Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

A quick overview of where the dirt is at...

Spuds a plenty in this mix.Staggered harvest.  Enough carrots to feed a horse.Wonderful beetroots. Coriander. Parsley. Tomatoes hither and yon. Zucchini of sorts. Warrigal Greens creeping about...along with Jap pumpkins.

A tipping point no less. After all this time fussing about the overall, I can now can get down and dirty with target vegetables on the basis of 'I know what I like'/'I know what i can grow.'

But --would you believe it! -- I canna grow radishes.

Each year in every way I'm getting better and better ...

Views: 375

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Brisbane Local Food to add comments!

Join Brisbane Local Food

Comment by Dave Riley on September 28, 2015 at 2:55

I know sawtooth: Sawtooth -- or Mexican/Perennial -- Coriander (Eryngium foetidum)  -- it's tough and sharp. The taste may be similar but it's ease of use is much less. 

Nothing more irritating that getting the leaves caught in your throat.

Every time I grow it it dies off after struggling.  So I've been unwilling to try it again. 

I should I guess. I can get the plants at the markets.

Comment by DARREN JAMES on September 27, 2015 at 20:57

Another interesting read Dave ,the mounds have got me interested and last few days have seen some great alternative growing ideas on blf.The wandering jew story method was also great and must admit was  surprised that they not only work but well at that. You can get a plant Dave known as saw tooth coriander and perennial coriander, this will overcome your shortage as they don't die and also taste great,my taste buds opinion only of course.Will see if I can propagate some for you.Glad the brazillian spinach is working out for you

Comment by Rob Collings on September 24, 2015 at 8:55

Like your idea of a mound manual Dave, and I'm enjoying the waffle in the meantime.

Comment by Dave Riley on September 23, 2015 at 10:13

I did a quick impromptu harvest this morning . You always think , 'well I may as well gather something for tea' --target meal (it being a sort of Portuguese week this week because we so loved the coriander soup last night)  Portuguese Chicken and Potatoes-- and you get more than you bargained for.

Variety is all, right?

Zukes, toms, Pontiac spuds (with a ring-in Sebago that popped out of another mound), Italian radishes, peppers and beans...

I think the quality isn't great (says I)  but given this dry time of year, I'm happy with what I've got. Soon I'll get around to obsessing  over certain plants but for now, I prefer to be holistic and focus on diversity.

What you lose on the swings...

The great thing is that I'm inundated with root veg (from harvests earlier in the week) and that is major achievement form this garden that has been so resistive of bulby growth. Nonetheless, spuds like the locale...and I've just begun to harvest my potato crop.

Just so long as I mark out where i buried it! This year I have a good number of old toothbrushes ready to flag where the potatoes die back....

If you prefer to store your taters, you should wait 2-4 weeks after the plants have died back to harvest to toughen them up a bit. When you see that the plants have mostly died back, stop watering altogether to prevent rot or re-sprouting your crop. Since the potatoes are now finished growing there is no longer any need for water. Leaving them in-ground for a couple of weeks extra allows the tubers to develop a thicker, stronger skin, which is needed for safe storage to protect them from rot or disease. If you have a very late crop, you can kick-start the process to harden them off before the plants die back by cutting down the stems and foliage and stop watering.

Comment by Dave Riley on September 22, 2015 at 4:47

While folks must be jack sick of me and my mounds...I guess you can ignore the waffle while I take notes. 

Feel free to turn away now...

I'm hoping to compose a mound manual sometime -- putting together the DIY and the rationale.

I'm planting out an inoculated cover crop in some areas this week -- hoping to fast track some of the processes in the soil.I still have areas of intense sandiness. While these have delivered harvests -- potatoes in the main -- they are organically light on. 

I built them by mining the chook pen...I throw everything at the poultry: weeds, crop residues, kitchen scraps ... My neighbour services the chooks from over the fence too. Feathered pigs they are. Guts. They get layer mash too! So I'm a back end harvester of the chooks' sandbox. But this isn't enough to consolidate loam. You need the fibrous stuff too -- the mulches, the papers and such.

If I get new soil to form and I can plant out heaps of Pigeon Peas the outback is gonna step up to a new level of sustainability. Already the large number of Frangipanis I've planted are girding themselves for Summer growth.

