Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

A FRESH LOOK AT HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Brisbane Qld 2009

Back in late 2009 I must have read something, found something to inspire me to finally start trying to grow food in earnest. Perhaps I met the guy at the markets who eventually made my raised beds (new idea to the market then). I don't remember. All I know is that I suddenly realised I had to turn my backyard into veg beds rather than the croquet lawn I had planned for this area.

We were coming out of a nasty long period of real drought. You can see how dry the ground was - that's Freya and Gretel (now passed)  both Miniature Pinschers. They used the garden edging like a train track. The drought had all but ruined gardening for me and others have told me the same. We finally started getting a bit of rain and hope returned.

Here is a LINK to the original Blog which contains a lot more waffling on. I was very excited by the whole project!

12.12.2009 new raised beds, Freya and Gretel
Dec 2009 The raised beds were made by Bruce at KISS Products. Now 2015 they still look as good as the day they were delivered. I just love them. Freya and Gretel walking the track of the edging supervised the whole operation.

This is the gist blog I wrote at the time in 2010:

Ok, so I've put in the elevated garden beds - 3x 4Mx1Mx60cm. The idea of these being that they will be easier to garden as I get older and find it harder to bend over, the soil inside will end up deep and rich and the dogs can't get in! I'm very happy with the beds I bought from KISS Products and will put in a matching rainwater tank as soon as $ allows.

The beds were delivered around the beginning of December 09. I asked quite a few people how I should orientate them and ended up facing the long side north/south. I have been attempting to fill them since (it's now April).

Thought about buying a huge pile-o dirt and shoveling endlessly, and once upon a time I could have shoveled all day no trouble, but no longer an option due to aging body and lack of space to keep the pile-o dirt (my car would have had to sit out in the open - not good in our area where people come around at night and smash windows).

So, I cadged my mower guy into bringing me bags of grass all summer, bought horse poo, buckets of ground rock (granite and basalt) for minerals, chook poo from the neighbour, lucerne bales ($!), straw bales (even more $!). Down at the very bottom is the rough stuff out of the giant sugarcane mulch bales I bought from a charity run.

I reached the top of the beds numerous times but of course, the composting process ensured the levels went down quickly. In the end (this month, April) I ran out of planting patience, bought some bags of garden soil (easy for me to bring home in the car and cart into the back yard) and planted seed and seedlings.

All my vege seed has come from Diggers (2015 NOTE - no longer a member, I can buy good seed locally without the membership fee) - some of the seedlings came from Bunnings (won't do that again as not very good quality. 2015 NOTE They have since improved and I often buy from Bunnings but prefer my local farmers market at Caboolture ) and some from a nice young man at the Caboolture markets ($2 a punnet and very healthy).

I've been a gardener for decades, won awards for best new garden and best native garden, but I know virtually nothing about vege gardening apart from a few spasmodic attempts at this and that throughout the years which weren't very successful. I have read a fair bit, asked a lot of questions and attended a permaculture training session at Northey Street City Farm. The more questions I asked about what I should plant when, the more confusing it all got (I found it best to plant according to your local climate, not the instructions on the packet). The more gardening forums/sites I joined the more I realised how much I still have to learn and how conflicting others opinions can be.

I do live in SE Qld and it's still warm plus the beds are generating heat from down below as they compost. So I decided to just go ahead and plant whatever took my fancy! Nothing to lose but a few seed if it didn't work. This has remained my ethos. Give it a go! What's to lose.

Seed planted is:

  • Carrot "All Seasons" - the only seeds not from Diggers
  • Sweet Corn Sweet White F1" - two plantings the first direct into the soil, the second into Jiffy pots first
  • Rock melons of the world mix - includes Yellow Canary, Bananga and Ananas - into jiffy pots first
  • Pea "Sugar Snap" climbing
  • Silver beet "Five Colour" mix
  • Arugula "Apollo"
  • Tomatoes "5 Colour Heirloom" mix - includes (Red) Snack, Black Russian, Little Sugar Yellow, Green Sausage, (Orange) Tigerella
  • Capsicum - Sweet Mini mix - bite sized yellow, red and chocolate
  • Pumpkin "Delicata Mini Sweet" - a non running type with green and yellow striped skin
  • Seedlings planted:
  • cauliflower
  • strawberry
  • Brussel sprouts
  • cucumber - Lebanese
  • zucchini - yellow and green
  • rocket
  • lettuce mixed
  • celery
  • parsley
  • sweet fennel

