What to Plant now if you live in the tropics

Coming from Illinois, I always heard that corn should be knee-high by the Fourth of July. Most experts will tell you that you should start your tomatoes indoors and put them out in the garden after the last frost, and that you should plan your mid-season plantings so they have time to mature before the first frost. Well, we don’t get much frost in Baja.

Forget all that because in Todos Santos, on the Tropic of Cancer, we can grow year-round. However, I do find its best to avoid growing in the summer because there are way less pests in the winter! It is great for organic growing if half your pests just don’t show up during your growing season.

So, we are coming off of our resting season and getting ready to start for fall, winter, and spring growing. That’s an 8 month growing season! If you are a home gardener, the absolute best time to start is January because there are less pests and the days consistently get longer. For example, if your tomato plant is ready to flower come December, it will feel the shortening days and go dormant. The plant will hibernate for about a month and then finish its life-cycle when the days start to lengthen in January. During that month, it’s still susceptible to damage from pests. I’m still experimenting with this. This year I’m hoping to have mature tomatoes fruiting by December 1, and babies that will start to flower in January so that we don’t miss any harvests. Have any of you noticed this or found a good way to time your plantings around the solstice?

We start our season now so we can satisfy our clients come November. They would love for us to start earlier, but lettuce (our primary product) doesn’t germinate well at temperatures higher than 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Many plants, like tomatoes, germinate better in the heat, but they take longer to mature. That allows us to time our plantings so that everything will be ready come November.

Here’s a list of heat-loving plants: good until about 95 degrees F
Beans
Beets
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower (best at 86 degrees F)
Celery (surprisingly good to 100!)
Chard
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Fennel
Kale
Leeks
Melons
Okra
Onions
Peppers
Pumpkins
Radish
Summer and winter squash
Tomatoes (to about 92 degrees)

That said, there are lots of cucurbit-loving pests right now. If you hold off to plant melons and cucumbers until January it will make your life a lot easier! There are also lots of beautiful little white and yellow butterflies. These will lay tiny yellow eggs on the underside of your leafy greens. they are fun to discover and watch develop, and even more fun to squish. Kids are good squishers as well, though you may have to explain the circle of life to them to get them to do it. If you don’t get to the eggs, they will hatch into tiny worms which get bigger really fast! Get squishing. Left on their own they can devour a bed of lettuce in days. But don’t worry, once the weather cools off you won’t find many caterpillars in your garden.

Wait to plant these: they prefer to germinate around 75 degrees:
Arugula
Asian greens
Cress
Broccoli
Radicchio
Lettuce
Spinach

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