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Welcome to Winter! This is the season of Makuru, the 'fertility season' in the Nyoongar calendar.
With some rain and cooler temperatures (and some chilly mornings!!) we've definitely waved goodbye to warm weather for a few months. When it comes to gardening in Perth, it's a whole new ball game - and the good news is that it's A LOT easier to have a lush garden and get vegies producing over the next six months. Nature's on your side with a little rain keeping soil moist and (provided you're planting in season crops) - things generally perform well with little interference. This past week it's been sunny but cold; I've been tucked up inside keeping warm with a bad cold. Part of me was feeling bad about not taking the opportunity to work outside in the fine weather - but sometimes, your body tells you to rest... So the newsletter is a little later this month for the same reason. Paul & I recently returned from a personal development & business workshop (with a little break added on because we could!) which took us to Queensland. The mountainous area known as 'the scenic rim' was breathtaking - the lush subtropical rain forest so different to our dryer jarrah forests of the hills, and even the karri forests further south. It reminded us that we really do live in a special part of the world - but it certainly has its climatic challenges. With new restrictions coming into play for bore water users, it makes us focus even more on the preciousness of our water, and how we can garden sustainably. (Considering the amount of rain that Queensland and areas of northern NSW have had - it really doesn't seem fair!) We had a brief visit with a friend in Lismore - the effects of recent flooding on the town are still visible and very deeply felt. Our changing climate is going to present more challenges - and we need to ask what we can do to be resilient.
If you haven't got garden beds ready yet - you haven't missed the boat. Crops planted now will take 2-6 months to develop (depending on what they are ~ and a few other factors) so get planting soon. With rising prices of vegetables (I paid $6.99 for one cauliflower the other day!) it's worth planting out seedlings which will be producing for several months late winter/spring. While it might not be practical to grow all your vegies - it certainly pays to grow what you enjoy eating. Check out our article below for more info on stretching the budget with some home grown produce.
We hope we can inspire you to get out and get growing this month - and experiencing the joy of winter gardening!
Until next month - happy gardening.
Linda & The team @ The Green Life Soil Co
In this newsletter:
Jobs to do in June
Jobs to do in June
Weeding: with the rain and colder weather upon us weeds started rearing their ugly heads. The good news is now is one of the best times to do something! Younger & smaller weeds have less developed root systems and are easier to pull. Don't weed when the soil is really wet - allow it to dry out after rain for a day or two. Take a bucket with you, collect them all and add them to your compost or use them to make a fertiliser. See our fact sheets on organic weed control (and weed tea) here. Mulching will help protect your garden and reduce weeds.
Preparing soil (Asparagus/Rhubarb): Although these have not yet arrived in store it is a great time to start preparing for planting. Use these easy steps to prepare your soil. 1. Picking a spot: Rhubarb prefers morning sun and partial shade and Asparagus prefers more of a full sun position. 2. Remove any existing weeds or grass from that area. 3. Both Asparagus and rhubarb prefer a rich and fertile soil. Prepare your soil by digging in compost and manure, and/or adding some blood and bone (optional). For an easy option, use our Vegie Concentrate which is a blended soil improver, Certified Organic, rich & ready to go! If you can hold yourself back from harvesting in first year, it will enable the plant to establish itself well for future seasons. For more in-depth information on growing Rhubarb and Asparagus see our fact sheets here.
Preparing soil for Fruit Trees: Preparing your soil before you plant fruit trees or ornamentals is crucial. Researching to find the right tree for your location is essential for success. A little bit of planning and preparation now will save problems in the future. If you have poor sandy soil (like most of Perth), then digging some General Concentrate through those areas will be very beneficial. We spent a lot of time and energy perfecting our soil concentrates to ensure your plant is provided with all the trace elements and nutrients that may not be available in poor sandy soils; plus we add minerals like clay & biochar to assist with water holding. It's a complete soil improver - no need to add additional fertilisers.
Transplanting/Moving trees: If you feel like some of your trees or shrubs could use a better position, then now is the time to move them! If you are moving deciduous plants, wait until all the leaves have dropped. Find a new spot where you think they would suit the conditions more and prepare the soil. Dig out as much of the root ball as possible and re-plant immediately. Cleanly trim damaged roots, and it's often a good idea to trim the top growth a little too. Giving your plant a good dose of seaweed/kelp will help with transplant shock. Transplanting can be tricky but when successful can be rewarding - and if a plant is not thriving or desirable where it is, what have you got to lose by giving it a go?
