25 Jan 2011

Vegetable Gardening at Latitude 20 Degrees North – February 2011: What to do now and what’s happening

February is here and the vegetable growing season for “cooler season” crops such as beetroot, sweet pepper and lettuce is about at its mid-point. Also, locally-grown vine-ripened tomatoes are starting to hit the shelves and the Saturday morning Market at the Grounds in Lower Valley is a hive of activity.

Thus far, the 2010-11 season has been relatively very cool (by Cayman standards) with the exception of the mid two weeks of January when some day-time temperatures rose to the mid-to-upper 80’s with night time temperatures holding in the low-to-mid 70’s.

Some December 2010 nights, however, saw temps fall to the upper-50’s in our garden with day time highs barely reaching the low-70s. These temperatures did wonders for the growth of our Florence fennel, kale, and chard and promoted heavy tomato blooms. The downside to this cooler weather and high winds is the almost complete absence of rainfall as we seem to be heading into our driest “dry season” in many years.

Irrigation is now a daily requirement for most of our shallow-rooted crops and most vegetable plants will also now need some mid-season nutrition. Blood meal will keep the leafy crops like lettuce and cabbage going nicely whilst bone meal and a mixture of seaweed and fish emulsion will help your tomatoes and peppers to smile. Straight bone meal cultivated in gently around the roots of beet, radish and carrot will boost their productivity. There are minimal pests at this time for most organic gardeners to contend with as an abundance of ladybugs combined with the cooler weather and high winds has kept most of the whitefly and aphids in check with minimal Neem Oil required on peppers every 4-6 weeks, or so.

At Plantation House Organic Gardens there is an abundance of radish, daikon, breadfruit, tomatoes, eggplant, beetroot, kohlrabi, Florence fennel, sweet pepper, pak/bok choi, tatsoi, some fruit and a wide array of cut culinary and medicinal herbs. Also, crops such as sprouting broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, kale, and Swiss chard are just around the corner. All our mango trees (except East Indian and Mallika) are now in full bloom, some with the most amazing 18” flower spikes along with our peach, camu camu, cherry of the rio grande, and java apple trees, just to name a few.

Many herb plants are now available for planting out immediately, including basil (5 types), cilantro, dill, parsley (both flat and curly leaf), lemon grass, Cuban oregano (3 types), Cayman seasoning pepper (also called aji dulce, rocotillo, cachuca), scotch bonnet, cumin, etc. A wide range of fruit trees and some ornamentals continue to be available for purchase.

Until next time, Happy gardening from all of us here at Plantation House.

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