Southern Hemisphere Gardening

I haven’t quite got the hang of this southern hemisphere gardening.  The best crop I’ve had is the lettuce.

Here is the first planting, done in January.

And here’s the second planting, done about three weeks ago.  In the states the lettuce that did best in my garden was mascara lettuce, a red-leaf lettuce.  I’d be able to pick it all summer and it was very slow to bolt.  At the end of August or beginning of September I’d let it go to seed and then harvest the seeds for next year’s planting.  It always did great.  Well, here the whole first bed of mascara lettuce failed to germinate.  Below, we alternated mascara lettuce with the green seeds and you can see that only one seed germinated (top right below).  The green lettuce that did so well here was from a seed packet I bought in the grocery store.  My first lesson here:  local seeds are probably adapted to local conditions and will do the best.

An exception to this lesson is the flowers — almost all of the flowers I planted from seed did exceptionally well.  The morning glories have really taken off.

And the zinnias are producing enough flowers to keep five vases in the house constantly full.

The sunflowers are doing well too.

I’ve planted sweet peas twice now (heirloom and hybrid varieties) and they’ve either failed to germinate or are growing incredibly slow (about 6 inches in three months).  I think it’s probably too warm for them and am going to plant more in May and see if they do better in the cooler months.

The vegetables are doing just okay.  Before planting we mixed in composted chicken manure with the soil to enrich it and the seedlings start off well enough, but then either bugs or pests damage many of them.  I’m only using neem oil as a pesticide and anti-fungal and it seems to work on some plants (e.g., cabbage, basil) but not on the tomatoes.

The tomatoes do well until they start turning yellow.  Then, instead of continuing to turn a nice color red, they’re plagued by big black blotches.  If anyone knows what this is and how to prevent it please let me know.  I’ve taken to picking green tomatoes and letting them ripen on my window sill and that’s working pretty well.  Still, I’m used to boatloads of tomatoes, I brought lots of mason jars and a pressure cooker, yet I’m not going to have enough tomatoes to can.

So far so good on all varieties of peppers.

The cucumbers are doing just okay.  The leaves are starting to get a little powdery and I’m going to try frequent neem oil, but ideas are welcome.  The zucchini and butternut squash started out really strong but are all but dead now with what I think is powdery mildew.

This basil (below) is from seed and has done very well.  I’m trying to keep it from going to seed itself!

The cabbage is doing great.  This was one of the few vegetables that was available as a seedling at the local nursery so they may be doing great because (a) they’re local varieties, and (b) it’s the right season to plant them here.  That’s the one thing I’m trying to figure out here — when is the the right time to plant which seeds.  The only gardening books I can find are specific to South Africa, yet the weather here is slightly different (rainy season Dec – Mar, cold in July, hot in Oct – Nov).  My neighbor is going to take me to the local ag college and she says they have a schedule I can follow.

When we first moved in the some 20 fruit trees were infested with all sorts of pests and had virtually no fruit on them, though other orchards in the area were loaded with fruit.  The infestation was so bad I cried uncle and we used a chemical pesticide.  It took 3 sprayings, 3 weeks apart to finally do away with all of the pests.  We’ve fertilized twice and we water twice a week (one local gardener said our trees simply weren’t getting enough water).  Since then the trees have really, really taken off.  Some, like the orange trees, have even flowered though they’re supposed to flower in October or November!   In the tree below I’ve put an arrow to show the new growth since mid-January.  You can see that the color changes from dark green below the arrow (old growth) to the light green leaves of the new growth.  I’m looking forward to a bumper harvest next year!

There’s apparently a Lusaka Garden Club but so far no one’s responded to my emails and the phone numbers I’ve called are either busy or haven’t worked.  Someday I’ll link up with them and am sure I’ll get lots of help then.

In the meantime, if you know anything about when to plant which crops here in Zambia, please let me know!


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13 Responses to Southern Hemisphere Gardening

  1. Christy says:

    I wondered about that- considered buying some seeds to send my sponsored girl and her family and this has got me thinking. My friend in Southern Zambia told me there has been a lot of rain and some folks have had a tougher timne with crops this year. Has that affected you?

