San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

August Is a Month of Change in the Garden

Ticos often refer to August as “canícula,” and it’s a month of change. There are mornings of intense heat and afternoons of heavy rains. August is when the rainy season really begins in Costa Rica. Tropical storms and hurricanes now begin forming in the Caribbean basin, causing storm fronts along the Central American isthmus. Although we don’t get the cyclonic winds, we sure do get the rain.

Here are some tips on how you can continue to garden in spite of it all. Because of the extremes of hot blasting sunlight and torrential rains, many tender young garden plants can be damaged or washed away. For this reason, it’s smart to cut back on your gardening activities outside and move inside.

Try planting tender garden vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet peppers in pots or containers in sunny areas around the home, out of the rain. Many gardeners opt for a greenhouse. Outside, you can tend hardier plants such as cabbage, kale, collards, green bunching onions, parsley, celery, sweet potatoes, peanuts, yuca, taro and wild yams. You can also supplement your salads with leaves from the hardy perennial hibiscus known as amapola (Hibiscus sinensis). The optimal lunar planting dates for the month are from the 5th to the 10th.

Of course, grass and weeds grow exceedingly well during August, so much of a gardener’s time deals with mowing and tending ornamentals. Composting grass clippings and other organic waste can help create a steady supply of compost fertilizer.

We have developed a novel system of precomposting our organic waste outside in compost piles covered with black plastic. After two months, the compost goes to the worm unit, where it is completely digested and is then ready for use in the garden or container plantings.

Worm castings have much higher amounts of plant nutrients than regular compost. They release five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and 11 times more potassium for plants to utilize than regular compost.

The major fruits during August are bananas, lemons, pejibayes or peach palm fruits, jocotes, coconuts, guavas, mountain apples, papayas and pineapples, as oranges, mangos and avocados finish up around the country.

May you enjoy your mornings in the garden and a good book in the rainy afternoons.

For more on tropical gardening, contact Ed at He has books and seeds to share with you.

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