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Happy May!  So we're half-way through Autumn almost, and hasn't the weather been gorgeous?  Sure - we could always use a bit more rain over here in dry Perth, but as far as working outside; the conditions have been perfect.

We've had a busy month with the Perth Garden Festival end April.  I hope you got down to the show - organisers believe record numbers of about 30,000 made it through the gates this year, and it was certainly busy - lots of people to chat to and hopefully teach about their options for gardening in a more sustainable fashion.

Speaking of sustainability, we had special guest Steve Wood visit us Sunday 7th May for International Permaculture Day.  His talks are always entertaining and informative, and he delighted the audience with his journey into permaculture and food growing in particular. He was joined by local Permie expert Charles Otway (Terra Perma Design) and a number of volunteers from Permaculture West who were on hand to chat to people generally (thanks to all of them for giving up their time).  Everyone went away inspired to grow a little bit more of their own food, and Steve had the crowd excited about growing nutritious microgreens  If you'd like to know more (or pick up some handy pots/trays/cocopeat etc. have a chat to us).

Steve Wood & Deryn Thorp have recently launched a brand new, weekly gardening podcast called "All the Dirt".  It is available free from their website www.allthedirt.com or from iTunes.  It's particularly easy to download from a smartphone and you can listen anywhere -great for car journeys.  I was lucky enough to be interviewed by the pair recently, and the latest episode (Episode 5) where I am a *giggle* 'special guest' is now available.  If you'd like a bit more background on Green Life and what we're all about, have a listen.  
It's great there's something unique for Perth gardeners available, so make the most of it and support this initiative!

Remember to check out the list of workshops we have running from now until the end of June (including a fantastic one this weekend on using herbs to make a whole range of useful items - why not make a day of it and bring your mum?).  I'll be working on a timetable of workshops for the 2nd half of the year very soon - so please hit me up with suggestions of workshops you'd like to see.

Until next time - happy gardening!

Linda & The Team @ Green Life

(Pictured right - part of our display from the Perth Garden Festival)

In this newsletter:

Jobs to do this May in the Garden
What to Plant Now
Compost
VIP Special Offer

Jobs for the Garden Now

Autumn/winter is one of the best times to garden in Perth. Right now, it's time to:

  • Start a compost pile, or check on your existing ones! With falling leaves, weeds popping up and prunings (preferably shredded) you will have lots of material to use! Remember to discard any diseased material - put this in the bin. (See article below for more info on compost making.)  If you can't make enough for your own purposes (it can be tough) then read our article below on the brand new & shiny compost we're now stocking.
  • Plant a tree! It's a great time of year to plant. Nurseries will be getting in deciduous/fruit trees very soon; plus it's also a great time to put in native plants. Prepare the soil well first with the appropriate soil concentrate from our range, and they will get off to a flying start early in Spring. (Here's our fact sheet on planting bare rooted trees.)
  • Watch for snails and slugs in the wet conditions. Use beer traps as a simple, safe method of controlling their numbers. See our fact sheet for more ideas. We also have Multiguard & the Certified Organic Protect-Us pellets in stock - these are iron based and the 'safest' option for the environment.
  • Control weeds before they take over! Now soil is damp, weeds seem to pop up everywhere. 'A little and often' is the best way to keep on top of weeds, before they get on top of you! Make your own Weed Tea fertiliser - click here for details. Keep your eyes out for an 'edible weeds' workshop - it's the best way to get revenge on them!
  • Prepare soil for rhubarb and asparagus crowns. Dig in manure and compost and leave for a few weeks before planting. Crowns for rhubarb and asparagus will be available from The Green Life Soil Co in coming weeks - probably early July. (Click on the highlighted links above for fact sheets on growing.)
  • Feed your vegetables regularly (fortnightly or so) with a light dose of fish hydrolysate and/or kelp (great to alternate to provide different nutrients to your plants) - particularly leafy greens which are being harvested regularly.  Other fertiliser products we now have in store are the all-purpose 'Growsafe' fertiliser and another new product - Lucerne Pellets.  These are ideal for our vegan friends as a fertliser option.
  • Plant potatoes!!  This year we have four varieties of Certified Organic seed potatoes available - Dutch Cream (large yellow, thick skinned variety. Waxy flesh and rich, buttery taste. Good for boiling, roasting, mashing, baking), Eureka (cream skin/white flesh. Potentially very high yielding. Great for frying, good for roasting & boiling), Laura (red skin/yellow flesh. Floury. Good for mashing, roasting, wedges & baking) and Almera (yellow skin/off white flesh.  Large, high yielding variety. Waxy flesh, firm cooking potato. Lower GI).  See our fact sheet on growing super spuds here.

