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Mar 16 2016

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In the Mailbag – Gardening and Kudos All Around

emaildelivery-200pxOur newsletters and posts generate lots of discussion, on our website, in emails, and on facebook. Here’s a glimpse into our mailbag.

Andrea writes us about Steve Johnson’s article on Gardening for Wildlife:

Hello Paul and Gloria! Thank you for your blog. I try to read it most months. It has a great deal of useful information on helping one decide to move and what it would entail. We are just starting the process of traveling in our retirement, and thank you for helping with some of those decisions. I wanted to say I especially enjoyed Steve Johnson’s post in January regarding gardening. It was very helpful to me as I am a gardener and would want to attract native birds/animals if I were to live in the tropics. And the photos were also very fun to see. Thank yous to all of you for doing your work there! Take care, Andrea

Katie H. also enjoyed Steve’s articles and wanted to share her experiences of gardening on the beach:

Skip and I moved to Costa Rica from Colorado Springs in Oct 2015 to realize Skip’s dream of retiring in Central America, and in November 2015 we moved to a nice beach house in Playa Zancudo, a small beach town on the South pacific coast of Costa Rica, fairly close to the Panama border. We both have a love of growing our own food. Skip has been an organic farmer selling to local restaurants in Colorado for years, and I have been a small garden hobby gardener for many years.  We were told both by locals as well as everything we read about gardening in C.R. that you can’t grow a garden at the coast, with many challenges listed as to the why. And then we heard if you want to garden you can’t grow if it is on the beachside of the road and for sure whatever you do don’t bother trying facing the beach. Well, since we have a lovely large deck overlooking the beach we decided to test this legend.

We have had mixed results, but have discovered it is not impossible but you have to change what you expect from your garden and plants. So first thing we did was list all the many reasons we had been told were obstacles. Here are some of them:

  • Iguanas
  • Salt in the air killing the plants
  • Poor dirt quality (salty sand) to work with
  • High humidity and heat

Katie1There are more but those were some of the main points. I think some people tried a little bit, got frustrated and gave up too quickly. We have had mixed results so far, but overall have been pleased with our successes and have learned from our experiments. We decided half our challenges could be solved by doing a pottery garden on the 2nd floor deck rather then at ground level. That has so far eliminated the iguanas getting into our garden. It is just too much effort for them to climb the stairs and get past 2 dogs looking for a snack; also the roof overhangs enough to keep them from dropping off the roof to the deck. The pottery garden also meant for our first round that we buy good quality of organic compost mix. We bought two 100 kilo bags from Perez region (San Isidro de El General) to kick start until we had good home mixed compost to work with. We still have noticed that the plants grow quickly but with very small root systems especially at first so we have been adding ash, coffee grounds, and eggs shells to our soil for future plantings. The local soil is indeed to poor of quality to use. When we got to Zancudo on November 1st, we brought two baby tomato plant starts from a friend of ours from the la Cima area, a ruda plant (for insect control) and starts from thyme and rosemary as well as some seeds we brought with us. Our first round of gardening I planted in paper coffee cups and started 3 kinds of basil, nasturtium, two types of beans, hot paper lantern habeñeros, borage, lettuces, squash and mexican tarragon. Also some other flowers such as marigolds and calendula.

Katie2So far what has performed the best for us during the hot season has been beans and all 3 of the basil varieties as well as garlic, and beans have really performed well. The borage is looking great too. The tomatoes have had mixed results. We have huge plants but so far only one of the tomato plants has produced, and they are smaller than when growing in a cooler climate, but I think they taste fine and they should make great sun dried tomatoes.. And while the rosemary is thriving, the thyme did not make it. We have had many salads from the lettuce, endive, and arugula so far; it had indeed bolted a bit but it has not been bitter. And also, plants that are viney like nasturtiums, beans and squash that don’t rely as heavily on deep root structures really love the climate here.

So far we have noticed that sea salt air has not really affected the plants at all and we are indeed right on the beach and gardening facing the beach. We have now another batch of seeds starting in seeds trays, we think though that the seeds start better in the rainy season to gain strength to withstand the sticky hot dry season days but we keep experimenting to continue to observe the results both good and bad. So our conclusions: good soil, regular watering, and a safe (from iguanas) grow zone can lead to success while gardening at the beach.

Thanks for the tips Katie!

And on facebook, Lory S. wrote:

My husband and myself would like to take the time to thank both of you for putting out great information and staying grounded. We have been following a couple of people for information on Costa Rica and recently have been turned off by the others. Like the others you have many followers because of the quality of the information that you put out. Unlike the others you two haven’t decided that you are “stars” and suddenly started acting as if you need security where ever you go. Thank you for leaving the Brad and Angie out of your articles and leaving all the amazing amounts of top quality information people need. I really love that you give so much of your own personal experiences and information. It really makes it easy for us to see what it will take for us to move there. Quality people put out quality work.

Aww, thanks Lory!

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