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Hi There and welcome to our November 2013 e-newsletter! 

leaf imageAfter a wet September and a warm October I hope November & December will still be 'spring like' before summer hits us, and melts our enthusiasm for working outdoors...  With temperatures already reaching mid 30's + it is challenging!

I hope you've been enjoying your garden - we've been picking asaparagus, artichokes, broad beans, brocolli, cabbages, kale, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, turnips, peas - it is such a treat to be able to provide some of your own food from your own garden.  (Non gardeners really don't get it, do they?)  We love it when people tell us about what they've grown, their enthusiasm is infectious!  Remember to keep sending in your garden pics to enter our quarterly draw for a trailer load of garden goodies!  (Either email or upload to our Facebook page.)

Happy gardening & happy reading - as always, your feedback about this newsletter is welcome.

Cheers,
Linda

IN THIS NEWSLETTER:

Jobs for the garden in spring
What to plant now
Companion Planting
Saving Your Own Seeds
Garden Goodies - exclusive offer for our newsletter readers!

    SPRING JOBS - GET SET FOR SUMMER!

    Cos Lettuce HeadThis is a very busy time in the garden - lots to do before summer & lots to grow and enjoy!  -

    • Keep on top of weeds.  Many will have flowered and set seed already, but get rid of what you can anyway.  Slash dry grass, and remove dead branches from trees & shrubs.
    • Many shrubs that have finshed flowering in late winter/spring can be pruned now.
    • Time to give your lawn come TLC.  Check retic and topdress if necessary with our compost and mineral rich Lawn Mix to help strengthen root growth and soil fertility before summer.
    • It's time to feed plants (if you haven't already done so) especially citrus & roses.  Incorporate aged compost and well rotted manure, together with rock dust to provide minerals.
    • Turn your compost and as the weather warms, ensure it is moist enough.  With warmer temperatures, adequate moisture and regular turning, you will make compost quickly at this time of year.
    • Check your worm farm.  Ensure it isn't drying out now days are warming.  Remember you can tip a bucket of water into your worm farm weekly (remember to open the tap and collect the liquid leachate to use as fertiliser) - worms need to be in a moist environment to thrive.
    • Check your summer crops already growing.  Stake and tie up tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, etc.  Good airflow around leaves will mean less disease problems.
    • Mulch.  Light coloured and coarse is best.  For vegie gardens - straw (of some kind) is recommended.  Mulch helps conserve water and reduces soil temperature; an important factor in heat stress of plants.  New seasons pea hay, straw & lucerne are currently available at The Green Life Soil Co.
    • Install shadecloth, or plan to do so.  For your vegies to thrive over the hottest months, providing shade is essential.  It will save you water and much heartbreak.  We have 50% white shadecloth (recommended for plants) available.  See our Summer Garden Survival fact sheet.
    • Check retic. Now’s the time to check your irrigation and fix anything that was problematic last summer.   Consider a Greywater system. Many approved systems are available – save your water this summer and recycle what you can on your garden.

    WHAT TO PLANT NOW

    ChilliDepending on what happens with the weather, and also on how well you have prepared your garden for summer, there is still lots you can grow over the next couple of months. 

    You possibly have your first spring/summer vegies like tomatoes, capsicum, chilli, cucumbers, eggplant, beans all going strongly.  The weather is warm enough now that seed can be started directly into the ground (rather than starter trays) if you desire.  Get those planting successions underway to ensure an extended crop in the coming months.

    We are still well stocked with summer seed varieties, and have received more corn seed, so check out our range.

    Currently we have a good range of herbs in stock too, and always receive seasonably viable fresh seedings each week - should you be keen to get going rather than starting from seed.

    Remember to bookmark our 'When to Sow' guide for an easy to follow, month by month planting chart.


    COMPANION PLANTING

    Artichoke flowerOne of the most heavily visited pages on our website is our Companion Planting chart. A lot of the stuff around companion planting fits into the ‘myths and legends’ category; and it is easy to find conflicting information, too.

    [Globe Artichoke - pictured right - makes a good companion for other plants as it provides shelter and acts as a windbreak for more sensitive neighbours.]

    So what is companion planting?