Photos might be slightly out of synchronized order, partly due to my stupidity in not adding the right date to the camera.

new beds planted
April -The original planting. Such hope rested with these little plants!
05.2010 zucchini
Original blog says this is May not March. Think these were my first ever Zucchini. I was disappointed that the flavour didn't match the beauty.
31.03.2010 silverbeet, toms, sugar snap peas
My old blog tells me this is actually May not March. I used to do well with Silverbeet. Never quite had the same success since.
03.05.2010 new beds
03.05.2010 All three beds planted up. The wait begins.
05.2010
Some success with the salady things. I still used to plant things in neat rows back then lol. I'm very random now apart from corn.
31.03.2010
12.06.2010 I tried for a couple of years to grow corn all year round. Thought it would be warm enough here in Brisbane. The winter crops were always disappointing so now I aim for up to three crops during the hot months and freeze the crop. I also plant the seedlings much more densely these days which may be helping with pollination of the cobs.

12.06.2010 various

26.06.2010 silverbeet
26.06.2010 I remember being so proud of this patch of Silverbeet. So perfect and colourful. Good eating.
26.06.2010 sugarsnap
26.06.2010 Sugar Snap peas. Heaven. My preferred way of eating them is straight off the plant, all crunchy and sweet. My kids and grandson sometimes turn up to indulge - we must look like a herd of cows standing around hunting for pods and munching.
04.07.2010 crop
04.07.2010 Carrots with their funny little kink due to the uncomposted material at that level no doubt, but still good to eat. Radish - always astounded at how fast they grow into crop from seed.
25.07.2010 Dwf Macca from Kendalls
25.07.2010 I decided I needed a nut tree and after much deliberation and research hunted down a couple of places that sold Dwf Macadamia. Daleys (my preferred fruit tree retailer) were honest and told me I would have to wait patiently. Kendalls on the other hand promised one immediately then took 7wks to send this tiny plant for a total cost of $53 delivered :/ Suckered. Never bought from them again though to be fair the tree is growing well and now in 2015 starting to produce little fruit which unfortunately all dropped. Maybe next year.
25.07.2010 brassicas, celery, fennel, mustard greens
25.07.15 How many views of the same bed can I take! lol Obviously thrilled with the crop which includes Mustard Greens, Celery, Cauliflower and Sweet Fennel and strawberries.
25.07.2010 tom
25.07.10 Initially excited by the willingness of this tom plant it eventually tried to take over the backyard and I found I couldn't use all that many cherry toms anyway. It was composted back into the bed.
27.07.2010 Arugula
27.07.2010 Arugula or Rocket - can't believe I didn't like it at the time! One of my fav sandwich and salad items these days.

25.07.2010 beds, Lychee background 25.07.201001/05/10

I check the beds each morning at dawn and give them a water. Amazing how they manage to mostly dry out during the day. The dew at night makes them look moist again in the morning. If I wasn't home on holidays and checking them during the heat of the day I would think they were remaining moist from the morning water.

There's little fruit growing on the zuchinni already, little green and yellow ones, and I notice for the first time that they have both male and female flowers. They seem to bloom on alternate days though which is a little confusing. How does the male fertilise the female like this?

There's some damage to the leaves - grey spots and dead spots. I've made up a spray which is a combination of all the recipes I've been given - has molasses, bi-carb, garlic, chilli, detergent and oil. Left out the milk bit as I reckon that would go off. Used up half the bottle this morning spraying the leaves of everything (things are chewing on the corn also). Will have to get a bigger bottle. The Samford (garden) group is coming over tomorrow so I've left the affected leaves on so they can have a look.

