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Hi There and welcome to our Autumn 2014 e-newsletter!

green leafIt's lovely to have the promise of cooler days ahead.  Autum and Winter are prime growing seasons for us in Perth, so now's the perfect time to start planning your next vegie garden crop!

Coming up 3 - 6th April is the Perth Garden Festival (formerly known as Garden Week).  This is the premier garden/green lifestyle show in Perth and if you haven't been in a while we'd encourage you to come along.  We'll be at Stand number 70 with a display of Square Foot Gardens and eWood products.  Customers who make any purchase between now and 1st April can enter our draw to WIN two free tickets (worth $20 each) - so what are you waiting for?  Come in, get some fantastic goodies for your Autumn garden and say Hi!

 We look forward to seeing you soon.  Happy Gardening!

 Linda & all the team.



leaves on footpath
In this newsletter:

Jobs for the garden in Autumn
What to Plant Now
Tomato Competition - the winners!
Organic Matter in the Garden - what does it do?
Perth Garden Festival - WIN tickets
Garden Goodies - Free Seedlings for our VIP newsletter readers

AUTUMN JOBS IN THE GARDEN

  • Before planting is the perfect time to rejuvenate garden beds by topping up organic matterial and nutrients.  Add trace elements and clay to help with water retention.  You may really need to wet and work through water repellent beds thoroughly to ensure they are able to capture winter rains.  Do check for invasive roots - this is a huge problem in many gardens but often goes undetected because the roots are below the soil and often unseen - until you start digging. (see photos below) 
  • As things are coming to the end of their cycle in the garden, it’s time to clean out garden beds, compost spent plants, and to start planning your next cycle of planting.  At the end of a long, dry summer, it's time to remove spent plants.  Chop them, put them through a mulcher, or lay them on the grass and run a mower over the top - and put the shredded waste into your compost bin to be recycled.  Don't compost any diseased plant material.  Either burn it or put it in your rubbish bin.
  • Collect leaves from deciduous trees to add to your compost.  If you don't have any growing yourself, what about your local park?  Take advantage of a lovely day and take yourself on a visit with your rake, garden gloves and a garbage bag or two!  Make use of FREE resources that are around you.
  • Think about what you would like to grow this autumn/winter. What worked last year? Where did you have things planted? Look into crop rotation and companion planting to help with preventing pest attack and diseases.
  • Seed packetsCheck seeds you may have saved in the cupboard – are they still within code? Have mice found them over the summer?  Get seeds started - either in pots/trays; or sow direct into the garden.  (If you choose to sow direct - it is essential to keep a close eye on weather conditions.  Hot days can dry off top layers of soil, meaning seeds which have just germinated will not be able to survive.  You won't even see them break the soil, but the seed will no longer be viable.)
  • Sow a green manure crop - even if this is in the soil for a short time while you grow on your seedlings in trays, green manure is an excellent way to increase organic matter content in your soil.  If you slash and plant straight away (rather than leaving the garden bed fallow to allow the green manure to fully compost), transplant seedlings with a good trowel full of potting mix to ensure they are not sitting directly in composting material.
  • Plan now for spring bulbs. Add some colour to your garden.  Flowers are great for attracting pollinators, beneficial insects and are good for the soul!
  • Watch for snails and slugs, and mildew as damper conditions finally arrive.  Plants require good airflow, so ensure they have adequate room as they grow.  Sometimes it's better to sacrifice one plant to allow those on either side to thrive.

rainbow chardWHAT TO PLANT NOW

We have just received our biggest ever Eden Seed order (approx. 1,000 packets)  In addition, we will have new varieties of Certified Organic seedlings coming on stream week by week - you'll be spoilt for choice!

Autumn is the traditional time to sow most brassicas - think cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and collards.   It's also time for root crops like carrots, parsnip, beetroot, swede and turnip.  Salad greens like lettuce, asian greens, mustard greens grow well over winter.  Also it's time for spinach, silverbeet and chard.  Onions, garlic, spring onions and potatoes also can be planted about now.  Broad beans, peas and snowpeas too are winter crops.  See our When to Sow chart for the full list.

Remember we still have 2014 Moon Planting Calendars available - these great guides show you at a glance when the IDEAL time for planting particular crops falls within the moon cycle. Definitely worth having in the house, they are decorative as well as useful!

 

TOMATO CONTEST

Our 2014 Tomato Contest was held in February, and this year we were thrilled to have celebrity judge Theo Kalogeracos (award winning pizza chef from Little Caesars Pizzeria) participate.

