I'm delighted to have joined the PIP Newsletter's monthly Garden Guide team. This guide is part of PIP Magazine's online newsletter. For really practical tips about what to be doing right now in your garden, check out this June Garden Guide - it's free and available online.
The June Garden Guide includes updates from me in the subtropical region, as well as lots of information from writers in cool temperate and mediterranean climate zones.
If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend checking out PIP Magazine. It's is the wonderful new Australian permaculture and sustainable living magazine. Issue 5 is currently out.
I am busy writing for the next issue. I contribute the Round the World segment and often an article too.
This is what my June garden guide segment looks like:
I love being out in the garden at this time of year, it is so much cooler – I can even be out in the middle of the day. Here in the subtropics, the arrival of the cooler weather sees a big change – from tropical plants to cooler climate plants and from wild abundance to more subdued growth.
The diverse polycultural permaculture garden is forever changing, adapting and evolving. It’s amazing to sit back and watch as the summer vigorous plants such as Turmeric, QLD Arrowroot, Yacon and Cassava start to die back ready for harvest, and the cool season plants begin self-seeding everywhere – the green mustard spinaches, the giant red mustard spinach, cherry tomatoes, coriander. My rosellas are still flowering. I am collecting and drying what may be my last batch for the season – this makes a wonderful tea. Unfortunately the leaves are almost gone – I had been enjoying them as a lemony spinach in salads and stir fries.
It’s been a particularly dry summer and autumn. For the past few years we’ve had long hot wet summers, but this year winter has just arrived and so has the rain ….mmm, this is meant to be our dry season!
WHAT TO PLANT?
Winter in the subtropics is our window to grow typically familiar vegetables. It’s a great time here to plant:
- salad greens (lettuce, celery, parsley)
- peas (climbing peas, snow peas)
- brassicas (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kohl rabi)
- leafy greens (kale, spinach, silverbeet, mustard greens)
- onions (bulb, welsh onion, leeks) and
- root crops (carrot, daikon, beetroot, radish, parsnip, turnip).
- flowers (calendula)
I still prefer the open hearted vegetables, for example kale rather than cabbage, because there is more chance of success (without major pest management intervention) because you can start harvesting some small leaves from just a few weeks and easily see what’s happening at the base of the plant. Plant selection has huge bearing on how successful your crop will be in the subtropics – particularly if you want to engage in a peaceful way of gardening, rather than a war with pests.
In areas without frost it’s also possible to grow:
- nightshades (tomatoes, capsicum, eggplants, potatoes) as well as
- pumpkin, zucchini
- sweet potato
In amongst the perennial edibles and self-seeding vegetables, I have been renewing pockets in my garden beds for planting out our cool season crops and fresh salad greens. Winter is an important time to replenish the soil in the subtropics – particularly after the rapid growth of the summer vigorous plants and the typical leaching from heavy summer rains.
It’s good to have as many types of compost as possible to capture all the abundant subtropical growth and return it to the soil . Throughout the garden I have many ongoing compost systems to help keep the fertility up – worm towers, roving compost bins, bays. I’ve moved our bins to new locations, spread out the compost and made new beds, and I have given all the worm towers a super feed – with an extra boost of coffee grounds.
To open up the soil ready for these coming rains, I have been going around forking where I can, hoping to catch as much water as I can in the soil (not turning of lifting up – just opening). I have also been scattering handfuls of biochar which helps to hold nutrients and moisture in the soil, and creates habitat for microbiological life, and top-dressing all my mulch. So much gets taken into the soil over the summer growth period.
During the warmer months I am growing a lot of my own mulch. Before the comfrey, canna, lemongrass and other summer plants lose their leaves or contract for the winter, I gather as much leaf material as I can to make new compost piles, make liquid fertilisers, use as chop and drop mulch, and to add lots of organic matter into new no-dig beds.
If you are in a non-frost areas, you can keep sowing cool season green manures – fava beans, fenugreek, lupins, oats, subclover, and woolly pod vetch. Great for adding nitrogen and organic matter.
It’s a good time to clean up any fallen fruit, cut back and mulch the abundant summer growth, prune the deciduous plants (eg: mulberry), check for gall wasp on citrus (prune and burn).
Three of easiest plants to grow in the subtropics are ready to harvest and use.
It’s turmeric (Curcuma longa)
time. The tops are all browning and the rhizomes are ready to start digging up. A great way to store a turmeric haul is in a tub of moist sand and keep in a protected place (mine goes under the verandah). I just take what I need for the week into the house. Leave some in the ground for next season.
, Peruvian Ground Apple) is flowering indicating that the roots are forming below – great big sweet, crunchy tubers are swelling up, pushing up great mounds in the soil. Now and when as the tops start dying back, I gently remove the roots from the ground. You’ve got to be careful. If the skin is broken they rot quickly. It’s a good idea dry them out a bit first before finding a cool storage place for them. They are great eaten fresh, grated into salad, or added to a savoury dish. Making yacon syrup (a suitable sugar alternative for diabetics) may be a good way of preserving this fruit. Leave some of the crowns in the garden ready for next growing season.
|Yacon flower tells us the sweet edible roots are forming (Photo: Maia Raymond – 9yo – my daughter)|
|Morag holding a yacon harvest from her garden – both the tubers and rhizomes are edible. (Photo: Evan Raymond)|
Cassava (Manihot esculentais) ready to harvest – harvested when the leaves begin to yellow and fall. They are eaten boiled, fried, baked and made into flour. The refined starch from the tubers, known as tapioca pearls, is used in soups, puddings and dumplings. The roots store well.
PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLE # 6: PRODUCE NO WASTE
This principle is so appropriate to our work in subtropical gardens right now. By getting active with the composting and mulching of the summer abundance, we are valuing and making great use of the natural exuberance of plant growth and using it to replenish the the soil. Nothing need go to waste. Everything biodegradable can be returned to the soil even in simple systems through worm farms, chickens, and compost systems.
It’s great to see institutions as large as the University of the Sunshine Coast collecting all of it’s biodegradable waste and processing it through a large composter – including all the takeaway food plates and cups. In the new community garden on this Sunshine Coast campus we use this compost, as well as coffee grounds from all the cafes.
It is estimated that still over half of garden and waste is thrown into landfill. There’s a great opportunity to get more active with home composting, community composting and municipal composting – it makes the world of difference in our gardens, communities and in the environment. Some people admit to me at community events that they don’t collect food scraps because of the smell (especially in our warmer months). Sprinkling a little bokashi powder into your collection bucket (with a lid) every time you add some scraps makes it smell sweet and also helps the scraps to break down well once added to the compost bin or dug into the soil. You don’t need the bokashi bucket, just the powder.
Permaculture Designer, Educator, Writer and Community Garden Advisor
Labels: composting, gardening, perennials, permaculture, simple living