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Hello and welcome to February!
We've enjoyed a milder summer to date - but historically February tends to bring some VERY hot weather (seems to always be the week when school goes back - am I right?) But as summer is technically 2/3rds through - we gardeners start to get excited about the change of season in the next month or so. We've entered the Noongyar season of Bunuru - 'second summer'; the hottest part of the year with little or no rain, and hot easterly winds - and a cooling sea breeze (if we're lucky!). It was the time of year the first Australians lived near the water, and fish/aquatic foods (marron, gilgies, tortoise, crabs) made up a lot of their diet. It's also the time of the Marri flowers; those and other blossoms were used to make sweet drinks by soaking them to remove nectar.
For gardeners, it's a season of 'hanging in there!' - keeping gardens alive, and planning for Autumn, which officially is only a month away. We know weather can be hot right up into April, but day length is shortening, nights are generally cooler, and there'll be a change in the air before much longer. With hot days still here, keep up water for wildlife in your garden - birdbaths and dishes on the ground for lizards, etc. will be welcomed. Keep a few rocks or sticks in the water bowls so that insects and small creatures can find their way out without drowning.
The calendar is filling up for 2023 with lots of good things! There are 4 - FOUR - Kalamunda Garden Festivals planned for this year; with lots of fabulous special guests scheduled, plus loads of workshops & inspiring talks! We're speaking on one of the three stages on the 5th March. Check out their webpage for more information and the full schedule. Also the Perth Garden Festival is coming back to Autumn - 11-14th May; so put it in your diary now!
Hopefully we can inspire YOU to get outside when you can find a cool moment in the day to keep your garden looking good & get a jump start on your Autumn garden with this newsletter! We're here to help - you can bring in a sample of your garden soil and we'll do a free pH test, and give you some tips to build your soil health and achieve a greener garden!
Roses are red, violets are blue, Mushrooms are pink - and they're good for you, too!
If you're looking for something different for your special person... Why not a PINK Oyster Mushroom kit? It'll last longer than a bunch of roses, and it's tastier too! While we haven't been stocking Mushroom Kits since Christmas due to the heat - Diego (The FunGuy) is producing a special order of Pink Oysters that will do well at this time of year... (towards Autumn more varieties will become available, and we'll have kits as a stock item once more).
Mushroom kits give you multiple harvests over many weeks - harvest as you need them, and they're as fresh as can be. Easy to grow indoors, healthy and delicious.
But for now, the kits are available by pre-order only! Please send a contact us form or call us to pre-pay your $30 and add your name to the list and we'll make sure that you can get all "mushy" in time for Valentine's Day... be quick!
In This Newsletter
Jobs for the February garden
Jobs for the February Garden
What to Plant Now
There's still time to try for a crop of quick-growing summer vegies if you're keen, plant now & plant from seedlings! It does depend on whether Summer warmth continues into April - but it often does. Choose smaller cropping varieties towards the end of the season (eg. Sugarbaby Watermelon, Golden Nugget Pumpkin) - the theory being the smaller fruits mature faster. Things to still plant now include: Beans, Beetroot, Capsicum, Carrot, Celery, Chilli, Cucumber, Eggplant, Leeks, Lettuce, Pumpkin, Rockmelon, Silverbeet, Sweetcorn, Sweet Potato, Tomato, Watermelon, Zucchini (pictured right).
If you're not ready for autumn planting but not wanting to nurture another summer crop - consider a green manure crop to grow quickly and turn into the soil before your winter seedlings go into the ground.
Lots of people are asking for Garlic & Seed Potatoes already. It's a little early to be planting them just now - but we'll keep you posted & may have more news next month, so check back in with us around mid March.
Your slow growing Brassica crops need to be planted (from seed) as soon as possible. Brussel Spouts can struggle in our warmer climate; but if you're in the hills or have the perfect spot - if you're wanting to give them a try - now's the time to start them. Cauliflower and Cabbage also do well if you get them off to an early start. See our article below on getting your seeds started early!
