Early winter, and working in the understorey

I’m going out to plant quinoa shortly. I have no idea if it’s a good time to try planting it or not – quinoa is a tricky crop for Perth because it needs a long time of cold before germination, and because it doesn’t like our warm-to-hot-to-extremely-hot secondspring and extended summer. These seeds have been in my fridge for over a year, so I’m fairly sure the “long time of cold” is taken care of. How they’ll cope with the next two months of winter I don’t know. (Winter for me, in the six-season routine, is approximately May 21st to the last week of July.) It made me realise that I’ve lost track of the crops I’ve tried using as understorey in my Mediterranean food forest, so I started making a list. These are mostly things that I only expect to grow seasonally. Some last all year, others die back in secondspring and resprout when the autumn rains arrive. Some of them resprouted when we got a good rainwave during secondsummer, but not all stayed alive once the rain stopped again. (I got some good weed control done then – lots of weeds sprouted and then died in the next six weeks of dry!)

Understorey that’s done well for more than one season/cycle:

Alexanders, salad burnett, nasturtium, warrigal greens, Spanish thyme (the species sold as “Bush BBQ Thyme” that’s high in cineole), ice plant varieties, curry plant, santolina, radish, garlic, white sage, borage, potatoes

Understorey that’s done well in its season but not necessarily since (may need trial in a different spot or different handling/pest control, or may have only had one season’s trial so far):

Golden amaranth, fenugreek, asparagus pea, cowpea, peanuts, buckwheat, chickpeas, liquorice, flax linseed, other varieties of thyme, red sunflowers, scarlet broad beans, sorghum

Understorey that I’ve struggled with but want to keep trying and get going:

Watermelon, chia, black cumin (I finally have one plant of this this year!), Zaatar (a Middle Eastern marjoram/oregano), Geraldton sunflowers. There may be more that I’m forgetting, in fact I’m sure there are.

Understorey that’s non-edible (and in some cases just weedy, but I’m keeping it for one reason or another):

Spanish hoop daffodils, regular daffodils, Oxalis pes-caprae (soursob), Romulea rosea (Guildford grass).

Note that these are all in the Mediterranean food forest zone, which gets water at best once a week in the height of summer and is supposed to function on water once a fortnight to once a month – it’s not intended for year-round productivity. The garden zones with more water and the intent of year-round productivity have different kinds of understorey not listed here.

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