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new leafSo who can believe we're officially one month into Autumn already?  It seems to be a bit of a pattern now that Summer's last hurrah comes late & into Autumn, and this year seems no exception, with some warm days making us wonder about the timing of new plantings and soil preparation.

But the plants are aware of the shortening of daylight hours, and the cooler night temperatures, and we start to see the changes.

Paul & I were lucky enough to get to Melbourne for a few days in March to see MIFGS (Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show) for the first time this year.  We also got to attend the Horticultural Media Australia Association's Laurel awards presentation - and it was great to see WA's Deryn Thorpe & Steve Wood awarded the win for their podcast 'All The Dirt'.   Congratulations to them! - It's always fun and informative to listen.  If you haven't already, click on the 'All the Dirt' logo on the left hand side of the newsletter screen and download episodes from their website, or else via the app store on your smartphone.  With lots of local gardening info & interviews with all types of gardening experts, there's something for everyone.  I was fortunate to be invited in as a guest last year - if you want to learn more about Green Life Soil Co's story - click here

There were some fantastic displays and show gardens at MIFGS - so we're inspired and getting ready for the Perth Garden Festival which happens 12 - 15th April at McCallum Park, in Victoria Park - right near the river.  Make sure you get along this year.  We'll be at stand 157 - so come along and say hi!  I'll be doing a talk at the BUPA tent 2.30pm, Thursday 12th on "Soil Matters"; if you manage to get along on the first day.  Check out the Festival guide (pick one up at GLSC, or your local nursery) for a timetable of all the speakers and topics - there's always lots to do and learn.  You can buy your festival tickets online here (and buying online puts you in the draw to win a fantastic outdoor kitchen courtesy of sponsor Kleenheat).

waterwise logoSpeaking of learning - remember to check out the Events page on our website for upcoming workshops @ GLSC.  We're holding our first 'Waterwise Gardening' workshop on Sunday, 29th April.  This will be FREE to attend - but bookings are required as places are limited.  So if you want to know how to plan or improve your garden to be more successful AND use less water, register today.

It's the time of year to replenish your garden beds & get planting Winter crops.  We can help you grow some fantastic vegies, have the best lawn in the street, or have a thriving native garden that brings in birdlife.  Whatever your vision for your garden, come on down to Green Life Soil Co and let us help your garden dreams come true!

If you can't get out to see us, you can shop online 24/7, book a delivery over the phone, or pick up some of our bagged products from a local independent stockist.  (We're thrilled to welcome Waldecks Melville on board as our newest retailer!)   

See you soon,

Linda & the Team @ GLSC

Photo below/right - Paul and I all glammed up for the HMAA Laurels Awards Dinner.  If you're used to coming into the yard, you may never have seen us so clean!

In this newsletter:

Paul and LindaJobs for the April garden
What to plant now
Top soil problems (and how to solve them)
March photo competition winner
WIN Perth Garden Festival tickets
VIP special offer
Retail stockists close to home

Jobs for the April Garden

  • alyssum and beePlant out some spring bulbs for colour and to attract pollinators.  There's usually a good range to choose from at the Garden Festival.
  • Plant out seeds (or seedlings) of winter/spring flowering annuals.  It's Sweet Pea time!  Also Pansies, Poppies, Aquilegia, Alyssum (pictured right), Marigold, Nemesia - just to name a few!  We've got heritage flower seeds in stock - so you can save your own seeds (or allow them to self seed) for next year!  I'm becoming more and more a fan of interspersing flowers with vegetable crops.  Aside from attracting beneficial insects and pollinators, it just makes your garden look even more beautiful!  if you're a stickler for edibles, there's lots of flowers that are edible, too!  See our fact sheet on edible flowers here.
  • Keep an eye out for pests & disease.  Many of the pumpkins/cucumbers are succumbing to powdery mildew as they are coming to the end of their season - there's not much you can do.  If your plant has fruit still maturing, you can try a milk spray (1 part milk to 9 parts water) on the healthiest leaves; the ones that are 'past it' you should remove and dispose of.  There's not much you can do to prevent it as spores are carried on the air.  
  • When the rain comes (or cooler weather brings damp conditions) watch out for slugs & snails - particularly if you have young seedlings planted out.
  • Remove spent crops, mulch healthy garden waste & compost deciduous leaves, and start a compost pile.  We've got heaps of info on what method of composting is right for you in this article from a previous newsletter.
  • lawnApril is a great time to plant out a new lawn or to repair an existing one.  Getting water holding minerals and organic matter into the soil is vital for maintaining healthy lawns.   If lawns are compacted, consider hiring an aerator to poke some holes into the soil so your top dress/fertiliser can get right into the root zone.
  • Replenish your soil.  As organic gardeners say 'feed your soil - not your plants'; and autumn is the perfect time to do just that.  See our article on solving soil problems below.

