Friday, December 4, 2009
However, I did have a little time to do a sustainable mini garden project: making a trellis out of wood from an invasive species, strawberry guava (waiwi).
(But wait - am I suggesting that waiwi is in some way desirable? Absolutely not. There is way, way, too much waiwi here. If anyone says they’re depending on it for food, I’d like to know how many acres they’re consuming, because despite their supposed waiwi cravings they’re obviously falling down on the job and letting a lot go to waste. Ah, I see - pity there are only so many strawberry guavas one can partake of before nature claims your bowels – ‘fess up folks, the rest, as you well know, goes to fattening up wild pigs.)
In my neck of the woods, a good strawberry guava tree is a dead one. And when you cut down invasive trees, it makes sense to dry the wood and then do something useful with it. Especially when it's something that takes forever to rot in the compost bin, like waiwi wood. Sure, you could burn it. But I'm one of those creative types. Andrew Goldsworthy isn’t worried, I’m sure, but I’m quite satisfied with my handwoven trellis of waiwi branches and twigs a la the fort in the movie “Where the Wild Things Are.”
In the wooden half barrel are snow peas and some young collard greens, planted in organic potting mix (2 parts potting mix to 1 part black volcanic cinder for fast drainage). I also wove into it some sisal twine to help the tendrils grab hold and climb. All in all, my rustic creation seems to be holding up fairly well against constant rain we’ve had in the past few days.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
...here's Donna Mitts, garden educator,
and the school's ever-expanding vermicomposting facilities ...
Hawai'i Island School Garden Network director Nancy Redfeather counts Pa'auilo among the school garden jewels dotting the island that are part of the Hawai'i Island School Garden Network.
"Donna's 10 year old program is certainly an example of the integration of various types of agricultural work into a small model that can be worked by the children," says Redfeather. "When a public/private partnership is formed, as I hope to see someday, communities around the island will be able to lend their voices to the decision."
To get the full story about this amazing outdoor learning lab -- "Wormville" and all -- read this insightful blog by Hawai'i Island investigative journalist Alan McNarie - click here.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I'm not like most people in Hawai'i. Most residents live near the coast. I live at 3,500 feet elevation on the island of Hawai'i, atop an active volcano, Kilauea. While the rest of the lowlanders are sweltering around the state, I'm experimenting with mainland-style, cool-weather spring/fall herbs and veggies. Here the volcanic plume of sulphur emissions from Halema'uma'u crater, the home of Hawaiian goddess Pele, creates constant acid rain, which presents a challenge for gardeners in the Volcano area. In winter the rain is heavy, which is another problem for residents trying to grow edible gardens. To protect their bounty from acid rain and vog damage, many here resort to greenhouses and container gardening.
Though I haven't yet constructed a greenhouse, at the moment I'm keeping quite a few plants on a protected area on my lanai.
Here's what’s growing on my lanai:
Red shiso (Perilla)
'Windowbox Mini Basil' (Renee’s)
Scallions, 'Delicious Duo' (Renee’s)
Horenso (spinach )
Komatsuna (Brassica rapa, Seeds of Change)
Collards ('Green Glaze', Southen Exposure seed)
Oregon Snow Pea (Seeds Of Change)
“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
It's the second anniversary of this here blog thing. To celebrate, let's make ourselves a very thoughtful, very inexpensive gardening gift.
Watch it in action. You'll want one.
DIY WATERING CAN
Stuff You'll Need
Plastic laundry detergent bottle
Drill with bit that makes tiny holes
Rinse out bottle thoroughly. Drill plenty of holes in the cap. To allow air to flow into the bottle and keep the water free flowing, cut a hole near the cap in the handle – not to close to the cap, otherwise the water spills out there, too.
I make these and donate them to community and school garden projects. Makes a nice cheapo gift for any gardener who doesn't like to drag out the power tools themselves. Sure, laundry detergent bottles are #2 recyclable. But if you have to have those bottles anyway, reuse is better than recycle.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
To eat well, it's best to learn how to grow well. Hope you'll enjoy reading my article about Edible Gardens in the August/September issue of HI Luxury Magazine, a glossy periodical published by StarBulletin/Midweek. To read the article, click here.
There are some great tips from two esteemed Hawai'i Island gardeners: renowned artist Mayumi Oda on her Ginger Hill Farm and Retreat Center in Kealakekua, and permaculture farmers Tom Baldwin and Shannon Casey at Uluwehi Farm in Hawi.
In the photo above is an edible flower, butterfly pea, Clitoria ternatea, that adds a splash of bright color with edible flowers and pods in Tom's sustainable garden. Cabbage and amaranth are just a couple of wonders growing in Mayumi's lovely mandala garden.