What to plant now

Check out our When to Sow downloadable PDF for a full list; but here's somewhere to start:
Globe Artichoke, Asparagus crowns, Broad beans, Broccoli, Cabbage, Chives, Coriander, Garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, Kale, Kohl rabi, Lettuce, Onion, Parsley, Peas, Potatoes, Radish, Rocket, Silverbeet, Spring onion, Strawberries.

If you haven't got your garlic in the ground yet - don't  leave it too much longer; you want it in the ground for as long as possible to develop nice sized cloves. We've still got some lovely Italian garlic cloves (locally grown) available; but be quick - there' s not much left.

Compost Ain't Compost

I'm sure many of you lovely people make your own compost.  It's a great way to recycle food & garden waste, and feed your plants.  (By the way - we have two fantastic workshops coming up for more serious home composters.  'Hot Piles' will cover how to make high quality aerobic compost, and 'Compost Teas' will cover how to make microbial-rich brews to use on your garden.  Details are in the highlighted links above.)

One of the problems gardeners have is that most gardens simply don't have ENOUGH waste to produce sufficient compost for a keen gardener's requirements - which is where buying in compost comes into play.

Now there are several compost making companies in and around Perth.  The quality they produce varies widely - and often, it really is a case of 'you get what you pay for'.  While recycling waste and keeping it from landfill is commendable, unfortunately many commercial producers are paid to take various waste streams and utilise it - so sometimes it means you're getting ingredients in your compost that aren't ideal for your garden, and for soil health generally.  For instance - 'biowaste' or 'biosolids' is a nice term for sewage sludge.  Unfortunately due to industrial waste, it can be high in heavy metals, to the point that we as Certified Organic input producers aren't allowed to touch it.  (And we don't.)

Another problem we have found over some years now in available composts is the high salt content in many of them.  In small quantities, salt can be dealt with by your plants (in fact, in small quantities it is needed).  But overloading your soil with salty compost year upon year can certainly have a detrimental effect, and this ongoing problem caused us to begin a wider search for an alternative supplier.

Recently, we have been using Landsave Organic Compost in our blends.  We truck this "unicorn poop" as I like to call it - all the way up from Vasse.  I acknowledge that's not a great carbon footprint (no pun intended) but we believe it is some of the best commercially available right now and know the work that owner Brent Burns has put into developing his product.  He has worked closely with Soil Foodweb International to ensure a very rich and biologically alive compost is achieved.  Brent brews microbial blends that are sprayed onto the windrows, and also adds volcanic basalt rock dusts to his product.  The biggest ingredient is clean green waste, and no manures (human or animal) are used in the blend.  It has a high carbon content, and large particle sizes provide aeration and homes for microbes.  Brent has worked with a large number of vineyards, councils golf clubs and commercial growers over the years throughout the south-west and his focus is all on improving soil health for long term results.  We are happy to have brought his product to the Perth market and are excited about working together with Landsave.

The compost MAY look different (I had one lady say "it doesn't look like what I buy from Bxxxxxxx" - and she wasn't happy.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to convince her of the real benefits of the compost - after all - microbes can't be seen with the naked eye) but we'd like to assure our customers that we have sourced what we believe to be the best product currently available.  It is a premium product - and it is Certified Organic too.  In fact, the mix is so "rich" - for want of a better term - you can get away with using much less in your garden.  If you need to supplement organic matter, consider a straw or mulch product, or mix in some of your own home made compost to stretch it out.

And we'd certainly encourage you to make your own compost...  Autumn is a great time to do so, as we've often got prunings and leaves from deciduous trees to throw into the mix, and spent crops at the tail end of summer. and emerging weeds once the rains have started.  If you don't have deciduous trees of your own, check out if you've got a park nearby that has some.

