Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Permaculture and Local Food Films

Thank you for the wonderful encouragement for my foray into making little films. I have been overwhelmed by the positive support for my first short film for many years - My Permaculture Garden - that I posted yesterday. I intend to make a little film each week to share more about our permaculture life and garden here in the ecovillage.

About 8 years ago I made a short film called Think Global: Eat Local - a diet for a sustainable society that wove together projects and ideas from research I'd done over 15 years in 15 countries in a 15 minute film.  The focus was local food systems, and I shared examples from around the world and particularly my local region.

You can tell the filming was finished in Queensland summer with the cicadas in the background of some interviews, but despite that, I think the content is still just as relevant today.  I am working on getting a full quality version onto my new Youtube Channel: Our Permaculture Life, but in the meantime, here is the film in 2 parts (apparently easier to upload that way back in 2008).

Think Global Eat Local: A Diet for a Sustainable Society - part 1
Think Global Eat Local: A Diet for a Sustainable Society - part 2

Much of the inspiration for my work in local food, simple living, sustainable communities and relocalisation has been inspired by the many months I lived in Ladakh in 1992 and 1995. I volunteered with the Ladakh Project and for Helena Norberg-Hodge - who was in my early 20s and continues to be a major inspiration to me. (Her films are: Ancient Futures and The Economics of Happiness).

This is an old slide image of me with Amale (my Ladakhi host mother) 21 years ago - taking a break from harvesting. I helped to trial the farmstay program in Ladakh in 1995 which continues today. The Learning From Ladakh 2016 program is open for August intake. The lessons I learnt in Ladakh have shaped the work I do, the way I think and the way I live.

Me threshing grain in Ladakh in 1995 as part of the Farmstay trial program of the Ladakh Project.

Monday, 27 June 2016

NEW FILM - My Permaculture Garden by Morag Gamble

Watch this film to explore my award-winning permaculture garden at the Australian ecovillage, Crystal Waters Permaculture Village.

In this 33 minute film I take you on a in-depth guided tour of my edible landscape - the kitchen garden and food forest - sharing design ideas, permaculture strategies and my low-input garden philosophy. I also show you how I integrate the 55 useful plants listed below into my garden system.

Many thanks to my brother Gregor, who came up from Melbourne to help me start creating films for my blog. This was our first film project together in 10 years and we had a great time making it.

Here's the link to the film - the first in my new youtube channel where I will upload films about our permaculture life each week ...

If you enjoyed that, take a look at my next short films:

Film #2: Our Permaculture Life: Community Permaculture Garden (9 mins 30 secs)
Film #3: How to Make Comfrey Tea with Morag Gamble (4:52mins)


