So, you’ve purchased your dream home and are now looking to get your hands dirty. Literally. Because, if you gardened back home, then you’re probably also dreaming of gardening in Costa Rica: year-round warm weather, glorious rain, and the promise of tropical everything. The perfect conditions, right? You just know your new home will be a gardener’s paradise.
And it is. Except when it isn’t…
Because the tropics have their own gardening challenges, though they’re not the challenges you’re used to and would naturally anticipate. And that can be a challenge unto itself. Because here, while you won’t have to dance around the last frost or the first frost, you will have to concern yourself with the kind of rainfall that you measure in inches (sometimes, within a single day), an incredibly strong sun (“full sun” does not mean “full sun,” in Costa Rica!), and a brand-new battalion of pests that will never die off in winter.
But if all this makes it sound like gardening in Costa Rica isn’t wonderfully fulfilling and an absolute joy, then we have misspoken. Because tending our gardens – pulling banana bunches right off the tree, clipping a few heliconia for your tablescape, harvesting fresh cilantro in January – is one of the many great pleasures we find in our new homes.
3 Benefits to Gardening in Costa Rica
Beyond the vague promise of “joys” and “pleasures,” gardening (and specifically, gardening here) brings so many benefits to life. Here are a few of our most compelling reasons to put on your gardening gloves – or, at least, to hire a landscaper!
Reason #1: It’s a Fresh Kind of Beautiful
Not enough can be said for the sheer wonder of Costa Rican gardening: If you grew up in a climate that experiences winter, then there’s just something wonderful about discovering a whole new world of it-will-never-freeze-here options.
Annuals are now perennials. Torch ginger, hibiscus, and orchids grow wild. The landscapes are a greener green than you’ve ever seen. And, as the famous promise goes, if you put a stick in the ground, it’ll grow. So, let it grow! Visit the viveros (plant nurseries) and ask for cutting from your neighbors. Plan your wildest tropical gardening dreams and then go even bigger. Costa Rica is that kind of place.
Reason #2: Daily Activity
You know how we said that if you put a stick in the ground, it’ll grow? Well, imagine how flowers, produce and – dare we say? – weeds feel about those same conditions!
Welcome to gardening in Costa Rica, where there’s always something to do in the garden. (Quick Spanish lesson: In Costa Rica, a huerta is a vegetable garden while a jardín refers to your landscaped yard.) When you’ve cultivated a garden that you love, that brings you joy – well, you’ll want to weed it, feed it, and otherwise tend it.
And that will provide you with the motivation to get outside, every day. To move around. To be active. To stay healthy, outdoors. Enjoy it!
Reason #3: Nutrition. And Convenience!
There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of growing nutrition in your own backyard. And here, in Costa Rica, you can grow almost anything – in theory, at least! (Learning how to garden in Costa Rica is a learning process, as we said.)
Because many fruits and vegetables are so readily available at the farmers market (la feria) and grocery store, we love to plant favorites that we can’t find as easily: pomegranate and mangosteen, jicama and hot pepper varieties, dragon fruit and star apple. Heirloom varieties of every stripe. We also love growing the little things we use daily (or nearly so), like lettuce and arugula/rocket, cilantro and basil.
Of course, there are many more benefits to gardening in Costa Rica – everything from stress relief/mental health benefits to more control over what you put into your body – and they’re something you’ll discover over time. These were just a start!
First Decision: What Kind of Gardening Will You Do?
The very first consideration, when planning your home garden, is what kind of gardening you’ll do:
Are you a fruit-and-vegetable or a blooming-botanicals kind of gardener? Do you have acres to landscape or will you stick to a few carefully placed containers? Do your tastes lean more towards herbs and spices or do you crave exotic tablescapes? This is your starting point.
Second Decision: Where Will You Be Gardening in Costa Rica?
Once you’ve decided on the broadest brushstrokes of how and what you’ll garden, it’s time to start considering the where. And we don’t mean “the backyard.”
Garden orientation is as important, if not more important, in Costa Rica as it is anywhere else. That’s because you’ll be battling the elements – the blazing sun and the driving rain – for several months of the year, so you’ll need a spot that you shade during times of blazing sun, but that receive as much sun as possible during the season of driving rain. (In Costa Rica, greenhouses protect against harsh sun and ample rain, not cold!) Beyond that, you’ll have the standard considerations of how to landscape your garden, how many beds you’ll tend, and what plants are destined for each.
Here’s a final consideration: Back to that stick-in-the-ground – in Costa Rica, everything grows. And quickly! As you plant your garden, give your plants some extra spacing and try not to fantasize about a perfectly groomed garden. The tropics are always a little lush (call to mind what the rainforest looks like!) and, unless you hire a full-time gardener or plan to spend hours every day gardening, you’ll do well to embrace your own gardening wild side.
Third Decision: What Will You Plant?
Okay, so you’ve waded through the provisos. You’re now briefed on tropical weather and its many challenges. You know that your plants will go quickly and the weeds, even quicker.
You’re ready. To start, at least. So, start here – with dreaming and planning. While you won’t find thick mail-order seed catalogs, you will find a wealth of viveros (plant nurseries), neighbors with seeds and cuttings to share, and likely a local centro agrícola, or agricultural center, which will sell everything from seed trays and soil to gardening tools and seeds.
If you’re more of a fruits-and-veggies kind of gardener, the centro agrícola and seed-bearing neighbors will be your best friends; if you tend more toward lush botanicals and exotic blooms (or just trees and bushes to fill your property), you’ll spend much of your time at the viveros and asking your friends and neighbors for cuttings. Either way and any way, we hope you’ll have a blast!
Fourth Decision: Will You Hire Help?
We’d love to say this is the fourth and final decision but, the truth is, gardening in Costa Rica will often throw up a new challenge or beg a decision to make.
So, let’s just call this a fourth but not final decision: Will you handle gardening yourself? Will you hire part-time help? Does your property necessitate a full-time gardener? Short version: Chances are, if you’re doing anything more than container gardening, you’ll probably benefit from help at least a few times a month – cutting the grass, pulling weeds and relocating volunteer plants (the best garden gift!), machete-chopping living fence, and all the other near-daily everythings that transpire in a Costa Rican garden.
And now, heliconia’s in your court: Let us know if you have any questions! Or, just share some of your plans. Gardening in Costa Rica is such a joy, and each new home and project is so exciting, that we’d love to hear what you have in mind!
Planning to Do Some Gardening in Costa Rica?
Your new life in Costa Rica often involves so many firsts: First time you open the door. First time you fling open your windows. First time you step out into your brand new garden…
It also involves a lot of research, often into the many minutiae that are important to you (“what’s gardening like in Costa Rica?”) but that you may not find answers to online. That’s where we come in: More than real estate agents, we’re local experts and your ally in all things Costa Rica. We’re here to help you, every step of the way.
Because at Blue Water Group, we’re committed to you. Not to selling you a property or spamming you with all the options, but to helping – genuinely and with good intent – to match you to the perfect property for your needs and wants. We thrive on relationships and promise the fastest communication and best services in the industry.
We’re also proud to offer some of the best Costa Rica real estate. We have both condos and homes, land and businesses for sale. So go ahead – try us. Give us a chance to show off our expertise – and wow you with the possibilities! We look forward to it.