Feeding your Garden: Using a liquid fertiliser can be very beneficial to your garden. Most of our vegie patches at this time of year have leafy greens and winter vegies growing. Feeding your vegies with something like Fish Hydrolysate, a kelp/seaweed mix, Veratin or Worm Wizz will boost growth and provide a good harvest! Mix it up - try rotating between your liquid fertilisers, as they all have slightly different elements to add to the soil. Remember if you're feeding very regularly, use less than the recommended amount. [If you're shopping in store, look out for the fertility bundle package deal we're offering on fish hydrolysate and kelp - pictured right.]
Planting Flowers: Winter for our gardens can feel a little dull. Planting some flowering annuals or bulbs will brighten up the garden, fill any gaps and bring a sense of warmth with a touch of colour to the garden. Try planting some Calendula in the garden- pretty bright orange and yellow flowers which can be used as a medical herb and used for to add a touch of colour to salads. In fact, there are many edible flowers that make a great addition to salads, desserts, or a garnish for a fancy touch!. Check out our fact sheet here.
Garden Pests - Cabbage Butterfly - Top Tip:
Cabbage butterflies are a pain this time of year. They are very territorial and will not lay their eggs in an area where their young will have to compete for food. Making a paper cabbage moth is a great way to get the kids crafty and deter these pesky pests from your vegie patch! (Luckily for us they are easily fooled.) Draw your own or download a template. (Laminate them to hold through the weather, or make them out of a 2L milk bottle and decorate with a permanent marker.) Attach your decoys to stakes or suspend in and around your susceptible plants. It should help!
Removing the caterpillars by hand is the most organic way to deal with an infestation. Check the back of leaves, and along stems, as this is where they like to hide from small birds. As a last resort, Dipel is a naturally occurring bacteria that will kill caterpillars and is safe for other insects and animals. But remember there are many beneficial, predatory insects that feed on the caterpillars - including parasitic wasps. So if you use Dipel, it does affect their life cycles, too. There's always a knock-on effect for any type of spray or treatment so reach for the sprays only when absolutely necessary.
Keep the kids happy - If harvesting broccoli and you're suspicious it may contain "extra protein" (ie. caterpillars) - fill a small bowl or sink with water, and allow the broccoli head to sit in water for a good 10 minutes at least. Caterpillars (if present) will rise to the top to prevent drowning; so they're easy to remove or skim off the water if floating. I find this works with even the tiniest ones that you may miss in a visual inspection.
What to plant now
Don’t worry ~ it's not too late to plant vegies to enjoy in the next couple of months; need inspiration? - check out our winter/spring vegie guides here.
We have organically grown seedlings and heaps of heritage seed varieties being delivered to us regularly, so check out what is in season & in stock to plant in your garden. A list of things to plant now includes:
Artichoke (globe), Beetroot, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbage, Coriander, Dill, English spinach, Kale, Kohl rabi, Leek, Lettuce, Onion, Parsnip, Peas, Potatoes, Radish, Silver beet, Snow peas, Spring onion, Strawberries, Turnips.
Many people tell me they don't like eating Turnips. I reckon it's because they haven't enjoyed HOME GROWN turnips! Most commercial vegetable crops are grown for maximum size - as they're sold by weight; so the growers understandably harvest things at their biggest stage to get the best return for their time, effort and cost. Like Broad Beans, Turnips are best eaten before they get massive - they're sweeter and have a really interesting flavour. It's best to harvest them when they're around golfball size. You don't even need to peel them when they're small and tender. Give the skin a good scrub and you're good to go. Turnips can be peeled of course. Most people think of turnips in stews and soups. I really like to add one or two to mashed potato for fabulous flavour. Or steam them lightly and enjoy with butter, salt and pepper. Throw them in with a roast like other vegies, and you can also have them raw - grated in salads (they're a bit like a radish). Slice thinly and caramelise with onions & add to salads and stir-fries.
Turnips are a good source of vitamin C. Their tops (leaves) and flowers can be steamed and eaten - and are good for you! Harvest outer leaves a few at a time - leaving the inner part of the plant to continue to grow and produce more.