1:14 Lemon Myrtle - Backhousia citriodora
1:49 Cranberry Hibiscus - Hibiscus acetosella
2:21 Society Garlic - Tulbaghia violecea
3:12 Mustard Spinach - Brassica juncea
4:14 Snow Peas - Pisum sativum var. saccharatum
4:39 Carrot - Daucus carota subsp. sativus
5:49 Sweet Potato - Ipomoea batatas
6:23 Pumpkin - Cucurbita pepo
6:56 Pepino - Solanum muricatum
7:16 Dwarf Washington Navel Orange - Citrus sinensis 'Washington Navel’
8:10 Comfrey - Symphytum officinale
9:36 Pigeon Pea -  Cajanus cajan
10:52 Yacon - Smallanthus sonchifolius
11:51 Turmeric - Curcurma longa
13:08 Pelargonium /Scented Geranium -  Pelargonium graveolens
13:57 Madagascar Bean - Phaseolus lunatus
15:23 Brazilian Spinach - Alternanthera sissoo
16:18 Surinam Spinach - Talinum triangulare
16:40 Green Frills Mustard Spinach - Brassica juncea
16:55 Society Garlic - Tulbaghia violecea
17:01 Asparagus -  Asparagus officinalis
17:25 Giant Red Mustard Spinach -  Brassica juncea
18:23 Cherry Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme
18:50 Perennial Welsh Onion - Allium fistulosum L.
19:39 Chilli - Capsicum annum
19:47 Aloe Vera - Aloe barbadensis
20:20 Yarrow - Achillea millefolium
20:34 Rocket/Arugula - Eruca sativa
21:19 Kale - Brassica oleracea var. sabellica
21:29 Broccoli -  Brassica oleracea var. italica
22:23 Laos Ginger / Galangal - Alpinia galanga
22:28 Chilli - Capsicum annum
24:14 Blue Java (Ice cream) Banana -  Musa acuminata x bulbisiana
24:50 Tulsi - Ocinum sanctum
25:47 Imperial Mandarin - Citrus reticulata 'Imperial'
26:38 Dwarf Blood Orange - Citrus sinensis
27:24 Acerola/Barbados Cherry - Malpighia emarginata
27:39 Jaboticaba - Myrciaria cauliflora
27:58 Malabar chestnut - Pachira acquatica
27:58 Lilly Pilly - Syzygium leuhmannii
28:14 Bottlebrush - Callistemon viminalis
28:41 Buddha’s Hand - Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis
29:32 Tahitian Lime - Citrus x latifolia
29:38 Hickson Mandarin - Citrus reticulata ‘Hickson'
29:49 Ruby Grapefruit - Citrus x paradisi
29:54 Fig - Ficus carica
30:11 Bay Tree - Laurus nobilis
30:18 Lemongrass - Cymbopogon citratus
30:29 Dragon Fruit - Hylocereus undutas
31:10 Native Ginger - Alpinia caerulea
31:24 Cassava - Manihot esculenta
31:42 Olive - Olea europaea
31:54 Pawpaw - Carica papaya
33:04 Kang Kong/Water Spinach - Ipomoea aquatica

Sunday, 26 June 2016

How to Entertain a 3yo While Waiting in a Cafe....

Our visits to cafes have been brief events since Monty was born 3 years ago.  Anyone with young kids knows exactly what I mean.... 

Evan (daddy) was out and about with little Monty they other day and decided to take him for a cuppa. This was the way he kept him happy, seated and entertained while they waited for his babycino (or as we call them now since visiting New Zealand ... 'fluffy') - making funny faces for the camera.

Well done Daddy!!! They both had a lovely cuppa time together.

Happy face...

"Waiting for fluffy' face...

'Who me?' face.... 
Grrr, scary face ....

Surprised face....

Dinosaur face .... 
Tickled face ...

Sweet boy face ....

'I enjoyed that!' face.....

Friday, 24 June 2016

5 Uses for Your Carrot Greens

Carrot tops are wonderfully edible and nutritious. Whenever carrots are growing in my garden, the carrot tops are sure to end up in a soup, stir-fry or salad.  Eating the greens from root crops more than doubles the produce from that part of the garden.

Carrot is one of the fifty-five plants I talk about in my new film coming out in the next days....
I pick the leaves continuously while I wait for the carrot root to be ready for harvest.  I prefer them nice and fresh, picked straight from the garden - particularly when the plant is fairy young. I think the flavour is nice this way.

Here's a few ways I use carrot tops:
  1. carrot top in vegetable soup 
  2. carrot top chopped in salad, mixed with other leafy greens and legumes
  3. carrot top as a stir fry leafy green
  4. carrot top added to pesto
  5. carrot top added to juice
Use your carrot greens - they are a valuable food too.
It does take a long time for carrot roots to be ready for harvest (12-18 weeks) - but this way my carrot patch is producing food from just a 4 weeks after planting.  They are full of potassium, calcium, chlorophyll and other nutrients, rich in protein and have six times the vitamin C of the root.

Carrot tops look a lot like Italian parsley or celery - both of the same family (Apiaceae)

I love foraging for a diversity of interesting greens for my meals. There are many other plants that have edible leafy greens - beetroot, pumpkin, sweet potato, snow pea for example.  Just be careful when you're buying carrots, I'd probably avoid eating non-organic carrot tops in case they have been sprayed.

