Planting in the rain:

The weather in most of Costa Rica will stay about the same in October: more rain, then more rain.

For gardeners, heavy rains present an additional challenge when growing food crops. Torrential rains and high humidity put great stress on plants and cause many plant ailments. Here are some suggestions to help you continue to garden successfully during these rainy months.

Perhaps the most eco-friendly solution to gardening during the rainy season is to select crops that do well in wet weather. A number of hardy garden vegetables, as well as shrubs and wild plants, can provide plenty of food for the table at this time of year. Squash, sweet potatoes, cabbage, kale, collards, endive, chives, mustard and New Zealand spinach are my favorite rainy season food crops.

Perennial bushes can also provide a stable source of leafy greens for salads. The popular hedge hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa sinensis), known as amapola in Spanish, provides nutritious edible leaves and flowers. The hardy Asian perennial bush known as katuk also provides a year-round supply of leafy greens for salads or can be prepared as a dish of steamed spinach.

The second best solution for growing food crops now is to try planting leafy greens and tomatoes in recycled pots and containers around the house in sunny areas.

The eastern and southern exposures of the house often get plenty of sun to grow vegetables. The area directly under the eaves is protected from the rain and provides an ideal location for tables on which to grow food crops.

A 5 gallon recycled plastic bucket, with several holes drilled in the bottom and filled with fertile organic compost soil, can serve as an ideal container for growing cherry tomatoes, cucumbers or green peppers. Small recycled containers are good for lettuce, cilantro and parsley.

Here’s a trick that rarely fails. When shopping at the market, look for onions that are starting to sprout. Sellers will often practically give them away. These onion bulbs can be planted in containers 10 to 15 centimeters in diameter and within a month will provide green onions for salads and other dishes.

The same goes for celery brought back from the market. If you save the base of the plant and plant it in a container, it will root and grow to provide green, tender celery shoots. Garlic cloves can also be planted shallowly in containers and will quickly sprout and grow to provide garlic leaves.

Some gardeners choose to build greenhouses and use hydroponic gardening to control environmental conditions. However, this solution comes at a price. The cost of building materials often makes the vegetables you harvest more expensive than those you buy at the market.

Plastic roofing creates a dependency on environmentally unfriendly plastics. Many hydroponic designs rely on chemical fertilizers and substrates, such as charcoal, which contribute to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and therefore global warming.

The healthiest option for the family and the planet is to recycle organic waste at home and turn it into valuable organic fertilizer, which can be used to grow your own food. This solves part of the solid waste disposal problem at no extra cost to the family.

We need to think carefully about every step on the way back to a sustainable and harmonious life. Our love for technology often leads us astray when trying to solve problems or find solutions in our modern world. The idea is to seek solutions that improve the quality of life without degrading the environment.

Terri S. Tomasini