Welcome to the November newsletter - after a bit of a weird start to Spring it looks like we have some warmer weather arriving this week! Let's hope we can enjoy some gentle, warm Spring days before it starts to get crazy hot. I hope your garden's doing well - we've certainly enjoyed seeing things grow in response to the rain. I feel accomplished that we've got some summer crops in earlier this year;
so I hope we'll be harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini by Christmas! At the moment we're enjoying a little bit of asparagus (beds are still too young to be producing a whole lot), globe artichokes, salad greens, turnips and beetroot and the broad beans are just starting to come on.
November 12 - 19th is Australian Pollinator Week - you can follow the link to find out more - but basically it's to raise awareness of just how important bees are (including native bees) in our food production and general environment. Why not take the opportunity to plant something for the bees, or to build an insect/bee hotel?
November 13 - 19th is National Recycling Week - again follow the link for more info & resources. Start a conversation with family & friends to see what you can to to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle your waste. Got a compost system or a worm farm set up? Now might be the perfect time to start! If you're not sure we can help with fact sheets and advice.
On the business front, we're really thrilled to announce that last week at the Belmont & Western Australian Small Business Awards Green Life won the category for "Best Marketing" - which was a surprise and an honour! Just goes to show that all those hours on Facebook weren't wasted after all... (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!) Pictured below - Paul & I celebrating with our award at the presentation last week.
Remember we still have a great program of workshops between now & Christmas - including the 'Tucker Bush Talk' coming up this Saturday. Keep in mind that with only weeks until Christmas, you might like to book in for the Herbal Manufacturing workshop and learn how to make some great Christmas gifts for friends & family utilising herbs you've got growing in your garden. Check out our workshop schedule in this link.
Thanks to all who supported our 'Do it in a Dress' weekend! The team got into the spirit of it again this year and gave our customers a smile and something to talk about! The total raised this year was $600 - a special thanks to those individuals and Schaffer Loaders who generously donated online; and to those who contributed to the collection box when we rattled it under your nose! Together we'll be providing full school education to 2 girls. Just imagine how life changing that will be for their future.
So we hope to see you soon @ Green Life - whether you're grabbing some vegie seedlings & vegie concentrate to get those summer crops in while you can, whether you come along to learn & share at one of our workshops, or whether you're swinging past to grab some mulch to get your garden ready for hot weather - we're open 7 days (remember we close @ 2pm Sundays and 4pm every other day) for all your garden goodies.
Have fun in your Spring garden!
Linda & the Team @ The Green Life Soil Co
In this Newsletter:
What to Plant Now
Jobs to Do in the November Garden
World Soil Day - Free Event
Mulch - Build your soil inexpensively
VIP Special offer
What to Plant Now
November is a great time to get planting in your edible garden - with many vegies & herbs to grow that will be producing before the height of Summer arrives in January/February.
Artichokes (globe & jerusalem - and we've got a limited number of jerusalem artichoke tubers in stock so be quick!), Beans, Beetroot, Capsicum, Chilli, Carrots, Choko, Cucumber, Eggplant, Leek, Lettuce, Melons, Okra, Parsnip, Pumpkin, Radish, Silverbeet, Spring onions, Strawberries, Sweetcorn, Sweet potato, Tomatoes, Zucchini.
Globe artichokes planted this year will give you a harvest next Spring/Summer like ours - pictured right.
It's also a great time to plant many herbs - especially things like basil! Plant some with your tomatoes - they make a great flavour combination but are also fantastic companion plants. For other good companions - click here for our guide.
Check out our free downloadable guides - 'When to Sow' (vegies) and 'Herb Propagation' for more information.
Remember we've got lots of fact sheets on how to grow specific vegies, and also our 'Top 12 Edible Plants for Spring/Summer' guide.
Why not plant some summer flowering annuals for some colour and for the bees - it's the time of year to plant sunflowers!
Jobs to do in the November Garden
- As the weather is warming up, it's time to consider mulch for your garden. Our feature article below talks about different types of mulches - there's lots to choose from depending on your garden and your personal preference. We're happy to help with advice if you want to come in and have a look at the mulches available. And you can also see our mulch guide here - which might help you make your selection.
- Check your irrigation. Make sure your sprinklers are all working - now's the time to get it ready for summer, and fix or upgrade your system for maximum efficiency. Remember to check your watering days and make sure you turn your system off if we have more rainy days.
