Learning how to garden in Paradise

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

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?