In Production Today: My Subtropical Harvest Festival, May 2015

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…

In Production Today, April 2015

Here’s my subtropical food garden’s current autumn menu. Plants marked with an asterisk are volunteers, that is they are self-sown. Currently I have 38 different volunteer crops.

Living With Mosquitoes In The Subtropics

Question: “Hey Jerry, we’ve found mosquitoes to be a real problem for us on the northside this year. An electronic device has been recommended, do you have any views on it?” Barnaby via Facebook Reply: Hi Barnaby, I’ve yet to see an electronic device tell the difference between beneficial mosquitoes (our allies) and the pest species. No device…

Rarity Is Commoner Than You Think

I own a critically endangered plant. It comes from Madagascar, an island degraded by human activity and peppered with endangered species. When I discovered the news that my Gerold’s Thornless Crown of Thorns was on the brink of extinction, I had a flashback to planning the Rare & Endangered Plants Garden for the Royal Botanic…

Thoughtful Gifts Influence Lives

Dear Sister, If you’re with Auntie Sheila when you get this message, remind her that for Xmas 1976 she bought me this book about woodland insects.

Sheila encouraged me to pursue my interest in nature, saying that a knowledge of pollinators is as important as a knowledge of fruit trees, and that knowing both is the perfect marriage.

Elephant Foot Yam: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Elephant foot yam In 2013, Annette McFarlane gave me a young Elephant Yam, Amorphophallus paeoniifolius. This tropical, forest-dwelling, winter herbaceous perennial root crop is native to India, SE Asia, New Guinea and Australia. It is recorded as one of the earliest crops cultivated by indigenous Australians. Not content with being a curiously ornamental flower and a…

Extreme Fire Weather Warnings…And Gardening

The Bureau of Meteorology has just issued a Fire Weather Warning for southern Queensland, and the ABC’s Weather Reporter, Jenny Woodward, advises people to drink plenty of water. What can a gardener do?

In Production Today: October 2014

Brisbane’s warm, dry, breezy inter-season, sprummer, (the period between spring and summer) is intensifying, hastening the production of seed from winter crops. The seed of Ethiopian cabbage (Brassica carinata), Chinese cabbage ‘Tokyo Bekana‘, mizuna, flowering turnip (aka rapini, Brassica rapa var rapa ‘Cima di Rapa Quarantina’) and mustard ‘Osaka Purple’ have already been harvested.

Father’s Day 2014: Concerning Seaweed And Quadratic Equations

This is a fictional letter. My father, John, who had been living for some years with Alzheimer’s, died shortly after I emigrated to Australia. My sister and I looked after Dad at home for several years until he required full time professional care. During the period when his mind was failing, remembering our family and things…

Hedge on the Edge: Is This The Ultimate Hibiscus?

I have been instructed by Denise Horchner of the Perennial Poppies Garden Club to write about my Phillip Island Hibiscus, Hibiscus insularis. This Australian species could be described as the ultimate hibiscus. As far as I’m aware, I’m the only person who uses this critically endangered wildflower as a flowering hedge. Planted to welcome visitors and to shelter my front garden from desiccating wind, birds and people love its blooms. I make jam and a soothing tea from a species that has become my signature plant.