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HAPPY NEW YEAR & welcome to our first newsletter of 2019.
I trust you had a lovely Christmas and (just maybe) were lucky enough to have a break? Paul & I had a few days down south with family, a lazy, enjoyable mini-break!
We have enjoyed (so far) some milder weather; and a great lead up to Christmas. We had our NASAA Organic Certification Audit back in December, and have passed the inspection process. Did you know that 2018 marked 10 years we've had our Vegetable Mix, Sand Remedy & Vegetable Concentrate Certified Organic? Since then we've added numerous other products (Potting Mix, Seed Raising Mix, Blueberry Mix, Blood & Bone, Rocky Rock Dust, Cassies Clay & Charlie Charcoal) - and we're still the only WA company that has achieved Organic Certification on soil mixes!
Things are back to "normal" trading hours @ GLSC (with the exception of the Australia Day public holiday - we'll be CLOSED on Monday, 28th January). While it's a bit quieter at this time of year, there's always things to be done in the summer garden. Check out our reminders below. Hopefully the work you did in your garden in Spring is paying off now - with crops coming along nicely for your summer harvest. We've been enjoying the first of our zucchinis (they haven't overwhelmed us yet!), strawberries, tomatoes, lots of fresh lettuce, spring onions and the last of the citrus fruit. Not too far behind are cucumbers, watermelon, and snake beans; so hopefully we'll be picking those soon.
See below for the details for our 2019 Tomato Contest! Enter some of your home grown tomatoes and WIN great prizes - perfect for getting your Autumn garden all ready to go in a couple of months.
Remember our 2019 Moon Planting Calendars are in store - grab one for $11 (two for $20) while they last! Come on in & see us soon. Here's a photo of mine on my desk at home - not too sure when I'll get a chance to put it on the door, at this rate! (And for those of you who remember Missy; the [former] shop cat? Here's proof she's enjoying her retirement at home.)
Keep hydrated (both you & your plants!) & we'll see you next month.
Linda & The Team @ The Green Life Soil Co
In this newsletter:
Check out our FREE downloadable guides on our website - but here's a quick look at what you can grow now:
Beans, Beetroot, Brussel Sprouts*, Cabbage*, Capsicum, Chilli, Carrot, Cauliflower*, Cucumber, Eggplant, Kale*, Kohl Rabi*, Leek, Lettuce, Melons, Parsnip, Pumpkin, Radish, Silverbeet, Spring Onion, Swede, Sweetcorn, Sweet Potato, Tomato, Turnip, Zucchini
* Disclaimer: Brassica vegetables are best grown as Winter crops here in Perth. While they will grow in Summer, they are more susceptible to pests like Cabbage Moth & Cabbage Butterfly, so it's best to keep them under insect netting if you wish to try them at this time of year. Keep up the water as stressed plants will bolt to seed, and ensure seeds & seedlings aren't allowed to dry out.
It's baaaack! Our Tomato competition for 2019. Bring in your tomatoes by 1.30 pm, Sunday 3rd February to enter.
First prize is a $250 GLSC voucher - perfect to use for your Autumn gardening needs. Plus there's runner-up & novelty prizes.
For young and old, experienced and novice gardeners alike - you've got to be in it to win it; so start talking to your tomatoes nicely and try to time the fruiting to perfection.
Try to remember the variety name (if known) to submit with your fruit. There's a form to submit & it'll cost you a gold coin for each entry (which goes to charity).
GOOD LUCK - feel free to share the competition details with workmates & friends who enjoy homegrown produce. The more the merrier!
Pictured right is last year's winner - Mirey from Shenton Park. She grows several different varieties of tomato in her backyard & I'd say she's definitely got some good tips - check out our archived newsletter here to find out how she does it.
A top frustration that gardeners have is PESTS attacking their crops & beloved ornamental plants. While we're all about organic gardening and the need for balance and biodiversity to encourage natural bug predators, depending on where you are in your gardening journey, and other factors, you may need some help from time to time to combat outbreaks. Here's a few ideas that may help with pests that are active at this time of year. Just remember - any sprays and treatments have a knock-on effect on the food chain, so always consider the least harmful options first.
Each Spring, we encourage you to mulch your garden. As this lovely organic material breaks down it adds goodness to the soil; but it can also support a huge population of slaters. These critters primarily eat decaying matter; however they can also ringbark plants, and kill seedlings. There is some debate whether they're eating plant material, or minute fungi on the plant's surface - but the end result is the same, as healthy plant tissue is harmed regardless. The best way to reduce their numbers is to use traps, and to remove/clean them out regularly to make a good dent in the population. Beer traps & cream/yoghurt traps work well. Recycle a plastic container to bury into the soil (with an opening at soil level) so insects attracted by the liquid will fall in and drown. Upturned citrus halves after juicing, or pile of potato peelings also work - collect them in the morning and dispose of them. Use a wet, rolled up newspaper with the edges outwards. The slaters will crawl between the sheets of paper and the whole roll can be removed. Slaters like protection, and will crawl under cardboard, newspaper, upturned pots etc. in the daytime, so use this to your advantage. If you have chickens, ducks or quail they will enjoy scoffing them in large numbers. (Here's a link to an article on slater control in a previous newsletter.) As a last resort - the iron based snail pellets also work to attract and kill slaters. While they are considered safer than standard poison pellets to pets & wildlife, there are still reported poisonings that have occurred. As always, do your research and decide whether this option is suitable for your circumstances.
