Survival Garden plan for tropics / Puerto Rico

user22 Posts: 10 ✭✭✭

OK I was hoping for some feedback here. I am building the below plan for my landscaper to assist me in setting up my gardening plan. I referenced a lot of Marjory & David the Good in putting this together, particularly David's newest S FL Survival Gardening book. FYI we get about 80in rain a year (seemingly more than S FL) and do have a lot of iguanas!

Overall my goal is to build a food-producing garden that incorporates permaculture and organic principles to minimize or eliminate use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides. I assume this would also mean using tropical varieties or other native varieties and species. I would further prioritize varieties & plants that require minimal maintenance and are resistant or otherwise unaffected by the climate, disease and iguanas/pests. Mixing varieties is helpful to avoid creating a “monoculture”. Diagram at end.


1. safety hedge ~4ft to line sides at height with drop to driveway on left/east side and walkway/stairs to right/west. Consider mix of: (catley/pineapple) guavas, cocoplums, Surinam cherries, chaya, yaupon holly

2. aesthetic low profile plants in left/east planter. consider: Ethiopian kale, sweet potato, green onions

3. cover/hide A/C units from street view, consider hedge options like #1

4. ornamental plants to left/east and right/west of steps leading to front door. consider: prickly pear, sweet potato, key lime, figs, your suggestions

5. pavers around water faucet to right/west of front door, connecting water faucet with front walkway


6. two existing beds (try to maintain the one guava) at gazebo level, potential for trellis behind. on trellis consider: name (winged) yams, jicama, luffa/angle gourds, yard-long beans, mixed perennials, passionfruit


7. two existing concrete beds at pool level, consider trellis along back wall as in #6

8. add trellis fence around generator, above concrete beds, consider plants as in #6


8. clear brush/growth on either side of the yard for non-productive plants

9. implement several terraced beds on hill (sizing tbd base on hill geometry)

10. implement flat beds at bottom of hill 

11. consider removing large mango, tamarind & other trees in favor of several productive smaller trees that are easier to harvest from and can be maintained at lower heights

12. rear flat has some plantains recently planted, I would like to preserve or move

13. Site a compost area (bins to be supplied separately)

general plant/tree priorities (top more important) - I may have resources on growing these, if needed:

  • true yams (name aka dioscorea alata), sweet potatoes, cassava (use cuttings), yucca, dasheen/taro, bananas/plantains
  • beans (yard-long green beans), black-eyed peas, okra, maize/grain corn, seminole pumpkins, calabaza squash, sunflowers, turnips
  • greens: moringa (tree, use seeds), longevity spinach, kale, chaya (use cuttings), collards
  • everglades tomatoes
  • Avocados (tree, use grafting)
  • Jicama (use seedlings if possible)
  • acerola (Barbados) cherries (tree) / mulberries (tree, preferred white, start from cuttings/grafting)
  • Pecanor chestnut (tree)
  • Coconut trees
  • green onions
  • ginger & tumeric
  • ivy, luffa and angle gourds
  • Starfruit (tree)
  • Mango (tree)
  • Pineapple 
  • hot peppers
  • figs
  • Jabuticaba (tree)
  • Surinam Cherry (tree)
  • Passionfruit
  • Yaupon holly

Guidelines for new beds:

  • please tag/label plants
  • more concerned with aesthetics in-front
  • variety should help prevent override by pests/disease (less monoculture)
  • consider space-saving/density strategies, for example: bananas trees in middle of bed, with casava around it and sweet potato around that
  • consider swales to catch pool-area runoff and/or other grey/drained water
  • for initial work - please mark off beds with wood stakes & string before tilling/digging for review
  • beds on flat do not need wood frames, just till them to remove existing vegetation so they are lightly mounded (dirt not grass) with paths in between
  • garden beds should get 4 hours+ sun/day, preferable morning sun to afternoon sun. full sun is OK
  • ideally 4ft width of beds on flat, 2ft width on terraced beds and for beds for cassava or yams
  • ideally 2ft width of paths
  • beds no longer than 25ft, less on terraces
  • add compost to beds: 0.25in to 0.5in raked in
  • do not use ruminant (cow, horse, etc) manures, hay/straw, mushroom or municipal composts -potentially contaminated with pesticides or other contaminants
  • grow climbing plants under trees or trellis fence. Yams can be grown up mango, pecan or other trees
  • cover crop: pineapple (non thorny types, sweet potatoes


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,640 admin

    @bexnews22 This is an ambitious plan. How big is your property? You have said the plan is not to scale but it seems like a lot of plants and trees to fit into this space.

    Something you might want to try is a computerized layout, to scale. There are a number of them available online. Then you can move scale-sized plants into the plan to see how well they would fit.

    Not sure what you mean by swales to catch pool run-off. Is this just to prevent erosion or chlorine damage to surrounding gardens?

    I'm not familiar with the growth habit of most of the plants you have listed as I am a northern gardener so I can't comment on the species you have chosen. But I am sure we have other members here who garden in a similar climate, particularly @Marjory Wildcraft.

  • user22
    user22 Posts: 10 ✭✭✭

    I am on a half acre. I will check out some online softwares. I thought the swale might just improve water usage for growing water intensive crops like taro or bananas. I am actually planning to make my pool a natural pool but that's another topic!