March – Permaculture Sustainable Food Gardening in Subtropical Australia

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

March is the month when we get busy! Very busy! Even dough it still feels like summer, we do have autumn. The winter sowing and planting have started and I am really excited about it! I also look forward to the following weeks when I can spend more time in the garden. The summer heat and humidity didn’t make it very easy lately.

General jobs in March

  • Pruning and trimming perennial bushes and vines and turning them into mulch. Those which don’t have any seeds go straight onto the garden beds. The ‘seedy’ ones end up in the worm farm or compost. Trimming your perennial plants at the beginning of autumn will still give them enough time to get some new growth before winter.
  • Preparing the garden beds, if not done yet, for the winter sowing and planting. Regenerating, enriching the soil, and mulching (check my previous articles and Youtube videos how to do it)
  • Busy planning what seeds and seedlings go where and when

I have prepared a list of what is happening in our food forest in March. I’m pretty sure that I forgot about a few, 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 on this article, join our discussion board and follow us on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. I am also offering workshops, courses and occasionally selling plants and seeds, too. Check our store if you are interested in any of that.

Notes:

  1. This is the monthly edition of that particular month. If you haven’t read my ‘autumn gardening jobs’ article yet, start there: Autumn – 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 which I grow in my food forest and I have the best experience.

Sowing

Many of them are self-seeding in our food forest. 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 how to use them, along with some other tips and tricks.

  • Asian Pigeonwings, Butterfly Pea – Clitoria Ternatea
  • West Indian Gherkins, Maroon Cucumber – Cucumis anguria
  • Indiana Lettuce, Chinese Sword Lettuce – Lactuca indica
  • Ethiopian Cabbaga – Brassica carinata
  • rocket lettuce
  • radish
  • silverbeet
  • beetroot
  • broad beans
  • cabbage
  • carrot
  • cauliflower
  • celeriac
  • celery
  • chives
  • dill
  • mustard greens
  • leeks
  • lettuce
  • different cucumber varieties, also the Armenian cucumber
  • Flowers
  • garlic
  • potatoes

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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Sugarcane Red – Saccharum officinarum
  • tomatoes
  • oregano
  • shallots
  • garlic chives
  • pineapples
  • sweet potatoes
  • bananas
  • chilly, capsicum
  • eggplant
  • mint

Harvesting

We are harvesting daily and as required, depending on what we like to eat and cook, and/or what needs to be harvested. The March 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 we harvest in March:
  • Cherry Guava
  • 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
  • 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 for mulch
  • West Indian Arrowroot – Maranta arundinacea – root
  • Sugarcane Red – Saccharum officinarum – cane, mostly to dry and store for smoking meet later on
  • Sweet Leaf – Sauropus androgynous – leaves
  • Elderberry – Sambucus Nigra – berries and flowers
  • Alpine strawberries – Wild Strawberries – berries
  • Aloe Vera
  • Dragon fruit
  • Hawaiian guava
  • shallots
  • garlic chives
  • pineapples
  • sweet potatoes – leaves and roots
  • bananas
  • passion fruit
  • pawpaw – leaves and fruits
  • Logan berries – leaves
  • Horseradish leaves – leaves and roots
  • limes
  • Black berry – leaves
  • Star fruit – fruit
  • Limes
Short living perennials and annuals we harvest in March:
  • squash, tromboncino, zucchini, pumpkin
  • Winged bean
  • chilly, capsicum
  • eggplant
  • tomatoes
  • all sorts of herbs
  • Asian Pigeonwings, Butterfly Pea – Clitoria Ternatea
  • Okra – Abelmoschus esculentus
  • West Indian Gherkins, Maroon Cucumber – Cucumis anguria
  • Bottle Gourd, Calabash – Lagenaria siceraria and other gourds
  • Luffa – Luffa aegyptiaca
  • Armenian cucmber
  • QLD Arrowrot – leaves for chickens and bulbs for us

I’m pretty sure that I forgot about one or the other plant we sow, plant or harvest but will update as we progress into the month. Any questions or comments? Consider joining our discussion board and to become part of the Permaculture Haven community! 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.

Buying winter veggies seeds and seedling

When buying seeds and seedlings, I always go for the heirloom ones. 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 to grow your own food 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 that since I 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, brings you one step closer to growing an abundance of food and becoming self-reliant sooner than later 🙂

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

What are you sowing, planting, and harvesting in your subtropical garden at the moment? Leave your comment under the article below or on the discussion board on my website.

Ewa