Monday, April 2, 2012

What vegetables should you plant?


It has been awhile since my last posting.  Various reasons - it is near the end of the growing season for me as most of my tomatoes are now dead or dying. My chili plants have made there chilis and I have harvested & given them away.  As regular readers know, I was really trying to grow bell peppers not chili peppers.

I am in the process of transforming my blog ( a summer project ) and because of the dusty weather we have been having I have not really been as keen as I should have been to work with my plants.

I did recieve a comment a couple of weeks back that I would like to share with everyone as I feel it might be something others could also be thinking about - what vegetable should I plant in my garden?

Ala sent in a comment saying:

Hey guys,

ok so given the heat humidity and climate in Dubai; what are the best things to plant in the garden in terms of vegetables or fruits; I dont like gardens that has only flowers; I see it as a waste of money and i want to plant something that I can use, also i want something that doesnt need a lot of water as i dont want to spend alot?!! :)

Ala, I'm like you, the flowers look nice - my wife loves her flowers - but as far as I'm concerned you can't eat 'em.  So, what good are they?  Some make good companion plants for vegetables as they keep bugs away and other will attract the bees to help pollinate your veggie plants. 

So, the next question is what veggies to plant?  Or perhaps a better question is when to plant?  The growing season here is basically mid-Oct. to mid-April.  The other times are too hot for most veggies for various reason ( too hot for the plant itself or too hot for it to pollinate).  Otherwise, I believe most vegetables can be grown here.  So, now you just need to decide what it is you want to grow.  Once you decide that then you need to Google or You Tube those vegetables to collect as much information as you can and then figure out if you can grow it here.  Or just do like me and try something and see if it works or not  - and if it doesn't work then I go back and read the instruction book - typical male? :-)

Plant what you want to eat.  Plant what you have space for.  Plant what you would like to try to grow.  Experiment is the key word.  If you are new to vegetable gardening here in Dubai, UAE or the Gulf region, you will find out quickly that there is not alot of information out  there about growing your own vegetables in this region.  In the USA, each State has an agricultural extenion program through one of their Universities that publishes information about growing fruit & vegetables in that particluar State and even sometimes when your as BIG as Texas the information is also regional. Unfortunately, I believe that kind of information is not available in this region. So, what you are left with are newpaper and magazine articles about commerical growers, a couple of home gardeners and then a few blogs trying our best not to misinform our readers.  We may not be writing or talking about what it is you want to grow or it might be a vegetable that is a part of our diet not yours.  So, as I do,  perhaps you can find the time to surf the internet  - but BEWARE  - you can find yourself stuck in cyberspace for a long time!  You Tube is more visual of course but they need to keep everything down to a ten minute clip - helpful but sometimes a bit brief.  But, it also triggers your curiosity to Google for more information - albeit a bit dryer and more reading - but more detailed information.

Cost of gardening can be expensive or cheap depending on what you can afford to spend but don't be under any allusions - it will cost you money do matter what you do.  The cost can be broken down into about four different areas:
  • If you are going to use containers, you have to buy them (unless you have a source for used 5 gallon buckets to make Global Buckets - then please share the source). Your chooses of containers/pots are ceramic, cement and/or plastic - all at varying cost of course.  Containers/Pots and potting soil  are going to be your biggest purchased expenses but also understand that the cost can be spread out over three-ten years -  depending on the type of pot you but - ceramic, cement or plastic. Don't forget to get the tray that goes under your container/pot to catch excess water when you water your plants.
  • Then you need to buy soil. It is best to buy the commerically available potting soil in bags as it is (or should be ) clean of dieases and weed seeds (what is a weed - anything growing in your garden that you did not plant).  Please note not all potting soil is created equal - I have had mixed results with some of the locally produced potting soils. Either is was too course (with too much coconut husk & roughage) or too fine (good for producing seedlings).  I do not want to get into name calling as I do not want someone taking me to court so if you are buying bagged potting soil for the first time then get one of the imported brands.  Then later trying buying some of the cheaper locally made brands and  see if you find a difference that you can live with. What about the so-called sweet soil available in the nurseries - again read the above statement - you will be taking a chance on what you could be lurking in the soil.  I must admit that I have experimented with mixing some of my older potting soil  with some sweet soil at about a 1:1 mix.  I believe it helps in retaining the water a bit better than straight potting soil - it is only an observation as I have not conducted any proper testing.  However, I can tell you this - your pot/container will get much heavier with the mixture, so if it is a big pot make sure it is in the place you want it before adding the mixture because you won't be shifting it anywhere afterwards - believe me I know!!!  Even if you are planting straight into the ground, you will need to use a potting soil/sweet soil mixture of some sort instead of the sand that is in most yards in villas in this region of the world.  If you just use the sand in your yards as is - you will be using and wasting alot more water!  The water passes through sand quicker than a soil mixture.  You do not need to do the whole yard, just the areas that you will be planting - but be sure to dig that bed or hole bigger than you need so there is more room for the soil mixture.  The soil is reuseable every year - you just need to replenish it with nutrients every new growing season. 
  • Seeds, plants and fertizlier are minor costs. 
  • Your next biggest cost is watering your plants. Your method of watering is a factor, by hand (time), sprinklers (waste of water and purchase & installation) and drippers (purchase & installation) and then of course the cost of water.  All plants need water, with vegetables plants it is more of a case of not how much water they need ( important factor however )  but rather that the plants gets the water on a regular basis. Sure, some plants like melons & cucumbers need more water than perhaps beans & herbs but I find that if you do not water your tomatoes and a regular even time schedule you will get less fruit and even BER (blossom end rot).  So depending on the size and number of plants in your garden will determine what water scheme might work best for you.  Do not underestimate the time it takes to water plants by hand - either with the hose or a water can.
For those of you that only have a balcony to work with, sunlight is going to be your biggest problem.  Plants need some sunlight, either direct or reflected.  If you are allowed to paint your balcony walls white then you should.  This will help with the reflected light.  If you can't paint the walls then look at putting up some white fabric or foamcore boards for just the growing season only.  Other problem to look out for will be to make sure your balcony has a drainage hole. For the pots you have on the floor you should have a tray under it to catch any excess water after watering but for hanging plants this can be a different story. If you are a bit heavy handed with the water like me, you will soon have a mess that will need to be cleaned up.  So you will need somewhere for the water to drain when you do the cleanup.  If you have a window A/C keep a bucket under it to catch the water for your plants.

