Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Here are a few photos of my garden, taken today.

This is facing west. Possums are the number one garden pest in my area. The enclosure was built to keep them out, but it has the added benefit of keeping out cabbage white butterlies when I'm growing brassicas. Every year I try to grow something over the mesh in summer to provide some shade for my garden, but only once have the possums let me get away with that. It was a wonderful big new guinea bean that produced enormous amounts of veges and shaded everything. By some miracle it grew big enough to survive before the possums found it. Everything else I've tried - wing beans, sweet potato, passionfruit, new guinea bean every other time - has been consumed by possums before getting big enough to provide shade. Any suggestions are welcome (jicama?).

Below is the other area I have free rein in (it's a rental property so I can't do whatever I like whereever I like). The garden bed in the foreground used to be my garden for things that possums don't eat, including basil, rosemary, garlic chives, beans on a tripod if you can protect them for the first 50cm, sweet potatoes because even possums can't stop them, edamame soy beans, etc. Then last year I turned the bed in the background into my fruit tree section, with pawpaws, a lemon and a lime, but it was severely affected by possums, so I bought the electric fence energiser you can see in the very foreground. Now the bed is protected by electricity and I haven't had an possum problems since. It delivers quite a small shock and you need to be touching the wire and the fence to get shocked, which possums would have to do if climbing over.

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Comment by Lissa on February 18, 2013 at 7:14

Yeah, I have trouble with flying foxes taking high fruit. They leave the Carombola and pawpaw alone oddly enough, but love the Wampi which is much taller. Maybe the C. don't have much smell??? compared to other fruit which attracts them.

There's a few large Brazilian / Surinam cherry trees at the dog park at Petrie or used to be last time I was there. I tucked in without my glasses on - when my daughters caught me up they pointed out that the fruit was full of grubs lol. I got my fruit and my protein that day.

Comment by Rob Walter on February 18, 2013 at 7:01

The electric fence does go all the way round the bed, even though you can't see it from that picture. That brick fence behind it is a possum highway! I have a theory that there are inner suburb and outer suburb possums. The outer suburb ones behave much more as they do in the bush - larger territories and doing all of their feeding in trees. The inner city ones are more happy to feed on the ground and tend to live all jammed in together. Things get pretty desperate for them in late winter, judging by what they are willing to eat at that time of year. I have a friend in Carindale who backs onto bushland and has no trouble with possums, but once you get closer in, they are relentless.

It's another mammal that's getting me worked up at the moment, though, as I my very first paw paw was just beginning to show signs of ripening - not going yellow but turning slightly paler green - when it was eaten by a flying fox. I've recently seen paw paws on neglected trees in the neighbourhood turn all the way to orange before getting monstered by fruit bats, so I was pretty disappointed to lose a green one. However, my paw paws grow next to a hedge of Surinam cherry which is in fruit and in flower at the moment. It's quite popular with flying foxes, so one must have caught a whiff of the paw paw while flying past and decided that it was ripe enough.

I'll do another blog post shortly detailing my grand plan for the Surinam cherries.

Comment by Lissa on February 17, 2013 at 5:31

Your little electric fence seems to be working well for keeping the possums at bay. You'd think they'd just climb the fence behind and avoid it that way though.

Not a problem I have thank goodness, even though the bush is at the end of my road. I do get the odd carpet snake trying to eat my birds...and rats eating my seed out of the seedling trays. My dogs might have something to do with keeping possums away but I've seen no sign of them in 12yrs.

Will try growing Edamame next season. Joseph has been encouraging me. I haven't had the opportunity to eat any yet but everything I read says how yummy they are.

Comment by Rob Walter on February 16, 2013 at 21:33

Hi Susan,

A dog is definitely the best solution, but with my current lifestyle I can't really justify getting one. They need more love and attention than I am able to give at the moment, even for the sake of my veges.

Speaking of sake, the edamame could go in now if you hurry. On the whole they are a November (or warm October) to February sowing proposition. I've had one really good crop with them and an OK one. They are certainly delicious picked fresh and boiled up in salty water. They grow wonderfully when things are perfect, then tend to go on strike (not dying, but not growing) when they are thirsty or othwerwise unhappy. Full sun is preferred. I always sow them direct into the ground, although the seeds are prone to rotting, so well drained soil is best, or wait until this bit of rain passes, maybe. Keeping the water up from after flowering to when you pick is very important, because if the beans sit on the plant and grow slowly, they tend to get less sweet and more starchy, according to various sources. There's certainly a difference between the yummiest beans and the less delicious.

Comment by Susan on February 15, 2013 at 16:44

With possums, can you have a dog??  I live in an area with lots of possums and never have a problem cause I think my dog may scare them off.

Comment by Susan on February 15, 2013 at 16:42

When do you plant the soy beans??  I bought some because I had edamame in a sushi restaurant and decided that I LOVED fresh soya beans but then realised that I had absolutely no idea when (and what conditions) that I should plant them.

Comment by Rob Walter on February 15, 2013 at 10:01

Well the covered garden bed was there three years ago when I moved in (although not covered) and the bed in the foreground was also there when I arrived, so there hasn't been all that much work. There was putting up the netting and setting up the third bed, although it was no dig so fairly easy. I had been living at this place for two years before I finally decided to make the third bed and put the fruit trees in. I realised that if I'd done it straight away I would have had citrus fruit and pawpaws already. If I move out tomorrow, someone else will enjoy lemons and limes and paw paws, so it's not really a loss. Having said that, I plan to stay at least three more years. I've always followed a philosophy of starting small with gardening. I don't quite make it pay for itself as it goes along, but I increase the scope incrementally, rather than launching into a massive area straight away.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 14, 2013 at 21:48

You'd have to hope you're going to be there for some years though to make all that work worthwhile. The fence by the railway line - does it reduce the train noise by much?

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