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This year I deployed a cunning plan. I planted potatoes when I had them to plant.

I snaffled planting stock from all the new varieties that hit the supermarket shelves  and planted them out willy nilly throughout most months.

And I've been harvesting my way through them ever since.

I prefer to store these spuds in the ground so I mark each plant with a rod as it dies back so i can locate the tubers later. (In mounds this is easy storage as the water drains away in the sand).

Needless to say my harvest is tasty although the amount of potatoes from each plant has not been great.Nor are the spuds large.

My best performer has been the  Kipflers. Go figure. Double the amount from other varieties.

I have some sprouting stock on hand so I'm going to plant out some more spuds in the shadier regions of my patch.A Summer experiment.It may not be the optimum time of year to grow spuds but I see where 'tis possible so long as you keep humidity in mind. On sand -- I think I have a chance.

Since my sweet potatoes have not thrived -- like never -- i gotta get my carbs from somewhere else.

I just planted out a batch of purple yams-- Dioscorea alata -- which i grow , not so much because I love them to eat -- but i love the way they grow -- with their upright climbing, almost delicate,  stem.

I have  a lot of Jerusalem Artichokes about but I can't recall where I planted them.And out there  somewhere are more yacón and jicama .

And that's it: it has been a sorry year for root veg.  Best not talk about my carrots and radishes, beetroots...But then i got some amazing turnips.

Better luck next year, Dave.

Plant of the Year for 2016:

Not so straightforward this time around. Looking at the contenders, I have to say that finally the spring onion and I have merged. These faithfuls have kept me supplied with an allium hit all year -- month in/month out. That means I grow a lot of scallions. You bet. They are my staple. I haven't chopped up a 'normal' onion seemingly for ever.

Mind you,while I'd Iike to become a spring onion aficionado, the many varieties don't perform as well as the bunching types I buy as seedlings from the Caboolture markets.

So many of my spring onions now are thick stemmed  but they sure do cook up well. In the past i harvested them much smaller, but because I've reached optimum management numbers I've mastered the logic of perennial supply. There is always -- always! -- room to plant spring onions.

This year too was the time of the pigeon pea -- of which I have many 'bushes'. First time with PPs so I'm learning. There are PPs and then there are PPs. If you want to consume them green I reckon you gotta go for the large pod variety. So I'm culling my bushes. It isn't worth it growing your own dry peas --as they are so cheap to buy in Indian grocers. I'm set to plant out some PP hedges -- lovely flower, mottled shade for underneath, rooting downwards rather than at surface, great for supporting tomato bushes and climbing beans.

The green peas go with a lot of dishes and the trick is to always harvest the pods when you can feel well formed peas inside. Easy to grow.

The irony is that this year I'm becoming almost veg self sufficient --except for essentials I have to buy in-- like carrots!(and garlic). If you eat with the seasons  you get to eat a menu harvest. My big challenge is to consolidate a regular sweet pepper supply. I can do it with chilies but the bigger boys are being resistive. Then there is Turmeric: resistive also.. . The big surprise were the cabbages -- I'm still harvesting them. The thrill was that by growing Leaf (aka: Chinese) Celery I'm supplied in that department (I use it like a herb) without fretting over watering.

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Just a few thoughts on soil temperature...

From my experiences outback, I reckon soil temps can be manipulated.

  • raised beds, pots and mounds will increase the soil's surface area exposed to the sun and wind, thus in Summer they'll heat up more quickly. This is how the Maori grew Kumera so far south.The tubers even grew better on the northern side of mounds than on the southern side. They also added stones to their mounds for soil heat retaining purposes.In Micronesia the mounds are also heated from within by the process of decomposition of vegetative matter as the mounds were scrapes of forest detritus rebuilt each year. Obversely, raised beds and mounds will lose heat quickly when the temperature falls day to day & overnight.
  • similarly sandy soils will heat up more quickly than heavier loam mixes.This is especially true if your sandy surface  is directly exposed to the sun's rays.The more carbon in your soil mix, the more water will be retained to cool the earth.
  • the more plants you grow the greater will be the micro climate effect. I try to use ground covers in any space to sponsor this.
  • mulching protects the soil temperature and adjusts underground ambience: cooler in Summer, 'warmer' in Winter. Mulching also serves to retain the cooling effect of underground moisture.
  • shade lowers soil temperature in hot or warm weather. Shade also reduces evaporation.I think harnessing shade hours per day is a very useful gardening tool. The growing season in our school garden is undermined by the absence of harvestable shade. Compared to my own patch it's like chalk and cheese.
  • irrigating or hosing the soil will also lower its temperature. I also cool my mounds down by using the buried clay pots as cooling units. This is a proven by the fact that worms love the pots zone even in very hot weather when they should be wriggling and living deeper. Since I shade cover each pot, the water is kept cool. One trick is to keep your pots primed and reasonably full over Summer -- not just for irrigation purposes but the cool the soil. Thsi si why when I fill my pots, I spray the zone around them to (a) bring down soil temp ( keeping the worms happy)and (b) create hydrostatic pathways through which the pot water will more quickly and broadly permeate.
  • many horticultural principles presume open field mono culture, when kitchen gardening is -- or should be -- a much more complex environment. Diurnal shade patterns can be your gardening best friend.

