6 Sep 2011

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


“What a Heat” was a popular expression used in Cayman during the 1970’s and whilst it was used then to describe other things I do believe that history will forgive us if we used it now to describe our experiences with the weather over the recent 2 or so months here in Cayman. The heat index hovered around 115 degrees Fahrenheit for much of August and it is only the shortening days, recent rains and shifting winds that have helped to lower of temperatures over the past 2 or so weeks. Prior to this, strong westerly flows, upper level shear and oppressive high pressure systems over the NW Caribbean have combined to keep storms north; simultaneously but unfortunately resulting in less rainfall and high temperatures.

The good news is that despite the fact that September signals the peak of our Hurricane season it also signals the beginning of the main vegetable growing season here at Latitude 20 degrees North so it’s time to get those hands dirty. Your vegetable beds should now have a couple inches or so of composted manure and mulch sitting on top, primed and ready to receive the first tomato and sweet pepper seedlings of the on-coming growing season. Putting them in now 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. This additional time could be utilised to mature any left-over compost and to keep your soil solarisation programme going.

Other crops such as beetroot, radish, carrot, cabbage, Florence fennel, leek, kohlrabi and parsnips should be sowed directly towards the end of September to take advantage of the retreating sunlight caused by the earth’s tilt away from the sun. This brings a general cooling of the soil, conditions necessary for sprouting these vegetable types. If you have no shadehouse covering you should wait until after the late-October heavy rains before sowing as the seedlings will get battered. Don’t forget to stick in some marigolds, basil, thyme, scallions and rosemary to help create diversity of plant types, heights, scents and textures to deter pests and attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs and bees.

At Plantation Organic Gardens, the Malabar Spinach, Swiss Chard, Daikon, Eggplant (Regular, Long and Thai), Pak/Bok Choi, 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, Sweet Peppers and Tomatoes just around the corner. Seedlings of tomato, sweet pepper, lettuce, cabbage, and many greens are also available for purchase along with many other vegetable and herbs for your 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, although there has been some second crops of Nam Doc, Edwards and a couple others. There has been no real Avocado season thus far but it is hoped that the late croppers will do much better. Ackee, Okra, Breadfruit, Black Sapote, Guava, Banana and Plantain are in abundance at the moment with June Plum, Ju Plum, Pumpkin and Longan (second crops) just around the corner.

We have expanded our growing areas significantly since last year adding 2 new growing systems which we will be happy to share during the coming months. At Plantation House the Sunday 2-6pm GreenMarket continues and our next Tasting Event will be held at 5pm on October 3.

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

1 Sep 2011

August Tasting Event

On Sunday evening, 7th August 2011, Dr. Joseph Jackman and Mr. Joel Walton hosted their monthly tasting event, this time featuring Kombucha, brewed locally by Elizabeth Chisholm.

What is Kombucha? Sometimes referred to as an “ancient elixir”, put simply, it is a living health drink made by fermenting tea and sugar with the kombucha ‘scoby’ (symbiotic culture/colony of bacteria and yeast. The result is a refreshing beverage, often likened to sparkling apple cider, which has proven to be an effective metabolic balancer (helping the various organs work together), probiotic (supporting the beneficial bacteria), adaptogen (balancing processes that get out of kilter) and detoxifier. Kombucha has a wide range of organic acids, vitamins and enzymes that give it its extraordinary value.

Having Plantation House and gardens as your venue and back-drop, any event is automatically set up for enjoyment. With between twenty to thirty curious minds in attendance, Dr. Jackman and Joel led with a description of Plantation House, enlightening all eager ears with their eco-friendly farming methods, and information on the multitude of produce and plants available. Elizabeth followed with an overview of what Kombucha is, its numerous benefits and how it is made. This led to, as is the event title J, the tasting.

There were six different flavours on offer:

· Celtic Lychee (Celtic Breakfast & Lychee White Tea)

· Blackberry Lychee (Blackberry herbal tea & Lychee White Tea)

· Exotic Rooibos (South African Rooibos herbal tea & Lychee White Tea)

· Celtic Red (Celtic Breakfast and Vanilla Almond Rooibos tea)

· Bellini Bonanza (Peach Bellini Green Tea & Blackberry herbal tea)

· Ginger Peach Sun (Peach Bellini Green Tea and Decaf Ginger & Lemongrass)

All six flavours were enjoyed by most in attendance, and while the Celtic Lychee proved to be Dr. Jackman’s favourite, it was a tie between the Ginger Peach Sun and the Celtic Red as to which flavour could be bestowed with the ‘favourite’ title.

Suffice it to say, a lovely evening was had by all.