Learning how to garden in Paradise

Bumbye, a never-tested windbreak will get built, but for now, the wind wins.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Favorite Garden Tools

If I were make a list of all the garden tools, gimmicks, contraptions,and da kine that I have accumulated, I would be bored and embarrassed to admit I must have thought so many of them were of some worth to me.
We all know, the cheap tools are going to fail. The good stuff has to be watched closely, lest we leave it out where it "makes a new friend", never to be seen again. Some of the tools we like get used intermittently, but think about the ones you generally always reach for, and the list shrinks a lot. I have just three tools on that list, and one of those is even an optional one.

I am always amazed by those rugged old Felco pruners (OK, secateurs), with the easy to grip handles and easy to sharpen blade. I used to have the kind with the rolly lower handle, but it just didn't work for me. I don't consider a Speedy Sharp as a tool, but it helps to keep an edge on tools, so it sits in the tool cart, and I can touch up the pruner or whatever when I take a rest break.
The best tool I have is the hori-hori, by far. I know, the name means "dig-dig", but this solid stainless steel tool has been a delight since I got it. The handle is easy to hold, and the length of this mini-sword is just right. The serrated edge makes short work of even really tough vines, and you can put enough of a sharp edge on the opposite side to use it to cut a tomato from the vine, or cut through string easily. Weeds, the one thing I excel at growing, don't stand a chance. You can run this thing underneath to sever the roots, or plunge it into the dirt next to a big taprooted weed and work that weed out in no time. I've pried rocks up, hammered garden stakes in (I was in a hurry!), and used it as a quick string-holder to line up my planting. This leather scabbard is great, making it so easy to whip that hori-hori out when needed, then it slips right in again so I don't have to stumble all over the place to find where I laid it down. It makes transplanting a ton easier, holding the planting hole open, then neatly presses the soil back into place. That stainless steel is really quick to clean up. Yup, you gotta get one.

The third tool I like is the Felco folding pruning saw, which has been able to cut a 7-inch diameter tree branch for me when I couldn't find the old (and presumably highjacked) bowsaw. It still is really sharp, even after hundreds of pruning cuts on the roses the citrus trees. Clean cuts ever time make it well worth getting one. It has been reliable for years, which surprises me, since I don't baby any of the tools. What are your favorites?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunset Red Horizon -Harvest time!

Harvest Time!

I watched every day to see the full coloration develop - then, it was time. I clipped the stem and cleaned it off. Wrapped in a bit of paper, I took it to the postoffice and weighed it, when no one was there.

It weighed in at 1 lb 8.9 oz, so I had to make a huge hamburger to do it justice. Alas, I didn't pause to take a picture - but it was delicious! Several nice salads and tomato and avocado sandwiches followed. I saw some red deeper in the bush - if you look back at the title pic of the blog, it was already ripening then. I poked about some more. Another giant was at the back! OK, I'm loving this!

I added the dollar to give it some scale -then we made more great meals, and I haven't even gotten to BLTA's! Hmm, I need to look for more out there. I did put some peaches into the freezer, but I was tired of the blanching, skinning, slicing, da kine. Several times, I just wolfed them down, other times I added some ice cream. I should prune that tree just to burn off the calories. We will miss that tree after next year, when I finally get to come home to stay. I think it might be another 12 or 14 months, but I'm making lots of plans to try out in Maui.

My priority for the garden will be to shield it from the trades that whomp it regularly, so I have been thinking of putting up a big PVC frame and covering it with some fabric that won't shred apart. I probably should see how the pro's do it, so I don't have to do it all trial and error. We'll see if I can devise some steps to get around the steep slope orchard, too, as it is too hard - and dangerous - to scooch along in the clumped grass there. Maybe I get some climbing gear, ropes and safety belt just to play it safe. The previous owner had planted fig, mango, and citrus, but the drip system doesn't seem to work. I gotta get back!

