As the winter season arrives, Bermuda’s gardens, both wild and cultivated, begin to produce a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers. The time between early December and mid-March is familiar to local gardeners and farmers as the growing season, thanks to the cooler weather and increased rainfall. With this season comes encouraging growth and, of course, enjoying many of the crops that were planted during the fall. But the best of the season is not only for those who cultivate their own gardens—the island has much to offer, from citrus fruit and loquats to wild freesias and plants perfect for holiday decorating.
For those with a cultivated vegetable garden, the following will be ready for harvest during the winter months:
• String beans—These have a growth cycle of approximately six weeks, from planting to harvest, and can be replanted until the weather becomes too warm, typically in April
• Root vegetables—Crops such as carrots, beets and potatoes that were planted in September will be ready to be enjoyed at Christmastime
• If tomatoes were planted in September or October and have done well, they will be ready for harvest in January or February
Tip: Throughout the season, continue to replant vegetables that are being picked now. And, as just about any vegetable can be planted and succeed during this period, take the opportunity to try new crops. With the effort needed to maintain them, the outcome should be favourable.
Planning Ahead—Spring Flowers and Onions
• In early January, plant onion seedlings so that they will be ready in time for the harvest period in May. The seedlings may be new, or may have been produced from onions that were left over from last year’s crop and replanted in the fall.
• Seedlings for various types of flowers, such as snap dragons and sweet peas, may also be planted in January so that they will bloom in time for spring
As every gardener knows, plants of all kinds need assistance in order to be successful. Maintain a favourable growing environment by periodically loosening the soil around plants as they grow, weeding and applying a light fertilizer.
At this time of year, the whitefly can be a persistent offender. The insects lay their eggs on the leaves of plants, and the young in turn eat the leaves, therefore weakening them. Whiteflies are, as their name suggests, white in appearance and are exceptionally small, with a body size of only 1–2mm. They can be controlled with pesticides or, for a more natural alternative, can be kept away by the smell of certain plants. In particular, daisies and garlic, either of which can be planted in a row in the garden, will help to keep whiteflies at bay.
Look out for…
• Oranges—Perhaps one of the island’s most delicious offerings is the Bermuda orange. These sweet citrus fruits are ripe for approximately six weeks, beginning in December.
• Freesias—These fragrant, pastel-coloured flowers beautify landscapes all over the island in the months of February and March.
• Loquats—Ever the Bermudian favourite, these golden yellow fruits are ripe from early February to early April. They can be used in many types of dishes, from chutney to baked desserts, or—in local fashion—can be eaten straight from the tree.
• Wild Bermuda holly—Although a rare find nowadays, Bermuda holly, or Ilex vomitoria, is indeed a type of holly and is similar in appearance to the traditional variety. Both the leaves and the red berries make for a festive decoration in any home during the holiday season.
• Berries from the Mexican pepper plant—Although this plant is invasive, its red berries lend themselves well to holiday floral arrangements and the like. Or try displaying them alone as a simple yet elegant table decoration.
• Sprigs of Bermuda cedar—This endemic species has the look of a wintertime tree, and its cuttings don’t need to be kept in water, making it an easy choice for natural-themed holiday decorations. Use cedar sprigs to adorn tables or place settings, or use them to make a garland for the mantel.