Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Time to start a new diary for the hot months. Really must read back through last summers blog - which is the whole point of having the diary!

Should have taken this pic just a moment before as now the sun is up and shining in the lense. Never mind - it's just to give an impression of what is happening with the garden at the beginning of the new season.

Now also wished I HAD cut the grass yesterday instead of hiding out in my air-conditioned house lol.

Things that are happening in the garden:

Below the Carambola is flowering profusely. Pretty little pink flowers. I just hope this means a crop of fruit after a couple of lean years.

Below - The Soursop (tropical relative of Custard Apple) is also blooming profusely. Again, hoping for some fruit after a couple of lean years. Interesting how the flower grow out of the bark.

There is quite a bit of aphid activity on some of the flowers, not all. I squash them with my fingers when I see them.

Below - The Custard Apple, also covered in flowers. Fingers crossed for a good crop. All have loved the recent rains.

Below - The Ceylon Hill Gooseberry also blooms at this time of the year. Yet to have any fruit from this bush, but the amount of flowers gives me hope this season. This also grow easily from cutting so have a couple of small bushes dotted around the yard.

I have just fertilised this plant with some 5 in 1 and it has benefited from the recent rains.

Below - The compost pile (stuff just gets thrown there as I cut back, so basically a "cold" compost pile in todays terms) with all sorts of goodies self sowing including the Mekong Red Amaranth, Rocket galore (to the right), Mustard (on the left of the Amaranth), marigolds, toms, Egyptian Spinach.

Below - The Kangkong has a new home and shadier location. I have put more seed in the pot, to keep the one seedling I did manage to raise, company.

Below - Still lots of flowers in the garden. The Seduction is such a hardy rose, always giving plentiful flowers despite it's crappy spot in the garden.

Below - Josephs Winter Melon seed have taken off. In the back of my head is his warnings of the space they eventually take up...but hey, we'll cope. So long as I get some fruit I can put up with another triffid plant.

Below - Some fun and games with the little self watering seed tray.

Took the top off as it was too hot underneath - I just hope it hasn't damaged this lot of seed. Some Jicama have come up all by themselves around the fenceline but I like these so much I have more seed planted here.

Some French Purple Artichoke and Cherokee Wax Bush Bean from Succeed Heirloom Seed. And of course some Baby Bok Choy from Joseph. I have broadcast these around the yard in hopeful spots as well as I had so many seed needing to be used up.

Below - Two whole fruit developing on the Persimmon :(

During the recent visit to Heinz's persimmon farm he mentioned they grow fruit on second year wood. He was so busy with the group I didn't get the chance to ask more about this so I must check out what this actually means as I have such woeful success with this little tree....which admittedly is stuck between two bigger trees and a bit shaded.

NOTE: 22.12.12 Found one of these fruit lying on the ground this morning :( with chew marks out of it.

Below - Already saving seed from James' beans. Hunted through the plants yesterday and found a huge number of pods gone to seed. Hopefully with these removed the plants will produce more young fruit for me to eat.

Below - Shady spot between the beds :) The dogs like to join me here so we can contemplate the world and pretend we're in our own jungle.

Below - Some of the cucumbers coming on. Stupidly forgot to label which these were - I have a few different types growing. Pretty sure they are Spacemaster.

Below - Because I throw all the compost in the beds, all sorts of things come up.

Had to remove all the cherry tom plants as they take over the world and they're a bit acid for me (have a new non-acid version now growing), but left some of the Mekong Red Amanranth and Eqyptian Spinach to grow amongst the carrots and beans.

Below - The Listada di Gandia are cropping again despite all the Flea Beetle damage. I squash / flick these little sods off daily but they still get a lot of munching time in.

Will cut the two remaining plants back a bit once this crop is ready to come off. Plan on making an eggplant dip with most of them for next weekends Christmas get together.

