Spring experience in a sub tropical climate vegetable garden
Spring experience in a sub tropical organic garden is quite a unique one compared to more temperate climates. There is so much beauty in this transition of seasons, as well as opportunity to use plants in finishing state whilst bringing in new warmer season crops.
I will explain the experience through my own food gardens in Camp Mountain where we hold many of our workshops. I experiment with many things in how I manage the food growing spaces as I feel this is the best way to develop localised wisdom.
Plants going to seed
Many plants are flowering and going to seed in this spring experience. These include coriander, Asian greens, peas, dill, nasturtiums and rocket. Each seeding process has a designed purpose as follows:
- Coriander – We tied up the plants on a stake so they get more flowers and seeds and this allows the bees to be more involved. We let the seeds dry out on the plant and then crush them as a powder. Its an amazingly potent herb done this fresh. Some seeds fall to the ground and these will come up next year when it gets cooler
- Asian greens – These are from the brassica family and have beautiful yellow flowers. They create a fantastic bee habit. I often watch the native and European bees harmoniously weaving around each other on these flowers. I tend to use these plants as decoys to attract grasshoppers when it gets warmer (this decoy tactic keeps the grasshoppers away from the newer plants).
- Peas – I normally save the pea seed and use them next season. We have cropped from peas up to mid October, quite a long season with multiple plantings starting in May
- Dill – These don’t need to be tied up as they have a very strong stalk. I let them go to flower and seed and dry the seeds for seasoning. Because they are narrow plants growing high, I have begun planting cucumbers on a climbing frame in between the finishing off dill.
- Nasturtiums – All our nasturtiums are self seeded from last year and we have been harvesting leaves and flowers from them for 4 months now. Leaves are reducing and flowers increasing. I notice that flowers are getting more orange in colour which means they will be more spicy in flavour. We have also begun to eat the seeds which have an amazing spicy flavour.
- Rocket – Another great bee attractor when going to seed. Its white flowers are buzzing and we always find that rocket comes up again when the climate gets a bit cooler. We then move those plants into the right bed for our rotation pattern. As these plants are finishing off, the grass hoppers can also complete the process.
Existing crops thriving through spring
So long as the moisture is kept up in this dry time and our soil life processes are applied consistently, the existing crops that will thrive over the coming three months of spring experience are:
- Spring onions and leeks – We have many of these in the garden in various states as we seek a continuous supply. I have found spring onions will work if planted every month. When its hotter they need to be shaded. For the leeks, they are not happy to be planted in the heat, but will survive quite well if finishing off in the warm times. We have harvested leeks now for the last 3 months and this will continue until December.
- Silver beet and kale – With sufficient water these amazingly robust crops keep giving for very long periods of time and I expect they will be ready to finish in December after giving 6 months of cropping. Nature is wonderful.
- Other leafies – I have many cos lettuce planted and these will grow well with high water levels. As it gets hotter they may need shade. The tactic I normally use is to locate them underneath larger fruiting vegetable plants that thrive in the heat
New crops being planted
The newer crops we are planting now are:
- Cucumbers – All on climbing frames, with frames used to shade leafies.
- Zucchini – I have been growing these since July in our warm winter and over the next 3 months the new lot I have planted should be great, plenty of warmth and low humidity. If humidity picks up, I use biodynamic horn silica and equisetum tea to reduce impact of humidity.
- Beans – These include snake beans, madagascar beans and windsor long pod climbing beans. The first 2 keep growing over a very long period whereas the windsor long pod is very temperature sensitive and will die off as soon as its too hot or too cold.
- Egg plants and capsicums – These will thrive in the heat and love this time of the year. I also use them to create shade for leafies
- Pumpkins – Will grow like crazy with a good start of compost and some moisture. These are grown away from the veg garden
- Turmeric – Slow growing crop that should be planted in Sep – Oct with harvest 10 months later
Our spring seasonal workshop is on the 7 September, a few spaces remain, register here. On November 10-11, we have our last 2 day biodynamic gardening workshop for this year in Brisbane. Register here.
We are getting busy with more food garden design and build projects as well as mentoring clients. Its a way I can bring these spring experience tips into physical manifestation for our clients. Have a look at our food garden build gallery we just put up on the site.
Authored by Peter Kearney – www.myfoodgarden.com.au