Yesterday on my YouTube channel I received the following comment from Ari L:
“why did you want to move to somewhere tropical? is it easier to grow more food and greater variety of food in a tropical environment or do you just like tropical food better?”
Though I answered in short over there, here I’d like to expand a little and give you my three reasons why gardening in the tropics is great.
1. There is a MUCH wider variety of crops in the tropics!
Over 1,000 varieties of edible fruit grow in the tropics compared to a few dozen in temperate zones.
And there are spices.
And wonderful roots.
Cocoa, vanilla, Brazil nuts, breadfruit, papaya, coffee, cinnamon, turmeric, mamey sapote, black pepper, jackfruit, yams, macadamia nuts… it’s just exciting.
Did you see my video on harvesting cinnamon?
You can’t do that in Wisconsin.
2. Seasonal allergies are a thing of the past
I used to love the spring in Tennessee. At least, I loved the way it looked.
Unfortunately, I was sick as a dog thanks to all the pollen in the air. It was horrid. A month or red eyes, running nose, sneezing, headaches, stuffed sinuses… all while the beautiful green outdoors was calling and garden beds needed to be planted. I had the same problem in North Florida, much to my chagrin.
This was me in the spring:
Here in the tropics I do have some minor issues with dust and mold, but the pollen problems are gone.
Another thing: I’m allergic to a lot of temperate fruits. I can’t actually eat raw mulberries, figs, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines or cherries. However, I have no problem with most tropical fruits – they don’t bother me. Mangoes, papayas, starfruit… all fine.
No sneezing and no scary reactions to fruit anymore.
3. Year-round gardening
This is big.
In the tropics the gardening year is split into two seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. Different crops thrive in each of those seasons, so you need to pick appropriately, but basically… you can grow almost everything 365 days a year with no worry about frost or timing.
I was asked the question multiple times “how much space does it take to feed yourself?”
So in answer I wrote in Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening:
“In much of the tropics, feeding yourself is really easy. There are no seasons to speak of, other than dry and rainy times. You’ve got a massive diversity of food crops to pull from – and many of them produce year-round or at least repeatedly through the year. Ever wonder why bananas are always available at around the same price in the store? They’re basically non-seasonal. Sweet potatoes are also a perennial in the tropics – plant them here and there when you please, then dig now and again when you feel like it. Fruits, nuts, and pretty much everything grows really fast down there. When you’re a plant… not freezing half the year, not putting on a whole set of new leaves and not fighting to get all your reproduction done in a few warm months of growing time, and not being knocked back by frosts and losing your leaves again… you can get plenty of food-making done. On the other extreme, if you’re in some place like Alaska, you’re going to have to deal with a short season of getting things done in the garden and packing away as much as possible while the sun shines. There’s a reason the Inuit lived on seals, fish, whale and other game, rather than on veggies.”
If you like, you can plant green beans every two weeks all through the year and have a continuous supply on your table.
It’s the tropics!
Though some miss the seasons, I do not.
I like the perpetual spring-time feeling down here, sans pollen. Most gardeners spend most of the year looking forward to the spring – but here it’s nice every day.
And gardening aside, there’s also no day when it’s too cold to go to the beach.
So that, in short, is why gardening in the tropics ROCKS!