- Sow seeds for succession planting. If you're wanting to have a 2nd wave of summer vegie crops, now's the time to get your seeds started. You'll need to keep them moist and protected in hot weather. If you haven't had the time to get any crops in the ground yet, you might be better off choosing healthy seedlings ready to go - they'll save you 4-6 weeks at least which means you could be harvesting some vegies by Christmas.
- Say 'bye 'bye to your brassicas. Cabbage, Kale, Broccoli - these vegies will all grow in Perth over summer, but unless you're prepared to use insect netting and protect your crops, you'll most likely have an uphill battle with caterpillars now the weather is warming up. This year in particular seems to be particularly bad for the tiny cabbage moth (also known as diamondback moth). These are different from the large white cabbage butterflies - they are a small, brown moth (pictured here) active in the evenings. We've had clouds of them around this year due to favourable weather conditions over winter. They lay eggs on your plants from which tiny green caterpillars emerge. They are no longer than your fingernail and are often found on the reverse side of leaves, along leaf veins. If disturbed, they drop from the leaves with a silken 'cobweb'. By removing your brassicas you can help break their rather short breeding cycle (14 days in summer). Hopefully beneficial wasps will be breeding up to control their numbers. Should you really need to spray, Dipel is the option we'd recommend. These pests are noted to have developed some resistance to pyrethroid insecticides; so you might not be having much luck with these sprays.
- Pot up! Get some pots tidied up and planted out with potted colour or herbs NOW to be looking fantastic for Christmas. (Think ahead and put together some Christmas gifts!) It's not a bad time to repot or tidy up pot plants generally - fresh potting mix (incorporating some water holding minerals) will keep them at their best over summer. Our premium potting mix is perfect for most plants, and we've got other specialty mixes (aquatic potting mix, blueberry mix for your acid lovers and succulent mix) as well as our square foot mix which also works well for container growing over summer.
- Feed your existing vegies with a weak solution of liquid fertiliser (fish hydrolysate, kelp or worm whizz) weekly or fortnightly. Little and often is a good way to go to keep your high-production vegies happy and healthy.
World Soil Day - Free Event @ Green Life
Tuesday, 5th December is World Soil Day
; I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir with all you good people - but we really need to recognise how vital soil is to our existence; and do what we can to promote good management practises; whether we're talking large scale agriculture or in our own back yard.
We're planning a special 'Soil Day' on Sunday, 3rd December @ Green Life. Drop in between 9.30 - 12.30 on the day with your soil samples. We'll do a pH test for you and we'll have the microscope set up so you can check out what it looks like up close and see what microbial action might be going on!
We'll have some free mini-talks on soil improvement and there'll be the opportunity to ask questions (which we'll do our best to answer!) And there 'might' be some samples & giveaways.
Join us for a cuppa and morning tea for what should be a fun and interesting morning. We'll have a little more information in the next newsletter; but as it's the first weekend of December we wanted to give you some warning to save the date. We'd love to see lots of our VIP's come along and 'talk dirty' with us!
Mulch - protect and build your Soil
With temperatures sure to be on the rise as summer approaches, now is the perfect time to get mulch on your garden. It will help protect the surface of your garden beds from the harsh sun, and slow the effect of evaporation - meaning you'll use less water, and plants will be less stressed as their roots won't dry out so quickly.
If you look at a natural forest area, the ground is richly 'self-mulched' with the decaying leaves, barks and dying plant material that naturally occur in that area. In our gardens, we are quick to tidy up and remove dying plants, dead heading flowers and removing excess growth. Often we compost these materials (which is great) but sometimes this resource ends up in the bin! Crazy when you then have to buy in mulches to use in your garden.
If you're planning on gardening in a reasonable way, it makes sense to consider purchasing a shredder/mulcher to use on your garden greenwaste material. That way you can 'close the loop' and re-use your own waste as mulch. Should you compost the shredded waste, it will speed up the decomposition process making compost faster, so it's useful either way. If you're worried about diseased plant material spreading, then definitely avoid using that material unless you can be sure it's sufficiently 'cooked' in a hot composting system.
If you don't mind the look of it - 'chop and drop' mulching works too! This is exactly as it sounds - using your prunings and plant material on the ground. Everything will break down eventually; chopping it up in a mulcher just makes it a faster process. Chop & drop is ideal for lazy gardeners and the time poor!
Depending on the type of garden you have and its size - you may not be able to produce enough material to make all of your own mulch. If you need to buy mulch - how do you choose from the many varieties available?
Choosing a Mulch
There are many different kinds of mulch on the market and it can be confusing to try and choose one. Often, the decision can come down to price and aesthetics, as in effect all mulches will do the same thing - protect the soil!