Turnips are a member of the Brassica family (Brassica rapa) - they're distant cousins of broccoli, cabbage & cauliflower. Swedes (Brassica napus) are another close relative. Both can be grown almost year-round in Perth, but best results are achieved over winter growing. Flavour is supposedly improved by frost - so if you're in the hills or another region that gets frosts - they're definitely not going to suffer.
Turnips will be ready to harvest about 60-70 days from sowing seeds - so you can often get a couple of crops in over the cooler months. Plant them into reasonably fertile and friable soil; but being a root crop they're fairly good at scavenging nutrients so they can be planted following a hungrier crop (eg tomatoes) with just a light improvement prior (a little compost and/or blood and bone for example). Being a member of the Brassica family, they're not susceptible to root knot nematodes; so are a great addition to your crop rotation program! Plant seeds in rows about 30cms apart, and once germinated (usually 10-14 days) before seedlings get too large, thin the weaker ones leaving approx. 10-20cms between remaining plants. Unfortunately they don't transplant well - but you can always use the seedlings as microgreens; there's no need to waste them.
There are several varieties of turnips including purple topped and white topped turnips - (Pictured right - I don't think there's much difference in the flavour; but happy to be corrected on this!) Swedes generally grow a little larger than turnips, and have a creamier/darker colouring. Their leaves are smoother; but generally their growth habit is similar. Swedes take several weeks longer than turnips to reach maturity - but obviously can be harvested younger too!
Turnips are generally pest and disease free - although aphids, slugs & snails can be a problem. Cabbage moth & cabbage butterfly may also like these as a host plant - but if you're not concerned about eating the foliage, unless the infestation is large (and spreading to other beloved veg) you may not need to bother too much. You can run your finger around the top of the forming bulb to gauge its size prior to harvest. Keep the area well weeded - competition from weeds will impact your success.
Turnips are a good choice to grow in planter bags or pots - just make sure they're about 25-30cms deep. You can grow 9 turnips in a square foot gardening bed - so a decent size pot around 30cms diameter can yield you a similar number.
As per carrots & beetroot, you can regrow turnip tops from the cut part of the bulb. Place in a saucer of water in a bright spot (like a window sill) and the edible tops will resprout. You can grow them like this for a while, or replant in the garden for a continued harvest of greens for many weeks. For more reading & turnip growing info, check out our fact sheet here!
Gardening on a budget
With so much talk on the news around the election and household budget pressures, there's a growing interest in how you can stretch the weekly wage further in the home and garden. With prices of fresh produce rising (increased fertiliser, fuel costs and lack of agricultural workers) - it raises the question - can you save money growing your own vegetables, herbs & fruit?
Obviously it depends on how successful you are - but those that have committed to growing some of their own food and who've documented the process (including weighing of harvests) believe it does save you money. A survey of households done 7 years ago found that 52% of Australian households grow some of their own produce, and of that group, 91% of those agreed it saved them money. However, setting up a garden is an investment - so to end up in front, it needs to be something you commit to over several seasons in order to amortise the cost. You'll (probably) need a garden bed or planters, soil and/or soil improvers, tools, watering equipment or retic, fertilisers etc. - which if purchased all at once can set you back hundreds if not thousands of dollars. But there are other ways to go about it.
If you're a beginner gardener, consider joining a community garden. Often you can rent a plot for an inexpensive sum - and it gives you the benefit of working with a community to learn and get advice. Often, you can benefit from group purchases of soil improvers and mulch, and share tools. For more information about community gardens near you (and how they operate) click here.
If you're growing at home - start small! Set up a smaller area first and see how that works for you. We've got information on how to select the site in our free fact sheet here. If you get it wrong - it's not the end of the world; you'll have learnt some valuable lessons along the way without having spent a lot of money. You can start out with a few pots and dip your toe in (or should that be your green thumb?)!
Tips for choosing cost-effective fruit and vegetables:
According to Mel, you get the most bang from your buck by growing the following:
(Based on the amount of yield, average cost of these items to purchase in stores, and the ease of growing.)
Fresh herbs don't have a long shelf life, and they're usually quite expensive to buy. Growing a few pots of parsley, basil, coriander, oregano, chives, mint (as a start) can save you hundreds if you enjoy using fresh herbs in your cooking. You can pick them regularly over many months - potentially saving you hundreds of dollars.
