Howdy Green Lifers! In last month's newsletter I started the introduction talking about how dry it's been... well - amazing how things can turn around, isn't it? June was officially our wettest month in 14 years; although we've still got a bit to go to catch up on where the average says we should be. I hope your garden has enjoyed the rain. As always, we're still blessed with lovely sunny days in winter - perfect for getting outdoors, so don't miss those opportunities to get things done in the garden.
We've got a heap more workshops organised for this 2nd half of the year - hop on over to our Events page and see all the details. No matter whether you're a new gardener, wanting to explore organic gardening (and/or Permaculture) a bit more, or wanting to drill down on some important skills to have more success - there's a range of things on offer, including: Propagation, Extracting Essential Oils, Using Essential Oils & Herbs (new), Permaculture Design, Integrated Pest Management, Plant Health (new), Low Cost Gardening (new), Understanding Soils, Native & Waterwise Gardening, Herbal Teas. Classes will only run if we get enough people enrolled, and to be fair to everyone we try to give as much notice as possible for cancellations, so please don't leave it to the last minute to sign up!
Do you like Avocados? I know we do - and they're a popular tree that many people in Perth love to grow, but struggle with. This month our feature article is on Avo's - and we'd like to say a big thank you to the Roleystone Organic Grower's association for allowing us to reproduce the notes they shared to their members following their June meeting, where they had Dudley Mitchell - the WA Director of Avocados Australia give a presentation about Avocado cultivation (and thanks too to Dudley for permission to share his work). If you're a keen gardener why not look around for a local gardening club (like the Organic Growers Association) or community garden? It's a great way to share knowledge, and many groups regularly have guest presenters like Dudley sharing their knowledge.
We hope you enjoy July's newsletter. Remember we love your feedback and ideas for what you'd like to see in future editions. While it's a little quieter, some of the GLSC team are taking a break (Paul & I are off to Rottnest for a few days and Jacob is off to Europe for a few weeks!). Jess, Rielly, Giles, Tommy, Jon, James & Kobe will all be on deck to keep things rolling along - so come on in and keep them busy!
Until next month ~ happy gardening!
Linda & the Team @ The Green Life Soil Co
In this newsletter:
Jobs for the July garden
What to Plant NOW
Avocado growing tips
Photo competition winner
VIP red hot winter delivery deal
Retail stockist update
Jobs to do in the July Garden
- Prune your roses & deciduous fruit trees. It's always a bit difficult to say exactly WHEN it's pruning time in Perth - but have a look at your plants and see if you think they're telling you it's time! There's plenty of workshops, YouTube tutorials and articles on pruning - have a look at a few if you lack confidence - but the most important thing is to keep in mind the size and structure of how you're wanting the plant to grow. For fruiting trees, it makes sense to keep the branches at a suitable height for picking fruit, or netting fruit; and to keep the structure as open as possible for sunlight & airflow. It may pay to be aware of whether your trees will fruit on new wood or 2nd season wood, just so you maximise future crops. However - if a tree has been neglected and NEEDS trimming back you may have to wear one season's lack of fruit for future benefit of better yields into the future.
Get ready to spray for peach leaf curl, if your nectarines and peaches suffered from this last year. It's a bit early yet - but get hold of your treatments and make it part of your garden routine to check on your susceptible fruit trees regularly. There is a window of opportunity to spray in late winter as the buds are just about to burst with new growth; so you don't want to miss it.
Plant rhubarb & asparagus. We're still to receive our stock - but it will be here soon!! Get the ground ready by digging in lots of aged compost/manure (or some of our vegie concentrate) and let it settle. Stay up to date with our Facebook page for the announcement of when stock arrives. Hopefully by the end of the month.
Watch for yellowing on your citrus trees. It's very common in Perth and usually is nothing to worry about; it tends to be seasonal in cold weather. Here's a link to our fact sheet on citrus care for further reading. Wait until spring to give them a proper feed with trace elements and some good compost or general concentrate.
Select and prepare for your spring vegies. Order seeds for things you'd like to grow; and if you're really keen - you could perhaps start a few off in trays. It may be a bit early but that's the gardener's gamble. Sowing a few seeds every couple of weeks means that you'll hit the 'sweet spot' sometime when the weather is just right for planting out.