2015 NOTE I have long ago given up trying these home made "remedies" for what ails the plant. If it has caterpillars on it, I squash them and leave them in situ - puts off the moth/butterfly laying more eggs. If it has mold on it I remove the leaves or consider the plant past it's used by date or simply in the wrong spot, and remove it. Everything gets cut up and composted back into the beds.

I planted some chilli seeds yesterday and also have some tiny ones coming up in a pot. Never thought I would find chilli this useful :S

2015 NOTE Rats love chilli fruit! I now have about 5 varieties growing and use maybe one a week...but I like the look of them and others appreciate the fruit.

These are the fruit trees I have growing at the moment also:

  • Jaboticaba - newly planted (2015 getting good crops two or three times a year. Love this plant. Nothing affects it.)
  • Avocado - Wurtz- newly planted (2015 still not cropping but it gets flowers and it has survived some nasty weather.)
  • Carombola (2015 Fruit Fly decimate the huge quantities of fruit during the warm months, but the winter crop is good.)
  • Soursop (2015 this tree stopped cropping for years, now slowly coming back.)
  • Blueberry (2015 sheesh what a waste of time - trying again with four new plants in pots.)
  • Fig - Brown Turkey (2015 plant sets lots of fruit but most never reach edible stage. The few that do are gorgeous.)
  • Mulberry - Red Shatoot - recently planted (2015 Threatened this plant with destruction a few times to the point where I tried to wrench it out of the ground. Now delivers a spatter of good quality fruit.)
  • Tamarillo - recently planted (2015 Short lived perennial most live for two or three years - I have one old girl still producing after four years. Easy to grow from seed.)
  • Custard Apple (2015 produces well each year. There are better varieties on the market these days though.)
  • Lychee (2015 When it was small this tree would give me a couple of kgs of good fruit. Nothing for years. Needs to be removed.)
  • Wampi (2015 I like the fruit. So do the bats. I only get the low hanging fruit due to this but it makes a good shade tree for my work area.)
  • Persimmon (2015 Poor plant. Totally shaded out by the Lychee and the Wampi. No fruit to speak of. Needs to be removed.)
  • Gooseberry (2015 Perhaps I mean the Ceylon Hill Gooseberry bush - first berries EVER the other day. Not worth wasting the space on it. Chinese Gooseberries on the other hand come up by themselves every year and produce good fruit.)
  • Pawpaw (2015 My favourite veg! These grow so well here for me. I have learned to use the fruit green - grated in any salad it's sweet, chopped up and roasted or added to stews it tastes like a good turnip.)
  • grapes - species unknown (2015 Useless. Finally had some fruit recently and something unknown eats every one of the sour fruit.)
  • passionfruit (2015 I am now allergic to passionfruit. Yes, and mango and citrus. Bummer. These still crop and I give the fruit away.)
  • Raspberry - Bi-centennial - recently planted (2015 Ended up with Williamette plants and they were good! A friend built me a frame for them to grow on and I tried to move them unsuccessfully. Luckily some have come up in the old spot but now what do I do!)

I also have asparagus growing in the regular beds. Too new to have any crop as yet. The sweet potato are prolific in their growth but I have never yet found a usable one (2015 NOTE for a long time now I grow SP successfully in bags with a tower.) . They used to grow huge at my last property (acreage) and popped out of the ground, so easy to find. Not here.

The avo is in the front yard, away from the dogs lol. They just love avo's and would steal any that fell to the ground. They also love strawberries - hopefully with these (mostly) now in the elevated beds I'll get some for myself! (2015 NOTE I have never really succeeded with strawberries but then I put little effort into them too - all that thinning and replanting, no time for it.) They also consider corn cobs a great treat - as good as a bone. They hoard the left over cob for ages chewing on them - has to be good for their teeth.

This was also the year I first tried growing potatoes (see original blog) and the commencement of the breaking of my heart with continued failures. Read the Potato growing blog. Now I know what to do :) and have hope of success finally.

I also started making Weed Tea that year. I still keep a big tub of water sitting there and fallen fruit and weeds get thrown in. I had a solar percolator there for a while thanks to Elaine but it eventually died and has just been replaced. I give the tea a good blast with high pressure hose every few days to aerate it. Good for seedlings and just generally throwing into the beds.

