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Move to Costa Rica Panama.




Expats Blog

Starting a garden in Panama

Part of the whole dream of moving to Central America was populated with images of lush tropical gardens filled with pineapple plants. Of course, the place I moved to in San Isidro de El General ended up having a garage and a concrete covered area for hanging laundry. I tried to keep the dream alive at the beginning, going fairly frequently to Vivero La Bonita, but I ended up giving up on my garden dreams due to lack of sunlight.

When we moved to Panama, I grabbed a bunch of seeds from Colono that I hadn’t been able to find here – namely Jalapeno and Arugula. I have yet to find anything the matches Vivero La Bonita here – every vivero we have been to is basically just a field stuck onto somebody’s house with plants in varying degrees of health and no seeds. The seeds I do have came from DoItCenter. We bought a basil plant from a vivero for $2 when I first got here, but it was super woody and not worth eating, and everything since has been grown from seed. Since we’re still renting, I have a bunch of cheap plastic containers out back, and I have had some successes and some failures so far.

Tomato, pineapple and basil plants.
Tomato, pineapple and basil plants.

First, I giddily accomplished one of the dreams every Canadian child has at some point – I bought a pineapple, ate it, and shoved the stem in the ground. I’ve also planted tomatoes, the aforementioned jalapenos and arugula, lettuce, basil and cilantro – to varying degrees of success. The lettuce and arugula, as well as the cilantro, are all fairly leggy which tracks with my historical inability to grow lettuce from seed. I’m going to try to let the arugula flower and go to seed so that I can replenish the seeds I have, and in the future try to harvest it when the first few leaves appear as baby arugula.

Leggy cilantro.
Leggy cilantro.

The tomatoes started producing flowers this week, and I am excited to see how that goes. Due to the heat I have some slight worries about blossom end rot, but the seed varieties I purchased are supposed to be able to tolerate hot weather – so we shall see! The plant so far definitely looks healthy and grew very quickly. I definitely have yet to encounter an issue with things not growing.

Basil has been a really great success so far – sure, the first plant was super bitter and woody, but propagating it has been really easy, and I was able to take a cutting from my first plants grown from seed the other day. I am looking forward to pasta with home grown basil and tomatoes, and hopefully fresh arugula.

The lettuce I am not sure if I will try to regrow. Fresh vegetables are so easy to come by here, and fairly cheap. I think I saw lettuce for $1.50 a head or something equivalent, so I am not sure if it’s worth the headache versus just growing things that are hard to find (arugula/jalapenos), we use an inordinate amount of (herbs), or cost a lot (arugula).

I am secretly hoping someone will sneak me some tomatillo and habanero seeds.

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