Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

I am so grateful for all this rain. Our garden has been abandoned for a month with no water!

It's capacity to continue without me is amazing. I can't believe that we could come home and pick dinner from the garden. It was a very good dinner too.

I'm horrified to say that our chooks are completely infested with bird mite, however. I am so mortified - my friend came over to change their feeders every few days and didn't know why he was so itchy! I've removed all their bedding, sprayed the whole coop with Neem (from Melia azedirachta seeds, appears to be non toxic to humans except in inhuman quantities) and dusted the coop and our poor birds with bird mite powder (active ingredient rotenone = murray fish poison made from an australian native plant, also used as derris dust for plants). Am now very itchy too - erg! But they can't survive on humans and it will be over in about a week... :(

Many things have changed in our garden whilst we were away.

The rockmelon is fruiting but hasn't got juicy enough for fruit fly yet. I shall wait and see. I've not been succesful with rockmelons before.

I almost lost the moon and stars watermelon but have given it a lot of tank water, so that should perk it up.

We have WAY too many cucumbers. The passionfruit are hanging juicily but not yet ripe. The galangal and turmeric are back, very bushy and exotic looking after hiding under the ground.

The lychee has put on good growth and the lemon is fruiting. My poor root-bound old lime tree appears to be struggling to break free - am hoping the new growth is indicating some new roots are getting out of the original root ball (it was in a container and too big for me to handle, I have a bad back).

The jersualem artichoke is flowering. The yacon is not so happy; it's in quite a hot spot, but it's struggling on. The yam is back on the fence again. The pawpaw and banana circle has hit its straps and I expect we'll be overwhelmed with fruit from it shortly. It's doing a lovely job of eating up all our garden trimmings too.

The silverbeet and the celery look very manky. I'll keep them to see if they recover when the weather cools as an experiment.

I have new broccoli plants that I put in just before I left. Many of my carrots are gone because my friend and his kids enjoyed pulling them out :) Growing and pulling carrots must be one of the most rewarding past times there is I reckon (I know that sounds absolutely demented for people who haven't done it). I'm reading a book about remarkable trees and the author recommends planting a Magnolia from seed and waiting for 30 years for it to flower as "the excitement is terrific". I know what he means! I've always wanted to plant a walnut from seed for the same thrill.

I have no new carrot or pak choy seedlings. I have flowers and seeds of carrot, parsnip, parsley and lettuce, which I have spread about by chopping them with secateurs and then scattering/ dumping them where I hope they will germinate in due course.

Parsnip flower.

The snake beans are growing up the corn stalks. I have trimmed said corn stalks and tied three of them at a time together at the top to make impromptu hoops. Snake bean grow pretty tall so it won't be quite right, but I like it.

I lost all my pumpkins!!!! Disaster!!! I am off to buy seedlings asap.

We have one big happy zucchini pumpking zukes out and another one coming on, which is in the hot bed and needs more water.

I put beefheart tomatoes in before I left and they are fruiting, but many of them have blossom end rot (flat brown blemishes where the flower dropped off). It's a fungal infection from being too wet - the rain I guess. I've pulled off all affected ones and thrown them to the chooks who are very happy to have their generous godzilla back. I've also got romas in and they seem to be doing well although they need staking.

Some beetroot seedlings have struggled on under the shade of the zucchini. Donna's bunching onions survived well in quite a hot spot - thankyou! My eggplants are fruiting, as are the capsicum. The caps are little green chilli pepper shaped ones: lucky - I bought an assortment, so it's nice to get ones I really like despite randomness. I do like randomness.

The chives are powering on, the basil has gone to seed in disgust. Sage, thyme, oregano, mint and rosemary are all fine. Coriander hates me. Parsley is hiding coyly but still available. The rocket is everywhere beserk and currently in little baby bunches of succulent gourmet-ness - a little zesty from lack of water, but still delicious.

The bush beans have mostly gone to seed but I can cook the whole pod lightly and then squeeze the bean seeds out and throw the pod away which makes an interesting change for eating them.

