“A penny saved is a penny earned,” and we are having the opportunity to see this put into practice while visiting some of the “townships” around Cape Town, South Africa. Folks here have grown their own food for centuries — something we used to do in Hawaii. It is time to revisit those days and become more self sufficient.
Let’s apply this effort to gardening enterprises. High food costs are everyone’s headache these days. Yards and lanais offer prime opportunities to help cut those costs by planting vegetables and flowers.
You can design an attractive plot that will produce both cut flowers and fresh vegetables. Both require regular fertilization and spraying for insects and diseases, so they are a natural, together. In selecting the plot, remember that most annuals and vegetables must have a full six- to eight-hour sunbath per day.
Next comes the problem of selecting what to plant. Choosing plants by height is one approach. Some taller growing annuals for the back areas of the garden are cleome and sunflower. Some taller vegetables to try are Hawaiian super sweet corn, trellis tomatoes and Manoa wonder beans.
In the center rows and toward the front, consider the medium height plants. Tuberose, salvias, tall ageratum, giant dahlias and gypsophilla are examples. Vegetables include peppers, squash and Waimanalo long eggplant. For low edging, you might use allysum, petunias, verbena, dwarf phlox or some of the dwarf nasturtiums. Kai choi, won bok, Manoa lettuce and parsley are good varieties of vegetables. For selecting the best varieties, contact your University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Extension office.
You can try your hand at success by using the organic approach, conventional approach or a combination.
Organic gardening differs from “conventional” gardening mainly in the areas of fertilization and pest control. The organic gardener uses natural and organic materials and methods, whereas the conventional gardener will use a combination of all materials and methods shown to be effective and safe for himself and the environment.
Select a plot of good, well-drained soil near a water supply. It should be close to the home for convenience but should not be shaded by tall buildings or trees. Enclosing the garden spot with a fence is usually profitable since wild pigs and chickens can destroy your efforts overnight.
Many gardeners find it helpful to draw out on paper the location of each row and the crop or succession of crops to be planted.
Since organic fertilizer and soil conditioning materials are slow working in general, they should be mixed into the soil at least three weeks ahead of planting and the soil thoroughly prepared for the seed or transplants.
Natural and organic materials that yield plant nutrients upon decomposition are often available for purchase either separately or in combination. These materials may be applied separately or combined, used in the compost pile, or mixed with manure.
Rock phosphates are natural deposits of phosphate in combination with calcium. They are hard and yield phosphorus slowly. When finely ground and with impurities removed, the powdery material is only slightly soluble in water, but may be beneficial to plants in subsequent seasons following application. A more readily available form of phosphorus is treble super phosphate.
Potassium is widely distributed in nature. Wood ashes, banana peels, seaweed, potash salts and ground rock potash are used alone, or in combination with other materials.
An advantage for using organic materials as fertilizers is that they contain many of the secondary or micronutrients also needed by the plants in addition to nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Reducing the acidity of the soil is the primary purpose for using lime in the garden. However, liming materials also provide nutrients for plant use. Lime to sweeten the soil should be applied only when the needs have been established by a reliable soil test. Apply lime well in advance of the planting date and mix well with soil.
Use of organic materials as soil conditioners and fertilizers tends to improve the ability of the soil to retain moisture.
During periods when infestations of various garden pests are high, control by natural means becomes very difficult. However, the following practices will help to reduce losses.
Plant pest resistant varieties. Select pest-free transplants. Keep out weeds that harbor insects and diseases. Water in the morning so plants are not wet at night. Dispose of severely diseased plants before they contaminate others.
Many organic gardeners approve of and use sprays and other preparations containing naturally occurring materials such as neem. Pyrethrin, rotenone and nicotine are examples of natural poisons from plant parts. These give some control to some insects under certain conditions. Natural predators should be encouraged wherever possible.