Cool Tropical Climates

Piedras Blancas, Colombia

Hi All:

I'm soon going to be living at about 2400 meters in the Colombian Andes. We have a cool-wet climate year around and I'm interesting in learning how others handle their gardens in similar conditions. Temps are around 21-22 C (low 70's F) during the day and about 10C (50F) at night. We get about 2200 mm (87 inches) of rain per year. Commonly grown crops in the area in the area include potatoes, strawberries, blackberries and flowers.

Phil Bunch

Hillsborough , NC(Zone 7a)

Phil - how exciting! Are the temps you posted year round, or will you have a "winter"? The climate sounds a bit like the south coast of England to me - or Frisco, or the pacific Northwest...
Are you mostly a vegetable or flower grower?
More info please!

Piedras Blancas, Colombia

The given temperature range is year-around. It also rains most of the the year but with distinct miximums in October-November and May-June. Most of the rain falls at night so it's not as bad as it might sound.

I'm a pretty genralized gardener but my short-term objective is to get a kitchen garden well established. The soil is not very good on most parts of the parcel and needs a lot of work. Decomposition is slow at these temperatures and there is a lot of leaching from the rainfall. I need to build up the humus levels as rapidly as possible. I need good information on cover crops and composting methods for these conditions.

We have been planting flowers around the house over the past few years and have some hanging baskets with begonias, impatians and bouganvilla on the porch. Daylilies and Alistromeria do well there and we have planted some as a border along one of the paths. Thumbergia (brown-eyed Susan vine) is a weed in the area. The old fasioned impatians also tend to be a bit weedy. Fuchias also do very well there but I have not planted many as they requier some care we have not been able to provide. It will be nice to shift from one month a year to full time :-)

Thre are a lot of interesting natives we plan to incorporate including bromeliads, aroids and Gunnera. it's really a neat environment.

Kwajalein, Marshall Islands(Zone 11)

I wish you better luck with your kitchen garden than I had....mine got too wet from heavy rains, but you may have some luck with capsicum in sunny spots - they like lots of rain - There is a beautiful Mexican Primrose that thrives in conditions you describe. But Phil, if you have blackberries - what else do you need?!?!?! Yum!! I'm suprised you are having luck with Begonias....I simply could not dry mine out....maybe its the hanging baskets that work better.

It sounds like a beautiful place.

Piedras Blancas, Colombia

The hanging baskets work very well for begonias. They are located under the eaves of the house so they don't get the full effect of the rain. I think however that they would be ok in the rain as long as they got frequent feedings. We use a very porus mix and nutrients are hard to hold onto. .Hail might be a problem under the open sky. Much of the precipitation is from thunderstorms and hail is fairly common at that elevation.

Tuberous rooted begonias are very popular in the area. Many homes have them in baskets on their corridors and patios. I understand that mildew is problem but that does not deter folks from having some really magnificent displays.

I'm looking forward to working with Fuchcias. They love the cool climate. There is one which is either native or introduced along streams. I think it is Fuchcia boliviana. It is an upright subshrub with long, tublar, red flowers and grayish foliage.

Kwajalein, Marshall Islands(Zone 11)

I envy you the Fuchcias! Always loved the flowers, but mine is not a suitable climate for them. I think your place will be beautiful!

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

Your temps and conditions sound like this area...up around Mountain View and Volcano. Hydrangeas, Vireyas (tropical Rhodies), Azaleas, Brugmansias, Calla Lillies, Agapanthus,.... Vegies would be lettuces, the cabbage family...some tomatoes...onions... I think with your soil you might want to build up beds or grow in containers...Chard should grow there.... I envy you....

Kwajalein, Marshall Islands(Zone 11)

I was thinking that Phil would be close to you in climate, but I wasn't sure. Glad you saw this post, Carol!

Piedras Blancas, Colombia

>Your temps and conditions sound like this area...up around Mountain View and Volcano. Hydrangeas, Vireyas (tropical Rhodies), Azaleas, Brugmansias, Calla Lillies, Agapanthus,. Vegies would be lettuces, the cabbage family...some tomatoes...onions... I think with your soil you might want to build up beds or grow in containers...Chard should grow there. I envy you.<


Do you do any composting or cover croping? Over the long haul I really need to work on the soil. I will probably constructs some beds for the kitchen garden.

Also what elevation are you at?

I'm thinking mostly leaves and roots for vegetables and some cool season legumes like peas and fava beans. I'd like to find a tomato that produces with night temps at around 50F. Most need 55F to set fruit. We can grow strawberries and we have a nice curuba (passion fruit species) that makes great juice. Ok I know that this one is a real problem in Hawaii but it's under control in the Andes.

Potatos are a big item there. The local variety called "papa criollo" is very good. I hope to find some Russets for bakers and other uses that need a dry spud.

Some people think that Hass avacados will produce reasonably well there. I have my fingers crossed! If worse comes to worse I'll buy them in Medellin which is 20 to 45 mins away depending on how you travel.

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

Let me get you a contact...friends of mine in the mountains of Ecuador who are developing a permaculture for the area. Jim grows more than 220 different varieties of fruit... I need to find their emailaddress. He could be a big help. They were peace corps in Colombia for many years....

We are at 900' elevation. it is the fungi in the soil that diss a lot of vegies like we can't grow them...but higher up they can.

What about that gardening concept that uses newspapers and building up the soil on them...'no tilling gardening'...something like that. Yes we compost but the big trees find the compost areas and invade them!!! Palm fronds take 4 years to decompose and we are getting a lot of compost from them. Chickens rumaging around in your vegetative waste will leave poop to decompose them faster...

In Samoa they build 'bins' where they throw their rubbish and waste. When it is full they move on to another one...the bin decomposes with the fulling...good compost. Pig poop goes in it....

You guys have quite a job...what takes you there??? What about growing timber bamboo?

Hillsborough , NC(Zone 7a)

Carol, I am suprised you are at such a high elevation, would guess its equivelent to "Upcountry" here on Maui? If so there isn't too much you can't grow with great ease except the true tropicals like mango - lucky you!
Up country here has all the stuff Carol said, just enough chill to have a much wider range of plants than I can grow, although there certainly are avocados up there.
Great idea Phil to fix nitrogen with legumes! I have the lazy persons composting - dig a hole, shove the fruit peelings, tea bags, etc in, cover it up and move to the next hole! I don't have any pigs or chickens, but with my two danes you would think we have elephants with what they produce - but I do not use it having read that dog waste can be dangerous....
Phil, you got to have brugmansia (like Carol said), food for the soul, should do wonderfully for you! Oh my! the flowers you are going to be able to grow....
What an exciting place to live, you must keep us updated on all your new aventures!

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

OH...about cover crops...'they' have come up with some great ones!!! Peanut is is decorative, and when you haven't tilled it in, it makes a great ground cover. In the Philippines I saw it used for a lawn. It is the dwarf peanut....

Piedras Blancas, Colombia

Brugmansia is great and native to the Andes. I have been thinking about how I will use them.

I need cover crops adapted to constantly cool climates. Fava beans come to mind as well as peas.

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