There's this very useful commentary  defining drought which can tell us a lot about surviving the Summer heat outback. Of course humid Summers follow different principles but it still can be applied to our veg gardening perspectives:.

In a dry region like the Australian wheatbelt, a decline in rainfall also means a decline in evaporation, not an increase as many people suppose.

When we talk about a decline in evaporation in this context, we are talking about evaporation over large regions like wheat fields, sheep paddocks, woodlands, grasslands and so on, not just the evaporation from a small farm dam.

When rainfall declines, the availability of water to be evaporated in the soil also declines. Quite simply, if there is little water in the soil then evaporation can’t increase.

So less rainfall means less evaporation, which in turn means less evaporative cooling of the land and the air immediately above it. To appreciate how evaporative cooling works, think about the principle behind the Coolgardie Safe or those old-school hessian water bags that have made a recent comeback in some hipster shops. Or if you prefer, think about how much cooler a lawn is than a concrete driveway on a hot sunny day – that’s because the lawn is cooled by evaporation.

In a drought, then, the relative lack of evaporative cooling means the land surface and the air just above it tend to get warmer still. Scientists call this a land-surface feedback. But that is just one part of the cascade that increases temperatures.

Where there is less rain, there are also typically fewer clouds and more sunshine. Extra sunshine means extra heat and this has to go somewhere. In normal circumstances, it would go towards evaporation from plants and soil. But with little available water it heats the surface of the land, which makes it even warmer again.

With everything pushing the temperature in the same direction, the net effect is even warmer daytime temperatures. So the lack of rainfall drives the temperatures up, not the other way around.SOURCE

Needless to say, it is these principles that can impact on the whole ambience of your house and block if you seek to layout and plant with passive air conditioning in mind . Similarly our cities are cooler than they were  3 decades ago because the cityscape has been greened...and the continent is hotter and drier, in part, because we cut down most of the bush.

How are the potatoes going in this hot weather.

Some have stuck their green stems up...not all, but some.

On the other hand, the yams are obviously thriving.

 Hi Dave,with having an interest in growing  yams at present and also with my gardening sister Dianne letting me  put a few yams run loose throughout her garden and up her palms, the greater yam I believe with the white flesh may be more compatible for you . My opinion only that they are less slimy than the purple.One thing I can be certain is that it will be an edible plant that a keen edible grower  like yourself will enjoy watching  grow as your purple type.

The one you gave me has come up a treat Darren.

I do have some of the African yam growing somewhere, Darren -- Dioscorea cayennensis subsp. rotundata, -- but above soil I can't easily tell the diff.Purple offers purple stems, I think.  I can get heaps of  the white too at the local African shop as well as 'Meat City' which caters to the Islander trade.

I just buy the occasional yammy thing and plant it out. I do know the purple -- Asian -- grows well, but in the past haven't had much offered from any white brethren I've planted.

My yams are just keenly sprouting forth so who knows what lies beneath?

I'm hunting down a Elephant Foot yam too.

On that -- on exotica -- my ongoing quest is for a Plantain banana slip.

I much prefer Plantain to yams...but then my supplier stalls at the Cab Mkets sell some ab fab Plantain fruits.

I also have Cassava growing. Another market stall  sells bunches of cut woody stems for a few dollars.Always sliced diagonally. Making a hedge.

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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.)

GrowVetiver 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.


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