San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

What to plant in November

Most northern gardeners are now finishing up their gardening year, but tropical gardeners can plant a second garden before the year ends. The last quarter of the year in Costa Rica provides an excellent opportunity for planting another corn patch, as well as green beans and dry beans, sweet potatoes, peanuts and squash. Hardy greens, such as cabbage, collards, mustard, Chinese cabbage, radishes and green bunching onions grow well in this season.

Tomatoes, on the contrary, suffer from the heavy rains and high humidity when planted outside. You can solve this problem by planting them indoors on sunny porches and walkways in 5-gallon pots or old recycled plastic buckets.  Cucumbers, peppers, garlic, lettuce and eggplant also grow much better indoors, but be sure to place them in a dry and sunny part of the home. You can also enrich your potting soil with aged compost and sand for better results. 

Although the harvest of mangos and avocados has finished, other fruits like oranges, carambola, banana, mammon chino, and jocote are in season.  There’s still time to transplant seedling fruit trees and ornamental plants to more permanent sites before the dry season comes. 

Composting is another activity that can continue during the rainy season. The lush biomass from grass clipping, pruning and garden cleanups can be composted into rich fertilizer for the end of the year. Heavy tropical rains, however, can turn compost into a soupy mess, unless you cover your piles with a makeshift roof or plastic cover. 

Also keep in mind that moisture-laden soil packs or clumps very easily, causing plant roots to grow poorly. There’s a gardener’s rule of the green thumb that goes like this: If the soil sticks to your hoe or shovel, it’s too wet to work. 

For gardeners who keep their feet on the ground and their heads in the stars, here’s the lunar planting dates for November. The 1st to the 3rd (new moon) is a good time for planting, particularly for the crops mentioned above.

The 9th to the 17th (full moon) is a good time to transplant and harvest, and to plant slow germinating seeds, such as those of many fruit trees (papaya in particular) and herbs. 

With a little effort now in the garden, you’ll be dining on the fruits of your labor in the new year!

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