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.

herb-spiral-northey

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 or handle drier conditions (plant facing the summer sun and on top of the spiral):

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

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.

buliding

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.

compost

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.

chicken

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.

allotments

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

orchard

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. 

Book review: Sabrina’s juicy little book of citrus – by Sabrina Hahn

sabrina-citrus-book

No plants generate more gardening questions than citrus – and zesty gardening goddess Sabrina Hahn has got all the answers, including green and practical solutions to the most common problems. 

Bringing together lemons, limes, grapefruits, kumquats, oranges and much more, this little book is packed full of useful information on how to grow happy healthy citrus in your garden. 

Sabrina’s Juicy Little Book of Citrus is written by Sabrina Hahn, a media presenter on ABC’s gardening talk-back radio. The book features beautiful black and white line drawings which illustrate various points. As Sabrina says, it is “solid information and no photos”. It is the ideal size to fit in your handbag.

The citrus family is an enormous one and its members include sweet oranges, grapefruits, pomelos, bitter oranges,  kumquats, calamondins, mandarins, tangelos, lemons, limes and citrons.

The book covers propagation and care, twelve citrus varieties for the home gardener, and a section on troubleshooting.

I did discover that the risk of growing citrus from seed is that it can take anything from 6 to 30 years before you see any fruit. Perhaps there is hope for my fruit-less lemon tree yet.

I also learnt you need to fertilise citrus little-and-often and Sabrina recommends a half a handful of fertiliser every month from September to February in the first year.

Highly recommended for citrus lovers.

Sabrina’s Juicy Little Book of Citrus – by Sabrina Hahn

 

How to use a worm tower

worm-tower

Since abandoning our worm farm a few years ago (the weather was too hot in Brisbane), we decided to try a worm tower. This one is by Birdies Garden Products. The beauty of this method is the temperature is lower as the soil acts as an insulator.

When you first set up the tower, you may like to add a handful of composting worms and some pre-soaked coconut coir as bedding material.

You use it just like a compost bin but you leave out the big bits. We have a container on our bench top where we place some of our fruit and vegetable scraps and this then gets emptied into the worm farm which has a removable lid. Don’t forget worms do not like onions or citrus so keep these things out and put them in your normal compost bin. You can also add leaves, grass clippings, material from your garden, paper, small pieces of cardboard, and hair.

We’ve had no problems with our worm farm, but if it is starting to smell add a handful of lime to neutralise the food scraps.

The tower itself sits in one of our raised vegetable beds and is slightly higher than the soil and edge of the bed. It’s just less than my hand wide with lots of holes at the bottom to allow the composting worms to move freely between the garden bed and the compost. Worm poo (what is left after the worms have digested the material) is a rich source of nutrients and an excellent fertiliser for your vegetable plants.

After the compost has decomposed enough you can top it up or move it to a new location in the vegetable bed to spread the nutrients around. We would recommend moving the worm tower every six months to a new spot. The benefit of placing it in the bed is that the plants are receiving nutrients right at the root zone.

Worm towers are an easy way to keep a worm farm in a hot or cold location.

Thank you to Birdies Garden Products for providing us with the worm tower.

Hardy vegetables for self-sufficiency and survival

squash-flowers

Isabell Shipard recommends growing hardy vegetables for self-sufficiency and survival. Here are the ones that store well:

  • African cucumber – will store for over 12 months
  • Choko
  • Gourds
  • Pie melon
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin – Australian Ironbark, Baby Blue, Jack Be Little, Jack O’Lantern, Jarrahdale, Marina di Chioggia, Musque de Provence, Queensland Blue, Red Kuri
  • Squash – Blue Hubbard, Golden Hubbard, Green Hubbard

When pumpkin vines die down, pick mature fruit with plenty of stem. Make sure they’re well coloured and the stem has cracked. Cure the fruit for 10 days in the sun outdoors, or on a verandah in poor weather, to harden the skin so that they keep.

Store under cover on straw or shredded paper – in a cool, mouse-proof place.

How can I be prepared with Self-Sufficiency and Survival Foods? – by Isabell Shipard

The Essential List of Fruit Trees for Brisbane Backyards

fruit_trees

I decided to expand our selection of fruit trees in our backyard. Unfortunately, I didn’t own any useful gardening books on fruit trees, particularly ones that would help me decide which fruit trees are suitable for Brisbane’s climate and are less than 5 metres so that I can cram in a ton of different trees.

