When Kyrstie and I decided to revamp the monthly Garden Share Collective (GSC) linkup, we agreed that we would like to find out more about the participating gardeners. Where do they garden? Why do they do it? And what challenges do they face along the way?
One of the things I love most about the GSC is the way it brings together gardeners from vastly different climates with very different gardening challenges and experiences. This month’s featured gardener is Gillian from African Aussie blog, who lives n tropical north Queensland, roughly 3,000 km and several climate zones from my home in Adelaide, South Australia.
Provide a brief blurb (1-2 paragraphs) about yourself, where you live, the size and layout (e.g. raised beds, pots, country garden) of your garden, your climate, and anything else you’d like us to know.
Tell me about your blog
We purchased our unit in 2005 and I searched the internet to get advice on growing vegetables in a tropical climate. I discovered Kitchen Gardeners and at that stage they had a pretty active forum. It was wonderful – like having a neighbour over the back fence giving you advice! That led to reading blogs, and I thought it would be a wonderful tool to keep a record of my garden evolving. Blogger seemed the easiest to set up, and suddenly I had my own blog! It has been very useful to look back and see when I planted something, or when it flowered or fruited. I also didn’t anticipate the amount of gardening friends I would make from all over the world!
Why do you grow your own food?
I read somewhere that food starts to lose its nutrients within four hours of being picked. I try to eat as healthy as possible, and eating vegetables grown in my own backyard is one of the healthiest things to do. Sitting out under the gazebo surrounded by lovely tropical flowers, and serving my guests tasty homemade food is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
What do you grow in your garden?
Living in the Tropics – the Daintree Rainforest starts just up the road – does pose some difficulties. We have two seasons: summer, the wet season, and winter, the dry season.
During the wet season, I grow lots of ginger, turmeric, loofah, snake beans and sweet potato. Then in the dry season I grow greens, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, capsicums, and sometimes I can even get a few snow peas if it is not too warm. I have created a bit of a food forest so that I have small fruiting trees that provide shade, rather than taking a shade cloth up and down all the time. It is not very often that full sun is needed for growing in this area, so dappled light is perfect.
I am now using every inch of space out the back for my veggies. All the grass is gone. To the side of the carport out in the front, I have fruit salad alley where I have a row fruit trees in pots, with a passionfruit vine on the fence, and strawberries in pots attached to the fence.
Here I am in the veggie garden as it looks now.
What are the biggest problems you face in your garden?
I started out with one lychee tree and lawn, and have eventually removed all the lawn, replacing it either with flowers or food. Initially the soil was just sand but with continual composting, worm buckets and organic manures I now have soil that is wriggling with earthworms.
I have to keep amending the soil because the huge rains that we get in the wet season can drain away nutrients, so the more compost in the soil, the better.
Bandicoots and scrub hens also want to sample my veggies and dig up small seedlings, so I make a huge effort to seal off the fences so they can’t get in. I also have bacterial wilt in the soil, so cannot grow solanacea (tomatoes, eggplants and peppers) in the soil. I use wicking beds for growing those.
Do you have any tips for new kitchen gardeners?
I was very lucky to win Kyrstie Barcak’s book Grow Just One Thing, and I totally agree. Start small, and believe me you will just keep expanding, until you use up all your available space. Start composting, and use mulch to cover bare soil to keep the nutrients in. Don’t let costs inhibit you; re-use everything you can – cardboard is a great mulch. Read and follow lots of blogs, and comment and ask questions. Don’t be afraid of starting with seeds; you can sow them thickly, tuck the mulch around them like the tatsoi in this photo and then there is no room for weeds. Just cut away the leaves you want to use, and the plants will continue to grow and produce more leaves for a very long time.
What are your favourite ways to use and/or preserve home-grown produce?
I love growing ginger and turmeric. My favourite evening drink is grated ginger and turmeric and a grind of black pepper heated up with coconut milk. I am also harvesting my own coffee this year. I dry rosella for tea. Mostly I love to just grow small patches of a large variety, so that I can gather together a variety of greens and herbs and make delicious salads.
Do you have a recipe that you’d like to share?
I love to make bean patties, tuna patties, salmon patties, whatever, and then freeze them to bring out for lunches or dinners atop a home picked salad. As shown in the photo below, I will pick a mixture of greens, herbs and tomatoes – whatever strikes my fancy! Here is a spicy tuna patty that I am loving at the moment.
- 400g tin tuna, well drained
- 2 cups cooked sweet potato flesh
- 1 tablespoon red curry paste
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, grated or finely minced
- Zest of a lemon or lime
- Pinch of dried chillies
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 eggs
- Mix together the tuna, sweet potato, celery, onion and seasonings.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add beaten eggs, and mix well.
- Spoon into 12 well greased muffin tins, and bake at 180*C for 20 to 25 mins.