Cash in on local crops now

If local farmers want to get the
most out of their fall crops, the time to plant them is now.

Errol Watler, president of the
Agricultural Society, says there are a number of plants that should be ready to
put into Cayman soil this month.

“The usual things that can grow now
are pumpkin, peppers (especially the sweet and seasoned kind), sorrel, string
beans and beans in general (they can be planted and harvested all year round)
and coconuts. All of those plants are what we call quick or cash crops. They
take 90 days from planting to reaping. In other words, in three months you’ll
bear something and in six weeks you’ll see some sprouts.”

In addition, Watler said a number
of vegetables are better suited for the end of September and October.

“Tomatoes are a popular crop and
they’re better suited for the end of the month. You don’t want to plant them
too early because it would be too hot for them. Mango season just ended, but
it’s possible to start grafting mango trees, if the moon is up. For vegetables
like callaloo, bok choy and cabbage it’s not a good time now because it’s too
hot. They would be better suited for the end of October. Like with the other
crops you must be careful that the rain doesn’t wash them away.

“The vegetable seedlings and plant
seeds in general should be in a protected area like a shade house where their
sunlight and soil can be monitored. In general, vegetables thrive under cooler
conditions.”

Noted local farmer and owner of
Plantation House Organic Gardens, Joel Walton concurs with Watler. On a blog
post on his website, Walton points out that an unusually cool summer has
dampened the level of farming.

“September is here and officially
the vegetable growing season for cooler season crops begins in earnest,” Walton
said. “This time is a welcome reprieve for those who refuse to buy those mushy,
gas-ripened tomato imports found in local supermarkets. This summer in Cayman
has been unseasonably cooler than normal except for the last two weeks of
August when the normal day-time highs have been between 94 and 96 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Even so, night-time temperatures
have not consistently stayed in the 80s as they normally do during the months
of August and September. This cooling, combined with the absence of hurricanes
and an unusually wetter than normal rainy season thus far, has allowed cooler
season crops such as beetroot, carrot and radish alongside warmer season crops
like corn, okra, pumpkin (calabaza) and watermelon to grow.”

 

Rainy season

Cayman is officially in its rainy
season and in spite of there being no hurricane threats so far, rain has not
been in short supply. This month a tropical wave dumped around an inch of rain
on Grand Cayman, though weather conditions saw a number of strong isolated
showers that were heavy at times, along with lightning and thunder.

Local farmer Kirkland Nixon states
the rain has only encouraged him.

“Right now I’m getting my seedlings
started. My main crops are tomatoes and sweet peppers. Right now the night
temperatures are cooling down and ideally I’d like to see them drop to 72
degrees. In the evenings you can sense the coolness and the related Christmas
breeze, as it is called in Cayman. This is the best season to grow vegetables,
if you time it right, you can get a good crop. As far as October goes, it is
usually very rainy for us and farmers see many seedlings drown. But you have to
wait until the heavy rains are over. While you wait you can get the ground
ready with your hummus and manure and so forth.

“With farming you have to pay
attention. It’s all about timing, preparing and being ready. From now until
April you can produce a lot of stuff for the kitchen and in turn, save money.
So it’s a good time to get the ground ready, take your seeds and go plant
something.”

LOCALLocalfarmingSTORY

Tomatoes and pumpkins can grow in bunches.
Photo: Matthew Yates
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