Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Just back from visiting Christopher's garden. Thanks heaps Chris, I really enjoyed the visit. It was great to check out how you organise things and how your plants grow in different spots. Lovely cup of tea too. I've brought home a lot of seeds to try out - thanks seed savers - and thankyou Donna for the books. I've potted up Christopher's cardamon already and put the ginger straight in - I have just the spot for it as I have been meaning to plant some of my Food Connnect ginger for some time. It was interesting to discover that I don't have galangal after all - I have turmeric (I had planted both and couldn't remember from the pictures on the net which one had come up). So it is my turmeric that is flowering.

I've planted the gingers etc down the side on the lush side of the house. It gets midday sun only (south side) and washing machine outfall, so it's lovely growing conditions for many semi-shade lovers.

Down this side are: three lady finger bananas, a passionfruit, four pawpaws, three pineapples (too shady to flower? maybe), three coffee bushes, turmeric, an avocado tree (which I plan to prune small) and now ginger. I also have lots of ornamentals - mostly house plants which I had carried around in pots for years. I've planted heliconias for cut flowers, and I planted out a taro yesterday as well, although I'll have to keep the washing machine hose on it as taro probably prefers a wetter environment than this would be if it wasn't irrigated.

At the top of the lush area is my macadamia tree - otherwise known as "the potting shed". I've transplanted a bunch of macadamia seedlings to tube stock. I'll share some around once they settle in.

The tank is just here which is convenient, and the plants are in filtered sun all day, so I don't lose them. Some of them tend to be a bit lush and weak but I gradually move them out into more light (called "hardening up") before I transplant them into the garden. Sometimes I just let seedlings sit here and sulk for ages and then plant them out several weeks apart = easy succession planting (although many things will bolt straight away if you do this - it works for silverbeet and the onion family and sometimes lettuce, but usually not the cabbage family unless you are very quick - ie a week or two between plantings out).

I cut some stalks out of the lemongrass bush and made lemon grass "sets" (ie single stalks with roots on the bottom - note you need to remove the leaves so the roots aren't desperately trying to pump water up to them and can instead concentrate on new root growth; just make sure you leave the tip ready to shoot again).

I have planted the sets all around the vegie garden. Lemongrass makes a good root barrier to lawn. Let's see how it goes, I have my fingers crossed.

The garden is coming good with the rain and my watering can attentions. At the moment I can use the hose from my full rainwater tank - the joy! I have investigated a pump. It's on the list.

I have applied fruit fly exclusion bags to the tomatoes. I also set a bait lure for the male fruit flies and there were 15 in it the very next morning! Yoiks. Take that you little yellow flies of annoyance. I will have to become accustomed to checking the bags to see if the fruit is ripe and replacing them if not - sort of fiddly and annoying, but I will try it. I was assuming the bags would be transparent, but there you go.

You can see the bamboo is coming good - it has a new shoot which is encouraging. It was $50, so I'm glad it survived the summer without me (thankyou to my friends who kept an eye on it for me!). The culms will make good garden stakes when mature.

I planted out some cassava - am hoping to shade the sunny bed, it's getting fried. Even the manky shade cloth isn't enough. I should probably just leave it fallow in summer. The cassava will interfere with the clothesline, but I'm considering fixing the clothesline so it can't rotate, and then it won't be a problem.

Whilst I was fussing with lemongrass, my partner Andrew spent the day digging up the driveway with a crow bar.

We are going to plant sweet potato down the middle of the driveway.

There are several reasons for this. Primarily we need more tubers than we're getting from the banana pawpaw circle. Tubers really are a staple food, very important if you're attempting to feed a family from the garden. Secondly, we've been trying to keep the driveway mulched but the grass keeps busting through which annoys me as I am trying very hard to be lawn free (such a waste of time in which I could be gardening properly and lawnmowers are smelly and noisy, not something I actually want to spend time with). Thirdly, I think it will look good. Fourthly, we are trying to preserve the function of the driveway for deliveries etc, so whatever we plant must be drive-over-able. Fifthly, we want to construct a grape arbour down this side of the house (north facing - hence the shadecloth) and whatever we plant must be somewhat shade tolerant as well. So the sweet potatoes seem like the perfect (only?) choice. Next to the fence we have Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) as a ground cover = Arthritis Herb. I highly recommend this herb for anyone who suffers inflammatory/ arthritis type conditions. It really does work: eat three leaves a day.