Lift & divide perennials. Now's a great time to tidy up things like day lilies, agapanthus, etc, and divide plants that are getting a bit big - bonus; free plants for you to use elsewhere in your garden or to give away. Also herbs like chives, mint, etc.
Feed your winter vegies. Keep your producing vegies going with weekly or fortnightly weak doses of liquid fertiliser - especially your leafy green crops. If you've got spring flowering bulbs growing - give them a feed too (potash is a good option) to encourage a lovely show of flowers.
Get growing indoors. Don't let winter stop you from bringing out your green thumb! Grow some indoor plants, or grab yourself a mushroom kit. They're highly productive and easy to use - a great little holiday project for the kids! If you know an indoor plant lover - grab them and take them along to Perth City Farm's Indoor Jungle Festival - July 26 & 27th. Tickets available here. GLSC will be there so come along and say HI!
What to Plant Now
Check out our FREE downloadable 'When to Plant in Perth' guide here.
Some things you can plant in your garden NOW are:-
Artichokes (globe & Jerusalem types), Asparagus, Beetroot, Broad Beans, Cabbage, Celery, Celeriac, Coriander, Endive, English Spinach, Kale, Kohl Rabi, Lettuce, Mint, Onion, Parsley, Peas, Potatoes, Radish, Silverbeet, Snow Pea, Spring Onion, Strawberries, Turnip.
If you've never grown beetroot before, why not give them a try? In Perth they can be grown pretty much year-round, and are one of the few root crops that can tolerate transplanting, so you can grow them from seed or seedlings successfully. They can be quite slow to mature (3 - 6 months) depending on the temperature, amount of sunlight, etc. But they're useful plants to plop in between faster growing crops; when they are done, the beetroot are a lovely surprise waiting for you! And all parts are edible too - so the leaves can be picked young for salads, or steamed like silverbeet (which they're related to). For more info about beetroot, see our fact sheet here.
Avocado - Tips for Growing Success
(With thanks to Dudley Mitchell from Avocados Australia & to the Roleystone Organic Growers Association for allowing me to reproduce their notes.)
Additional information from The Ag Dept of WA's notes 'Avocado Culture in WA'.
Who doesn't love avocado? I'm showing my age but I can still remember when they were a 'new' thing. At my Aunt's suggestion, my mom bought one to try; and as was the recommendation, served it to us diced with strawberries. Things have changed a little bit since then - and they're much more common place in our diet. I would like to confess right here - I have not been able to successfully grow an avocado to maturity. We have come close, and failed - dismally - many times. But, forever optimistic, we continue to persevere - betting on the law of averages to help us out eventually. So I was really excited when the newsletter from Roley OGA arrived - if anyone should know something about avocado growing it's Dudley; so I've decided to share his wisdom here with you in the hope that you benefit from it as well as me.
The avocado is native to central and south America, specifically Mexico, Guatemala and the West Indies. In their native environment, they are an understorey plant; growing very fast to reach the light. (Trees grown in more open positions will remain smaller, without competition for the sunlight.) Avocados prefer well drained soil, high in organic matter. They need a sheltered position, free from strong winds, salt laden winds and frost. Young trees are also susceptible to sunburn - which is why some commercial growers paint (with acrylic paint) trunks of young trees white for protection.
If you live in a frost-prone area, plant the trees towards the top of a hill - as frost/cold air travels downhill. Trees require good ventilation. They require at least 30% sunlight - there's no advantage to providing them more than that. Commercial plantations space trees in rows 8m apart and 4m between each tree. For a more compact planting, you can reduce spacing to 5m rows with a 2m space between.
To plant a tree, dig a hole ideally 1m x 1m and fill with a well draining mix of good quality soil (containing organic matter/compost/manure). Create a shelter 1m x 1m around the tree (shadecloth/hessian or similar) for the first few years or until the trees outgrow it. In wind prone areas, staking the tree may be required.
Avocado's don't like to be over watered; although being tropical they are also susceptible to stress if they dry out completely - checking your soil's moisture content is important. When mature they are quite drought tolerant; a deep watering 2-3 times a week should be sufficient. If using a bore for irrigation monitor the salt levels - they are not salt tolerant trees.
