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Hello again - welcome to our August news!

After some great rain in Perth, we're all looking forward to a fantastic Spring; which is just around the corner once more.

July is traditionally very quiet for us as a business, so we took the opportunity for a family holiday which was lovely.  But all back to work now, and we've got lots of good stuff happening @ GLSC.  Check out all the info on our exciting workshop schedule below.

One of the less exciting garden jobs to do at this time of year is surely weeding.  We've got some ideas on our website here about managing weeds organically but meanwhile the debate about glysophate rages on, with this interesting article causing much discussion on social media recently.  And speaking of Sustainable Gardening Australia, they have a crowdfunding campaign going on right now to launch an app that provides information on the toxicity of garden chemicals to help people make an informed choice when they're looking for a solution to a gardening problem.  Click here to learn more.  Seems like a worthwhile project to me.  And remember some weeds are even edible - surely that's the ultimate revenge for a gardener?  Swan Valley Happenings are hosting Charles Otway's talk on this subject 27th August (just incase there's not enough interesting workshops we're hosting ourselves!).

If you'd like a few days away this month, our friends down at Nannup have reminded us that this year's Nannup Flower & Garden Festival is on between 17 - 20th August.  With markets, garden talks, floral displays, open gardens and celebrity chefs & cooking displays, plus gardeners Sabrina Hahn, Deryn Thorpe & Steve Wood - there's lots to see and do.  For more info visit www.nannupgardens.org.au or visit their Facebook page (Nannup Flower and Garden Festival).

Last month, we introduced you to Cassies Clay - our new product containing kaolinite clay, now available in bags or in bulk.  We're pleased to announce this product is also now Certified Organic.  We're working on packaging and a new website to support Cassies Clay this Spring; as well as exploring other accreditation/certification schemes for this and some other products.  Stay tuned!  And don't hesitate to contact us should you need more information about any of our products - we're happy to help.

Our other new product Charlie Charcoal (launched at the Garden Festival) has been trialed now by a few different people in different conditions and areas around Perth.  Cherise Haslam, owner/designer from Garden Deva lives in Fremantle; and she has been using some of the product in her home garden.  This is what she sent me last week:  "The Charlie Charcoal is fantastic! Thanks for the sample. Now I've had the chance to see it strut its stuff, I'll be recommending it on my plans. A couple of months on, my spuds and lettuces are cranking and I'm throwing about handfuls of the stuff in pretty much every thing I plant in the ground or pots. I'm a convert!"  So if you're planning on revamping your beds for Spring, we'd recommend trying some Charlie Charcoal too.  It will help with water and nutrient retention over summer, and we'd love your feedback on how your crops grow when using it.

While working on this newsletter, I asked our Facebook friends for some input on what they'd like to see included.  Thanks to everyone who made some suggestions (we're always keen to know what you'd like to learn about) - some ideas need further investigation, but I have addressed some of the questions in the 'Winter Garden Q&A' article below!  I loved your input.

I hope you enjoy our August news and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Linda & the Team @ The Green Life Soil Co

In this newsletter:

August - Jobs to do in the Garden
What to Plant Now
Workshops - Learn and Grow with Us!
Winter Gardening Q&A - Your Questions Answered
VIP special offer - savings are just a click away

August in the Garden - Time to Get Busy

As the days lengthen, plants begin to wake up from Winter.  While the temperature remains low, it may be a little early to get stuck into planting your Spring garden; but there's plenty you can do.  