However, for vegie gardens, most people prefer to use a lighter mulch that is quicker to break down (ie. a growing season or two) as it makes replanting/turning through garden beds between seasons MUCH easier than having to remove or work with a layer of chunky woodchips. A mulch that breaks down more quickly is feeding the soil and adding valuable organic matter faster. Mostly these are straw type mulches, that can include wheat/oat straw, pea straw (pictured right), lucerne straw, lupin mulch, and I'd also fit our lucerne pellets (pictured below) into this category. They are made from shredded lucerne and compressed into easy to use pellets. Once wet, they will swell up and break apart.
Nitrogen fixing - what does it mean?
The other benefit is that lupins, lucerne and peas are all from nitrogen fixing plants. This means that the straw is slightly higher in nitrogen than other plants - an added bonus in feeding the soil microbes and avoiding any nitrogen drawdown issues. The beneficial effect of supplying enough nitrogen to give your plants a good feed is possibly a stretch. The amount of nitrogen contained in these straws would be variable (probably higher in greener lucerne) so additional fertilising of your garden would still be recommended - but as always observe your plant health.
Plants from the legume (pea/bean) family have the unique ability to capture atmospheric nitrogen and to 'fix' it into the soil via their biological processes. (Some trees also have this ability - eg. Acacias/wattles.) Obviously they use this nitrogen to 'feed' themselves, but it has benefits for surrounding plants, soil microbes and as mulch if you harvest the plant material.
Jackie French in her book 'Soil Food' quotes the following rates for nitrogen fixing:-
Soy beans 60-90kg/hectare
Cowpeas (peas) 80-90kg/hectare
Rates would be variable depending on factors such as soil condition, water, etc.
This nitrogen fixing ability is one reason why we grow these plants as green manure crops, and why we grow hungry feeders after peas/beans in a crop rotation system.
Keep it Local
You might see on gardening shows produced in the Eastern States sugar cane mulch being used. This used to be available in the west too - however weed issues meant that quarantine stepped in and to my knowledge it's no longer stocked over here. Sugar cane mulch doesn't contain any magical qualities - but is a great resource to use where so much sugarcane is grown and readily available. It doesn't make sense to use fuel and energy to cart packaged mulch over the nullarbor when we have our own locally grown mulches readily available - they're just as effective.
If the convenience of buying a bagged product suits you better than handling and storing bales of straw - we have lupin mulch, chaffed pea straw, and lucerne pellets as a bagged option. The lucerne pellets are now coming to us in a groovy hessian bag (see picture) - so even the packaging is compostable! (Just make sure you store it somewhere dry.) I really like the lucerne pellets, and I've found worms really do too!
Bales work out a more economical way to buy straw mulch - there's less processing involved so you save money. (Plus we discount orders of 5 or more bales if you need lots.)
Mulches for shrubs and trees
Garden beds that you don't tend to dig through seasonally are ideally suited to a longer lasting woody type mulch. The advantages of using a wood based mulch is it tends to be weed free (unfortunately in straw there is always the likelihood that some seeds remain and these will germinate in your garden).
Woody mulches are great to SMOTHER weeds - particularly if you use a good layer of newspaper or cardboard underneath (soak it first in a wheelbarrow). Lay down the paper/cardboard over the weeds and spread a thick layer of mulch on top to hide the cardboard. Obviously the paper will break down eventually but you'll get a good year or two out of it. Be aware that seeds can still blow in or drop into the mulch from neighbouring patches of garden; and weeds can germinate from the top of the mulch. Should this happen, the weeds still won't get roots down deeply into soil, so they will be easier to remove anyway.
Woody mulches are heavier; so if you live in areas that have strong winds, look for chunky mulch that is less likely to blow away. (Marri woodchip mulch pictured right.)
Woody mulch comes in many different types.
The rawest form is 'recycled tree prunings' - sometimes nicely called 'forest floor mulch'. It usually comes from a range of street trees and is mostly eucalypt species. You will get leaf material in this but that's not really a problem. It's an economical way to get hold of lots of mulch should you have a big area to do. We've used this mulch in our garden for years; and in areas where mulch was applied thickly to unimproved soil; 5 years later we have lovely rich soil below that is full of worms and life. (Don't despair - it can happen sooner than 5 years. It depends largely on moisture in the soil.) If you're after a large amount, contact a tree lopping company or an organisation called mulchnet. If you're flexible with quantity and delivery timeframe you can often get a bargain load. If you have too much, some councils can get stroppy - so have a plan to distribute the excess before the ranger comes to call.
