In Production Today: My Subtropical Harvest Festival, May 2015

Bellis during east coast low, 1.5.15
Bellis during east coast low, 1.5.15

With 100 square metres of good soil you can feed a person all year round. That’s what my ‘Dig for Victory’ grandparents taught me when I was a teenager in London. Here in sunny subtropical Brisbane you also need a minimum of 7,000 litres of stored water, ideally 10,000 litres, to sustain that production through drought. In the drought between 2005 and 2010 I used less than 1 litre of recycled waste water to grow the bulk of our food supply.

BEST Bellis Orchard, 43 taxa, April 2015
Click on the image to see the full-size map of the Bellis Orchard. Then zoom in to read Jerry’s labels.

At Bellis, I have 300 square metres under production to supply a household of three. I have an orchard with 41 different kinds of fruit. I have six hives of stingless bees, three hives of Tetragonula carbonaria, three of  T. hockingsi and these make up two of the 23 species of bee which pollinate my crops. Two strains of European honeybee are also present but are in critically low numbers due to introduced pests and diseases.

Pictured below is the predator border... These are all plants that are useful for bringing predatory and other beneficial insects into my garden. They do most of my pest management

Predator Border Planting Panorama, autumn 2015 - 3
The Herb Border is even more densely packed so I’ve made a short video to help visualise it. There’s no sound, so pay attention!

And while I’m at it here’s a whistle stop tour of the spice border.


Last week on 1st May, an East Coast Low weather system brought floods to south east Queensland. East Coast Lows can pack winds of a category 1-2 cyclone. They are often the most likely source of heavy rain during El Nino droughts.

My garden received 176mm rain, which means:

* 176 litres of water falling per square metre;
* 26,250 litres entering the rainwater tank (1.25 times capacity);
* 10,560 litres fell on the lawn;
* 143,088 litres fell across the property;

Australian home swimming pools average 40 – 50,000 litres in capacity, so the Bellis property absorbed between 3 and 3.5 swimming pools of water – water which otherwise could have added to local flooding. Town planners and landscapers really need to learn how easy it is to create a ‘whole of site water management plan’. They work on a domestic and landscape scale.

176mm rain per sq metre looks like this
176mm rain per sq metre looks like this

Messages? Well managed land can support domestic food security despite the decline of the honeybee. Food and plants surpluses can be traded to support a tight household budget. Healthy, biologically active soil that is maintained sustainably, supports productivity during unprecedented drought, and during floods it can offset local flooding.

This month is my Open Day, courtesy of Open Gardens Australia, so I’ve included my food surplus to give you an idea of what sustainable gardening – about 10 – 14 hours labour a week – can get from 300 square metres of good soil.

Happy gardening!

1 Bellis autumn menu

Edible roots and shoots

Arrowroot, Canna edulis;
Bamboo, Monastery, Thyrsostachys siamensis;
Bamboo, Oldham’s, Bambusa oldhamii;
Cassava, Manihot esculenta;
Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’;
Cocoyam, Xanthosoma saggitifolia;
Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus ‘Dwarf Sunray’;
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Ace of Spades’ (small, tasty tubers);
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’;