  • Pruning.  Late July/early August is usually the best time in Perth to prune your roses.  Pick a couple of days in a row where the weather's going to be fine, and get busy!  There's no reason why you can't mulch healthy rose canes and use them in your compost; or directly onto the ground.  Your deciduous trees too - get that small window before some of them start to flower if it's possible.  Deadhead your Azaleas and Camellias to encourage another flush, and give the plants a tidy up.
  • Spray your fruit trees - if you need to.  Pick a time when we're likely to have some days of fine weather.  For pests like scale, a pest oil (like Eco-Oil) is what you need.  For fungal & bacterial diseases (Peach Leaf Curl for example - which will affect your peaches and nectarines) you'll need a copper based spray. Timing is important - if the leaf buds have already burst it will be too late.  Of course - the tricky bit is everyone's gardens come on at different times, but keep a close eye on your trees because it will be about now most likely you'll need to spray.  Copper based sprays are reasonably safe; and are an effective treatment for a number of common fruit tree diseases.  Lime sulphur spray is commonly used on grape vines to help control powdery mildew and roses to control blackspot.  Again, it should be used prior to budburst, as it will burn tender fresh growth.  However, fruit tree guru Peter Coppin advises lime sulphur should be used with caution.  Whilst it is effective on fungal diseases, it is also a miticide.  Which may be good news - if you have a pest mite problem; but the downside is it will also kill off predator mites, so you may end up with a worse problem in summer.  For some great advice on Winter care of your fruit trees, check out Peter's notes here.
  • Tips to remember when using ANY treatment:  Always read the label, use in accordance with directions, wear suitable PPE, and never use more than the recommended amount - 'a dash more' won't make it any more effective.
  • Fertilise.  The end of winter/early spring is the time to give your lawn a feed, and your fruit trees.  Both deciduous trees and your evergreens (like citrus) will be soon entering an active growth phase, so topping up your soil now with compost, manure, rock dust, etc. is a good idea.  Most organic fertilisers (and organic matter) take time to be broken down and made available to your plants; so don't leave it until the end of spring.
  • Plant a tree (or two!)  There's still time to get a bare rooted tree or a native tree into the ground and help get them settled in prior to summer.  Improve your soil when you plant with an appropriate soil conditioner (ie. one of our concentrate blends).   Making sure the soil profile is moist, and will hold moisture over the coming summer, will ensure survival with just a little bit of TLC over the first year or so.
  • Roll the dice!  It's always a gamble - something of a game - for gardeners to jag the perfect timing to sow seeds...  Often the smart thing do do is plant over an extended time frame.  Sow a few things each week/10 days, and see how you go.  If you lose some early ones, the next batch may do better.  We have an extensive range of heritage seeds in stock, and our new (finer) formulation of certified organic seed raising mix is ready for you, too.  Start off some summer vegies in trays, where you can nurse them through the first month or two of life, and easily control the environment by moving them into sunny spots, covering them at night, etc.
  • Weeding.  Yeah, it's the boring bit about gardening.  But remember you CAN do something useful with your weeds.  Lush & green at this time of year they make great compost material before they've set seed heads.  Otherwise you can always make your own smelly batch of weed tea.  It's great for the garden - find out how, here
  • Pest Patrol.  Keep an eye out with all this wet weather for snails and slugs.  Unfortunately the winter weather doesn't seem to slow slaters down, either!   Make some beer traps, or use yoghurt/cream diluted with a bit of water.  As it curdles, it will smell a bit rank but that seems to attract the slaters, who will end up in the icky mess.  When you need to empty it - just throw it in your compost or worm farm.  Potato peelings heaped up on an old plate and left out overnight will also attract them, as will an upturned orange half - left over after juicing.  Collect the the next day and discard.
  • Worm Farm Refresher.  Worms at this time of year should be doing really well.  Perhaps it's time to separate the worms from the castings so you can harvest the 'black gold' to use when starting off your spring vegies??  To do this, keep fresh material only on one section of your worm farm.  I scrape mine all up over to one side (leaving the castings exposed under the cover) and add food to this 'working' side only for a couple of weeks.  Worms will work their way over to the food source.  If there still appears to be heaps of worms in your castings, when removing the castings spread them out approx. 5cms thick onto a flat surface.  Worms don't like light so after 5 -10 mins they will have tried to move deeper; so you can carefully take off the top layer to use, and return the worms to the worm farm.  An old piece of tin works well for this because the worms end up in the downward corrugations, and you can easily collect the castings.
  • Start planning for Spring.  What are you going to grow?  Where are you going to grow it? What will you need to do before planting to give it the best start? What did you grow in that spot last year?  Do you need to build a new garden bed?  Or move one to a better spot?  If any of these questions make it seem too difficult, check out one of our workshops below; there's bound to be one to help you with where YOU'RE at right now, and help boost your skills and confidence.

What to Plant Now

The short answer = LOTS of things!!
As I write this, our order of asparagus & rhubarb crowns, and Jerusalem artichoke (pictured right, growing) has just arrived! So it's time to get the beds ready (if you haven't already) and get planting!  Be quick - we expect they'll sell out within a short space of time.   Click here if you'd like to find out more about how to grow any of these great crops.

