Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Kitchen Gardens: What to Grow in the Sub-Tropics

When and What to Plant?

Climbing French beans
I wasn't thinking of taking my wheelbarrow any further than the end of the garden so I was a bit perplexed this morning when I noticed this warning on it's tyre 'not to be used on the highway. 
A little later on a friend stopped me in town and asked "can I still plant onions"? It seems like a simple question but it is really quite a big one - what can I plant and when?  This would be the topic that, over the years, I have probably been asked the most. When answering this, the most important factor that you have to take into account is your climatic region and then the micro climate of your garden.  

Treat each site on it's merits.  To give you an example.  Our region is classified as sub-tropical and I have certainly had to totally rethink the question "what can I plant and when" since moving from the temperate (cooler) climate of Sydney. 
For example; I can't get garlic to 'head' in my garden and use it as 'wet garlic' (like a fat spring onion) in cooking - yet 5 km up the valley they grow beautiful stuff - it's a few degrees cooler than here. Conversely, none of the valley folk have any ripe tomatoes or zucchini yet, but my neighbour and I are harvesting already (something unheard of until December in Sydney) 
Here goes!  Below is a list of all the food plants in my garden at the moment - divided into annuals (I have to plant them almost every year) and perennials (they just keep going).  If you have realised that it's good to have a mixture of both - you are half way there. 
ANNUAL
Dinner!
Harvesting Now!
basil
basil lettuce
beans(going since summer)
beetroot
bok choy
broad beans(not quite)
broccoli
chard
chilli
coriander(almost finished)
dill
eggplant
fennel
garlic
leek(2nd crop this year)
broad bean (in flower)
lettuce
mustard greens
onions
Radicchio
peas
parsley
potatoes(2nd planting)
purslane
radish
spinach
spring onions
tomatoes(just ripening)
tuscan kale
watercress

ANNUALS 

About to be Planted!

carrots
capsicum
corn
Broad beans in flower
cucumber
rocket
squash
zucchini

PERENNIALS in the garden
banana
bay
betel leaf
blood orange
ceylon spinach
choko
cumquat
curry leaf
feijoa
fig
French tarragon
Pineapple - makes a good border
galangal
ginger
kaffir lime
lemon
lemonade
lemon myrtle
lemon thyme
lime
marjoram
mint
oregano
papaya
pineapple
rhubarb
rose apple
rosemary
Bananas are easy to grow and bountiful!
strawberry
sweet potato
tamarillo
turmeric
thyme
Vietnamese mint
yacon

All of this has been planted within the last five years and a most of it virtually looks after itself, with a lot of the annuals self seeding.
The most important lesson I have learned is that the annual food plants in the sub-tropics do best in the cooler months of autumn, winter and spring and deteriorate rapidly when the rains come over summer.

However, for most of the year the garden is incredibly abundant and always gives us something to eat. To answer Jo's question - if you want to plant onions, do it now and you might get be able to harvest them before the rains come. Give it a go. Just see how much you can grow!
" Beware of gardens of the righteous! Trimmed edges mean a frightened soul. "Jackie French


NOTE:  See Page SEASONAL PLANTING GUIDE
                                                                                                                                                
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