February – Permaculture Food Gardening in Subtropical Australia

by Ewa Bekiesch, Permaculture designer, educator, sustainable living consultant, and healthy food advocate.

February is one of the hottest months in our subtropical parts of Australia. Hot and humid! We are thankful for every single drop of rain and appreciate the food we are harvesting at this time of the year, and there is plenty to harvest!

We are not running out of jobs in the garden, however, we are limiting the work to the early morning and very late afternoon hours. Additional to the summer gardening jobs described in my post here, February is the month when I prune all sorts of my perennial and self-seeding bushes. Especially Pigeon Peas, Cranberry Hibiscus, and Lemon Grass are getting a good cut and are turned into highly nutritious mulch straight away. Lemon Gras can be used straight away, the more brunchy plants go through the mulcher. Smaller pieces will break down much quicker and will provide the growing plants with the nutrients much more quickly.

I have prepared a list of what is happening in our food forest in February. I’m pretty sure that I forgot about a few jobs, but if so, I will update the list during the month as I progress with the work. If you want to know how we are using the plants we grow, or you like to add something or ask a question, simply comment below, and follow us on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. I am also offering onsite consultations, and selling plants, cuttings and seeds, too. Check our online shop if you are interested in any of that.

Notes:

  1. This is the monthly edition about that particular month. If you haven’t read my ‘summer gardening jobs’ article yet, start there: Summer – Permaculture Sustainable Food Gardening in Subtropical Australia. 
  2. There are more plants you can grow in the subtropical climate but I am limiting my list to the plants that I grow in my food forest.

Sowing

I have most of them self-seeding and taking care of themselves in the food forest so not much for me to do but if you don’t have them yet, you can sow now ( check the ‘Food Forest Guide’ for more info about the plants listed below).

  • Asian Pigeonwings, Butterfly Pea – Clitoria Ternatea
  • Bottle Gourd, Calabash – Lagenaria siceraria and other gourds
  • Cape Gooseberry – Physalis peruviana
  • Egyptian Spinach – Corchorus olitorius
  • Winged bean, Asparagus Pea – Psophocarpus tetragonolobus
  • Luffa – Luffa aegyptiaca
  • Tromboncino, Summer squash – Cucurbita moschata
  • Okra – Abelmoschus esculentus
  • West Indian Gherkins, Maroon Cucumber – Cucumis anguria
  • Orange Cosmos Flower – Cosmos sulphureus
  • Indiana Lettuce, Chinese Sword Lettuce – Lactuca indica
  • Pigeon Peas – Cajanus cajan
  • Cranberry Hibiscus – Hibiscus acetosella
  • Capsicum and Chilli
  • different cucumber varieties, also the Armenian cucumber
  • Flowers, Beans, Squash and Pumpkin, will do well, too
  • tomatoes (in punnets)

In the last week of February also:

  • garlic
  • potatoes
  • cucumbers
  • beetroot
  • carrots

Planting

There are many plants that don’t mind the heat. Make sure they are sun-trained before you plant them and also check where they grow best, sun, half-shade, or shade.

No trees in this list, mostly because there are too many trees you can grow in a subtropical climate so simply choose what you enjoy eating and what suits your garden. Talking about planting trees, you should resist planting any young fruit trees during the summertime as they may struggle to get established. Especially during a very dry and hot summer. If you want to know what trees we are growing, check our ‘Food Forest Guide‘.

