The Q&A Archives: Vegetable growing in Virgin Islands

Question: Please recommend varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce that would do well here. Cucumbers I've tried do not last long, and produce only 1 or 2 fruit per plant. I tried Early Pride Hybrid this year. Our tomatoes have great looking vines, but few fruit-Burpee's Big Girl. Tried Simpson lettuce, no luck.

Answer: I think of the Virgin Islands as being warm and tropical all year round, but you probably have "seasons" where the temperatures are moderate rather than hot, am I right? I would concentrate on growing your cukes, tomatoes and lettuce then. Both cucumber and tomato pollen become sterile at high temperatures, which may explain why they bore so little fruit. Choose lettuce varieties that are labled "long-standing" or have "summer" in their name, as they tend to hold up in the heat. You can also grow lettuce under a shade cloth or lattice to keep the air cool. Mulch all you plants well to moderate fluctuations in soil temperature, and to help maintain moisture around plant roots.

You can use a home soil test to determine if nutrients are missing. Also, tropical soils tend to have a hard time maintaining fertility, so be sure to compost any kitchen vegetable waste and yard clippings, and add the compost to your garden.

Check with government offices to see if there is any kind of agricultural extension service support in the Virgin Islands. If not, here's the address/ph# for the Dade County, Florida, office. If they can't direct you to a local source of information, they may have vegetable gardening bulletins for you: Agricultural Extension Service, 18710 SW 288 St., Homestead, FL 33030-2309; ph# 305/248-3311.

Also, see if there are any neighboring gardeners willing to share their techniques and choices of seeds with you. Best of luck!

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