In the last week of July, my garden was behaving as if it was already spring. Five weeks early. Four chilly blasts, each lasting for two or three days, seems to be all we need to anticipate in a 21st century Brisbane subtropical winter. Of course, there are winners and losers. Fruit fly is a winner; my first tomato to be damaged by their maggots was on 1.8.20, almost eight weeks earlier than anticipated. Alleged subtropical apples are losers; while these cultivars may tolerate less winter chilling than other apple cultivars, their needs are not being met and the return is poor. But corn is a different story – it is a climate change winner.
The Mary River freshwater turtle (Elusor macrurus) is one of the most uniquely Australian and critically endangered turtles, living only in south east Queensland’s Mary River. Forty years ago, Mary River turtles were sold as ‘penny turtles’ through the pet trade, hatching just in time for Christmas. Twenty six years ago, this turtle was finally scientifically described. Ten years ago, the Australian government ruled against the Queensland government proposal to dam the river, which would have exterminated this species. Now, Queensland’s Tiaro and District Landcare volunteers monitor Mary River turtle nest sites, protecting them from extreme weather and predation, while the Mary River catchment group look after the health of the river system, the only home that this endangered turtle has, giving it a better chance of survival.
“You can’t grow a meadow garden in Australia”, stated an article in Horticulture Week (Rural Press, 1992). Really? I started working with Sydney Botanic Gardens in the same year, and their attempt at growing a meadow garden had been swamped by ryegrass and other annual weeds. There’s nothing like a challenge. By all means experiment with plants, but if you don’t understand how differently individual species can behave in a foreign climate and soils, be sure to do your research first, or get informed advice.
Now the mid-winter solstice is behind us, days are cool but lengthening, ideal for sowing watercress, dwarf beans and snow peas. The best news is there’s a long list of delicious food plants that can be sown now for your spring menu. Here’s sixty to get you started. Just think of all those recipes you can use them in!
How correct care can extend the safe, useful life of a tree: the role of bark boring beetle; the impact of poor pruning on tree health; the value of pruning to a branch collar; the risks of injecting trees with chemicals and painting wounds; the need to investigate for structural weakness; and assessing the potential expense of collateral damage to property if the tree collapses.
The culture of winter gardening evolved in Europe, a response to their long, gloomy winters. By contrast, Australian winters are briefer, sunnier and filled with interest – if you know what to do. What is a European winter garden? What can an Australian gardener in a temperate zone do to keep their garden filled with interest? What can food growers grow during the coldest season?
What food plants can be sown or planted in the subtropical autumn? Autumn can be tricky because crops and pests are responding to our warming climate. Australian summers now last one month longer and winter has correspondingly shrunk. With meteorologists predicting 2020 to be the hottest year on record, the implications in a food garden are clear: some crops will be winners and others losers. Here’s how to keep the odds favourable in your garden.
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.
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…
The actions I have taken here at Bellis and which I encourage others to adopt are the brakes, airbags and seatbelts to help protect us in the coming global environmental car crash.
You may be aware that Gene Technology multinationals are on the media warpath claiming that communities are wrong to oppose their new GM yellow rice, an artificial plant invented with higher amounts of Vitamin A than normal rice as their contribution to help combat malnutrition of the world’s poorest people. Think again.
Between 2013 and 2019, UK Aid funding allowed the International Potato Centre and partners to deliver pro-vitamin A-rich, sweetpotato cultivars to more than 2.3 million families in five African countries and Bangladesh.
If you want protein-rich pigeon peas by the bucketful, grow them in drought. And plant pigeon peas for food, shade, shelter, forage and bees. Grow them in a school food garden to discover which species of native bee live in the vicinity. Use this food plant as a school science project!