The government is right to say Australia grows a surplus of food, but suddenly the cost of buying that fresh produce has leapt, a consequence of crippling drought followed by catastrophic bushfire and then, in places, flooding rain. As we garden in an increasingly surprising climate, the reality of organising a reliable flow of nourishing food to provide a household with regular, thrifty meals falls on those who have suddenly become unwaged. In some places, nurseries are being stripped of seedlings and packets of seed as a nation prepares to overwinter in self-isolation at home and in the garden. What climate zone is my garden in? What can I grow now? Why is crop rotation vital for success? Can I grow food in pots? So many questions to answer.
Help! If planting marigolds (Tagetes spp.) in Australia to deter grasshoppers helps these pests to breed, why do well known authors and garden clubs pass on misinformation? Are marigolds useful for anything other than ornament? How do I control the grasshoppers plaguing my garden? asks Vivienne in Queensland.
Anyone can buy compost in bulk. But these products are often highly variable and sometimes even unsuitable. The traditional alternative is to sow green manures and to make your own compost. If you need bulk compost, consider the sandwich mulching technique. You’ll need a soil pH Test kit and, ideally, get your soil laboratory tested to check for nutrient deficiencies and contaminants.
In recent years, families who garden together have become the most prominent visitors to my annual Open Day. It’s delightful seeing these gardening families, because that was how I started life: in an English family that gardened and holidayed together. Planning, harvesting, saving seed, cooking, bottling, gathering materials for gardening were activities we did together.
Fast food: By learning how to recognise self-sown edible plants in the garden, you’re on the way to the quickest free meal you’ll grow.
The Wartime Kitchen and Garden television series and book by the BBC. The big swerve in 19th century British horticulture away from ornamental gardening to domestic food security. A television series and a book explore low tech solutions, reuse, thrift, and home grown food.
Interested in learning how to grow a healthy, vigorous, sustainable lawn which remains mostly green during drought like mine and is capable of resisting lawn armyworm?
Here is a list from my garden – my living larder – and my store of home grown food that might serve my household if a coronavirus lockdown occurs: protein, carbohydrate and fibre.
Following England’s Great Storm of 1987, I was managing an urban forest in London where I was involved in the successful salvaging of many Robinia pseudoacacia trees by applying the technique of crown thinning described. Make sure to engage a competent arborist, this is not a task you can trust a tree lopper with. I suggest contacting Arboriculture Australia to have your tree inspected by someone qualified and take it from there.
In my subtropical food garden, grasshopper control starts in my sweetpotato. Caterpillar damage usually occurs in bursts following good rain, and attack can occur at any time of the year.
Living off the fat of the land: A two metre row of Sauropus androgynus, aka rau ngót or sweetleaf, provides more nutritious leaves than two people can eat in the warm seasons. While growth of this trouble-free vegetable slows down in the cool seasons, sweetleaf provides protein, fibre and nutrient-rich leaves all year round in subtropical Brisbane.
I planted bamboo because it is important in sustainable living: food, shade, privacy and for supporting vines. Pheasant coucals and possums gravitate towards the shelter of my bamboo which, now it is seventeen years old, has grown to become a landscape statement without outgrowing the allocated space…