A recent article in Choice Australia claimed that the writer saved $1,800 a year in fruit and vegies and eggs through growing at home - he had his own chickens and a large garden. Other estimates are much more conservative - but if you compare the cost of a fresh lettuce is usually $2 minimum; and you can buy a packet of seeds for around $4.50 (that can contain hundreds of seeds) - you can see you're in front by growing your own. A one time pack of fresh parsley is $3.00. You can grow from seed or pick up a potted herb for around $5.00 that will last you for months (if not years). A heritage tomato plant typically yields 4-5kg of fruit off one plant - worth around $25-35. A few plants will give you produce to preserve, swap or share - literally hundreds of dollars worth.
And it's not even so much about just comparing the cost - because sometimes you won't be in front. Large scale farming systems can produce lower prices for many vegetables... but there are other factors to consider. Food miles & energy consumed in production are also important if you're trying to lower your carbon footprint. Often, people tell me onions aren't worth growing at home because they're inexpensive to buy. While this may be true, commercially grown onions are also heavily sprayed with herbicides and fungicides - so consider that in the equation.
Homegrown produce typically contains greater quantities of and more diverse nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins and minerals); it hasn't spent days or weeks in transportation and storage with nutritional value deteriorating hour by hour. Picked fresh & eaten fresh tastes amazing. Plus the more you grow and use your own produce, the less you rely on processed and 'empty' foods - better for you (and you get exercise when gardening!). And then there's the psychological benefit of knowing you've put homegrown food on your table. If your family get involved, it serves to teach kids about nature and where food comes from - proven to increase interest in healthy eating habits (which may last a lifetime). And you know exactly how it's been grown; if it's been sprayed it's because you've sprayed it; you know when, and with what.
Once you've begun a garden, it makes sense to consider setting up a composting system and/or a worm farm - which are fabulous ways to recycle food and garden waste, and produce valuable resources to return to your garden - saving you money too. A great garden starts with great soil - so it's worth investing in your soil up front and continuing to build it each season. Over the years you'll create a healthy ecosystem that will sustain you each season with little input. But initially, in our Perth sandy soil, you'll need to put in time and effort to create a healthy garden - we can help you work out the best value way to do this with long lasting inputs that build soil structure.
Of course - growing your own vegetables, fruit and herbs is a commitment. You do need to spend a bit of money and time to set up a garden, and it needs dedication to maintain it. But is it rewarding? We believe it is - for so many reasons. If you're looking to begin a new garden, feel free to contact us for advice. We've got heaps of free gardening guides and fact sheets designed to help you reach a successful harvest - just click on the "Learn" tab on our website banner above. Happy (and thrifty) gardening
Photo Competition Winner
Thank you to those who sent in photos and some information about their garden. I'm pleased to say that after last month's newsletter I received a record amount of entries this month. Remember that you can send in photos EVERY month - you've got to be in it to win it, so please keep sending them through. You're welcome to email them to email@example.com (with subject 'photo competition') or send them in via Facebook. There's a $50 store credit up for grabs each month.
It was interesting to see the huge variety of gardens and situations that were sent in - from Katherine's magnificent Angel's Trumpet Tree, Devika's front door garden bed that grows food 9 months of the year (it's too hot over summer), Tatjana's experimental strawberry 'wall', to Cody's blooming brassica garden all secure under insect netting - it is really inspirational to see the joy that you are all getting from your garden! Please keep on sending those photos in!
This month, the lucky winner is Janene & Al. This is what they had to say:-
So it just goes to show you don't need much space to grow things! Wine barrels (presumably on casters) that can be moved around with the seasons works really well, and looks great too!
VIP Special Offer
We know it's winter & it can be hard to get outside on chilly days, or to find opportunities in between rainy days to get outside and get gardening! But it really is a fabulous time to do so much. Whether it's topping up compost around your roses, putting in new native plants (to help them settle in before summer), or revamping a tired vegetable garden - seize the day!
As an incentive, we've got a WINTER DELIVERY DEAL you won't want to miss! Book & pay for a delivery between 9th June & 15th July 2022 to receive HALF PRICE on our bulk delivery rates.
Please contact us by phone, website 'contact us' form or email to organise the delivery; and remember to ask for the VIP delivery deal.
Please support your local independent retailer who supports us! The specialist retailers listed here will be happy to give you gardening advice and help you with our products - please call to check what lines they carry as they can't stock all of our products.
Evergreen Studio - North Beach 0419 091 095
Ardess Nursery (Albany) 9842 9952