Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Little Tropical Garden Talk (Part ~ The Beginning)

I've grown and killed a lot of rosemary
I hear so many people say you cannot grow vegetables and herbs in the tropics and I think the old people who have always grown them just laugh. For sure, I know a lot more about old people's gardens in the Virgin Islands than I do here, but I know quite a few people who garden here and do it successfully. I've done it myself and I'll keep on, though this year, I'm starting all over again, since in the past three years I've been gone too much of the year to really keep things going except for herbs.

Sure, we have different gardening issues from 'where you came from' but you just adjust. Ask questions. Listen. Because these days, more than ever, eating food from your own hands' work is the one way to be positive you aren't eating poisoned, mutated food that isn't that good for you and all too often, just isn't that good.

First, you need seeds. Ok, first you need soil, but we'll get to that. Start with the fun part (and if you think perusing seed catalogs is not fun, please skip this post). There are lots of great lists of seed catalogs, but you don't just want any seeds. You want organically grown seeds. You want heirloom seeds. You want variety! And, you live in the tropics, so check out some unusual tropical plants that will do well in our hot and humid summer and fall climate. Most catalogs are free, you just have to say you want one.

I find it easiest here to use containers for my plants. I've grown tomatoes in the ground (prepared ground) that grew to six feet high, so it can be done, but it is easier to protect plants in containers if you don't have the wherewithall to build a cage for them to live in. I have hungry iguanas around here, along with a lot of wild chickens and a few birds that love anything growing, including hot peppers. I've used everything from bird netting to whirly gigs...and usually, they work! One day, I'd love to have a caged in type space that I don't have to think about adjusting, re-doing, etc. but in the mean time, one does what one can with what one has. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I've had my gardens all over the yard and this year, I've come back to the original spot (for the most part) that I started almost 11 years ago. It's right outside the door, reachable with the hose - yes, I have the luxury of city water - another issue, I know.

The starter table

Hot peppers

I threw in a bunch of tomato seeds from some organic tomatoes...wa la!

Cashew tree! I'm very excited about this little guy and he is thriving!

Compost 'pond'  there are tomatoes and cantaloupe growing in's all an experiment

Cherry tomatoes

Rosemary, tomatoes, melons
How does my garden grow? Everywhere.
Ok, it's not the prettiest garden in the world, but anything that keeps me outside, makes my heart and head calm, and feeds my body, all at the same time? That's beautiful.

First cheap-o tip of the day! You don't have to buy Jiffy pots or peat pots or any other kind of seed starter pot if you use toilet paper and I'm just going to guess that you do. Because toilet paper (and paper towel too) rolls make great starter pots, easy peasy.

Cut a toilet paper roll in half. Cut 4 slits about 1/2 inch long on one end of that roll. Close it like you would a box top and there you go! A biodegradable pot for your seeds. You don't have to transplant, you can just stick it in the ground or container you'll be using for your garden space. Some people get fancy and smash it flat one way, then the other way to end up with it being a square. Some people lightly soak them and weight the tops, so the bottoms are really flat. Whatever works for you; you will definitely find out your OCD level with gardening.

You've got your seed catalogs. You're making your seed pots. You need to get some dirt. Remember, you don't have to grow 20 things, you can grow a couple of tomato plants. You can grow some basil and parsley. You can grow a squash or a cantaloupe or a mango tree. All that matters is that you start somewhere. Maybe your somewhere is a kitchen windowsill or maybe you have acres, it doesn't matter. Let's plant some food.

Just in case you need to remember that this really is the tropics...


All of this and gardens too. Yes, we're very fortunate. Don't forget it.

Have a task to table Thursday! Do something toward tangibly tasty.

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