I’ve been surprised to get messages from gardeners in far northern Queensland saying “we can’t grow many crops in summer,” and “summer isn’t a good time for leafy crops,” and “the best season for growing food here is winter.” Why so? The tropics are incredibly productive all year round and their abundant produce is in such demand. There’s at least fifty different leaf crops, so let’s have a look at what you could be growing.
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) excels in a tropical or subtropical climate. It’s food security on a stick. They produce edible, protein-rich seed and fruit which can be used and stored in many ways and at different stages of ripeness. This year, my seven year old tree is carrying 150 fruit, which is about average. Don’t ask…
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.
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!
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.
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!
Suddenly, a public health crisis has prompted more people than ever before to spend more time growing food than ever. We live in a nation of garden cities, our food gardens are an open invitation to dine – what could possibly go wrong? Keeping pests and diseases firmly in their place involves safer solutions, a little gentle manipulation and gardening together as a family.
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.