If you're yearning for fresh greens but sick of trying to keep leafy things like lettuce alive, consider a batch or two of nutritious microgreens. You can grow them in a sunny spot indoors or on a patio - and they're quick. We have a range of microgreens seed available. Check out our free fact sheet on Microgreens here.
For more 'when to sow' info for vegies & herbs - plus lots of other gardening info check out our FREE downloadable growing guides.
Top Tips to Keep Your Garden Healthy in February
Passionfruit is such a useful plant - the fruit is beloved by most, they're always expensive to buy in the shops, and they're a vine that can be used around your garden or house to add shelter and shade - what's not to love about them?
The can be a bit tricky to get established; but once they're off and racing, they can quickly grow to cover a large area, and will give you two crops a year for around 8 years! If you're wanting to give Passionfruit a go, I'd highly recommend a NON-GRAFTED variety - these days, they're not hard to track down in nurseries. My favourite is Sunshine Special - although there are others (Panama Red or Panama Gold are two that come to mind). Gold has a yellow skin which gives you something a little different in the garden! Grafted varieties (like the old fashioned version of Nellie Kelly) bear great fruit - but the suckers from the root stock are a nightmare - we have some coming up in a garden still - where no passion vine has ever been in our 14 years of being at the house!! You have been warned. If you plant one, keep an eye on growth that may emerge from below the graft (look for a bump) on the lower stem. Remove any growth with a knife, rather than tearing it - which only seems to encourage more suckers.
Passionfruit are native to tropical and subtropical regions of South America. Technically, the fruit is a berry. But let's leave that there otherwise we'll all be confused. Called 'Passionfruit', due to the distinctive and attractive flower - used by missionaries to describe the five piercing wounds inflicted on Jesus during the crucifiction, thus a useful tool in teaching about Christianity to the locals. Passionfruit is now grown in many countries around the world, and used as a fresh fruit, or to make a flavoured syrup or drink. Apparently in Mexico it's not uncommon to eat the fruit with chilli powder and lime. Something to try if you're game?!
Passionfruit grow on a vigorous vine - sending out multiple stems and tendrils - they need a strong frame to climb up and spread across. They make great shade plants over a pergola. They may get a bit messy if you're a neat freak - but in my opinion the trade-off is worth it for the fruit. They can be trimmed and shaped if they get out of control.
Passionfruit are shallow rooted vines, and don't like root competition. Don't let grass grow up and around the base, and don't squeeze them into tiny gaps in paving next to a fence - they simply won't thrive. Allow around a metre at least clear space - mulch this whole area deeply (10cm) but leave a gap around the stem to avoid collar rot. Their root run can be as large as four metres, so keep this in mind when it comes to your neighbouring plantings, and water & fertiliser regimes. Snails can do damage and ringbark young plants - so keep that in mind too. Use pet-safe baits or a barrier of some kind. Passionfruit can grow in a pot but it does need to be large - at least wine barrel size - but generally they're much better off in the ground. Small pots lead to smaller vines and less productive crops. You'll need to keep up the water and fertiliser to ensure they achieve their potential. It's usual to get two crops a year from mature vines - one in winter which tends to be less sweet, and one in summer - hopefully in time for the Christmas pavlova, but ours are running a little late this year! (To quote Phil Dudman - "a pavlova without passionfruit is just a meringue".)
Young vines can be killed off by frost, too much reflected heat from a wall or fence, and inadequate watering. Before planting, prepare the soil REALLY well with aged manures, composts (or our General Soil Builder Concentrate), and make sure the soil profile is moist and holding water. Folklore says to bury something like a liver or dead fish under the planting - a few handfuls of blood and bone wouldn't hurt if you don't want to be as extreme. Passionfruit need good drainage and don't like wet feet - but it's unlikely to be a problem for most Perth gardeners. Do make sure pots are draining if you choose to plant in a container. Protect young vines from heat & drying winds, but once they're established they are quite hardy. They do like sun, but need the right conditions in order to thrive. They can take several years to fruit - as they will set up a good root system before putting energy into leaf growth and fruiting - so keep up the care, talk nicely to the plant, and be patient! Sometimes you'll get fruit in 12-18 months; keep your fingers crossed.