I hope you'll be inspired to cultivate bliss at your own doorstep.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Without grazing animals to predate on them, many endemic Hawaiian plants put less energy into creating defenses such as thorns or unpleasant tastes. Thus Hawaiian mints, such as this Stenogyne, don’t have a minty taste or smell. However, as you can see in the photo, they do have the square stems characteristic of the mint family. This trailing mint prefers filtered light and moist areas, so I’m planting it under some ‘ohi’a trees in the backyard. The plant I bought has one long vine so I can get a few cuttings, too - I’m getting more than one plant for my money. Hooray!
Hawaiian Pokeberrry, Phytolacca sandwicensis
Who says native plants aren’t colorful? The first time you see Hawaiian Pokeberry, or Popolo ku mai, it will stop you in your tracks. I first saw these attractive, rose pink blooms and deep purple berries on a hike through Kipuka Puaulu, a mesic forest in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I love the deep purple venation on the leaves, too. It likes full sun it needs moist soil, so I’m planting it in a sunnier, open area farther from the house. I’ve been told it reseeds itself, so I’m looking forward to having a nice stand of pokeberry someday.
Look, ma, no ow-ees. The endemic raspberry, known as ‘akala in Hawaiian, certainly has prickles, though it isn’t as nasty as the introduced varieties. The flower is dark pink and the fruit is usually large and tart, ranging from deep red to bright yellow. Hawaiian raspberry grows only at high elevations, usually in mesic and wet forests, and in woodlands, so maybe I'll have a chance at coaxing this one to take root here in Volcano Village at 4,000 feet. The kalij pheasants will probably find it unpleasant to peck at it despite its wimpy prickles, but looks like some chewing insects have already nibbled at the leaves; I’ll have to keep an eye on this transplant under the ‘ohi’a trees, too.
Friday, August 21, 2009
The first Hawaiians brought "shampoo" ginger, which they called awapuhi (Zingiber zerumbet), to these islands. However, so-called “Kahili” ginger, like other gingers that have naturalized here, was brought to Hawai'i as an ornamental in the early 1900s, and since then it has created enormous environmental problems in the native rainforest, crowding out other plants. Heard of the invasive Himalayan raspberry? This is Himalayan ginger – no kidding. “Kahili” is a misnomer; it’s not Hawaiian at all. Sad to say, it’s just someone’s clever way of marketing a nursery product by co-opting a Hawaiian identity. Again.
Himalayan ginger is well-adapted to rainforest environments. It is shade-tolerant, is tall and has broad leaves to block sunlight from reaching competing plants, and it spreads by rhizomes and seeds, which makes it even more successful. Birds are attracted to the bright red seeds and spread them around to other areas.
Sure, you can keep hacking it back, but it’ll only laugh at you. At the nature trail of the Volcano Art Center’s Niaulani campus, volunteers spend every third Sunday of the month digging out the rhizomes in order to preserve the rare native species of the old-growth forest there. A good ecotourist activity if you’re interested, by the way. Click here for more info.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park uses another method: They cut the plants down to the rhizomes, and then they spray an effective (but expensive) chemical pesticide until the point of runoff. (I won’t say which pesticide it is – sorry. But you can ask them yourself, if you’re really desperate and have a big problem.)
Monday, August 10, 2009
I'm away from Hawai'i now, spending some time in the San Francisco Bay Area on family business. Every time I travel to the city I'm amazed at how rural practices can get wildly out of hand in urban contexts. Take the concept of recycling, for example. "I'm a big-time recycler!" My city pals are fond of saying this. What it really means is that every week their curbside pickup consists of 3 colored bins: a blue one for recyclables, which they do not sort ("they have people who do that," they explain); green for "compostables," and gray for plain old "garbage," whatever that means. And, among my pals, there's competition for bragging rights to keeping the most out of the gray bin. Does this deter them from buying overpackaged items? Not necessarily -- because, hey, every week almost everything is "recyclable," right?
Apparently, in the city, recycling isn't necessarily connected with composting at home. Take for example the condo owner who lives next to my friend in the city of Alameda. That's his green bin in the photo above. He decided he no longer wanted a postage-stamp lawn and wanted a concrete patio instead - the way it was originally - so he ripped it out the grass and disposed of it just as it had come to him, sod piece by sod piece. Well, I guess he thought it is compostable, and so it made some kind of logical sense to him to stuff it in the "green" bin. But to me it somehow seemed a bit bizarre to see turf rolled up and stuffed in a garbage bin like a bit of old carpet, even though it would go to the green waste facility. Big time recyclers? Not quite, I don't think so, at least not yet.
Which makes me wonder: When it comes to recycling, how are we doing on our own turf, Hawai'i?