  • bush basil – Ocimum oxcitriodorum
  • Cranberry Hibiscus – Hibiscus acetosella
  • Galangal – Thai Ginger –Greater Galangal, Alpinia galangal
  • Goldenrod – Solidago
  • Gotu Kola – Centella asiatica
  • Lemongrass – Cymbopogan citratus
  • Longevity Spinach – Gynura procumbens
  • Okinawa Spinach – Hawaiian lettuce – Gynura bicolour
  • Peruvian Parsnip – Arracacia xanthorrhiza
  • Jicama – Pachyrhizus erosus
  • St John’s Wort – Hypericum perforatum
  • Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis
  • Tarragon, Estragon – Artemisia dracunculus
  • Cassava – Manihot esculenta
  • Pigface, Baby Sunrose – Aptenia cordifolia
  • Brahmi-Memory Plant – Waterhyssop – Bacopa monnieri
  • Bana Grass – Pennisetum purpureum x amaricanum
  • West Indian Arrowroot – Maranta arundinacea
  • Sugarcane Red – Saccharum officinarum
  • Sweet Leaf – Sauropus androgynous
  • shallots
  • garlic chives
  • pineapples
  • sweet potatoes
  • bananas
  • passion fruit
  • chilly, capsicum
  • eggplant
  • mint

Harvesting

We are harvesting daily and as required, depending on of what we like to eat and cook, and/or what needs to be harvested. The February harvest list includes and is based on what grows in our food forest and what is possible, including fruit from our trees. 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, or as green mulch ‘chop and drop, go to compost if they are taking over, or as food for our chickens, ducks, or worm farm. The possibilities are endless.

Perennials crop in February:
  • Yellow Cherry Guava
  • Tamarillo fruit
  • bush basil – Ocimum oxcitriodorum
  • Cranberry Hibiscus – Hibiscus acetosella – leaves
  • Galangal – Thai Ginger –Greater Galangal, Alpinia galangal – leaves and 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
  • Rosella – Roselle – leaves and calyx
  • St John’s Wort – Hypericum perforatum – flowers
  • Tarragon, Estragon – Artemisia dracunculus – leaves and flowers
  • Cassava – Manihot esculenta – leaves and roots
  • Brahmi-Memory Plant – Waterhyssop – Bacopa monnieri – leaves
  • Bana Grass – Pennisetum purpureum x amaricanum – leaves fro mulch and as food for animals
  • West Indian Arrowroot – Maranta arundinacea – root
  • Sugarcane Red – Saccharum officinarum – cane
  • Sweet Leaf – Sauropus androgynous – leaves
  • Elderberry – Sambucus Nigra – berries and flowers
  • shallots
  • garlic chives
  • pineapples
  • sweet potatoes – leaves and roots
  • bananas
  • passion fruit
  • pawpaw – leaves and fruits
  • Loganberries – leaves
  • Horseradish leaves – leaves and roots
  • limes
  • blackberry – leaves
  • star fruit – fruit
  • Panamaberry fruit
Short-living perennials and annuals we harvest in February:
  • squash, tromboncino, zucchini, pumpkin
  • chilly, capsicum
  • eggplant
  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • parsnip
  • beans
  • Asian Pigeonwings, Butterfly Pea – Clitoria Ternatea
  • Okra – Abelmoschus esculentus
  • West Indian Gherkins, Maroon Cucumber – Cucumis anguria
  • Indiana Lettuce, Chinese Sword Lettuce – Lactuca indica
  • sunflower
  • Bottle Gourd, Calabash – Lagenaria siceraria and other gourds
  • Luffa – Luffa aegyptiaca

Preparing for the winter season

February is the time when I start to think about winter vegetables like all sorts of brassicas, radishes, garlic, and seed potatoes. While we are still far away from sowing and planting them, it comes in handy to have them when the time comes. I am checking my “fridge depot”, where I store all my seeds and if I miss something, now is the time to get it organised. Swap groups and online sellers are good sources. If you want to grow healthy food, go for the heirloom, non-GMO, open-pollinated seeds only. Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated which means that you can collect and save your own seeds from the plants you grow in your garden, store them for the following season, and use them from year to year. Some people say that the heirloom varieties give you a delicious taste compared to the hybrid ones but I cannot confirm since always use heirloom seeds. It makes me think now, maybe that is why our homegrown food tastes so delicious.

I hope that my article will help you to plan and organise your garden and brings you one step closer to growing an abundance of food and becoming self-reliant sooner than later 🙂

Any questions or comments? Consider joining our Telegram group here! Telegram is a safe way to get informed and stay in touch. 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.

The next article comes out in the first week of March.

Ewa

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