In Production Today, February 2014

Dry wet season @ Bellis

Dry wet season @ Bellis

February used to be Brisbane’s wettest month of the year, but, so far, not a drop of the wet stuff. Like last month, I’ve maintained the garden more or less as it is and I’ve focussed my efforts on preparing vegetable beds for sowing and planting once rain has arrived.

In the northern hemisphere, the jet stream is behaving irresponsibly, freezing the USA and Canada with wave after wave of ‘catastrophic’ cold, snow and ice. Its altered course has delivered unprecedented warmth to Scandinavia, where hibernation has been disrupted and spring bulbs started flowering in December.

Britain has been subjected to unprecedented rainfall, flooding and tidal surges, while today the latest gale adds to what the BBC stupidly calls an ‘almost unparalleled natural crisis’. It’s not natural. It’s people who are liberating Greenhouse Gases by burning fossil fuels, it’s assisted by governments, like the Australian government, that is pouring public funds into subsidising the fossil fuel industry (whilst crying poor and cutting welfare, jobs and services). It’s about physics and chemistry.

I’m delighted to hear that Sir Ian Cheshire, chief executive of multinational DIY company Kingfisher, has publicly identified the concreting of gardens as a contributor to flood risk. This may be at the smaller end of flood issues, with the failure of the British government to adequately manage watersheds being at the national end, but at least the antisocial nature  of backyard blitz-style ‘landscaping’ has finally been acknowledged as destructive to society by the DIY industry. Bravo Cheshire! The Royal Horticultural Society has the antidote to concrete gardens. It’s brilliant to see such an important organisation take such a responsible attitude to 21st century horticulture.

Perhaps, by comparison, missing the start of Brisbane’s wet season is a minor inconvenience for this subtropical gardener. I still have food coming in from the garden and I can work to improve my soil.

The long term forecast for Brisbane is for a wetter autumn with the possibility of an El Nino drought developing later in the year. So my cropping plan is to get ready for a warm and rainy April, May and June.

Until then, I’ll be working the soil, digging in compost, renewing mulches, sowing green manures, and making lots more compost.

On the up side, I currently have an embarrassment of volunteer ‘French Breakfast’ radish (they rot in wetter summers). I’ve sowed a border with mixed Spider flower, Cleome spinosa, Lemon basil (Ocimum x citriodorum, delectable as pesto!) and Globe amaranth Gomphrena globosa. I’ve also propagated my Jerusalem artichoke ‘Dwarf Sunray’, as I want to build up stock of this pretty, compact, tasty and productive crop.

My best jackfruit seedling (Artocarpus heterophyllus), which I germinated last March, is already flowering. Amazing! ‘Spanish Red‘ pineapples are cropping well, and I have a great crop of turmeric and Tahitian limes. ‘Ladyfinger’ bananas are keeping the household and neighbours provided with smoothies and snacks, plus there’s ‘Java Blue’ ripening in the kitchen.

Hudson’s Circus is in nearby Kitchener Park, so my neighbour, Chas, and I have been indulging ourselves, gathering bags of premium camel, llama, horse and buffalo dung from their well-tended animals. That’ll keep my compost heaps, worms, bananas, yams and cassava content!

Edible roots
Arrowroot, Canna edulis
Cassava, Manihot esculenta
Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’
Cocoyam, Xanthosoma saggitifolia
Eschallot, Allium cepa var. aggregatum
Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus ‘Dwarf Sunray’
Radish, Raphanus sativus ‘French Breakfast’
Turnip, Brassica rapa ‘Gold Ball’
Yam, Winged, Dioscorea alata

Edible leaves
Basil, sacred, Ocimum tenuiflorum
Cassava, Manihot esculenta
Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’
Celery stem taro, aka Tahitian spinach, Alocasia esculenta
Chervil, Anthriscus cerefolium
Chicory, Cichorium intybus
Chinese celery, aka smallage, Apium graveolens
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor ‘Flying Colours’
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor ‘Mekong Red’
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor ‘Red Calalloo’
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum
Curry leaf, Murraya koenigii
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
Edible peperomia, Peperomia pellucida
Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum
Green Amaranth, Amaranthus viridis
Heart leaf ice-plant, Aptenia cordifolia
Japanese parsley, Cryptotaenia japonica
Kale, Brassica oleracea Acephala group ‘Two Peters’
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix
Kangkong, Ipomoea aquatica
Lebanese cress, Aethionema coridifolium
Lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus
Lemongrass, Native, Cymbopogon flexuosus
Lovage, Levisticum officinale
Love-lies-bleeding, Amaranthus caudatus
Mexican tree spinach, Cnidoscolus aconitifolius
Mint, apple, Mentha suaveolens
Mint, native, Mentha satureoides
Mint, Moroccan, Mentha spicata
Mustard, Brassica juncea ‘Osaka Purple’
Mustard, Brassica juncea ‘Red’
Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus
Parsley, Petroselenium crispum ‘Italian flat-leaved’
Purslane, Wild, Portulaca oleracea
Radicchio, Cichorium intybus
Rocket, Wall or wild, Eruca saliva
Rose hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Variegata’
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Fairy Stars’
Stinking Roger, Tagetes minuta
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Ace of Spades’
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Variegatus’
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Bayside Beauty’
Vietnamese mint, Persicaria odorata
Welsh onion, aka spring onion, scallion, Allium fistulosum
Perennial Welsh onion, aka perennial spring onion, scallion, Allium fistulosum
Warrigal greens, Tetragonia tetragonioides

Edible petals
Begonia x semperflorens
Goldenrod, Solidago sp.
Pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan
Rocket, Wall or wild, Eruca sativa

Edible pods
Pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan

Edible seed
Chilean wine palm, Jubaea chilensis
Madagascar bean, Phaseolus lunatus
Pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan

Fruit
Capsicum, ‘golden’, a home raised cultivar, Capsicum annuum
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Portuguese Peri Peri’
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Siam Gold’
Green banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Goldfinger’
Green banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Java Blue’
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix
Lemon, Citrus x limon ‘Meyer’
Lime, Australian Sweet, Citrus x latifolia
Lime, Tahitian, Citrus x latifolia
Mouse melon, Melothria scabra

Edible fungi
Common or white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus

Medicinal / Spices
Aloe vera – leaf juice used to heal sunburn, scratches, and for shampoo
Bulbine frutescens – leaf juice used to treat burns, rashes, as an infusion for sore throats
Cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum
Cardamom, False, Alpinia nutans
Galangal, Alpinia galangal – spice used like ginger with similar properties
Ginger, Zingiber officinalis – spice that helps decongestion of catarrh, aids digestion, blood flow
Greater celandine, Chelidonium majus – stem juice kills warts on hands
Krachai (root), Boesenbergia rotunda
Rosemary, dwarf, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Benenden Blue’
Rosemary, fastigiate, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Miss Jessopp’
Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora
Turmeric, Curcuma longa – spice with anti-cancer properties

74 taxa

Jerry Coleby-Williams
13th February 2014