February in the tropical garden by Kathleen Hosking of Solution Focussed
WHAT TO PLANT?
• Planting is difficult when the rains are torrential. It is best not to walk on the wet soil as it compacts, sets hard and becomes water repellent. Lotus seeds can be germinated in a bottle of water. They need to be scarified first.
• Separate clumps of garlic chives and onion chives and plant them out. Cut them at ground level when harvesting as this encourages clumping.
• Fertilise, mulch and plant green manure crops as needed.
• Cover any fruit that may be sunburned if left exposed. Pineapples can be covered lightly or make sure there are some weeds growing around them to provide protection.
• look out for damage caused by heavy rain and remedy as soon as possible.
WEEDS, PESTS AND DISEASE
• Continue weeding and mulching
• There is no need to fertilise as the hot weather will be breaking down the mulch and organic matter in the soil fairly quickly. Fertiliser is readily washed away in the rain.
• Check for areas where the mulch has been washed away and observe to see what is happening and this will tell you how to remedy the problem.
• The leaf cutter bees may be active at this time of the year. They cut out neat circles from the edges of the leaves.
HARVEST AND PRESERVE
• Harvest the fruit regularly to maintain the plant in active growth. Okra is productive now.
• Harvest chives by cutting them at ground level.
• The young leaves of rosella can be harvested during the growing season and added to salads for a tart flavour burst.
• Sweet leaf and sweet potato leaves are the mainstay of the salad and green vegetable in this weather.
• Harvest the leaves and stems of the taros for a cooked green vegetable which goes well with coconut.
• Coconuts are also available for harvest.
PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLE NO 2: CATCH AND STORE ENERGY
• I love this principle.
• utilise the runoff from buildings by directing it into a tank or a bog garden. Buy the biggest tank you can accommodate. A good size for the domestic block is 55,000 litres. This is about 6 months’ supply for a very frugal household or 3 months’ supply for a normal one. This will need to be treated for household use. Mine is for the garden only as I live in town so pay for water whether I use it or not.
• The grey water goes into a smaller bog garden and produces abundant mulch.
• My freezer is full of tomatoes harvested from the plants which grow themselves all over the place.
• Mangoes are the main fruit I eat so have some frozen but most are dehydrated.
• My weeds are harvested as mulch. It is hard going to keep up with the weeding but the weeds are still providing ground cover.
• The solar system on the roof catches and stores energy and gives me a return. It also has the potential to be independent with the addition of a battery system.
• Use swales and bunds to direct the water to where it is needed and around areas where it is not needed.
• Store water as subsoil moisture as much as possible by directing the water to areas where it can soak in.