    Great job with those orange trees. Yummy. 😉 Any avacado trees around? My husband makes amazing guacamole, so I was curious. LOL

  2. Kimm X Jayne says:

    I think that things that grow well in Southern California (Mediterranean climate) grow well here. A friend today told me that she buys “california lettuce” from a local who said she got the seeds from Southern Cal. Maybe the rain has caused the squash plants to mildew? I don’t have enough seasons here to tell! We have two large avocado trees and about three small ones but no fruit this year. Now that they’re taken care of hopefully we’ll have fruit next year.

  3. Sabine says:

    We tried tomatoes several times when we lived in Seychelles from seed we had brought. They grew incredibly fast and started to fruit rapidly but then turned eyllow and black like yours. I eventually tried it with seed I picked from tomatoes purchased at the local market and with that and growing them under a rain cover (in Sey. it rains most days at least once) and watering twice/day we were successful. I just used seed from the fruit and as far as I remember the harvest got better and better.

    • Kimm X Jayne says:

      that is a GREAT idea — thanks. Did you dry the seeds out first? We do have one volunteer tomato plant in the garden and that one’s doing great. Did you plant year-round in the Seychelles? That’s what I can’t figure out.

  4. Angela Kuncaitis says:

    The garden looks great!!!!!

    I am thinking tomato blight, especially if they grow and then this happens into the growing cycle, etc. we have had a problem with this. Sadly, it can come with the seeds from the last year’s blight issues, etc. However I am not 100 percent this is the tomato diagnosis, just a hunch…

  5. Maureen J. Witte says:

    All I can say is that lettuce, cabbage and sweet peas are all cool weather plants here. So they are usually part of the winter/spring garden in SO CAL. Basil likes cool weather here too. Never had luck with that except in Spring. All other herbs will do well at most any time though. It’s quite an adventure to be gardening in another part of the world. I’ve taken to growing mostly South African plants. I would think that you’ll need to familiarize yourself with them because they are just great! If you’re having a lot of rain, that will cause the mildew you’re experiencing. About the tomatoes, I don’t know. They love hot weather and lots of sun and water. As do peppers…

  6. Kimm X Jayne says:

    I looked at the photos of late tomato blight and that’s exactly what we have. I’m a little concerned because it says that once you have it the spores can live on and on (unless there’s a hard freeze, not likely unless nuclear winter takes effect).

    Any ideas for how to permanently get rid of it? (The sites said remove whole plant, put in plastic bag, remove seeds, etc., etc., but I’m sure something is going to be left — what to do?)

  7. Mary Lou Hatfield says:

    Hi Kim, I’m enjoying your new life through your blog from my chair here on Sylvan Glen. Not sure how strong your sun is there compared to Mi. but, it looks like you may have a sun scald problem. Especially since you can ripen the tomatoes inside. I’d suggest making a roof of cheese cloth or something like that. We have row covers here to use to keep the heat in or the strong sun out but you may not get them until next year if ordered now. So any thin material that would let light in would help. Let me know if that helps. Mary Lou

    • Kimm X Jayne says:

      Mary Lou — thanks — I wondered why the leaves weren’t going too! I found some photos of late blight and it looked just like that so before I read this I had the gardener pull up all of the plants and carefully take off the top 2 inches of soil and burn the plants and discard the soil outside our walls. Then, I had him add 6 inches of my new compost (i’ll post that later). I wish now I had left one plant up so I could cover it — it’s still pretty warm here (low 80s). Also, the gardener often waters mid-day (though I tell him morning and evening are best) and I wonder if the water on the fruit mid-day burns it as it dries. My next round of tomato planting will be August so I’ll try this out — thanks!

  8. Mary Lou Hatfield says:

    Just read through the other comments. The blight usually also effects the leaves and I don’t see that in your pictures. If it turns out that is your problem before you plant more tomatoes be sure you have some newspaper or mulch to cover the ground as some spores remain in the soil and the rain or other water will splash up the spores from the soil onto the plant. So carefully plant without getting garden soil on the leaves and cover the area around each plant with newspaper and mulch. Mary Lou

  9. Frank says:

    Vegetables in Zambia grow well in the cool and dry season i.e from May to August. A lot of vegetable seeds will soon be available for sale in the seed outlets. It is during this period that the market is flooded with cheap vegetables. Be prepared for a bit of ‘hard work’ though. You will have to water you vegetables at least twice a day i.e mornings and evenings. The next time you want to grow vegetables during the warm and wet season make sure you do so under ‘greenhouse conditions’. This will enable you have control over how much water your plants have. Your vegetables didnt do well because of too much ‘unregulated’ rain water.

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