Have fun and experiment!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Urban Food: Community Glue: Community Gardens - Sharing Simple Sustainable Living

I love community gardens. They are such fabulous places for so many reasons - socially, environmentally and personally.

Here's a lovely article "Community Gardens - Valuing Shared Spaces" just published in Natural Artisan Magazine.  It includes an interview with me about the wonderfully positive impact these shared gardens bring to communities and those involved.

Grab a cuppa and enjoy ....

If you scroll to pages 14-17 on the magazine below, or click this link to see the four-page article.

Speaking at the Northey Street City Farm Winter Solstice Fair Food Forum last weekend - with Emma Brindal, Dick Copeman and Thor Svenson. The gardens were just thriving with people, music, great food and such a fabulous eco-community vibe.

I will definitely be including an exploration of community garden design and development in our Permaculture Design Course coming up from August 29 - September 9. I hope you can join us.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Come and Say Hello at the Queensland Garden Expo 8-10 July

The Queensland Garden Expo is on soon from 8-10 July.  I'll be there on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th July. Please come and say hello if you live in the region.

This is where you can find me speaking during the 3 day event.

Friday 8 July, 1pm
Jacaranda Stage
Designing an abundant edible landscape in the subtropics

Saturday 9 July, 10am
Kitchen Garden Stage
Incredible Edibles: Cultivating diversity and resilience in your subtropical garden

I hope to catch up lots of old friends there, and meet many more. I'm particularly looking forward to catching up with Costa from ABC Gardening Australia again. He helped launched the University of Sunshine Coast Moving Feast Gardens on World Environment Day two years ago, and also ran a great session at the Real Food Festival with our School Kitchen Garden kids from projects around the hinterland.

Sunset panorama of our edible perennial garden.

Here's the full program of the QLD Garden Expo - lots of other fabulous speakers including Costa, Jerry Coleby-Williams, Annette McFarlane, Phil Dudman, Noel Burdette, Claire Bickle, Cath Manuel, Anne Gibson, Robin Clayfield and others.

Monday, 20 June 2016

"Feeding the World and Saving the Planet" with Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva is a seed advocate, permaculture supporter and tireless campaigner for earth democracy and food sovereignty. She spoke in April about Making Peace with the Earth at the Powerhouse in Brisbane to a packed audience.

I took my 10yo daughter - it was a fabulous evening listening to Vandana again. I always feel so deeply inspired and motivated when I hear her speak. I also loved the chance to reconnect with a lot of old friends from around the region - people I have met through sustainability, permaculture and community projects over the past 2 decades.

Maia was engrossed and I could tell straight away that she learnt so much that night. I love being able to expose her to the thinking and ideas of people like this.  I can imagine the this will stay with her a long time.

I first met Vandana in 1992 when I was volunteering in Ladakh with Helena Norberg-Hodge. I attended a course with her at Schumacher College and I recently met her at the launch of the Bali Slow Food's seed saving program.


I've made a link here to Vandana's Powerhouse talk. It was recorded and played on Paul Barclay's Big Ideas show on Radio National on 13 June 2016:
Making Peace with the Earth: Dr Vandana Shiva in conversation with Paul Barclay


I wrote about going to this event  in a previous post and linked there to some of her writings.

Another very interesting read from Vandana Shiva is her Manifesto for Sustainability - published here in my all time favourite Resurgence Magazine.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The 4.7 billion toothbrushes made each year last around 1000 years.

Did you know that there are around 4.7 billion toothbrushes made each year and each of these lasts indefinitely? Imagine in 100 years how many toothbrushes there will be on Earth, buried somewhere, or in the ocean.

I have signed up for the Plastic-Free July. It's still June, but I've started already.

I needed to replace some toothbrushes at home. Rather than buy more plastic disposable ones, I found these 100% biodegradable toothbrushes made from bamboo. When we're finished with them, we'll use them to clean our bikes and taps. After that we'll put them in the compost - fantastic!

Each little step collectively makes a difference.