What to Plant Now

Green Manure is a great plant to sow now in areas you can leave for a while.  By allowing the green manure to grow, then (before it goes to seed) turning it into the soil, you're increasing the organic matter of the soil easily and cheaply.  We've got mixed green manure packs available now at Green Life.

garlicGarlic - we've just received local organically grown garlic.  The grower called this variety 'Hot Purple Garlic'.  It has fairly large cloves and a strong scent.  (Pictured right.)

Potatoes - our certified organic seed potatoes are only a couple of weeks away.  Keep an eye on our Facebook page for the announcement when stock arrives.  This year's varieties include Eureka, Dutch Cream, Delaware & Ruby Red.

Check out our When to Sow free downloadable guide, and our Herb Planting guide - but here's a quick list of what you can plant now:

Artichokes (Globe), Asian greens, Beetroot, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Endive, English spinach, Garlic, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Lettuce, Mint, Onion, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Radish, Rocket, Silverbeet, Snow peas, Spring onions, Swede, Turnips.

If you're looking for growing tips on individual herbs and/or vegetables, did you know we have a heap of free fact sheets available?  Click here and scroll down the list to find what you're looking for!   Also - use the search box (top left of the website) to look for specific topics - there's a good chance there'll be an archived newsletter article that might be useful.  We're always happy for ideas on what topics to include in future editions, too.

Top Gardening Problems (and how to solve them!)

hoseTowards the end of summer we see lots of people struggling with their gardens. As you know, Perth is a tough place to grow many plants. The climate and native soil is challenging. Come autumn people are getting excited about getting outdoors in their gardens (once the heat has passed) and often this is a great time to improve your soil that will bring you benefits for next summer - as far off as it may seem.

From time to time, we have surveyed our customers to find out what their biggest gardening challenges are, in the hope that we can help with information and products to ease their frustration and make gardening more successful.  

The top issues people report are:

1.  Water repellency.  At the end of summer; this problem is at its worst.  The hot weather can dry out the top layers of soil where the microbial life is, and nutrient recycling and water holding just isn't happening.  Water will pool on top of the soil.  Often, when the rains start, people are dismayed to find when digging in their soil that the moisture hasn't penetrated below the top few millimetres.  In our sandy soil, this is a very common problem.

The solution
hose knotIn the short term, use a good quality soil wetting agent (we recommend EcoWet) to help get water into the soil profile.  However this method isn't permanent, and you'll need to repeat applications every 12 months.  Incorporating water holding material is the key to longer lasting benefits.   Clay is extremely beneficial to add to sandy soil - the clay permanently improves the soil's structure, enabling it to be re-wet even if it does dry out.  There are a number of clay products on the market - and all have their place.  The two main types are bentonite & kaolinite clays.  Green Life sells BOTH.  We have pure Watheroo bentonite available, our Sand Remedy (which is bentonite based but includes a number of other effective minerals for water and nutrient holding - as well as trace elements), and kaolinite clay 'Cassies Clay'.  Both Sand Remedy and Cassies Clay are endorsed by the WA water corporation and help your garden use less water.

The other fantastic product that will help with water repellency is Charlie Charcoal.  Charcoal by its nature is highly absorbent, and is a permanent source of carbon in your soil - hugely beneficial for microbes and for nutrient holding, and as a bonus - it has a very low pH, so if you struggle with high alkalinity (as do many people along the coast) - this is the perfect product to use.  Charlie & Cassie work so well together in your garden that we would say it's a match made in heaven!!  
We use both products in the majority of our soil mixes.

2.  Lack of organic matter - "gutless sand".  The frustration is real!  People top up soils regularly with compost and manure - only to find that it disappears!

sandy soilThe solution
Unfortunately - the disappearing act is performed by billions of bacteria in the soil, consuming the organic matter.  However, in doing so, they do enable the nutrition in the material to become available to your plants.  So it's kind of a good thing they're doing!  Also - a small amount of what is left behind is humus - organic matter in a very stable and long lasting form.  The problem is, it does take years to build up humus to a noticeable (and useful) level.  So as gardeners, there's not much we can do besides continuing to top up garden beds with organic matter and building the soil.  I've heard it said it takes about 7 years to turn pure sand into something decent...  and unfortunately that's reported to be the average timeframe that Australians spend at one property before moving!  I wonder if there's a correlation - are we giving up too soon??  
Seriously though - things like growing green manure crops (to slash back into the soil) and mulching are two of the cheapest and most effective ways to build soil.  We would caution against adding manure too often.  Perth's sandy soils tend to leach the phosphorus readily and this isn't helping our waterways.  