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Built in 1937, Shangri La sits high on Black Point on Diamond Head, the volcanic crater and tuff cone named Leahi (brow of the tuna) by the ancient Hawaiians. Indoors at Shangri La, there is an extensive collection of rare and priceless Islamic treasures that are the envy of world-class museums. As a gardener, though, I was naturally drawn to ponder the landscape outside: A natural Hawaiian reef and coastline that was forever changed through the unlimited wealth of one woman and her passion for the aesthetics of the Mughal Empire. To me the result is nothing short of astonishing, albeit tempered with a bit of melancholy, given the history of the person and the location of the estate.
Duke wanted to recreate the feeling of Mughal gardens, and while the hardscape mimics those traditional designs, the plants used are tough, drought tolerant, tropical types, typical of what you see around Hawaii’s lowland and beachfront homes exposed to salt spray and wind.
Are there earth-friendly, sustainable practices in these gardens? Only if you're musing the possibility that some vegetation choices might have been made in the context of xeriscaping. Other than that, hardly. But a visit here is interesting, nonetheless, especially because Islamic influences are rarely seen in Hawai'i.
Plants at Shangri La include:
Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
Coconut (Cocos nucifera)
Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus)
Tiare, Tahitian Gardenia, (Gardenia taitensis)
Naupaka kahakai (Scaevola taccada), a native Hawaiian species
Oyster Plant (Tradescantia spathacea)
Joyweed (Alternanthera sp.)
Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
Shalimar Garden, Lahore (now modern Pakistan.)
To visit Shangri La, you must make reservations through the Honolulu Academy of Arts. For more info, click here.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I was very excited to get one of my favorite natives, pa'iniu (Astelia) to try out in my yard. I’ve been in love with it ever since I saw it in bloom on a hike around Kilauea Iki. Its luminous silvery leaves and unusual flower spikes are quite striking among the deep green of the native forest.
I was also relieved to find a small seedling of ko'oko'olau (Bidens sp.). I needed one badly, right away, before my ku'u ipo returns from an out-of-town trip, since I accidently weedwhacked to a premature death the one that was in his yard : “Zeeeep! Uh oh, oh sugars.” That, and perhaps sharing some of my arugula, might help make amends. I hope.
Looks like while I was out the seedling fairy dropped by. I've been gifted with plants that have been grown in my neighborhood, coqui-free and quite possibly adapted to the growing conditions here. In my goodie box there are starts of arugula, lettuce, native Hawaiian peperomia, and something else that looks edible though I haven’t figured out what it is yet. Just the motivation I needed to get a high elevation garden going after abandoning plants from my lowland residence. Sharing seeds and seedlings are a great way to keep the gene pool strong with varieties that grow best in your area. A good way to make new friends, too.
I’m going to have to track down the giver of this thoughtful housewarming gift. I have an inkling of who it might be – an expert horticulturalist and devotee of plants that do well in my cool, acid rainy microclimate. She frequently holds seedling exchanges at her home, and though I’d love to give her credit I have a feeling I’d be chided if I revealed her name here. Let’s just say for now that I’m grateful that there are such generous spirits in the world, caring people who are committed to propagating life and beauty around us. Plant people are magical, indeed.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Her garden is a diverse display of her adventuresome approach to gardening. If it sounds intriguing, she’ll try it. Hugging the stepping stone path leading up to the greenhouse are plants she has grown for the first time...
Salad burnet. Grows incredibly well in her location. She likes the way it looks, but doesn’t really like the taste, and has way too much of it.
Leslie’s property backs up to pastureland and so she has to battle with invasive plants and animals from the other side of the fence.
A low fence in her own yard protects her edible garden from wild pigs, but it doesn’t keep out the kalij pheasants and wild turkeys that wreak havoc in her plots now and then.
Leslie removed huge clumps of rhizomatous kahili ginger, that most pernicious weed of Volcano, before she built her greenhouse, but it still comes back in certain areas. Kikuyu grass is great for feeding the cows in the pasture, but it creeps in and takes over any bare patch, so Leslie is experimenting with lemongrass and comfrey as natural barriers. Even invasive Himalayan raspberry, the bane of Volcano gardeners, will pop up occasionally through the kikuyu grass that she mows down.
The garden is now 4 years old, and Leslie has discovered a few helpful tips from the successes - and missteps, too - along her gardening path:
Grow what you like to eat. Says Leslie: “I discovered kale grows well, but I don’t eat it. Chard and lettuces, yes; kale, no.”
Grow what you’d like to try. Be bold and discover something new.
