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3 Akamai (Smart) Tips for Gardening in Hawaii

Just because we’re lucky we live Hawaii doesn’t mean tending the gardening is a walk in the park. Pleasantries we take for granted — like year-round growing climate and fertile soil – can be both a blessing and a curse.

Take these simple tips to heart. They’ll keep you a step ahead each time you’re in your Hawaiian garden:

Know your soil

Soil is the most important part of a happy garden, and Hawaii has a great deal of soil variation (think of the contrast between beaches, mountain slopes, dry forests, cloud forests, rain forests, lavascapes, etc.).

You’ll want a proper balance of nutrients and pH level in your soil. It would be worth your while to get your soil tested at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture (they have a great soil testing program, just a small fee).

Once you know where your soil stands chemically, you can enrich it with organic matter such as compost and manure, as well as other natural ingredients such as dolomite, which lessens acidity.

Also — check your soil drainage. Good drainage means the right amount of water will stick around to keep your plant roots moist while dissolving nutrients into the soil.

For example, garden plots that sit over smooth pahoehoe lava rock will have little to no drainage (time to make some raised beds) whereas rough a’a lava underground offers good drainage.

Use seeds and starters developed for Hawaii

Hawaii’s growing environment is like nowhere on Earth, which is why it makes more sense to work with plants that are specifically developed to grow here. Most local nurseries will stock plant varieties that do well in Hawaii.

For example, we have pretty moderate swings in seasonal daylight hours and temperatures compared to the mainland. If you tried to grow corn from the mainland (corn is sensitive to day length and temperature) you’ll likely end up with stunted growth and undersized ears.

Instead, choose to plant corn that’s been adapted over the years (by smart UH researchers) to grow in our unique conditions.

Using these special seed varieties will also help your plants resist many of the pests and diseases common to Hawaii, which bring us to our final tip:

Battle wisely with pests

There’s nothing better than staying warm all year round, right? True, but remember that the lack freezing temperatures means garden pests don’t get killed off like they do on the mainland. They just keep on going!

There are tons of akamai ways to eliminate pests which don’t require using harmful chemical pesticides, and they’re worth looking into. For example: soft-bodied pests such as aphids. They cling to stalks and leaves, sucking out the nutrients and life out of your plants. Here are a few safe ways to eliminate them:

  1. “Tape hands.” Wrap some packing tape sticky side out around your hands, then pat the leaves (especially the underside) of your plants. The tape will pull the aphids right off. A fun way to keep your kids busy in the garden, too.

  2. Pamper the enemy. Just because aphids are aggressive doesn’t mean they don’t have enemies in nature. Ally bugs such lacewings and ladybugs are natural predators of aphids. You can attract them by planting herbs such as mint, fennel and dill nearby.

Conclusion

These tips just scratch the surface of gardening in Hawaii. With a little research, asking around and practice — you’ll be an akamai gardener before you know it!

Thanks to Growing Vegetables in Hawaii: A How-To Guide for the Gardener, by Kathy Oshiro.

Photo credits: tedbigham, befuddledsenses, Kohala Center, CTAHRLife (Pinterest)

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