Whether you get little leaf hoppers, or HUGE flying locusts attacking your crop - they can be a nuisance in the summer garden. They are chewers, ripping holes in plant leaves and spreading disease. This little guy was looking all innocent on a tomato plant; but I have caught them chewing my strawberry leaves recently. Insect netting will protect vulnerable plants.
Based on the number of enquiries we receive; ants are a common problem in homes and gardens around Perth. While they don't usually cause damage to plants; they DO farm aphids (as these ones are doing in my garden), scale and mealy bug which damage plants, and ants can tunnel in pots and paving causing problems. Barriers of horticultural glue or vaseline will help; if you can put a ring around tree trunks, raised garden beds - etc. They often proliferate in dryer soil, so by increasing the moisture holding capacity you will encourage them to go elsewhere. Baits tend to be successful with ants, because they will take the poison to their nest, where it can have a dramatic effect on numbers. The trick is to determine what species of ant you have - because different types prefer different baits (some go for sweet, some go for savoury!). Check out the Ag Departments My Pest App; and they have a service where you can post in a couple of ants on a piece of sticky tape to have them correctly ID'd.
Stink bugs, Crusader bugs, (etc)
A wide range of beetle-type insects are crop pests. Most are sap suckers, and weaken plant health and can spread diseases. Again - go out in the morning and try to hand pick or knock off the bugs into a bucket of soapy water. Watch out for some that can squirt irritating and/or foul smelling fluid as a defence mechanism. Wear gloves and/or glasses! Hand held vacuuming will also work for some plants, and exclusion netting is also handy. If they're getting into your soft fruit, consider fruit fly bags to protect individual fruit or clusters/branches. A range of predatory wasps, lacewings, hoverflies, birds & spiders can help - so avoid sprays unless you really need to use them. Neem oil/Eco-Oil will work as a contact spray on the bugs, and it may be worth a garlic/chilli spray as a general deterrent, applied every couple of days. Keeping weeds out of the area will help remove hiding & breeding spots, and pick up any fallen and overripe fruit - the sweet scent is thought to attract them. Make sure you correctly ID the "pest" - targeted treatments are more effective and may have less impact on other insects.
These are sap sucking pests that are invisible without magnification. They live in colonies - some produce a fine webbing you can see on the leaf underside. Because the mites are hard to see, sometimes the symptoms are thought to indicate a plant disease. Mites have a short life cycle, and tend to breed up quickly in optimal weather conditions (dry and hot), but can be wiped out naturally once those conditions change. Again, mites have many natural predators, so hopefully the'll do the job for you. As a last resort, wettable sulphur or neem oil can help; but you must make sure you're treating the underside of leaves or where the mites are actually present. Pest oil, natural soap sprays, vinegar sprays & DE may also be helpful; and always remove badly affected plant material & dispose of in the bin. Unless composting at high temperatures, mites can survive and you can re-infect your garden.
Another beetle-type insect, these critters are active at night and chew holes in plant leaves, usually around the leaf edge; or some can damage roots & root crops underground. They can also ring bark seedlings (with the damage mostly blamed on slaters), Larvae are caterpillar like, and the adults are small (7mm - 12mm long), narrow 'beetles' that have a distinctive long proboscis. Adults of some varieties are flightless; a few can fly. During the day they are usually under mulch or just under the surface of the soil, and at night they come out to feed on your plants. There are a wide range of weevils, and a wide range of their preferred host plants! If you suspect a weevil problem, the only way to be sure is to go out at night with a torch and observe. If they're present, knock them off into a bucket of soapy water, or hand pick them off. Crop rotation will help, and you can try traps. Place bits of hessian around the garden and you may well find adults will use it as a hideout. Shake out the hessian to your chooks (if you have them). It may be worth trying a chilli & garlic spray as a deterrent; and as a last resort try neem oil. (Photo courtesy of the Ag Dept of WA)
So there you go! Do make sure you correctly ID the pests, and (as stated above) this might require a bit of after dark sleuthing and/or in different conditions to catch the culprits in the act. But once you know what the pest is - you can use the most effective method to deal with it, and the least harmful to other species.