Theo is reknowned for his innovative use of fresh ingredients on his amazing pizzas (if you've never had a Little Caesars Pizza - do yourself a favour!)  Theo's original store is in Mundaring, and you only have to see the throngs of people that assemble there to realise there's something special going down.  There are now also stores at Hillarys Boat Harbour and Leederville.

Theo taste testingInterestingly Theo's grandfather was a tomato grower in Geraldton, and he remembers his Grandfather giving him amazing tomatoes to taste. 

Theo took the job seriously - giving each tomato entered an individual critique.

The winning tomato was grown by Tegan Tournay, of Swanview.  As Tegan is almost three years of age, we suspect her Grandmother Maxine Smyth (also a keen gardener) may have had something to do with it!  Both Tegan and her older brother Jake entered the contest - and it is fantastic to see that kids are getting involved in gardening and grow up knowing where food comes from.

2nd prize was awarded to our friend Nick Bell, for his 'Mr Stripey' tomato.  Nick is a horticulturalist and works with Green Life Soil Co promoting eWood and square foot gardening.  ALL the tomato entries were given a number, and judged anonymously; so we can assure you the results are absolutely kosher!

3rd prize was awarded to Lorna Thomas for a tiny, weeny but awesome flavoured grape tomato.

Congratulations to our winners - I hope you enjoy your prizes of pizza and gardening vouchers - and thanks to all who took the time to enter. 

Remember to see us at GLSC for the best soils in Perth to help you grow the BEST vegies ever & I hope you'll all be inspired next year to have a go!

 

ORGANIC MATTER IN THE GARDEN

You will see and hear over and over again gardening experts telling you to incorporate organic matter into your garden.  But have you ever wondered WHY we do it, and wondered why it is so important?

What is organic matter?

Organic matter is anything that was once alive, and is added to the soil at some stage of it's decomposition.  This can include compost, straw, green manure, animal manures, decaying plant roots, leaf litter, and in nature also includes dead animals, and the soil bugs themselves; as they live, die and decompose in the earth.

Humus is what we call the organic material after it's been broken down by soil micro-organisms.  Largely it's what remains, and is basically carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in a very stable form.  It is formed from lignin - the very tough and woody material produced by plants.  While humus plays a very inportant role in soil structure, and improves nutrient and water retention, it is of limited benefit to microbes as a food source, as it is their left-overs. 

Why do we need it?

Organic matter helps to improve soil structure, provides nutrients to plants and has a role in preventing plant disease.

Structure.  Soil which has good structure has a friable, crumbly appearance.  This is because a range of minerals and humus are grouped together into 'crumbs' or aggregates.  These aggregates have pore spaces between them, meaning that there is space for roots to grow, water can easily penetrate, and oxygen is also available to roots.  Soil with good structure can generally absorb water easily, but also is not prone to waterlogging.  Organic matter  helps improve the structure of both sandy and clay soils.

Nutrient Availability.  Organic matter provides a food source for a wide range of micro-organisms.  The enzymes excreted by soil microbes break down organic matter, allowing nutrients to be released slowly to plants. The excretion of microbes also serves to 'stick' particles together, forming aggregates within the soil.  You may have heard the term 'feed the soil - not the plants'.   You really are feeding the microbes in the soil, and in turn - they feed your plants.

image of soilDiseases resistance.  Most micro-organisms in the soil are not harmful to living plants, as they feed on decaying organic matter.  A small number DO feed on living plant material but are often not a problem in your garden because in turn - THEY are eaten by other micro-organisms.  So keeping a good range of microbes in your soil should result in a healthy balance.  In addition, plants that are being 'fed' by microbes and are healthy are much more likely to be able to resist attack by pests and disease - similar to how our own health can be adversely affected if we are run down and malnourished.

How much organic material do I need to add?

It is acknowledged that in Australia most of our soils contain less than 1% of organic matter.  That means our soils don't tend to be very 'alive'.  Luckily, many of our native plants have evolved to make the best of what they can - and they can often survive with very little added to the soil; particularly if you choose your native plants wisely.

Exactly WHAT percentage of organic matter is ideal in soil is hotly contested by many in the field of agriculture.  10% is probably OK but you can find recommendations of 30 - 50% in some documents.  What is clear is that you can have too much of a good thing.  Excessive organic material causes excessive nutrients which leads to leaching, algae buildup (in water and soil) and possible nutrient toxicity - which unfortunately can have similar symptoms to nutrient deficiencies.

