Does anyone know what plant this is?


Can anyone identify this plant which is about 30 cm high and has small yellow flowers?

It’s living in our vegetable beds. Matt thinks it may be a companion plant. It doesn’t look like what I planted there – eggplant, pumpkin, leek, rockmelon or watermelon!?! So I’m not sure what it is.


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

How to grow a lychee tree


Lychee – Litchi chinensis

Nearly two months ago we ate a bag of fresh lychees and I kept some of the seeds. I just rinsed them and then let them dry in a saucer (above), then planted them out in some soil – nothing fancy it was just some compost because that’s all I had at the time.

Out of a dozen seeds that I planted, four of them thrived and they were transplanted into a small pot each. Each little plant is now about 20 cm high and looking pretty healthy. One is straggling but I think they’ll all make it.

Lychees are self-pollinating, producing both male and female flowers on the same panicle, so only one tree is needed to get fruit. To become productive trees however, they need a week of cool night temperatures (below 20°C) before flowering.
ABC Gardening

What are these guerrilla fruit trees?


I went for a walk around the neighbourhood and found a pumping permaculture garden along the roadside in some unused land. Obviously the work of some crafty Guerrilla Gardeners. There were plenty of edible natives, but what gave away the patch were the pumpkin vines creeping underneath the fence. You could say the parsley and basil did as well.

I didn’t recognise a few plants including the two above. Does anyone know what they are?

Documentary review: Forks over Knives

The “Forks over knives” dvd has just been released overseas, and I was fortunate to receive my copy on pre-order.

The documentary examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.

The main storyline traces the personal journeys of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional scientist from Cornell University, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former top surgeon at the world renowned Cleveland Clinic. Inspired by remarkable discoveries in their young careers, these men conducted several groundbreaking studies. Their separate research led them to the same startling conclusion: degenerative diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even several forms of cancer, could almost always be prevented—and in many cases reversed—by  adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet.

You may have heard of Dr Campbell from his book ‘The China Study‘.

The cameras also follow some of their patients who have chronic conditions from heart disease to diabetes, and are taught by their doctors to adopt a whole foods plant-based diet as the primary approach to treat their ailments.

Keep your eye out for this one, or over your copy over at amazon Forks over Knives.

Where to buy local native plants around Brisbane


There are a number of great little places where you can buy local native plants in and around Brisbane. The top four are my favourite places for variety and price:

Northey Street City Farm

Corner of Northey and Victoria Streets,
Windsor QLD
Phone: (07) 3857 8775

Pine Rivers Community Nursery – Kumbartcho Sanctuary
Bunya Pine Court, Eatons Hill
Phone: (07) 3264 3953

Fairhill Native Plants and Botanic Gardens
114-132 Fairhill Road,
Ninderry (Yandina) QLD 4561
Phone: (07) 5446 7088

Nova Gardens Nursery
78a Settlement Road, The Gap, QLD
Phone: (07)  3300 4161

Morton Bay community plant nurseries:

Bribie Island Community Nursery
208 First Avenue, Bongaree
Phone: (07) 3410 0088

Caboolture Region Environmental Education Centre (CREEC)
150 Rowley Road, Burpengary
Phone: (07) 3888 9285

Redcliffe Botanic Gardens
Henzell Street, Redcliffe


Balancing act

Trying to be self-sufficient is about juggling a number of different factors.

First of all you need to sow the right plant at the right time. It helps to purchase your seeds and plants from a local supplier as they will have already adapted to the climate and conditions of your area.

Grow produce that you like to eat. I know it sounds obvious, but we were putting a lot of effort and time into growing food we didn’t like because it was healthy and we were following a plan. We ended up giving bagfuls away to friends and family. Grow the things that you use the most often, including herbs.

If you choose plants that yield over a long period of time, you can prevent a glut. The modern hybrids are bred to get to market in one hit, so give preference to the heirloom varieties. If you can stagger your planting of a particular crop over a number of weeks you will also spread out your harvesting time (known as successive sowing).