Edible leaves

* Basil, cinnamon, Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’;
* Basil, lemon, Ocimum x citriodora
* Basil, sacred, Ocimum tenuiflorum;
Cassava, Manihot esculenta;
Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’;
Celery stem taro, aka Tahitian spinach, Alocasia esculenta;
Cha-plu, Piper sarmentosum;
Chickweed, Stellaria media;
* Chicory, Cichorium intybus;
Chicory, Cichorium intybus ‘Red Dandelion’;
Chinese celery, aka smallage, Apium graveolens;
* Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor;
* Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor ‘Flaming Fountains’;
* Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor ‘Mekong Red’;
* Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor ‘Red Callaloo’;
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum;
* Coriander, Coriandrum sativum;
* Coriander, Thai, Eryngium foetidum;
* Cranberry Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella;
Curry bush, Helichrysum italicum;
Curry leaf, Murraya koenigii;
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale;
* Dill, Anethum graveolens;
* Endive, Cichorium endivia ‘Green Bowl’;
Eschallot, Allium cepa var. aggregatum;
Fennel, Florence, Foeniculum vulgare Azoricum Group ‘Zefa-Fino’;
Fennel, Bronze, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’;
Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum;
* Green Amaranth, Amaranthus viridis;
* Huauzontle, Chenopodium berlandieri;
Japanese parsley, Cryptotaenia japonica;
* Jute, Corchorus olitorius;
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix;
* Lagos spinach, Celosia spicata;
Landcress, Barbarea vulgaris;
Lebanese cress, Aethionema coridifolium;
Lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus;
* Lemongrass, Native, Cymbopogon flexuosus;
* Love-lies-bleeding, Amaranthus caudatus;
Love-lies-bleeding, Amaranthus caudatus ‘Green’;
Lettuce, Lactuca sativa ‘Buttercrunch’;
Marjoram, Origanum marjorana;
Mexican tree spinach, Cnidoscolus aconitifolius;
* Mint, Corsican, Mentha requienii;
Mint, native, Mentha satureoides;
Mint, Moroccan, Mentha spicata;
* Mustard, Brassica juncea ‘Osaka Purple’;
* Mustard, Brassica juncea ‘Giant Red’;
* Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus;
Old man saltbush, Atriplex nummularia;
Onion, Tree or Egyptian Walking, Allium x proliferum;
Onion, Welsh perennial, or perennial spring onion, aka scallion, Allium fistulosum;
Pandan, Pandanus amaryllifolius;
* Parsley, Petroselenium crispum ‘Italian flat-leaved’;
* Prince of Wales’ Feather, Celosia cristata;
* Purslane, Wild, Portulaca oleracea;
* Purslane, Golden, Portulaca oleracea subsp. sativa;
Radicchio, Cichorium intybus;
* Rocket, Wall or wild, Eruca saliva;
Rosella, Hibiscus sabdariffa;
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’;
Thyme, Variegated, Thymus serpyllum ‘Variegata’;
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Variegatus’;
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Bayside Beauty’;
Vietnamese mint, Persicaria odorata;
* Warrigal greens, Tetragonia tetragonioides;

Edible petals

Bedding Begonia, Begonia semperflorens;
Begonia, Begonia ‘Dragon Wings’;
* Cranberry Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella (excellent for tea);
Canna, Canna iridiflora;
Fig-marigold, Aptenia cordifolia;
Goldenrod, Solidago sp.;
* Rocket, Wall or wild, Eruca sativa;
* Stinking Roger, Tagetes minuta;

Edible seed

Chilean wine palm, Jubaea chilensis;
Corn, Supersweet, Zea mays ‘Snowgold Bicolor’
Fennel, Florence, Foeniculum vulgare Azoricum Group ‘Zefa-Fino’;
Pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan;


Banana (green), Musa x sapientum ‘Java Blue’;
Banana (green), Musa x sapientum ‘Ladyfinger’;
Capsicum, Capsicum annuum ‘Corno di Toro’;
Chilean wine palm, Jubaea chilensis (preserved in pandan-flavoured syrup);
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’;
* Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Long Red Cayenne’;
* Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Piri Piri’;
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Siam Gold’;
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Bangkok Bobby’;
Finger lime, Citrus australasica;
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix;
Lemon, Citrus x limon ‘Meyer’;
Lemon, Citrus x limon ‘Villa Franca Variegata’;
Lemonade, Citrus limon x aurantifolia;
Lime, Tahitian, Citrus x latifolia;
* Mouse Melon, Melothria scabra;
* Pawpaw, Carica papaya ‘Southern Red’;
Pineapple, Ananas comosus ‘Queensland Rough’;
Pineapple, Ananas comosus ‘Spanish Red’
Pineapple, Dwarf, Ananas nanus;
Rosella, Hibiscus sabdariffa;
Tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum ‘Apollo’;

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;
Brahmi herb, Bacopa monnieri – aids cognitive function;
Cardamom, Eletteria cardamomum;
Cardamom, False, Alpinia nutans;
* Catnip, Nepeta cataria; the juice left by rubbing elbows and ankles with fresh leaves helps deter mosquitoes;
Galangal, Alpinia galangal – spice used like ginger with similar properties;
Ginger, Culinary, Zingiber officinalis – spice that helps decongestion of catarrh, aids digestion, blood flow;
Ginger, Shampoo, Zingiber newmanii – from Seed Savers. Juice from flower spikes is used to wash hair;
* 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, Blue, Scutellaria lateriflora;
Turmeric, Curcuma longa – spice with anti-cancer, anti-stress properties;

* denotes a volunteer crop
Total 117 taxa

2 Jams

Sweet jams
Qld Rough Pineapple jam 250ml x 14;
Meyer Lemon marmalade 180ml x 80;
Tahitian Lime marmalade 180ml x 82;
Tahitian Lime marmalade 250ml x 27;
Pawpaw & Ginger jam 250ml x 7;
Pawpaw & Ginger jam 180ml x 8;

