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January – Permaculture Food Gardening in Subtropical Australia

January – Permaculture Food Gardening in Subtropical Australia

by Ewa Bekiesch, Permaculture designer, educator, self-sufficient living consultant, and healthy food advocate.

January and February are the hottest months in Australia. The gardening hours are limited at this time of the year but we don’t stop growing food. I usually sort my jobs by priority and the list below shows pretty much my food forest summer priorities. Most work is done in the morning and late afternoon. It doesn’t make much sense to grill yourself during the day. Sitting on the veranda and enjoying a cold drink while planning your autumn garden or reading an interesting book is a much better option during that time, without a doubt. I also use the hot days to invent new meals or bake cakes in my airy kitchen. I like cooking and baking and the time spent in the kitchen is worth it!

This article might give you some ideas about what can be done, sown, planted, and harvested in the garden in January in the subtropical/warm parts of Australia. Note: this is all based on my experience and our work in the food forest. Feel free to comment under the article below if you would like to add or ask something.

We do sell many of the fruits and veggies in the form of seeds, cuttings, and plants through our online store at www.foodforestseeds.au All are naturally grown, non-GMO, heirloom, and open-pollinated plants, and most of them are coming from my food forest. Check it out! In the list below, I included the links to the individual plants so you just need to click on it to get to the shop for more info about the plant and to order yours if you like to grow your own.

Have you watched my video about the easy-to-grow vegetables in hot summer yet? If not, you can find it here on my YouTube channel.

General work in the garden during January

Mulching

If you haven’t managed to mulch your garden beds yet, now is the time to do so! Mulch keeps the soil cool and moist. Any organic matter is good to use as mulch – providing that it doesn’t contain any seeds! Grass clippings, bamboo leaves, straw, sugarcane, lemongrass, banana leaves, and so on. Any greens that grow in abundance can be converted into valuable mulch. Shredded paper and cardboard are also doing the job. Don’t overdo it with mulch! 10cm of mulch layer is the maximum, otherwise the water will not reach the soil when you apply more mulch than recommended. Also when mulching around the fruit trees, leave some space around the trunk as the tree needs to “breathe”. This is very important. If you want to watch a video where I turn old banana leaves into fantastic mulch, you can do it here.

Shade

Shade is a very important part of summer gardening. The sun may burn some of your plants and veggies and it can happen very quickly. Sunburned tomatoes or capsicums are worthless. Good for the chickens but we are not growing the food for chickens only. They wish! Securing some shade cloth over your still fruiting plants may give you a few more weeks of harvest. A dedicated area with a shade cloth will keep your veggies and herbs well protected, and you can plant new edibles all year round there. Growing food under fruit trees is also a fantastic way of using the space and protecting your edibles

Protecting crops

Summer is the time when we need to protect some vegetables and fruits. That is why we grow our vegetables like tomatoes, capsicum, and eggplants in a “bug-free” netting house/shade house. It works very well! You can watch a video about how we build it on our page and YouTube channel here.

Watering

Plants need water! Smart watering is important to maximise growth and minimise water usage. Watering under the plants is very efficient and prevents evaporating. You also want to water your garden either early in the morning or late afternoon. Watering in the evening may encourage the slugs to get interested in your veggies so try to avoid that. Watering during the day makes no sense and it may even damage the plants. Usually watering the plants once a day should be fine providing that you have mulched your garden.

Clearing

The garden is exploding in summer. Everything is growing very quickly and keeping it under control is very important. Clearing the space around young fruit trees and the plants you are growing is a must. Some plants, even if edible, may take over and suppress others. The bullies can be trimmed and eaten if edible, thrown into compost, or used as mulch.

What not to do

There are a few things which are not recommended to do during the hot summer time:

  • Sowing or planting any subtropical winter vegetables the brassicas and radishes are over now until autumn. They will bolt and also be eaten away before they are ready for harvest
  • Working during the day is a big NO in summer. You won’t get much done anyway because it is hot and you will stop enjoying gardening for the same reason

Sowing, planting, harvesting

Notes:

  1. There are more plants you can grow but I am limiting my list to the plants which I grow in my food forest and I have the best experience.
  2. If you are looking to buy some heirloom, non-GMO, and open-pollinated healthy seeds or plants, consider visiting my online shop at www.foodforestseeds.au Thank you for supporting my small business 🙂
  3. I have included links to the individual seeds and plants I sell. Simply click on the name with the link and a new page will open where you can read more info about the plant, and you can buy it if you don’t have it yet (all coloured names include the links, more to come!). Enjoy!

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).

Planting

No trees in this list, mainly because there are too many fruit trees you can grow in a warm 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‘.

Many plants 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.

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 January harvest list includes and is based on what grows in our food forest and what is possible, including fruit from our fruit 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 January:

  • 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
  • Pepino Solanum – muricatum – fruit
  • 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
  • West Indian Arrowroot – Maranta arundinacea – root
  • Sugarcane Red – Saccharum officinarum – cane
  • Sweet Leaf – Sauropus androgynous – leaves
  • Elderberry – Sambucus Nigra – berries and flowers
  • Yellow Cherry Guava/Lemon Guava – fruit
  • shallots
  • garlic chives
  • pineapples
  • sweet potatoes – leaves and roots
  • bananas
  • passion fruit
  • pawpaw – leaves and fruits
  • grapes
  • Loganberries – leaves and fruits
  • Horseradish leaves – leaves and roots
  • limes
  • Boysenberry – leaves and fruits
  • star fruit – fruit

Short-living perennials and annuals we harvest in January:

  • squash, tromboncino, zucchini, pumpkin
  • chilly, capsicum
  • eggplant
  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • celery, celeriac
  • 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
  • Pigeon Peas – Cajanus cajan
  • sunflower
  • Bottle Gourd, Calabash – Lagenaria siceraria, and other gourds

I’m pretty sure that I forgot about one or the other plant which we sow, plant, or harvest but I will update here as we progress into the month. Any questions or comments? Simply comment below.Are you looking for seeds, cuttings or plants? Check out our online shop at www.foodforestseeds.au

Would you like to support our work? You can do so by sharing our articles and videos and subscribing to our YouTube channel which also helps other people to find us more easily.

For design, consultation, workshops, and courses 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 🙂

Happy Gardening!

Ewa

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