3 Sep 2010

Vegetable Gardening at Latitude 20 Degrees North – September 2010: What to do now

By www.plantationhouse.blogspot.com

September is here and officially the vegetable growing season for cooler season crops and for tomatoes begins in earnest at latitude 20 degrees north. See our earlier e-article entitled “Vegetable Gardening at Latitude 20 Degrees North: Thinking Upside Down” for tips on how to navigate the conditions on tropical/sub-tropical islands.

This time is welcome reprieve for those who refuse to buy those mushy, gas-ripened tomato imports found in local supermarkets. Possibly, late-June was the last time that you tasted a tomato unless we travelled and had the opportunity to eat plump, sun-ripened tomatoes in other countries.

This summer in Cayman has been un-seasonably cooler than normal except for the last 2 or so weeks of August when the normal day-time highs have been between 94 and 96 degrees Fahrenheit. Even so, night-time temperatures have not consistently stayed in the 80’as they normally do during the months of August and September. This cooling, combined with the absence of hurricanes and an un-usually wetter than normal rainy season thus far, has allowed Plantation House Organic Gardens to grow cooler season crops such as beetroot, carrot and radish alongside warmer season crops like corn, okra, pumpkin (calabaza) and watermelon.

Notwithstanding this year’s special season, your vegetable beds should now have a couple or so inches of composted manure and mulch sitting on top, primed and ready for those first tomato and sweet pepper seedlings of the on-coming growing season. This will give the seedlings some time to strengthen before the heavy rains of October. If you are not ready to plant now I suggest that you wait until the first or second week of November when the heavy rains have died down before you put in more seedlings.

Other crops such as beetroot, carrot, cabbage, florence fennel, leek, kohlrabi and parsnips should be sowed directly towards the end of September to take advantage of the southward retreating sun which brings a general cooling of the soil, conditions necessary for sprouting these vegetable types. In addition, you will avoid the late-October heavy rains battering the seedlings. Don’t forget to stick in some marigolds, basil, thyme, scallions and rosemary to help create diversity, deter pests and attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs and bees.

At Plantation House Organic Gardens the Radish, Sweet Pepper, Pak Choi, Watermelon, Pumpkin, Okra, Rosemary, Basil (sweet, lemon, thai, and purple), Lemon Grass, Mint, Curry Leaf and Pimento Leaf are in abundance now with Corn, Cucumber, Butternut Squash and Courgette just around the corner. Hybrid tomato and sweet pepper seedlings are available along with many other vegetable and herbs for you cooler season plantings.

Most of the summer’s Mango crop is gone except for a few Lancetilla, Kent and Keitt that sometimes hang on well into November. There has been no real Avocado season thus far but it is hoped that the late croppers will do much better. Mamey Sapote, Yellow Sapote, Black Sapote, Green Sapote, Guava, Carambola/Starfruit, Bilimbi, Banana and Plantain are in abundance at the moment with Ackee, Breadfruit, June Plum, Ju Plum, Java Apple, Java Plum and Longan just around the corner.

Happy gardening!

No comments: