The Garden Share Collective: November 2013

Garden Share Collective

I’m participating in the Garden Share Collective again this month, so here’s a round up of what has happened in our garden over the last month.


It’s Spring time but there’s not much happening in our garden. Not one of the bulbs I planted came up! Matt pulled out all of the brassicas in our vegetable beds because the caterpillars were winning that battle. There is not much remaining in the beds, just some kale and beetroot.


The dwarf Meyer lemon tree that was on it’s last legs has been revived with some chicken manure and seaweed solution. We repotted the herb garden we were given at Christmas and it’s doing really well. I was surprised, because it was planted in soil made entirely from grass clippings!

We lost a couple of fruit trees this month with the lack of rain and heat. I think they were mostly lychees which a colleague had warned me that they were too fussy for Brisbane’s hot weather. I did grow them from seed, so it was sad to see them wilt and die.

Matt was given a gardening kit for his birthday and it was made up of two narrow tin pots for the windowsill. Unfortunately the combination of the tin being too hot and the coir bedding material meant it needed to be watered every day. The lettuce ended up pathetic looking and only the dill is doing really well. Matt has abandoned it as a failure.

Here’s hoping we get some more rain so we can revive the garden this coming month. I am planning on planting some flowers in the outer garden and some drought-hardy vegetables in the vegetable beds.

Post for the Garden Share Collective challenge hosted by Stayed Table

The Garden Share Collective: October 2013

Garden Share Collective

I’m participating in the Garden Share Collective again this month, so here’s a round up of what has happened in our garden over the last month.

I volunteered at Northey Street City Farm, but it’s starting to get too hot to be working outside in the garden in the middle of the day.

In the vegetable beds, I planted Red Kuri pumpkin, Eggplant Listada di Gandia, Leek Elephant, Hales Best rockmelon, Sugar baby watermelon and Minnesota midget rockmelon. Some of these seeds were old, so it’s more than likely they won’t come up. We also need some decent rain to soak the beds.


The red bottlebrushes of the King’s Park are spectacular and are really the highlight of our garden this month. The rainbow lorikeets adore them.


We have been harvesting lots of green beans and green leafy vegetables. My parents had an abundance of lettuce, so we got a bunch and made lettuce soup – delicious, if not unusual and very subtle.

Plans for next month include working out how to revive my citrus tree that looks half dead but still bares a fruit. I also want to plant out the first bed with more vegetables.

Post for the Garden Share Collective challenge hosted by Stayed Table

The Garden Share Collective: September 2013

Garden Share Collective

I’m participating in the Garden Share Collective again this month, so here’s a round up of what has happened in our garden over the last month.


I volunteered twice at Northey Street City Farm in the nursery, so I learnt how they propagate seeds and then make the seedlings ready for selling to the public. I got some rejects to take home and plant – Purple Dragon carrots (above) and kale seedlings which seem to be doing well in Bed 3. Some old potatoes have also come up in this bed.


This is bed two – we been eating lots of baby cauliflower and green leaves from this bed. Matt picks off all the caterpillars by hand each afternoon. 


This is bed four – we are harvesting green beans and kale from this bed. I fertilized all of my fruit trees with yellow leaves with Epsom salts.


I planted two seeds of Giant Pumpkin for a growing challenge, but they unfortunately haven’t come up. Matt bought a chilli seedling and planted it in bed one. It’s Scotch Bonnet orange – very hot.

The highlight of the month was going on a tour of Northey Street City Farm, which I had to go on before I volunteered to work there. It was very inspiring. I’d like to go back to volunteering again before the weather becomes too hot. I also wrote a blog post on what is a herb spiral?.

This coming month I’d like to plant out some seeds in bed one and three.

Post for the Garden Share Collective challenge hosted by Stayed Table

What is a herb spiral?

Herb Spiral Northey St

I have been lucky to come across two herb spirals in the last month. Herbs that need good drainage are planted at the top of the raised garden bed. Plants which need good sunlight are planted on the side that receives the most sunlight and shade loving plants are planted on the other side.


Northey Street City Farm herb spiral

The first herb spiral was at Northey Street City Farm. It is approximately 1 metre high by 3 metres wide with three different levels for herbs. The top level is well drained and drier, while the bottom level is moister and cool. Different plants are planted on different levels depending on their needs.

Raised spiral gardens offer a range of micro-climates to meet the habitat needs of different plants. Raised spiral gardens are also very space efficient, and conserve water. A herb spiral can add detail to an otherwise flat or boring landscape.