Avocados are shallow rooted, with 80% of the roots being in the top 20cm soil depth. This means they are susceptible to blowing over (but will usually survive this) and flooding in wet conditions. Somewhat unusually, their roots don't have typical root hairs; which means they find it harder to access air and moisture in the soil; and can also be more susceptible to fungal problems. Mulching is essential in the warmer months - use a coarse mulch to allow water penetration below, but do not mulch right up against the trunk - leave space for airflow.
Phytophthora (dieback) is one fungal disease that affects avocado trees - commercial growers usually prevent this with injecting phosphorous acid into the trees when they are actively growing. They are also susceptible to other diseases including Verticillium wilt - so it is recommended not to plant in areas where solanum family crops (potato, eggplant, tomato, chili) or apricots are growing or have grown. If planting natives around avocados, choose dieback resistant species.
Symptoms of dieback are that leaves yellow and hang straight down. Leaf drop usually occurs around flowering, then branches will start to die back. (Testing for the disease needs to be done at a laboratory.) Symptoms usually appear spring/summer.
Verticillium wilt is a major killer of young trees. Leaves start to blacken from the tips, then branches. Leaves remain on the plant for some time. There is no cure for this disease - prune off/remove and burn any affected branches. As avocados are fast growing, sometimes new, healthy growth may do OK once growing conditions are more favourable. If you lose an avocado to this disease, don't replant a new tree into the same spot; as spores can remain viable in the soil for some years. Fungal problems are usually worse in wet conditions, and are often worse in areas of less microbially active soil - an abundance of healthy soil life seems to minimise the spread of pathogens. Most fungal problems are soil borne, carried through water particles but may also be spread by some insects.
Anthracnose can also affect avocados, causing internal damage to mature fruit. Copper spray is effective if done at the right time to help control this.
While avocados grow throughout the year, summer (warmer weather) is the best time for fertilising. Dudley suggests dynamic lifter (GLSC has Multigrow pellets), sheep or aged chicken manure, or blood and bone. It is important to compost and mulch the soil well prior to summer to protect from the heat. Trace elements are important.
Avocados are heavy boron feeders - he suggests using borax at 1gm per m2 several times a year. (This apparently helps with fruit set.)
Flowering & fruiting
Avocados begin to flower in spring and will bear fruit some months later - depending on variety. They are self fertile, and have a flowering pattern known as type A and type B. Type A flowers open as female flowers in the morning; then male parts of the flower mature in the afternoon. The next day the flowers open as male in the morning and change to female in the afternoon. Type B flowers are completely opposite in this timing! There is an overlap around 12 - 1pm each day when they can self pollinate. (For maximum pollination, if you are after several trees, research type A & B varieties and have one of each.)
Like most fruiting trees, you're better off removing flowers for the first year or two after planting to encourage stronger growth over fruiting.
A mature avocado tree can product (literally) a million flowers in a season - most of which will not be fertilised; but these flowers serve to attract pollinators in good numbers. Ideal temperature range for flowering is 20 - 25°c. Temperature may also affect the male/female flowering duration pattern.
The beauty of avocados is that fruit doesn't begin to fully ripen until harvested; so you can avoid a glut at one time of year. Mature trees can bear heavily - many kilos of fruit per year. Timing of picking your fruit has a huge bearing on flavour - there's a method of testing 'dry weight' commercial growers use to determine the best time.
Avocados tend to bear bigger crops every 2nd year; with a lighter crop in the middle.
Avocados handle pruning well - it's good for them! Once a tree is about 4 or 5 years old, prune it after harvesting has ended. You can reduce the height considerably to keep manageable - they will survive pruning down to 1m, but obviously it will re-shoot from that pruning point.
Luckily, in WA we don't have too many pests to worry about with Avocado trees. Keep weed competition down, avoid use of any herbicides around the trees. Scale, thrips and weevils can be a problem - keep an eye out. Fruit fly too - but only usually on very soft fruit left on the tree.
Rats and birds can be a problem, and kangaroos and rabbits (for those in more rural areas) can also damage young trees in particular.