Below - Have two new hobbies thanks to Andrew C :)

Liqueur making - bottle of vodka, plums, sugar and spices. Quite delish but horrendously espensive to make with store bought vodka. Owning a Still will have to wait until I am more financial. Space to keep it could also be a problem in my little house.

NOTE: 22.12.12 Yum, all gone! Missing it already but still have the fruit to eat.
...and cheese making with the help of the basic Mad Millie kit. Watched a demo yesterday at the Brewers Choice at Kedron and was inspired. Only hope I can turn that feeling into real cheese lol.


CHEESE MAKING - check out this common sense website Little Green Cheese.

Early starts with work with MAT so I'm home in time today to try making my first cheese, Feta.

Manage to overheat the milk while I'm reading the instruction book so I had wait for it to cool back to 37C before I could start the process. Wasn't too difficult just a bit messy due to my lack of expertise.

I used about 3lt of Woolworths milk costing $3 and 1lt of Eden Hope milk I had needing to be used up due to my recurrent lactose intolerance and going back to lactose free milk.

Below is the mix processing (don't know the techinical terms) into curds and whey and sitting in it's 37C water bath along with the shiny thermometer. The glass bowl is just to hold it all down so it doesn't tip over.

Below - The curds have been cut and stirred gently every 5mins for half an hour, then herbs added (parsley and chives). I'm just using the water bath to steralise the utensils.

Below - Curds and whey poured into moulds.

Below - Ended up with over 2lt of whey. I have learned at last weekends workshop that it is possible to make....things (?) with this also, but I have no idea what or how to go about it. Will drink it chilled. The dogs appreciated a bowl full as well.

Below - The remaining bananas from the bunch have all ripened at once, of course! I dried some a couple of days back and have been eating this sweet treat for dessert - all gone.

Below- The end result about 8.5hrs later - delicious and sweet.

I now shut the noisy dehydrator in the laundry, close the door and turn on the TV so that it's just a background hum. The poor neighbours get to listen to it through the open laundry door for hours on end.

Below - Almost all the fruit from the Listada di Gandia. Cut them off a little early due to the incredibly hot day we had yesterday and so as to not stress my plants.

I have two new self sown plants come up in the raised beds and a bought one in the front yard.

These are destined to be roasted and turned into dip for the get together on Sunday.


Wonderful weather today, cool breeze and a little overcast. Just lovely.

I've got the day off so bit the bullet with the James' beans (below) and have cut them down as I want to try...Joe's Beans!

I've left the cut plant insitu and thrown some rock mineral and Organic Xtra around. Will top off with some 5 in 1 and a bit of garden soil to plant the seeds in.

Below - The Ceylon Hill Gooseberry flowers are sooo beautiful. Almost like apple or cherry  blossom (neither of which I have seen in reality so just guessing). Fruit would just complete the pleasure.

The Jackfruit seedling has taken off with new growth with the hot weather. Would love to think I could eventually get some fruit from this in a pot, but not likely.

Below - The reliable old Pawpaw is producing again.

Below - Some used potting mix and a few Bok Choi seed thrown around. Rocket is self sown. Looks like cucumber coming up which is a bit of a puzzle lol.

Below - Wampi time again. This little bunch of fruit is at eye level so I may even get some for myself this year if the bats stay up high.

Below - The patch around the compost pile is proving most prolific with self sown Mekong Red Amaranth, rocket and mustard.

Below - I won't get any fruit, but at least it's not sulking after it's recent cut back to remove all the rust infected leaves and excess height.


Have just done some research on the Aibika Abelmoschus manihot - so rather than waste it, will post it here.

These are the two I currently have growing. Both good eating greens.

I'm also growing a red variety of hibiscus but have no idea what it's name is. Very nice to eat with a unique tangy, lemony flavour.