Making compost isn't too hard; although everyone seems to have their own favourite tips & tricks - don't be bamboozled by folk telling you there's only ONE way to do it.  In all seriousness, you can leave a pile of organic matter sitting there and eventually it will break down anyway.  This method is called 'cold composting' and is just a waiting game for nature to do it's thing.  

If you are wanting to produce compost regularly, 'hot composting' may be something for you to try.  It can be a bit more complex because you have to get a blend of wet & dry ingredients, and allow them to heat up in the breakdown process (which is good for killing weed seeds and pathogens).  You'll need to check in on your compost to monitor temperature, and turn it to encourage the microbes to get to work and heat up the pile again. (Check out our 'Hot Composting' workshop as suggested if you need some tips.)  You do need a decent volume of material to create a hot pile - about a cubic metre is often recommended.  Dry ingredients (often referred to as carbon or brown ingredients) can be things like shredded newspaper, dried leaves, straw, etc.  Wet ingredients (the nitrogen or green ingredients) can be things like fresh manure, shredded green garden waste, food scraps, coffee grounds, fresh weeds & lawn clippings, etc.  Ideally, you want 23-30 parts of dry ingredients to 1 part of wet.  This mix will be around ideal to kick off the composting decay.  Moisture is important - your pile needs to be damp all the way through but not wringing wet.  Build your pile in alternating layers of material (about 5 - 10cms each is ideal), and add some water as you go. This will help with the carbon/nitrogen mix and provide a blend of particle sizes, because airflow is also important. 

Leave your pile for about 2-3 weeks and it should get very hot in the centre (caution - you can burn yourself!).  Once compost is at this stage, turn it through to mix the ingredients (you want to eventually get the cooler stuff on the outside of the pile into the centre) and leave it to get cooking again.   Turning is also important to help add air to the pile - microbes need to breathe, too!  Check for moisture levels.  In rainy weather, it might be an idea to cover your pile (you don't want it saturated) and in dry weather you might need to put the hose on it as you're turning the pile.

Experts tell us compost can be produced in about 6 weeks of you're doing it 'right'...  But 8 - 12 weeks is probably more usual.  As the pile composts, the volume will decrease.  The pile is usable when it's a uniform dark brown/black and particles of whatever you put in there are largely unrecognizable.  It's always a good idea to use a shovel of your mature compost to add to any new pile you create, to inoculate the new material and get it off to a flying start.

When using your finished compost, add it to your garden or potting mixes but ensure it is well mixed in.  You don't want the compost to be left on top of the soil to dry out.  (If using on top of the soil, cover it with a mulch to keep it moist.)  If allowed to dry out, the numbers of beneficial microbes will sharply decline.

If you're worried about rodents, use a fine mesh bird wire at the base of your pile and bury it into the ground.  A sealed lid will obviously be useful to prevent them getting in the top.

It is not necessary to add worms to your compost; they'll often find their way into the pile anyway as it's a fantastic food source for them.  Adding worms can be useful if you wish to have a casting rich compost (vermicompost); but never add worms to the centre of the pile as temperatures will be too hot for them.  Add them to the sides or base - worms will move through the compost and find areas that suit them best.  (Don't add worms to a compost tumbler as they have nowhere to retreat to underground if conditions aren't right.)

More information about compost can be found here on our website.

VIP Special Offer

This month, we'd like to offer our VIP's a discount on our quality Blood & Bone.  We normally sell our 3kg (5L) tubs at $18.50.  From now until the 31st May, if you ask for our VIP offer in store you can pick a tub up for $14.00.

Our quality Blood & Bone is 'pure' - it is not a "blood & bone BASED fertliser" - and contains nothing but blood meal, feather meal and rock dust.  (Most cheap blends available use low-cost fillers like saw dust, etc. to lower the price.)

So come on in this month and grab a tub!  If you're having a delivery organised, speak to our staff if you'd like to tack a tub onto your order.

Safe to use on all plants.  Add a handful of potash for every four handfuls of blood & bone and according to Peter Cundall, you've got the perfect organic fertiliser for your garden.

Thanks for being an awesome Green Lifer, reading our newsletters and for your on-going support!  Your feedback (on newsletters or our business generally) is always welcome.  Until next time, we'll leave you with a couple more happy snaps from the Perth Garden Festival, showing Paul getting down to business with Vegepod and Charlie Charcoal and Rocky Rock Dust making their debut.  

Cheers!

 

     



 



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