What’s going on in the tropical food garden in October? October for us, here in the Southern Hemisphere, just 16 degrees south of the equator, is still spring officially, but it feels like full summer to me .October is a month of abundance in the garden, temperatures have climbed so much that we start to need the air-con and nights are no longer chilly. Plants explode with fruit. We can’t eat all of the tomatoes, cucumbers, and greens we’re producing in October and we start to think about preserving. It’s hot and dry with a very occasional nigh-time shower or cloudy day, but thankfully there is a breeze that helps to keep us a little cooler while drying the garden out even more. In October watering is really ramping up, particularly towards the end of the month.
We pick our first jackfruit in October usually. Unfortunately, the fruit bats got to our first one this year. We usually eat the first one, then preserve a lot of subsequent fruit in sugar syrup.
The lemons are developing nicely.
In October the ruby grapefruit began to flower. The first flowers opened in the first week of October and fruit set throughout the month. Simultaneously, other branches were putting out fresh growth.
I planted a new yellow grapefruit tree in October (photo above). I had to get it in fast as we lost a big old dead tree and all our shade. This little tree needs to grow fast! I didn’t dig a hole, I planted it above ground, near existing beds so that watering and nutrients from this bed were already nearby. This planting set-up is temporary, as it roots and thrives I’ll build around this, but I needed to get it in ASAP.
All of our papayas were picked in September and then I cut the tree back hard because of an ant problem. Throughout October the plant started to put out fresh growth from the trunk.
The mulberries are in fruit in October. We made a mulberry and apple crumble and it was delicious. The mulberry bush or tree is also putting on lots of green leafy growth and producing more flowers. Did you know you can eat mulberry leaves?
Not much happening. No fruit set after the recent flowering.
It flowered and put out some new growth, but it’s still not well.
Peppers and Chilies
Loads of peppers and chillies currently, but most still green. The little Thai or birds’s eye chillies are red, they’re always red. We’ve used some of those to make chilli oil and fermented chillies from which we make a chilli sauce. We’ve dried some, but with so many fresh we really don’t need dried chilies, we dry in the oven, not in a dehydrator. (We bought a dehydrator eventually)
The bush beans are super productive in early October with each plant producing a couple of handfulls of very healthy beans. Very pleased with my French beans this year, they seem to be the heaviest cropping of all the bean varieties I’m growing at the moment. The first producers started to grow a second set of beans, although less productively.
Growing, producing, harvesting. I have three varieties at the moment, dwarf red snake beans, regular snake beans, and extra-long snake beans. The reds are the least productive but new red plants are growing from seeds dropped from over-ripe pods, so we have snake bean seedlings alongside mature plants.
Dozens of aubergines! We eat aubergines every day, white, small, medium and large. Growth of the plants and fruit production has really taken off this month.
The pumpkin plant (singular) that has been growing a while is putting out female flowers. Newer pumpkin plants aren’t at the flowering stage yet. We put pumpkin seeds in the ground every time we eat a pumpkin, Japanese and Queensland Blue. So we have none to pick currently, unfortunately. But I think that’s more to do with when we planted them than anything else.
We now have a post on companion plants for pumpkins.
After a rough start, my weak, sick, courgette plans are looking strong and deep green. They’re flowering daily and a few courgettes are forming. These plants are prone to squash bugs and powdery mildew. Plenty of chicken manure, home made liquid fertilizer, and my home-made neem spray seem to help. My bought neem oil seems totally ineffective. This is something I need to test more scientifically
We have cucumbers every day, an abundance of cucumbers. It’s fabulous! I have two varieties currently, both growing up supports in pots and in the garden beds. As they grow the older leaves at the bottom succumb to mildew and bugs, the fresh leaves still look strong. These plants won’t grow forever, so new seeds go in every week or so to replace the old. Right now we’re making a lot of cucumber refrigerator pickles – which are delicious, and authentic Greek tzatziki.
The little cucamelons are still producing a small handful of garden snacks every day. They’re starting to get a few squash bugs and some powdery mildew, but they’re growing strongly. I keep topping their pot up with manure to try and keep them healthy. They’re slow starters, but once they get established there’s no stopping them. These will be cucamelon pickles.
The Thai Basil grows all year, flowers all year. Plants seem to go on forever and it’s easy to propagate from seeds or cuttings. We grow it for the bees that love it, for salads and Asian dishes, and to provide ground cover and shade. It’s an absolutely stellar tropical garden plant. The king of tropical herbs, tulsi (holy basil) is a different plant, and also grows incredibly easily in the tropics.
I have two sage plants. The one that is nestled in between the mother of herbs and celery tops is looking very healthy. It probably likes the bit of shade it gets from these support plants. The other sage plant isn’t looking so good.
Mother of Herbs
Growing very strongly, fast. Putting on a lot of new growth. It recently got some chicken manure as a top dressing.
The Garlic Chives are growing as always. We divided some big clumps to use as edging for raised beds as suggested by many permaculture sources. They’re doing well.
We’ve been picking a few cherry tomatoes daily since August. These include red, yellow, and black varieties. They’re all doing OK despite leaf-curl. The larger tomatoes look much healthier at the moment.
Heritage/ Larger Tomatoes
Our Roma tomatoes are covered in fruit and we’re picking daily. I’ve propagated maybe a dozen extra Roma tomato plants from the first one and they’re all healthy and fruiting. We’ve been eating Romas daily for weeks now.
The Black Russians produce way fewer fruit but they’re sweet and delicious.
Pineapple tomatoes are a total fail so far. They just refuse to grow.
We have a small but perfectly-formed pineapple coming. Other pineapple plants are looking well, but not producing fruit. The difference between pineapple plants in good soil and poor soil is pretty phenomenal. We find that pineapples flower at really random times. We’ve harvested fruit in summer and late autumn, with flowers forming seemingly when they feel like it.
I planted some small pieces from shop bought sweet potato in late September, the shoots aren’t up yet.
There are three varieties of kale growing well in the garden. Fairly new plantings and older plants. They’re having a few issues with green caterpillars but we’re still picking plenty for salads, soups, smothies, and as a cooked green vegetable.
Rocket grows all year round for me in the tropics and never seems to go to seed. I have huge rocket leaves growing beneath a dwarf lemon tree. It seems to enjoy the shade there and the rich soil. The rocket in full sun isn’t nearly as large, but is still doing well with daily watering.
The radish seeds sewn in August are harvested or ready to be harvested. These were large, brown radishes and we roasted them in the oven. They’re pretty tasty. We also used some of the radish tops as a green vegetable.
Silver beet continues to grow. We pick individual leaves to eat or cook.
We have healthy, lush green water spinach at the moment. The healthiest I’ve ever seen it. It’s in soil, not water. Maybe it likes the start of summer heat. If it gets eaten by bugs ( which it does often) I cut it down to the ground and it grows back. These plants I grew from seed, over a year ago, but it’s super easy to get cuttings to root, you could do it with store-bought.