September In the Tropical Urban Garden with Nik: Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico
Welcome to my new monthly series
– In the Garden with Nik –
Wherein I lead the new tropical Yucatan vegetable gardener on schedule to keep their plant babies alive and healthy.
What’s The Idea?
This was originally dreamed up as a Nik of Thyme Instagram thing to help my friends who all suddenly had pandemic gardens, but I’ve decided to make the content accessible on all my platforms including this website and my facebook. My goal is that all of us in the tropics have juicy homegrown tomatoes by December (and earlier if we don’t kill anything in the meantime) I’ll be addressing pests and plagues in real time on social media, so if you only read here find @nik.of.thyme on your favorite social site. If you don’t live in the tropics, this info should mostly be translatable to your gardening seasons but I am unabashedly focusing on the tropical Yucatan for all my recommendations. I’ll update the blog as topics arise, but I’ll be honest with you, Facebook and Instagram will have the content faster.
Tropical gardening, like all gardening, takes a little work and dedication. But when it is an act of love, eating your own homegrown goodness makes it all worth it. And really, when you breakdown and schedule the tasks there aren’t too many hours needed to keep a great garden. The bigger you go the more time it will take, but starting in your first 2×6 foot bed will take only an hour or two a week. My garden has 7 beds, countless potted plants and 6 trees and takes me about 6-8 hours the week to maintain. I didn’t start that big though, I built a bed at a time as I had time, energy and resources and not all of them are always planted. I hope over the horse of weekly and monthly hours with me in the garden to teach you how to rotate your beds, prune your trees and diagnose various plant issues.
Let’s Get Started!
To keep up a garden seems like a lot of work, and yes there are things you have to do, but when you break up the garden work into weeks and months it’s a lot easier to handle.
Yes I am behind a week in my calendar and posting because I got a surprise root canal and didn’t garden last weekend, but it’s early enough in the seasons that time is still forgiving. Start where you are now and if you aren’t ready to seed next week, don’t worry you can do it next month too.
What You Need To Do Each Month In Your Garden
Water plants (every-other day/daily)
Compost (1-2 times the week)
Plant Tea/Compost tea (1 time the month)
Plant seeds (1 time the month)
Transplant seedlings (1 time the month)
Spray for pests (2-4 times the month)
Weed/trim/upkeep (1-4 times the month)
Honestly, I plan and make a calendar every month. I wouldn’t get anything done without planning my calendar. I’ve given you access to my calendar here but you can move tasks around to what days/times work best for you.
If I do it right, the plants I seed 2 weeks into September will be going into the ground at the end of October right after I harvest all the MILPA corn, beans and pumpkins.
It’s September, and we are at the end of the heavy rainy season, although you will still have to contend with some downpours it’s likely no longer daily. Some years the heavy rain will last longer, but usually by the second week of September you can seed your tomatoes, pepper and other vegetables for the wonderful coming winter garden.
September is also the time to get your beds ready for planting!
After the rainy season your first order of business will be to compost and replenish the soils. The heavy rain really takes it out of my soil health.
During September my MILPA is still growing in half of my garden beds, but this month I can prepare any beds that I left empty and seed new plants in seedling trays, as well as make sure I have enough supplies and compost for replenishing the beds when I harvest the MILPA at the end of October.
Consolidated Quick Notes on the Garden Tasks:
(and links to the other post I’ve written about each)
Watering – your plants will be the task you are most often doing. Almost daily you will have the chance to commune with your babies and see how they are. I use this time as an act of meditation and pure presence with the earth. I do not take my phone with me when I am watering, it’s just me and my garden. I almost always water around 4-5 pm but sometimes I know I’ll be busy and I water in the morning. It’s important you water before the sun hits your plants and keep the water off of the leaves to prevent sunburn. If you water in the afternoon you have more freedom to overhead water, just check your own space to make sure there isn’t sun on any plants before you start. You will learn quickly by what hour you can get out and garden.
Compost – DON’T SKIP THE FERTILIZER our shallow rocky soil loses nutrients quickly and fertilizer is kep to keeping plants healthy and growing strong.
Making compost a weekly or bi-weekly activity depending on how much organic material your house consumes. You can see my post on urban compost bin here, or try direct composting. I’ll be showing videos of my composting method on Instagram and Facebook so make sure you follow @nik.of.thyme to learn more.
Plant tea – is my faster go to as a monthly fertilizer to keep things lush and veggies growing big and can be made from compost or by using my easy-peasy-plant tea recipe. If you like visuals I’ll also be showing these on social media as I make and use them.
Planting Seeds – Once you have your space ready you have to plant your seedlings. This is best done in a 70% soil 30% compost mix and I try to seed mostly in seed trays so if I have problems with enough sun, too much rain or even cats I can move and protect my seedlings. NOTE: Some plants I always directly sow in my garden beds, these are corn, beans, pumpkins/squash, melons, and carrots.
To make seed trays loosely fill up the holes with the soil/compost mixture, with your finger make a small indention in the top place 2-3 seeds in each hole and cover with dirt. I like to feed my seedlings from the bottom but keeping them moist however you can is what’s important. If you want to learn more about seeding follow along @nik.of.thyme (I know I’m selling it too much, but I’m actually really excited to start this journey with live people) you can also read this post I wrote about seeding (and spacing) in the garden.
For a general estimate, I usually seed 2-4 tomatoes, 2 eggplants, 1 pepper and lots of greens and roots in each monthly seeding cycle.
Weeding and Garden Maintenance
This does take up the bulk of Saturdays and many of you know I’m lazy about it and let it stack up week after week until I have to do a 4 hours straight weeding. Don’t be like me, do 10-15 minutes a day while out watering or once a week (as the calendar says) and your garden will always look great. Pruning will also need to be done according to the plants I prune trees every 3-6 months, herbs every month or two (and as I eat them).
Spraying For Pests
Everything in the garden is important, that’s why it got onto my calendar but spraying for pests is often overlooked. This is one of those activities best done BEFORE you have a problem. I use soap and neem spray the most often, followed by clove and orange (to keep mosquitoes away). I’ve written about this already here but if you have any specific questions reach out, pests come in all shapes and sizes but there is a (creative) solution for all of them.
I haven’t linked my most popular garden post yet, so I’ll close with the full Yucatan season guide I’ve written. You can start almost anytime, but some plants do better in certain months than others. It’s a guide and not a bible don’t be afraid to experiment and change things up as you need and maybe the tomatoes will surprise you by surviving the rainy season. With the right love I think plants are full of endless potential.
Let me know what you are growing and the questions you have, I’m always here to help. For the last sales pitch (but don’t worry I don’t get paid for this, unless you feel like paying me ^_^) remember you can find me on social media posting about these topics every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.