GROW FOOD slow food Have your garden and eat it too. A practical guide to organic gardening in the sub-tropics with step-by-step instructions and delicious seasonal recipes. Come with me too on some of my travels in Australia, Europe, Asia and beyond.

First, just a little bit about design.
The day before Good Friday and the comforting smell of a batch of hot cross buns cooking in the oven fills the house.
The weather is getting cooler, daylight saving is over, the rain has stopped and it’s time to get out in the garden.  It’s the beginning of the most productive time of the year in the vegetable garden that stretches from now until November.
NOTE:  Although, it will probably start raining again tomorrow morning because the Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival is on and it always does.  The raincoat and rubber boot people make a fortune.
(Or how to have a Cottage Garden without really trying)
  • If you are lucky enough to be free of veggie garden BIG pests like wallabies, brush turkeys, rabbits, dogs, possums etc you can integrate your food plants throughout the garden beds without fenced protection and create a lovely natural feel to your food, herb and flower garden.
  • The denser the planting the less weeding you have to do.
  • Regular organic feeding and mulching pays great rewards.  MULCH, MULCH, MULCH!

WHAT IS IN THIS BED (starting with foreground and moving back)

  • Gardenia ‘Florida’
  • Dhalia, burgundy pompon (unknown name – gift)
  • Cosmos, pink, self-seeded
  • Oregano, golden
  • Tamarillo
  • Turmeric
  • French tarragon, yellow
  • Sorrel
  • Gaura
  • Parsley, flat-leaf
  • Iris, blue, winter-flowering
  • Yacon
  • Salvia,purple perennial
  • Lemon verbena
I woke about 6am the other morning to a metallic tap-taping sound and thought “crikey, someone’s up early”, promptly turned over and went back to sleep.  A little later in the day I heard a repeated thumping on the roof, and then I saw the tail of this magnificent fellow hanging over the edge that he/she was banging it on the guttering!  The tap-tapping went on all day too.
This is the Pheasant Coucal, a marvellously brown bird that looks like it has been dusted with cocoa.  Then I remembered that I had seen them around (they always seem to be alone) about this time last year either scurrying across the lawn, dragging its tail, or dodging cars on the country roads.  They make the metallic tapping sound plus a loud oop-oop-oop that starts very early in the morning!
It’s a ground-dwelling bird native to Asia and the northern parts of Australia and feeds off small mammals, frogs, lizards and eggs etc.  Boy was I happy to see this one because over the next few days it kept me entertained with it’s flamboyant behaviour while feasting on the grasshoppers and locusts that were devastating my veggies.
Baby coucal (photo from web, unknown source)

Late one afternoon I heard a racket coming from this clump of bushes then the coucal emerged followed by what I can only describe as a little, brown, fluffy Ewok – it had a baby and was nesting in this undergrowth (check out the hair-do!). I was not quick enough for a photo.  Mine was a little larger than the one in this photo and had a black ‘party wig’ instead of this white one and a wonderful waddle when its scurried across the lawn behind parent.  Please show this to any of your neighbours (including mine!) who let their cats roam/leave them out at night/have an inordinate amount of concern for domestic pets and seemingly none for native wildlife.  Sorry, but I have just found my box of beautiful lettuce scratched up with a pile of cat poo where once were nurtured salad leaves-grrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Dense shrub planting in parts of your garden will encourage the ground dwelling birds, like wrens, silvereyes and finches who, once common, are now becoming rare sightings.
WHAT IS IN THIS BED? (from left to right and then back)
  • Bauhinia galpinii, orange
  • Heliotrope sp.Cherry Pie
  • Helichrysum tomentosum, silver
  • Fine leaved grevillea, pink, local (unknown species, gift)
  • Megaskepasma erythroclamys, red (try saying this without your teeth in!)
  • Tibouchina granulosa
Seed Saving – harvesting bok choy seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Broad Beans
  • Brussels sprouts (take eight weeks to mature before picking)
  • Bok choy and other Asian greens
  • Bush Basil
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Coriander
  • Garlic
  • Kang kung/water spinach
  • Leeks (they take ten weeks from seed to planting out)
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard Greens
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Potato
  • Rocket
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries (prefer a patch to themselves as they spread)
  • Tomato (in sunny, north facing spot)
  • Watercress
NOTE:  As much as you can SAVE YOUR OWN SEEDS or SWAP with others GROWN LOCALLY
Footnote:  We were with some friends in our local fabulous pizza place, Milk & Honey and got chatting to the nice young guys on the table next to us.  The conversation turned to dogs.  They said they had two huskies.  My border collie owning friend asked if they were hard to maintain and keep groomed in our climate.  Here is their reply.  “Not really, we have an air-conditioned room for them and when the weather gets too hot here in January we take them to Queenstown in New Zealand for a month”
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