Like it or not summer is here despite what the calendar may indicate. We have entered five months of high daytime temperatures, sultry nights, and thunder in the distance. Many of the plants that graced our winter gardens cannot survive through summer; others can if we give them some encouragement.
Most herbs are of Mediterranean provenance and like warmth but not tropical heat. If you grow your parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme in pots it would be a good idea to move them to an area where they are shaded for the majority of the day. If you have your herbs in the ground you can transplant them to pots for the summer. The odds are no better than fifty-fifty however well you treat your herbs.
During the cooler months of the year we were able to grow virtually any annual we wished but summer conditions limit us to a few hardy varieties. Cosmos, marigold, vinca, tithonia and zinnia are the most reliable of summer performers. Our impatiens and petunias will die off (save the seeds) but geraniums and portulaca may survive if shaded and watered often. Gaillardia is a perennial but flowers in its first year so can be given honorary annual status.
Most Abaco gardeners tend to give the vegetable garden – and themselves – a rest during summer. If you have pulled up tomato vines and found ugly swollen roots you have a nematode infestation. Cover your vegetable garden with clear plastic sheeting and keep it in place until late September/early October when you transplant your young tomato plants. The heat produced in the ground – and the sterilising effect of the sun – will help control nematodes and also keep your garden free of weeds. The very last thing you want to be doing in July and August is weeding.
If you sowed short day or neutral day onions in December or January you will reap the benefits this month. Wait until the leaves have fully died then pull the bulbs out of the ground, rub off any dirt, and nip off the roots. If you are taking a few into the kitchen you can cut off the dead leaves but leave at least two inches in place. The very top of the onion bulb is the last area to be cured and if you cut the leaves off flush you will likely find the onion rotting at this point.
The rest of your onion harvest should be preserved for future use. Lay about 10 together on the ground and then tie twine tightly around the leaves at two or three points so you can hang them on a hook. If you have nimble fingers you can plait the leaves before tying. Hang your bunches of onions in a shaded and well-ventilated area out of the sun. Depending on the variety they should last for months.
Strawberry plants can take a good deal of heat but they too should be removed to a semi-shaded area that protects them from early afternoon sun. Pin the young plants produced on runners into their own small pot and wait until the runner dries before cutting the cord and making your new strawberry plant independent. Immediately re-pot into a one-gallon container and fertilize with a Miracid spray on a regular basis.
Pineapples have their fruits swelling and will be ready for enjoying in a month or two. Keep their pots lightly watered and maintain a weekly Miracid application.
It looks as though we will have a great mango season here on Abaco. All the tropical fruit trees seem to be doing well, from grumichama and Surinam cherry to soursop and breadfruit. There are some tasty times ahead!