Avocado seeds germinate readily and it can be a great experiment to do this. But be aware that seed grown avocados can be variable in their quality, and are often not true to their parents. Seed grown trees can take 7 - 8 years until they fruit - which is a long time to invest. While they can grow from cuttings, they're not easy. Mostly, plants are grafted onto rootstock grown from strong seedlings. Grafted avocados can fruit in as little as 3 years, and be fully productive by about year 7. Grafting is best done in the warmer months of the year.
Avocados are a fabulous fruit - good for you, and as they're usually expensive in the shops, it makes sense to try to grow your own if you have the space. Avocados can be grown in pots and there are dwarf varieties available to suit container growing and smaller spaces. In fact,there's more than a half dozen common varieties to choose from - so as always, check the particular qualities you're after before deciding on the best for you.
Once mature, they are reasonably hardy trees that will reliably produce for many years. Unfortunately they are tricky to grow to maturity, with younger trees so sensitive to their growing conditions. But with a bit of patience, attention and luck - you may get through those critical first 4 years and be enjoying your own smashed avo for breakfast for years to come.
Photo Competition Winner
Congratulations to Christine W. (from Gooseberry Hill) who sent us in a couple of photos a little while ago of her awesome raised garden bed - and I note it's on wheels too; perfect for moving around to take advantage of sun & shade with the seasons.
Christine said: "Hi there - We have never been able to grow good veggies until we used your vegie mix soil now look at them grow and they are soo tasty and nutritious!"
For taking the time to send in the pics, Christine has won a $50 voucher to spend with us @ Green Life.
So why not send me in a couple of pics with a line or two about your garden - what are you growing? We gardeners like to see what other gardeners are doing - so why not be part of the tribe & share! YOU might be our winner next time!
Photos can be emailed to us or sent to our FB page with the heading 'photo competition'. So go for it!
VIP special offer
July is traditionally one of our quietest months of the year. We get that it's winter, but actually it's a great time to be in the garden - especially when we're REALLY blessed with fine weekends!
We'd love your support to keep us busy - so as an incentive we've got a special on bulk product deliveries for the next few weeks.
We know that (especially for those that live some distance away) delivery cost can be an issue with getting bulk soils delivered - so we'd like to offer you HALF PRICE delivery for your bulk soil until the end of this month.
Up until 31st July 2019, bulk orders booked and paid for will receive half price delivery... which means depending where you are - you can save between $25 - $60. So jump on the phone or send through an email detailing what you need, and we'll get it booked into our system.
Minimum order is 1m3 & you must ask for the VIP July Special Offer as this won't be advertised elsewhere. (And if you're an existing VIP customer and have placed a bulk order with us since the start of the month - get in touch with us & we'll look after you.)
Deliveries can be booked anytime from now until end of August. So get a jump on your Spring garden - give us a call today!
Retail Stockist Update
Looking for Green Life goodies closer to home? Check out our list of independent stockists. Please support these businesses who support us! You'll get great advice & local knowledge as a bonus.
Just remember each stockist carries different products; so it pays to ring and check with them to see if they've got what you're after. In most cases, they'll be happy to add your requests to their next order.
Beaufort Garden World - Inglewood 9271 0585
Dunn + Walton - Doubleview 92427711
Garden Elegance - Subiaco 9381 2197
Guildford Town Garden Centre - Guildford 9279 8645
Nibali Stockfeed - Hamilton Hill 9433 2211
Stanbee Stockfeeds - Barragup 9581 2390
Thrive Sustainability - Lower Chittering 0408 157 301
Waldecks Bentley - Bentley 9458 5944
Waldecks Melville - Melville 9330 6970
Waldecks Kingsley - 9309 5088
Waldecks Stirling - 9254 6730
Zanthorrea Nursery - Maida Vale 9454 6260
Australind Landscaping Supplies 9796 1720
Busselton - U scape Garden Centre 9751 3995
Leschenault & Bunbury Markets - Fancy Plants Nursery 0428 844 597
Margaret River - Landmark 9758 7677
So THANK YOU for being part of the Green Life family - we hope to see you soon in store (and here next month for the next newsletter!) In the meantime - stay up to date with all the Green Life happenings by following us on Facebook and Instagram.