Many plants in the garden are seeming a little confused after such a long, warm and dry Autumn. But deciduous trees are definitely getting themselves ready for dormancy and the winter weeds are just starting to germinate I've noticed. (They never seem to go away, do they?)
Winter in Perth - by world gardening standards - is actually pretty mild. Some countries lose their gardens under thick layers of snow, and can only garden in the warmer months once the melt comes. But we're lucky - there's really no end to the amount of things we can grow through our Winter season, so rather than hibernate away, take advantage of the Winter rains doing the watering for you; and get busy outdoors!
Hopefully we've got info in this newsletter to get you inspired.
Remember - the Winter sprinkler ban is now in place. You're not permitted to use your retic system BUT you are still allowed to hand water. If we have dry spells, do check your soil (your finger is the most reliable water meter available!). You won't need to water daily as cooler temperatures won't be stressing your plants; but some plants more than others will still appreciate a weekly drink.
We're in the process of putting together more workshops for the 2nd half of the year - but we've got one coming up in a couple of weeks all about designing (and using) a herb garden. For more details and bookings - click here.
Globe artichokes, Asparagus, Beetroot, Broad beans, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Coriander, Fennel, Garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, Kale, Kohl rabi, Leek, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, Potatoes, Radish, Silverbeet, Snow peas, Spring onions, Strawberries, Swede, Turnips. (Turnips & Beetroot pictured right.) See our free fact sheets for how to grow info.
We have plenty left in stock! We have the following varieties of Manjimum grown, Certified Organic seed potatoes - so come and get 'em!:
Floury: “Fluffy on the Inside”. Best suited to mashing, baking, roasting, frying. Floury Potatoes are the best ones to use for baking and mashing. When cooked, their cells will separate, making for fluffy baked potatoes, good mash and great chips (as in French Fries.)
Waxy: “Smooth on the Inside”. Waxy Potatoes have cells in them that stay together when cooked. This mean that chunks and slices will stay together when boiled or cooked, making them ideal for salads and layered potato dishes such as scalloped potatoes. You can also slice them after boiling without having the slices disintegrate on you.
General Purpose: “Between Smooth and Fluffy”. Can be used for most cooking methods.
If you'd like some information on how to grow potatoes - see our fact sheet & click here. Good companion plants for potatoes are peas, beans, marigolds and nasturtiums! (For our full Companion Planting guide - click here.)
Psssst - If you're coming in after some seed potatoes - mention you're a VIP newsletter customer and we'll even give them to you at a special rate!
Who doesn't like sweet strawberries? Just the imagery shown here makes you drool, & picked fresh from the garden they have a wonderful flavour. However - if you've grown them yourself, you know that they are also enjoyed by a number of pests, and are a fairly fragile fruit. So for commercial growers to get plenty of good looking fruit to the shops, they are grown with a number of fungicide and pesticide treatments (if conventionally grown) that often sees strawberries on the 'dirty dozen' lists of fruit that contain the highest levels of 'icide' residues. So if you're trying to eat as clean as possible - they're definitely one fruit to grow yourself.
Be aware that you won't have fruit year-round - but when they are in season, you'll have the tastiest fruit ever! (We are accustomed to seeing them in the shops all the time, as commercial growers have a range of varieties, regions and growing methods to extend their marketable season.)
Strawberries in Perth bear the most fruit in the early summer - around Christmas time (in time for the Xmas pavlova!); but you'll often get smaller 2nd crops in Winter around July, and you may (if you're lucky) get the odd fruit throughout Spring and into Autumn. Cropping season does vary with climatic conditions. If you're growing them in containers, try a few different spots around your garden to see what difference microclimates have on them. Each year, there are new varieties available for home gardeners. You'll probably find some do better than others at your place - so it might be worth experimenting with a couple.
While they can be planted year-round, Autumn/early Winter is a great time - as the plants can get established in time to bear fruit for Summer. If your first crop is a little disappointing, give the plants a chance to mature and keep up their feeding (not too much nitrogen) and you should get better results. They will often crop heaviest in their 2nd year.
