December in The Garden

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What’s growing, fruiting, flowering, germinating, and cropping in our tropical food garden in December? December is the first month of summer where we are. It’s also the tropical wet season This means it’s going to be super-interesting to see what effect torrential rain, less sun, and waterlogging or even soil erosion will have on what’s growing and producing food in the vegetable garden. So what can we grow to feed our families in December?

December growing vegetables garden
This is mostly a herb garden but there are some peppers, cherry tomatoes and a small lime tree in here too. In December I replaced the horrible, toxic, treated timber raised bed with natural materials. And hoped the wet season rains didn’t wash the soil away. I sowed some sweet alyssum seeds in here in December too. The celery leaf here, isn’t happy. The rocket is flowering and seeding, the mother of herbs is loving life, and the sage is hanging in there. I’ve picked one green capsicum (pepper) from this bed and more are forming. Lots more, I hope!

The rain actually started to come towards the end of November. Prior to that it was incredibly hot and dry. I don’t have an irrigation system, so even with morning and evening watering, the plants weren’t loving the conditions, mostly. As the rain came in that all changed. In late November and early December herbs and vegatables were growing like crazy and producing a lot of food. In mid November we had a heavy pest load and weak plants as they struggled to thricve. I cut the tomatoes and aubergines back hard and hoped for the best. How did it go, and what can you grow in a tropical veggie garden in Decmeber and the wet season?

Most plants in our tropical food garden will grow as perennials. By keeping this month by month record I’m trying to learn and become a better gardener and know what to do next year. December for me was all about peppers and beans this year, with a few tomatoes and a steady supply of herbs and green leafy veg. The tomatoes split in the rain and we do have courgettes (zucchini), although pollination is difficult in a deluge. The aubergines are looking pretty fantastic too.

Jackfruit in December

We still have jackfruit ripening on the tree in December. It’s such a tricky job to pick them at just the right time, and before the bats get them. Bizarrely, in the second week of Decenber, the tree produced a few new fruit buds.

Lemons in December

The lemon tree flowered in late August . The fruit that set still isn’t full size. We’ve previously had ripe lemons by Christmas, but I think they’ll be later this year. Update: We harvested the lemons from this dwarf lemon tree in early April and added a second lemon tree, a Mayer this time. We always have lemons, rind, peel and juice in the freezer for when lemons are out of season. Yes, you can freeze lemons.

Ruby Grapefruit in December

The grapefruit tree was covered in ping-pong ball sized fruit at the start of the wet season. We started harvesting grapefruit in early May, again, a little later than last year. These store well on the tree, the first we pick will be mostly green, by the end of the season they’ll be yellow. They’re good to eat or juice even when still green on the oiutside.

Regular Grapefruit in December

This is a new tree this year. It’s growing well but hasn’t flowered since we’ve had it. I think we planted it in October.

Papayas in December

We were picking papayas (paw paw) in September. After that I cut the tree back hard because it was damaged. It has since grown back multiple branches which are forming a really nice shade canopy. It’s flowering constantly but no fruit has set, It’s a bisexual papaya, it always struggles to set fruit. I have more young papaya trees coming because we need a better supply and they’re absolutely delicious, ripe, or in green papaya salads. It seems that papayas, every tipe I grow, only set fruit in the wet season. For us it will then be starting to ripen about May.

Mangos in December

The mango tree persists in doing nothing. I mostly forget it’s even there

Figs in December

Newly planted in October. Not doing anything currently.

Feijoa in December

Newly planted in October. Putting on new leaf.

Lychee in December

Newly planted in October. Putting on new leaf.

Avocado in December

The avocado tree started forming new leaves and flowering, first week of September.. In December, it looks well, but something really loves eating avocado leaves.

Strawberries in December

Nope, not growing strawberries currently.

Peppers and Chilies in December

December seems to be the month for peppers. Our tiny Thai-style chillies produce year-round, but in late November and into December we have ripe red long chillies, more green chillies forming, sweet bell peppers, habaneros, long banana peppers and minature round peppers. Everything in the capsicum family is looking very happy at the start of the wet. These plants are all new this year other than one red long pepper which is at least two years old and still giving us fruit. Peppers are delicious, but not heavy-cropping enough yet to make a full meal pepper-based. I really hope we can do Greek stuffed peppers at some point. I ferment most of the chillies to make hot sauce, others I dry in the dehydrator for chilli flakes.

Growing Bush Beans or Green Beans in December

Bush beans seem to hate November and are still hating December. I plant them everywhere just to see how they do. One is happy, it’s in partial sun, it gets shade from about noon and isn’t in the full force of the rain. It’s producing beans, but not as well as the bush beans did in early spring.

