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What do I plant now?

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Spring comes suddenly and is gone before you know it. It is a short-lived pleasure. Many are conditioned to believe spring is the beginning of our planting season due to the spring excitement and powerful media influences.

I repeat often that Bermuda's planting season begins in the fall — September or October. Every place has its own unique climatic conditions determining when and what can be grown, and Bermuda is no exception. Starting the garden at the beginning of the growing season and planting crops that are in season can make all the difference in gardening success, whether for novice or experienced gardeners.

What determines

seasonality?

The growing season of each vegetable is determined by the climate and elevation of an area. Temperature, daylight hours, and rainfall, can be critical factors. The minimum germination temperature for corn, for example, is 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but the optimum temperature range is between 60—75 degrees F. The window of time to plant it in Bermuda is February to the end of April. However, the planting time can be extended if the right conditions are met. Corn is considered a warm season crop but a few local growers have success planting it in the fall and harvesting in December.

Day-length effects

Plants can sense when days and nights become shorter or longer. For example, short-day onion varieties are best for Bermuda because they grow during the cooler short-day winter months and are triggered to bulb when the 12 hours of sunlight comes with the return of warm weather. Long-day onions are best for northern climates with longer days. Clemson okra is best grown during the long-day season, summer, while Sierra Leone okra is short-day and grows well into the colder months.

Rainfall

Typically local summers are hot and dry with rains coming around Cup Match. This is when farmers start planting carrot seeds to harvest at Christmas. Most rain occurs during the winter months therefore this is naturally when most crops are grown. It allows nature to do the watering and select crops suitable for eating during the colder months. Bermuda is at sea level so elevation is not an issue.

Is May too late to plant?

May is not the greatest time to begin gardening because it can be hot and options limited. Common crops planted at this time include bush and pole beans, cucumbers, edoe, taro, melons, okra, peanuts, sweet potato, squash, tomato, watermelon. Much depends on water availability. Crops like pumpkin, Roselle (sorrel), pigeon peas, cassava, corn, eggplant, if planted by April, will be robust enough to withstand the hot months. Some cool weather plants such as lettuce and chard can do well in May and June if planted in the shade or if drought and heat tolerant varieties are selected.

Summer Greens

and Roots

Be adventurous and try vegetables not commonly grown or eaten in Bermuda. Amaranth, cassava and sweet potato leaves, jicama, Uberlandia carrots, Ethiopian kale, Montello lettuce, Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, and moringa, all have been grown here successfully during the summer months. Some may benefit from shade. The crops grown from seed, however, are harder to find.

Local planting guides

It is important to use local planting guides for planting in season. Some plant nurseries have leaflets listing the most common crops grown in Bermuda and their planting dates. Planting guides can also be found in other local publications but the one that is most comprehensive is “The Bermuda Home Vegetable Garden” by EA McCallan, a book that is out of print. Copyright prevents printing the five-page “Sowing and Planting Table” here, however it is available in the non-circulating Bermudiana section at the Bermuda National Library.

Begin at Start

Starting your garden at the beginning of the growing season creates the momentum that will take you through the main winter growing season. By the end of spring you wind down and leave the garden to rest with a few summer crops and a nitrogen-fixing cover crop to protect and nourish the soil over the summer while keeping weeds away. It is then time to vacation and be prepared to start anew — in the fall.

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Published May 01, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 01, 2014 at 11:36 am)

What do I plant now?

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