Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

I would really like to organise a group visit to this gentlemans garden if anyone has contact details.


Fruits of your own forest

July 15, 2013   

Above: Gennaro De Rosa with a hefty but sweet and crispy jicama bean tuber. His garden is a ‘food forest’ with a wonderful array of produce.

The Redlands is a wonderful place to grow your own food. Here’s some home-grown advice on how to get the best out of your block.

GENNARO De Rosa bandicoots around the base of an unassuming bean plant and wrestles out a huge tuber.

It’s three, maybe four kilos and Gennaro cleaves it into pieces, offering a slice of the moist white flesh. It’s crispy and sweet, like a cross between a Granny Smith apple and maybe a pear.

“These are the kinds of things all of us can grow very easily,” the Redlands Organic Growers Inc member says from the midst of his Birkdale vegie garden.

“All of these are legumes,” he says motioning towards trellises of lablab and madagascar beans and pigeon peas, “so I am getting food and enriching soil at the same time.”

There’s plenty of food in the jicama bean’s tuber and its leaves are something of a natural insecticide (just don’t eat the beans because they are toxic) .

It is among a wonderful array of little-known food-bearing plants in this red clay backyard that Gennaro calls his “permaculture food forest”.

“I can’t think of a better way to describe it,” he says, pointing out various greens, gingers, cassava, stevia, elephant yams, water chestnuts, yakon, artichokes, snake beans and herbs.

“I like to grow things that grow well without hardly any care and which also, especially, improve the soil.”

And for 20 years he has been doing it in the Redlands with minimal effort and no insecticides and chemical sprays.

Gennaro says organic growing is ideal for working folk who are “time poor” like himself to not only grow healthy produce for the table but do their bit for the environment.

He and wife Loretta’s garden is a productive space which largely looks after itself, filled with plants which enrich the soil or draw beneficial insects and birds to ward off pests, diseases and the need for too much hard yakka.

“Everything I do here is super easy,” he explains.

Like you build a house from the foundations up, you build a garden from the foundations up – you feed the soil and the soil will feed you without any extra work.

The approach is simple.

“In the big scheme of things it all comes down to adding organic matter to the soil,” he says.

“I haven’t taken anything organic to the dump in 20 years. I haven’t put anything organic in my bins for 20 years.Instead of ending up in landfill, it’s here feeding me.

“That’s how I avoid using fertiliser, using pest control.”

It all starts with composting. Large branches go under the choko vine where they gradually break down, while others are burned into biochar to sweeten the soil.

There are five compost bins hidden around the garden, worm farms and a soldier fly farm which helps keep other pests at bay and the chooks fed.

Unwelcome weeds are turned into a “green tea”, their nutrients returned to the soil.

Here, comfrey and other green manures and stands of pulses – or legumes – extract nutrients from deep in the soil and bring them to the surface where they help feed neighbouring plants.

Gennaro says that simply maintaining soil health in this way can do away with the need for chemical sprays and fertilisers.

“If the soil doesn’t have the right mix of life in it, your plants will become slightly week and pests are extremely good at spotting the week ones,” he explains.

Gennaro’s growing tips

  • Plant pulses (legumes) – it doesn’t matter what variety … lablab, pigeon peas, madagascar beans, any bean really.
  • Start composting. Use anything and everything organic.
  • Get a worm farm.
  • Use plenty of mulch
  • Plant things which are proven in your area. The quickest way to find out is to join a group such as Redland Organic Growers Inc, which meets from 6.15pm on the first Tuesday of the month at Indigiscapes, Runnymede Rd, Capalaba – check it out at
  • Make a spray by dissolving one tablespoon of molasses in a litre of water to control chewing insects.
  • Don’t grow members of the solanaceae family – such as tomatoes and eggplant – in the same spot year after year.
  • Be prepared to use trial and error to find which edible plants you prefer.

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Good advice!


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Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

The Vetiver Community Project is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.

Place your business add here! ($5 per month or $25 for 9 months)

Talk to Andy on 0422 022 961.  You can  Pay on this link

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