I use a lot of favorite species as ground covers -- fill -- too. Indian Shot Canna,Brazil Spinach,Surinam Spinach, Coriander, Queensland Arrowroot, PigFace and Dog Bane.

I now have enough Pig Face to chop up and bury in the mounds as I build them. I'm hoping that  these succulents will hold moisture in the sand:"This works sort of like water storage crystals and reduces hydrophobia in sandy soils." Around most mounds I've planted PigFace along with the veg --just like sand dunes along the coast. I've found I can even plant my herbs and veg among the PigFace beds because the PigFace isn't root 'weedy'.

I like the Indian Shot Canna (Canna Indica) because it not only is a mulch supplier, but the worms love to hang out in the cool, moist environment  of the canna  roots. So I plant these in the valleys between the mounds and keep dividing up the plants to plant out elsewhere. I'm giving up on Lemon Grass because it really struggles in my sand. LG is worth a couple of mulch harvests per year but that's under sufferance.

But hey! i'm much taken with Dog Bane -- Colues canina. Easily grown from cuttings.It takes off any where I plant it and billows up offering its scent when watered or brushed against.And I adore the flower (left image). Supposedly a dog and especially cat repellent -- AKA the "Piss-off plant" -- my canines seem not to mind it. I like the scent...and I appreciate the plant's ready ground cover attributes. Harvested, chopped up  and left in the sun for a day or so, it won't sprout if I use it later as mulch.

The advantage with the  'spinaches' is that they strike so they get replicated all over the garden. They are shade tolerant and serviceable  both doing soil duty and in the kitchen without rambling all over the place -- like sweet potato does.

On that I used to plant Sweet Potato vines hither and yon but they can get weedy without setting tubers. They are also hard to fossick for and it disturbs the locals hunting for them. So this year I've both restricted sweet potato spread and ignored it to see what sort of harvest I'll get. No special attention. I suspect that my 'soil' has to become heavier for the sweet potato to I'm treating it like a perennial --which, of course, it is. So i thought I'd let it establish its comfort zone , and in the mix underneath, its preferred varieties by dint of Darwinian survival rules.

I also want to target my harvest for my fav -- the Hawaiian or Okinawan Purple (pictured right). That one is set to pair with a little something I've also got buried, the Purple Yam -Dioscorea alata.

This year i've extended my tuber options with more Cassava planted out and I'm going to have another crack at growing Taro. -- although my sandy soil is not Taro friendly.

In the mix already are Sunchokes.  I've planted Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes) and Purple yams  in the mounds but Taro and Cassava between the mounds...and after dividing the Qld arrowroots I have many more of these plants to harvest as a starchy veg.

This year I harvested a very small amount of Oca -- New Zealand Yams --  so i'm going to try to grow these again next year but in the shade to compensate for the plant's temperate preferences. Unfortunately they take a long time to grow...and don't lend themselves to intercropping because they are so hard to find  in the soil.

This year the coriander has been glorious. Now setting seed -- I'm trying to extend the crop by planting in shade. It bemuses me that so many tropical and sub tropical cuisines use this herb -- which easily bolts in hot weather. So I'm tackling the challenge of extending the coriander season. Aside from the leaves, the stems, seeds (either green or dried) and roots are all useful in the kitchen. And it there is one herb that warrants freezing, coriander is it.

And since indulging in Creole, Louisiana and Caribbean cuisine this year's main herbal quest is Thyme.  The region's orchestra is rooted in celery, peppers, tomatoes and thyme. 

Since switching to Celery Leaf (Chinese celery) I'm growing all of these 'staples'...and in the mix you gotta have parsley and/or coriander to hand. Seriously, right there is a menu power house--the beginning of so many dishes.

The pepper/capsicum quest has been my biggest burden these last few years. My favorites are the Cubano or Italian longs 'fryers'  -- as I'm of the persuasion that believes not all peppers are created equal. And boy have I had failures a plenty. Either they get infested or fall over in the sandy soil or simply fail to thrive. So my mission is to grow on from my best efforts by taking the seed. Thus far, the most useful type has been whats' marketed as 'Perennial' Capsicum.

