December in the Garden- Permaculture Food Gardening in Subtropical Australia
by Ewa Bekiesch, Permaculture designer, educator, sustainable living consultant, and healthy food advocate.
Summer is here! Hot and humid days are going to be our companions for the next three months or so with more or less rain however, this doesn’t stop us from producing healthy and delicious food! There is no “food-growing brake” in a self-sufficient homestead. Firstly because we love naturally grown food without any additives, and secondly because there are many different foods that are happily growing during this time of the year.
This article might give you some ideas about what can be done, sown, planted, and harvested in the garden in December in subtropical parts of Australia. Note: this is all based on my experience and our work in the food forest. Feel free to comment below if you would like to add or ask something.
Since I am being asked where to get the plants I grow – we do sell many of our food forest plants and seeds online through our website here. You will also find the link below at the end of this article.
For easy-to-grow vegetables in hot summer, check my video below at the end of this article or in my YouTube channel.
General gardening jobs
- Applying compost tea every 3-4 weeks to plants with new growth and the garden beds with growing veggies. I know, this is something I write about each month but it is really important! Check my video here if you want to know how to make your own. You can use any greens for it! Applying compost tea to your garden should be a regular task if you do serious gardening and you want to see a good crop.
- Sowing, planting, harvesting – check the list below.
- Weeding and mulching! Mulch will keep the soil cool and moist; this is exactly what we want. The earthworms are most happy and active when the soil temperature does not go over 24°C
- Apply fruit fly bags and nettings on ripening fruit and veggies, make or buy fruit fly traps, and plant heat-resistant herbs like Bush basil, Rosmarine, mint, shallots, and other near fruit trees and garden beds to confuse the creatures you don’t want in your crop.
What NOT to do this month
- Planting any brassicas and radishes is over now until autumn. They don’t like the humidity and hot temperatures we are coming into. All of them will bold quickly and all sorts of bugs will have a feast on them, too, so forget it! However, if you have some of them bolting now, you can leave them for the beneficial insects and for seeds for the next season
Sowing, planting, harvesting
Many of the plants are self-seeding in our food forest and emerging like out of nowhere. If you don’t know some of the plants in the list below, check my ‘Food Forest Guide’ for more info about the plants, how to grow and use them, along with some other tips and tricks.
- Asparagus crown
- Bottle Gourd
- Indiana Lettuce, Chinese Sword Lettuce – Lactuca indica
- Pigeon Pea
- Sweet corn
No trees in this list, mainly because there are too many fruit trees you can grow in a subtropical climate so simply choose what you enjoy eating and what suits your garden. If you want to know what trees we are growing, check our ‘Food Forest Guide‘.
Planting throughout the entire month:
- bush basil – Ocimum oxcitriodorum
- Gotu Kola – Centella asiatica
- Lemongrass – Cymbopogan citratus
- Longevity Spinach – Gynura procumbens
- Okinawa Spinach – Hawaiian lettuce – Gynura bicolour
- Peruvian Parsnip – Arracacia xanthorrhiza
- Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis
- Tarragon, Estragon – Artemisia dracunculus
- Pigface, Baby Sunrose – Aptenia cordifolia
- Brahmi-Memory Plant – Waterhyssop – Bacopa monnieri
- Bana Grass – Pennisetum purpureum x amaricanum
- Sugarcane Red – Saccharum officinarum
- garlic chives
- sweet potatoes
- sweet corn
- Cape Gooseberry
We are harvesting daily and as required, depending on what we like to eat and cook, and/or what needs to be harvested. The August harvest list includes and is based on what grows in our food forest and what is possible, fruit included. As you may think, we don’t harvest all of it every day. Many of them simply keep growing and wait patiently for their turn to end up in the kitchen, as green mulch ‘chop and drop’, some of them go to compost if they are taking over, or as food for our chickens, ducks, or worm farm. The possibilities are endless.
Perennials crop we harvest in December:
- Bush basil – Ocimum oxcitriodorum
- Cassava – Manihot esculenta – roots
- Cranberry Hibiscus – Hibiscus acetosella – leaves and flowers
- Galangal – Thai Ginger –Greater Galangal, Alpinia galangal – roots
- Gotu Kola – Centella asiatica – leaves
- Lemongrass – Cymbopogan citratus – leaves and stalks
- Longevity Spinach – Gynura procumbens – leaves and stalks
- Okinawa Spinach – Hawaiian lettuce – Gynura bicolour – leaves and stalks
- Peruvian Parsnip – Arracacia xanthorrhiza – leaves and roots
- Brahmi-Memory Plant – Waterhyssop – Bacopa monnieri – leaves
- Bana Grass – Pennisetum purpureum x amaricanum – leaves for mulch and food for animals
- West Indian Arrowroot – Maranta arundinacea – root
- Sugarcane Red – Saccharum officinarum – cane, mostly to dry and store for meat smoking later on
- Elderberry – Sambucus Nigra – flowers
- Lemon guava
- Alpine strawberries – Wild Strawberries – berries
- Aloe Vera
- garlic chives
- sweet potatoes – leaves and roots
- Horseradish – leaves and roots
- Dandelion – leaves and flowers
- Pepino fruit
- different herbs
Short-living perennials and annuals we harvest in December:
- Bottle Gourd
- Pigeon peas
- all sorts of herbs
- QLD Arrowrot – leaves for chickens and bulbs for us
- Chinese tree lettuce leaves
I’m pretty sure that I forgot about one or the other plant which we sow, plant, or harvest but I will update as we progress into the month. Any questions or comments? Simply comment below Looking forward to meeting you there. If you would like to learn how to plan and design your edible garden, and how to grow food, consider joining one of our workshops or enroll in the self-paced online course. More info here.
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For design, consultation, workshops, courses and plants, check our website here.
If you would like to buy us a coffee, you can do so here.
I hope that my article helps you to plan and organise your garden, and brings you one step closer to growing an abundance of food to become self-reliant sooner than later 🙂
The following article comes out in the first week of January.
What are you sowing, planting, and harvesting in your subtropical garden at the moment? Leave your comment under this article. Happy Gardening!