NOTE: Response below from Colleen Keena at

Your red plant is Hibiscus acetosella. 'Tangy' is a good description for the taste of the leaves (I usually say 'tart'). The young leaves look good in salads. Mature plants have a bloom that is almost maroon. I've put  links for you. It would be good to have some of the named forms that are available overseas but I've only ever seen the species available in Australia. Your image looks like the species to me. I find they usually only live a year or so but seedlings always seem to come up around the parent, even in pots in the shadehouse.

Also realised I have grapes!! growing. These are on a plant grown from cutting and given to me by a client shortly before he passed away many years ago. I have made the odd effort to kill it off as it's never been productive. Just goes to show...

I have abolutely no idea when I'm supposed to pick them or what colour they are meant to be when ripe. Oh well. Just hope I get something before the bats do.


Very muggy morning - big storms are forecast for later in the day. A sweaty perusal of the garden has found some interesting things going on though.

Below - Beautiful flower of the self sown pumpkin, all are male at the moment. NOTE: 22.12.12 Found a nice female flower this morning and have fertilised.

Below - Similar flower (male also) on the Winter Melon. My little native bees seem to like them which gives me hope for pollination and fruit.

NOTE: 22.12.12 First female flower found this morning and hopefully fertilised. Joseph tells me it doesn't always work :(

Below - Damage in the corn bed. Looks like something landed in the middle and rolled around! Could have been Hugo - more likely to be the strong wind we had the other day.

Below - The tops are still producing flowers, with pollen, and silk so I have hope of good cobs.

Below - The Cardoon flowers are going through their cycle. Looks like another plant might also be bolting.

Below - Newly planted Asparagus plants from my own seed. The little sweet potato is a plant bought at some fair I attended. Thought they had all died off, but a bit of rain and there are multiple new plants coming up. From memory, these are a non-travelling form of sweet potato. Gotu Kola grows wild in this part of the garden.

Below - Spacemaster cuc developing. Quite fascinating really with all the little spikes that have to be wiped off when picking the developed fruit.

Below - Prof Mary Sheehan cuc from seed given to me by the Caboolture Seed Savers.

Below - Bought a box of gorgeous cherries for $4 from the Lawnton Country Mkts yesterday. Spent about two juicy hours last night pitting them all by hand and have hopefully made a mess of good cherry jam this morning using Jamsetta and a bag of sugar.

Below - The end result. As usual I have made a horrendous mess in the kitchen lol.


Nice overcast day and a bit cooler than it has been. Hoping for a good storm with plenty of rain as there is only 2000lt left in the tank.

This is proving to be a good productive summer in the garden. Due to......what?? Rains? Me being home more to water in the AM? Buying more Granite and Basalt and throwing them around? Using the Life Force Total Cover (didn't use this all over though)?

The cucumbers are going wild - Spacemaster in the middle bed, Prof Mary Sheehan and Muncher in Bed 3.

Golden Bantam corn looks like producing some good cobs despite something (the wind?) knocking them all shew-whiff. I picked one this morning just for the hell of it and while not fully ripe, it's looking good.

The corn has quite a few large, black/brown very hairy caterpillars gnawing away on flowers and silk. I've tried to identify these on the net without success but they could be these. I threw them all onto a patch of barren mulched ground but when I went back to find one for identification purposes they had all disappeared. Quick little buggers. At least they can't get back on my corn.

NOTE: 23.12.12 Found some more this morning on the corn and brought them in for identification. More than likely these:

Spilosoma canescens larva

... Spilosoma canescens or Light Erimine Moth. I never see them around so think they may come by at night. I never see any adolescent caterpillars - just the big jobs.

Spilosoma canescens

Also have small green caterpillar on the cucumber chewing the leaves but not the fruit.

Ericeia subsignata

....belongs to the Ericeia subsignata moth.

Ericeia subsignata

Now to feed them all to Chookie next door ;)

The self sown pumpkin is already producing female flowers without taking over the world. Fertilised one this morning.

The Winter Melon has just produced it's first female flower :) complete with the cutest little fluffy white fruit about 3cm long. Hopefully it's now fertilised.

