This last year, has certainly been an extraordinary year, but good has come out of it. For example, as horticulturists in Bermuda will tell you, interest in growing vegetables and fruits has soared. Perhaps lockdown and travel restrictions have meant less time for socialising and more for doing; perhaps, too, shortages have made us realise how dependent we are on imports for food. Whatever the reason, people throughout the year have been flocking to plant nurseries in search of seedlings and gardening advice. Encouraged to prepare and plant their vegetable gardens in the fall, they will benefit now from harvests including beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower and celery in time for Christmas. Our winter months are also ideal for planting vegetables, as our ancestors knew during the Second World War when ships bringing food to Bermuda were intermittent.

 

Vegetable Planting Calendar

December
Chives, strawberry

December through February
Beans, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, potatoes, radish, rutabaga, spinach, squash, tomato, turnip.

February
Corn, cucumber, pumpkin, sweet potato

 

Cut-and-Come-Again Leafy Greens
An economical way to harvest is to cut just the outer leaves of leafy green vegetables, leaving the centre of the plant able to continually send out new leaves. That way, you cut enough for one meal, thus eliminating the need to store or to succession plant. It’s important to cut the outer leaves when they are immature so that they won’t become bitter and the plant won’t seed. Salad greens and cooking greens are both ideals for cut-and-come-again gardens. Try loose leaved lettuce, spinach, kale and chard. Even some varieties of broccoli continue to grow outer leaves once the head is cut. Many herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, thyme and mint also work well.

 

Tips
You can grow cut-and-come-again crops in containers if you don’t have a garden plot. Keep the containers near the kitchen so they’re close to hand.
Cutting leaves regularly encourages them to grow.

 

Did You Know?
You can regrow lettuce indoors. Cut a one-to-two-inch Romaine lettuce stem and place it in a jar containing one inch of water. Let it sit for 10–12 days. Enjoy new growth. Cooked beetroot and turnip greens are delicious and highly nutritious. They also can be harvested as cut-and-come-again crops.

 

Winter Flowering
December through February are perfect months for growing annuals and biennials. We are subject to storms, however, so planting flowers in hanging baskets, containers and pots makes it easier to protect them from strong winter winds. According to the wind direction, you can move the smaller pots to a different spot.

 

Tips
Use good potting soil and fertilise every week to two weeks.
Don’t use stones or gravel in your pots for drainage. They can cause the soil to stay too wet and therefore damage the roots.
Make sure the plants you put in one pot share the same needs. Don’t, for example, mix shade- and direct-sun-loving plants.
Don’t overcrowd the pots with too many plants. They need room to grow.
When watering, keep the soil moist but not wet. Water until you see it draining out of the bottom of the container.

 

Flower Planting Calendar

December through February
Ageratum, antirrhinum (snapdragon), aster, aubrieta, begonia, bells of Ireland, candytuft, carnation, centaurea, chrysanthemum, cineraria, dahlia, dianthus, geranium, gerbera, gypsophila, impatiens, larkspur, lathyrus, nasturtium, nicotiana, pansy, petunia, phlox, rudbeckia, salpiglossis, salvia, statice, snow-on-the-mountain, spider flower/cleome, star-of-the-veldt, stock, sweet William, verbena and viola

January
Agratum, antirrhinum, aster, aubrieta, begonia, bells of Ireland, candytuft, carnation, centaurea, chrysanthemum, cinerariam, dahlia, dianthus, geranium, gerbera, gypsophila, impatiens, larkspur, lathyrus, nasturtium, nicotiana, pansy, petunia, phlox, rudbeckia, salpiglossis, salvia, statice, snow-on-the-mountain, spider flower/cleome, star-of-the-veldt, stock, sweet William, verbena and viola.

February
Africa daisy, baby blue eyes, bachelor’s buttons, bird’s eyes, blanket flower, calendula, coreopsis, forget-me-not, globe amaranth, globe gilia, godetia, hollyhock, marigold (African), marigold (French), red tassel flower, rose everlasting, scabiosa, sweet pea.

 

Loquats
As Ronald Lightbourne’s beautiful poem “The Loquat Pickers” reminds us, come January and February our children disappear into loquat trees, in search of those piquant yellow/orange fruit which they love to eat raw. It ends:

…Then when the loquat sunlight fades
Against green evening’s deepening shades,

When dimming dusk vacates the room
And evening robes herself in gloom,

And thoughts of my extinction rise
And fill, like stars, the evening skies,

I pray that, always, there may be
Children in a loquat tree.

Adults love them as well but often see them as essential ingredients in jams and chutneys as well as in a traditional Bermudian liqueur.

 

Recipe for Bermuda Loquat Liqueur

Ingredients:
Enough freshly picked loquats to fill a large jar with a screw top.
1pound of rock candy if available or ½ cup white sugar
Large bottle golden rum or brandy or gin, according to preference.

Directions:
Wash loquats and dry.
Prick the fruit with a fork and place in jar.
Add rock candy or sugar.
Pour desired alcohol into jar.
Screw on top and shake well.
Invert jar every other night.
Let sit for at least six months.
Strain liqueur through a fine-meshed sieve of cheesecloth and bottle.
Note: Bermudians used to coat remaining fruit in melted dark chocolate to make delicious loquat liqueur chocolates.

 

Did You Know?
Governor William Reid introduced loquats to Bermuda in 1850.

 

Christmas Plants

Poinsettias
For many, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the colourful bracts of potted poinsettias adding to the festive season’s decorations. But once the holiday is over, often the plants suffer the same fate as cut Christmas trees: they are thrown out. However, in Bermuda it is perfectly possible to grow poinsettias in the ground where they can grow up to 10 feet and bloom just in time for Christmas.

 

Tips
Choose a sheltered location with fertile soil and away from house and street lighting since poinsettias prefer natural light.
Prune heavily in spring and again, more lightly, in late August/September.
Watch out for caterpillars.

 

Did You Know?
The poinsettia is native to Mexico where it is called Flor de Nochebuena or Christmas Eve Flower. It is named after Joel Poinsett (1779–1851), who was the first US agent to Mexico. A keen amateur botanist, he introduced the plant to the United States. A bract is a specialised leaf that is often different from the foliage leaves and larger and more colourful than the plant’s true flower.

 

Roses
Roses in Bermuda bloom from October through July, so flowers in time for Christmas do happen. The crimson blossoms of the popular Agrippina, a China rose, otherwise known here as “the old Bermuda rose,” are excellent for Christmas floral decorations, especially when mixed with fragrant jonquils.
The rose planting season also starts in October and runs through June. Most Bermuda roses can be propagated from slips or cuttings.

 

Did You Know?
Our “mystery roses” are ones which have lost their provenance. Consequently, they have been named after the person in whose garden they grew or after the place where they were found. Thus, for example, we have Dan’s rose, named after Morris Cooper whose grandchildren dubbed him “Dan.” Similarly, we have the Emmie Gray, named after a high school teacher who grew this rose in her garden.