2 May 2011

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


“Daddy they keep saying the same thing over and over”, remarked my 4 year old as we drove with Cayman Weather Radio droning in the background. What these reports amount to is that the drought continues and there is no end in sight due to the persistence of high pressure systems over the north-western Caribbean.

As a result, irrigation is now a daily requirement for most of our crops. Even those crops covered by 50 percent shade-cloth such as lettuce, tatsoi and beetroot will wilt to a crisp if you break the watering regimen for a single day. A shocking sight to see is a 20-year old naseberry (sapodilla, nispero) tree shedding leaves due to drought. I smile as I remember that Daddy once said that if you go to a place and you see naseberry trees dying from drought that you should immediately leave that place because nothing will grow there, which was his indirect salute to the amazing drought resistance of this particular species.

Amid these challenges however, the magnificent Mango has made an early appearance at markets and restaurants around the Islands. Whilst the crop size has been severely affected by high winds and drought, the availability of fresh locally-grown mango is most welcomed, regardless. The varieties Carrie, Cogshall, Edwards and Nam doc mai are now in season, with East Indian, Jakarta and Golden Nugget following close behind. Mango will continue to be available through November, depending on the severity of the 2011 hurricane season and rainfall patterns.

At our Gardens, greens such as kale, Swiss chard, tatsoi and mustard, and root crops such as radish and beetroot continue to be available as we gradually shift to warm season crops such as corn, cucumber, watermelon, pumpkin, okra, courgette, and so on. Also available are cut culinary and medicinal herbs such as parsley, rosemary, several types of basil, curry leaf, pimento leaf, lemon grass and aloe vera.

Herb and vegetable plants are also available for planting out immediately, including basil (several types), rosemary, oregano, parsley (both flat and curly leaf), lemon grass, Cuban oregano, eggplant, corn, okra, etc. Also, some fruit trees and some ornamentals continue to be available for purchase.

Garden chores include weeding and some pruning during this “shoulder season” as we wait for the rains to begin before we put in the bulk of our hot, humid rainy season vegetables. Compost cube construction is also a great activity during this time as there is an abundance of un-treated palettes at the hardware/appliances stores as a result of their inventory top-up for the spring/summer shopping season. Four regular sized un-treated palettes fastened together by wood screws is a quick solution and gives you roughly the 1-cubic foot interior volume that is considered ideal for composting.

Our 2-6pm Sunday Afternoon Garden Market at Plantation House is becoming increasingly popular and we are most thankful for this support. This also allows us the opportunity to show our visitors first hand where their food comes from as it is often picked straight from the field upon request. From this interaction, our people also get to hear directly what is important to you as a consumer of our produce and this is most welcomed.

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