Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Where do I start?

I'm into my second year of growing edibles in the backyard (pretty much growing anything really). I started with simple asian greens in styrofoam boxes in the mini-greenhouse and slowly added pots, edging to separate lawn from growing beds, wire for climbers and raised garden beds.

It's been a good learning experience. And a big thank you to the friendly people on this site in helping my knowledge along.

So what I have got going at this time of year? Asian vegetables are our main source of greens so I'm still growing them. With the unseasonal heat in Nov, it's not been easy duplicating previous months' bumper harvests in shallow planting trays. The plants are easily water stressed, with stunted results that are too tough to be enjoyable. I'm switching over to red amaranth as the main crop as these love heat.

The okra are coming along slowly. Last summer they grew amazingly well, in fact too well. From Jan to May, I collected a probable 600 okra from 20 plants. Towards the end of the growing season, inspired by Mythbusters, I build a catapult from a couple of very tall plants using the fruit as ammunition. This year I'm sticking with 10 plants - and no catapult.

Here's a weird looking eggplant. It's an asian eggplant I bought from the Jimboomba markets. Whereas the mini leb is a slow and steady producer,  it's 'feast or famine' with this plant. There'll be nothing for months then lots of fruit. It's more of a novelty so the fruit is a bonus.

On to the beans. Ah beans! The bush beans produced a great first crop - see here. I'm not expecting a repeat. The bushies are all looking rather sad. While the bean fly may have been temporarily beaten, I hadn't accounted for rust and other diseases.

Should I discard these? The older leaves are rather blighty but the new leaves are still green and relatively healthy looking. They look like they're flowering again. The plants are also heavily infested with red spider mites. I can easily get rid of these but is it worth doing so?
Apart from the odd 'good' bean, the majority are curly and deformed. I had a theory that it was caused by heat and water stress so with the recent rain we've had, I'll keep an eye on the new pods. The latest generation of climbers are starting to flower.

They always start off healthy with lush growth (albeit somewhat yellowish). Can anyone enlighten me as to whether beans will produce more than one decent crop in Brisbane? My experience so far indicates a drastic decline in quality and quantity in subsequent harvests. This applies to all beans I've grown, with the exception of the snakies.

Speaking of snake beans, they needed a bit of heat to get going (and didn't we get plenty in Nov). We'll be harvesting plenty of these over the warmer months.

I planted both brown and black snake beans this season. The brown snake bean has noticeably slower growth - mine are yet to flower. It's also said to be poorer to its darker cousin in the culinary arena so this might be the only season I grow them.

Following modest success with last year's jicama experiment, this season's plantings are being grown in sand w/o mulch. Hopefully this will prevent the tubers from rotting. Thankfully jicama don't require much in the way of care. 

It's the ol' good news, bad news story with the paw paws. Trees have put on a growth spurt since coming out of hibernation, there are some fruits. But the flowers keep falling off *grrrrrr*! I've given them compost, manure, potassium, seasol, powerfeed ... am out of ideas. Elaine once said you can't do much about that. They'll stick when they stick.

This entry's getting a bit long... right, time to move along quick smart. On to the melons.

Rockmelon seem to produce more fruit than honeydew. Honeydew fruit are more susceptible to deformation and rot, possibly caused by fruit fly. I need to do more reading on improving the yield and size. On the plus side, I harvested the first golden honeydew melon yesterday. It was only small but importantly it was sweet - see here. Now I'm waiting for the rockies to slip off the vine (Tip: they grow quicker if you don't watch them :D).

Size is slowly improving.

The winter melons are massive now. Their vines are an inch thick in some places and still expanding. I'm glad I gave them a trellis to climb up. Very few female flowers are produced so I've been hand pollinating those. The bees are still swarming around the sweet melons but seem to ignore the winter melon blossoms. Hand pollination is working nicely for the time being.

BTW, I had to use a ladder to take this photo. :)  You can see part of it in the next photo. The greens are sugarloaf cabbage. I find netting a must for leafy greens, especially in the warmer months. Even so, the odd caterpillar still finds a way in, but thankfully to date it has kept out the cabbage moth scourge.

Does anyone know if the outer leaves are good for anything apart from compost or decoration? 

Apart from what you've read, I'm waiting for some corn to germinate and the last harvest of daikon for the year.

Well, that's it. I don't have a great variety in my backyard. I tend to grow only what we eat, so haven't been particularly adventurous in seeking new frontiers. We probably don't eat a lot of vegies because for the past year the garden has been producing a surplus.

Thanks for reading. Hope I didn't bore you to death. :)

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Comment by Joseph on December 30, 2011 at 18:06

It's the same here. I have/had beans growing in manure, garden soil, potting mix and they all ended up curling. But I only started growing beans from mid-Oct and the first batch or two were straight. Since then, even the new beans are curly.

Elaine, do your beans curl during the cooler months?

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on December 27, 2011 at 21:02

My beans are at least 3 different varieties. Some volunteers look more like Blue Lakes than anything else then there's Joe's Beans and Jim's Beans both of which have some curly ones and some straight ones. The 'Blue Lakes' are at the back, the others are in the front so the soil is different - one's an inground garden, the others are in raised beds. Apart from their all being Beans and living at my address, there's nothing in common that I can think of. Unless it's global warming, of course ;-).

Comment by Lissa on December 27, 2011 at 17:17


Many wrong things happen in my life Joseph, lack of melon would be the least of them ;)

Comment by Joseph on December 27, 2011 at 16:49

Lissa, got my fingers crossed for you. It'd be wrong if you don't get to eat one melon this season.

Comment by Joseph on December 27, 2011 at 16:45

Same here Elaine, both curly and straight. The first few beans are straight-ish then the rest are curly with varying degrees of rough skin with the odd straight one. I have not been able to find a reasonable answer online. I've planted some purple kings. Maybe these won't be affected by the curly syndrome. I'm glad I'm not selling beans cause I'll be broke by now.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on December 27, 2011 at 16:33

My climbing Beans have both straight and curly pods. Weird. I haven't gone around with the trace elements yet but seeing both kinds on the one plant has me bamboozled (along with the mushy melons).

The thing about leaves and removing them is that leaves are the plant's solar panels. Plants are solar-powered chemical factories, the amount of leaves needed to mature fruit is huge (whatever that may mean in numbers). I have found the hard way that removing too many leaves ends up with so few fruits that growing the plant not worthwhile. Unless the leaves are dead, leaving even tatty leaves helps the plant to make the fruit you have grown it for.

Comment by Lissa on December 27, 2011 at 16:01

Will look forward to that visit :)

There's one melon growing that I've found. About half grown by the looks. Amazing that one can poke around amongst the vegetation and and see no sign of them until they're sizable.

Comment by Joseph on December 27, 2011 at 13:22

Will organise a garden meet here in Feb.

Comment by Joseph on December 27, 2011 at 13:21

Thanks Lissa.

With the rain we've had, my pole/climber beans are still curly so I may have to look at going down the boron path.

Not sure what effect losing those leaves will have on the cukes. I know with rockmelons and honeydew, sugar is created in the leaves so leaf loss reduces the brix in the fruit.

Do you have any more melons growing on the vines? I collected two more rockies this morning. I saw a video on YouTube that wrapping the fruit in cloth improves its quality and prevents sunburn. I'll have to try that on a couple that are lying on concrete - it's probably too late now to prevent cooked melons.

Comment by Lissa on December 26, 2011 at 8:42

PS Love your set up for growing summer greens. When are we going to get a closer look at your garden?? ;)

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