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If you're looking at building a garden in Perth, Western Australia - or anywhere - Soil should be the first thing that you consider. After all, it's the thing that all plants need to survive, and by building the best soil you can - you help your plants thrive!
The first consideration should be to think about the plants you'd like to grow, and what kind of conditions and soil is best suited to those plants.
If you're growing vegetables - whether in Autumn/Winter or Spring/Summer - you'll have even more to think about! Crops (vegetables/herbs/fruit) that you intend to eat should get even more attention when it comes to selecting and working with the soil; because whatever you put into the soil will affect not only the plant's growth, but the nutrition you get in the end when you harvest and enjoy the produce.
Most people prefer the idea of 'organic soil' as they understand that garbage in = garbage out. But what actually does 'Organic Soil' mean? Unfortunately the term 'organic' is both overused and mis-understood by many.
The Dictionary defines organic as :
organic - adjective
So technically - all soils can be described as 'organic' - they're derived from organic matter and contain carbon! But is that really good enough?
The trouble is - that doesn't rule out OTHER potentially harmful ingredients that fall under that banner. For example, much commercial compost contains 'biowaste' which is basically sewage sludge. It is a great way of recycling this product (what else are you going to do with it??) - but aside from human waste, unfortunately it carries many byproducts from industry; potentially like heavy metals - which is something you definitely DON'T want in your garden.
So it comes down to a matter of trust - who's providing your soil, where do they get their inputs from, and do they really know what's in their chain of supply? You really can't tell the quality of soil just from looking at it.
Of course, if it doesn't matter to you - then that's great. It might not matter if you're growing non-food plants, or are aware that particular compounds will break down over time anyway - especially with microbial activity in the soil.
At The Green Life Soil Co, it IS important to us... so much so that we decided to go down the track of testing our soils and pursuing Organic Certification; we were the first soil yard in Perth to achieve this back in 2008.
While anyone can use the word 'organic' - the term 'certified organic' is something that needs to be backed up with evidence. There are a number of Certifying bodies in Australia that work across many industries in primary production and agriculture, right through to processing and packaging operations. The process of certification means that as a producer, you need to provide a paper trail and evidence of where your products come from. You need to submit samples for testing, are subject to spot checks, and undergo auditing to show that your regular business & manufacturing practices are within their guidelines. It's extra work, and brings extra costs to a business. It's the best way to really be sure that what you're buying doesn't have anything you're not comfortable with using included. (Under organic certification, no biowaste products are allowed to be used.) Organic certification ensures low residues of many chemicals which are endemic in the food chain - it doesn't necessarily mean no chemicals have ever been used; but it does ensure that if present, they are at VERY low levels or not detectable in testing - and much lower than many Government bodies recommend. Perfect? - no. But peace of mind? - yes. Products are registered and should carry a logo (like this one!)
So that's why we have produced our food growing mixes as certified organic. Plus we have a number of individual inputs and fertilisers that we have had certified - so you'll have piece of mind using them around your food crops in your Perth garden.
But it's not just the fact that the inputs are certified organic - we have made sure that our certified organic soils are complete - they contain a wide range of nutrients and minerals that will permanently improve your soil's structure, and provide nutrition that will last for an entire growing season or more. They're designed so you don't need to add other products when planting - and other than a light liquid feed for high producing vegetables, regular watering and mulching (especially in summer) will ensure you good results. We're happy to speak to you further about what we use in our soils and make recommendations for you depending on what you're growing.
No - but this is only due to cost. We use the same range of inputs in all our mixes; but ratios and quantities vary depending on their end use. So while all our mixes (for general landscaping, for example) aren't certified organic - there's no reason why they couldn't be. There's nothing used in them that would affect their ability to be certified.
We know gardening in Perth conditions (and in the South-west of WA) can be tricky. We're here to help with advice and recommendations on how to get the best outcomes. We also guarantee our soils - see our FAQ's for more details.
We've been voted best "Organic Specialist" in the OCCA (Organic Consumer's Choice Awards) twice! And won the WA Small business 'Sustainability Award' twice. We garden organically at home ourselves - and our own garden is a great way to test products and learn how we can improve them. We've trained horticulturalists on the team who are keen gardeners and can provide real insight into growing in Perth.
So join the organic gardening revolution - quietly coming to a backyard near you!