Other vegie/herbs to try now are:

Globe artichokes, Beetroot, Broad beans, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Celeriac, Chives, Coriander, Fennel, Jerusalem artichokes, Kale, Kohl rabi, Lettuce, Mint, Onions, Peas, Potatoes*, Radish, Silverbeet, Spinach, Snow Peas, Spring onion, Turnip.

*  Potatoes.  Still not too late to get a good crop now before summer, and we've still got some certified organic seed potato varieties available to try.

True spring/summer crops like Tomato, Chilli, Eggplant, Capsicums, Beans - well it's still too early to get them into the ground; but (like I said re the gambling thing) - it's always fun to start a few and see how you go.  After all, I've noticed some self-sown tomato plants emerging now...  and I'm sure mother nature knows a thing or two about the "right time" to germinate.   You can always start things off in trays indoors or somewhere sheltered; so give it a go!

Cucumbers, Pumpkin, Zucchini - I'd be waiting a little longer before starting these off (depending on your location/microclimate) - but maybe start researching and get yourself some seeds for the varieties you'd like to try; so you'll be ready if we have an early start to the season.

If you live in an area that gets frost, we're still likely to get them for another 4 - 6 weeks; so just be wary of planting things out too soon. Check out our FREE growing guides for 'When to Sow' info for vegies & herbs; as well as lots of other specific growing tips for popular vegie types.

Workshops @ Green Life Soil Co

We've got a HUGE list of workshops planned; something every weekend from early August to early December; plus we're going to offer a few mid week sessions, too!  Hopefully there's something for everyone; with some new topics like: Growing Bush Foods, Crop Rotation & Companion Planting, Garden Planning for Bushfires, Native & Waterwise Garden Planning, Soils, Container Gardens & Wicking Beds...  and more in the pipeline!  

Plus we've got the always popular workshops returning like: Propagation, Grafting, Grow Your Own Food & Medicine, Herbal Manufacturing - Making Useful Culinary & Medicinal things from Your Garden, Herb Teas, Backyard Chickens, Integrated Pest Management, Intro to Permaculture...  ETC!  

So many to choose - check out our EVENTS page online for more info & bookings.  This page is updated once new workshops are confirmed.

Winter Gardening Q & A

Here's the round up of questions put forward by our Facebook followers - hope the questions raised will be helpful to you!  Hop on over to join in the conversation anytime.

Ann K. Commented:  "my concerns are purchasing so many gardening products in plastic bags and then what to do with them"
GLSC:  Plastic is a HUGE problem across every industry, and to date we haven't found an alternative product for durability and convenience for people to purchase smaller quantities of our soils.  The best option may be to consider a sharing a scoop of bulk material with a friend or two. Our LDPE bags would be acceptable to put in the Redcycle bins found in many supermarkets; but the contamination of any dirt residue would be an issue.  Bags would need to be thoroughly cleaned out; so then there's the potential water wastage issue to consider.  It isn't easy being green!
Remember we do have the return & refill service for our mineral products; for things like Sand Remedy, Rocky Rock Dust, potash, DE, etc. you can bring back your containers and buy per KG; saving money and more packaging.
In some instances for our soil mixes we can fill your portable containers (tubs/bins work best) but this is NOT something we can do 'on the spot' for you; and needs to be organised by prior arrangement, and fitted into our production schedule.  Additional charges may apply, depending on the extra time it takes. 

Dany-el B. said:  "to use or not to use gloves - that is the question"
GLSC:  We always recommend using gloves when playing in the garden, or handling any soil product.  Natural bacteria (like Legionella) can be present anywhere; and although the risks are small, it pays to always keep soil mixes damp when in use and avoid breathing in when opening bagged products.  A particle dust mask is also a good idea.  Always wash your hands after gardening.

