The vegetable gardens employ low and no-till techniques, companion planting, crop rotation and natural pest and weed management strategies. Organic waste and animal manures are composted as garden fertiliser and other nutrients added through worm castings, worm ‘juice’ and weed teas, compost teas, liquid plant manures and other approved organic inputs. Use of mulches reduces weeds, conserves water and insulates the soil against extreme heat and cold.
The gardens aim to provide a constant supply of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices throughout the year, working with our local natural seasonal cycles.
As a living botanic gardens of useful plants and production ecology, the balance between productive exotic and native species is critical, thus native plants for habitat, bush-foods, spice & craft species and natives for ecosystem services are found throughout all Djanbung production systems. Non-hybrid and heritage varieties of vegetables are used, seed saved and a SEEDBANK is maintained through training & volunteer programs.
The gardens and landscapes combine perennial plants with seasonal annuals as mixed plantings of vegetables, herbs, spices, edible flowers and companion plants. Suitable weeds, crop residues and food scraps are fed to livestock and their manures are in turn composted and returned to the gardens. External inputs are minimised and nutrients are recycled within the systems.
SEASONAL CROPPING CYCLES
The subtropical climate allows for year-round food production with a great diversity of crops from temperate through to tropical. There are three main growing seasons in the garden:
1. Temperate gardening season starts in autumn, continuing through winter to early spring (March-September) and is the best season for most cold temperate vegies (our winter days are generally 18-23 deg C) This is the time to grow cabbages, broccoli, kale, carrots, garlic onions, turnips, swedes, peas, Chinese cabbage and Asian greens, and is the best time of year for salad greens such as lettuce, rocket, parsley and coriander. Frost sensitive plants are grown before or after the frost season which is generally from mid-June to early August.
2. Spring through to early summer (September to January) is more like a warm temperate (Mediterranean) summer and tropical dry season – hot and dry. This is the season for planting artichokes, peppers, capsicum, eggplant (aubergine), zucchinis, squash, cucumbers, pumpkin, sweet corn, basil, tomato, beans, and for establishing tropical veg that require a long growing season like gourds, luffa, cassava, yams etc.
3. Summer to early Autumn is the Wet Season (January-May) and ideal for crops typical of the humid tropics. Most of these crops are actually planted in the latter part of the dry season and grow through the wet for autumn harvest. Typical summer crops include cassava, yam, taro, yacon, turmeric, snake beans, shallots, warrigal greens, snake gourd, bitter melon, Ceylon spinach, kang kong and other tropical greens.
The subtropical climate and local microclimate was a key consideration when purchasing the land for an education centre, to provide students with experience in a wide range of crops from diverse climatic zones.
Public Landscapes around the main building are designed as edible landscapes and to support the passive solar functions of the building. Mulch meadows provide important open space for recreation and events, and are a constant source of mulch for gardens and green feed for the animals.
The main vegetable garden production area is divided into 3 distinct gardens:
This is an artificial mound (approx 25m diameter and 2m high in the centre) created in late 1993 from top soil removed for road construction along Cecil St and Neem Road when Jarlanbah infrastructure works were in progress. The mound, known as “the hill garden” provides a substantial free-draining production area – Djanbung Gardens is a fairly flat site and with the heavy clay soils and high rainfall, drainage can be quite an issue.
The top of the circular mound is slightly off-centre which provides a range of aspects, microclimates and slope gradients and opportunity to demonstrate use of contour beds for gardening on sloping land. This area is planted seasonally with a diverse range of vegetables, herbs, spices, edible flowers & culinary and medicinal herbs.
This area is reserved for students to experiment with gardening techniques and cropping systems and is occasionally used for main crop production. This garden area is surrounded by a suntrap planting of cherry guava hedges to the east and west and a small food forest to the south.
The Taro Patch
The heavy clay soil in this area had major drainage problems, solved by digging out a series of drains and building up free-draining garden beds with the top soil from the drains. The drains are planted with comfrey and water vegetables including Taro and Queensland Arrowroot. The central drain is wider than the others, and has been formed into a series of mini paddies for taro production.
The raised garden beds are companion planted with season vegetables, herbs and spices. This area includes an outdoor sink (recycled stainless steel kitchen sink) mounted on a workbench over one of the drains for cleaning root vegetables & tubers – the sink is conveniently located next to chicken yard to recycle crop residues as chicken feed.