So, to close this rather long rambling blog - growing vegetables is going to cost you money and  time.  Depending on what you buy, I would say you will need more time than money or at least a 50/50 split.  Make no mistake about it, this gardening thing takes TIME so you need to be ready to invest it in your garden whether it is a flower or vegetable garden or you will not be happy with the outcome.

I hope this was helpful for some readers and not too redundant for others.  I was aimimg this blog to the ones that may have just gone through their first growing season without much success or thinking about it starting a vegetable garden for next year.

Did I forget to mention herbs?  I do not have much experience with them but perhaps I will give them a go for the next growing season.

Many thanks for stopping by.  It is possible to sign up for a notification by email whenever I post a blog. That way you do not waste time coming to the blog to see if I have posted anything new.  On the rightside of the blog there is a box that says "Follow by Email" - just fill it in and you should get a notification.

For us guys that like to do our own gardening - this comic strip is for us.

Calvin and Hobbes

Remember someone else may be cleaning the floors at home.

As always, please don't hesitate to leave a comment below.

Again a big thanks for stopping by.



  1. First I'd like to say that Im quite happy I finally found a blog about gardening in dubai, its great to know that there are balcony vegetable gardeners like me in UAE!
    I live in sharjah and Im growing various kinds of plants in my balcony, right now Im not sure of what to do next because the scorching arabian summer is on the way and I dont want to spend the summer with only vinca orchid! What vegetables can be grown on a balcony over here during the summer?

    1. Hi Garudamon11,

      Thanks for visiting the blog and posting your comments. I will answer your question in my next posting. Thanks!

  2. Hi charles,
    This is something I have been searching for. I would love to grow some veggies in Dubai, and I think that the heat puts me off. I have a small piece of paved over area, a little larger than a balcony. I would really love to grow something. My problem is that we (with family) go on a Christmas/New Year vacation every year for approx 3 weeks. which being in the middle of the growing season, creates havoc with any plants I may try to grow. my daughter (mainly because of her) and I have planted orange, and it grew fairly well in a large container all summer and then it felt cold in winter and of course the winter vacation killed it off, even though we thoroughly soaked it prior to our departure. Would love some advice (just general on what grows quickly and will be ready for harvest before we leave and something to plant when we get back) Thanks for the lovely blog and look forward to more informative and very helpful posts

  3. Hi Louise,

    This is a common problem for many of us. What you need to do is install a small automatic irrigation system. I plan to blog about this in more detail late this summer or early fall and hopefully it will be helpful to you as well as for others with the same problem.

    That was my problem last year, we were going away for the second Eid for 2 weeks. So, I just left a few plants for the lady that comes to the house 3x a week to water but did not think I could trust her with new seedlings. So, I got off to a late start and never really recovered from it.

    Either in Carrefour or HyperPanda(DFC) I have seen small dripper irrigation kits in their gardening section. They both sell separate items but unless you are comfortable with plumping it might be best to get a kit. What you need to make sure of is the following:

    1) The kit has a pressure regulator. This regulator will take whatever pressure you have coming from your source (whether it is from a pump or the city supply) and make it a pressure that will not damage the drippers and make sure they put out the proper amount of water they are designed for. If it does not have a regulator then be careful about what you buy. Some companies say there dripper are "pressure regulated" but that is for keeping a constant pressure in the dripper tubing so all the drippers will put out the same amount of water.

    2) If the kit does not have a timer (either mechanical or electronic)then you will need to source one of these as well. If you get an electronic then you will be able to set the time of day you want to water, how many time during the day or week.

    3) Something that punches a proper size whole in the drip tubing for the drippers to be inserted into. Some of the small shops in Satwa, where the plant shops are, have an orange color puncher that works well.

    I hope this was helpful. I realize it is a bit brief but I will later blog about this in more detail.

    Thanks for the comment!


  4. Hello Charles,

    I'm glad I've found your blog.. I'm planning to have a garden in our balcony.. I will start to read your blog now. :)

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks! I just noticed that it has been a long while since I have posted anything. I need to do so soon.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  6. HI, excellent blog btw. I have a question for you - I was wondering whether I have to pollinate my flowers by hand? I haven't seen much in the way of bees etc (I'm in the Springs)and concerned now my aubergines and tomatoes are flowering that they will come to naught! Thanks

    1. Hi Bradders,

      Just to quickly reply to your comment. If you do not have any bees helping you out with pollination then YES, some plants that produce separate male & female flowers can & need to be hand pollinated to get better results. Squash, pumkins, watermelons, cucumbers and eggplants(aubergines) will all benefit from some hand pollination. Tomatoes and peppers do not need it as much as the flowers they produce are both male & female. They just need to be shaken a little bit everyone in a while. I think this would be a good blog to share with everyone else in more details. So, hopeful I will get to it soon.

      Thanks for the comment!!!