    The theory is that some plants make good neighbours – growing basil next to tomatoes is supposed to enhance the growth and flavour of both plants. Similarly, growing garlic around roses is said to produce healthier plants, more fragrant blooms and less aphid problems.
    Some plants naturally exude chemicals into the soil surrounding their roots – sometimes this is designed to make conditions unfavourable for other plants to thrive – thus aiding their own survival plan. Knowing which plants make good and bad companions can be useful.
    Other ‘good companions’ can assist in pollination of their neighbours by their insect attracting flowers. Perennial basil is a great plant to grow around your fruit trees to help attract bees, for example.

    Other insect attracting flowers & herbs include chives (a good companion for carrots), nasturtiums (aphid repelling), alyssum, borage, daffodils, dill, coreopsis, salvia – in fact, just about all flowering plants help with insect control. Even if the flowers don’t attract any type of insect eating bug, the mere fact it is attracting other insects will in turn attract birds – who will do a brilliant job of eating a wide range of insect pests in your garden. Try to incorporate grevilleas and other flowering native plants somewhere in your yard for the birds, too. A birdbath or source of water over summer will also encourage birds to visit your garden regularly.

    Inter-planting vegetable varieties (instead of growing them in rows), and also heavily sprinkling flowering annuals throughout your productive garden will help confuse pests and prevent them from working their way military style down the row. Perhaps a pocket of plants will be attacked, but this may become an isolation ward where you can treat the pest (if necessary) and with any luck the pest may not find other pockets of that vegie growing elsewhere. Planting densely can also confuse insect pests – aphids are said to recognise brassicas from their silhouette, so it makes sense to ‘blur’ the outline of the plant and hopefully the aphids may travel next door!

    Companion plants are also effective at out-competing weeds. Pansies are quite effective for this, and Jackie French notes that her onions interplanted with pansies produced crops twice as heavy as those without. She advises to plant the pansies first, and let them establish before planting with onions.

    Cabbage white butterfly are said to be repelled by sage – but lots of it – at a ratio of 4:1 sage to cabbage it does sound a lot! Try also celery, hyssop and scented geranium. Another useful plant is red clover which can be mowed or trimmed to control flowering times to coincide with major pest outbreaks. Clover is also nitrogen fixing (another beneficial effect on surrounding plant growth). Jackie French suggests growing a patch of red clover, keeping it mowed, then planting brassicas in a trench in the middle – so the clover surrounds the brassicas. Allowing the clover to flower when the brassicas mature will reduce pest attack.

    alyssium flowerWith organic gardening, we strive to create a balance where pest numbers are not so huge that a few can’t be tolerated. Insects do form a valuable part of the food chain, and most pesticide products are non-specific meaning they will affect beneficial insects we need (ie. ones that predate on pests, or help with pollination).

    Spraying one insect pest may just mean a larger number of another pest can proliferate a few months later, because you’ve also knocked out a predatory species. Pesticides are a bandaid, not a cure.

    By increasing the health of your plants with healthy soil, growing in season and providing the right microclimate, you will get lest pest damage in the first place. Weaker plants tend to be more susceptible to pest attack – something we have seen time after time.

    Of course, companion planting is not going to be the wonder cure – but it’s certainly worth investigating and giving it a go.  And if you need to resort to using sprays and treatments - always go for the low impact and 'natural' options first.  (We carry a range of low toxicity/organically certified pest treatments if you need them.)

    Some well-known good companions include:
    • Asparagus and tomato
    • Beetroot and onions
    • Broad beans and potato
    • Cabbage and shallots/spring onions
    • Carrots and onions
    • Capsicums and basil
    • Celery and beans
    • Sage and rosemary
    • Corn, beans and watermelon

    See our extended Companion Planting Guide here.

     

    SAVING SEEDS - AN INTRODUCTION

    broad bean seedsYou are probably aware that WA was recently hit with new Quarantine fees for inspecting seeds and plant material coming into WA.

    [Pictured right - broad bean seeds are easy to save]

    This caused a huge public outcry (understandably) and – for the time being, at least – most of the major seed supply companies have worked out a deal with AQIS and orders are being sent across in bundles for easier processing in bulk. These companies at the moment are not passing on costs but it is something that may change in the future.

    While they state the need for increased vigilance against introduced weeds and other pests, it is also a serious threat to biodiversity and seed security, if gardeners are limited or prohibited from growing a wide range of food crops.

    One response from the public has been to become more organised with seed saving and seed swapping locally. There are a few individuals and groups who are stepping up to this challenge and we are happy to provide contact details should you be interested in being involved.

