It’s amazing what can be grown on even a small plot of land. Farmer Greg Smith, from Earth Matters Farm in Ocean View, knows this and has lots of good ideas about ways to increase and improve our local food supply. He has been quoted as saying “The solution to Hawaii’s current reliance on off-shore produce won’t be found in establishing large 500-acre farms here, but rather in getting 500 one-acre farms growing local produce.”
Smith knows a good example goes a long way toward inspiring local homeowners and small landowners to grow more edibles. In addition to managing several food-producing properties in Ka‘u and selling the produce at the Wednesday and Saturday farmers markets in Keauhou, Smith is actively involved in establishing additional sources and outlets for local produce. He encourages local farmers to grow fresh fruit and vegetables rather than crops that are mostly exported and require lots of processing. He has also offered help to farmers in getting production started and in finding local markets for their produce.
His most recent project is truly inspirational. He’s been hired to turn a small plot behind Mango Court in Kainaliu into a productive garden space to provide produce for Annie’s Restaurant, as well as a showcase edible vegetable garden. It’s a wonderful example of what can be effectively and efficiently produced in a small space.
Mango Court owner David Levenson and his son, Josh, who owns Annie’s Restaurant in Mango Court, decided to try growing some of the crops regularly purchased for the restaurant. They hoped doing so might save some money while ensuring a reliable source of local produce. After discussing the idea with Smith, he agreed to get the project going and continue to consult with them once the installation was complete.
First on the scene with Smith was local bulldozer operator Tommy Hing. He cleared the rocks and large weed growth and created a flat area of about 1,000 square feet for the initial phase of the garden. Smith and a crew of helpers then created about 30 25-square-foot beds, installed drip hose and plugged in seedlings from Smith’s farm. Since one of the restaurant’s largest expenses is lettuce and salad greens, they were the first plants to go in the ground. Just a few weeks after planting, lots of greens are growing on the site, looking healthy and almost ready to eat.
Smith also designed an additional round bed that was being direct seeded with onions last week. Plans to add radishes, beets and chard are under way. Drip hose was in place for those plants, while the dryland taro and white pineapple areas of the design will manage on local rainfall. Toward the makai edge of the plot Smith and workers Justin, Joel and Colton were building mounds for tomatoes and cucumbers that will be irrigated by centrally located bubblers.
In the plans for the plot is establishment of a certified wash station for the veggies and greens. Of course, the area will have to be fenced to keep pigs, chickens and other critters at bay. They plan to put in a chain-link fence once the earth-holding rock wall on the mauka side of the plot is complete. The fence will be an ideal support for lilikoi vines to supply the restaurant with this tasty fruit.
Working with Smith on the installation and hired to oversee the garden is Larry Spinelli, former manager of Mango Court. Mango Court’s landscape maintenance team will also be taking on some of the caretaking of the garden. So far, the project has rapidly taken shape and will soon be providing Annie’s with homegrown produce.
The Mango Court edibles garden is an example of what can be done, one garden at a time in Kona. Smith’s vision is to see this garden succeed and have it inspire others to create their own successful edible gardens. Go by and take a look and get inspired to start or expand your own edible garden.
Tropical gardening helpline
Cynthia asks: I want to plant a few avocado trees at my farm at 1,800-feet elevation. I am hoping to get nearly year-round production. What varieties would you suggest?
Answer: Several varieties that are widely available can be grown for nearly year-round production.
Probably the most commercially popular Hawaiian cultivar is Sharwil. Though it hails from Australia, it has adapted well to Hawaii. In ideal conditions, it will produce high-quality fruit winter through spring.
Greengold was developed here from an open-pollinated seedling of Sharwil. It has a thick green skin and small seed. With a higher yield and greater disease resistance than Sharwil, it is a highly recommended cultivar. In ideal conditions, it will produce fruit from February through June.
Overlapping somewhat with Greengold’s production is the purple-skinned Linda. This tasty cultivar will usually produce fruit from March until May.
Yamagata is the closest we have to a summer-producing fruit. Its pear shaped fruit will usually form and ripen in spring and, in ideal conditions, continue until September.
Kahaluu is a fall producer. A seedling from Kona, it grows well here but is a light bearer, producing round, green fruit from October to November. Another fall producer, Malama, is a heavier producer of oval purple fruit.
December and January are often not heavy production months for avocado, except when weather conditions alter the bloom and fruiting cycle, which lately has often been the case.
Ideal growing conditions for all avocado varieties are usually found at elevations between 600 and 2,500 feet where adequate rainfall and good drainage keeps the soil moist but not wet. Most varieties do better in cooler tropical or subtropical regions. Haas, a popular mainland variety, does not produce well in Hawaii.
A poster with photos of most of the cultivars grown in Hawaii is available through Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers and can be viewed at hawaiifruit.net/Avocado.pdf. For more information on various cultivars check out “What Makes a Good Avocado Cultivar Good?” at ctahr.hawaii.edu/fb/avocado/avocado.htm.
E-mail plant questions to firstname.lastname@example.org for answers by certified master gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.
Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant with an organic farm in Captain Cook.