Snake Beans in December

Growing dwarf red snake beans in a pot
Growing dwarf red snake beans in a pot. These beans are nicer, I think, than regular snake beans and a better choice for pot growing. This pot has been giving us beans for months. If I miss a pot and it goes over, I push the dry beans back into the soil and more plants grow. Harvest beans daily, or they go past their best really fast. If you harvest, they produce more, if you let the dry beans develop, the plants are more likely to die, they think they’ve done their job. We have plenty of beans in December, both these and regular snake beans.

The snake beans seem very happy. Both the dwarf red snake beans and the regular snake beans. The association between green ants and snake beans is interesting. Tip : Chickens like green ant nests.

We’ve also planted snake bean seeds in August and September, they grew, but the September ( the first month of spring) plantings grew faster and caught up.

Also harvesting dwarf red snake beans, from pot-grown plants, sewn from seed . Not sure of the date we planted them, but we harvested the first beans from these plants 6th September,. The plants die if you let the seeds fully ripen. They die after a while anyway. If you keep pushing seeds back into the soil, more grow and you have a never-ending daily supply of red snake beans.

Tip: Harvest snake beans daily. They become perfectly ripe and become over blown in just a day. Pick them when they’re at their best and stand them in a tall glass of water in the fridge. They keep well that way and you’ll have a good bunch of beans to feature in a meal. Or just throw a few in whatever you’re cooking every day.

Growing Aubergines (Egg Plant) in December

Aubergines seem to really like September. We have five different varieties and they’re all looking great. Production really picked up at the end of August into September. They hated the super hot, dry, November weather and became small, woody, and full of seeds. In early December they took off again. We have loads of beautiful aubergines forming now, including the small Thai aubergines.

Thai Aubergines (Thai Eggplant) in December

I’ve tried to grow these small, round, green aubergines for years and never had any luck. They seem to really like heat. Try sowing the seeds when it’s hot, really hot, this is the only time I managed to germinate them. They are growing really well now it’s hot and wet. I picked my first one in the first week of December.

Cucumbers in December

I was so proud of my cucumbers in October and early November. We had dozens and I made pickles. My mid-late November they were done. I shaded them but they were too hot, had powdery mildew and all the pests. I chopped them down, leaving the roots in the soil to enhance it. I’ve tried planting more seeds but no joy. I guess cucumbers hate the summer here, wet or dry, they’re not happy. But I’ll keep trying because those refrigerator pickles were absolutely delicious. Cucumbers in pots and in the garden beds met the same fate.

Pumpkins in December

We haven’t had a single pumpkin this year. Last year we had loads. They hated the dry but are looking happier in the wet producing prolific green growth, fast. Last year the fruit rotted on the vines in the wet season. But I wasn’t here, this year I was home and kept a close eye on them. The pumpkins produced most fruit towards the end of the wet season.

Not much pollination happened, even hand pollination failed until the monsoon subsided. Once it was drier and cooler we had a lot of pumpkins. We harvested them in April-May once they were cured and the vines started to dry.

Pumpkin keeps well, that’s why it’s called a “winter” squash. Traditionally you could store your pumpkins through winter. Pumpkins are great food plants, the weight of edible fruit they produce is huge, but you need a lot of space. I just allow mine to sprawl. Some of these vines started to die in May, late autumn here.

Thai Basil in December

The Thai basil grows well all year round, flowering and seeding constantly and attracting beautiful blue bees. Thai basil, tulsi and garlic chives have yo be the easiest tropical herbs to grow. they are in season year-round and the Thai basil flowers year round with no change in flavour. This is a fabulous plant for attracting bees and is amazing in Asian food or as a stand-in for sweet (European) basil if you have none in the tropical winter.

Garlic Chives in December

Grow like crazy. Including the clumps we divided to use as an edging plant. They grow all year round and have never flowered. I have now grown garlic chives and regular chives side by side and the garlic chives are much more prolific in this climate.

Cherry Tomatoes in December

We do still have a few cherry tomatoes fruiting and the plants look happier than they did at the end of November. Heavy rain causes the fruit to split though. I feed the tomatoes often with chicken manure, worm tea, and calcium to prevent bottom end rot (blossom end rot to our American friends). I may plant more seeds now as an experiment. The yellow cherries are producing best now, but they’re too small to really be a useful food crop. The romas were the most use, for cooking. I just published a post on growing tomatoes in the tropics.

Heritage/ Larger Tomatoes in December

Seeds planted 5th of August. The roma tomatoes I cut back at the end of last month are still producing fruit and flowering, but much less-so. The tomatoes aren’t struggling through too much sun any more. In November the sun was bleaching the fruit. The Black Russians have a ripe fruit, second week of December, and are growing and flowering. I have a pineapple tomato plant growing well from seed planted in November. These seem to love direct sun, heat, and rain. I’ve failed to grow this variety until now, so it’s interesting. I’ll plant some more.

Growing Pineapples in December

Flowers started forming in late August and we have almost-ripe pineapples. They’ll probably be ready to pick in December. Pineapples go yellow-ish when they’re ripe and don’t ripen off the plant so timing is everything. More flowers formed in February, towards the end of the wet season. These wet season pineapples became at least twice the size of any that grew in the dry. That’s not surprising, they had plenty of water to grow. The wet season tomatoes were ready about three months later, in May.