Carrots are doing fine despite being inundated with cucumber and pumpkin plant.

Poor eggplant have all been badly affected by the Flea Beetle - every single plant, old and new, no matter where they are in the garden. I've cut off developing fruit and cut back some plants due to the damage. This is despite squashing every one I can find each day.

I've been eating salads made from the abundance of Rocket, Amaranth (red and green), Okra and Egyptian Spinach the last few days.

Below - Here's some of todays crop. The little cuc was growing up between the wires and choking itself. Snake beans are cropping heaps for me despite there only being a few plants in there mixed up with all the other growth.

Made cheese again today - Feta, because I enjoyed the first lot so much and know it will get used.

Knowing what was to come was a big help and I felt more organised this time. Simplified a couple of the water bath. Used a thick wad of towel over the top to keep the temperature at an even 37C and it worked well.

Drained the curds and whey in a large colander over a big saucepan. A lot let messy than using the tiny little draining tray provided in the kit.

I've added some parsley and mustard green to the cheese itself. Once it has sat for the required time in it's saline/vinegar solution I will store in a mix of some Rice Bran oil which is currently marinating home grown garlic, chopped rocket, parsley and mustard greens, to be topped with good Olive oil.


Boxing Day and it's beautiful :) Cool and drizzling.

Below - Main cucumber bed is going great guns. Prof. Mary Sheehan on the near side and Muncher on the far side. Red Okra and Winter Melon also in the bed.

Below - Dear little Winter Melon fruit developing.

Below - Here's the same fruit three days later! Joseph did warn me.
Below - The Soursop is still covered in flowers....

....some developing little fruit.

Below - Very happy with finally suceeding with Water chestnut after many failed attempts. Lettuce seedlings growing in the pot love the constant moistness.

Below - The $1 Tamarillo tree was severely stressed and dying for some reason, probably heat, so I've cut it back.

Below - This one Dragonfruit has grown well. High hopes for fruit eventually.


Almost the end of the year.

I try to spend some time each morning just sitting on the rock perch near my native bee hive, just absorbing the life around me and listening to the buzz of the Blue Banded Bees working on the salvia that they love so much. They nest in the cracks between the bricks in the carport and if I'm lucky I catch them coming and going. Wish I could see inside!

Very hot and steamy out there this morning after a bit of rain yesterday.

I like to watch the little carbonaria bees come and go in a cloud of activity, many with tiny yellow or white pollen sacs on their hind legs, others with cadaghi seeds stuck there giving them grief. Each morning I have to flick the cadaghi seed from the tube entrances where the bees have managed to remove them and left them sticking.

There is so much life going on out there against a background of cicada song. The rustle of the skinks hiding from me as I walk by, ultra thin spider webs stick to my face, the pretty little irridescent black rattle ants visiting the salvia flowers, minute ants walking fast in line along the cement edging (I have to make sure I don't put my feet in the middle of it all and disrupt them) and big ants in seemingly random roaming looking for food. Birds calling - doves, peewee, crows, willie wagtail, Indian minor and more I don't recognise. A few pest insects that I spend a few minutes hunting down and squashing or throwing over the fence to Chookie next door.

Sweet :)

Cropped the Golden Bantam corn before heading off to work the other day and it wasn't a bad haul for about a 1.5m square planting. I didn't find these plants cropped any more than other varieties I have tried - they had secondary cobs on some stalks but they weren't what I would call big.

I've only eaten the one cob so far (the one peeled in the bucket) and to honest it was a bit tough and tasteless. Will have to give another one a go tonight.


Almost the end!

Shucked the corn and it was a bit of a disappointment. The cobs silked up at different rates and the flowers came staggered and it shows in the cobs. Some should have been picked earlier and some are still not mature. A bit of caterpillar damage as well.

I have another packet of seed for Golden Bantam from another seed company. I think I'll replant.

