San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Greens of your own

As the rains return to Costa Rica, now is the best time to get started planting a home garden.

Ed Bernhardt

Ed Bernhardt

The bright, sunny mornings are ideal for getting outside to do some exercise while tending the garden and landscaping plants around the home. A natural home garden can produce an abundance of nutritious fruits and vegetables, and, as the cost of living rises and rises, the garden can help stretch your income.  

Here’s a mini-list of my favorite vegetables for a natural garden. These plants grow in most regions of the country, and even apartment dwellers can grow these plants in containers on porches and windows. Seeds are available in many nurseries and agricultural supply stores across the country.

Cabbage (repollo) is an ideal choice for mid-elevations to the highland regions, while Chinese cabbage or repollo chino and collards or col produce well in the hotter regions.   

Cherry Tomatoes (tomatillos) are much hardier than the large tomatoes. They resist disease and pests because they are genetically stronger. Tomatillos can also be grown in five-gallon containers around small home sites or apartments. Be sure to tie them up to a pole or trellis.  Choose bright sunny spots for tomatoes with well-drained, fertile soil.

Green beans (vainicas) provide an ample supply of high-quality protein for the family. Ag supply stores offer the variety called Provider or Provenador. Plant the seeds directly in the garden in bright sunny spots with well-drained soil. 

Onions (cebollinas), and particularly the hardy green bunching onions and chives grow well in most regions of the country. These onions are also called dividing onions, because they propagate new shoots from each plant. That means you keep getting new plants for free!

Chives and garlic are also easy to grow at home. Garlic does particularly well as a potted plant in the tropics. Start your seeds in a flat or small pots. Once they become hardy, transplant them to the garden. Harvest mature leaves at the base of each plant for salads and seasonings.

Lettuce (lechuga) is easy to grow, as long as you make sure you’re growing the right kind for the tropics. Hot-weather lettuce varieties, like open-leafed salad bowl or oak leaf, are your best bet. Lettuce is tender and needs sunny to partial shaded areas and well drained, rich soil for good production. During the heavy rains, it’s easier to grow lettuce in containers around the sunny sides of you home under the eve of the roof, out of the heavy downpours that tender lettuce just can’t take.

Mustard (mostaza) is the easiest to grow of the leafy greens. You can plant the seeds directly in the garden or in pots or containers. Find bright, sunny areas for growing mustard with well-drained, even average soil.  You can tame the fiery taste of mustard by steaming it. You can also include it in your favorite omelets, stir-fries or vegetable dishes.

Radish (rabano) is very popular with the locals, and is used in a vinegar and vegetable mix with hot chilies called chilero. Seeds are planted directly in the garden beds with average to fertile soil. This is the fastest growing garden veggie, and you can harvest in less than 45 days! The variety China rose is a favorite amongst gardeners.

Parsley (perejil) grows well in gardens in cooler regions or as a potted plant indoors. Seeds are delicate and do best when planted in a flat or small pots. The seeds take two weeks to germinate. 

Cilantro (cilantro) is a traditional green used for flavoring salads and many dishes, like gallo pinto and ceviche. This queen of the salad greens is hard to beat nutritionally. Its seed can be sown directly in the garden or in pots for kitchen use. It’s also easy to collect seeds for replanting. 

We do hope you join the gardening party here in Costa Rica this year. For more information on tropical gardening, see our newsletter at:

We have books and seeds to share with you. Until next time … life’s a garden!

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