Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pigeon Peas as the roof of my "nature made" greenhouse

I planted out some seeds this week in my little "nature made" greenhouse!

The plan is that the overhanging branches will protect the little seedlings from heavy rains and bright sunshine as they emerge .  Yes, we are sitll getting some quite heavy rains.  I have noticed not quite a nip in the early mornings, but certainly not the heavy humidity that we get from October to February. As the seedlings grow, the plan is to cut back some of the branches, letting more light and sunshine in.  I still want to keep some branches on the pigeon peas - the theory is that every time you prune them,( since the seeds were innoculated), the roots will add nitrogen to the soil. 
I originally planted these pigeon peas as a green manure crop to enrich the soil over the wet season.  I dont always have a concrete plan of where I am going in the garden, and often just work with it all as it evolves, and some plants do better than others.
This is a great permaculture website where I first read about pigeon pea and all its uses.   
I was not sure what genus I was going to get when I ordered the seeds from  but they seem to be ones that will take a long time to harvest.  I love ordering from green harvest as they have organic and heirloom seeds, and tons of information on their website.
 I first noticed the lovely flowers that the pigeon pea would have through Liz's blog (she is in nicuaraga so grows a lot of plants similar to me.) - just reading back to that link I noticed that the plants take 8 months to  bear fruit, so I might still get to taste some pigeon peas eventually.  I have had a few flowers, but as yet no peas.   I love being able to follow blogs from around the world growing the same type of tropical plants as I am growing.  It is like having a bookcase of wonderful tried and true gardening books  always available at my fingertips. Here are the cucumber plants next to the pigeon pea which they will climb up.

As a loose plan my vegetable section is split into four sections.
 I was hoping to rotate my crops every three years, but then I assigned one of those beds to the asparagus and peppers as they are perrenial.

The asparagus is looking very straggly - they supposedly will die down now for the dry winter season, and by the time the next wet season starts I should get a good crop.  I hope I have allowed enough room for them, as I read that the roots could spread five foot in diameter and five foot down!  I think I will try and put some better stakes for them, but the roots are supposed to be very sensitive. Maybe stakes on either end with some string running down the length either side of the plants?  Some banana pepper plants have survived, and I have started some small capsicum seeds in containers, which I will plant out once they are   established.  They seem quite susceptible to bugs, and I think I will put a little collar around each one when transplanting. At the fence end of that bed is a pineapple plant and the lemongrass.
 Then the other section is the herb spiral. 

I was so worried that my rosemary would die in the wet season, and in reality it is the only herb that survived!  The other one is a tropical plant called mother of herbs, and tastes a little like oregano. I dont think I will try oregano or thyme again, as this herb grows well and replaces both of those.  The stevia is a little straggly, but did survive. I havnt really used it much - it does have a sort of bitter aftertaste, but maybe I am using too much? I spread some dill and basil seeds which are coming up.  The parsely seeds are not doing anything yet, but I know they are very slow to germinate so will try to be patient. Funnily enough the mint doesnt like the wet season, and hopefully they start to look a bit healthier soon. Next to the herb spiral is my one producing pawpaw tree - I have some others starting up but none have started to fruit yet.  I have no idea why one of these fruit is such a monster!

The one bed against the fence has my loofah vine, jicama, snake beans, malabar spinach, and I was going to grow cherry tomatoes there this year as the other bed had the tomatoes last year.  It may not get enough sunshine, in which case I might use the far end of the main bed.  My neighbour has a passionfruit vine that loves my side of the fence, so it is getting a bit overcrowded.   Way down in the corner at the end of this bed I have some sweet potatoes. I read that if you remove the flowers and pods of the jicama you will get bigger tubers, so I went ahead and removed most of them, just leaving a few pods so that I can save the seeds.

The central bed, where I had my tomatoes last year will now have mostly green leafy crops, with the pigeon peas marching down the middle supporting cucumbers.  To the left are the gem squash and beetroot, to the right are radish, bokchoy, rainbow chard, and lettuce.  On the four corners of this bed are eggplant. I know they are the same family as tomatoes, but that is where they landed!

You can see how devasted the leaves were by bugs through wet season, but they are now starting to bear fruit which is good. I chopped some lemongrass leaves and spread them around - hoping they will deter some bugs.  On the left are my gemsquash - looking good!

Gosh I didnt intend this post to be a total accounting of my vegetable garden, but here you have it!  Just like gardening, I often start out with one idea and then go with the flow!


  1. Cool idea! The Pigeon peas look quite sturdy to grow the cucs on if they allow in enough light.How tall are they growing for you there?

  2. I wish I had a nice site for a vegetable garden! My yard is just too wet. When I'm a homeowner someday I'm going to grow a thai veggie and herb garden. Thanks for the great tropical permaculture link! I'll be referring to that from now on.

  3. Sanddune, the pigeon peas are about 10ft high already! I plan to cut most of the leaves off eventually. I do have the passionfruit vine which has shot up the neighbouring happy plant - that is about 20ft high, so that is giving me a bit too much shade as well.
    Rainforest Gardener, I am sure you will do well, you already have some great plants and wonderful knowledge.

  4. Pigeon Peas, yes so tall! I am now harvesting my first crop,, it has been about 9mos. but i am harvesting DRY; i actually hadn't thought about eating the peas green. the pods are brown and rattling now, and so abundant! A great pairing might also be the malabar spinach with pigeon pea,, as it loves to climb. i am experimenting with recipes now :)

  5. Liz, well there is still hope for me, I will have to cut some more branches down soon I expect to let in some light. all my little seeds are coming up - yeah! Funny my malabar spinach does not seem to want to climb, and I havnt been that impressed with the taste anyway....


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