Our banana pawpaw circle is lovely now. It has become the new home for the worm farms. I just leave the taps open and they drain into the circle. The circle is one metre deep and we fill it constantly with all of the prunings from the garden (old banana stalks etc). It just digests down and the pile never grows (sometimes it shrinks, but never for long before I produce more food for it). I never water the bananas and pawpaws, they feed themselves from the circle. It's a great design, I'm very pleased with it. Very sensible. Here we have just filled it again with new prunings - it was almost at ground level. I try to keep all the suckers except one trimmed off all of the bananas, which is a frequent recurrent task. You can poison them with kero I know, but I choose to get some exercise instead.

I've planted a yam at the back of it. It only grew to be about 5 kg last year. I wonder how big it might be this year?

I will experiment again with yam recipes - I had mixed success last year with my spicy yam balls.

happy gardening people SJP

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Comment by Vanessa Collier on March 12, 2009 at 11:27
Sounds like you have a fantastic garden! Looking forward to the April visit.
Comment by Addy on February 27, 2009 at 18:50
Just had a look at your slideshow, very interesting, thanks! We have a stand of bananas and it's slowly becoming a circle as I keep only one of the 2 suckers each throw out, and tend to keep the one that's on the outside. Inspired by your presentation, I'm going to dig out the middle and put my composting material in there!
Comment by Scarlett on February 24, 2009 at 9:45
sometimes nurseries/ bunnings etc sell gotu kola too - in the herbs section, marketed as "Arthritis Plant"
Comment by Scarlett on February 24, 2009 at 9:43
* hole not whole
Comment by Scarlett on February 24, 2009 at 9:42
Sounds delicious - I wish my family would eat chilli. I have to sneak out and eat samosas at lunchtime at work. Hmm yes, hopefully the ginger will sulk until it's ready. I've chopped all its greenery off. I have tonnes of gotu kola at our place. I'll pot some up for you for April if you like. I'm becoming a small factory of giving this stuff away. Makes sense - arthritis, bad backs and gardening all go together pretty much. It spreads very fast - you might be able to make yours go well if you stop pulling it out - it looked very happy. It gets smaller and yellower as it gets more sun and less water. It like moist semi-shade best. My dad grows his in a pot and stands it in a basin of water.
Our banana paw paw circle is 4-5 metres in diameter (I can't remember). The whole is one metre deep below ground level and there is a berm of soil around the edge of the hole. We planted 5 dwarf banana varieties and interspersed with 6 pawpaws. Then we planted some sweet potato and yam on the berm. There is a powerpoint of how we made the circle on my profile page in the resources section if you're interested. The dwarf banana varieties we used are dwarf ducasse and blue java. They only grow to 3-4 metres. Our lady fingers down the side are much bigger - 5-6 metres as predicted.
Comment by Addy on February 24, 2009 at 6:40
Sweet potato is a great ground cover, and it seems to be able grow almost anywhere! I use the leaves for stirfrys (very young leaves) and for a vege stew - sweet potato tuber and leaves, cabbage, turmeric, coconut milk and fishsauce, add chopped chillies if you like some heat. Yummmm!
Comment by Donna on February 23, 2009 at 9:33
Fantastic reading as always Scarlett. I will be interested to hear about how the sweet potato driveway goes, I may have to follow your example on this one. Am looking forward to having a sticky beak at your garden in April so I can determine the actual size of your banana/ paw paw circle - we have four bananas about 1.5 meters apart in a square have a feeling yours are further apart...
Comment by christopher zane hart on February 22, 2009 at 21:12
forgot to ask about the GOTU KOLA very intrested in it would you know anyone selling it or could i get some of you , I know you pointed some out in my garden but looked for more but fond very litte .
Comment by christopher zane hart on February 22, 2009 at 21:03
Nice too know you enjoyed your visit , thanks for coming. Just a note on the ginger it was not yet fully mature and more suited for use than planting , planting season is spring or when buds apear on the stored rhizome from last year.Although it may sit in the ground untill next year and then sprout it may not .

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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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