Sweet Potatos in December

The vines are growing like crazy. I’ve taken cuttings, rooted and replanted. Green leafy growth is just abundant in the wet season but bugs are a real problem. You can eat sweet potato leaves as a green leafy veg, we do, often.

Kale in December

We have loads of kale and it seems much happier now that it’s not so dry and hot. The caterpillars are back though, they’ve destroyed a few plants. I don’t mind sharing with butterflies.

We had some caterpillars on a few plants in early September. Hand squished. We also had rats eating the kale. Humane rat traps dealt with them. Sadly, when the wet season reached monsoon proportions in January, my kale in open beds rotted. Interestingly I had a few plants under cover, slightly out of the rain but in open ground. They survived the wet season.

Rocket in December

Rocket is just always there. Some of the plants went to seed in full sun in November. They’re still flowering and seeding. Hopefully we’ll have new volunteers soon. This has never happened before, but I’ve never grown rocket in full sun before.

Our other bed of rocket was smothered by the mother-of-herbs which grew so prolifically the poor rocket gave up the fight. Rocket in pots, partly out of the fulls sun and rain survived the wet season in the best shape. A good amount of shade seems to stop rocket going to seed meaning it can be in season year round.

Radish in December

The radish seeds sewn in August are still there. We ate a few, left a few. We don’t like radish so I never picked them. Some have gone to seed. I don’t know if the roots are still edible. I’ll pick some and find out. Otherwise I’m just leaving them to volunteer.

Silver Beet in December

Seems happy it’s wetter. It’s in partial shade. I haven’t tried growing silver beet in full sun and won’t. We don’t like it, it tastes like soil. So it’s just doing its thing and I’m ignoring it. These plants must be over a year old.

Melons in December

I sowed melon seeds in early December. The seedlings are up.

Passion Fruit in December

I have big, healthy-looking passion fruit vines, over a year old, that still haven’t flowered. I think because they don’t get full sun all day.

Dragon Fruit in December

The dragon fruit plants are growing very well in partial – full shade up the curry-leaf tree. Being in shade I don’t know if they’ll flower and fruit. But they’re growing fast. We shall see!

Cucamellons in December

The cucamelloons are still growing and still flowering, but not setting fruit. I think they don’t get enough sun at the moment. The sun has moved to the other side of the house. Luckily, they’re in a pot, so I’ll move them to a sunnier spot.

These plants gave us hundreds of fruit in October into early November. Over-ripe ones have fallen and I think, are growing. But I haven’t eated a cucamelon in weeks.

Mint in December

Mint grows very happily in December in the tropics, loving the heat and wet. This is probably the best time of year for mint in our conditions and I’d say this is when mint is in season. December is a good time to harvest mint and a good time to transplant mint or start new plants from cuttings.

Mother of Herbs (Cuban Oregano) in December

Growing insanely fast in the hot and wet.

Lemongrass in December

Looking a bit happier in the hotter, wetter weather. I don’t have it in full sun anymore and it hates me for moving it. You can grow lemongrass in full tropical sun, it thrives. We have a post full of lemon grass recipes.

Lemongrass flowers in winter, around August.

Borage in December

I finally got my hands on some seeds and planted them in the first week of December. The seedlings are growing well. They’re enjoying the wet ground. Being too dry stunted some of them

Pidgeon Peas in December

Pigeon pea plants grow tall insanely fast. Growing well after planting in October and November

Courgettes (Zucchini) in December

The three original plants, from spring, hate me. They hate being dry and in soil that’s too shallow and poor. The row of courgettes I planted in early November are loving life! They’re huge and healthy-looking, no sign of squash bugs and just a touch of powdery mildew.

They’re in full sun but get plenty of water and the soil is deep and pretty good. They’re a lovely dark green.

I picked one courgette but pollination is an issue with the rain and heat. By the end of the wet season they were all dead. I’ll try again in cooler weather but I don’t think I’m ever going to get good results with summer squash.

Sage in December

Still happy. Sage is a non-tropical herb that seems to do OK in our climate.

Spring Onions (Scallions) in December

I grew store bought stumps of spring onions, they’ve grown well, some flowered in November. Mostly I use the tops so they grow back, but I’ve harvested the odd whole spring onion. They do grow new bulbs when you grow them this way

Celery in December

I grew celery tops from store-bought celery. To do this, select a celery plant with a good amount of root still attached, it will grow in wet soil or in water. You can then plant it out in your garden beds. I use the tops in cooking, to flavour stocks and soups. The celery won’t grow the big stalks this way but we only want it for flavour. In late December they curled up their leaves and stopped growing. They’re alive but unhappy. I can’t harvest leaves right now but they’ve done well all year.

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