You need to grow enough to allow for some losses. You may lose plants to pests and diseases, sudden changes in the weather (drought or flooding) and sometimes birds and the local wildlife. To allow for these losses you can grow a variety of different plants and species, that way you don’t put all your eggs in one basket or as I like to say “don’t put all your seeds in one pot”.

It’s better for your health and the environment to practise organic and sustainable methods of gardening. Use crop rotation to prevent diseases and pests from building up. Try companion planting.

Make gardening easy – plan out your space so that you have what you need close by. Put your vegetable patch and fruit trees near your water source. Consider perennials and self-sowing plants to make some of your edible area low maintenance.

Cut and come again or pick-and-pluck plants

Try saying that three times quickly. Cut and come again plants are sometimes called pick and pluck. They are a certain type of edible plant that can yield for a long period of time. Instead of picking a whole plant, simply pick off a few of the outer leaves as required. The main plant will continue to grow and produce more.

Here’s my future plan for a path side plucking area:

Divide your space up into a number of areas. The first area could be for salad ingredients that don’t need cooking. The second area could be used for the plants that need cooking before eating. You may like to also add an herbal spiral or garden nearby, perhaps in a pot or by reusing half a wine barrel for herbs like basil, mint, and parsley etc.

This area is designed to be fairly low maintenance, so I’ve given preference to perennials (p) and self-seeding (ss) plants. For some colour and interest add some edible flowers such as calendula, chamomile, cornflower, geranium, lavender, nasturtiums, stock, sunflower and violets.

For apartments and small areas, you could grow a selection of some of the smaller plants in pots or Styrofoam containers.

Some of these may be considered weeds in your area, so please check first. If you are having trouble sourcing seed try your local seedsavers or a wildflower supplier.

No cooking required

Cook these

For more information try Salad Leaves for All Seasons by Charles Dowding. Patrick Whitefield has plans for a ‘minimalist garden’ in his book on permaculture called The Earth Care Manual.

Written in part for a permaculture assignment.

Keeping records: plant album

Last year, we visited an open garden that was professionally designed on a tiny inner-city block of land. The garden was framed by a white picket fence and a violet bougainvillea boldly crept over the top veranda of the terraced house.  It would have been hard not to have been impressed by the sheer number and variety of plants squeezed in.

And then I found a pocket photo album filled with colourful plant tags and that’s what caught my eye!

At home I tipped an old shoebox upside down, and out fell my collection of ratty plant labels, tags and markers. I cleaned off all the dirt from the best plant tags and sorted them into similar shapes and brands. It was time to give them a proper home in a plant label album. I also added side notes of where they were planted in the garden. You could also add the date planted and any special notes you want to remember.

Tree planting and mulching

When planting out a native or a fruit tree into the garden it is helpful to mulch around the root zone to ensure it gets off to a good start. In the initial stages a seedling will have to compete with the weeds and grass for water and nutrients. As the tree matures the roots will be much deeper into the soil and have a better chance of survival. Mulch also helps reduce moisture evaporation from the soil.

Ten years ago it was the fashion to use thick black plastic sheets to keep weeds out. It was very effective, but did not allow good water, air and nutrient penetration so it’s less popular these days. A better alternative is a biodegradable ground cover or weed mat. These are sold as sheets of recycled fabric or paper. You can also buy squares for trees that have pre-cut holes in them. They retain moisture well and keep the weeds out. Add mulch on top to cover and disguise.

Using layers of newspaper and cardboard as weed prevention is a popular permaculture technique. You can also use black plastic or old carpet as a way to kill grass and weeds. (Do not use synthetic carpet or coloured magazine paper as they can leach nasty chemicals into the soil). Cover the area for several weeks, move to a new area and then replace the bare patch with a thick layer of mulch.

You may like to plant a living mulch around the base of your tree. Typically a living mulch is a dense ground cover. Suitable Australian natives include Banksia Roller Coaster, Banksia Pygmy Possum, Creeping Banksia, Creeping Boobialla, Grevillea Poorinda Royal Mantle, Grevillea gaudichauidii, Guinea Flower, Matted Bush Pea and Prostrate Red Grevillea.

Any other suggestions?