Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

This garden hasn't been through a Brisbane summer yet, and I'm scared.

And the worst has happened - our tank is empty!! I rang the Council and apparently I can hand water between 4 and 8pm. So nothing really changes, I just fill up my water bins with chlorinated water instead of beautiful rain. Somehow, though, it's a dreadful feeling to hear that hollow booming all the way to the bottom of the tank.

We went out to Jerry Coleby-Williams's Sustainable House open day. Was very impressed with their 340l of recycled grey water per day. Unfortunately we missed the talk that discussed how all of that works (how long can you store it? what happens if you go away?). I'll have to do some investigating. It really does seem to be the most sensible option. Although I think it costs about $15K so that's pretty scary. We're also keen to think about another water tank and finally getting the solar hot water in (it's a long story but we've got solar panels yet no solar hot water - very back-to-front). It looks like we're going to need a pump too. I was trying to avoid the extra energy in pumping, but the unimaginable luxury of using a hose is very attractive - especially as the baking sun sets in. Maybe I should have put the vegie garden in the gravity fed front yard, but I don't potter out there much, so I've planted it out for birds instead.

We're off to Belli Park (Kenilworth Rd) to get some bamboo from the bamboo man. My pigeon peas are coming up well and the artichokes provide some good shade, but I think I need to get the main vegie garden under filtered light for the summer months. The best way i can think of to do that is to grow some plants next to it that I can hack back in Winter. I'm also thinking of transplanting a Buddleia for the same job. Pigeon pea for nitrogen and chook food, bamboo for edible shoots and garden poles, and Buddleia because it's pretty and attracts butterflies and nectar eating birds. The blue-grey-green foliage is a nice match for the artichokes too, and I've got a Petrea volubilis (a blue flowering vine) and a bird of paradise nearby, so I'm not too keen to use very green or yellow toned plants for this (for example the pigeon pea! which i have in anyway).

All of this extra shade is for the main garden, which does actually gets some shade at different times of the day. The "big, slow, hungry and anti-social bed" on the other side of the yard, by contrast, is in full sun pretty much all the time. I plan to fill this up with a three sisters guild - corn, beans and pumpkin. Not sure if I should do anything about shade for this one. Probably if I can keep the water up to it all will be well - corn has a strange metabolism (C4, like sugar cane or lemon grass or Kangaroo grass) which means the more the merrier in hot weather as long as the water and food is there. Hopefully the corn will provide shade for the pumpkin and bean roots, as these have normal metabolisms and will do the standard wilting thing. Perhaps I should set up a structure with shade cloth to beat the worst of the afternoon sun. It's not my preference because it just doesn't look that good, and it's annoying in storms to have to dash out and dismantle things. I'll wait and see. Another possibility is to rig up some sort of shade cloth hat on the clothesline. Or I could attempt bean trellises on the sun side...

My garden soil is drying out a lot faster now that the morning dew has stopped and the days are hotter. I can no longer go 3-4 days between watering. Every 1-2 days is more like it now. I let some parts of the vegie garden's soil crack open recently, and am having to rehydrate everything with deep watering (hence the empty tank).

My parsley has white flecks on the leaves and white fly buzzing up when I disturb it. Time to sprinkle some dolomite about - magnesium deficiency. Am not surprised. I think this is what has thwarted my bean efforts so far. I keep forgetting to buy some though.

We're getting lots of yummy tomatoes now, and we're eating a lot of broad beans. Our last parsnip are about to come out, we're getting a new flush of carrots, the broccoli is now trying hard to go to seed, I'm not very pleased with the brussels sprouts - they're just not getting bigger, although the plants are now enormous. Another cauliflower is curding, my zucchini seeds haven't sprouted yet (they may be dead, bad storage in a bag in the laundry since last year - probably too hot), my new cucumber seedlings are growing well. A pumpkin is volunteering near the banana paw paw circle (hooray! they always do better than the ones i plant). I must ask Andrew to turn our compost bin over. We put the chook house and yard sweepings in the compost bin. I will replant the yam for climbing on the fence.

The main problem with all of this gardening business is sheer lack of time - although endless low level immune challenges from work and little kids runs a good second. I find I never go for best planting days or anything like that - I'm just very glad when I actually get something in the ground, or seeds scattered or whatever it is. One day when my life is not so hectic I shall plant with the moon calendar and have a garden diary and grow my own seedlings again (I used to do this properly in speedling trays - now I just throw seeds either at the garden or in polystyrene containers). Meanwhile, 23 skiddoo will just have to do.

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Comment by Jason Spotswood on October 7, 2008 at 20:45
It certainly has been heating up. I had to put shade cloth over the snow peas. They are really producing now and are great straight off the vine.
I have also been amazed at the amount of water the garden has been requiring and this is with a mainly manure base for the soil. I had to pull back all the mulch and deeply water my tomatoes and basil after a couple of plants started to look a bit wilted and get attacked by bugs. But now they should be fine. We are almost half way though our 40000L rain water tanks, are are hoping for rain soon (otherwise I will have to do a self imposed water restriction).
Say, what type of bamboo did you get and how much was it (if you don't mind me asking)? I am extremely keen to get some growing in my garden given that it is so useful. I want to use it also as a bit of a wind break for my banana circle.
Comment by Donna on September 30, 2008 at 13:13
I am with you on the time factor, it can be so hard working full time and my 2 yo. Although it is amazing, he knows all the plants in the garden and all the types of fruit trees we have. His favourite is the chocolate tree and he keeps trying to eat the leaves.

My zuchini and tomatoes have powdery mildew, the yellow ladybirds are out in force and I am trying to find time to spray a milk/ water mix (did it once on Saturday). You have got to try the green zebra tomato, they are so yummy my hubby is eating them before they are even properly ripe straight off the vine. Hopefully I will get some seeds saved if I can convince him to leave one on the vine long enough to get overripe...

The reason my seeds weren't coming up (I hope) was that the little hot house seedling trays were probably way too hot and killing them. I have left the lids off and one day when I remember, hopefully soon, I will get some shadecloth for them - and also some spare in case I need to cover one or two of the veggie gardens during the summer.

Happy gardening. I always love reading your blogs.

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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.)

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