Seasonal growing is the key
Seasonal growing is the key
ADAM Jones has been slowly developing his small horticulture farm at Theebine, Queensland, over the five years since he purchased the property. Always a passionate gardener, he previously worked with alternative energy, especially in high-rise and resorts.
Adam says that seasonal growing is important. In summer, sweet potato and eggplant are major crops, as well as Asian greens in autumn.
In autumn, a much wider range of vegetables can be started to grow through the winter months, including cucumber, black and curly kale, silverbeet, cherry tomatoes, three varieties of lettuce and broccolini. Spring onions grow all year round.
Theebine experiences only a few frosts a year, around mid-August, so Adam must avoid sensitive crops at that time. However, he did not suffer any frost last year, and he wonders if climate change will make this permanent.
Treating major pests
Adam says the end of the extended travel visa benefit for Woofers was a significant blow. (Willing Workers On Organic Farms is an exchange system where farmers get labour in return for food and accommodation). He will extend some small perennial plantings of passionfruit, mango and dragon fruit because they involve less heavy labour than the annual crops.
Adam says he finds it better to bunch up the smaller broccolini heads for market than to grow a large broccoli head. Heliothis and cabbage moth caterpillars are a major pest for brassicas such as broccoli. Adam previously sprayed regularly with an organically-permitted biological insecticide called Dipel. Recently, however, he has had improved results using less Dipel, covering the growing plants with frost cloth and using a light trap called a Vortex, which attracts the flying moths at night.
Diatomaceous earth (an abrasive mineral) is mixed with the Dipel to control small caterpillar and soft-bodied pests. Eco Oil is occasionally used to control squash or pumpkin beetles that also love eggplant and capsicum. Adam also encourages ladybirds.
Keeping expenses down
Adam makes his own compost, mainly from crop wastes and the cardboard boxes he uses for harvest and transport to market. Adam harvests weeds and volunteer plants from the parts of the property that are not cultivated, with a neat hand-pushed collection truck, like a miniature fodder harvester. He says these non-farmed areas are a standing fertility reserve for the rest of the property. He also uses some certified organic inputs, including his own mineral fertiliser blend consisting of a bag of rock dust, a bag of lime (calcium) and a bag of certified chicken pellets. Adam says that when combined with the cost of seed trays, he aims to keeps expenses for establishing a 50-metre row under $40.
Foliar fertiliser, which he says he must use at moderate temperatures when plant stomata are open, ideally around 21 degrees, is applied three or four times over the life of the plant from seedling stage to the start of flowering.
Adam sows cover crops of dun pea in winter and lablab in summer. He says he must chop up the root system of the lablab to stop it coming back, but if he used clover (which does not need to be tilled in), he would have to irrigate. The lablab grows on natural rainfall. The cover crops are inoculated to ensure they produce growth and nitrogen to benefit the soil.
A small amount of a permitted organic herbicide (made from plant essential oils) is used around the header pipes to keep the irrigation accessible.
Adam sells through the Kawana and Noosa Farmers’ Markets. He was involved with a local chemical-free group but has since decided that organic certification is a better goal. He says the farmers’ market is important for his viability, that his customers want organic, and that he believes an authentic certification according to a reputable standard is important. Adam identified AS 6000 as the most reliable because it is produced by a reputable organisation (Standards Australia) and has legal standing. ☐
Breakout - What is the Vortex?
In Asia, to protect crops from night-flying insects, farmers may light small fires around the field. Moths and beetles in particular are attracted to the flames where they are singed and die.
Unattended night-time fires are clearly unacceptable in the Australian landscape, but the Vortex is a sophisticated, safe and efficient version of the same principle.
The Vortex can be powered by a small solar panel. A light is located over a tub of water that is agitated to create a vortex. The vortex ensures that insects falling from the light into the water cannot escape by climbing out.
Because it is a little indiscriminate, the Vortex is best not located next to native bushland. In a rural landscape located adjacent or within the crop, it can remove enough flying insects to disrupt the local population and significantly reduce pesticide use.
© Article & Photographs: Tim Marshall
Photo: tim marshall Seasonal growing IMGP0171 [Adam with dog]
Adam Jones sells his produce through the Kawana and Noosa Farmers’ Markets, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Photo: Tim Marshall seasonal growing IMGP0183
Caption: Adam uses a light trap called a Vortex, which attracts the flying moths at night.