'Perennial' is a tall, hardy, productive, bush capsicum that can live up to 5 years in the tropics. The fruit are 3 cm by 8 cm long and taper to a blunt point, ripening from green to red. It is resistant to wilt and can also be used as rootstock for grafting other capsicum varieties. Days to harvest: 70 

The fruits are very useful in the kitchen...and I'm harvesting more from this plant compared to other varieties. But it is slow to consolidate so don't expect quick results. 

Then there are the Alliums...I'm almost self sufficient in Spring onions (and I use them daily) so almost every mound has these planted on its crescent. I'm getting a skillset for cut-and-come again clumping varieties and related species like Walking Onions...and Rakkyo Onions. 

I won't mention my garlic disasters...bulb set and I don't get on.This in part explains my struggles with root veg -- but this year I am getting a mix of great Turnips and Beetroots (esp the delightful Choggia) . Carrots are doing much better than before --esp the heirloom varieties -- but it is still touch and go stuff. However, I'm in the process of moving the growing of these veg to my mounds (from the flats) in the hope that there will be more in these dirt  piles to encourage the carrots to grow deeper.

Beans -- the Roma pole variety -- aren't thriving as much as I hoped although I'm picking them almost daily and supplying my network with them. 

Among all this lot: 4 varieties of Chicory...I only grow lettuces to give away. While I eat it, I'm also generous to green smoothie friends with my kale.

Coming on big time in the seed boxes: Pigeon pea, Molokheiya or Jute, Samphire is slowly raising itself skywards...Cucamon (Mouse Melon) away for the season...

And since I'm a salsa junkie, I've planted out tomatillos and they are raging on big time. We can only touch wood and hope with the cucumbers (Siberian )...More New Guinea Bean(Lagenaria siceraria) planted out and climbing...

Looking forward to many harvests...

Comment by Dave Riley on September 21, 2015 at 9:24

I'm not sure if they'd work so well on heavier soils.I suspect, though, that the key variable is size and volume as the ruling factor is how far the water will seep from the centrally located watering pots.

But if you are into terracotta pot irrigation -- c'est moi -- the shaped elevation solves a lot of problems. And with a trowel I can create a mound in 20 minutes. 

A key test will be Summer heat in full sun. But then the recipe presumes a mulch stacco...and the cut grass works so well because it meshes like felt and doesn't slide down hill with gravity, while locking in place the sandy loam underneath. 

Would it work atop rock? As long as the rock allowed some seepage and there was the option of interaction with the critters of the dirt below. But i'd build large mounds to accommodate those issues especially as the shale may heat up keenly itself. Maybe lay down some manures first to get a fluid reservoir in play...but not too much such that it turns into an active compost.

Also on the rock issue -- among my many posts on this topic,the Maori collected rocks -- they actually mined them --to add to their mounds in order to raise the soil temperature for Sweet Potato growing so far south. 

And in New Guinea the mounds -- large ones too -- are consciously engineered like compost piles that also serve to break down the vegetive  matter scraped into the piles.  So they are more anaerobically active. Just think: hugelkultur.

My theory is that even though a mound like these would heat up in the sunshine , the terracotta filled vessel in the centre cools it down and theres' an exchange of heat with the water reservoir. You'll find most worms domicile around the clay pots. Which means that it is still cool enough and they don't have to go elsewhere or deeper to get away from the ambient heat. And if you lift up the papers and cardboards at the base: -- Voila: more garden worms!

So it is industry engineered to be worm hospitable.  

The only mind shift required is to overcome the habit of growing stuff on flat earth. Most raised bed systems ignore the sides, whereas in this setup 'the sides' are where it's at -- despite the 30-45 degree slope. You can flatten out on top a bit because mounds have their only geophysical logic.

So I'm trying to grow root veg on an angle (half way up the hill) an experiment. 

Also mounds like this  would not suit  perennials -- at least perennials only -- and it presumes polycultural mixes. While you are sure to get settling and some erosion it's a one season wonder, the roots intertwine in the guts of the mound and give it structure and it is a simple matter of repair by troweling soil back up the hill. 

However, I planted one mound out today with leeks alone as an experiment...