I also started growing Yakon. Which is a whole other story :)

12.08.2010 snow peas, bush beans, zucchini
Beans, yellow zucchin

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Comment by Lissa on June 5, 2015 at 19:24

You're making your way around the site very well.

I've never yet split my hive. It's had a test honey collection gizmo added to the top for quite some time waiting for the inventor to come check it out but he's been unwell and hasn't been here for some time.

I wasn't game to split the hive on my own but it could be done in Spring/Summer.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on May 30, 2015 at 0:39

What a wonderful record of your journey! 

Comment by Lissa on May 29, 2015 at 16:48

Exactly Florence. My way of looking at food growing has totally changed in the 5yrs. I came into it all as a decorative gardener, everything all neat and tidy, using lots of chemical fertilisers and thinking nothing of it, spraying this that and the other on everything that moved. Always trying to find "remedies" for what was going on in the garden.

I try to define to myself how I think about it all now and it's hard to put into words. What I've learned is invaluable but I can't describe it.

Comment by Florence on May 29, 2015 at 15:52

It's fun to look back after a few years to see the difference both in the actual garden, and our mentality and approach towards the garden :)  I certainly have changed a lot since I started, and will be approaching the way I garden very differently when I do veggie growing again...

Comment by Lissa on May 25, 2015 at 20:07

They're funny little girls using the train track :)

Comment by Mark Braz on May 25, 2015 at 17:58

I loke the doggy footpath

Comment by Lissa on May 23, 2015 at 14:41

No worries Roger. Easy to miss bits :)

I have blueberries in pots but I need bigger wider pots. I used what I had to hand and being shallow rooted top feeders they need a bit of space at the top. One day will get around to fixing it and hope the plants last in the meantime.

I also have a Jakfruit in a large pot. I grew some from seed and kept one plant for myself which I'm not game to let loose in the general garden due to it's size so wanted to see how it would do in the pot. Nothing to lose! For a plant with a deep tap root it's doing surprisingly well and even had a couple of flowers so I hope this bodes well for possible fruit down the track. Think it needs to produce female then a male flower from memory.

Everything else is in the beds including a Grumichama though not an Acerola, which I'm very fond of. The Grumi is growing slowly but strongly. No fruit yet and maybe 4 or 5 yrs old.

The Lychee is the biggest disappointment. From an initially good start producing lots of fruit as a little thing it now produces almost nothing despite some professional pruning (friend), horse poor and enough water. I'm told they like to grow in wetter areas though and this spot isn't that. Could just be fluke of the weather - rain at the wrong time that sort of thing. All suggestions welcome as it is now on my hit list.

Comment by Roger Clark on May 23, 2015 at 10:27

Lissa,

Sorry that I missed that. do you grow all your tress in the ground or in pots? I think some trees are better in pots. e.g. Bluberries (only really a bush) much easier to control the acidity that they need. I have had good success so far with them in pots. Also my Figs and Dwarf Avocado are doing very well in pots - Wurtz only planted last year, but Pinkerton and Rincon are doing well. If you have more space in the ground then I've found that Grumichama and Acerola Cherry are very hardy and productive.

Comment by Lissa on May 23, 2015 at 10:05

That first pic of the empty beds is my very favourite out of all my pictures.

Keeping a record like this is so important to help us remember how things were initially.

Roger - if you go to the end of the blog there is a list of fruit trees and an update on how each one is doing 5yrs later. Some I would never plant again (Lychee), some are fantastic (Joboticaba). It's been fun.

I visited a friend yesterday. Not a gardener. Her yard is almost completely naked apart from a nice little mango someone else planted. I wanted to plant it up something awful. Starting over again is a pain, the waiting for trees to mature and start producing, but it's also a heap of fun.

Comment by Roger Clark on May 23, 2015 at 9:51

Lissa, you've certainly grown a lot in a few short years. I too grow almost all my veges above ground, mine are mostly in old baths and laundry tubs. I still have failures but I've definitely got better at it as time goes by. Your blog is very comprehensive, Has your Brown Turkey fig performed better as it has grown? How have the other trees performed in comparison?

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