Just a note about 'natural' pest control. Please remember most beneficial insects will still be affected by most sprays & treatments. Some information about the solutions I've mentioned above is here for further reading:-
The manufacturers of Eco-neem claim it is safe for bees (unless sprayed directly on them). Neem oil comes from the Neem tree - a relative of the Cape Lilac Tree; and it has been used in India for centuries for a multitude of medicinal treatments (quite fascinating if you look it up). Native to the Indian subcontinent, it grows so well in Australia that it is on the weed list. It works on insects quite strangely; scientists are somewhat unsure of how it works differently on different species. For some; it effects their appetite and they stop feeding. For others, it stops their eggs from hatching. For others still, it affects how the insect moults and therefore the insect can't complete it's life cycle.
Neem works as it is ingested by the insect; but will also work as a contact spray (and will harm bees & beneficials if they're sprayed). I have also read claims that it acts as a deterrent. While Eco-neem is Certified Organic, it is not registered in Australia for use on vegetable crops; however - it IS in many countries around the world. As always, do some research and decide whether it is the suitable product for your needs.
Natural Soap/Potassium Soap
Soap sprays work as a direct contact spray onto the insect - they are not effective once they have dried, so repeat treatments are usually necessary. The fatty acids in the soap react with the insect's outer shell; causing their internal cells to collapse. If you're making your own soap spray, use pure soap rather than most commercial soaps or dishwashing liquid. While these may still be effective on the pests, there is much more likelihood of damage to your plants. The potassium component is not in all soap products, and appears to be the effective ingredient.
Commercially prepared soap pest sprays are recommended, as the strength and ingredients are standardised. Soap sprays work best on soft bodied insects (aphids, whitefly, mites). We sell the Yates 'Natures Way' product pictured here; and Natrasoap is another brand to look out for.
In its original form, this is a product sourced from a member of the Chrysanthemum family; however these days the active ingredients are synthetically manufactured. Often, they include piperonyl butoxide - a compound added to enhance the active ingredient, and as a stabiliser (to extend the product life). While it's claimed this is safe for mammals - it has meant a number of pyrethrum products are unable to be Certified Organic. Pyrethrum without additives has a very short active life - less than a day. Pyrethrum is a broad spectrum insecticide and is very toxic to bees. It is a contact spray so needs to be applied directly to the insects. It affects their nervous system leading to rapid death.
Finally - because a product is 'organic', 'natural' - even 'Certified Organic' - it doesn't mean it isn't toxic to something; potentially even to yourself or your family. Read the labels! Always use products as the instructions recommend, observe any withholding periods before consuming crops, and wash produce well. However, things you grow yourself you have 100% control over, and 100% knowledge of how that plant has been treated - and that's very valuable knowledge.
At GLSC we sell a range of 'natural' pest treatments (nothing with a poison rating) and we're happy to recommend products - but it's always best to have a definite pest ID. Check out the Ag Department's guide here - there's a free app you can download. In some instances, you can make treatments yourself. For some simple pest control recipes - click on this link.
Time to improve your soil! Whether you're having issues with wettability, or whether you're contemplating improving your soil for Autumn planting once the weather cools down - we've got a great package deal for our VIP members.
Cassies Clay is our kaolinite clay product, and Charlie Charcoal is our amazing biochar. TOGETHER, they work really well at holding moisture & nutrients in the soil and pack a powerful punch in gutless, sandy soil!
Normally we retail Charlie Charcoal @ $22 per bag & Cassies Clay $23.95. FOR THE MONTH OF JANUARY, 2019 we're offering a package deal for $50 for 2 x 15L bags of Cassies Clay & 1 x 25L bag of Charlie Charcoal. This combination is the perfect ratio to treat 2m2 of sandy soil very intensively (and as a once-off), but will do a larger area if your soil is already reasonably fertile/improved.
Offer is valid until close of business 31st January; either in store or online (you'll need to log in to the VIP members page to purchase the special pack), and there's no limit on the quantity per customer. If you have a large area to do, contact us for a quote - both products are available bulk, and we can pre-mix them for you. Bulk prices work out cheaper than bagged for larger quantities; and there's less plastic waste!
Premium compost is great to add while you're incorporating Cassies Clay & Charlie Charcoal - so speak to us about that option, too!
Congratulations to Lesley G. from Jurien Bay who shared this photo on our FB page recently, of a garden bed exploding with tomatoes, watermelon & chillies.
Talk about a keen gardener - this is what she had to say about her garden:-
"I live in Jurien Bay. The soil is very alkaline up here, so I have taken to growing my vegetables and fruit trees in the boxes and grow bags. I mix soil improver with potting mix and add mushroom compost. Seems to work. I also grow frangipanis from seed and also have some I have bought as cuttings. I have approximately 400 (some are only small) frangipanis as well as numerous desert roses. I always use a good potting mix when potting them all up."
Thanks Lesley! I'm sure with those gardening challenges and so many plant babies to nurture, the voucher will be very easy to spend!
Remember - we pick a winner at random every month from photos shared with us - either on our Facebook page, or via email. You've got to be in it to win it, so why not take some pictures of something you love in your garden, and let us know how things are growing for you. Everybody's inspired by seeing garden pictures - so feel free to share regularly.
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