A Gardening Cycle Is Complete

The most important thing about our garden receiving 594mm of rain this month, (the 50 year December average is 123.2mm), is that I have now lived here and successfully grown food through both extreme, prolonged drought and prolonged, saturating rain, a period covering seven years.

December brought no flooding in this property. Some stormwater escaped our rain-harvesting landscape, a few tadpoles got washed under the house, the zucchini suffered from mildew (and blossom end rot), but otherwise everything is happy.

Warm climate spices, like ginger and turmeric, are flourishing, along with corn, Chinese spinach (Amaranthus spp.), huauzontle, (Chenopodium berlandieri), yam, cocoyam and banana. Bless those bananas, the storm damaged bunch kept all our neighbours stocked. Hakim, a Javanese guest, made banana fritters, extending our favourite uses for this fruit.

All my compost heaps have rotted significantly. They now need liming to counteract acidity caused by sustained release of humic acid. I planted some Queensland Blue pumpkin seedlings in the biggest heap to see what they can achieve as it decays. The range of ornamental lettuce I planted are all very happy, although as they mature in this warmth they go straight to seed. These lettuce blended well planted with Coleus in the Boomerang Bed in the lawn.

A drizzly winter caused the flowers of avocado, mango and custard apple to become infected with anthracnose disease across Queensland. Consequent poor fruit set now means there’s few fallen unwanted fruit rotting in car parks and suburbs. That’s good for the nose. Caterpillar and grasshopper attack has temporarily slowed. The strawberry plants growing in styrofoam boxes are very happy. Although native snails have ruined the strawberry fruit, plants are producing runners.

Fungi, both visible and unseen, are attacking the bases of succulent and Mediterranean plants, like rosemary. So pull back leafy or woody mulches, lawn clippings especially, away from the base of frangipani, pomegranate, and surface-feeding citrus. That will help improve air circulation. Put lawn clippings around taro and cocoyam, mine cope well with this as a mulch. Chilli and eggplant are producing fruit in rapid succession, but don’t leave fruit unpicked one day after they have matured, as fruit touching warm, damp soil are rotting.

I’ve emptied the two saucers used for my potted sundew and Marsilea (a fern rrelative) to kill the mosquito larvae developing in them. Having cut and edged the lawn, thinned and weeded the corn, before sunset I’ll spray the fig with organic-approved copper (cupric) hydroxide (Yates‘ Fungus Fighter) against mildew. The hibiscus spinach needs spraying with soapy water against aphid too.

I’m very happy to have gardened through one wet-dry gardening cycle in the subtropics.

Jerry Coleby-Williams
30th December 2010