Naomi Van B. asks:  "Layering in the garden.  Can I grow anything under my citrus, avocado or other fruit trees? ?"
GLSC:  YES, you CAN grow things under your fruit trees.  A living mulch is a good idea; as it can out compete weeds and help prevent topsoil from drying out.  Providing you're supplying adequate food and moisture, and pick the right plants, both should thrive.  Too much regular digging around your fruit trees could be damaging to the tree's feeder roots; so consider something that is perennial.  Low growing herbs/cottage plants could be a good choice.  Some things can be mowed (to keep size in check) and flowering plants can be helpful to bring in pollinators.  Some ideas include comfrey, dill, fennel, lippia, nasturtiums, lavender, prostrate rosemary, chamomile, thyme, marjoram, petunias, marigolds, alyssum, etc. You can also make use of space around and under trees to grow things in pots.

Toni W. said:  "Now is a good time to use the Seasol super water saver in areas that need loads of water to get a good soaking, covered by good quality mulch?  I've got a really water resistant garden bed, and with all this rain, now is the time for me to drown it.  Spring seedling picks to start now/plant now?"
GLSC:  Winter is a great time to use any product to help overcome water repellency.  Leaving it until the soil profile is already dry is really too late.  If you have areas of your garden that need "fixing"; use a good quality soil wetter (like Eco-Wet) then incorporate something that will help make permanent changes to the soil structure.  Either Charlie Charcoal, Sand Remedy, or Cassies Clay would be our products to use.  Ensuring the soil has something incorporated to hold the water, let the rains do their thing and soak it (give a helping hand if necessary) then add a mulch before the height of spring to keep the moisture in the soil profile for as long as possible.  As far as seedling picks for now - check out our 'What to Plant Now' list above.  Personally, I'd be giving the brassicas & broad beans a last run in the garden, cropping lots of coriander, and snow peas prior to starting true summer veg seeds off over the next month in trays.

Emy R. asks:  "How often to feed vegies and with what...  after planting"
GLSC:  That's a great question that we're often asked.  Unfortunately, there's not a 'one size fits all' answer; as so much depends on what you're growing and how you're growing it!  If you're starting off with quality, fresh soil from GLSC you really don't need to add anything else at the time of planting.  Perhaps a liquid feed to get things settled in, and a light liquid feed (half strength of recommended) every 2-4 weeks - depending on what you're growing.  As a very general rule, leafy greens like spinach, bok choi, lettuce, silverbeet LOVE regular feeding, and need a lot of nitrogen to produce large, deep green leaves.  Your brassicas too tend to be fairly hungry - kale, broccoli, etc.  For your root crops, usually you want to avoid too much fertiliser; because you can end up with lots of leaf growth but little happening underground.  Summer crops like tomatoes & capsicums can benefit from a regular, light feed.  Commercial growers of our vegetable crops often use regular (ie. several times a week) liquid feeding to push out quick crops.  However, for better overall plant health, its best to improve the soil for the long term.  The old adage 'feed the soil, not your plants' really is true for making your crops robust.  Between seasons/crops is the time to add granular fertilsers and things like blood & bone, compost etc.  Often there's not much more you need to do during the growth phase; but again the disclaimer is - depending on what you're growing and your overall gardening practices.  No two gardeners tend to do things the same, and each garden bed is different.  If your soil is very poor, it will require more feeding to support healthy plant growth.  After a few years of regular soil building, you will need less additives each year to produce abundant crops.

Crystal D. said:  "Something winter related... how to keep winter weeds at bay and what they mean for your soil"
GLSC:  Sure!  We discussed weeds a little in the introduction and August jobs sections above in this newsletter. Explore the links provided to learn more about organic weed management and making a useful fertiliser - weed tea.  As for what weeds can mean for your soil...  

That's a great topic we should explore further another day.  Here's a link to a couple of resources: https://www.permaculturenews.org/resources_files/pdc_info/Plants_as_Soil_Indicators.pdf
http://www.ccmaknowledgebase.vic.gov.au/brown_book/29_Weeds.htm
If anybody knows of any others - particularly for WA; I'd be happy to share.

