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Howdy, Green Lifers!
Welcome to August. In the Nyoongar calendar, we're heading into Djilba - which is when the seasons begin to change (towards what we'd call 'Spring'). It is the time of conception; many native animals are breeding now so their young are born into a season of plentiful food. In our local bush, Acacias are flowering, and some of the other wildflowers like Hibbertia and Hovea are beginning to flower, too! Every week at this time of year, the bush comes alive with something else flowering.
We know from what happened here a few months back that spending time in the garden becomes an important way to de-stress. Many people are looking at new projects around their home and garden;so we've got an article below on vertical gardening, becoming a bit of a trend with builders & landscape architects. If you're looking for a challenge, it might be for you! Gardening (in particular growing your own fruit, vegies & herbs) has so many other benefits to our overall physical AND mental health. If you're a new gardener since Covid-19 we welcome you to the Green Life tribe!
With Spring just around the corner, it's time to get busy in the garden. Days are getting longer, which is the trigger for many of our plants to emerge from winter dormancy and put on new growth. While we had a good start to winter rains in May & June, July (at least while I'm writing this) has been warmer and dryer than the average, and many of our plants are a little confused. Some things haven't gone dormant that normally would have by now, and lots of people are telling me their roses are still flowering! If that's you, and you're not sure what to do - we've got some advice from local gardening expert Deryn Thorpe. Check it out below.
Hopefully we'll providing you with inspiration to get out and enjoy your garden this month & we look forward to seeing you soon.
Linda (& the Team @ The Green Life Soil Co)
In this newsletter:
There's still time to get some crops in the ground of potatoes, onions, peas, broad beans. And there's Asparagus, Rhubarb & Jerusalem Artichokes (pictured right - they're related to sunflowers!) - in store @ GLSC.
Click onto the highlighted text above to go to the fact sheets for these plants for the detailed growing information you need to get started.
You can also begin to start some seeds off in trays - but my advice would be to do a few only. There's still plenty of time, and no need to risk all your seed on one roll of the dice. Remember our free downloadable When to Sow guide for Perth also has some handy tips on germination temperatures and times - check it out here. We've recently stocked up on spring/summer seed varieties (including lots of tomatoes) so come on in and stock up! (And check out our VIP special offer this month!)
Vegies to consider growing now include: Artichokes (Globe & Jerusalem), Asian Greens, Asparagus, Beans, Broad Beans, Beetroot, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Choko, English Spinach, Kale, Kohl Rabi, Leek, Lettuce, Onion, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Radish, Silverbeet, Snow Peas, Spring Onion, Turnip.
Plus many herbs will grow well now - still time to grow Coriander, for example. (Pictured right.)
See our Planting Guide for Herbs here (free download).
... That is the question we posed to horticulturalist and journalist Deryn Thorpe. She graciously provided us with this information:-
Winter has been so warm that many roses have not gone into dormancy this year, especially in warm coastal areas.
Most roses will still need a prune. I delay pruning most roses until the flowering flush is over but any roses with black-spotty foliage are pruned even if they have flowers as they look very unattractive and I don’t want to allow the fungal spores to hang around and affect new spring growth on other specimens..
My tea roses (these are old roses that are the forerunners of hybrid tea roses) are continually blooming and many naturally bloom through winter. These are roses like Comtesse de Labathe (aka Duchesse de Brabant), G Nabonand (aka Jean Ducher) and Rosette de Lizzy and Mrs B R Cant which were mostly bred in France from the mid 19th. I usually prune them in late spring or early summer after a flush of blooms has finished. They only really need pruning to shape - or once every three or four years which is terribly convenient if you get too busy (or lazy) to prune.
While most people recommend a spray of a fungicide after pruning I find that if I pick up the diseased foliage this is not essential in the hot, dry climate of Perth. Since learning more about the role that soil fungi play in plant nutrition and health I prefer not to use fungicides unless absolutely necessary.
Deryn is a keen rose grower and co host of All The Dirt Podcast, Australia’s most popular gardening podcast. There are more than 120 podcasts on a wide range of plant, garden and sustainability topics available on www.allthedirt.com.au or through any podcast app.
Humans like to be surrounded by plants. All sorts of studies have shown it's good for our wellbeing on so many levels. As our living spaces are getting smaller, it's natural we're looking at new ways we can incorporate greenery into our living and working spaces ~ enter the vertical garden concept.
