Tag Archives: greens

Planting Time in Hawaii

The number one garden question that I receive is seemingly simple, “when do I plant in Hawaii?” In reality, it is a very complex question, especially with our changing weather patterns. What is my answer? Frequently. Get new plants started as frequently as you can, and try a range of edible plant types. This year was a tropical storm year which brought a wild range of growing conditions at 2700ft elevation. Colder, and wetter than normal, and we cannot forget the seemingly endless winds. Though the combination caused a diminished squash crop, other vegetables thrived. Let me explain.

When temperatures and humidity levels shift rapidly, some plants refuse to set fruit. Squash is well known for hitting the pause button when it isn’t getting what it needs. Some plants need it to be warmer, some need it to be less windy, and other plants are more impacted by day length. Observation is the key to understanding this. Some of you may recall my transplanting many stunted Aji Limon chili peppers a few days before Christmas, 2015. Though slow to grow, the wet season that December (sometimes) brings was just right for them. They became big, full plants, and then fruited profusely in June. This had them producing chili just in time for pairing them with mango. It is now October, and those one time stunted, and seemingly mistimed plants, have remained in continuous fruiting. I am sharing this to remind us that every day, every plant, and every challenge, gives us an opportunity to learn. Most mainland planters may have kept those peppers in pots until March or April. I was tempted to try to over winter them in pots. As it turned out, these Peruvian peppers liked the cooler temps, and additional humidity that an upcountry Winter can bring. I learned that not all peppers are alike. Weather that made some chili plants dormant, made another double in scale.

Just this week we had snow on the mountain, known as Mauna Kea volcano. Though the snow is at 14,000ft, and I am at 2700 ft, it impacts my growing, by bringing cool winds down the slope. In order to make the most of this endlessly cold year, I am getting out the seed flats again, and getting a lot of leafy greens going…again. Swiss chard, a variety of kale, collards, peas, and favas will all love this season. Since the temperature is changing rapidly from day to day, I am also using this window of time, where we still have quite a bit of warmth, to start some more tomatillos. I am taking the risk to try a few more pepper starts that all need quite warm days to germinate. Will it work? Only time will tell, but I do know that having a wide variety of plants will keep you, and your community well fed, no matter what season holds in store. Just like these loveable heirlooms, we can adapt, and we will be better gardeners for it. Aloha!

Winter Garden: using up aging seed

Even with the highly variable days of a Hawaii Winter upon us, I continue to plant. In these short days, sometimes hot, sometimes rainy days, followed by very cool nights, squash can be sluggish to germinate and take off. I use this as a window of opportunity to get a other plants going nearby. I consider this a great way to make the most of my gardening time.  I have been enjoying the holiday season in these past weeks, and part of that enjoyment is spent in the home garden.  Fog, mist, and bright sun have all come through in unpredictable patterns, though this is not ideal for squash, other plants have enjoyed having their time to shine.

This seemed like an impossibly bad time to plant heat loving chili peppers, but in 2015, we had a very unusual year, leaving my chili plants stunted and at risk.  I wasn’t going to give up on them, though.  Our long come and go seasons can work for chili plants.  Especially those that hail from cooler places, and/or higher slopes.  I have raved about Aji Limon aka Lemon drop pepper, a widely available heirloom chili from Peru.  It loves this mix of hot and cool, wet and dry.  I am happy to report, in the past three weeks, those stunted transplants, when planted into the garden, have really taken off.  They needed care, pronto.  I waited, and waited for the right weather to come, but what they really wanted was to get out of the pot and into the ground.  Here is what they look like now. Textbook pretty little pepper plants that are going into their fruit setting. The aging, weevil eaten seeds of the Christmas limas got a change to grow, and my beloved pipinola (chayote) climbs upwards.  Also seen is the collard plant that also wanted to be transplanted.

I take great pleasure in trying to seed save, but I also like to keep the varieties actively growing, rather than storing the seeds.  The downside of my process, is that my attention is often away from these seeds, so when I have some old, slightly buggy seeds, I get them in the ground quick.  I remain grateful for the “save.”  In an ideal world, all would be labeled and stored in climate controlled situation, but for me, I am thrilled if I find the time to dry the seeds and plunk them in a jar for home planting.  Pumpkin seeds get VIP care, but beans and greens seeds often get less storage, and often just go from garden to shelf to garden again.  Let’s look at the results.  The “forgotten” seeds  are pushing forth from the no-till garden. They will be great providers of fresh seed and of course a lot of meals this year.

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I also take full advantage of the rarely clear space in the garden, by sprinkling any aging seeds about.  Seen above, some lettuce  germinates with radish through a simple, put effective means of my chicken proofing the plot. (Sorry Betty)  Betty is a spurred hen, a real sassy gal with a wonderful love of high kicking her way through the garden.  She puts the “free” in free range.

I think this time of year is a great time to get mizuna, mustard, radish, collards and kales going.  I love my greens, beans, pumpkins and such.  So I plant heavily, and put them “up” in ferments, or use them for fresh eating.  I also freeze my lima beans for making soups and chili.

Yesterday, as I plucked plump chayote from the vine, a gentle, female Jackson Chameleon caught my eye.  She was a teenager, enjoying the afternoon mist and using the chayote vine as a bridge across the garden.  It is a beautiful addition to my workday in the garden.  I hope your garden is also filled with inspiration!

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