Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Tonight the temperature falls to 19C (and maybe below) for the first time this year in my patch. You can feel the cooling night air on your skin.

Despite the warm days still, you can see how the evening respite from the heat is registering among the plants.

I just built (wait for it...wait for it) another two mounds and planted both of these out with potatoes I'd chitted from store-boughts.

I then divided a Vetiver Grass clump  by hacking at its edges. 

[I have a novel notion obsessing in my head about using Vetiver...]

While at it, I moved load after load of grass clippings from my nature strip  onto and among the mounds and 'paths'. I've had a flu like infection this last week and been under the weather, but the mower man's mowing drop offs have been massive. I still have a big pile to shift. 

Prior to these labours, with my trusty sickle and a pair of scissors I hacked at my above ground mulch plants --  cannas and dogbane especially -- so the garden is desiccated. 

Indeed I am keenly cutting back anything that's not edible --and some plants I seldom eat -- and dropping the cuttings in situ. This is another fancy. I'm training myself up as a root keeper or Keeper of the Roots. The celebrated green manure options don't work so well in my sand. Pursuing the principle of any ole root, I'm making do. 

A Biological Farming Consultant  who runs a TAFE course in organic farming staid with me last week and I exploited the opportunity to discuss regenerative options.(Listen to audio) I may not be a grass farmer but preserving roots seem to be where my gardening future lies. It's like a penny has dropped and I  now have my head in the sand. I think, aside from the standard metaphorical meaning, that's where it should be: underground. 

My role in life is to feed the creatures of the soil..one day, when I'm dead, even with my own corpse. My tools are not spades and forks or hoes, but roots.

When you started off as I did with yellow sand, I'm feeling  like I've been recruited to the dark dirt arts. It took 'em some time to finally capture me but I think I'm committed. 

A recent shot of me gardening & searching for meaning.

Buried like that --soiled -- you search for meaning.  

In the regenerative method of rotational grazing the herbivore chews the grass and moves on after eating and defecating. The grass is even compressed by the weight of the animal and a thin mulch layer forms on the surface. Then the pasture is rested. 

In the meantime, the grasses respond with a surge of growth and carbon sequestration as they put down more roots to recover themselves and shoot up more leaves for photosynthesis.

In this plot, this little outback play script, I am playing the bovine in my make believe outdoor theatre show. My cast members are not so much grasses (aka 'weeds' or standard green manures) as plants that obey me. So I gotta make do.

Before I did this I covered the mounds with around 80 litres of 'brew' mix made from kitchen washings and dregs,sugar,water  Balinese aloe vera fertiliser and  'raw material'.For this mix I had also harvested a lot of my own aloes too which I blended up into a thick goo. So the concoction was impressive in a muck raking sort of way. 

Garden gunk.

If you have aloes growing maybe it's something you could consider. Making glop is fun. Chop up, then blend up the aloe leaves with a little water before leaving the mash to soak in a bucket of water for a day or two. You can brew that as I do, or simply pour it on the garden beds.

Why bother? Aside from the research that supports aloe vera as a soil probiotic, fertiliser  and protector against disease and some insects, you get to play with the goo. Compared to the many  filthy habits of manure tea makings, aloe vera mashing and steeping is rather benign and may help your complexion if you also want to bathe in it..

( If you want to drink it -- and I don't --  or use it as a lotion --peel the aloe with a knife and soak the leaves in water for 30 minutes  to wash off the mucky slime. Then blend the plant material.)

I used to chop up my pigface leaves with a spade and throw them onto the beds as a mulch or bury them when I built up soil,  but now I get more value per harvest by blending them with the aloe and fermenting the mix.  

And it's free...

Banana Oil Claims

It is claimed that Aloe Vera in the raw 'gel' state offers the following attributes:

  • botanical activator and plant growth promoter which can improve overall plant health including its immune defence, plus suppress pathogenic bacteria.
  • improves microbe multiplication in the soil and on the leaf..
  • contains natural ingredients that promote cell replication (plant growth) with polysaccharides for high absorption of nutrients, Phytochemicals of Aloin, Salicylic Acid and Saponins. These aid with foliar feeding, and balancing the plants health, and are also an excellent fungi food for soil.
  • deters birds, bats and fruit fly.