Friday, 17 June 2016

15 Minute Falafel with Garden Greens: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

I have stumbled on deliciously simply way to feed greens and chickpeas to my young children - home made falafel. These falafel taste so so much better than the dehydrated pre-packaged box mix that the kids disliked so much when we tried it a few years back (and for good reason).

I've been exploring a range of different recipes again lately since it was recommended that my daughter avoid wheat, eggs, corn and dairy. These are perfect.

Home made falafel with garden greens - so yummy with home made hummus or a herby tomato dipping sauce.
These are rapidly becoming a lunchbox favourite (for all the kids) with some organic brown rice and a homemade tomato sauce. I can pack all sorts of garden greens and herbs inside. So fresh, healthy and super yummy.

Great handfuls of diverse fresh greens get chopped into the mix.
There are a lot of different ways to make them and I have been having fun experimenting - with fresh chick peas, with chick pea flour, with tahini and without, with various greens, herbs and spices.

I love this recipe when I look in the pantry and the supplies are low. If there are some chick peas, some greens and a fresh lemon in the garden and a few herbs and spices, it'll come together nicely.

This particular recipe is the super simple quick method using besan flour and has been the given thumbs up by all the kids.


Preparation: 5 minutes  (+10mins sitting)
Cooking: 10 minutes
Makes about 20 small falafel balls


  • 2 cups chick pea flour
  • handful of fresh greens  (I use a mix of whatever is looking lovely in the garden that day - parsley, rocket, coriander, kale, mustard spinach, hibiscus spinach, sorrell....)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb/baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp good salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • Juice of 1 lemon (we have also used lime)
  • 2/3 cup warm/hot water

Fresh herbs and lemon from the garden add such great flavour, and of course nutritional value to the falafel.


Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. (I sometimes use a food processor and pack in lots more greens - until the whole mix is bright green!)

Let the mix sit for about 10 minutes - helps to firm it up a bit.

Shape the balls/discs (I sometimes roll them in sesame seeds).

  • you could try them baked (220 C for 15 mins or until golden brown)
  • they are yummy fried in a small amount of olive oil (this is one of the only things I do fry)
  • or simple too is cooking them on a sandwich press with or without the olive oil

The mix is firm - good for rolling the balls without sticking too much to your hands.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

5 Reasons You Should Try the Plastic Diet too

I'm going on a plastic diet. I've just signed up for the Plastic-Free July Challenge because it troubles me how much damage we are causing with everyday waste.  Care to join me...?

Reduce plastic: Grow your own veggies, or buy fresh, local package-free vegetables from markets.

Single-use plastic continues to fill bins everywhere - plastic shopping bags, plastic cups, straws, plastic packaging... Just about everything is wrapped. Much of it is unnecessary, and most of it ends up in landfill and the oceans.

Plastic is designed to last, but every day we use it for disposable items which last a few minutes before we throw them away. That plastic then spends more than our lifetime trying to break down - some of it will still be here more than seven generations from now.

Five really good reasons to go on a plastic diet too:

  • EVERY piece of plastic ever produced still exists on earth somewhere (apart from the small amount that has been incinerated).
  • In the first 10 years of this century MORE plastic was produced than the entire last century.
  • Australians send 1 million tonnes of plastic waste to landfill each year.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans each year where it entangles and is ingested by wildlife. 
  • 90 per cent of all seabirds alive today have eaten plastic (only 5% had plastic in 1960). A CSIRO report estimates that 99% of seabirds will have plastic in their gut by 2050.

A red-footed booby on Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. © CSIRO, Britta Denise Hardesty

I like to think that I am a conscious consumer - aware about my use of plastics and the impact of my purchasing behaviour .... but I have still been coming home with too many single-use plastics. Mmmmm.... time for a different approach.

During Plastic-Free July I am aiming to significantly reduce my consumption of single use plastic. Hopefully rising to the collective challenge will help me get over a few more lingering plastic habits.

Last year over 36,000 people registered for the challenge from 85 countries. Maybe you want to join too. You can sign up for a day, a week or the whole month. You can attempt to refuse all single-use plastic or go for just the top 4: plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws.

