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My gardening year in review: the first annual PolyVegg Garden Awards

Carpobrotus glaucescens (Eastern Pigface)
First up I gotta say that this year I got myself a garden. Like some toddler struggling to walk for the first time, this year my garden became a garden that had ecology on its side.
There were worms in the dirt. Green things grew. Some even took off.
So this year was the year of the greens.

Best Green of the Year  Award, 2014

Much as I appreciate the capacity for Kale to play the celebrity and be a popular market stall standard (green smoothies indeed!), this year the prize for best green goes to Warrigal Greens.
While I love eating Warrigal Greens and find them very versatile in a spinach and silver beet sort of culinary way, they also grow ever so well in my all-the-way-down sandy -- beach nearby -- soil. It's manna from heaven. Easy care with a garden bed rambling habit.
Possible New Years resolution: write the Warrigal Green Cook Book....

Stunner of the Year Award: Sunflowers

There's no competition here: Sunflowers. Sunflowers took my garden skywards   to shine on high like Alice's Wonderland. They made the veg patch mesmerising to look at. They cast shade and glorified the dirt.
Hereafter, my garden is going to be a living, shimmering sea of yellow dedicated to Van Gogh's missing ear.I'll just keep throwing sunflower seeds, of as many kinds as I can find, at it.
Mind you, harvesting the seeds ahead of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos is a hard ask. How do they do it? How do they know that a la carte parrot food is on the table?

Surprise of the Year: Potatoes

I've seldom grown spuds before but this year I became enamoured with South Pacific mound gardening practices and planted out some seed some serious looking mounds. It was a little late in the planting norm to do so, but within two months I  got myself a feed and I've been harvesting delicious 'new' potatoes ever since.
What an abundance! No other crop has been so giving for the space and lack of attention. So here at the PolyVegg backyard garden, the every day spud is also the tuber of the year.

Greatest Disappointment of the Year: Sweet Potatoes

After growing a  4 metre long patch of sweet potatoes for a year, when I came to harvest, I got not one edible sized  tuber.
Not one!
I had harvested leaves for stir fries and such -- but underneath: zilch.
Aside from the sandy soil issue, the aetiology no doubt rests with the drought. Sweet potatoes need more water than I was able to give them. Obviously a lot more water/ a lot more love.
I will persist because last year was good -- OK at least -- in the tuber business underneath. And I do like sweet potatoes.

Fruit of thy Loins the Year

This is definitely the year of the succulent. Ye olde standard dry weather plant and the sort of tucker  we may have to all get used to in a hotter, dryer  region. Despite my growing conditions, indeed, because of them, I found I could cultivate Dragon Fruit. Most other fruits -- aside from citrus, passionfruit  and mulberries -- suffer in my soil because there ain't much down there to root for. I may be fig hopeful, but in the meantime it's nice to know that the Dragon Fruit cactus feels at home enough to produce. 
So succulents rule...

Discovery of the Year in Review: Pigface

The humble beach strewn pigface is a surprising plant. As a ground cover it takes off wherever I embed any hacked off cutting.It then grows and grows and GROWS....!
A carpet of succulent greenery with flowers on offer. It's a torturous jungle with stems overreaching each other to go places. The irony is that in its reach out activities, it seldom drops roots and even these are shallow and loosely anchored. Invasive you could not call it.
It's a benign occupation.
I was watching my pigface ramble all about as I played God and snipped bits off to transplant when it struck me that pigface was sure to be my best of all possible living mulches. It is so easy to contain and control it. Just break off bits here and there between your fingers.
So in the garden beds this is the plan: wall to wall pigface. And get this:
Pigface can be chopped up with a spade and dug into the ground. This works sort of like water storage crystals and reduces hydrophobia (water repellency) in sandy soils.
Talk about all my Christmases coming at once! What a great 'dig-in' mulch option!
The other great thing about pigface is that the southern native pigface, Carpobrotus rossii, is, like Warrigal Greens, a potentially popular bush tucker ingredient. It often goes by the indigenous name, KarkallaSnowy River Station is shipping loads of the leaves by plane each week to the Netherlands! The market term is 'Beach Banana' and it fetches upwards of $50 per kilogram!. 
 I'm not yet enamoured with the taste when raw, but the fruits are really tasty.

Looking towards the year ahead : tasks and perspectives, hopes and possibilities

This succulency has turned my head from a ready reliance on standard annuals and in celebrating the the engorged leaf plants, my attention has been drawn to two novel possibilities: Samphire and Purslane.
Samphire may not thrive or even grow this far the preferred edible species is Rock Samphire, Crithmum maritimum, whose ancestral home is the British Isles. But I'm trying to grow it.
There are similar 'samphires' in Australia but I've yet to explore the botanics.
I'm more hopeful with my embrace of PurslanePortulaca oleracea  which is a feature of Turkish cuisine --and I love to cook Turkish. The Portulacas thrive in my garden usually in weed form. When they have a mind to, Sun Jewels Portulaca grandiflora take off . So I'm planting out Purslane, like the Pigface, as a ground cover which is also very edible.
I  have many other experiments in train -- all with exotic names, most arfe not common in our menu -- but they are for now, only working hypotheses. It remains to be seen if they thrive in my conditions.
What will grow is Katuk  -- last year's star veg and garden winner. My ongoing passion is to turn my space into a Katuk forest -- hedges  of the stuff every which way. 
Such an option is in train...but for now I'm imagining a very different garden to the one that occupied my mind's eye a year ago.

