GROW O'ahu

Island Style Gardening and Plant-Based Living


Leave a comment

Food Stuffs All Over the Yard

I’m a neglectful blogger and perhaps an even more neglectful gardener. This is my biggest selling point for planting permaculture style plants: no fuss required. I go out every few weeks and harvest food. That’s my gardening method. Because I’ve planted (or allowed to grow on their own) things like papaya, chard, chaya, banana, citrus, mamaki, kale, popolo berry, mint, oregano, mountain apple, asparagus and a few other things that can withstand some munching from bugs and still make food. Even more “annual” style plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and beans, when mixed in with this bunch of other wildness needs very little care. Plant a seed or plant. Wait. Harvest food. That’s it.

I just wanted to share some photos of the food in the yard this morning. Not everything is “food” yet; the mountain apple tree has been eaten pretty badly, but there’s new growth, so it will bloom again. And our orange tree has tiny little green fruits for the first time. It’s like welcoming new friends 😀

Our first bananas! Originally from a keiki I got from a friend in our permaculture course

Our first bananas! Originally from a keiki I got from a friend in our permaculture course

Some of our many papayas!

Some of our many papayas!

Chaya on overload. Gonna have to eat some soon!

Chaya on overload. Gonna have to eat some soon!

One of our basils- got used in Thai curry last week

One of our basils- got used in Thai curry last week

The biggest daikon ever. :-)

The biggest daikon ever. 🙂

Baby strawberries! I have let these get a bit overgrown with "weeds" and now they are happy because slugs aren't eating them anymore

Baby strawberries! I have let these get a bit overgrown with “weeds” and now they are happy because slugs aren’t eating them anymore

From one tiny huli, this kalo is big now

From one tiny huli, this kalo is big now

Hiding among the "weeds"

Hiding among the “weeds”

Mamaki tea anyone?

Mamaki tea anyone?

Nasturtiums that keep blooming

Nasturtiums that keep blooming

TONS of mint

TONS of mint

Aloe for all the kids injuries

Aloe for all the kids injuries

New growth on the mountain apple tree after a season of getting eaten by something

New growth on the mountain apple tree after a season of getting eaten by something

New friends! Our citrus tree is finally fruiting

New friends! Our citrus tree is finally fruiting

Papaya! Eating this daily now, frozen in smoothies

Papaya! Eating this daily now, frozen in smoothies

Chard still producing after 2 years

Chard still producing after 2 years

Lemongrass needs cut back again...time for tea!

Lemongrass needs cut back again…time for tea!

Rosemary!

Rosemary!


5 Comments

Hugel-what?

A Hugelkultur of course! I first learned of this method during the Permaculture Design Course that I participated in earlier in 2013.  It was 72+ hours of sustainable, food, garden, method, awesomeness. A Hugelkultur is like the ultimate symbol of the essences of “permaculture” which is notoriously hard to define. It’s cheap, easier than digging beds, uses materials that are readily available on-site, it promotes bio-diversity and has a tendency to look a wee bit messy. All things I love 🙂

This method of growing is great for places that you don’t want to water as much or like we did, have annoying stumps that would be labor intensive to remove.  Check out other images here: http://rescape.co.nz/methods/hugelkultur/

The house we moved into about 6 months ago now (my reason for a long blogging hiatus!) had these seriously annoying areca palm stumps in the front yard. Someone got the brilliant idea to chainsaw these guys, but not all the way down and didn’t remove them. Areca palms do not really grow back- they might get a few leaves again, but they will never be full like they were before after a massacre like this! And they were dangerous- sharp spiky bits sticking out everywhere with little kids running around wasn’t very safe.

Stumps!

Stumps!

So we set to chopping them down a bit farther, piling the large pieces up and then added grass clippings, mulch, some compost starter, kitchen scraps and scraped a layer out of the chicken pen and added that too.

The "mound" with added clippings and compost.

The “mound” with added clippings and compost.

We ended up with a nice little mound and transplanted many of the plants we had brought with us from our other house. I wanted a lot of bio-diversity, so there’s herbs, flowers, some aloe and few native species like Popolo berry.

Transplants and lined the mound with color pots.

Transplants and lined the mound with color pots.

Here it is, only 5 months later! This thing is so happy. All the plants thrive, it takes hardly any watering at all and with the exception of a few mealybugs, there are no pests in this bed. The bees love it! Butterflies have started hanging around as well.  Our Hugelkultur is a success and if you find yourself plagued by stumps- do the easy, lazy gardeners permaculture way and build one of these!

About half of the plants here are edibles!

About half of the plants here are edibles!


Leave a comment

Soil: Source of All Life

image

IMAG1967

The beautiful valley

Part 2 of 6:  The second weekend of our Permaculture Design Course was a wee bit different than the first, by the clever design of our instructors.  Two weeks ago we met in a lush, vibrant, life-filled valley, and were guided by Master Farmers who have been on that piece of land for over 30 years.