Savoury chutney and jams

Banana chilli jam 150ml x 11;
Banana chilli jam 250ml x 11;
Siam Gold chilli jam 250ml x 23;
Siam Gold chilli jam 150ml x 23;
Piri Piri chilli jam 150ml x 19;
Piri Piri chilli jam 180ml x 6;
Birds’ Eye chilli jam 250ml x 5;
Cayenne chilli jam 250ml x 13;
Pawpaw chutney 180ml x 7;
Pawpaw chutney 250ml x 4;

Chilli jam ’heat’ by the Scoville Scale
Capsicum = 0 Scoville heat units
Siam Gold = 3,500 – 4,000

Cayenne = 30,000 – 50,000
Piri Piri = 50,000 – 100,000
Hot Banana = 100,000 – 125,000
Birds’ Eye = 100,000 – 225,000
Ghost (aka ‘Bhut Jolokia’) = 1,000,000 – 2,000,000


340 jars jam

3 Surplus Saved Seed

Snow Pea ‘Delta Matilda’ x 19 packets
Madagascar bean, Phaseolus lunatus x 13 packets
Lagos Spinach, Celosia spicata x 49 packets
Flowering Turnip (a leaf vegetable) x 26
Chinese cabbage ‘Tokyo Bekana’ x 21
Ethiopian cabbage, Brassica carinata ‘Old Women Meet and Gossip’ x 42
Carrot ‘Lunar White’ x 75
Stinking Roger x 28
Red Mizuna x 47
Florence Fennel x 45
Lettuce ‘Royal Purple Oakleaf’ x 23
Huauzontle, Chenopodium berlandieri x 94
Soya bean, Glycine max x 9
Coriander x 8
Climbing Bean ‘Epicure’ x 8
Pigeon Pea, Cajunus cajan x 4
Italian Parsley x 174

Total 685 Packets

4 Surplus Nursery Stock


Biriba, Rollinia deliciosa x 3;
Chocolate Pudding tree, Diospyros digyna x 19;
Coffee, First Fleet, Coffea arabica ‘First Fleet’ x 11;
Custard Apple, Annona reticulata x 39;
Date palm, Phoenix dactylifera ‘Medjool’ x 5;
Heritage Mandarin, Citrus x reticulata ‘Parramatta Sweets’ x 26;
Jackfruit, Artocarpus heterophyllus ‘Jacamole’ x 8;
Pepino, Solanum muricatum x 80;
Pawpaw, Carica papaya ‘Columbian Round’ x 70;
Pomelo, Citrus grandis ‘Thai Sun’ x 10;
Queen of the Night fruit, Selenicereus grandiflorus x 77;
Soursop, Annona muricata x 44;
White Pitahaya, Hylocereus undatus x 30;

Celery Stem Taro, Colocasia esculenta x 29;
Chicory, Cichorium intybus x 16;
Cocoyam, Xanthosoma saggitifolia x 18;
Cranberry Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella x 62;
Elephant’s Foot Yam, Amorphophallus paeoniifolius x 23;
Dwarf Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus ‘Dwarf Sunray’ x 29;
Lebanese Cress, Aethionema coridifolia x 35;
Mexican Tree Spinach, Cnidoscolus aconitifolius x 32;


Four Seasons Herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Variegatus’ x 90;
Krachai, Boesenbergia rotunda x 26;
Leek, Seed Savers Multiplier (aka Perennial) leek, Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum x 112;
Native lemongrass, Cymbopogon ambiguus x 11;
Variegated Society Garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Variegata’ x 24;

Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Ghost’ aka ‘Bhut Jolokia’. Mega-hot, up to 2 million Scoville heat units! x 80;


Burn Jelly Plant, Bulbine frutescens x 24 ;

Australian plants
Crown of Gold tree, Barklya syringifolia x 6;
Native Butterfly tree, Capparis arborea x 19;
Ormeau Bottle tree, Brachychiton ormeau x 1 (critically endangered local native);
Plectranthus cremnus (Lennox Head, NSW, rare) x 39;
Queensland Bottle tree, Brachychiton rupestris x 1;
Tree Waratah, Alloxylon flammeum x 3;

Exotic ornamentals

Bromeliad, Alcantarea imperialis ‘Silver Plum’ x 3;
Christmas palm, Adonidia merrillii (Philippines) x 1;
Dragon tree, Large-leaved, Dracaena aletriformis x 14;
Gerold’s Thornless Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia geroldii (Madagascar, critically endangered) x 42;
Giant Crinum Lily, Crinum asiaticum var. pedunculatum x 9;
Riverine Flame Vine, Combretum microphyllum (Zimbabwe) x 3;
White Frangipani, Plumeria pudica (resistent to Frangipani Rust disease) x 8;

Total: 41 taxa, 1,797 plants

Jerry Coleby-Williams
Director, Seed Savers’ Network
Patron, Householder’s Options to Protect the Environment
5th May 2015


14 Comments Add yours

  1. Jennifer Litttle says:

    Jerry, you have done an amazing job on Bellis.Kind regards.Jennifer.