Grow what grows in your area. At 4,000 feet elevation, Volcano is cool and wet. Tomatoes are difficult to grow, rhubarb is easy. And it’s one of the few places in the world where you’ll see plums and pears growing next to hapu’u ferns and ‘ohi’a trees.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Her well-honed sense of place has paid of well: In 2007, Greenaway captured first place the 2007 Kona Coffee Cultural Festival's Gevalia Kona Classic Cupping Competition, and in 2008 the farm won 2nd place.
This was the seventh time in the last 10 years that an organic farm had taken highest honors, and it was yet another crowning moment for farmers and gardeners who have long asserted that organic methods lead to superior results with regard to nutrition and taste. I toured the farm recently with a group attending the “Sustainable Saturday” workshop hosted by the Kona Outdoor Circle - they had invited me to do a presentation earlier that day on sustainable container gardening,
Greenaway’s farm is small – only 5 acres – but it provides income and more than enough food for her small family. Only two acres are planted in coffee – the rest of the land sustains fruit trees, cacao, macadamia nuts and several small kitchen plots. I was duly impressed with her methods and choices for growing a variety of veggies.
Una begins her greens with seed planted in Black Gold organic potting mix in window boxes. She says that for her microclimate she finds that varieties that do well in the southeast U.S. continent are also good for Kona. She chooses greens that she likes to eat and that grow well with a minimum of predation from insects and don’t get powdery mildew, such as tatsoi, ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ lettuce, ‘Green Glaze’ collard greens and dinosaur kale.
The farm is part of an ancient ahupua’a and kuaiwi, a Hawaiian field system on the mauka side of Kona. The soil is deep, and to prevent erosion Una plants a ground cover around each bed. This tiny variety of wandering jew forms dense borders that can be rolled back and tucked in around the beds.
Ancient ti plants of the kuaiwi provide leaves for mulch to keep the soil moist and cooler; she harvests the ti leaves and lets them turn brown before using them. She waters the beds well before placing the leaves between the plants, otherwise the leaves tend to shed the rain. For smaller leaved veggies, Greenaway uses brown mountain apple leaves instead. The tree on this visit was festooned with an incredible profusion of bright pink blossom - looks like a bumper crop of 'ohi'a 'ai this year!
You can visit Greenaway’s farm, or take one of her workshops on chocolate candy making – to see the Kuaiwi Farm website, click here. If you go you’ll no doubt be convinced that a broad understanding of how the ecology of a place fits together – the soil, water, insects, topography, sun and wind exposure, climate and temperatures throughout the year and so forth – is the key to growing a productive, successful garden.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
The garden features some common, easy-to-grow natives from a wide range of vegetation zones from makai to mauka, as well as some rare and endangered species. Here are some of the native plants you’ll see at Manoa Heritage Center.
There is also a garden of “canoe plants” important in Hawaiian culture, for example kalo (taro), 'uala (sweet potato), 'ohi'a 'ai (mountain apple). The garden includes native pili grass (Heteropogon contours) shown below, which was used for thatching homes.
The stately Tudor-style home called Kuali'i was built from bluestone lava quarried on site in 1911. It is adjacent to a recently restored agricultural heiau, Kukao'o, most likely dedicated to the Hawaiian god Lono. This heiau was one of many that were in Manoa Valley in ancient times. The heiau was reconstructed from the original stones under the guidance of historic preservationist expert Nathan Napoka and the crew of Billy Fields, specialist in the pa pohaku masonry of ancient Hawai'i. To read more about this heiau, click here.
Manoa Valley once cradled acres of taro fields that fed the population of a sizeable ahapua’a that stretched all the way to Waikiki. Before the arrival of agriculture, native plants flourished in the valley; today, Manoa is an upscale suburban neighborhood where introduced species make up the verdant lawns and precisely pruned hedges.
The Cookes have created a culturally rich, memorable experience for Hawai'i’s keiki who might not otherwise have the chance to see and experience native fauna in their urban environment. MHC is an excellent location to begin a discussion about the use of pohaku (stone) in building and architecture in Hawai'i - how it all fits together historically, literally and figuratively. It’s a unique educational opportunity for Hawaii school children to experience the flow of historical events and the impacts of change on the landscape. Students can feel what the landscape might have looked like before the arrival of humans and its appearance during pre-contact Hawai'i; they can also compare the changes in the ways of life for ensuing generations.
If you visit, please be aware that this is private residence of the Cooke family. The interior is closed to the public, but someday will be open to the public as a museum. For information and reservations, call (808) 988-1287 or email email@example.com. For website, click here.
(No, this isn't anything like the touristy Dole Pineapple Maze - don't go if you want that.)
Here are a few more photos to give you an idea of this garden experience.
Although World Labyrinth Day has passed, you can still walk Awapuhi Labyrinth on your own. Contact Christie Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or (808) 982-5959 for directions.