Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Fighting Nature

We live in sub-tropical Queensland 150km north west of Brisbane.  We really have only 2 seasons, a hot wet summer and a long dry winter (well this is what we should get) with a short spell of warm settled weather either side.  At the moment in what most people call spring our day time temperatures are around 28-30 degrees celsius and our night temperatures are around 8 degrees.
This far north we can grow plants such as bananas, paw paws, and mangos.
Bananas picked at the start of August
But because we live away from the coast we also get frosts.  Now when I tell most people that we get frosts out here they think, because we are in the subtropics, that I mean the odd patch of frost covered grass in a shady hollow.
But what I am talking about is a completely white backyard with ice crystals on the plants.  These next 4 photos were taken at the end of July.
The wheel barrow track left in the frost after feed hay to the cows.
Ice crystals on the brassicas
Frosty brassicas
Jessie is not worried about the frost as long as she
can play with her road cone toy 
So even though we can grow these tropical plants there is a good chance they will take a battering in winter.
There are of course things we can do to protect from frost damage for the short period of time that it is an issue, and at this stage the mango is only young so will hopefully be a bit tougher when it is a bit older.  The bananas and paw paws do take a bit of a battering from the frost but are quick to recover and are a quick plant to re-establish.
So with these cool temperatures in mind I raised a range of brassica seedlings so that we would be able to grow winter vegetables.  And grow they did.  I planted them into my experimental garden bed  back at the end of May and they are strong and healthy.
What they are not doing however is setting fruit, all I have are leaves.  Healthy leaves.  And now I am worried that it is too warm and nothing will come of all these healthy plants.  The only one that has done ok are the mini cabbages.  Because they are small they formed solid hearts more quickly.
So am I fighting nature?  Do I give up on trying to grow cool climate brassicas?

If all else fails does anyone have any recipes to use the leaves?
Or did I just grow a crop of chicken food?


  1. I have the same problem here. My paw paws have withered to little stumps (with little green leaves coming out of them, think they are going to give it another try!). I'm very impressed with your bananas! I haven't even tried to get them going. Some of brassicas have done exactly the same thing, all leaf and no broccoli, I've been feeding the leaves to the house cow. Some have formed tiny broccolis and gone straight to flower. Most of the cabbages are ok. Tat Soi, Mizuna and pack choi has all gone to flower and starting to form seed pods already. Kale is going strong, great winter vege! I reckon leave them there is they're not in the way, and feed them to the chooks when you need the space again. Did you try carrots? I found they went really well over winter here, also swedes and turnips. And broad beans and peas are just coming into fruit now too (but needed to be planted quite early, they seem to get mildew soon as the humidity starts). Its a challenge working out what grows in this climate aye! We are nearly sub-tropical, with mountain winters :)

    1. Liz our paw paws are not much better. I thin Kale will be on the cards next year but I really like cauliflower and broccoli.
      I did not plant carrots until just recently so we will see what happens.

  2. Don't be discouraged, it will all work out I'm sure. The brassicas certainly look lovely. Maybe just grow kale which is just leaves, or more your brassicas to higher ground or somewhere they get more sun?

    So frustrating isn't it. When everything starts off looking great - and then the wheels kindof fall off. The only advice I can give is this: over the years we have tried a lot of different fruit and veg. After a while you get to know what works and what doesn't - plus what you use more of. It takes a while to get the balance, but it's all really just a learning curve isn't it?! cheers Wendy

    1. Wendy I think you are right about trying lots of different types.

  3. I cant get brassicas to grow here - much further north - we don't get anything slightly resembling frost :) funnily enough I grew kale this year, so that is going to be a staple as it is still growing. I think gardening is an experiment - if you try it and it doesn't work don't try it again! I like the sound of mini cabbages ;)


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