‘From the Garden’ is back! Renamed and continuing for the next 12 months, the Bello Food Gardening project aims to be a comprehensive accessible written resource of food gardening information for backyard growers from the Bellinger valley to the sea. Information will be based on the incredible body of oral local knowledge for this unique climate. You may recall this project began as a gift to the community during the unique isolation times of the Coronavirus pandemic from March 2020 as a response to people panicking about their food supply and planting seasonally inappropriate plants.
Community food security
This project is focused on building food resilience for our community for any disaster. We’ve been through unprecedented drought and fires, a pandemic and we have regular floods. I think by now we are aware of the real possibility that the trucks could be stopped and supermarkets empty very quickly. We are indebted to the people who keep our local markets filled with fresh produce and as we experienced during lockdown, local food growers were stretched to the max to keep up with demand. If supermarket supply chains really broke down there would not be enough food locally. It is wise to have plenty of home food gardeners to plug the gap, as was the strategy with wartime victory gardens.
This project is all about our local growing conditions and what’s really suitable. Many of the food plants that thrive in our local climate are not the familiar English peas and carrots in a row.
Bellingen is a specific humid & wet river valley near the sea, with a subtropical rainfall pattern and, depending on your microclimate, anywhere between a temperate and true subtropical warmth zone. We have varying levels of frost from none to medium. The generic information can send you off track. For instance, Bellingen is often classed as Subtropical and using that as your guide would have you following advice more suitable for growing in Brisbane, an entire day’s drive north. Tthere are unique opportunities with being on the edge of two zones, for instance being able to grow potato (not ideal here but doable) as well as African yam (a potato-like vegetable that grows itself).
Huge apologies to those in the shire up the plateau – you’re in a different (much cooler) climate which sustains different plants and is beyond the scope of what I can do at this point in time. It really would require a separate guide.
Local knowledge made accessible
As a member of Bellingen Seed Savers for the past 7ish years, I am very aware of how much truly useful information ISN’T out there generally. The knowledge that currently floats about in the local oral knowledge sharing circles is formidable. Bello Food Gardening will be gathering the lived experience of local growers, both commercial and green thumbed back yarders, for the benefit of everyone. All contributors of wisdom will be acknowledged and ways you can support them will be promoted.
A food growing resource
So, week by week we will build a comprehensive information guide to 50 of the most easily-grown, locally appropriate nutritious and tasty food plants for the area. This will be a mix of commonly known plants such as tomato and less familiar ones who are worthwhile to get to know such as tamarillo. The guide will aim to cover a balanced mix of leafy greens, fruiting veg (ie capsicum and beans), starches, and root vegetables, with a small amount of fruit, useful, and indigenous plants.
For each food plant (sometimes plant family) the guide would cover when and how to sow (articles will be timed to align with seasonal planting as much as possible), how long to wait to plant out, how long to wait to harvest, the length of the entire growing season and advice from the local experts for growing each plant and pitfalls to watch out for.
This will be a FREE online go-to resource for us all. It has been made possible through the support of Bellingen Shire Council via the Bellingen Shire Disaster Recovery and Resilience Grant Program Funding.
For previous articles, please see Bello Food Gardening
Hopefully down the track all this online information will be compiled into a physical printed version with an at-a-glance seasonal planting chart (subject to future funding as the population vs printing costs are not commercially viable!)
This project is created with the intention of being a gift to the community. Sharing knowledge and growing food helps us all. In times of upheaval, cooperation not competition is the way to thrive.