What’s growing, fruiting, flowering, germinating, and cropping in our tropical food garden in May? May is the last month of autumn where we are. It’s getting towards the start of the tropical dry season, our winter. We are still getting a little rain, the garden isn’t as dry as a chip, yet. At night it’s “cold”. We’ve seen temperatures below 20 degrees C at night but mostly the days are hot and sunny. By May I’ve usually been able to get out into the garden and clear much of the jungle that grew during the wet.
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.
The jackfruit tree is full of fruit again. This tree is full of surprises, it keeps doing exactly what I don’t expect it to do. I can forgive it being unpredictable as it gives us masses of huge fruit every year. It currently has about half-grown fruit and the fruit started setting around Christmas time, just as we were finishing the last of the previous year’s crop. It’s a lovely big tree and gives us much-needed shade.
Yes we have bananas! It’s the first time we’ve had bananas in a long time, in part due to an accident involving my son and a saw. They are fully formed and not far off ripe. This is the original banana plant that I planted almost 10 years ago. When a banana stem flowers and fruits we cut that stem down and allow one of the child shoots to mature and fruit the next year, this is the way of bananas. In previous years we have used a plastic banana bag to keep pests away from the fruit. This year we don’t have one, so the bananas are having to go it alone out there. Time will tell how that turns out.
We have lemons in the freezer from the dwarf lemon tree and we planted a new Meyer lemon in the front garden. The new one is flowering. Meyers produce fruit from time to time, rather than all at once, so I’ve been told. We shall see! It certainly looks that way with just one small cluster of flowers.
My mature grapefruit tree is absolutely drooping under the weight of semi-ripe grapefruit. We’ve started using this year’s crop, but the longer you leave your grapefruit on the tree the sweeter they become. We start use=ing the grapefruit while they are still green.
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.
The papayas will be ripe this month and right now I’m keeping a very watchful eye on them. About this time last year a local eclectus parrot though my papayas should be his breakfast so I’m trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again. I’m thinking of throwing an old mosquito net over the papaya (paw paw) plant. I have two papaya plants in fruit at the moment and almost a dozen younger trees. The original plant is a bisexual that I bought at a nursery. All of the others are its direct descendents grown for its seeds. You can see from the rounder feruit in the daughter plant that it hasn’t bred true. It will be interesting to see how the fruit tastes in a few weeks. It seems that papayas only set fruit in the wet season and bisexual plants set far less fruit than other varieties. Every flower on this daughter plant was female, whereas the parent only has a few female flowers, most are male. Or maybe I got a dud, I don’t know, but the botanist in me thinks she can spot a female flower.
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. Not doing anything really
Newly planted in October. Again, not doing anything.
Nope, not growing strawberries currently.
Peppers and Chilies
Peppers and chillies, all varieties, have just been non-stop through the wet and summer months. There were some issues with fruit fly when it was really wet, we cured that by picking them green not red. They’re still producing now but its getting cooler, I don’t know how much longer they’ll keep producing but right now we have hundreds of peppers in many varieties.
I planted seeds of French beans just yesterday. The dwarf red snake beans are still going strong too.
I’m not growing snake beans. I’ve decided having to trellis them is too annoying.
Aubergines (Egg Plant)
Yes, we have aubergines, black and white. They seem to be doing pretty well at the moment. We do have aubergines every month of the year I think. The white aubergines are my favourite, they have fewer seeds and a less tough skin.
Thai Aubergines (Thai Eggplant)
This plant is getting huge. It’s almost 6 foot tall now. It seems to bear fruit continuously but you do need to pick them really small before the seeds develop. This means you need a lot to make a green curry. This one plant is not yet big enough to produce enough to make green curry for 4 people simultaneously. I need to figure out if I can freeze them as I pick them to use all at once and make a full meal.
I just planted cucumber seeds. They prefer the cooler weather now and through the wet season (summer) they haven’t been germinating. If these don’t germinate I’m done with cucumbers. They seem to produce just a few fruit from each plant before getting smashed by pests.
Growing pumpkins in the tropics is productive and confusing. We always have plenty of pumpkins, they grow well, but they seem to just grow when they feel like it. Right now I have several Kg of pumpkins harvested and stored. We picked most of them in April and May. Some of the vines browned off and died, others are still growing and producing flowers. Some grew right over the fence and are heading for New Zealand! Pumpkins grow, it seems, all=year-round. Noticeably I couldn’t get a flower to pollinate in the wet season, whether it was the heat or the humidity, I don’t know, but even hand pollination didn’t work. Towards the end of the wet, as the weather got less unpleasant, they set loads of fruit and that is what we’re eating now. You can also eat pumpkin shoots as a green vegetable.
Always there, in flower, attracting bees and looking healthy. It self-seeds all over the garden and is a great permaculture staple.
Grow like crazy. Including the clumps we divided to use as an edging plant. They grow all year round and have never flowered.
I’m a bit obsessed with growing tomatoes in the tropics lately. I want to grow all the varieties, all the time and never have to buy them in a supermarket ever again. The cherries, and we have maybe 4 varieties, continued to grow through the wet but the fruit was mostly inedible due to pests, including fruit fly. Now things have dried out and the weather is cooler the cherries are much happier and I’m about to pick my first major haul of black grape tomatoes of the year. These plants are all cuttings from last year’s plants and they’re mostly in containers.
Heritage/ Larger Tomatoes
The cucamellons 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 eaten a cucamelon in weeks.
Mother of Herbs
This fabulous herb grew insanely fast in the hot and wet, swamping many of the other plants in its (slightly) raised bed. Once the wet was over I got out there and started chopping it back. Throughout the wet season I’ve been drying this plant, also known as Indian or Cuban oregano. We use it to make “sleepy tea” and it really does knock us out! It tastes pretty much like oregano too, so we also use it in pasta and pizza sauces.
I planted pidgeon pea seeds directly into the ground in October and November. They are now taller than the house and are in flower. I’m really stunned by these plants, the leaves are soft and velvety and the yello and red flowers are stunning. I’m so glad I planted them. Pidgeon peas are lentils or split peas, so harvesting and processing will be really labour intensive as we found with the mung beans. I bet they make great chicken food!
Spring Onions (Scallions)
I grew celery tops from store-bought. I use the tops in cooking. In late December they curled up their leaves and stopped growing, by January they had gone, rotted away to nothing. I plan to grow more because the leaves are so tasty in salads or cooked dishes.