Ediblescapes is exploring community initiatives aiming for full capacity for an urban food security cushion, promoting edible gardens as families respond in the neighbourhoods.
The Ediblescapes’s volunteer training program, “EdibleGarden Promoters”, started new participant intakes in the first week of November, just at the beginning of our early wet summer, which is an unusual season for gardening on the Gold Coast.
Ediblescapes is taking the challenge with the support of a City Council grant. In spite of the weather conditions, Ediblescapes aims to fulfil its promise to supplement with healthy fresh food the Nerang Neighbourhood Centre’s foodbank in response to the food insecurity impact in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recession, and recurrent climate change natural disasters.
All these disruptions to the food system threaten widespread future food insecurity to our modern cities, which depend on imported food. Ediblescapes is exploring community initiatives aiming for full capacity for an urban food security cushion, promoting edible gardens as families respond in the neighbourhoods. Yet despite the heat and humidity of the Gold Coast wet summers, in time of need, we should be able to grow the needed food.
Our long summers, which have the tropical characteristics of warm to very hot nights and days, with high humidity, promoting heavy rainfall, already started in the last week of October this year, and will be prolonged possibly to late March.
This confirms the observation of our Gold Coast Organic Grower’s knowledgeable president, Maria Roberson, who said that the seasonal weather pattern has occurred about a month earlier than in the last years. To illustrate this, the picture below shows that the warm wet weather came three weeks earlier this year (2020) than the tropical summer characteristic of the South East Queensland three season pattern.
This year the ‘Wet’ arrived in late October, whereas in an average year, it starts in December and continues through February. Thanks to the influence of the el Niña phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, this year, heavy rainstorms are anticipated, to approximately the level of those in 2011, which provoked a flood catastrophe in South East Queensland.
Gardening in high humidity, cloudy skies and diffused light, presents a set of issues for growing plants. The gardener should prepare their raised garden beds with sufficient organic matter to enable good drainage; plant foliage distance should allow air movement, and a supplement of adequate nutrient will be required. In these conditions, as temperatures rise, we want to grow tropical vegetables, plants from Africa, Central and South America, South East Asia, India and the South Pacific.
Arno King, a Brisbane-based horticulturalist and garden writer, said, “This summer rainfall combined with the high summer temperatures, means that there is a need to be judicious when selecting cultivars of lettuce, tomatoes, beans as some of these thrive, and others cannot grow in the summer as they rot in the ground or bolt during periods of heavy summer rainfall.”
Arno suggested, “Climbing varieties are also a much better option for high production in small spaces (vertical growth) and less subject to disease during wet weather. Whenever you have a choice, (for example green beans, zucchini) plant the climbing rather than dwarf cultivars. Climbing vegetables include beans (lablab, winged, snake and ‘Purple King’ beans), squashes and gourds (zucchini, choko, cucumber, luffa, snake gourd, New Guinea gourd), and Malabar spinach.
“Other reliable vegetables include amaranth (Chinese spinach), Ethiopian cabbage, corn, ‘Australian Gold’, ‘Oakleaf’ and Asian lettuce, cherry tomato, kailan, rosella and pumpkin. Many of these plants will need to be planted by mid spring.” See Tim Sansom in conversation with Arno King at https://www.diggers.com.au/garden-advice/articles-and-more/articles/how-to-garden/rnlx16-subtropical-growing-zone/
As shown in the picture above, EdibleScapes are preparing the garden beds for the wet weather by planting vertically growing plants, and reducing mulch around the roots to allow evaporation. We are also deepening the water trenches, filling them up with fresh mulch to allow water infiltration yet sufficient drainage with as little soil erosion as possible. For this wet and hot long summer, we are planting sun loving, slow to fruit plants on the north and west sides of the garden bed, and the shade loving, short and rapid growth vegetables on the south and east side of the garden bed, where they will receive good ventilation and be protected from the harsh mid-day and afternoon sun.
We are confident that our biointensive, double depth soil of about 60cm, will receive, infiltrate and release excess water out through the sides of the mulch-filled trenches, allowing for the successful growth of these crops to be harvested and donated for the community in food insecurity situations. Ediblescapes’ volunteers are satisfied that by opening our demonstration and experiential learning garden to the Gold Coast community, it will motivate and show what it is possible to grow with a zero budget and without purchasing long distance or imported materials.