Saturday, April 5, 2014

Yams and the Burnley Edible Landscape Demonstration Garden

Over the last few months some colleagues and I have developed an edible landscape demonstration garden in the historic Burnley Field Station. It's an attempt at creating what I call a 'seamless landscape' with food plants - essentially a garden that doesn't look like a functional 'veggie patch' in the conventional western sense. My aim was to show that you could create an aesthetically pleasing edible landscape on basic drip irrigation that could suggest ideas for private gardens as well as for better quality (= well loved and maintained) public spaces. We've used all perennial species in a fairly simple layout. All the plants are tropical except for a border of comfrey and a teepee of American Ground Nut.

Drawing by Lia Degruchy
The plantings of Dioscorea alata are also part of a propagation and culture trial. Because Yams are rarely grown in Melbourne and at this latitude, and are therefore rare or non-existent in Melbourne nurseries I'm trying to work out how best to propagate them. This is so that we can demonstrate to the nursery industry (both wholesale and retail) the best ways to grow this species and in a relatively straightforward manner. My colleague Dr Andrea Kodym came to the rescue and convinced me to try conventional asexual propagation methods, as opposed to tissue culture which I had imagined from the literature would be the best way. I'll discuss what we did in some detail in another post but in the meantime we produced lots of specimens last spring 2013 from divided tubers and subsequent re-division (and then from cuttings) and planted out over thirty individual plants in December last year (the start of our summer) around two teepees.  So along with two types of Taro, Choko, Sweet Potato, Canna, American Ground Nut, Cassava, Lemon Grass, Cranberry Hibiscus, Yacon, Pepino and Comfrey, the Yams add to a kind of tropical dreamscape, more reminiscent of a Melanesian food garden than a ''veggie patch". The whole things will die off in winter and turn
to sludge (by and large) so a big harvest will be a schedule maintenance activity. Here are some more photos.

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