In Production Today, May 2014

My subtropical food garden

My subtropical food garden

May 2014 was the 351st consecutive month of above average global temperatures. Or put another way, any gardener under 30 years old will never have experienced normal growing conditions.

This month’s weather has been surprisingly sunny, dry and so warm my ‘Java Blue’ and ‘Pisang Ceylan’ bananas and Sugar palm – tropical plants – are flowering in the subtropical autumn.

The summer wet season didn’t occur and so far my garden has received half the 50 year average rainfall it might expect between January and now: 345mm instead of 657.1mm.

Cocoyams are thriving, they would be huge if I had enough recycled water to satisfy them. Stem cuttings of cocoyam, filmed being planted in March, are now 1 metre tall. Today I sold thirty to Southbank Corporation for planting in their Epicurious Garden this winter.

The stingless bee hives have recovered from being split.
 Cherry tomatoes, sown in April, are flowering, and I’ve thinned the mangelwurzel. The Jerusalem artichoke ‘Dwarf Sunray’ produced a great crop of sweet-tasting rhizomes.

It has been a spectacular season for Tahitian limes – my ten year old tree has its third crop ready for picking and more flowers are opening. Cranberry Hibiscus, Meyer lemon and Sweet lime are flowering profusely.

I refurbished the spice border along the northern fenceline. I removed the dragonfruit so I could repaint the fence, transplanted my ten year old ‘First Fleet’ coffee tree into the north eastern corner so I could add a home grown pomelo, and include eight true cardamom seedlings, twenty krachai plants and one shampoo ginger plant. They join the garlic chives (now lifted, divided and replanted), turmeric, culinary ginger and cha-plu.

I’ve sown my winter crops, but I’ve limited the range and numbers sown because the soil is parched. I installed sugarcane bales around the two hottest, sunniest vegetable beds. Their shelter will protect my winter crops from drying winds, helping reduce the amount of watering.

Banana and citrus aphids are loving the endless summer, they’re breeding profusely on citrus, cocoyams and banana suckers. I’m spraying citrus fortnightly with Eco-oil to stop sooty mould from spoiling their appearance – the first time sooty mould has been a problem here.

White or button mushrooms have started sprouting, but the warmth is encouraging fungus gnat maggots to chew spoil many of them before they are big enough to eat. In Brisbane, this is definitely a crop for the cool seasons because that’s the only time fungus gnat maggot damage is low.

If you’re interested if further information about what Australians can do about global warming, visit

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’

Edible leaves

Basil, sacred, Ocimum tenuiflorum
Basil, lemon, Ocimum x citriodora
Cassava, Manihot esculenta
Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’
Celery stem taro, aka Tahitian spinach, Alocasia esculenta
Cha-plu, Piper sarmentosum
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
Cranberry Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella
Curry leaf, Murraya koenigii
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
Edible peperomia, Peperomia pellucida
Fennel, Florence, Foeniculum vulgare Azoricum Group ‘Zefa-Fino’ 
Garlic, wet neck, Allium sativum
Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum
Green Amaranth, Amaranthus viridis
Huauzontle, Chenopodium berlandieri
Japanese parsley, Cryptotaenia japonica
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix
Kangkong, Ipomoea aquatica
Lagos spinach, Celosia cristata
Lebanese cress, Aethionema coridifolium
Lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus
Lemongrass, Native, Cymbopogon flexuosus
Lettuce, Lactuca sativa ‘First Fleet’
Lovage, Levisticum officinale
Mangelwurzel, Beta vulgaris Crassa Group
Mexican Tarragon, Tagetes lucida
Mexican tree spinach, Cnidoscolus aconitifolius
Mint, Nan & Grandad’s variety, Mentha sp.
Mint, native, Mentha satureoides
Mint, Moroccan, Mentha spicata
Mustard, Brassica juncea ‘Osaka Purple’
Mustard, Brassica juncea ‘Red’
Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus
Old man saltbush, Atriplex nummularia
Pandan, Pandanus amaryllifolius
Parsley, Petroselenium crispum ‘Italian flat-leaved’
Purslane, Wild, Portulaca oleracea
Radicchio, Cichorium intybus
Rocket, Wall or wild, Eruca saliva
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
Welsh onion, perennial, aka perennial spring onion, scallion, Allium fistulosum
Zucchini, Cucumis pepo ‘Lebanese’

Mushroom, white button, Agaricus bisporus

Edible petals

Banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Java Blue’
Banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Ladyfinger’
Banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Pisang Ceylan’
Bedding Begonia, Begonia semperflorens
Cranberry Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella
Fig-marigold, Aptenia cordifolia
Goldenrod, Solidago sp.
Mexican Tarragon, Tagetes lucida
Stinking Roger, Tagetes minuta
Pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan
Rocket, Wall or wild, Eruca sativa

Edible seed
Chilean wine palm, Jubaea chilensis
Pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan


Capsicum, ‘golden’, a home raised cultivar, Capsicum annuum
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Portuguese Peri Peri’
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Siam Gold’
Green banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Ladyfinger’
Jaboticaba, Plinia cauliflora (syn. Myrciaria cauliflora)
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix
Lemon, Citrus x limon ‘Meyer’
Lemon, Citrus x limon ‘Villa Franca Variegata’
Lime, finger, Citrus australasica
Lime, Tahitian, Citrus x latifolia
Mandarin, Citrus x reticulata ‘Ellendale’
Pandanus cookii (not very tasty!)
Pawpaw, Carica papaya ‘Southern Red’

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, Eletteria cardamomum
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 (currently young seedlings)
Turmeric, Curcuma longa – spice with anti-cancer properties

83 taxa


Jerry Coleby-Williams

29th May 2014