Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

In the past I believed a good gardener was amongst other things, a tidy gardener. Removing all dead material from view and either composting it or tossing it.

I've also always believed that a healthy garden is one full of wildlife - bit hard for them to achieve when I've been tossing out their natural habitats!

Since I've been focusing on growing organic edibles a lot of my old "beliefs" have been challenged by the things I've read or been told. I attend as many workshops as I can, I read as much as I can and I ask a lot of questions of people more knowledgable than myself. Some "experts" will tell you, in all good faith, that their way is the only way but this just isn't true. There are many, many ways of achieving a healthy productive garden. And I don't believe in expending much effort to achieve that either. KISS is a great motto. Esther Deans no dig approach was my first eye opener many years ago.

Deadwood habitats are something I became aware of only recently but now realise their importance is immense in creating a healthy environment for all the creatures, fungi etc that would like to live in my little backyard if only I will let them.

Deadwood creates a home and refuge for animals and insects and retains the nutrients within my garden, for my garden.  The insects provide food for predators which come and work for free in my garden or they go out and pollinate my plants for me.

Weeds are another thing I've fought over the years, but I'm learning that they also tell a story about the health of the land and are useful themselves in so many ways - sometimes edible or just as weed tea!

I still like my garden a little controlled but I'm learning to let go :)

Here's some of the habitats I have in my garden, some relatively are short lived like the piles of grass and cold compost which will eventually go into my beds. Others are for the long haul - breaking down slowly over years.

Below - Deadwood under the custard apple tree.

Below - Banana trunk.

Below - Grass pile which will eventually go into the bed, but in the meantime is providing a home for lizards and beetle grubs.

Below - The almost constant cold compost pile which provides a home for legless lizards, regular lizards, ants, beetle larvae and lord knows what else. This pile rustles every time I walk near it!


Finally! got around to creating some simple Insect Hotels.

Bunnings cut up the PVC for me, bless them (maybe I paid for the service - I don't know); some curled bark I found on the ground, some bamboo which was too expensive but the best thing available and already cut to size. I've also added some plastic straws to fill in the little gaps and provide homes for smaller insects.

I've hung 5 of these around the yard in what I hope is tempting places for the solitary bees, wasps and anything else that might want to move in.

Have a look at this wonderful site for insect abodes.

One of the pics to tempt you :)

insect habitat


Little people are moving into the insect hotels. No native bees that I can see, but other insects are using them.

Below: A beautiful mud dauber has used two of the tubes and her larvae is cohabiting with Rattle Ants and another smaller variety of ant. I watched her coming and going with mud. The little ants seemed to be attracted to where she was working but neither bothered the other.

Below: A second hotel shows a mud sealed tube on the left, plus Rattle Ant occupancy. The Rattle Ants use their larvae to spin the silk that seals the entrances.

Below: A third showing Rattle Ant occupancy.


Very exciting - I've found one of the Leaf Cutter Bee nests. Not sure if the other bamboo tubes have nests in them also, bit hard to tell if it's natural bits of bamboo or nests of some sort.


Some links Elaine found:

ABC Bee Hotel video

Karen Retra's blog

Plus some links from an earlier posting I did on insect hotels:

How to make nests for R eed bees – Bundles

How to make nests for black r esin bees – drilled wood blocks.

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Comment by Lissa on January 25, 2013 at 6:19

I've been here 12yrs this year and the native bees have only been making this their home in greater numbers in the last year, maybe two.

Food source is hugely important. Maybe I just didn't have what they wanted earlier on. After all, the brick cavities to make homes in have always been here. I've gradually been growing more and more red salvia which seems to be their favourite thing.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on January 24, 2013 at 17:39

I'd love to know what native bees are looking for, too. I wish some would move in here - I mean the stingless social ones. Pleased to say I do have a number of the solitary species living and working here.

Comment by Lissa on January 24, 2013 at 15:12

We all get our inspiration from sharing  ideas :)  I've added drinking straws to fill in the little cavities in the PVC ones - make good homes for the littler wasps and bees. Now I check them daily to see if something is moving in lol.

Do you think you can make something big and impressive with your junk Tracy? Did you see the link above with all the beautiful pics?

Didn't get to talk to you much (none!) the other day Tracy but it was good to see you and Lexy. She enjoyed the pool on that horrible hot day.

Comment by Tracy Arnold on January 24, 2013 at 10:04

thanks for the inspiration!  I finally have a use for all the old junk lying around my yard. Will post pics of what Lexy and I make with it all.  

I wonder what I'd need to encourage native bees to make a hive in my yard?  There's lots around, I'm sure some would like to move in.  Must google it... 

Comment by Lissa on January 21, 2013 at 5:15

My kids suspicion goes back years to the time I made the infamous "Pink Chicken". Don't ask what made it pink, I can't remember, but the kids have never forgotten and unless I cook something traditional like a roast they look at my meals with suspicion (not my son - he's omniverous).

My nepew was cooking at the BBQ - he just grunted when I showed him the Betel parcels - and they stayed sitting where I left them. I took them home cooked and ate them myself and they were good!

When I was a kid I can remember my darling aunt Patsy enticing me to try some smoked oysters and stuffed olives. They are still two of my favourite things in the world. Gran ran a corner store and I think they had access to various foods that other people couldn't afford or were suspicious of in those days. My Dad taught us about wild foods to a certain degree, but there's still things he won't come at himself.

I will also try things once. As I've mentioned now and then, it ended up with me in hospital on one occasion about to have my stomach pumped. But I still do it.

Back to the topic of habitats - I went to Tim Heard's native bee workshop yesterday and it was fantastic! of course. But he had some PVC and stick habitats there which looked simple enough to me so I bought a few things at the hardware shop on the way home. I'll see if I can put one together today and take a pic.

Comment by Liz Pardede on January 20, 2013 at 16:15

I have that philosophy too - i'll try most things once... I have just spent the afternoon with a girlfriend and we decided we would get together once a month and cook and eat! We would do all the foods our families wouldnt try and try and include cheese in it - we are both cheese addicts. So that will enable my adventurous side to be satisfied while not making my family want to replace me :)

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on January 20, 2013 at 13:27

Adventurous dining comes with years or it did for me. My family while very conventional for their days, did have a European background and were fond of such delicacies, weird for the times e.g. Olives although Olive Oil back in the '50s was only found in Chemist shops for dousing babies. Met a Chinese doctor whose philosophy in life was "try anything once" followed by a lecturer who said "what have you got to lose?" I do my best to follow both ideas but then I have a few years under my belt ;-).

Comment by Liz Pardede on January 20, 2013 at 12:44

Sorry - just read the next post... I do get that... my ideas of gardening are continually scoffed at in our house, yet I persevere... at least i have found a gardening community here... my family are not terribly adventurous either... although my 11 year old daughter ate a chilli with her dinner last night... go girl! 

Comment by Liz Pardede on January 20, 2013 at 12:39

Why is that Lissa?

Comment by Lissa on January 19, 2013 at 21:17

Getting used to eating the plants has been the biggy for me. Arrowroot, Aibika and all the other unusual but perfectly good eating things I've been introduced to in the last two years. Some nights I just can't do it. I must have spud, carrots and beans lol.

My own family aren't adventurous when it comes to food - hence the Betel Leaf parcels left uncooked and uneaten at the BBQ. My kids are quite suspicious about what is in the food I cook.

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