However, more research has supported the use of Yucca gels as  soil conditioners. But I personally believe that many succulent gels would work similarly in the soil.So what's said about Yucca could also be projected  onto aloe vera.

Here's an attribute list for Yucca:

– improves drainage
– increases permeability of plant cell membranes, allowing for increased water and nutrient absorption
– improves seed germination and seedling vigor
– stimulates microbial activity in soil
– builds resistance to heat and water stress due to drought-like conditions
– enhances water penetration through compact soils
– allows excess salts to leach from soil

And with more science-speak:Yucca (Yucca schidigera/Mexico)

  • a soil conditioner as it is a natural surfactant, allowing greater penetration of water and oxygen by modifying the structure of the soil and therefore provides increased physical health for plants. It also stimulates the development of microorganisms in the soil, which increases the decomposition of organic matter and the formation of humus; as a result plants have increased availability of water and nutrients, present more vigorous roots and are greener with increased growth.
  • reduce the surface tension of the water, allowing moisture to penetrate evenly and more quickly. Due to its physical soil enhancing actions, it decreases salinity within the soil, causing better root development and healthier plant growth.
  •  a soil condition enhancer and plant growth promoter. Due to its completely natural components, it is non-toxic to soil or plants, its biodegradable, non-polluting, friendly to the environment and helps achieve increased yields.

More on Yucca

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Comment by Sophie on April 11, 2016 at 7:37
Indian shot**** ! Sorry!!!
Comment by Dave Riley on April 8, 2016 at 10:03

Great. Thank you so much.

Of related interest to veldt grape :Enchylaena tomentosa

Comment by Sophie on April 8, 2016 at 8:37
Dave, I am also on the hunt so if I find I'll get you one also. I had it in SA and was delicious
Christa, will also check out veld grape :)
Comment by Christa on April 8, 2016 at 8:21

If you are venturing into succulent food, you might like to try the veld grape, from Sth Africa.  It has little red edible berry like fruit.  Just managed to get a piece online, my collection is mainly orphaned plants.

Comment by Dave Riley on April 8, 2016 at 7:51

Yes I am seeking the native 'samphire': several species. Commercially grown in the Orbost District at the Snowy River Station....but there are also desert varieties. 

In coastal salt marshes up north beyond Mackay  you can find Grey samphire (Tecticornia australasica) but since there are many 'samphires' in Australia it is so hard to know where to start.

Along our section of coast the are 3 Tecticornias  types -- but called  'Glassworts'. I've talked to succulent peeps about Samphires as well as the Community Nursery on Bribie   but I haven't been able to cull much of a response, nor obtain specimens.I suspect the one harvested in Victoria is Tecticornia pergranulata. 

The the go-to 'botanist' volunteer at Bribie even used to collect the English species when he was growing up in the UK.He raves about the meals he had...but can offer nothing re the local option.

I am unlikely to be able to visit Kumbarto so I'll fall back on my own options. But Kumbarto is hardly a saltmarsh area....

Comment by Sophie on April 8, 2016 at 7:04
Thats great dave good to hear you are making use of the indian shit! Have you tried native samphire aka sea asparagus? Also tasty and would love the sandy coastal sand/soil at yours. I saw they were selling them at the kumbarto sanctuary nursery place. The more I here about pigeon, the more I like. The council moved the park near my house and I raked up the clippings to make some mounds, thought of you haha
Comment by Dave Riley on April 8, 2016 at 1:03

As it happens...I found a huge spread of aloes along the roadway into the back of the school so I've been harvesting and replanting...and I recycled a few yuccas because the school was removing them -- as in 'chucking'.

This means that I've now got myself a keen succulent garden made up of aloes, yuccas, prickly pear ( for napoles) , dragon fruit and pigface. Of course all easy cut off and replant as is the way with succulents.

And I still have my (English) samphires (Crithmum maritimum) struggling on. Not so big but very tasty.One day I hope to get a feed...

