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


12 Comments Add yours

  1. jeanieinparadise says:

    I have serious lime envy – our remaining flower got blown off a week ago – wind + lime is not making for margaritas, here.

  2. helen cruwys says:

    re Sugar bag

    Hello Jerry thank you for all your emails. About two years ago I purchased a hive of native bees. They were going fine and on advice called in ‘ an expert’ The hive was split and I purchased a new hive for the bees that was split. However after a few weeks the bees left the new hive and tried to join the old hive. The bees from the old hive would not let the bees come back and fighting went on with casualties.The new hive is now abandoned and the bees from that one now camp at night in the Grevillea bushes next to the hive. They are slowly dying off as it is getting colder. This has been really sad and as bees don’t listen to you have felt quite helpless. I have been told I will need to wait until September to buy some more native bees. Have you any advice you can give me Jerry? Perhaps also where I can buy some more bees. The person who split the bee hive does not answer my calls.

    Many thanks

    Helen Cruwys

    Date: Thu, 29 May 2014 00:10:28 +0000 To:

    1. Dear Helen,

      Sometimes splits can go wrong, even if you have an expert to do it for you it may be fiddly. Contact Dr Tim Heard, a CSIRO native bee expert and friend of mine via his website:

  3. Lyn Buffett says:

    I am interested in how you divide and replant cocoyam. I have a few plants here that I think are ready to divide, but I am not sure the best way to do it. On the clip you have cut the yam up into pieces and dried it before replanting. Can I have some more information about doing that please. Can any part of the tuber be cut up, what time of year is best to do that (is it too late already?). Can you harvest throughout the year or is it something that is done once per year? I can’t find any useful info on the net about growing them.

    1. Hi Lyn,
      In a frost free climate cocoyam may be lifted and divided and replanted, or propagated by stem cuttings, or cormlets can be lifted and replanted.
      You eat young leaves (boil for 12 minutes).
      You can eat peeled, boiled stems and peeled, boiled cormlets and you can harvest these when they are big enough to make a meal.
      All these techniques can be used all year round, It’s dead easy.

  4. Dave Blake says:

    It certainly has been warm. The cold snap in the first week of May triggered my tropical peach into flowering, which it did when this warm weather returned.

    My tomatoes (Lecasse di Apulia, and a potato leaf variety, Kotlas), have borne well over the last 3 months, and as I have a north facing brick wall, a couple of San Maranzo tomatoes will be planted at the garden at the base of the wall. That position is too hot for peas at the moment.

    If anyone has any clues on how to grow capsicums on Bribie Island, please let me know. All these and some chillies always come down with the TYLCV

    The dreaded silver leaf whitefly thrives here and without a very cold winter, will survive to wreak its havoc next summer. Most varieties of tomatoes (I save my seed) don’t seem badly affected by it, but capsicums are impossible to grow here.

    1. Try spraying undersides of capsicum leaves with Neem; weekly applications worked on my Laciniato kale

      1. Dave Blake says:

        Thanks Jerry,
        I forgot to mention that my kale, which is food for me and the chooks, is the whiteflies favourite haunt. Will try the neem.

      2. regular spraying leaf undersides should do the job, whitefly mature rapidly and may lay eggs at around five to seven days old

  5. Beth says:

    Our cherry tomato varieties are still growing, into the first day of Winter – not the standard here down south! They have even started flowering again. The weather has been milder than usual and as for rain, we are getting bucketloads, seems like a lot more than usual. My market-grower friend in SA is also still picking his tomatoes which is unusual for him too. Another friend picked and ate their home grown watermelon the other day; I’m also cooking eggplant tonight, seeing as they are still coming! I’ll take a late season while I can get it but one does have to wonder what is happening to the seasons.

    Just wondering what a ‘stinking roger’ is..? *chuckle*

    1. Beth,
      This website has a search facility enabling you to query and find out about Stinking Roger. See ‘Marigold Magic’

  6. Cynthia Knight says:

    The Lagos Spinach seeds I bought from you are growing really well. I was wondering can it be eaten raw or do I need to cook the leaves first?

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