Basics for Gardening in the Tropics

Many of us come from climates with specific seasons with temperature differences. Gardening in a tropical environment is very different. This month we have some basics for gardening in the tropics you can have a beautiful garden in the Mexican Yucatan.

  1. The most important rule is use raised beds for best results and fill with a good soil mix. The existing limestone soil can be hard with shallow topsoil. Augment your mixture with a soil mix and fertilizer for your plants. Home Depot has some mixes that work well and can be mixed with peat moss and some local soil. Use a third of each for good results for most plants. Raised beds allow you to control the soil and give better drainage. If you do not have a good soil, you will waste a lot of time and money on plants that will not grow.
  2. Know that tropical gardening differs in that we have faster growth, and longer growing season. Remember new growth which will be tender so protect it when possible from winds.
  3. The humidity encourages more pests and diseases. Some plants are resistant. Use these whenever possible. If you need to use pesticides, use natural remedies that do not harm the environment. Information on natural remedies is available on the web. All chemicals you put in your garden end up in the water and will damage the fragile environment. Be nature friendly.
  4. Pick plants that are recommended for the area. Stores such as Home Depot will sell you plants that look great on their display as they come from the green houses, but many will not grow here.  We have all had experience or purchasing plants only to have them die. Purchase from a vivero (nursery) that we recommend where they will tell you what will grow and under what conditions. A good one is Los Pinos, north side of Playa del Carmen. See our friend Lupe to help you there.
  5. Space Plants for fast growth. If plants are too crowded it may slow growth and also cause diseases.
  6. On Planting- it is best to keep plants together in compatible groups requiring the same watering and shade. Get rid of old plants that do not work. Be ruthless in clearing out the damaged and weak plants.
  7. Time to plant-here almost any time is good for planting but in the dry season you may need to supplement the water. If your water is from a cenote, it will be salty so be sure your plants are salt tolerant. If you google, salt tolerant plants, you will see many helpful web sites that will tell you the degree of salt tolerance of plants.

Before and after pictures are of a raised bed with mandevilla and bougainvillea when planted and only seven months later. Also see the palm tree when planted and seven months later. You can see the rapid growth.


We here at Mayan Garden Club appreciate your input and questions. Happy Gardening!

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