In semi/tropical countries and parts of Australia, the concept works well. Places like Singapore have amazing vertical gardens (and amazing gardens, generally!) The stock picture above right is from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
But do they work in drier climates? I will just come straight out with it and say I'm not a big fan of them in Perth. Admittedly, some are done very well. There are some large scale commercial walls that are amazing (like the one pictured here which is featured at the refurbished Midland Gate Shopping Centre & installed by Deep Green Landscapes). But behind the scenes, there has been a lot of work in developing high-tech growing systems and a lot of very careful plant selection. Most have automatic moisture sensors that operate computer controlled retic over multiple zones, delivering regular water to only those cells that need it, and several times a day if required. Commercial green walls are regularly maintained and replanted as necessary in order to keep them looking good. Most have interlocking 'tiles' that are planted up, and are easily swapped out from time to time to refresh plantings and allow easier maintenance. They're expensive to install and maintain, and specialist firms are usually involved in their upkeep. I wonder how 'green' their ecological footprint really is - but I guess it's a better than a blank concrete wall in terms of habitat, heat islands and aesthetics. The cells used in Midland (pictured right) are planted up using an unusual mix of native plants including Eremophila Glabra Prostrata, Westringia and Lomandra.)
If you're prepared to do the work and regularly maintain your vertical garden, then it could be a fabulous pastime for you. Well cared for gardens of any kind are always amazing. I know gardeners often love a challenge - and healthy vertical gardens have a real WOW factor, almost engulfing us with plants and transforming a landscape to make us feel we're really part of it, rather than looking down at it.
If you're interested in giving a vertical garden a try - here are some things to consider.
1) Position. If your planned spot is facing west or north and cops full sun - maybe think about it a little (or a lot) longer. The heat (both direct and reflected) will make it tricky. Part sun and shady spots east facing tend to work best as plants can cope better. If you're planning on mounting a vertical gardening system off a fence or a wall, make sure that it can structurally cope with the weight - especially filled with wet soil. Depending on what material you use, is moisture from your vertical garden going to stain or damage the wall or fence? Are hot or salt-laden prevailing winds going to be an issue? The top of the wall will possibly receive more sunlight and more wind exposure, while the lower section is likely to be more sheltered. Is your retic system reliable and efficient? How are you going to easily check on plants that are growing higher than you can reach?
2) Plant selection. This is absolutely key to your success. Have a look at vertical gardens elsewhere. What is similar to your site, or different to your site? What varieties have been chosen? How big will they grow? How long will they last before they need to be replaced with younger plants (if they're going to get too big). What is their growth habit and will it suit a vertical space? How much water do they need? If there's ever a need to consider plant groupings based on water requirements - this is it! Gravity will mean the plants higher up are going to have less water available to them between waterings; while those lower down may end up with wet feet.
3) Materials to use. There are commercial vertical garden kits available to buy, and some of these have interchangeable plant pots available. Not a bad idea to buy a few spare pots so you can keep things rotating and nurse any sickly plants back to health. Also the interwebs have many, many DIY options - from using fabric pockets, scrap guttering or PVC pipe, recycled PET bottles, and wooden pallets. Just remember that the less soil you have to grow the plants in, the trickier it can be (unless you want to go for a hydroponic set up). Fabric, wood and other porous pots will dry out quite quickly. Sealed terracotta, metal or plastic planters will hold onto moisture a little better.
4) Soil and growing media. We always stress the importance of soil to the ultimate health of your plant - and vertical gardens are no exception. Soils need to be lightweight AND retain moisture. Cocopeat, vermiculite and perlite are traditionally used in vertical garden growing media. Also useful is spongolite, silica and Charlie Charcoal - again; lightweight products with the ability to hold on to moisture, and some other special and useful properties. We have all of these available at GLSC. Can't be bothered trying to make a growing medium yourself? We make a ready to use Vertical Garden Mix which we've supplied to a number of commercial installations; and we also bag this in our standard 25L bags if you've only got a small project to work with.
Vegies & Herbs in Vertical Gardens
Unfortunately many of our traditional vegetables and herbs originate from countries and climates a little less harsh than ours - and there are not too many that thrive under the stressful conditions of exposed sites, reduced area for root growth, and insufficient/irregular water available. So it tends to be tricky to grow herbs and vegies this way. If you want to have a go at food crops in a vertical garden system, pay particular attention to soil quality, available nutrients and moisture. Smaller growing plants (lettuce, strawberries, spinach, chives, garlic chives, spring onion, oregano, thyme, mizuna, tatsoi, radish, chard, small chilli varieties) will be the better ones to try. Consider them annuals and have succession plantings in small pots ready to swap out plants that are struggling, tired or have grown too big if you wish to have your vertical garden in tip-top shape all the time. Liquid feed with fish, worm whiz or kelp regularly to keep nutrition up. Watch for diseases in crowded spots - you want your green wall looking lush but vegies often need good airflow to avoid fungal issues.
Ornamental plants in Vertical Gardens
Your choice of plants will depend very much on your site and prevailing conditions. In a shady spot, traditional indoor plants like smaller philodendron species, devils ivy, begonias, old fashioned spider/ribbon plant, liriope and ferns can look spectacular and provide a lush, tropical feel. For hotter areas, you may be better off with succulents like echeveria, sedum, haworthia and sempervivum - there are many cute colours and varieties to choose from. A good nursery will be able to offer you advice - remember the concept of plant groupings. Choose things that have similar watering requirements so they'll work well together.