  • On that heres' a great discussion on the culinary tradition of Samphire.I'm not a eccentric Samphire junkie afterall:"There is something magic about samphire..."
  • All about I have  Dogbane but note that this plant is now called  Plectranthus caninus--although still a member of the mint family. It also goes by the name of plectranthus ornatus-- and is referred to as 'succulent like' .
  • Then there is Canna indica/Indian shot canna which i'm liking a lot. Very useful for mulch and to consolidate the subsoil with rooty stuff. The worms love its  rhizome networks. I;m their concierge. Suits my sandy soil and gardening habits but don't plant it if you are near a water course or bushland as it can be invasive. I've been experimenting with  Qld Arrowroot (Canna edulis)instead, but it is no where near as useful in the garden setting as the arrowroot is much less bushy, shallower rooted and just tall. You can eat the bulbous  rhizomes  stem ends, of course. 
  • I used to use Brazilian Spinach and Surinam Spinach as garden 'helpers' but I'm getting more utility from these other plants. They are more reliable and easier to play with. And besides,in the way of edibles, I prefer Okinawan Spinach and Warrigal Greens...and Sweetleaf most of all. 
  • Then there is the next step: Vetiver Grass.  Maybe a bit late in the year to ponder planting out , but I'm keen to experiment with it. I have taken about 20 cuttings -- and after soaking in an aloe vera fert solution -- they have all taken. My 'idea' --such as it is -- is to grow the Vetiver among the garden mounds and deploy them like traffic roundabouts. I just hope I can easily control the clumps. I know it grows in my sandy soil. My notion -- such as it is -- is that since Vetiver is compact and straight down rooted (keenly) I'm not going to be challenged by any out-of-control or invasive behaviors. On hand chop and spread mulch...and in Summer: shade.
  • The Vetiver concept -- such as it is -- is based on my experience thus far with Pigeon Peas. Leaving aside the absolute horror that my supplier of  whole dried PPs  is no longer stocking them (thus forcing me to cook with Black Beans) I am much impressed with what you can do with Pigeon Pea 'trees' in the garden. Long tap root apparently which maybe explains why I can grow a whole range of other veg around the PP trunk base. They coexist with anything it seems. They offer light shade...bee attracting flowers...and peas -- luscious raw green ones, or dried. Cooked i love them heaps. I've even got PPs growing on my nature strip bent over 'espalier' fashion. Why not? My fav ground cover 
  • Finally in this discursive indulgence in note taking:Black Beans. I wanted ground covery things for green manures. Buckwheat doesn't like my soil so much/at all,(and my experience with cover manures has not been fulfilling) but this last time I planted out heaps of Black Beans instead, and the gesture has lead to keen growth.So there's the time: Autumn for Black Beans. It's sure to be fun to see how the BBs grow and ramble. I've got so many different legumes growing and climbing I can't tell them apart until they pod. I suspect I've finally got Yam Bean to take...not that i'm going to try the beans to find out as they're poisonous. Nonetheless I have high hopes for a BB marriage...and whatever else as so much has taken off without labels. 
Comment by Jeff Kiehne on April 4, 2016 at 9:27

"potatoes I'd chitted from store-boughts."

I used the small potatoes from aldi half kilo Kestrel 8 to 11 potatoes waited for them to sprout and planted the whole potato they produce quickly .Planted some too late and did not go well with the hot spring last year.

Comment by Dave Riley on April 4, 2016 at 9:00

My dogbane does not deter my dogs.Terriers. It is scented in a strange sort of way but not enough that I don't pick the stunning blue flowers for indoor vases.

You want plectranthus ornatus not the other plants called dogbane.

Comment by Christa on April 4, 2016 at 8:15

Dave seems like the only way is up.  You may have to form an above ground path, say using old single bed frames or such recycled product.  Your energy and keenness is catchy.  The aloe vera in my yard just sits there filling a spare spot, in case I get bitten by something, but no more, as you say you can just pick it up and move it easily.  In our garden, in a concentrated area, we have potted fruit trees (big pots) and I would like to use the same principal with a liquid type feeding for microbes and your probiotic mixes in liquids sounds good.  My idea would be to throw a bucket of what we used to call slops, old tea, steamed vegie water, yoghurt rinses (and now I can add aloe mix) into each pot.   

Tell me Dave, does the dog bane deter your dogs.   We are the proud owners of a couple of miniature fox terriers, we have forgotten how puppyish they were when just a few weeks old.  It was about 20 years ago we had last puppies, and are a bit exhausted looking for them, making sure they are not chewing electrical cords and getting stuck behind something, inquisitive little blighters, leaving little deposits everywhere. 

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