Well, the freesias are out, the longtails are back, sure signals spring is here. Of course, unlike gardeners in more northern climes, we’re not beginning our growing season after months of snow. Our growing calendar began in the fall so already we have vegetables, flowers, and herbs ready for harvesting. However, spring does mean for us, at least by the end of March, fewer storms. Sunny but cooler weather allows our gardens to flourish, peaking in May. We continue to grow vegetables and herbs such as thyme, essential for our Good Friday fish cakes, rosemary, parsley, basil, mint, sage and lemon balm, fennel, and dill. But we also think about what we’ll need to eat in the hottest months ahead when water needs to be conserved.
- It is best to isolate fennel from other plants in the garden as it easily takes over. If harvesting seeds for future planting, never plant fennel close to dill because they can cross-pollinate, which will adversely affect the flavour of the seeds and therefore that of the next year’s plants.
- Fennel bulbs popular for roasting are from the Florence variety.
Flower & Vegetable Planting Guide
Acrolinium, ageratum, alyssum, antirrhinum, aster, aubrieta, baby blue eyes, bachelor’s buttons, bird’s eyes, blanket flower, begonia, bells of Ireland, calendula, candytuft, carnation, centaurea, chrysanthemum, cineraria, coreopsis, dahlia, Africa daisy, dianthus, forget-me-not, geranium, gerbera, globe amaranth, globe gilia, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, impatiens, larkspur, lathyrus, marigold (African), marigold (French), nasturtium, nicotiana, pansy, petunia, phlox (annual), red tassel flower, rose everlasting, rudbeckia, salpiglossis, salvia, scabiosa, statice, snow-on-the-mountain, spider flower (cleome), star-of-the-veldt, stock, sweet pea, sweet William, verbena and viola
Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cassava, cauliflower, chard, christophine, collards, corn, cucumber, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, okra, pepper, potatoes, rutabaga, spinach, turnip
Beans, cucumber, okra, pumpkin, radish, tomato, squash, sweet potato
Eggplant, muskmelon (cantaloupe), watermelon
Amaranthus, balsam, calendula, celosia, coreopsis, cosmos, gaillardia, gazania, globe amaranth, hollyhock, marigold, portulaca, rudbeckia, vinca and zinnia
Ornamental Plants Requiring Less Water
We love our annuals and perennials giving colour to our gardens, patios and window boxes during the spring. However, they do consume a lot of water so now is the time to anticipate the driest months of the year. In addition to the plants in the planting guide below, why not plant the following easy-on-water plants either straight into the ground or into containers:
- Mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plants make for effective borders.
- Portulaca, both single and double, are annuals, of course, but they need a lot less water than impatiens, for example, and thrive in the heat.
- Agave plants store water in their foliage.
- Jade plant is easy to grow, needs very little water, and gives a Zen touch to your garden.
- Bougainvillea is a true Bermudian favourite whose bracts come in vivid pink, orange and purple.
- Lantana, or sage bush, comes in a variety of colours. For some reason, lantana plants bearing yellow flowers need more water than the others.
- Oleander is a popular hedge plant which thrives in dry weather. Its flowers, single or double, come in different shades of pink, red, white, coral and pale yellow.
- Jade plant can be easily propagated from stem cuttings. Press the cut end into the soil and it will take root in approximately a week.
- Bougainvillea needs pruning throughout the year to promote new growth.
- Note: Oleander is deadly poisonous. Its wood should never be burned as it produces toxic fumes.
Did you know?
- In the early years of Bermuda’s history, people used lantana leaves to brush their teeth.
- Oleander was brought to Bermuda from Charleston by a Mr. Lightbourn of Paget. Susette Harriet Lloyd called it the “Southsea Rose” in 1829.
Grow Your Own Salsa Garden
Salads are standard fare during the summer, but the leafy kind can feel bland after a while. Salsa, on the other hand, has zest and zip and is all the tastier when made from freshly picked ingredients from the garden. Consisting of chopped or pureed vegetables and herbs, it can be served as a dip with tortilla chips but is also excellent with codfish cakes. So why not grow a salsa garden in time for Good Friday? You can set aside a plot in your garden or use containers, which have the advantage of being easily moved into the shade when the sun becomes too fierce. Ingredients vary according to taste, but most salsas contain tomatoes, peppers, onions, parsley, and garlic. Freshly squeezed lime juice is often added.
Tomatoes are usually the heart of a salsa. Plant nurseries in Bermuda offer a good variety. Roma tomatoes are flavourful as are cherry tomatoes which grow well in a pot. Three plants should produce enough fruit to last the summer.
- Plant each seedling in at least two square feet of your garden or in one five-gallon container with good drainage.
- Remove two leaves at the seedling’s base so that you can set each seedling in a hole deep enough to bury much of its stem. A stronger root system will result.
- Water regularly making sure the soil is moist, but not soggy.
- Feed plants in containers with a tomato specific fertiliser every two weeks.
If you like medium-to-hot salsa, grow cayenne peppers. Jalapeno and tabasco peppers are excellent for a mild-to-medium heat level. Hot peppers are easy to grow in Bermuda and each plant can produce over a dozen fruits. Grow three to five pepper seedlings, one per pot.
Hot peppers freeze well and are useful ingredients for curries.
Did you know?
- Hot peppers like warm days and nights to produce fruit. Hot air and earth temperatures increase their heat levels.
Sweet Peppers (Capsicum annuum)
Use only sweet peppers if you do not like spicy hot food or a mix for a sweet and spicy blend. Red, yellow and orange peppers take longer to ripen. Peppers at their green stage can be harvested earlier.
- Water regularly.
- Fertilise when planting and again when fruits appear. A tablespoon of Epsom salts can be added to the soil when planting. It boosts magnesium.
- Stake if the fruits appear too heavy for the plant to bear their weight.
- Snip fruits with scissors so you don’t break stems.
Bermuda onions work well, as do red onions. Scallions and/or chives can be substituted. They add a milder taste while giving colour.
The true salsa calls for cilantro, otherwise known as Chinese parsley or coriander. The leaves have a peppery taste while the seeds, ground, are aromatic and can also be added to the mix. But curled parsley is a good substitute for those who like a milder taste. It is also easier to keep going during the summer. All can be grown in pots.
- Keep in shade during the summer.
- Keep cutting leaves to promote growth.
Did you know?
- The Aztecs served salsa 3,000 years ago.
- A crew member of one of Christopher Columbus’s ships brought chili peppers to Spain and from there they were eventually dispersed throughout Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
- Salsa has high levels of Vitamins A and C.
A Fairly Spicy Salsa Recipe
Either puree or mix together:
3 cups chopped tomatoes
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup onion, or scallions, diced
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro or curled parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno pepper (including seeds)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Optional additions: whole corn kernels, chopped peeled fresh peaches, mango, and pineapple.