29 Mar 2011

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


North-easterly winds 15 to 25 knots associated with a high pressure system over the eastern US are expected to continue over the Cayman area for the next 24 hours… 20% chance of scattered showers, rough seas over open waters, and so on… the Cayman area weather report read like a script during most of March … high winds, rough seas, little or zero rainfall and no end in sight… until March 24 when there were some showers in George Town with the winds shifting to the SE bringing with it higher temperatures. Salt spray smothered everything and the high winds dried out the irrigation water as quickly as you put it on. These winds also blew off the majority of the wonderful mango blossoms and juvenile fruit and, with the un-solicited help of our national bird, the vast majority of our mango crop is now gone.

The main positive thus far in 2011 is that our days and nights continue to be un-seasonably cooler and this is good news for cooler season vegetable growing.

Amidst all of this we did pick our first peaches of the season. I gave my youngest the very first but she promptly said, “daddy, put it up for later” which was her way of saying I really don’t want that but I also don’t want to hurt your feeling daddy. I then did what all parents should do, I promptly ate it!! Maybe I heard what I wanted to hear, maybe not – LOL!! There are more to come so she will get her share if she wants. We will continue to test peaches at our Gardens with a view to making plants available in a couple of years to persons who may be interested.

Irrigation is now a daily requirement for most of our shallow-rooted crops and most vegetable plants will now need some additional nutrition to help along the remaining crops. Blood meal will keep the leafy crops such as bokchoy and Swiss chard 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 and radish will boost their productivity.

Weeding should be kept high on your “to do list” during April to avoid complete chaos when the rains begin. April is also a good time to clean your garden and tool sheds and get your last minute pruning out of the way before your fruit and ornamental trees start growing again in earnest.

There are minimal pests around this time of the year for organic gardeners to contend with as an abundance of ladybugs and other predators combined with the cooler and drier weather has continued to keep most of the whitefly and aphids in check with minimal intervention, although there is an abundance of caterpillars and baby chickens about.

Our resident agoutis brought off a lovely pair of young ones during March and these are often seen playing in the backyard even with much human activity all around them. The iguanas have somewhat subsided but lunch time searches around the Gardens will often times dredge up one or two.

At our Gardens, there is an abundance of greens such as kale, Swiss chard, bokchoy, tatsoy, wong bok and mustard, and root crops such as radish and beet. There is also a wide array of cut culinary and medicinal herbs such as dill, parsley, rosemary, several types of basil, curry leaf, pimento leaf and lemon grass and aloe vera.

Herb and vegetable plants are also available for planting out immediately, including basil (5 types), cilantro, dill, parsley (both flat and curly leaf), lemon grass, Cuban oregano, Cayman seasoning pepper, scotch bonnet, eggplant, corn, okra, etc. Also, a wide range of fruit trees and some ornamentals continue to be available for purchase.

Until next time, happy gardening from the team here at Plantation House.