As a guide, for highly productive vegetable and flower gardens - look at adding a layer of 5 - 10cms of compost annually* and see how that works for you.  By observing your garden closely, you will be able to tell how well this regime works, and tweak things if necessary.

compost on shovelThe quality of what you add is also important.  Garbage in = garbage out.  Some organic matter will break down faster than others; by its' own physical properties (ie. straw will break down quicker than a woodier material), and nutrients contained in your organic matter will vary too - meaning that some composts or manures will be needed in lesser or greater quantities.  As always, a mixture of ingredients helps ensure a wider range of available nutrients. 

Our Concentrate mixes are perfectly designed for incorporating into sandy soils - they contain a mixture of composts, manure, long and short term fertilisers, trace elements and beneficial microbes - but NO additional sand.  Available for vegetable and herb gardens, flowering trees/shrubs, native plants and for lawn preparation.  Call as to ask for pricing information.

Why Do I have to Top Up Organic matter?

Unfortunately, our soils in Perth are very hungry.  People complain to us that they add lots of great compost to the soil and it seems to completely disappear.  Of course - that's because it's breaking down and feeding plants - as it should.  Unfortunately only about 30% of organic material remains a year after it is added, and a only 50% of that remainder is left after a further year.

Cultivating soil also promotes faster breakdown of organic matter - which is another reason it seems to 'disappear' in regularly worked vegie gardens.

But the good news is that eventually the levels of organic material in your soil will be raised, and humus created.  I have read it takes about 7 years of regularly adding good levels of organic matter to your soil before you begin to see permanent changes.  Unfortunately - and coincidentally - this is about the average length of home ownership; so if you move to a new home chances are you'll have to start over from scratch!

How do I add Organic Matter?

Generally, lightly incorporating it into the soil is the best thing to do.  You want it to be in contact with moisture which will assist decomposition.  For existing trees and shrubs, don't disturb roots too much.  You are best to add it to the soil around the plant (keeping stems clear), water well and mulch on top.

Sand Remedy tubsThe importance of Adding Clay

In sandy soils, incorporating clay AND organic matter is hugely beneficial.  Clay particles bond strongly with humus, so this helps water and nutrient retention, availability to plants and permanently improves soil structure. Our Sand Remedy is pefect for incorporating into sandy soils with organic matter.  It's a once-off treatment, as the minerals in Sand Remedy take a very long time to naturally weather and break down.  [Available in 5kgs (treats about 15m3) and 20kgs (treats about 60m3) tubs.]

So if you do want to permantently turn your lifeless soil into a lovely, friable one - don't lose heart.  It will take time and a bit of effort but every year you will be getting improvement, and your garden will thank you for it!

* quoted from "Gardening Down Under" Kevin Handreck Bsc, MAgriSc, FAIH (former CSIRO Division of Soils - Adelaide) Landlinks Press

 

PERTH GARDEN FESTIVAL

garden festival logoThe Green Life Soil Co will once again be at the Perth Garden Festival - this year being held at Perry Lakes Thursday 3rd - Sunday 6th April.  Look for us in the nursery and garden section (stand no. 70).  We will this year have Square Foot Gardening on display, showing you just how productive a small space can be.  Nick Bell (horticulturalist and Australia's first qualified SFG instructor) will be giving talks, and we will have eWood SFG kits, seedlings and herbs and our own special Square Foot Garden Mix available for sale.

ewood deckingRemember to check out our eWood range -
this is a fantastic, recycled product that looks sensational as a raised garden bed, retaining wall -
you can even use it as decking!  (as per photo to the right)
I know you'll be pleasantly surprised when you see and feel the product.  It's awesome!

Made from recycled printer cartridges, it is extremely durable, non-leaching and 100% Australian made!
Available in a range of kits for easy DIY assembly, and also as 2.4m long sleepers (50mm thick) and planks (25mm thick) suited for larger landscaping projects.

So lots of reasons to visit the Garden Festival - Come along and say Hi!

 

Win tickets to the Perth Garden Festival

We have a double pass to this year's Garden Festival to be won!   When you come into the shop between now and 1st April and make a purchase, you will be eligible to go into the draw.

 


GARDEN GOODIES - FREE SEEDLINGS (or SEEDS) - EXCLUSIVE OFFER FOR OUR NEWSLETTER VIP's!

seedlings in gardenWe'd love to give you a little something for being such lovely customers...  Seeing as it's time to plant, how about we offer you the choice of either three FREE certified organic seedlings, or three packets of FREE Eden Seeds to help get your garden growing?

Offer available one per customer until 5pm Sunday, 6th April @ The Green Life Soil Co.  Valid with any purchase. Please mention the newsletter offer to our team.

So until next time – Have fun, and Let’s get dirty!

(Don't forget - we'd love your feedback on this newsletter! Please contact us with your comments!)

Thanks,
Linda



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