Strawberries aren't actually 'berries' at all - as their seeds are on the outside of the fruit. They are named from the old English term 'to strew' - or spread out. Strawberry plants produce runners, and cover the ground by spreading from the original plant. These runners can be propagated to form new plants. Normally, the first runner thrown out from the parent plant will be the strongest; so if you're wanting to allow your plant to propagate this way, allow the first runner to take root (you can place a smallish pot next to the parent plant and pin it down to the soil surface, then separate it once it has taken root) - but remove subsequent runners by cutting them off from the parent plant. Allowing too many runners to remain will sap energy from the mother plant and reduce fruiting.
You might find it best to completely replace your original plants with these healthiest runners each year in Autumn; or every couple of years at least (plants will reduce in productivity as they age). If you have lots of runners - they make great gifts for friends! My mum used to hand out bundles of bare-rooted strawberry runners wrapped in damp newspaper to eager recipients each year when she re-planted our patch. As strawberries can suffer from a number of viruses (often spread by insects), always destroy any unhealthy plants and don't use them for propagation purposes. Nursery grown plants should be certified virus free before sale. Strawberries can share the same diseases as solanums - so it's an idea not to plant them where tomatoes/eggplant/capsicum/potatoes have been grown for a couple of seasons.
Alpine strawberries are a little different. They are grown from seed sown in Spring and don't propagate from runners. (They have evolved to be spread in their mountainous homes by being eaten by animals and the seed spread in the animal dung!) Alpine strawberries are a much smaller fruit, borne in clusters, and can fruit through most of the year.
Strawberries like a well drained, fertile soil, and a sunny spot in your garden*. A couple of weeks before planting out, incorporate compost, rock dust, aged manure and a handful of blood and bone and potash into the soil. Like most berries, they prefer an acidic soil between 5.5 - 6.5 pH. Using Charlie Charcoal when digging through your soil improver (our Vegetable Concentrate would be ideal) will help to lower pH if you have more alkaline soils. If growing your strawberries in planters, we'd recommend our Blueberry potting mix as it is formulated with a lower pH for acid loving plants.
* Strawberries originated from cool climate countries - so be prepared to use some shadecloth in the height of our Perth summer or plants will sizzle. A spot with morning sun but protected from afternoon heat is ideal. Leaves and fruit can burn if too exposed.
When planting out, they need about 30 cms spacing and make sure you don't bury the crown (growing centre of the plant) or it may rot. Water in well with a seaweed tonic. Mulch your strawberries well and in summer make sure they get plenty of water - you'll need to hand water every day if you want plump, juicy fruit. They are shallow rooted - so don't let soil dry out too much, and top up mulch regularly as it breaks down. Try and avoid overhead watering if possible to avoid fungal problems. Trim back foliage to allow improved airflow if this is an issue. A light liquid feed every 2-4 weeks in their fruiting season will keep them happy (and producing well).
Plants can get a bit straggly in winter - so don't be afraid to give them a trim up. If you're leaving them in the ground - you can even use the lawnmower on plants to get rid of dead leaves and old growth. Once warmer weather returns, they'll put on fresh, new growth. Feed plants in Spring and early Autumn to boost the soil nutrition and keep plants healthy. Rock dust, potash and blood and bone are good to use.
Strawberries grow well in planters/pots (15 - 20 cms diameter - don't use anything too small) and even hanging baskets - provided they're not allowed to dry out. Personally, I've not had any luck with strawberry towers - probably the combination of planter height/gravity means drainage is too good - and unsealed terracotta also tends to promote drying of soil. You may have better luck with plastic towers for vertical growing. I find self watering pots are really good for strawberries; as they ensure plenty of water is available on hot days when they need it. Wicking beds are good too - once plants are established. Flowers and fruit look lovely hanging over the edge of your pots, and keeping the fruit off the ground can mean less creatures find the fruit before you do.
