Friday, 11 March 2016

Abundance in the garden - simply growing more food than you can possibly eat by yourself.

Simply by growing our understanding about what is edible and good food, we can see so much more food around us. 

My role as permaculture gardener in the subtropics quite often is one of simply foraging, enjoying and managing the abundance.  

With a good design in place and appropriate species selected, the amount of food I find I can grow in a small space is staggering.

Much of this abundance comes not from growing more, but of growing different things, learning more about each of the plants edible parts, and changing my perception of what a food garden looks like. 

You can eat the young leaves of Yacon anytime while you are waiting for the tubers to form.

Here are a few examples of extra food that I see in my garden:


  1. Young pumpkin leaves are edible -  I use these a spinach alternative, stir-fry or lightly steam - the roughness goes. The young shoots and flowers are also edible, and of course the seeds.
  2. Sweet potato shoots and young leaves are edible.
  3. Beetroot and carrot leaves are very edible in raw.
  4. Many perennial leafy 'greens' - red hibiscus spinach, sorrell
  5. Choko vines - leaves, young shoots and roots are also edible, as well as their edible fruits.
  6. The young leaves of yacon - these are edible cooked up as a green
  7. Edible canna (Canna edulis) - young shoots as well as the rhizomes.
  8. Mustard spinach - as well as the leaves, the young flower stalks, flowers, seeds are edible.


Pumpkin is a self-seeding annual. I eat pumpkin leaves, young shoots and flowers - but I leave the female flowers like this one if I want to get pumpkins later.

It's quite possible to at least double the food you think you are growing simply by changing our perception of what is food. 

There are so many edible perennials to choose from. In a previous post, INCREDIBLE EDIBLE PERENNIALS, I suggested a list of easy ones to get warm gardens started and how to use them. 

Edible perennials are at the heart of a successful permaculture garden - and are definitely at the core of my garden. These plants live for many years, are abundant, bring diversity and resilience to the garden, and they largely take care of themselves.
Even though I regularly give away big bucket of cuttings at my free community talks, the garden still looks abundant. This is the beauty of edible perennials - they just keep giving and the regular trimming actually keeps them looking good.

Amongst the perennials, I love to grow super-hardy and self-seeding vegetables and herbs. Together with the perennials, they form the structure of my garden. Amongst these plant the more sensitive and short term varieties.

Now that we are coming to the end of the warm season, I am carving out areas in the garden abundance to put in some cooler season plants - using these perennials to build up organic matter in the soil, and to provide protection for the new young plants.

I like this simple and peaceful way of gardening. It creates great habitat for other species (and me!). The soil is alive and worms are thriving. 

Imagine how much food we could actually grow in our backyards and cities - in small spaces everywhere.

The tuscan kale is still going strong - even after the recent hot weather knocked the silver beet about.  Kale is so tolerant and adaptable. The new shoots that form on the main stalk can be carefully sliced off and planted too.


Red Hibiscus Spinach is a delightful edible perennial which adds so much vibrant colour and leaf contrast to the garden.
The long green & red chillies keep coming back each year. They grow abundantly without care under the shade of the bananas.
The cassava is growing well in the food forest - in an area nothing much else would grow. I am expecting a good cop this year. Meanwhile I sometimes use the young leaves - I cook them and discard the water first, then add them to whatever dish I am preparing - stir-fry, eggy-bake, soup...
Madagascar bean is an abundant perennial plant that produces large amounts of purple spotted lima-type beans.  I wait until they have gone completely dry and brown on the vine before harvesting. These make a super-hearty protein rich meal.
This weeping rosemary, hanging over my terrace wall, is a favourite herb in my cooking, along with the oregano and thyme planted next to it.

There is a density to my garden - lots of food, little space for weeks - huge amounts of food, fibre, fodder, mulch, medicine ... Here turmeric, pumpkin, sweet potato, comfrey, taro, bacon and banana are all doing wonderfully well in this food forest terrace - as are the interspersed dwarf citrus

Citrus does well at my place - I have limes, lemonades, a variety of mandarins, lemons and oranges, ruby grapefruit, and the Buddha's hand. The lime tree is full at the moment. I use fresh lime in so many things - salads, stir fries, juices, in soda water. I also rub it on fruit to stop it browning.

14 comments:

  1. I understood you can cook the green shelled Limas as well as the dry ones. Yes?
    Your garden sounds and looks fantastic!

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    1. Thanks!
      Yes, the immature beans are edible - but as you say, shelled.

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  2. Such abundance in your garden, Morag! I have a list of lots of things to try growing that I add to as I read through your blog. Luckily too, I am able to get into the Northey Street Cityfarm nursery to find seedlings and seeds, ask about plants I can't find and get more tips on how to grow some different things. My garden needs a bit of TLC at the moment so I'll be out there today with my gloves on tidying things up. I think one more week of temps above 30C are forecast here so I will wait to plant until next weekend when hopefully the cooler Autumn weather might be here to stay!

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    1. Thanks Meg,
      Yes, I am also waiting for some cooler weather to come around. I had a great morning down at Northey Street City Farm this morning. I checked out their nursery and many of the plants are there.
      Cheers
      Morag

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  3. You grow bacon in your garden? (Lol I know you meant yacon!)When is yacon harvestable?)

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    1. Hahaha! Thanks for alerting me to the self-correcting text. I definitely leave the bacon growing to my friendly organic farming neighbour who has a lovely mixed farm of animals...

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  4. This is a most inspiring blog post. Cheers for sharing your gorgeous garden and this quality info with us all. I live in Tasmania so some of these plants wouldn't be a real option for me but most of what you have talked about here would grow. Thank you again for sharing with us all

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    1. Thanks for your message. Tassie has a whole lot of wonderful things that I couldn't even begin to imagine growing here. For example, I wish I could grow crispy sweet apples, juicy pears and delicious apricots...mmmm.

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  5. Your garden is truly lush and abundant - I LOVE it. We live in a cold climate with winter temps down to -35C. Our edible perennial offerings are much less numerous here but we can (thankfully) grow a great deal of fruit (berries and fruit trees). Over the last few years we've been converting a large section of land (previously grass) into an edible perennial food forest. Year one was soil building, year 2 was planting baby trees (and guilds around them) and this year (Year 3) will be about filling in some areas. We have grown annual veg in the open spaces while we wait for the food forest to mature. I hear year 4 is the year that a food forest garden pops. Can't wait!

    Really enjoying your blog - you are a wealth of information and inspiration :)

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  6. Thanks for writing, and thanks for your kind words of encouragement. I love the sound of your emerging food forest! That surely is a different climatic zone..... -35C (brrrrrrrrrr). Today here it's been +32C and rainy - everything is growing so fast.

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  7. To quote Little Home in the Country you are a wealth of information.
    I am trying to introduce more perennials into my little allotment. My turmeric is growing gang busters. I planted it last year and had a great crop, I dug that out, but little pieces left in the ground have given me a magnificent plant again this year. Morag it has flowered a few weeks ago and I know I will have a wonderful harvest from this plant but not sure when I should dig it up. Do I need to wait until the leaves are dying off? Best wishes. Jean

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    1. Thank you Jean! Great to hear your turmeric is going well. It really is such an amazing plant to have in the garden, and so easy to look after. It's best to wait until the tops have died back - they will be more abundant and mature then, however if you really need some, you could bandicoot down and see if you can find a little bit. Kind regards, Morag

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