The Challenge (from
  1. Attempt to refuse single-use plastic during July.
  2. Remember it's not going to be easy! It is a challenge, not a competition so don't worry about being perfect.
  3. Collect any unavoidable single-use plastic you buy. Keep in a dilemma bag and share it with us at the end of the challenge.
  4. It's up to you regarding how long you participate. You might decide to go plastic-free for a day, a week, a month or longer! However long you choose will still make a contribution.

We are joining Plastic Free July to challenge ourselves to reduce our plastic use even more and of course to sustain those changes.

I hope even more people will join the challenge this year. You can sign-up, show your support and be part of the solution to the growing problem of plastic pollution in our environment.

Will you join me in making positive change?

Here's a few starters, with links to other posts I've written on these topics:
  1. Getting rid of plastic wrap - make your own beeswax cloths
  2. Grow your own fressh package free foods - make a no-dig garden
  3. Purchase bulk foods and take your own containers
  4. Shop at Farmers Markets
  5. Make your own pasta and sauce.
  6. Make your laundry detergent 
  7. Avoid products with microbeads. 

A great way to visualise the many ways we can cut unnecessary plastic from our lives.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Colouring the Streets with Collaborative Community Art

Maleny, my local town, hosted it's first Knitfest last weekend - a celebration of yarn and fibre arts. The streets and public sculptures were decorated, the halls filled with amazing works of art and artisans everywhere holding workshops to share their skills. Even the local kids joined in - making and decorating the streets with colour.  The inaugural festival was met with a cool wintery weekend - perfect! Everyone could come dressed up in their best homemade knits!

The Maleny cows at the Obi Obi bridge.

As we explored the streets and visited the many makers, we found ourselves putting our names down to do many workshops over the coming months from basket weaving, beading, dry felting... I really want to learn how to make baskets from weedy vines, and refine my knitting skills to create useful but beautiful household items.

Many months ago, Maia and I first saw the flier for this event and it inspired us to learn how to crochet so we could get involved. I grew up sewing, had done some knitting, but never crochet. Ever since, Maia has been visiting a local fashion designer every week and learning the art of crochet and design with her, as well as refining knitting skills (I currently have an order in for some fingerless gloves - to keep my hands warm while I type here on winter nights).

Maia entered her first crochet creation in the recent Maleny Show and received an encouragement award and a lovely little travel sewing kit - she was delighted.

We are both inspired to keep making, learning new skills, sharing our creations and hopefully seeing even more amazing public yarn-bombing happening next year.

The crossing tree.

Colourful crochet on display.

Monty thought the library canon looked pretty funny like this.

The Artisan Market bicycle.

The library tree was one of the most intricately decorated tree.

The kids got to explore textiles from the animals, to the weaving to the making.

The RSL poppies.

So many amazing beanies.

...and shawls.

Fabulous weaving using weed vines.

A felting wonderland

Maia liked these little dry felting worlds ...

and these cute little knitted/beaded animals.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Live a Permaculture Life: Learn with Morag Gamble at Crystal Waters Ecovillage

Come and live in a permaculture village for two weeks, learn permaculture design skills, relax, unwind, immerse yourself in simple living, permaculture gardens, and be surrounded by community, nature and wildlife.  From August 29 - September 9, I'll be running a residential Permaculture Design Course and I welcome you to register for this life-changing experience. I look forward to sharing our way of life, our garden, our home and our village with a small group of students. 

Now our kids are a little older and a little more independent, I have decided to open our garden and home to teach my first full permaculture design course in a number of years.  I do often host tours and short workshops, but I have always found that this two week course is really the best way to share the practical skills you need to design and establish an integrated permaculture system - in the city, on a homestead, in a school, in a community garden and in a range of climatic zones.  I like to fill my permaculture design course full of practical and visual inspiration for sustainable living and sustainable livelihoods. 

