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.
“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.
Basil: In a sustainable garden you can’t really ask for much more from a herb: here are four basils capable of growing through a subtropical winter in either pots on a balcony or in the ground. Four basils which provide all year round beauty, distinctive flavours and aromas, high productivity, and all of them attractive to pollinators and other beneficial insects that help to control pests.
How best to feed backyard birds? Professor Darryl Jones from Griffith University, Queensland, has written the first sensible, science-based guide to feeding wild birds in Australia, says Paul Sullivan, the CEO of Birdlife Australia.
Novice food grower? Whether you’re a fruit farmer in England, a market gardener in Thailand, or a home gardener in Brisbane, we all need economical, effective solutions to protect our food supply and within budget. And that’s the kind of practical advice I’ve been providing for over thirty years. Step into my world of low stress, productive gardening…flowers are included!
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?
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!
“How did they keep lawns trim in the days before lawnmowers? asks The Guardian newspaper. Animals and scythes were originally used to maintain closely cut turf…and Australia has an indigenous answer”.
We ignore the following key aspects of sustainable food production at our peril:
* A culture of forgetting – we forget our horticultural history;
* Declining crop diversity, both in the range of species grown and in the genetic diversity within each crop;
* The oversimplification and impoverishment of systems of food production;
* A reluctance to apply the precautionary principle where using the least toxic solution in crop protection comes first;
Question: “Hi Jerry, This year I have had the worst infestation of mealybug ever. My garden has never had them in the past, but this year everything including established Gordonia’s five metres high are white with them. I have lost quite a few hibiscus to them. Is this a bad year? Do you have one of your…
“Parasites aren’t all bad, and mistletoes deserve a rethink. If you study them, you’ll discover that they’re fascinating Australian plants making a valuable contribution to the environment.”
Two years without rain is a long time between drinks in the garden town of Barcaldine, but it’s not out of place in western Queensland’s desert uplands. With a population of under 1,400, Barcaldine’s Get Gardening Expo attracted 600 locals and tourists to celebrate the region’s best food, wine, art, plants, gardens and gardeners. Not bad for a region where even desert cacti need shade, occasional watering, and have been known to explode in summer.