In stark contrast, this weekend we met at the Hawaii Agricultural Research Center, a non-profit organization, whose roots are deep in “big ag” as originally the place for research conducted for Hawaiian Sugarcane industry.  And while that is no longer the purpose of HARC, the combination of location (drier side of the island) and topography (lots of bare soil) set us up for an interesting look at contrasts, patterns and design.

image

Hawaii Agricultural Research Center’s mission is ” to support a viable agricultural sector by researching and applying relevant science and technology to achieve practical solutions and by identifying new agricultural opportunities.”

It was the perfect place to talk about soil.  As the foundation of all life, we spent nearly an entire day cramming our brains full of the chemical, biological and physical properties which make LIFE possible.  And then after a quick 400-level Atmospheric Science Lecture (thanks Hunter) we got busy doing some fun stuff.

812825_10151423805625186_214894369_o

Here are group is “consulting” with our client on the mock site we are to design. Our client, “Robbie Wave” was a surfer dude, who really wanted some fruit to make radical smoothies, man. 🙂

We got our first Design Task! Small groups formed and we had about 2 hours to design for very different clients.

In only two weekends, I feel that my design lens has grown, changed and become a bit more refined.  While I would have thought about sun and wind patterns before, I now have very specific places to look for that information, plus a framework to plug it all into.

So what did our group design?  We put together a two phase plan for our client, “Robbie”.  We first tackled the “social” aspect of design and determined that our client was a wee bit lazy, didn’t really want to spend much time fussing with plants and preferred waves over watering.  But he was keen on making smoothies so we used the sun, wind and water patterns we could determine to plan a banana circle, a lilikoi trellis, row of papaya trees, a surinam cherry and a few pineapple, to be located steps from his main entrance door. A few feet farther away, we planned for a dwarf mango and another coconut tree, with further plans for more shade in Phase Two.  Next to where he hangs his surfboards, a small worm bin and patch of kale.  “Robbie” was a single guy who really didn’t like the kids riding their bikes into his yard but liked to have a few ladies around, so we planned a scented gardenia hedge for the front of his yard, to attract pollinators- of all kinds. 🙂  He told us he wanted some chickens too, but again, the human factor led us to make chickens part of Phase Two, after he got clearance from the property owners and kept the kale alive for a few months.  We hope “Robbie” was satisfied with our preliminary foodscape plan and look forward to bartering our Design Services for Surf Lessons. 🙂

image

Our view from the parking lot shows a freeway in the distance, ocean a bit farther and Starbucks across the street. 🙂

image

HARC’s new purpose is to support small scale diversified agriculture through testing and research. They have extensive lab space, but a tiny budget.


5 Comments

When a Gardener Goes Permie

IMAG1977Part One of Six:

Our first weekend of the Oahu Permaculture Design Course began here, in the amazingly beautiful Waiahole Valley.  If you have never heard of permaculture, check out anything by Bill Mollison or do a quick Google search. Then promptly find the closest design course, sign up, learn and become a converted Permie. It didn’t take much convincing for me really, one of the things I learned this weekend was that I’m already there. I may not have the skills and technical knowledge yet, but I realized that a good chunk of my life has been living many of the the Earth Care, People Care, Resource Share values.

Our group of about 20 will spend 6 weekends together in different areas of Oahu, experiencing and learning from the ahuapua’a system. I wrote about this system earlier here. What I’m most excited about, in addition to the fantastic learning that we are doing, are the relationships we will build and grow together. It’s hard to find people who are on the same page. Many friends whom I love and adore, have glazed eyes when I start jabbering on about food security and companion planting.  I seem to have found my peeps in Permies. 🙂

IMAG1969

We spent time working a taro patch (lo’i) preparing for planting, a fair bit of time chasing goats back into their designated areas, and admiring the hard work of ducks fertilizing a fallow lo’i.

I took more than a dozen pages of detailed notes in a large unlined notebook. My brain was engaged in a way that it hasn’t been since grad school and I’m so thankful for our instructors. We are a lucky bunch! So many people have to travel far for a permaculture course, and ours is in our backyard.

The other obvious advantage to doing this type of course on working farms is the knowledge one gains about the rhythms of life.  I spend a lot of time outside, but in urban areas, all those places are managed places. I came face to face with more species and life in one weekend than in weeks in town! From bugs, to birds to crops, this place is teeming with life and I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience it.

There are many changes happening in our lives, which is the reason my little blog was put on the back-burner for many months. We are settling into our life as adoptive parents and I am perhaps most excited about being able to share my new knowledge with my children, and pass a very important set of skills to them.

 

 

 

IMAG1972

A recently planted lo’i (taro, Kalo)

IMAG1970

Cacao (chocolate) not yet ripe, on the tree

IMAG1967

Taro (Kalo) in different stages of growth