Charlie Charcoal (biochar) is a permanent way to add carbon to your soils.  Check out terra preta soils - developed thousands of years ago in the Amazon, the charcoal is still in the soil today and promoting soil fertility.

Tree loppers' mulch (woodchips) layered down thickly (10 - 20cms) on the surface of your garden will turn your sand into lovely, dark soil in a few years - more quickly when there's more water available to help with decomposition.   As a bonus, a really thick layer of mulch like this will help against weeds, too.

3.  Pests.  Slaters, snails, aphids, slugs, caterpillars, grasshoppers, thrip, whitefly, scale, ants...  I'm sure there's plenty more to add to the list!

slaterThe solution.
As organic gardeners, it can be very difficult to grow a "perfect" garden...  but perhaps we need to question what "perfect" means and consider whether our point of view might be the problem?  Obviously nobody wants to be growing vegetables and have crops decimated to the point where there's nothing left to harvest.  But the odd caterpillar in a home grown broccoli is character building (at least that's what my mother used to say!).   But seriously; I guess the point with organic pest management is there's a bit more involved than a simple 'spray & forget' attitude.  Biodiversity is key, as many insect pests have their natural predators, so trying to get to the stage where we can encourage and support their activity is very important.  The problem is many sprays will knock things out of balance.  Take away the food source (pests) and you'll get less predatory insects in the first place.  It's a tough decision.  How much damage can you accept?  Is it worth sacrificing some plants this year in the hope that predatory insects will be in greater numbers next year? (Which does happen.)
So is there a solution?  Not a straightforward one for those that want to be truly organic in their garden.  Insect netting, barriers, traps and opting for the most targeted but the least harmful treatment to other insects would be our recommendation.  Encourage birds, lizards, frogs by providing habitat and they will be your helpers to an extent.  Be prepared to thoroughly investigate pest damage (night time garden visits with a torch if necessary) in order to correctly identify the culprit before deciding on the most effective treatment.  As Kermit says "It isn't easy being green."

4.  Weeds.

weedsThe solution.
Another constant battlefront for gardeners is the appearance of weeds.  Whether it's invasive lawn grass infiltrating a garden bed or seasonal weeds that seem to come from nowhere - we've all got them growing where they're not wanted.  I'm afraid you already know the answer to this problem.  Either you spray or you don't.  As organic gardeners we choose not to use glyphosate.  There's plenty on the internet supporting both sides of the whole debate - and it's got to be a personal choice whether you are comfortable using it.  But it is good that there are now a number of certified organic weed killers on the market - Slasher is one, and Yates have a 'Natures Way' product too that we stock @ GLSC.  Plus if you google it there are some home-made options using vinegar.  Steam and flame weeders might also be worth investigating, but apart from that it comes down to manual labour to remove by hand.  There's also options to solarise areas with plastic sheeting, and also heavy mulching (with cardboard or newspaper layed on top of the weeds).  There's a handy fact sheet on organic weed control here on our website for more reading.  I'm truly sorry I can't offer a more miraculous solution.

5.  Space (lack of)  In our typically smaller lots, space is a premium for growing.  Given our higher density living, there's also more walls, fences etc. that can mean it is very difficult to find a growing area that gets enough sun (in winter) or isn't baking hot with reflected heat (in summer).

The solution.
Creative thinking!  If it's edibles you want to grow, you might find growing vegies, herbs and even dwarf fruit trees in containers is the best option.  You might find there are only some crops and some seasons that enable you to grow - but at least you're still providing some of your own food!  For gardens generally, and finding the best use of small spaces, get lots of ideas!  Magazines, pinterest - but make sure that any plant choices are going to work for our climate.  It might be worth the cost of getting in a garden designer.  You don't need to engage them to do the whole garden project - but paying for an hour or two of on-site advice and some basic planting suggestions will definitely give you something to build on and be worth the investment.

For intensive food growing in small spaces, investigate Square Foot Gardening.  We've got books for sale @ GLSC plus some free info here on our website.  It can be a great way to get the most return from a small area.

If you really want to develop your green thumb and don't have the space - check out your local community garden.  These are springing up all over the place, and getting your own plot to grow on is inexpensive.  Plus you'll have the opportunity (if you want it) to engage with other members to learn & share knowledge, swap seeds and produce, and make new friends!  

6.  Lack of time & lack of knowledge

when to sow chartThe solution (ha!).
We're all time poor these days so - just like exercise (but probably more enjoyable) - we need to find a way to slot a little time regularly into our lives to check in on the garden.  A quick walk around with your morning cup of coffee, or a late afternoon visit with a glass of wine are good ways to sort out your thoughts and to observe what is happening.  