Flowers are stunning - most modern varieties are more or less self fertile, but pollinating insects are beneficial. If you're not seeing any fruit set, you can also hand pollinate flowers with a soft artist's paint brush. Ants, wasps, bees - any insect - can act as a pollinator. Optimum pollination/fruit set range is 20-35°c; so in extremes of temperature, you may not get fruit to form. Passionfruit like sun - extended periods of cloudy weather will reduce flowering and cause premature flower drop. Once fruit have set, they can take weeks and weeks to mature and colour up. Don't worry - once they're ripe, they'll drop to the ground; you don't need to think about when to pick the fruit! They ripen a little bit off the vine; but if they're green, forget it. Once picked, the fruit will wrinkle as it ages (don't we all...) - depending on how you like the fruit, a slightly wrinkled skin means concentrated sugars and maximum sweetness.
If immature fruit are wrinkling and/or dropping off the vine - the plant is stressed. Most likely it needs more water - they are hungry and thirsty plants, and they'll sacrifice fruit if the vine isn't getting what it needs to support the crop.
Passion vines can live for 5-8 years, and in my experience can drop dead quite suddenly. It's a good idea to plant a 2nd vine about 3-4 years in to make sure you have a continuous crop. Sunshine Special are grown from seed - I've had a number self seed in the garden over the years; so it's likely you can grow your own succession plan. Passionfruit tend to be fairly disease free - although if there's wounds to the bark caused by snails, slaters or rats - you can have issues. Fruit are thick skinned, and fruit fly strike can't get through to the pulp - another win! As far as pests go, I've lost crops due to possums eating the flowers (a motion sensor light solved the problem), and rats eat the fruit. I wish I had an easy answer for rats - but unfortunately trapping or baits (as has been discussed here before - go for the ones with less secondary poison potential) and thinning out the population is the only way. Aphids, snails and grasshoppers can attack new leaf growth - be aware and treat if necessary. Vines can be pruned around September - after the winter crop, and before the vine begins to set flowers in spring. Trim any dead bits off, and remove up to a third of growth - they will quickly regrow.
Starting Winter Crops from Seed
It seems a little early to be thinking about WINTER - (although the winter clothes are showing up in the boutiques, aren't they?) but if you're keen on getting early harvests of your winter vegies as soon as the chilly season starts, it's time to get growing!
Slow growing crops like brassicas - particularly brussel sprouts and cauliflower - can take 90 - 140 days to reach harvest; so the sooner you get them started, the better! Seeds will germinate quickly in warm conditions, but you'll need to keep an eye on young seedlings while the heat pervades. It's a good idea to raise seeds in trays or pots, so you can nurture them as necessary and transplant when you have the ground prepared, and are confident the plant is likely to survive. Carrots would be an exception - they will do better directly sown in the garden; and personally I'd wait a few more weeks yet before planting - unless you're confident you can keep them moist enough in their early growth stage.
Recycling seedling trays, punnets or pots is fine - just make sure they're thoroughly cleaned in hot, soapy water (scrub off any dirt) and allow to dry in the sun. Use a good quality seed raising mix (ours is Certified Organic!) and water/moisten the soil. Plant your seeds carefully - not too deep; and sprinkle/cover with a little more mix, and water in. The process of germination begins as soon as moisture penetrates the seed coating. So once this occurs, you can't let the seeds dry out, or the process will stop and you'll effectively kill the seed. Often this happens underground - so you'll never know; you'll just think that the seed didn't grow. Seeds also need oxygen - so don't keep the seeds waterlogged! It's the balance of keeping them moist but not too wet that is the key. A very light spray with a trigger sprayer or mister several times a day is a good way to go. Keeping the seedling trays or pots covered with glass or plastic also helps prevent evaporation and maintain moisture - but airflow is also important to reduce fungal issues. Lift the cover from time to time, make sure the soil surface isn't getting too hot, and remove the cover once you see the seeds are germinating.
