cocopeat comes in compressed bricks (picture on right) that expand when soaked in water. One of these bricks will make up 55L of loose cocopeat.
To sow microgreens, you can use any container - but small & shallow ones are ideal, because you don't need to worry about much root development prior to harvest. Add your seed raising mix or coir, and water. Then THICKLY sprinkle your seed on top - you should definitely be able to see the seed layer covering the soil - then lightly sprinkle another layer of soil mix or compost or vermiculite over the top - just to lightly cover the seed. Mist with a spray bottle so as to not dislodge the seed. If you touch the soil lightly with your fingers, it should be damp to touch.
Leave the trays/pots in a warm spot that gets indirect light (a window sill is perfect) and mist with water once a day - or more in dry conditions. The aim is to never let the seeds dry out; but they don't need to be really wet/sodden either - or else they will rot. The trays & pots (pictured right & available from GLSC) are perfect for microgreens.
Once they're large enough (usually 5-6cms tall and with their true leaves emerging) - cut and use them! You are capturing the optimum nutrition of the developing plant. Studies have shown that phytonutrients and flavonoids are highly concentrated in these tiny plants; and can have cardio protective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They also look great and can be added to salads, soups/stews, green smoothies, or used as an edible garnish.
Top tips for microgreens.
Plants to consider are things like lettuce, kale, spinach, radish, mustards, beetroot, watercress, herbs (eg parsley, basil, coriander, dill, fennel - and many more), cabbage, sunflower (pictured right), buckwheat, broccoli, celery, rocket, amaranth, sorrel, chia, tatsoi, mizuna, carrots, peas, wheat, barley, chickpea, fenugreek.
When choosing seed, it is always best to find certified organic if possible - that way you can be sure the seeds haven't been treated with any chemical fungicides or products to extend shelf life.
Ideally, your growing medium should also be organic. If you're growing your microgreens (or salad greens, or vegetables) for your consumption, it makes sense to try to have them clean and free of contaminants.
The Green Life Soil Co makes Certified Organic seed raising mix and potting mix - both suitable for your edible container growing & microgreens. We also carry small pots & handy plant trays for microgreens, certified organic kelp and fish fertilizers, and coir/cocopeat blocks. We also have a range of microgreen seeds available in stock - come in and check them out! (At the time of writing this we have sunflower, chickpea, red cabbage, corn salad, ruby chard, chervil, red kale, peas, radish & coriander in suitable microgreens packs. Do check in from time to time as stock will change.)
NEW @ GLSC
- Need a larger quantity than a few bags but don't want a bulk delivery of soil to deal with? Ask us about a bulkabag delivery. Ideal for getting up to a cubic metre of soil at a time or a single scoop of our bobcat or two scoops (equivalent to a trailer load). Delivery charges still apply but it may be a convenient option for you.
- Cracked Pea Gravel - perfect for pathways to complement your garden, or to use as a mulch. Cracked pea gravel is now available @ GLSC. Pictured right & close up - it looks fantastic!
- Marri and Jarrah (photos below at the end of this newsletter) woodchip mulches are back in stock. Available loose or in 60L bags for convenience (always good to ring ahead to double check if you're after these).
- Lucerne pellets - these are a bit special! Lucerne (otherwise known as alfalfa) is a rich, nitrogen fixing crop that as well as being eaten as sprouts by humans, is grown in the field for a high protein stockfeed. We have stocked lucerne hay for some time - but have recently also been able to obtain it in a pelletised form. Sold in 15L bags (approx. 5kg), this is a really convenient way to use lucerne in the garden as a fertiliser and a mulch. Ideal in pots, it is a weed free way to feed and protect your soil. Once moist, the pellets expand and form a mat on top of the soil.
You can use them anywhere around the garden, and under mulch too - the moisture will help the lucerne break down and feed the soil. Our own use of them has shown they encourage lots of white fungal growth - which is NOT detrimental to your plants but a healthy sign of biological life. Experiments by a compost tea maker we know has shown that after about 24 hours the brew is packed full of protozoa when using the pellets in the mix. Lucerne pellets are clean to handle and sweet smelling, and are vegan friendly for those that don't like to use animal products in their garden. See photo below.
VIP reward for June
We'd love you to try out our NEW lucerne pellets. Normally, we sell a 15L (5kg approx) bag for $16. For the month of June, VIP members can grab bags to try for $12. Remember to ask for the offer in store or if ordering over the phone.
Shopping online? Go to our VIP/members section (remember you must be logged in to access this area of our website) and select lucerne pellets in there at the special introductory price.
And let us know what you think! (remember - don't freak out with any surface white fuzzy mould - it's all OK!!!)
Until next time - keep warm and happy gardening!
Marri mulch (left) and Jarrah mulch (right) - up close & personal. Remember all wood chip mulches will fade to silvery-grey over time. Perfect for a native garden.