Herb Spiral Qld Plant Expo

Queensland Plant Expo herb spiral

The herb spiral at the Queensland Plant Expo was smaller and probably a better size for most suburban backyards. It had only two levels and the spiral was made with stones to define the different areas. You can see they have used straw mulching to keep the weeds away.

Herbs for a herb spiral

Herbs that prefer moist conditions (plant these near the bottom of the spiral facing the morning sun):

  • Bergamot
  • Borage
  • Coriander
  • Cress
  • French tarragon
  • Ginger
  • Lebanese Cress (in a pot)
  • Lemon balm
  • Mint (in a pot)
  • Mushroom plant
  • Parsley
  • Rocket
  • Vietnamese mint (in a pot)
  • Watercress

Herbs that prefer / handle drier conditions (plant facing the summer sun and on top of the spiral):

  • Garlic chives
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Society garlic
  • Thyme
  • Yarrow

Smart Permaculture Design by Jenny Allen

Northey Street City Farm tour

Northey Farm Tours sign

Northey Street City Farm is a permaculture garden in the centre of Brisbane. It is located on 2 hectares of flood-prone area, which is leased from the Brisbane City Council.


In Zone One is the cafe, kitchen gardens and building. The building has been positioned on poles so that it is at the highest point of a 1 in 100 years flood, so that it will not be flooded. The kitchen gardens are for demonstration purposes and are in the shape of keyholes to maximise the output.

There are at least three large meeting places which can be used by visiting groups, but in particular school groups.

Bob gave us an eye-opening demonstration of earth art.

Across the road, there is a regeneration area, which is maintained by the local Bush Care group. There are also groves of native fruit trees in outer zones.


There is a dedicated green waste recycling centre, which includes a large worm farm and compost tunnels. They use the worm liquid to fertilise their plants, rather than as castings. Northey St uses a three bay compost system to rotate the waste matter.


There are three chicken tractors and these are moved every fortnight.

Also across the road are the productive gardens for the markets and lunches. The new vegetable beds are made up of cardboard, compost and straw. Northey St use the no-dig technique and the beds are raised to make the most of mini floods. They plant open-pollinated seeds and collect them again for saving.


Nearby are the allotments which are available for hire. Some people are using nets to keep the bush turkeys away.


There is also a citrus orchard and this area includes sub-tropical fruit trees. As an investment in the future, there is a grove of hardwood trees which will be harvested in 20 years time.

Northey Street Farm sign

There is a nursery on site called Edible Landscapes Organic Nursery. The organic markets are held in the car park on every Sunday.

Thank you to Northey Street City Farm for the free tour. Tours are held every Tuesday at 9:30pm and highly recommended. 

The Garden Share Collective: August 2013

Garden Share Collective

Welcome to all the new readers and hello again to my faithful long-term readers. I’ve decided to join the Garden Share Collective as a way to track the progress we are making in our garden and as a way to motivate us to get out there and make the most of the our backyard.

Our garden

We have been gardening for 6 years now, and learnt many lessons along the way. The garden is based on permaculture ideas and we use organic methods and inputs. We try as much as possible to use open-pollinated, heirloom seeds. Around the perimeter of the garden is planted out with natives to attract wildlife and provide a wind break.

We have four beds for vegetables, where we practice no-dig gardening. At present, Bed 1 is mostly fallow with some self-sown parsley and Queen Anne’s Lace.

broccoli seedlings


Bed 2 has some broccoli seedlings, cauliflower and kale from Northey Street.

Bed 3 has some Egyptian spinach which is not doing anything. It was recommended to us from Annette McFarlane in a talk at the Queensland Plant Expo.


Bed 4 is doing the best, but we aren’t exactly sure what we have planted. The seedlings were gifted to us from Matt’s Mum, and we think they are either purple cauliflower, broccoli or kale – they are a brassica of some kind! We also have two lots of heirloom beans which all came up.


We have about 11 herbs in pots, and 19 fruit trees and vines in big pots which we are gradually putting into the ground. Matt planted our two free plants from the Brisbane City Council along the fence line. They were both Buckinghamia Celsissima (above) and they have the most interesting shaped leaves. Matt also planted into the ground a sea grape, peanut tree and a pomegranate.


There is lots of new growth on the lillypillies and black sapote.

Highlights from the month


We recently pulled up all of our tumeric plants to harvest them and got a bumper crop. We got lots of inspiration and ideas from The Queensland Garden Expo and the highlight was meeting Costa. With some recommendations from Jerry I wrote about Plants for honey bees.