The first leaves you see are cotyledons - usually two thick 'seed leaves' - their primary purpose is to feed the roots until the plant can grow, and manufacture its own food from photosynthesis. (Pictured right.) As soon as these leaves are out, move the seedling to a place where it receives lots of light (not necessarily direct sunlight). Plants that don't see adequate light will grow leggy and stretched - which tends to give you a weaker plant. The cotyledons will wither once the plant begins to produce proper leaves. It's usually at the stage of one or two sets of proper leaves that the seedling is strong enough to be transplanted. Depending on your timing, this could be straight out into the garden, or potted up to continue to grow in a larger container for a few more weeks. Seed raising mix is designed for optimal germination, and not sustained growth - so you're better to transplant seedlings into a good quality potting mix at this stage. Seedlings need space to grow - so as you carefully 'prick out' (remove the young seedlings - a pointy pencil makes a good helping tool for this) - remove weaker seedlings if you've sown multiple seeds together. It feels harsh but ultimately the single healthier plant will be your strongest producer. Gently place the seedlings into holes prepared in the new pot (again - your trusty pencil comes in handy) and carefully lower in the roots. Press soil gently around the plant, and water in well - a dose of kelp/seaweed can help with transplant shock. Transplanted seedlings will be vulnerable for at least a few days, so keep them protected as they'll stress easily with too much heat, wind or sun.
Once you're ready to transplant seedlings to their garden bed (which you've already prepped with compost, manure, rock dust - etc. OR GLSC's Vegie Concentrate!), pick a mild day, and water the ground and the seedlings in pots well. Carefully transplant, and water in again. Cut off any damaged leaves, and if necessary, add a cloche or collar around each plant to prevent snails or slaters, or set up a couple of beer traps as lures for these pests. Keep an eye on your young plants, and they should take off quickly! Don't forget to mulch once they're large enough not to be buried by it - and feed maybe once a month with fish or kelp or similar during their active growth period. Watch against overfeeding which can result in fleshy growth - a magnet for insects like aphids. (A well balanced soil shouldn't need too much additional fertilising; but there are a number of factors dictating this.) Your plants will tell you what they need, if you listen!
This month, we've got a great special for you - perfect for helping your garden hold water in these hot weeks AND to help build your soil structure and long term health for Autumn gardening and beyond! Biochar (which is what Charlie Charcoal is) is a highly stable form of carbon; it will last virtually forever in your garden - making fertilisers more efficient, and building habitat for microbes that convert those fertilisers to a plant available form. As an added bonus, it helps buffer high pH; important for many people in Perth who struggle with alkaline soil conditions. People who've tried Charlie Charcoal LOVE it - so if you haven't tried it yet, here's your chance!
Charlie Charcoal is our February offer - normally a 25L bag is $28.00. For our VIP's, spend over $60 and you can grab a bag for $20! (Max of 2 bags per customer at this deal.) Offer is valid until close of business Friday, 3rd March 2023.
Offer is valid in store and online (you must be signed in as a VIP in order to find the member's product pricing) - if shopping in store or over the phone, please mention the offer to our team member who serves you to receive the discount.
Photo Competition Winner!
Keep your photo entries coming in, Green Lifers! Either via our Facebook page, or by email (with photo competition as the subject line) - and you'll be in the draw to win a $50 store credit to spend with us.
This month, I've selected George - he's sent me in several beautiful photos of his lilies - obviously a passion for him, and don't they look spectacular? Thank you George for sending your entry in! He said:
Hi to all at Green Life Soil Co.,
I thought I would share a selection of my colourful lilies that I have been growing this season in my Swan Valley garden.
By staggering the planting of the bulbs, I have had blooms from the end of October to the end of January.
This year, I have experimented with growing them in pots rather than just in the garden.
By doing this, they are portable around the garden and in the house, I have also been able to give flowering pots as gifts to friends.
Lilies are quite easy to grow and produce an amazing display of flowers.
I would recommend for anyone to give them a go.
Very best wishes
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 (but may be willing to get stock in for a custom order - if you ask nicely!). Some of these fabulous retailers also offer a home delivery service (marked with *) - so why not go local? (Please contact the store directly for details.)
Daisy Field Organics - Fremantle
Ardess Nursery (Albany) 9842 9952