Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Elsewhere they debate these things, but from my subjective POV I'm real glad that I'm an 'annuals' man. Don't get me wrong: I like to eat of the fruits of the trees like any other human. But when it comes to growing my own comestibles I steer clear of perennial plants.

This 'preference' began -- fortunately it now seems -- because I could not get the food trees & shrubs I planted  to grow in my patch. Sterile sandy soil you see.

Aside from selected natives, the only trees that thrive in my outback are mulberry and citrus.

This limitation -- supposedly a handicap -- has nonetheless enabled greater flexibility in what I do plant. 

I don't have to angst over a garden 'plan' or do the design thing , because I can remake my garden anyway I choose and when I choose.

That's the joy of annuals. All I need is a little patience for each 'annual' crop to run its course before I can replace it or remake the patch it grows in.

That makes my garden very malleable. Depending on my imagination and perspective I can have many gardens throughout any one year simply by changing the seeds and seedlings I plant. I can do that because no stuck-in-the-mud perennial will get in my way. And when push comes to shove, I can even choose to grow perennials as annuals.

I look at the dirt I have available and start checking out the seed catalogues -- they're porn for annual gardeners like me.

Oh the thrill...!

 So my garden beds are my oyster, so to speak. I have whole wide world of edible annuals to choose from.

But there's much more to this annual least the way I do it.

When you grow annuals you can do whatever with your own soil. You can reshape it. Turn it over...or not. You can move it about. You get to play in the dirt as it is yours to do with as you please because no 'permanent' plant has got its rooty mitts in it.

Much as I love my own good earth and so keenly offer my labours unto it,that I can 'make garden beds' wherever I choose is so darn liberating.

Anywhere. Anyhow. Anytime.

Constraining the soil by building walls around the beds, or using raised bed devices like corrugated iron,  isn't my way. Initially this was a cost thing -- it took cash to capital invest like that, and I was gardening el cheapo. But as I got into the maintenance thing and fiddled about I learnt that I was gardening with an advantage.

And that advantage is not self evident. Much as I'm keen on raised bed gardening I'm not of the persuasion that you raise you bed 'up' with walls. Of course walls keep the soil in place but I've found that they aren't essential to do this as soil will hold itself in repose at an angle of between 35 and 45 degrees. And where any built wall could be is also where you could be growing plants...

I've been thinking about this phenomenon  when I came upon this snippet of info:

The most specific and oft-repeated analogy from Chad wick was from the early Greeks and their observations: that crops grew well in the river bottom valleys and floodplains, with their alluvial soil deposits. However, crops flourished and grew even more “lushly” at the edge of the valley, where there were “mini landslides” and slightly disturbed, better-aerated soil. This effect was even more pronounced on south-facing slopes. Whether this analogy was literal or apocryphal, it serves as a good image or metaphor for raised bed gardening, and the benefits of microclimate and site selection. -- French Intensive Gardening: A Retrospective

'Better-aerated' soil...

Talking of disturbed soils and landslides isn't part of the perennial scheme of things. And since keenly shifting to mound gardening, I've appreciated the convex exposure to the elements.

  • More space to grow things.
  • Better access to sunshine most of the way around the mound.
  • Variations in micro-climate along and up and down the contour.
  • Better drainage.
  • Easier access and maintenance.
  • Heat variations.
  • Shifting air temps around the mounds.
  • Base of mounds are useful as composting bins: paper, cuttings, leaves, detritus, etc.

It warrants pointing out that growing perennials in small mounds does not suit their sedentary habits. Such contours are even resistive to growing monocultures of annuals.  But, let's say, it's very much a garden's mons pubis...or so I'm thinking.

Of course this isn't proven: just an observation...

But then I reckon the mix of

annuals  + mounds (or raised un-walled beds) + polyculture (mixed vegetable gardening)

is a ménage à trois ...that maybe works for me.

This is the life -- maybe the good life --of annual plants.

1910 postcard celebrating the ménage à trois.

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Comment by Dave Riley on August 9, 2015 at 15:33

A ‘strong perennial vision’ (SPV) is not for me.Perennial crops are not as productive as annual crops, and probably never will be, nor are they as edibly various nor as nutritionally broad.

On a day to day basis annuals are sure to demand more labor -- more husbandry-  than perennials, but the end result is in the menu. And since we are talking here about 'kitchen gardens' and domestic harvests, that's the main game.

While I don't want to get into a false dichotomy --as some of my best friends live for years -- annuals are where my food bowl is at. The alternative seems skewed towards fruits and nuts; is low on starches and promotes some of the least tasty greens.

Comment by Phil on August 9, 2015 at 7:56

If you have the time and willing to put in the effort growing annuals definitely has some advantages over perennials. I can also relate with you there Dave regarding seed 'porn' - growing something new is always a thrill. I prefer to grow both (using large pots to get round the terrible soil) but the great thing about gardening is there is no one way of doing it and the joy for me is working out what works for yourself and being successful in doing it that way. 

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