I was fortunate to interview Marion Grasby and also Ian Hemphill, Herbie’s Spices.

To do list

I must confess I’m not very good at planning the garden month to month, so this month is just going to be to plant in some more fruit trees into the ground and plant some seeds in the two empty beds. I’m also hoping to attend one of the free tours on a Tuesday at Northey Street City Farm.

I’ll be happy if I keep better records and I hope blogging for the Garden Share Collective will motive me to do just that.

Post for the Garden Share Collective challenge hosted by Stayed Table

No-dig Gardening by Esther Deans

no dig gardening

Esther Deans’ book on “No-dig Gardening and Leaves of Life” has inspired many vegetable gardens with her no-dig gardening method.

She says “A garden without digging comprises rectangular beds raised above ground level, formed with old pieces of hard board, small concrete clip bricks or anything to hold the rich organic moisture in place.” Esther recommends selecting a sunny spot and watering lightly after each layer.

Here are her step-by-step instructions on how to create a no-dig garden:

  1. Build a box with boards or bricks
  2. A layer of newspaper 1/2 cm thick
  3. Pads of lucerne hay
  4. Sprinkle on a dusting of organic fertilizer
  5. Cover with about 20cm of loose straw
  6. Sprinkle this layer with some fertilizer
  7. Tip a circle of rich compost 10cm deep and about 45cm across where seeds are to be planted.

No-Dig Gardening and Leaves of Life – by Esther Deans

Esther says that the most important thing about a no-dig garden is just that – don’t dig it. She says “Earthworms do a wonderful job of cultivating the soil and do not like to be disturbed.”

No-dig potato garden by Esther Dean



Here are Esther Deans’ instructions for creating a no-dig potato garden:

Go to your greengrocer and select ten good round potatoes with ‘eyes’. Place one potato in the centre of each pad of lucerne hay and cover with four handfuls of compost followed by a layer of about 20 centimetres of teased loose straw. Water gently and well.

After a few weeks the potatoes will push up through the straw. As they grow make sure that they are covered adequately with straw or grass clippings, otherwise ‘greening’ might take place, making them inedible. When the tops have died down, remove the top layer of straw and your potatoes will be ready for harvesting. Store in a dry place (do not wash them) until you are ready to enjoy your lovely home-grown potatoes.

No-Dig Gardening and Leaves of Life – by Esther Deans

You can use sugar cane mulch instead of straw. It’s also best to use organic potatoes or you can purchase seed potatoes from The Lost Seed or The Diggers Club depending on which state you live in.

Tons of turmeric


Sunday was perfect weather to get outside and garden. It was a lovely break from the rain and cloudy days we have recently been having.

Matt pulled out the dying leaves of two pot plants and look what he uncovered (above). We thought one of them was ginger, but it seems as if they were both turmeric plants. Matt said

There will be turmeric in every meal from now on.

I thought he was joking, but then discovered my spaghetti bolognese had an orange tinge to. Matt asked me whether I could taste it not. Fortunately I couldn’t!

If you want to grow your own turmeric or ginger simply plant one of the rhizomes (like above) and when the leaves die off during winter, it is time to harvest. Save a few of the rhizomes and replant for the following year. Make sure you get an edible ginger. Both plants are very easy to grow and harvest.

Costa talks a whole lot of rubbish at The Queensland Garden Expo

Costa, Emma

The highlight of The Queensland Garden Expo was meeting Costa Georgiadis, host of ABC’s Gardening Australia. We were lucky enough to have front row seats while we listed to him talk about “What a load of rubbish Resources. Why compost, creativity and collaboration is the health insurance we all need to subscribe to”.

Costa showed us photos of a garbage audit he had done at primary school and explained to the kids (and the audience) the importance of recycling our waste. He urged us to change our perspective on rubbish, and start to call it waste, and also to start to think about it as a resource. More than half of our waste is food, which can be converted into compost and then it can be used as an input into improving our soil. The compost feeds the plants which in turn feed us. “If we look after our soil, it will look after us”, he said.

Costa then showed us the following video:

Plastic State of Mind (Empire State of Mind Parody)

We enjoyed our time visiting all the stalls and buying some heritage seeds at The Queensland Garden Expo. You’d be spoilt for choice if you were wanting to buy seeds, plants and gardening products.

Plastic Free July

Did you know it was plastic free July? What will you do this month to creatively convert your rubbish into a resource?