Other mulches are ground and composted. This results in a more uniform particle size and colour. Ours comes as a chocolate brown. (Economulch pictured right.) Be aware that some mulches commercially available (not stocked at Green Life) are actually dyed to be black or red or even green colour. Great if you're going for a particular 'look' in a feature garden of your house... but I'm not entirely sure what the long term soil benefits would be of the dyes used.
Then there are the real chunky wood chips - we have jarrah and marri wood chips in stock; and soon we'll have chunky pine bark mulch back in stock. Our mulches are sourced from a company that works with property developers and timber mills to salvage wood waste that would often be burnt to dispose of it. While it's a shame that these trees are removed for 'progress' at least their value as a resource is recognised. The company we buy the mulches from also contributes to a native tree planting program as part of its sustainability policy.
Jarrah mulch (pictured right) is a natural pinky colour. The chips are large and will be long-lasting in your garden. Be aware that in time the jarrah chips will fade to a silvery-grey colour.
Marri mulch is a brown colour. The chips of this mulch are slightly smaller. Given that marri is not as hard as jarrah, it will decompose a little bit quicker but is still considered to be a long-lasting and effective mulch.
Pine bark mulch (pictured below right) is a mixture of bark chunks and particles vary in size. Pine is plantation grown so probably the most sustainable choice. A chocolate brown colour that may be slower to fade - in part due to the irregularities in texture of the mulch. There is a common belief that pine bark mulch will help to lower the pH of your garden, given that pine needles tend to be a little acidic as they decompose. The effect of the pine bark may help - but it would be very slow to make any changes to your soil pH. In effect most decomposing, aged organic material will help with buffering pH in your garden anyway.
Karri and Peat mulch - Green Life doesn't carry this one but it has been a popular mulch in Perth for years. Peat makes the mulch a lovely black colour. But this mulch is out of favour with much of the horticultural community. The effect of laying peat (which is highly absorbent) on the surface of the soil can mean that when you water, the peat in the mulch will take up that water - and not allow it to permeate into the soil below it. Obviously this defeats the purpose! Given that peat is a non-renewable resource (often removed from wetland areas in the process of land clearing for developments) it's not as sustainable as a wood mulch that can be produced from woodlots or managed forestry areas.
The best mulches for water saving are said to be light coloured (to reflect heat) rather than dark (which absorbs heat), and to consist of large particles to allow water and air flow between the layers. Chunky wood chips work well for this reason. Wood chip mulch can also cover sand to allow for light foot traffic (although smaller particles like sawdust are more comfortable for walkways) and for verges that might be used for occasional parking of cars.
Some people believe that woody mulch can be a fire hazard - but it has been shown that coarser wood chip mulches are the least flammable option. (The finer the mulch, the quicker it will burn.) If you keep your garden watered, the layers below the very top will be permanently moist; meaning it is unlikely to catch fire.
Nitrogen drawdown - what is it?
You may have heard that woody mulches can starve your plants of nutrients (particularly Eucalypt mulch) - due to 'nitrogen drawdown'. What this means is that when woody material begins to breakdown, bacteria numbers in the soil build up as part of that decomposition - and these creatures use nitrogen. Woody material is high in carbon but low in nitrogen - so the microbes take what they need from the soil. This can have the effect of 'starving' plants of available nitrogen in the soil - leading to yellowing and stunted growth. However, this only occurs in the very top layer of soil directly under the mulch, so plants that have roots spread throughout the soil profile will barely notice any effect. Also, once the microbes (who only have a short lifespan) die; the nitrogen is released from their bodies and either used by other microbes or plants; so the effect does not continue to multiply. Should you be concerned, a light sprinkling of blood and bone or composted chicken manure (both high nitrogen fertilisers) directly on top of the soil and below the mulch will certainly counteract any ill effects. Over time, the benefits of using mulch on your soil to build organic matter far outweigh the negligible effects of nitrogen drawdown.
(Nitrogen drawdown also occurs in potting mixes which often contain lots of carbon material - eg. pine fines or sawdust. Commercial potting mixes should use these ingredients composted to reduce nitrogen drawdown prior to blending the mix. The difference between standard & premium potting mixes is that premium mixes have additional nitrogen added to them to ensure that the mix releases more nitrogen than the microbes can use. Green Life's premium potting mix contains composted pine fines and nitrogen is added in soluble and slow release organic forms with fish hydrolysate and blood meal.)