As I suggested , I can harvest the potatoes  by inserting my hand and rooting around despite the other plants growing  on the same mound. And seriously who grows potatoes with all the other plants in the same wee bed? I have potato only mounds...and the zucchini only mound hasn't done so well as the mix and match ones. 

So I think the core issue is root growth -- a lost companion planting art. 

How plants coexist will be ruled, I suspect, by how well their roots get on together in the same mound.

This is the basis of a lot of  bio-intensive approaches which absolutely suit kitchen gardening.

While he doesn't use mounds, I've drawn a lot of inspiration from Jean-Martin Fortier's book  The Market Gardener.

An absolute game changer...

Of course I have far too many mounds but I thought why not do the whole hog? A garden of carbuncles....

Comment by Lissa on September 21, 2015 at 5:52

It's working for you well, that's for sure.

Comment by Rob Collings on September 21, 2015 at 0:18

I like the options and results the mounds are giving you Dave, and I'm tempted to play around with some piles of deco that sit on shale-ish type rock, using the mound theme.

Comment by Dave Riley on September 21, 2015 at 0:01

The whole enterprise is getting scary. As I turn the garden over to mounds there is a new dynamic in play. All the ups and downs. I have big mounds and small mounds. Round conical ones and squarish knolls.  

All planted out higgledy piggledy. intercrop with everything to hand.

Today I was harvesting potatoes UNDER coriander and beans like a surgeon ferreting for cysts via keyhole surgery. Moving between the other plants root systems inside the body of the mound..

Try that on flat ground!

It's like inserting a hand into a chest cavity to feel for the heart beat.

There are so many mounds ...and still more to come! And each has their own character. And as I dig  them with my hand trowel -- create them --I learn to appreciate the spaces in between. I dig down to make valleys and I layer these with scrap paper and cardboard and any cuttings I can get.

Watering by hand is more complicated, of course --  but I've found that I can fill two terracotta pots per watering can. 2.5 litres + 2.5 litres. ..and  I suspect hand watering -- regular and frequent via  a hose -- sustains the hydrostatic activity of the soil thus availing the terracotta pot process. . The irony being that the soil in the  mounds seems wetter than the flats -- despite seeming contrary factors (like elevation, sandiness, exposure to the sun raze, etc) .

And each mound -- like square foot or waffle gardening  -- has focus. So many plants inhabit each defined space. Unlike waffle gardening the 'run off'  runs into the valley trenches at the base of these hills where (in theory) the paper and cardboard and other mulch stuff holds onto some of the moisture before it can percolate away into the sand below.

While the mound settles soon after it is made, the carpet of grass clippings mulch really limits erosion and run off.When the seeds or seedlings take root the shape is given content and  infrastructure.

The first test are how well the  root veges and spring onions I'm growing on these slopes will fair. The second test is the transiting from one season plant out to another on these hills.. I suspect that I may have to harvest everything from a mound before I plant it out again..

Comment by Dave Riley on September 20, 2015 at 23:24

Since I built up the soil atop of the sand I suspect that there's nothing down there to wanted the rooting for. Carrots are all short and stubby.It could be a pH issue too.

Imagine growing these veg on a sand dune...But as I say, the beetroot and turnip does 'OK' . Not great. Spuds fine. Sweet potatoes are a little resistive. Greens do very well... Sunchokes love it.

But each year, each season, the garden changes and lifts its game.First year this year  with a root veg harvest worth the eating...and more to come..Nothing before that at all in way of carrots and such. I thought it was a water  issue but after keeping that up I suspect it is a problem of the loam depth.

When I create the mounds what I'm also doing, I suspect, is scraping up that shallow soil blanket -- by dint of effort and mulching, etc -- I've created , and mounding it up.

But who woulda thought that a garden could not deliver a radish?

If the mounds can --and I have radishes planted on them hills -- I'm on the right track.

Important note about adding photos:

Always add photos using the "From my computer" option, even if you are on a mobile phone or other device.


  • Add Photos
  • View All


  • Add Videos
  • View All


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.)

GrowVetiver is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.

Place your business add here! ($5 per month or $25 for 9 months)

Talk to Andy on 0422 022 961.  You can  Pay on this link

© 2021   Created by Andrew Cumberland.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service