Apart from providing gardeners with fresh produce, planting and harvesting can be a rewarding and therapeutic past-time. To grow vegetables from seed does not necessarily require a garden. They can also be grown in a pot, planter box or basket. Ask staff at local nurseries for assistance if you need further guidance.
- Plants and vegetables need three key things from soil: water, air and nutrients.
- Sangela Haye of Signature Nursery has a number of pointers on how to start growing vegetables from seeds:
- Find out what seeds will give the best yield and quality, as well those that are most pest resistant.
- Before preparing a vegetable patch make sure the soil is right. Vegetables in particular prefer soil with good drainage.
- Inspect plants on a regular basis and check the leaves for signs of damage.
“Most times you can work with backyard soil for planting vegetables, once you have added soil amendments such as peat moss or compost,” says Sangela. Compost can either be made or purchased.
According to Sangela vegetables that grow well in the Cayman Islands include cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and squash. She says that frequency of watering depends on what is grown.
“Some crops, such as tomatoes, require moist conditions but others like pumpkins and watermelons can flourish in hot weather and drier conditions, while pepper is known as the cash crop,” she says. Peppers are easy to grown because of their resilience and ability to grow in most conditions.
Other useful suggestions
Suzanne Schwarz of Vigoro Nursery offered the following tips on growing vegetables from seeds:
- February seems to be the perfect time of year to start watermelons and corn, as the days are cool and the nights are long.
- Tomato season starts in October and runs through April. The plants can bear produce for months. Plum and cherry tomatoes, however, may prove difficult in the summer, as the heat can affect them.
- Peppers will grow year-round. Seeds are available for all kinds of peppers: sweet, green, red, yellow and orange.
- Pepper plants are a magnet for white flies and so should be inspected weekly. These pests will suck the life out of pepper plants if left unchecked. To avoid this problem, use a little soapy water and spray it on the pepper plants every four days.
To get the best out of your crop it is important to know when to harvest. Sangela says:
- Pick peppers in stages, as the first crop usually yields the biggest peppers. Try to get them 50-75 per cent ripe and leave them to colour the rest of the way in a cool dark place inside.
- Once a tomato has started to ripen, it doesn’t need light. Simply pick it and take it inside to finish.
- After harvesting vegetables, avoid replanting the same crop in the same soil. However, some plants like peas can be planted for rotation to enrich the soil.
- Most vegetables take six to eight weeks to fully ripen.
- Some herbs offer natural protection to vegetables if grown together. Many such as thyme, basil and oregano help repel pests because of their strong aroma.
- Most vegetables have one life cycle and you will have to replant after harvesting.
According to Sangela, vegetables and plant life in general respond to stimuli. She encourages gardeners to emit positive energy around their plants and vegetables.
Growing your own vegetables from seed is an ideal solitary pursuit and can be a wonderfully practical and educational hobby for the entire family. It is rewarding eating the produce you have tended to, so get planting and enjoy your harvest.