Unfortunately, everything seems to love strawberries! Birds, goannas, snails and slaters can all be your competition. Many, many times I've watched a perfect fruit ripen only to go to pick it and find it has been eaten out from underneath - grrrrr! (Commercial growers often use black plastic on the soil - partly for this reason - but plastic isn't great for your soil biology, so I wouldn't recommend it for home gardeners.) Check developing fruit regularly and prop up the fruit stems with a rock or small stick to keep fruit off the ground if you can. It's a bit time consuming if you've got lots of plants, but if you've only got a small patch to do your effort will be rewarded. If you are growing in pots, move them from time to time and get rid of any slaters hiding underneath. The usual practises of using beer traps, pellets - etc. will help. See our article here for more tips on snail & slater control.
Strawberries are self-fertile. The flowers (which have multiple male and female parts) are pollinated by wind and insects. The more insects (bees, ants, beetles, etc.) that visit a flower and spread the pollen around it the better. It has been proven that well pollinated fruit is larger, redder and has a higher sugar content. Apparently you can also hand pollinate strawberries with a small paintbrush; so if there's a lack of insects around your garden it would be worth a try. Poorly pollinated fruit is often misshapen and smaller - which might have been my problem in the picture to the right. Most Strawberry varieties have white flowers - but there are pink flowering varieties available. (I haven't noticed any difference in fruit flavour; but perhaps I haven't paid enough attention.)
Strawberries don't ripen once picked, so always leave them to ripen as long as you can for best flavour. They will keep in the fridge for a few days (so you can put together several days' harvests). Don't wash them until you're ready to use them; and bring back to room temperature for maximum sweetness.
How many plants do you need to get a good crop? I guess it depends how much you love strawberries! The minimum would be about 6 plants per person to get a decent feed of fresh berries. If you like to do something with your produce - 50 - 60 plants total should keep you going.
In the unlikely event you will have excess fruit, you can make jam, syrup and lots more divine things!
Photo Competition Winner
CONGRATULATIONS to Miranda from Wembley - who sent us in this photo of her garden recently. I'm sure you'd all agree that our gardens can be a sanctuary and a refuge from our busy lives - Miranda captioned her photo: "My precious little patch of planet earth in Autumn."
You've got to be in it to win it! Send is us a photo (or photos) of your garden, with a brief explanation; and let us know what GLSC products you're using. Pictures can be shared on our Facebook page, or emailed.
There's a photo picked at random every month; and the winner receives a $50 credit to spend with us on gardening goodies at Green Life! So get snapping!
VIP Special Offer
Yep - if you're spending $50 or more in store, and mention you're a VIP - you can select any two packs of regular seeds from available stock (normally $4.00 RRP each) for FREE.
Our heritage & organic seeds are always popular, so we know you'll love this offer!
Grab a bag of our Certified Organic Seed Raising Mix while you're here to get them off to a flying start.
Online shoppers - please mention in the 'delivery comments' you'd like to receive 2 x free packets of seeds and perhaps make a suggestion of the vegies you'd like. (Or you can phone up and our team can check availability on the spot for you.)
Also - mention you're a VIP and if you're grabbing some seed potatoes, we'll give those to you at a reduced price too.
Offer is valid until 30th June 2018
Please support the local independent businesses who support Green Life. You'll find great advice and service close to home.
Remember to check with individual stockists what products they currently have in stock - as it will vary between retailers:
Beaufort Garden World - Inglewood 9271 0585
Dunn + Walton - Doubleview 92427711
Garden Elegance - Subiaco 9381 2197
Guildford Town Garden Centre - Guildford 9279 8645
Nibali Stockfeed - Hamilton Hill 9433 2211
Stanbee Stockfeeds - Barragup 9581 2390
Waldecks Bentley - Bentley 9458 5944
Waldecks Melville - Melville 9330 6970
Waldecks Kingsley - 9309 5088
Waldecks Stirling - 9254 6730
Wandilla Nursery - Wattle Grove 9453 9779
Zanthorrea Nursery - Maida Vale 9454 6260
THANK YOU for supporting us! In closing I'll leave you with this message shared recently from The Bodhi Tree cafe about why it's important to support independent businesses. (You'll need to zoom in on the image.)
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Happy Winter gardening!