Another really good choice is hardy bromeliads. Again, there's a huge variety of colours and types to choose from, and they will lend a cooling, green feel to your vertical space.
Pictured here is Cherise from Garden Deva Landscape Design's vertical garden she recently shared on her Instagram page (@gardendevadesign) - her bromeliads look amazing and she says they're very tough, surviving on surprisingly little water, but it is not in a full sun position.
So yes, it is possible to have a healthy and productive vertical garden/green wall at your house. It is possible; but be aware it is definitely not for the feint hearted, time poor or lazy gardener. It is a labour of love that will reward you if you have the patience to tend it regularly. Plants will need to be replaced if stressed, and divided if they are thriving - so either way; it's not 'set and forget' gardening. You will need to check and adjust moisture levels regularly; your plants' need for water will change with the seasons and weather conditions.
Lastly - if you're keen to have some vertical greenery around your home but you're not sure that a true green wall system will work for you - there are other things to consider. Perhaps a climbing vine on a trellis, or an espaliered tree would work better for you. Given their roots are in the ground (or at least in a pot, on the ground) it is a little easier to provide these plants with more "normal" growing conditions. These plants can be trained to grow upwards, providing coverage for walls and fences, or privacy screening, and often require less maintenance.
Up against a wall or fence, a series of shelves or a plant stand can be an easy option to display a range of potted plants that can be rotated as required. Trailing plants work well to fill vertical space.
Another option to fill vertical space is hanging baskets. Again, choose your plants wisely to suit the site - but the advantage of hanging baskets is it is quite easy to have several on the go to swap around to show off things when they're flowering, or at their peak time of year so you can enjoy them close up.
Got a successful green wall or vertical garden you're proud of? We'd love to see it, and share your tips with our newsletter family. Send us a pic or two (via email or Facebook) with a little bit of info about what you're growing and any special tips you'd love to share - and maybe next month YOU can be our photo competition winner!
Congratulations to Bonnie from Hovea who sent us in these great photos showing the before and after of her vegie garden set up. I'm sure many would be jealous of the space she has to have created such a large garden. Making great use of a slope by terracing (clever!) , she now has a veritable food forest. Congrats Bonnie! You've won $50 to spend with us @ GLSC. Here is what she had to say:-
The Isolation project!
From sloped grass, where water ran off and nothing grew to a vibrant thriving veggie garden in a couple of weeks.
We ripped out all the grass, built a retaining wall out of Corten steel and we filled it with 12m3 of Green life’s general soil mix, then fenced it in.
It’s now planted with Green Life’s seeds, organic seedling, organic garlic and seed potatoes and I’ve got the best veggie harvest I’ve ever had, successfully growing cauliflower, carrots and cabbage which I’ve never managed to do before.
Nothing more rewarding than growing your own feed!
It's the time of year to get your Spring seeds started! So to give you a helping hand, we're offering you a FREE bag of our Certified Organic Seed Raising Mix with any purchase over $50 this month. So come on in, grab your seeds & other gardening goodies - and get growing!
Our Seed Raising Mix is specially formulated to allow germination and fast early growth of your young seedlings. One of Australia's only CERTIFIED ORGANIC mixes, we supply it locally to a number of professional microgreen producers (shout out to Giving Greens & Mandurah Microgreens - two growers that have supported us for some time).
The fine print: In store shoppers or when placing an order over the phone - you must ask for our VIP special. If shopping online, use the 'delivery notes' section of the order to ask for your VIP free Seed Raising Mix August VIP special.
Limit of one per customer & valid until COB Monday 7th September 2020.
There's never been a better time to support local small businesses - Please support the independent retailers who support us. They've got great local knowledge and are happy to help.
We'd love to welcome Blossoms Nursery in Denmark to the Green Life family! So if you live in the Great Southern you too can find some of GLSC's products close to home. Blossoms has a fabulous range of plants (including some unusual succulents) and lovely giftware too ~ you're sure to find a home/garden souvenir or two. Get your #wanderoutyonder on and take a trip to the beautiful Denmark region and check out a great nursery! (What other excuse do you need?) Go say 'hi' to Kaye and Don (Blossoms' lovely owners) and support another local business.
Beaufort Garden World - Inglewood 9271 0585
Evergreen Studio - North Beach 0419 091 095
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
Blossoms Nursery (Denmark) 9848 2014
Busselton - U scape Garden Centre 9751 3995
Leschenault & Bunbury Markets - Fancy Plants Nursery 0428 844 597
Margaret River - Nutrient Ag Solutions (formerly Landmark) 9758 7677
All stockists carry different items (so give them a call and check!). If there's an item of ours they don't usually carry, in most cases they'd be very happy to add it to their next order for you.
Know of anywhere in your area that you'd like to stock our products? Let us know (as well as letting THEM know!) and we'd be happy to approach them.
Remember to keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram pages for news & updates regularly.
THANK YOU for being part of the Green Life family - stay safe, stay healthy & keep gardening!