What I love about these courses too is that they bring together such a wonderful community of people. Actually, doing a course like this at Crystal Waters 23 years ago was where I met Evan, my wonderful husband. Pretty soon after the course, I moved from Melbourne to Brisbane and started creating Northey Street City Farm with Evan and other friends. Together we have travelled to over 20 countries working in permaculture and visiting amazing permaculture and ecovillage projects. There are so many people doing such amazing work in every community around the world! 

Evan and I in 1998 having just moved to Crystal Waters.
(Photo: Russ Grayson)
Evan and I moved to Crystal Waters in 1998. We looked after a studio at first in another part of the village, then eventually started building and developing our permaculture gardens from 2001.  If you range through my blog, you will see many pictures of what we have created. In our course, we'll share with you what we did, how we got there and show you how to design integrated permaculture systems for your home and/or community.

We look forward to welcoming a people here in August 29 - September 9 for our next Permaculture Design Course.

If you'd like to find out more about the course, please contact me (details in the Contact section above) or visit 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

June Edible Gardening Guide: What To Do In Your Garden Now.

I'm delighted to have joined the PIP Newsletter's monthly Garden Guide team. This guide is part of PIP Magazine's online newsletter. For really practical tips about what to be doing right now in your garden, check out this June Garden Guide - it's free and available online.

Morag and participants of the Introduction to Permaculture workshop renewing a garden bed at Northey Street City Farm.

The June Garden Guide includes updates from me in the subtropical region, as well as lots of information from writers in cool temperate and mediterranean climate zones.

If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend checking out PIP Magazine. It's is the wonderful new Australian permaculture and sustainable living magazine. Issue 5 is currently out.

I am busy writing for the next issue. I contribute the Round the World segment and often an article too.

This is what my June garden guide segment looks like:

Subtropical June Garden Guide

by Morag Gamble of Our Permaculture Life

Comfrey (Photo: Morag Gamble)

I love being out in the garden at this time of year, it is so much cooler – I can even be out in the middle of the day.  Here in the subtropics, the arrival of the cooler weather sees a big change – from tropical plants to cooler climate plants and from wild abundance to more subdued growth.

The diverse polycultural permaculture garden is forever changing, adapting and evolving. It’s amazing to sit back and watch as the summer vigorous plants such as Turmeric, QLD Arrowroot, Yacon and Cassava start to die back ready for harvest, and the cool season plants begin self-seeding everywhere – the green mustard spinaches, the giant red mustard spinach, cherry tomatoes, coriander. My rosellas are still flowering. I am collecting and drying what may be my last batch for the season – this makes a wonderful tea. Unfortunately the leaves are almost gone – I had been enjoying them as a lemony spinach in salads and stir fries.

It’s been a particularly dry summer and autumn. For the past few years we’ve had long hot wet summers, but this year winter has just arrived and so has the rain ….mmm, this is meant to be our dry season!

Winter in the subtropics is our window to grow typically familiar vegetables. It’s a great time here to plant:
  • salad greens (lettuce, celery, parsley)
  • peas (climbing peas, snow peas)
  • brassicas (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kohl rabi)
  • leafy greens (kale, spinach, silverbeet, mustard greens)
  • onions (bulb, welsh onion, leeks) and
  • root crops (carrot, daikon, beetroot, radish, parsnip, turnip).
  • flowers (calendula)
I still prefer the open hearted vegetables, for example kale rather than cabbage, because there is more chance of success (without major pest management intervention) because you can start harvesting some small leaves from just a few weeks and easily see what’s happening at the base of the plant. Plant selection has huge bearing on how successful your crop will be in the subtropics – particularly if you want to engage in a peaceful way of gardening, rather than a war with pests.

In areas without frost it’s also possible to grow:
  • beans
  • nightshades (tomatoes, capsicum, eggplants, potatoes) as well as
  • pumpkin, zucchini
  • garlic
  • okra
  • sweet potato


In amongst the perennial edibles and self-seeding vegetables, I have been renewing pockets in my garden beds for planting out our cool season crops and fresh salad greens. Winter is an important time to replenish the soil in the subtropics – particularly after the rapid growth of the summer vigorous plants and the typical leaching from heavy summer rains.

