It’s a Tropical Affair, Gardening Belize Style

May 18, 2009

Belize is very high up on my list of places that I would like to visit and I was happy to receive an email from Barbara who lives in Teakettle, Belize. I’ve done a little research to discover more about this country and was surprised to find just how inviting an area it is.

How could you possibly go wrong living in a place where you can grow tropical fruits, visit nearby beaches, and garden outdoors on a year-round basis? Here’s Barbara to share some interesting information about her garden in the charming little country of Belize:

Eat Your Heart Out there are Fruit Trees Galore

We have a Mammee fig and a shaving brush tree close to the river. We also planted Paw Paws and Tamarinds on each of the two bottom corners of our property. Tamarind is a tree with SO many uses.

Moving closer up the bank to the house, we have coconuts, lipstick trees, bananas, plantains, starfruit, and soursop trees. There are many bay cedars, craboo, and guavas that we put in, breadfruit trees, seven coffee trees planted on the outskirts of the breadfruit trees’ shadows and trumpet trees.

Then in front of the house we have a really large mango tree, custard apples, avocado trees, limes, the huge humming ceiba, a grapefruit, cycad, cashews, I think that is all. We also planted oranges, lemons, key limes, almonds, more avocados, pomegranate, loquat, and tangerine trees. Then there are mulberry and lychee trees on order.

You’ll Find Gardening Woes, even in Paradise

We use no pesticides at all at all. We do use a copper oxide spray for killing black fungus on the trees. The fungus seems to attack the custard apples and grapefruit especially. In the past we have used poison to get rid of leaf cutter ants as they can overnight eat ALL the leaves off ALL the citrus trees, plus all the lettuce and the roses; leaves and all.

Previously we tried using everything from urine (yip) to egg to control the ants! It works less well but we do not like the idea of poisoning things. Hopefully now I have cooked the leaf cutter ants goose; I got a beautiful bean, called Jackbean and planted it around the trees and around their nests. It ought to chase them away. The bean is large and pearly looking and comes up within five days, amazing!

Currently it is a real battle to keep things alive as it is the dry season and it is very, very hot, or did I maybe mention that fact before? We do not have a proper irrigation system but we directly use the grey water from the washing machine and the kitchen sink. We must water a quota of trees on a three day rotation system.

A Seedy Situation for Gardeners in Belize

We plant each and every seed on which we can lay our hands. American seeds are sold here when the sell by and plant by dates have passed already. And even then it is still sold for the equivalent of 2-3x the USA price printed on the packet. It is frustrating as the coming up rate is of course not good at all.

So we do seed saving where we can but with GM seeds also being sold here, the seed saving can be problematic as it either does not seed or the seeds are juvenile. They want one to repurchase rather than save your own seeds, but I’ll step away from the GM topic as I usually have a soapbox hour if I start thinking and talking about it.

I wanted a bit of color round the house so I bought sunflower seeds sold as parrot food. They came up very well but some are 4 INCHES off the ground and they start flowering, tiny, pathetic flowers which do not even follow the sun and the mature flowers did not make seeds at all.

Thanks Barbara, and I really do hope to make my way to Belize sometime in the near future! For now I will simply be content and try to control the envy as I enjoy the virtual visits through your correspondence.

So far we’ve journeyed to a garden in Patzcuaro, Mexico, visited a plot growing in Northern Virginia, and spent time today in Belize. We’ll wrap up this tour with a final stop back in the States as we check out a colorful edible garden in Tennessee.

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  • Minki

    What a diversity of fruit trees! It sounds like self-sufficiency gardening. But it is very difficult keeping things alive when it is so dry. Is the gray water filtered first? Get a Jackfruit tree, the fruit is very large and it ought to grow there. It will be interesting to have updates on the leafcutter ants situation!

  • hetta

    Maybe you did not plant the sunflowers fully in the sun? Or overwatered them? But tell me please, why a humming Ceiba tree? I am so very curious.

  • Barbara

    To Minki: We are certainly aiming for self-sufficiency. No, the gray water is not filtered. We do not particularly like the breadfruit, although the tree is marvellous, we heard the jackfruit’s taste is similar to the breadfruit. So, not considering it but thanks. As to the leafcutter ants… it is a never-ending saga, the jackbean planting around the citrus trees only helped to a certain degree. Any hints/tips/advice/help?
    To Hetta: Yes, the sunflowers did get a few hours of shade a day, I’ll try the rest of the seeds in full sun… which can be real fierce here. The Ceiba tree is truly magnificent, so huge. When it blossoms, the flowers are so high one cannot see them but the tree is visited by bees and wasps which make the tree sound as if it is humming. Gorgeous!

  • Helen

    We will be moving to Belize hopefully next year so how about vegetables? Tomatoes, lettuce, peas, beans, etc? Woman cannot live on fruit alone…although it would be nice.

  • alixander hunter

    barbara: if you are having trouble still with the ants, go to the pharmacy and purchase boric acid. mix 2 mixtures make a paste one with bacon grease and one with honey. put some of this on a piece of tin foil. lay the foil in the path of the ants. they will either be sweet ants or grease ants, they will take one or the other and take it back to thier nest. it will kill the nest. it will not hurt anything else. also we are building a resort in belize we would be interested in purchasing some of your plants, would you please email me back at and let me know if this would be possible, and where you are located. are you able to order other plants from other countries and get them in so i could order more of them from you? thank you alixander

  • Mary Loan

    Dear Folks,
    In a few months we (my husband and I) are planning to move to Belize.
    We have lots of expired (by date) seed packets.
    Are there regulations about bringing seeds into the country? We bought a farm with Tamarind, coconuts, jungle plums, avocados and some citrus. We would love to grow a long hedge of bougenvillia (sp?).
    We will be moving to the San Ignacio/Cayo area.
    Thanks in abundance and advance for any/all help!
    From, Mary

  • Tim

    Mary: you should be able to get bougainvillea in Belize we have it.

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