How Best To Improve Your Perth Soil

Simply Soils are a bulk distributor for Richgro soils and soil conditioners. In this interview, Nick Lenzo from Simply Soils talks all about soils with Rob Gileno. Rob is the Manager at Richgro Landscape and Commercial at Landgate. We cover what goes into their soil blends, which blend suits which circumstance, and their Australian Standards quality control.

Nick: Can you tell me a little about your soil conditioner?

Rob: Our soil conditioner is a blend of green waste, peat, and composited organics, which has been composted for 12 weeks. Just briefly, what we do is as part of the Australian Standards, is follow a very detailed process. As part of that, the compost material is windrowed into 100 metre windrows, five metres high, five metres wide. And they all get turned a couple of times during that 12-week cycle.

At the end of it, at the end of the 12-week cycle it’s all tested by a laboratory at head office. We’ve got a quality assurance, we’ve got a chemist, we’ve got two lab technicians, all at Richgro Jandakot, and everything has to get tested. Once it tests to the standard, then it’s passed for release. Once it gets screened, we use the soil conditioner. It’s called our Metro Soil Conditioner. And that’s definitely a very good product to add into your soil, turn it to give it some sustainability, some nutritional value.

Nick: I guess maybe there’s a hint in the name of Metro Soil. It’s very specific to the soils that you’re finding in the Metro area. So, generally, the sandy soils lack organic matter. That’s one of the major issues with them?

Rob: Exactly, yes. Well, Perth’s sandy soils are just lacking in pretty much nearly everything. So, that’s why we’ve made this product to add into the soil, give it some nutritional value, nitrogen, all those sorts of additives.

Nick: So having Metro Soil Conditioner, once you’ve incorporated into the soil, will you get benefits of the water retention as well?

Rob: Of course. Yes.

Nick: And nutrient retention as well, is that fair to say?

Rob: Yes. Definitely.

Nick: Is it like a semi-permanent fix for your native topsoil?

Native Garden Soil Mix – Native Mix

Rob Gileno: Yes. Well, that’s another product that we make as well, Native Mix. This is also an Australian Standard product. That is specifically formulated for native planting only. It is very balanced, as far as nutritional value.

You’ve got certain native plants out there that can handle say a product like Landscape Mix or Soil Conditioner, once you blend it into the soil. Native Mix is more formulated for something like banksias, grevilleas, all those certain types of native plants that need something a little bit more gentle because they are sensitive to certain nutrients. You have to be careful though, with natives, that you don’t use any product with chicken manure, because chicken manure and native plants don’t go well together.

Nick: That’s handy to know. So, also keep your lawn mix away from your natives?

Rob: Most certainly.

Vegetable Garden Soil Mix – Vege Mix

Nick: What can you tell me about Veggie Mix?

Rob: Vegie Mix is another one that we do specially formulated for veggies, roses, because of the lime content, and the chicken manure. All those types of, I suppose, exotic type plants. Very, very good formulation for that. Fairly free drain.

Nick: I think when I ran it through my hands, there’s a bit of quartz there in it?

Rob: Yes, correct. That’s why we made it that little bit coarser, just to make sure that your water penetration drains well.

Soils & Textures for Raised Vegetable Gardens

Nick: I guess a lot of people will be planting their veggies in raised beds. If you have a very dense soil, low permeability? If you have issues with root rot and that sort of thing? So, is Vegie Mix a product you would recommend to use in a raised bed or Landscape Mix?

Rob: The Vegie Mix, you can use it. What I’d probably recommend in a raised bed is maybe putting some loose rock in the bottom of the bed first, just to give you that little bit more permeability.

Nick: Okay, so maybe like some coarse 20mm Blue Metal down at the bottom?

Rob: Yes, exactly. You lay your Vegie Mix on top. Depending on what sort of plants you’re planting with the root depth. Vege Mix is a very good product for general vegetable garden use.

What Soils Are Best for Potting Mix

Nick: I gather that there’s probably something that’s a bit unique to Richgro, bulk potting mix?

Rob: Yes

Nick: We advertise bulk potting mix for sale, as well. Is that mainly a nursery thing or is that a product that householders can take advantage of as well?

Rob: Householders can take advantage of that as well. It is a little bit more pricey than some of the other mixes. We only produce a very basic type potting mix that has some minor trace elements and NPK in it, for maybe possibly replanting of trees or certain plants that they want to transplant later on, something like that. But you do have to add a slow-release fertilizer.

Nick: Okay. So, the potting mix isn’t ready to go?

Rob: No.

Nick: Is it correct to say that you should choose your soil after you’ve decided on what you’re planting?

Rob: Exactly.

Nick: What would you say is one of your favourite products? What do you think is really good?

Rob: Our Landscape Mix is a very good product. We sell a lot of it. I think it’s a very good product, an all-round product to use. The other hero product as well is probably that Soil Conditioner, the Metro Soil Conditioner, that is also a very good product to put out and dig in. People need to make sure they dig it in.

About Metro Soil Conditioner

Nick: It needs to be incorporated.

Rob: Exactly. Not just put it out over the surface and then put your mulch and plant. No, that’s not how it works.

Nick: And it’s not a standalone planting mix either.

Nick: If you were to give one piece of advice to Perth gardeners, specifically in this soil arena, what would it be, Rob? What’s one gem?

Richgro & Soil Testing

Rob: Use Richgro products. We’re here to help. We’ve got the information. We’ve got the know-how. We’ve got customer service. It’s not a problem. We also offer as part of our landscape and commercial sector, we also offer lab services. So, if anyone has any queries or wants any soils tested or anything like that, they are more than welcome to contact us. We can put you on to the right people.

Nick: What sort of things would you be testing for, Rob?

Rob: Oh, look, we can do pH, EC’s, testing of the soil to make sure that it’s not salty or make sure that the pH is balanced. If it’s acidic or if it’s too alkaline, we can tell that customer, this is what you need to add into the soil to make it more viable. We do plant tissue dieback testing, all that sort of testing.

Nick: Would these sorts of services make economic sense for small quantities or are they for larger quantities?

Rob: Unfortunately, there is a cost to the test, but in the long run for the customer, it’s probably beneficial. For the residential person, perhaps not. For larger projects with bulk orders, then it would certainly be worth considering.

Nick: The lab test might help you discern whether you can improve what you have or whether it’s a dig out and pour new mix on the job?

Rob: Exactly.

Nick: So, in those large quantities, I guess we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars difference?

Rob: Exactly, yes.

Nick: Thanks for filling us in on some useful soil tips.