  2. Raylene Swain says:

    Hi Jeremy is that a photo, surely not it appears to be a watercolour painting??? It is beautiful ! thanks Raylene

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Sherri says:

    I am in awe of all you produce. I have so much to learn about creating a productive food garden that it seems a bit overwhelming. It is good though, to know just how much food can be produced in a good system with good soil. Thank you.

  4. Jeff says:

    “With 100 square metres of good soil you can feed a person all year round.
    That’s what my ‘Dig for Victory’ grandparents taught me when I was a teenager in London.”
    This is inspiring to me.
    But just wondering if they meant only vege for one person, with no grain or meat.
    Also a bit surprised elderly English people back then used square metres, though maybe you are converting units.

    1. A square yard is not much different than a square metre. Surprised by the unit of measurement? Really? When land in Queensland is still sold in perches? LOL. I bought 25 of them in 2003. Never used perches in all my life until I met real estate agents in Brisbane.

      Just veg for one person? Come on, have you never eaten vegetable protein? Beans? Peas? Corn? With limited land – and the London climate – my grandparents managed to raise ducks, rabbits and chickens. I wonder what they did with the meat, eggs, feathers and fur?

      I recommend you read a Dig for Victory book and learn about this period of horticultural history, and how creative home gardeners defeated the threat of famine. Whilst being bombed.

      Here’s an educational book:’Digging for Victory’ by Twigs Way & Mike Brown, published by Ogma Books. Purchase through Ebay.


      1. AnnaCKeenan says:

        I’ve always wondered exactly what the phrase “you can feed a person all year round” means when I hear it sprouted in gardening books… I too wonder about things like grains and oils, and have often thought ‘too good to be true?’.

        I’ve always assumed that phrase includes all of a person’s needs for fruit, herbs, vegetables (including veggie proteins), plus eggs and meat – but not grains and oils and nuts. Right? Wrong? I’m assuming that you still do some groceries!

        I’m a Brissy girl, but just purchasing an 80 acre property in the Canadian Maritimes (18 FEET of snow this record winter!). My partner and I are currently figuring out a permaculture design for the land and a bit of a ‘phase in’ plan… what systems can we get going in year 1, year 2, etc… I’m hoping we can be self-sufficient for grain as well! Fingers crossed!

      2. Hi Anna,
        I’ve already replied to a very similar message on this post. I recommend you read this educational book: ’Digging for Victory’ by Twigs Way & Mike Brown, published by Ogma Books. Purchase through Ebay. Enjoy!

      3. Jeff says:

        Thanks, I will read that book.
        I am really hoping to get rabbits as well as chickens in my backyard.
        I really do find your grandparents lessons to be inspiring.

      4. Jeff says:

        Anna, I think the phase often means mainly just fruit and veg.
        I have seen a few authorities saying around 4,000 sq ft (372 sq m) is the minimum to provide all the food for one person, assuming intensive use.
        For example:
        How to Grow More Vegetables, by John Jeavons (Biointensive gardening)
        His analysis is very detailed and assumes the most efficient crops and a vegan diet.

  5. brenda says:

    thanks jerry. your garden really is an inspiration. i’ve sent details to several gardening friends.

    1. Thanks Brenda, and happy gardening!

  6. Alex says:

    Great stuff Jerry! I look forward to visiting one day. Cheers & regards, RAD Mackenzie.

  7. Guy LeBlanc Smith says:

    Request for your grandpatents bug busting nicotine recipe. .. could not find on your site.

    Really enjoyed and inspired by your talk in Ipswich over the weekend. Will be bug photographing and identifying henceforth. Thanks.

    Oh BTW did you ever meet an old university colleague at Kew by the name of Charlie Stirton? We were at uni Pietermaritzburg in the 70s before he went to Kew. Brilliant and amusing… think he would have been a kindred spirit.

    Best regards Guy. (Still enjoying edible landscapes after near on 30 years with perrmaculture now)

    1. Hi Guy, Have no memory of Charlie Stirton. Just enter ‘nicotine’ in the search facility. Cheers, Jerry.

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