Fruit trees for Brisbane

Here’s my mega list of fruit trees suitable for Brisbane:

  • acerola cherry
  • apples, dwarf sub-tropical (Golden Dorsett , Tropical Anna, Tropical Sweet)
  • avocado, dwarf
  • banana
  • barbados cherry
  • blueberries (Sharp Blue – self-pollinating and low chill)
  • calamondin
  • crab apple
  • custard apple
  • dragon fruit
  • fig
  • grapes
  • grumichama
  • guava
  • jaboticaba
  • lemon
  • lime
  • longan (protected from birds and possums)
  • lychee
  • macadamia (pot)
  • mandarin, dwarf (freemont)
  • mango, dwarf
  • mulberry, dwarf (red shatoot)
  • native raspberry (scrambling bush)
  • nectarine (low chill)
  • orange – washington; Lanes late; Valencia and red ruby;
  • pawpaw
  • pepino
  • persimmon (but you’d need to prune it to under 5m)
  • pomegranate
  • plumcote
  • pomelo
  • sea grape tree
  • soursop
  • tamarillos
  • thai apple

Thank you to the knowledgeable people on the Brisbane Local Food ning who helped to compile this great list of small Brisbane suitable fruit trees.

I’d love to hear if you are successfully growing any other fruit trees in the Brisbane area?

If you live outside of Brisbane, you may like the list of trees for a suburban food forest.

List of gardeners practicing Permaculture in Australia

I-heart-permaculture-small

Image Copyright 2016 Emma Crameri

Here’s a list of some of the gardeners in Australia practicing permaculture:

New South Wales

Queensland

Tasmania

Victoria

Western Australia

New Zealand

 

Gardening and food forums

tawny

The internet has been invaluable for finding information about growing edibles. Many times a simple google search will provide the answers needed. There are a number of forums you can join to discuss your gardening successes and issues:

I tend not to talk about food online – just print off recipes and ogle the illustrations. I have way too many recipes in my “to cook one day” folder. I do like these food communities:

Do you know of any others?

Garden audit

duck

Now you can take off your rose coloured glasses and yellow positive hat. Grab a notepad and pen, and put on some sunglasses and a real hat. Head out into your outdoor space and complete a walk through. It may help to take another person through with you to bounce ideas off of them.

Write down anything that comes up…. Ask questions like:

  • What needs fixing or improving?
  • How can I use this space better?
  • Can you reduce your lawn space?
  • What are the most frequent activities you do?
  • Could you arrange your tools better?

Consider:

  • Cooking
  • Energy
  • Heating
  • Lighting
  • Mulching
  • Shade
  • Water use
  • Weeds

A garden audit will help to identify any problems or issues your garden has. You might end up with a ‘to-do’ list at the end.

One of my favourite permaculture ideas is to turn a problem into a solution. Bill Mollison illustrates this by saying:

“You don’t have a snail problem, you have a duck deficiency!”

This is the third step in planning your garden. If you missed them, there is also an exercise on creating a garden vision and a garden wish list.

How to create a garden wish list

This exercise will help you to design your dream garden and compile a garden wish list. Forget about cost and labour for the moment. This is a brainstorming exercise, so the sky’s the limit. Ask other family members what they would like.

You may like to draw your answers as a mind map. If you have any old gardening magazines, you could cut out the pictures you like and create a dream board. Write down the names of any plants you would like. Add as much detail as you can to your wish list.

Ideas for your garden wish list

Here are some ideas to start you off:

Food Production  Bush tucker (native) plants
 Exotic edible plants
 Herb spiral or garden
 Fruit and nut trees
 Mandela and keyhole beds
 No-dig garden
 Perennials
 Vegetables beds
Fauna  Beehive
 Birdbath
 Companion plants
 Chickens
 Nesting box
Flora  Native plants
 Firebreak
 Trellising
 Windbreak
Energy  BBQ or wood fired oven
 Outdoor lighting
Water  Drip system
 Gray water hose
 Grey water system
 Pond
 Water tank
Waste  Compost
 Worm farm
Entertaining and relaxing  Bench or hammock
 Outdoor seating and table
 Meditation area
Senses  Aromatic plants
 Pretty flowers
Landscaping  Fence
 Garage
 Greenhouse
 Mulching
 Pathways
 Shed
 Shade house
Kids  Climbing trees
 Fairy garden
 Sandpit
 Swimming pool
 Treehouse
Other  Gardening clothes
 Tools
 Wheelbarrow

The first step was the garden vision. What’s currently on your gardening wish list?