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 start of 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 errosion will have on what’s growing and producing food in the vegetable garden. So what can we grow to feed our families in December?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We were picking papatas (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.
The mango tree persists in doing nothing. I mostly forget it’s even there
Newly planted in October. Not doing anything currently.
Newly planted in October. Putting on new leaf.
Newly planted in October. Putting on new leaf.
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.
Nope, not growing strawberries currently.
Peppers and Chilies
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, sweet bell peppers, 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.
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 inpartial sun, it get’s 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.
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 seedsin 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.
Aubergines (Egg Plant)
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)
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.
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.
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 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.
This grows well all year round, flowering and seeding constantly and attracting beautiful blue bees.
Grow like crazy. Including the clumps we divided to use as an edging plant. They grow all year round and have never flowered.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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 best shape.
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.
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.
I sowed melon seeds in early december. The seedlings are up.
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.
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!
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.
Mother of Herbs
Growing insanely fast in the hot and wet.
Looking a bit happier in the hotter, wetter weather. I don’t have it in full sun any more and it hates me for moving it.
I finally got my hands on some seeds and planted them in the first week of Decenber. The seedlings are growing well. They’re enjoying the wet ground. Being too dry stunted some of them
These grow tall insanely fast. Growing well after planting in October and November
The tree original plants, from spring, hate me. They hate being dry and in soil that’s too shallow and poor. The row of courgette 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. 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.
Spring Onions (Scallions)
I planted 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
I grew celery tops from store bought. I use the tops in cooking. 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.