Friday, July 23, 2010

More on learning to garden in paradise:Yams & Roses

1. 1.Maui's climate encourages prodigious growth of everything. Some things grow better at different times of the year, but I know: Everything grows! Take the example of some sort of an Okinawan sweet potato/yam: a pale-skinned tuber withe a thin halo of purple inside one pale white flesh, when first "explanted" as I cleared the vines from one of my squares, was the size of a lumpy soccerball. ( I wish I had taken a picture!) I sheet-composted the vines. I dug deeply to uproot to chase every remaining root. 3 years later, it still mocks me, popping up in some kind of vegetating whack-a-mole game, taking hours of probing and digging each sprout to declare a temporary victory. Whatever possessed a previous gardener to plant it,I can't know. Another case in point: miniature roses planted in the wonderful Maui soil - BAD idea on the previous owner's part! I spend hours carefully digging down to every terminal root. When I come back on the next trip, a few shoots are back, but because they are right near the crotons, I can't use an herbicide - I strive to be an organic gardener, after all!

2. There are some tolerable self-propagaters in the soil, like cilantro, which manages to bolt and then scatter its seeds, becoming like green Doritos in my garden, along with the Thai basil, which stands up to the shredding winds. I also have several Sunrise papayas, including two that popped up right next the front entry, so we can just step out the front door for a nice sweet fruit anytime we want. I'm saving some seeds, but mostly I just pull the little plants that try to grow amongst the roses. I think the birds have been tossing those seeds around.

3. On the leeward side of the house, the tea roses are fun to tease into blooming all year. They had a terrible unrestrained upbringing. I have been patiently teaching them to grow into a semi-somewhat -almost open-vase form. They are so silly! They'll shoot blooms out, then scraggle about, but I've been giving them the lessons my OC roses grew up with: stand up, stand out, don't crowd your neighbors, and be strong. I try to prune them to 4 or 5 canes if I can, taking out the crossing ones and ones trying to get into the center. I follow the old rule of cutting the roses at 1/4" above the second outfacing 5-petal leaf, so the next blooms come outward as well. I'm planning to stuff some alfalfa pellets (horse feed), bone meal, da kine into the soil to keep them healthy. I think they'll like that. I treat them to a snack of Epsom salts, which makes them pop out a passel of pretty flowers. Works every time.

Meanwhile, back in the OC, I'm going to harvest a bumper crop of peaches that toppled the branches over. I'm going to be pruning the tree pretty hard later, but that's probably a good thing. I'll be blanching, slipping skins, and trying both wet and dry packing them for freezing, to see which works best. I never knew one tree could yield so much!

I'm guarding that big Sunset Red Horizon tomato, which is finally starting to color up. Hopefully, I can add some pics to this post. I put a dollar bill under it, to give you an idea how big that puppy has become. Since I don't have a kitchen scale, I'm gonna take to the post office and put it on the postage scale (hee hee!). You can be sure, I will save seeds, both the lazy way (spread to dry on paper towels) and the fermented way, to skim out the duds. One way is a lot easier and simpler. I'm just sayin'.

Finally, just so everyone knows, I do not care a fig for the rules for growing strawberries, since they up and die even when I follow all the rules. I'm trying to train the runners to root into the pockets on that multiloculated pot supposedly made for strawberries. I've been humiliated by so many times by failed plantings in it, it's a wonder that I haven 't stress-tested it with a sledge hammer. But - like it's like the saying about gardening: To plant is to always have hope. ( Or is it to believe in the future?)

Mahalo for reading my blog.

Monday, July 5, 2010

What I've learned in all-too-short visits:

1. Everything seems to grow in Maui. I exempt stone fruits and really cold-loving stuff, but only wind is the great equalizer. Corn looks funny lodged at 45 degrees off vertical.

2. Weeds are so easy to grow - corn is not (as yet).

3. You have to water carefully, as the rain doesn't last long enough, except to spot the windows.

4. It's hard to have too much compost or mulch.

5. I never saw snails the size of small conch, or slugs as big as my hand, all black with a tan stripe, like some sort of race car. They can fly straight down into the gulch really fast.

6. Whatever you knew about trellises, just increase them to supersize, anchored to hold the Queen Mary in port. A block wall isn't enough of a windbreak.

Meanwhile, back in OC, I have only citrus and avocados, with a giant bush of rosemary, making really nice skewers for kabobs. Making a weird appearance peaches have come in like never before, bending and breaking even the big branches, so pruning this year will be easy. Who knew?