It’s good to have as many types of compost as possible to capture all the abundant subtropical growth and return it to the soil . Throughout the garden I have many ongoing compost systems to help keep the fertility up – worm towers, roving compost bins, bays. I’ve moved our bins to new locations, spread out the compost and made new beds, and I have given all the worm towers a super feed – with an extra boost of coffee grounds.

To open up the soil ready for these coming rains, I have been going around forking where I can, hoping to catch as much water as I can in the soil (not turning of lifting up – just opening). I have also been scattering handfuls of biochar which helps to hold nutrients and moisture in the soil, and creates habitat for microbiological life, and top-dressing all my mulch. So much gets taken into the soil over the summer growth period.

During the warmer months I am growing a lot of my own mulch. Before the comfrey, canna, lemongrass and other summer plants lose their leaves or contract for the winter, I gather as much leaf material as I can to make new compost piles, make liquid fertilisers, use as chop and drop mulch, and to add lots of organic matter into new no-dig beds.

If you are in a non-frost areas, you can keep sowing cool season green manures –  fava beans, fenugreek, lupins, oats, subclover, and woolly pod vetch. Great for adding nitrogen and organic matter.

It’s a good time to clean up any fallen fruit, cut back and mulch the abundant summer growth, prune the deciduous plants (eg: mulberry), check for gall wasp on citrus (prune and burn).


Three of easiest plants to grow in the subtropics are ready to harvest and use.

It’s turmeric (Curcuma longa) time. The tops are all browning and the rhizomes are ready to start digging up. A great way to store a turmeric haul is in a tub of moist sand and keep in a protected place (mine goes under the verandah). I just take what I need for the week into the house.  Leave some in the ground for next season.

Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius, Peruvian Ground Apple) is flowering indicating that the roots are forming below – great big sweet, crunchy tubers are swelling up, pushing up great mounds in the soil. Now and when as the tops start dying back, I gently remove the roots from the ground. You’ve got to be careful. If the skin is broken they rot quickly.  It’s a good idea dry them out a bit first before finding a cool storage place for them. They are great eaten fresh, grated into salad, or added to a savoury dish. Making yacon syrup (a suitable sugar alternative for diabetics) may be a good way of preserving this fruit. Leave some of the crowns in the garden ready for next growing season.

Yacon flower tells us the sweet edible roots are forming (Photo: Maia Raymond – 9yo – my daughter)
Morag holding a yacon harvest from her garden – both the tubers and rhizomes are edible. (Photo: Evan Raymond)

Cassava (Manihot esculentais) ready to harvest – harvested when the leaves begin to yellow and fall. They are eaten boiled, fried, baked and made into flour. The refined starch from the tubers, known as tapioca pearls, is used in soups, puddings and dumplings. The roots store well.


This principle is so appropriate to our work in subtropical gardens right now. By getting active with the composting and mulching of the summer abundance, we are valuing and making great use of the natural exuberance of plant growth and using it to replenish the the soil. Nothing need go to waste. Everything biodegradable can be returned to the soil even in simple systems through worm farms, chickens, and compost systems. 

It’s great to see institutions as large as the University of the Sunshine Coast collecting all of it’s biodegradable waste and processing it through a large composter – including all the takeaway food plates and cups. In the new community garden on this Sunshine Coast campus we use this compost, as well as coffee grounds from all the cafes. 
It is estimated that still over half of garden and waste is thrown into landfill. There’s a great opportunity to get more active with home composting, community composting and municipal composting – it makes the world of difference in our gardens, communities and in the environment. Some people admit to me at community events that they don’t collect food scraps because of the smell (especially in our warmer months). Sprinkling a little bokashi powder into your collection bucket (with a lid) every time you add some scraps makes it smell sweet and also helps the scraps to break down well once added to the compost bin or dug into the soil. You don’t need the bokashi bucket, just the powder.
Morag Gamble
Permaculture Designer, Educator, Writer and Community Garden Advisor