Our new corn is ready. Yay for corn! More! I will plant more corn asap.

I haven't grown okra because I was going away and you have to pick it very young for it to be good. I took some cassava cuttings from paradise st community garden (they had been pruned off by a mower next to the toilet block) and they have all shot (I just shoved them into some potting mix in a broccoli box). I shall plant them out to shade the vegie garden a bit more. My only surviving pigeon pea is very large now and providing some good shade.

I have volunteers of marigolds, caldendula and cosmos from seeds I scattered round the artichokes which is pleasing. The Buddleia I transplanted to provide some coppiceable shade for the vegie garden has blossomed happily. One of the artichokes died, the other two have re-shot.

There is horrible feral grass everywhere. Godzilla is coming, grass.

I'm very pleased to be back. I missed our garden and fooling about with it. It feels really weird buying vegies from the shops. Some of them look like they're on steroids or made of playdough. I'm sure they're not real.

I'm looking forward to our food connect fruit box tomorrow. And to pavlovas with passionfruit topping. The great thing about making pavlova with all the eggwhites is that you have to make icecream with all the yolks otherwise it's a waste...

I love it that people are finding this website useful and doing things with it/ through it.

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Comment by Scarlett on January 19, 2009 at 10:48
thanks Donna

When I went to Cuba we took the entire back catalogue (1973 - 1993) of both grass roots and earth garden with us to help start a library. I read all of them! I've also read a lot of Jacki French, she's very helpful as well. I think the original rotenone recommendation came from these. It's OK - but it's not benign if you check the MSDS. I also won't use pyrethrins, synethetic or natural - permanent, cumulative nerve damage. Sometimes the organic stuff gets a bit tricky. Interestingly, in Cuba they didn't have chickens. They had guinea fowl. I wonder if they fare better against the mites? Chicken might be more a cooler weather proposition - it's very rare to get a mite outbreak in Sydney and mine never got one in Melbourne. It's every summer here - the pigeons are crawling with them, how to avoid?
Comment by Donna on January 15, 2009 at 15:39
Scarlett, I subscribe to a great magazine which is called Grass Roots. I am sure there must be some advice somewhere in there so will drag out a couple of issues and have a look through in case I see something. Otherwise you could try calling the editor, it is a pretty small 'family' and they might be able to help you or point you in the right direction.

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Meg Miller is the founder and co-editor of Grass Roots magazine; an ethical self sufficiency magazine for alternative lifestyles.
Po Box 117 Seymour, Vic 3661.
Contact 'Australasian Poultry' Ph 03 57924000 for more information on keeping your own chooks and availability of breeds.
Comment by Scarlett on January 15, 2009 at 13:19
DANGER! I checked out the material safety data sheet (MSDS) on rotenone and it's not benign at all. Can't remember why I thought that - one of those inaccurate gardening lore things from books I guess. There is nothing around that will fix the mite problem without hurting the environment and me. Am not very happy about this I must admit. I checked out Frontline too (fiponil), it's even worse... :(
Comment by Scarlett on January 13, 2009 at 9:33
thankyou! i'll do both. i've got to get some seedlings in as well, but seeds usually works better
i should just buy a pumpkin!
yes that's right, i remember about calcium. the big brassicas would have sucked it all out, i'll add some more dolomite - i must have not put enough out
Comment by Donna on January 13, 2009 at 9:08
Hi Scarlett, your garden sounds fantastic - can't believe it survived being abandoned for a month, gives me a bit of hope yet ;) And I hope your chooks feel better soon.
I am pretty sure blossom end rot is caused by calcium deficiency, so maybe give tomatoes, capsicums & eggplants some to keep them going.
The variety in your gardens is just amazing - half the stuff I've never even heard of!
Re pumpkins - If you can wait until 31/01 I have about four varieties of pumpkin seeds that you are welcome to try. Or if you want I can leave them somewhere in the valley or city for you before then?

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