    But if you grow heritage varieties of vegetables, you are also able to save your own seed from season to season. Of course this can save you money, but it also has the benefit of evolution – if you save the seed from the best or strongest plants in your garden; their offspring should have the same attributes, so in time you can end up with a plant very well adapted to your local growing conditions, and therefore more resilient to pest and disease attack. It’s a win:win situation!

    But how do you begin to save your own seeds? Start by recognising the suitability of the parent plant. If it is flavoursome, high yielding specimen that seems less susceptible to pest and disease – I would suggest you’ve found one worth collecting seeds from.

    If you’ve found a specimen that fits the bill – keep it healthy and provide regular watering, feeding and organic pest & disease management. Remove any diseased plants around it. During flowering and early seed development, ensure you provide sufficient, regular water (otherwise flowers and seeds may not develop to their full potential). Once seeds are in their ‘maturing’ stage, it is best to keep the plant on the drier side to avoid humid conditions where fungal disease can strike. Harvest and store seeds as soon as they’re ready.

    spring onion flower headSome seeds can simply be dried and stored (eg. Lettuce, brassicas, peas, beans, onions [pictured right], corn) but some seed does need processing. For dry seeds, some seed heads can be lightly tapped or shaken over a container to collect the seed material. Sieve to remove waste material. Peas and beans need to be removed from outer pods. Corn needs to be removed from dry husks by rubbing. Make sure your seed is allowed to dry thoroughly in a dry, well ventilated and dark spot then store them in either envelopes, resealable plastic bags or jars. Make sure you label them (with variety and date) for future reference. Adding some Diatomaceous Earth will help protect seed from insect attack. Aromatic leaves will help do the same thing. Most seed will be viable for 2 – 3 years, and even older seed is worth planting as you may still get the odd plant germinating.

    Seed from other plants (eg. Tomato, cucumber, melons, tomatoes etc. ) needs to be processed before saving.

    Tomatoes selected for seed saving should be very ripe. Scoop seeds into a jar with a little water added. Store in a warm place. Fermentation will begin – obvious by bubbling after a day or so. Stir or agitate the water once a day for 2 -3 days until an obvious layer of goop is on top of the water. This is the gel-like coating from around the seeds, and it is important this is separated off. Remove this goop with a spoon, then empty the seeds in a strainer and rinse thoroughly. Drain, then spread out to dry on a plate with a layer of paper and keep in a well-ventilated place. You might wish to ‘stir’ the seeds once or twice in this process – which could take about a week – to ensure all sides are exposed to air and are dry.

    Squash (melons, pumpkins, cucumber) and eggplant seeds are also fermented, but usually less time is required for these seeds. These fruit should be left on the plant until well past eating stage to ensure seeds are fully mature before harvesting.

    Fermentation helps with germination rates and ensuring seed is disease free.

    What about natural hybridisation?


    Some varieties of plant will cross pollinate with others in the same family and form natural hybrids. If you wish to ensure that you save ‘pure’ seed from one variety of plant, it is best to only grow one variety at a time. Otherwise, read up on how much space is required between varieties (eg. Eggplant is 20 metres) or use insect proof netting to prevent cross pollination, or remove flowers from unwanted strains as they begin to set.

    It may take a little management but it can be done.

    Once you have saved your seed you can swap it, add it to a seed bank, and grow your own crops year after year without relying on outside influences.

    Why not give it a go this summer?

    GARDEN GOODIES - an exclusive offer for our newsletter readers!

    seed packetsAs a special THANK YOU to our newsletter readers, we would like to give you four packets of heritage seeds OR four punnets of our Certified Organic seedlings on your next visit - absolutely free! 

    Remember to stock up on fertiliser and mulch to get them off to a great start when you come in to see us - we have everything you need to ensure your garden thrives this spring!

    Some condiitons apply:

    • Selections are to be made from our available range - no rainchecks.
    • Must mention the newsletter offer to receive the free gift
    • Valid one per household (your name and ID may be requested).

    You are welcome to tell friends or relatives about this offer - if they come in to our store, and sign up for our e-newsletter (slips are on the front counter) - they will also be entitled to take up the offer.

    This offer is valid only until 15th December so don't delay...  Visit us soon!

    So until next time – have a great time this Spring in the garden!  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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