The end is nigh. If you plant a tomato seed today you will reap ripe tomatoes at the very end of June or early July, but only if there are cool nights in May that allow your tomato flowers to self-pollinate. Cherry tomatoes produce earlier and self-pollinate more easily so they may be your best bet for early summer tomatoes. There will be no late summer tomatoes.
As conditions grow warmer our lettuce tends to grow bitter. Salad greens are the best substitute if they are cut and used early and not allowed to grow big and toughen. If they do grow big, boil them as for spinach. Plant some Malabar spinach seeds to carry you through the summer. This underrated vine can be used in salads if the leaves are picked very early.
We can still fit in crops of bush beans and beets if we plant soon. This is a great time to start eggplants from seed because they enjoy warm weather. Sweet peppers are also summer survivors but they will need some protection from direct sunlight that can scorch the developing fruits. Your best bet is to grow pepper plants in containers that can be easily moved to locations where they receive early and late sun but are shaded during the hottest part of the day.
March is a great time to plant watermelon seeds. Allow six feet between plants in sandy soil that has been well fertilized. Watermelons like plenty of watering up until the time the fruits begin to swell. My favourite watermelon variety is Crimson Sweet, but all watermelons taste good.
Another March sowing favourite is sweet corn. Corn is grown in ‘blocks’ – rows that are close together – because they are wind pollinated. Plant your seeds at least a foot apart and water well until the root systems have been established. A whole seed package should be used if you have a large family, otherwise it might be better to stagger your harvest by sowing one-third of your seeds two weeks apart for an extended harvesting period. Corn, like watermelon, enjoys lots of fertilizer.
Cucumbers need a little more care and attention as summer approaches but most varieties are warm weather lovers. Give your vines a trellis or wire fence to climb on and you will have neat straight cucumber fruits. At this time of year winter squash does better than summer squash and zucchini. The name ‘winter’ applies to its storage properties rather than when to grow. Butternut is the variety that most Abaco gardeners say gives the best returns.
Spring starts this month so you must think about giving your citrus and fruit trees their seasonal applications of Sequestrene 138 drench, citrus special granular fertilizer, and minor element spray. You may prefer to use fertilizer spikes instead of granular fertilizer.
March is the preferred time to prune flowering shrubs such as hibiscus, bougainvillea and roses. Never prune away more than one-third of a plant’s foliage as the trauma may kill even a healthy shrub. Always remove dead twigs from your citrus trees and also ‘water shoots’ that grow straight upright instead of lateral. Check the bottom of your citrus trees to ensure there is no new growth below the grafting scar. If there is, nip it off.
Your grass will soon start to grow at full potential. Give your lawns a spray with high nitrogen fertilizer so the new growth has plenty of sustenance. Have your mower serviced in preparation for its summer duties or change the oil, air filter and spark plugs yourself. If you use a 5-gallon container to store your gasoline you may consider adding fuel stabilizer at each filling of the can.