You can learn something every day in Costa Rica, things just keep happening. Today I learned that my favorite top-dressing, macadamia shells, is also a favorite nesting place for fire ants. And I have the bites to prove it.
Other things I have learned:
Tarantulas are not as scary as they look, but they do look scary all reared up on 4 legs with 2 pointed at you. Just let them go back to their business, and all will be well.
Leaf cutter ants can strip a hibiscus overnight. They are also fond of anything that you are fond of.
Not everything that looks like an orchid leaf is an orchid leaf.
Volcanic soil may look rich and black but it’s just dirt until you add compost.
Rainy days make for slippery hillsides.
Even watermelons don’t like too much rain, which always seems odd to me as they are mostly . . . well . . . water.
Sweet corn needs 16 hours of sunshine. We get 12. Just 12. Always 12. Okay, maybe 12 ½. So get your sweet corn seed from the University of Hawaii, and it will grow with 12. Just 12. And even 12 ½ .
Greenhouses need shade cloth – a lot of it – even in the rainy season. Those few hours of morning sun can mean temperatures in the 90s.
Some seeds take forever to sprout. Patience is a virtue.
Not all slugs drink beer.
A cold beer on a long hot day is refreshing. Don’t share with the slugs.
Don’t go barefoot. Sandals aren’t great either.
You can never have too many books on plants (Metric Man said I should leave off the last two words).
When it comes to getting things done with a hired gardener, maňana doesn’t mean tomorrow it means, sometime in the future.
Cows do not belong in your flower beds (or in your carefully planted Hawaiian sweet corn).
Armadillos don’t either.
Don’t mess with coatimundi, they have big sharp claws.
Rubber garden boots will stop a snake bite . . . sometimes.
Your first greenhouse will be too small.
Green shade cloth is your friend. You can even use it as curtains.
At the end of the a long day of planting, harvesting, weeding and just general gardening, there is nothing like sitting on the deck with a glass of wine. Put your feet up, and let yourself smile. It has been a good day. A very good day.
Plant for the Week
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo
Palms are one of the plants that shout tropics! Tall and stately, bushy, thorny, fanned out, fast growers or slow, when you see a palm, you just feel tropical. Okay they have them in the Carolinas, but hey, some things are hardy. The problem with palms is that they take a long time to grow from seed. Yes, you can get them at a nursery, but suppose you see one with seeds and just want to give it a go. Be patient. These are my little palms from over a year ago. It took them five months to sprout, and I don’t even know what they are at this point, but they are palms. I will find a place for them.
Editor's note: Victoria Torley, gardener columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org