There's a great quote:  "The best fertiliser is a gardener's shadow"... and it really is true.  There's no substitute for being present.  

As far as lack of knowledge goes - gardening is a lifelong journey.  Nobody ever knows everything - and if they DO - it's probably totally irrelevant in YOUR garden as opposed to what they do in theirs.  So relax!  Join a garden club, community garden, attend workshops (check out our events) - read.  Connect with other gardening friends and share your knowledge.  You probably know more than you think.

I wish I could make it easier for you - I really do! I'd like to think that Green Life Soil Co's products help a little here - with complete mixes that get you all ready to go & grow without guessing what else you need to add.  Without a doubt, the biggest challenge people have in Perth is gardening on sandy soil.  I know we can help with that - so come and talk to us today and we'll do our very best to help.

salviasWinner - March Photo Competition

Congrats to our March winner of a $50 voucher - Jenny M who sent in a gorgeous photo from her garden with the comment:  

"I have sages and salvias amongst the pumpkins to attract the butterflies."

Remember - there's a winner drawn every month, so you may as well keep those photos coming!  Tell us a little bit about your garden; what you love about it, and what Green Life products you've used.

Photos can be sent in by email (marked 'monthly photo competition') or via our Facebook page.

Good luck!

Perth Garden Festival - WIN TICKETS!!

garden festival logoGrab a free Perth Garden Festival magazine/program next time you come into GLSC.  There's a map of exhibitors, a timetable of speakers, and some great articles on autumn gardening to get you inspired!  Once more, this year's Festival is at McCallum Park in Victoria Park, and runs Thursday 12th through to Sunday 15th April.  Tickets can be bought online or at the gate.  Buying online helps you beat the queues and puts you in the draw to win a $9,000 outdoor kitchen.  

Green Life will be there on Stand 157, showcasing our soils, introducing Charlie Charcoal to Perth, and also Lucerne pellets as something new!!  Unfortunately we can't take EVERYTHING down to the show to sell...  so unless you give us a bit of warning to make sure we can take down items you are wanting to pick up at the show - you're best to come out to GLSC or to order online as usual.  But do come along and say hello!  

If you'd like to WIN A DOUBLE PASS to the show (we've got a couple to give away) - here's how you can do it!

You'll be aware that we run a regular photo competition, right?  Send us in your lovely & inspirational garden pictures with a few lines about the picture - and you can be in the draw to win a $50 voucher, drawn at random each month.  (Just like Jenny did!)

Well - we believe the Perth Garden Festival should be inspirational and provide encouragement to even the WORST gardeners out there - so this time get creative and send us your WORST gardening photo!!  

We're looking for the most creative and entertaining entries as to WHY you need the inspiration of attending this year's PGF.  

For those of you who access instagram - there's an account - excuse the French here - @shitgardens that may be of interest.  This particular account is about celebrating the quirky and isn't about criticising.  (See an article in the New York Magazine here about them that has info & some examples.)

We're not out to poke fun at people - but trying to find the balance of a little humour in all things green.  Or perhaps things that should be green.  Or once were.

So - send in your photos to our Facebook page (CLEARLY tagged #GLSCPGF) or you can upload them to our website here.  But get cracking - winners will be announced 11th April.

VIP Special Offer

charlie charcoalIt's the time of year to get growing and get your soils replenished for the season ahead.  So this month - grab a bag of our Certified Organic & Waterwise Endorsed Charlie Charcoal to try for a special price of $12.00 per bag.

Note:  Standard price is $18.00 per bag.  Regular VIP price online (as a signed-in VIP member) is $16.00 per bag.

Offer is valid in store or online only until the end of April 2018.  If shopping in store (or placing an order by phone) please ASK for the newsletter special offer.

Retail Stockists

waldecks melvillePlease support the local independent businesses who support Green Life.  You'll find great advice and service close to home.

Remember to check with individual stockists what products they currently have in stock - as it will vary between retailers:

Beaufort Garden World - Inglewood 9271 0585
Dunn + Walton - Doubleview 92427711
Garden Elegance - Subiaco 9381 2197
Guildford Town Garden Centre - Guildford 9279 8645
Ngoolark Nursery - South Fremantle 0420 703 724
Nibali Stockfeed - Hamilton Hill 9433 2211
Stanbee Stockfeeds - Barragup 9581 2390
Waldecks Bentley - Bentley 9458 5944
NEW - Waldecks Melville - Melville 9330 6970
Waldecks Nursery - Kingsley 9309 5088 & Stirling 9254 6730
Wandilla Nursery - Wattle Grove 9453 9779
Zanthorrea Nursery - Maida Vale 9454 6260


Until next time - happy gardening!


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