Below - My salad corner at the compost pile. Green Amaranth on the left, Red on the right, mustard greens and Rocket below.

Below - A nice way to finish up the year. The Custard Apple is covered in fruit.

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Comment by Florence on December 14, 2012 at 16:25

Much cheaper than buying potash, and give structure to the soil too :)

Comment by Florence on December 14, 2012 at 16:24

Thanks ~  I'll buy a bag of DECO and a bag of crusher dust next time when I visit the landscapers ~  I just finished my last bag of DECO :)

Comment by Lissa on December 10, 2012 at 15:34

That could be right. I should remember! my ex was a hardware /landscape supply manager lol.

Comment by Florence on December 10, 2012 at 14:01

Thanks for clarifying LIssa, I am guessing the bluey stuff the landscapers calls them crusher dust? 

Comment by Lissa on December 9, 2012 at 5:13

I always have to stop and think about the Granite and Basalt.

Basalt is the bluey coloured stuff and provides calcium and iron. Granite (also known as Deco or "decomposed granite") is brown and provides potassium.

I was lazy this last year and haven't bothered throwing so much of both around. The garden definately wasn't as good without it. The current lot of plants are much healthier.

Comment by Florence on December 8, 2012 at 22:42

Good blog as always Lissa ~ Hope you'll get a better crop this year from your fruit trees ~ I've tried a soursop from a colleague and I thought it was nice, and Albert liked it more than custard apple, so I got a seedling from her.  I survived the neglected winter, and it appears to be growing well after repot it ~ hope it will bear fruits for me in a couple of years time :)  

Are your granite and basalt from DECO? Or two different products from the landscapers?  I've adding DECO to my potting mix.... 

Comment by Lissa on December 7, 2012 at 17:12

Thank you Vanessa :) I'm able to water daily at the moment and it makes a big difference.

It's always strange and interesting (and often annoying) how each garden has it's own particular pest problems. My eggplant are overrun by Flea Beetle at the moment no matter what I do - they turn the leaves into lacework. I had to cut all the fruit off as the plant didn't have enough leaf left to support them in the heat.

Maybe the Listada di Gandia have too tough a skin for fruit fly. Might be worth a go. Which type are you growing? I haven't had a lot of luck with the black version which I really enjoy. Must try again.

Comment by Vanessa Collier on December 7, 2012 at 14:32

Your beds look wonderful Lissa.  I'm jealous of your eggplant crop as all mine seem to be getting stung by fruit fly.  I've begun using exclusion bags so hopefully we'll get some fruit to harvest point soon.

Comment by Lissa on December 2, 2012 at 15:42

My persimmons fell off last year too Jane. There were heaps of them. Got me quite excited until they nearly all fell off.

Will gladly post some of the James' bean seed. Are you happy with last years (which should be quite viable and are what I planted the current batch from) or wait for this years to dry out a bit?

I don't do plant rotation in the raised bed. Don't need to as I just add another layer of various goodies to the top once a crop has finished, including all the plant material left over from that crop. I really do find the rock minerals make a difference. I got a bit lazy this last year about going down to the landscape shop for my $2 buckets of Granite and Basalt and the crops weren't as good. I see stronger plants when I use them.

Elaine maybe you could give me a 5min lesson when you come over Sunday. I'm not sure how I can keep the fruiting spur when I'm also cutting back.

Comment by Jane on December 2, 2012 at 11:57

Lovely Pics Lissa, your beds are very productive & all look so healthy. I seem to get many wilts & other problems, think it could be because I have gardened the same spot for 30 years, after awhile the rotation does not seem to do any good. We ahve in the past had lots of Persimmons from our tree but both this year & last plenty set but then they all fell off, I was really hopeful this year as they had got bigger but last week found the lot on the ground, could not see any reason for it, must do a bit of research. I'd love to try your James bean if I could have some seeds sometime please, will email you my address.

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