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Comment by CHERYL SLAPP on December 27, 2014 at 18:21

Hi Dave, what a great read and great information.   Will have to take a trip to Caboolture and Morayfield markets. 

Comment by Lissa on December 4, 2014 at 19:16

Dave, seems the pigface I got from you isn't the best for eating: The bits you got, Lissa,are C. glaucausen which isn't at all tasty.It's local to Moreton Bay.I spit that out. .

I will throw it out then.

Where can I can I get the good edible one then?

Oca. Where are they to be bought from?

Comment by Dave Riley on December 4, 2014 at 16:08

And talking Caboolture Markets .... and touring the neighbourhood (you can do the markets and then maybe gets some oca in the same Sunday trip or harvest some bamboo canes from the corner at the traffic lights)...

A Samoan guy at the markets sells pots of  Island cabbage (bele, lau pele, raukau, viti, aibika, Hibiscus Spinach(Abelmoschus manihot -growing info) which is much more delicious than a lot of other Summer greens I think.

His stall is along the Old Gympie Rd side...Stall selling Pigfaces  is along the Beerburrum Rd fence. Katuk  and Dragon Fruit stall is on the corner near one of the Beerburrum Rd exits.The fam has a mix of exotic fruit trees and such. Warrigal Greens seedlings stall is a standalone plant place separate from the  Beerburrum Rd strip. Another place will occasionally sell Katuk and Moringa bunches over Summer as vegtables (sop look at the asian stall veg displays). Moringa  sapling is often sold from Josh van Veen's stall (Beerburrum  Rd strip)...Of course there are more plants than you can imagine for sale all around.

Comment by Dave Riley on December 4, 2014 at 14:45

The bits you got, Lissa,are C. glaucausen which isn't at all tasty.It's local to Moreton Bay.I spit that out. ..and my experiments with as an ingredient haven't been good. The C. rossi is easier to put in  your mouth. I haven't had enough to cook up too much, but I have thrown it into stews.The fruit on the other hand is delicious.

All on your list, Jan, are available at the Cab Markets but you need to get in early to buy a bunch of Katuk for eating/cuttings.They do pot them up but this season the fam haven't been offering Katuk plants.Same stall offers Dragon Fruit. 

W.Greens seedlings sell out each week ...the fam from Woodford sells them among their obscenely cheap seedlings. The demand has been a recent phenomenon they tell me.They also sell potted up Jerusalem Artichokes if that's of interest. Still got some on offer.

As for the pigface --I assume they are still available, but don't go home with the wrong plant.I'm not sure if the seller knows the Latin/Botanical  names as I've had my C. rossi for some time and we bought it in name ignorance.They're sold as flowers -- not from a veg or herb gardening stall. Looking at C.edulis -- see here and here -- I think it doesn't belong in our gardens, despite not, as yet, being declared noxious .There are two other Australian species with a very limited range in WA but you'd need to know the botany for sure. They may have a flower colouring similar to C.edulis.

Yes, Lissa, maybe I need to do the sweet spuds in a bag or container. ..

The thing about the the regular spuds was that I didn't try at all.They just took off! I'm not experienced enough to know why but I suspect my sandy soil plus the mounding up.

By the by -- if anyone is interested in Oxalis tuberosa--  known as uqa, oca, or New Zealand yam  -- they're sold at the Dickson Road Markets in Morayfield for $16/kgm. These little nodules are seriously delicious and they apparently keep well in the fridge ready for planting out in March (see GH notes):

I live in Brisbane and really love oca, will it grow for me?
Answer: in order to successfully grow it, you need to 'reverse' the season. It stores remarkably well in a plastic bag in the crisper of the fridge. Buy it and store it until March. Winter temperatures in frost-free areas of Queensland are ideal to grow oca. The summer is simply too hot, humid and wet. Once you successfully grow your crop, save some of it in the fridge every year for autumn planting. It grows well in styrofoam boxes and planter bags, as well.

Comment by Lissa on December 4, 2014 at 5:15

Are you eating the Pigface Dave? The bits you gave me are doing well despite complete neglect. To be honest they appeal very little as food but then, I have so many other green things I can eat.

Try growing your swt potato in a pot or bag perhaps. Keeps them in one place for ease of watering for starters and I end up with as much out of one grow bag crop wise as I did out of an entire garden bed devoted to them.

I have no luck growing regular potatoes. I must try harder! 

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on December 3, 2014 at 16:50

I love that gardens grow and evolve and are ever changing.  

Don't waste that 4 meter sweet potato vine - eat the leaves.  I use them in pesto all the time.  Any tuber is a bonus.  

You also encouraged me to turn my attention to Katuk. 

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on December 3, 2014 at 15:58

Great report, Dave! Interesting observation about digging in pigface and having a ready-made water source which will become compost.

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