Julie P. asks:  "Feeding in winter.  Are there some plants that still need regular feeding over winter?" and Jane L. said "How about something about how important it is to use fertliser?"
GLSC:  Most of your winter vegie crops would appreciate a little liquid feed every few weeks to keep them going (see response to Emy R. above).  Things that are deciduous don't need feeding just now as they're dormant, and many shrubs/trees (including citrus) possibly don't...  depending on growing conditions.  Things in pots will need more regular feeding, as the available nutrition is limited due to physical storage space in the growing medium.  Early spring is a good time to fertilse just about everything in your garden.  As the weather warms up, many plants are producing flowers and actively growing, so they will utilise available nutrients.  Liquid fertilisers give the fastest results, as nutrients can be quickly taken up by plants.  However, longer term soil building methods of adding rock minerals and organic matter will improve overall health and disease resistance of plants; but the benefits won't be visible for weeks/months/years - depending.  The best thing is to research what you're wanting to grow.  Find out where that plant originated, and try to provide similar conditions in your garden.  Tropical plants have vastly different nutritional requirements to many local WA natives for example - so feeding your plants appropriately is the key.

Debbie B. commented:  "Dealing with waterlogged lawns."
GLSC:  I felt for Debbie - when she posted her comment, it had been raining for DAYS.  Hopefully any waterlogging may have been short term.  If your lawn is in a low-lying spot, or built on a hard pan surface below the grass, there's not a great deal you can do.  Seasonal waterlogging will always be a problem unless you invest in some sort of under soil drainage system involving replacing the lawn.  But in the short term, avoid driving or parking on waterlogged lawns.  Any traffic will compress the wet soil and lead to further compaction problems.  Ideally when it's dried out a little, go through and spike your lawn as deeply as possible with a pitchfork.  Wiggle the tines to open up small holes in the lawn.  If you have a large area and it's beyond this effort, contact a lawn contractor who can use a machine to core your lawn.  In some cases, topdressing with a coarse sand material may help open up the soil's structure, but you'd probably need site specific advice.

Jacqui M. said:  "Things to do for the garden when it's bucketing down!"
GLSC:  "God invented rainy days so that gardeners can get some housework done"...  but if your addiction goes beyond that, rainy days are a great opportunity to sort through your seed collection, checking for mice/insect damage, seeing what's out of date, etc.  Work out what you need to order for next season and do some online shopping.  Catch up on a gardening podcast, or put your feet up and read a magazine.  If you're anything like me you've got a pile 'to get around to' one day...  Other good rainy day jobs include sharpening/cleaning your tools, and tending to pot plants somewhere under cover.  I've usually got something around begging to be repotted or trimmed up!

Louise C. said:  "Toughing it out and actually gardening in the rain."
GLSC:  We need more customers like you in July, Louise!!!  LOL.  Often in Perth, our 'rainy days' are patchy.  If you watch your opportunity there's usually a brief window to get outside and get active.  After periods of lots of rain though, avoid digging in waterlogged soil.  It tends to lead to compaction.  It's OK to plant something in a spot, but not to go tilling through larger garden patches at this time.

Anna M. asked:  "Drainage? Mulch? Weed management?"
GLSC:  I hope we've touched on weeds & drainage here.  As for mulch, it's not something really necessary in the winter vegie garden, but it is very useful around general garden beds/shrubs/trees in winter to help control weeds.  Layer on thickly; you can use newspaper or cardboard underneath (presoak it first - if this layer is wet, it will allow water to permeate the soil rather than absorbing the rain itself) to smother existing weeds.  Chunky, woody mulch is usually the best value and is best for water penetration in summer.  Definitely when the weather begins to warm up and your summer crops are established, look at mulching your spring vegie beds with something like a straw/pea straw/lupin mulch/lucerne.

Some of the other topics suggested will be explored another time.  Thanks again Facebook friends!

VIP special offer for August

With LOTS to do in the garden in Spring, we've got an offer to help you get organised.  Whether you're planning a new garden bed, or topping up an existing one, we are offering our VIP newsletter readers $20 off bulk delivery charges for the month of August.  
Depending on where you live, that's likely to be a saving of approx 20 - 30% on the usual delivery rate. 

You're welcome to pop in and discuss your requirements, or call up over the phone for advice - but please ASK for the August discount.  If for some reason you can't get through, shoot us a quick email and we'll get the ball rolling for you.

If you're ordering online, use the code VIPAUG at checkout to receive $20 off any order total that includes a bulk product selected from our website.   Not valid with any other offer.

Offers valid until 31st August 2017.

So let's get dirty & until next time - have fun in the garden!

Open 7 days.  New winter hours 8.30 - 4.00pm Monday - Saturday, 8.30 - 2.00pm Sunday.







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