Complete novice seeks help and advice
Dear Any and All,
I'm a recent university graduate on a first job out in West Kalimantan. This being West Kalimantan I have a HUGE garden (12 hectares) as well as three gardeners. My gardeners are exceedingly green in all things bar the fingers. Unfortunately I find myself with an equally deficient level of experience, knowledge and general expertise.
There is a fair amount grown locally, kasava, papaya, some mango, some pineapple, rice, corn, durian, rambutan, some carrot, very rarely I can get tomato, lots of chilli, and a huge variety of anonymous green leafy stuff that is edible if cooked for long enough.
Given I have such a huge garden I'd like to try to broaden what I can get locally. I've tried my own tomatoes which did hugely well until they all got killed off by what I think is bacterial wilt just before the bulk of them fruited. I got nine tomatoes from 86 plants. To be fair they were nine delicious tomatoes but I'd still rather have been inundated to the point of having everything with salsa. I am currently trying some peas which were doing great before I most recently went on leave but mostly died while I was away (I don't think they were watered at all). I have had a little more success with these though as I have already had ten yummy pods off them and they're not all dead yet!
In terms of local weather we get anywhere between 3000 and 5500 millimetres of rain each year. It's above 30 degrees Celsius every day and very humid most of the time. The soil is volcanic, and very fertile. The bulk of the rain comes between October and March with there rarely being a period of more than about two weeks without rain at any time of the year. From about June to the end of August the rain decreases to about once a week on average but it's very rare to get more than two weeks without any rain and there's a decent sized lake in the garden that can be used if anything needs regular watering.
As far as experience goes, I've got no gardening experience at all being somewhat city born and bred and my first experience of my gardeners was finding them sat together tying the roots of a little yellow flowering plant I'd asked them to plant a little of into a tight little ball "to make them easier to plant." As such I'm in slightly desperate need of advice and pointing in the right direction. If anyone could suggest anything (or if anyone needs a trial and error guinea pig to try things out and see if they'll work in the tropics) I'd be most grateful. Getting seeds isn't really a problem, I make fairly regular trips to Jakarta (about once a month) and am back to the UK about twice a year. I also have friends in Jakarta for anything that can be posted. There's no post where I am. We do have a box at the nearest post office which is fortunately only about 20 minutes down the road but it's pretty rare that things actually arrive and nothing has ever got there in under three weeks.
Anyway anything anyone can do to assist would be most gratefully received. I'd love to get some strawberries going but I don't think there are any varieties that would survive here. Peas would be yummy too. I have some orange trees that were planted before I arrived as well as four coconuts, a rambutan tree and some papaya and pineapple. I love peaches but can't imagine ever getting them to grow. Avocado would be fantastic and I think should grow here. Passion fruit would be great too and melons. Anything else anyone can think of I'd love to try.