So there you have it - lots of different mulches to use; depending on your type of garden and your personal preference. There is nothing wrong with using wood chip mulches on your vegie garden as long as you're aware you'll need to carefully scrape off mulch to replant your patch. Should you be concerned with residual herbicides in straw mulches; then this might even be a "better" approach for you; as woody mulches are unlikely to have had any herbicide or pesticide treatments used on them. Unfortunately no straw mulch product is available certified organic. While the straw crops may not be directly sprayed, they are all grown on land that has had pre-emergent treatment to prevent weeds. We have trialled unsprayed hay in previous years and the resultant range of new and exotic weeds we introduced to our garden at the time was not something we'd like to share with our customers!
There is nothing wrong with using straw mulches around trees or shrubs or native plants, as long as you're aware that you will need to replenish the layer of mulch more frequently in order to be effective at conserving water. In fact, fruit trees in particular may love the regular application of straw mulch to build the soil. (Straw mulch pictured right/Lucerne bale pictured above right.)
General tips for mulching:
- use a layer ideally 10cms thick. It will last longer and be more beneficial.
- keep a little distance between trunks of trees/shrubs to prevent rotting - a few cms is all you need.
- don't smother seedlings! Allow seeds to germinate and get at least a set of true leaves before mulching. They can be swamped by a thick layer of mulch, and you'll also be able to monitor their health better, and notice any insect damage.
- unfortunately decaying organic matter can attract slaters - which have a role in breaking it down but you might find seedlings are damaged too. Keep that in mind, and use protective rings around your seedlings to keep mulch off them or adopt your preferred method of slater control.
- water BEFORE you lay down mulch. Get your soil really moist (use a soil wetter if necessary) then add your mulch.
- if you disturb mulch and find a grey mould in it - rejoice! It's actually beneficial fungi getting to work. Try not to breath it and leave it alone. It isn't a disease and it won't harm your plants. You'll sometimes find this in the middle of a straw bale when you open one - it's perfectly natural and not a problem to use.
VIP Special Offer
Because it's mulching time we've got a great deal for you on bulk loads of mulch.
- These special deals need to be booked in store or over the phone
- Prices INCLUDE Perth metro delivery (contact us for clarification - if you're in the outer suburbs some additional fee may apply)
- While available stocks last
- Ask for the November VIP special when placing your order
- Offer valid until close of business November 30, 2017
- PLEASE NOTE - photos are only an indication of the appearance/colour of mulch. We recommend calling in to view mulch before placing your order to be sure of its suitability.
Premium Mulch - $620 for 6m3 (truck load) delivered of your choice of:
Jarrah wood chip mulch
Jarrah wood chip mulch (pictured above right) is made from mill waste that would otherwise be burnt. It has large (20mm - 26mm approx) uniform chips, that are a pinky colour (from the jarrah timber) that will ultimately fade to a silver/grey in time. Large chunks are perfect for allowing good water penetration.
Marri (Red gum) wood chip mulch
Marri mulch is a brown colour. The wood chip is from Red Gums cleared for local land development that would otherwise be burnt. The chips of this mulch are slightly smaller. (20mm approx) Given that marri is not as hard as jarrah, it will decompose a little bit quicker but is still considered to be a long-lasting and effective mulch.
Pine bark mulch
Pine bark mulch is a mixture of bark chunks and particles vary in size. A chocolate brown colour that may be slower to fade - in part due to the irregularities in texture of the mulch.
3 Way Mix
Three Way Mix is a feeder mulch made from a blend of aged, ground up tree waste (mulch), compost and blended manure. The manure and compost will break down and feed up the soil, while the mulch will last a little longer, helping to smother weeds and retain moisture. This is a great mulch when you have a large area to cover, as it saves you feeding and mulching in two separate steps. (Pictured right)
3 Way Native mix
Native Three Way Mix is a feeder mulch designed for native plants, and is safe for those that are phosphorous sensitive. Made from aged, recycled tree waste (mulch), garden compost and aged blended manure. This is a great mulch when you have a large area to cover, as it saves you feeding and mulching in two separate steps.
Standard Mulch - $410 for 6m3 (truck load) delivered of your choice of:
Save water and retard weeds. A good basic mulch suitable for all plants. Made from aged & composted shredded green waste. Chocolate brown in colour, no artificial dyes. Made to Australian Standard AS4454, it is processed to eliminate weed seeds, pathogens and disease (including dieback).
Recycled Tree Prunings
Shredded tree prunings (mainly eucalypt) sourced from local tree loppers. Fresh & does contain some leaf matter. A great, economical mulch to use for large areas of your garden and for weed suppression. (Pictured right.)
So don't delay - get organised for summer & get your garden looking fabulous for Christmas entertaining. Book your delivery today!
Until next time - happy gardening!