Vegetables and annual flowers are 4-H good mates


Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which reminds us it’s good to be in the know when it comes to good mates. We can also apply this concept to our gardening enterprises. High food costs are everyone’s headache these days. Yard and lanai gardens provide an opportunity to help cut food costs. If you’re going to a have a top-notch garden, it’s time to plan the planting layout.

One of the best ways to get in the gardening know is to “learn by doing,” which is a motto for Hawaii’s 4-H youth program. 4-H is sponsored by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. It is open to youth, ages 5 to 19, of all ethnic, cultural, economic and social backgrounds. Adults can get involved by being 4-H leaders. If you don’t feel you know enough about gardening to be a leader, you may get involved in the master gardeners program. This series of classes is also sponsored by UHCTAHR. Ty McDonald is the coordinator and may be reached at 322-4884 or tym@hawaii.edu.

For more information on 4-H, contact Natalie Cross, program assistant at the Kona UHCTAHR in Kainaliu. She can be contacted at 322-0166 or ncross@hawaii.edu.

In the meantime, here are some tips to get started. By designing a combination, you can have an attractive spot that will produce cut flowers, as well as fresh vegetables. Both require regular fertilization and spraying for insects and diseases, so they are a natural, together.

In selecting the plot, remember most annuals and vegetables must have a six- to eight-hour sunbath every day.

When choosing plants, selecting by height is one approach. Some taller growing annuals for the back of the garden are cleome and sunflower. Taller vegetables include Hawaiian sweet corn, trellis tomatoes and Manoa wonder beans.

In the center rows and toward the front, consider medium-height plants. Tuberose, salvias, tall ageratum and gypsophilla are examples. Vegetables include peppers, squash and Waimanalo long eggplant. For low edging, you might use allysum, petunias, dwarf phlox or dwarf nasturtiums. The Waianae strain of kai choi, won bok, Manoa lettuce and parsley are good varieties of vegetables.

With up to 100 annuals and vegetables to choose from, it shouldn’t be a problem to fill the garden with many kinds of colorful and useful plants.

Organic gardening differs from conventional gardening mainly in the areas of fertilization and pest control. Organic gardeners use natural and organic materials and methods, whereas conventional gardeners use a combination of all materials and methods shown to be safe, effective and nondetrimental to themselves or the environment.

For vegetables, select a plot of good, well-drained soil near a water supply, close to the home for convenience but not shaded by tall buildings or trees. Enclosing the garden spot with a fence can be helpful.

Many gardeners find it helpful to sketch the location of each row and the crop before planting.

Contact the master gardener hot line from 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays for information on vegetables suited to Hawaiian gardens, and helpful tips. Call 322-4892.

Organic fertilizer and soil-conditioning materials are slow-working and should be mixed into the soil at least three weeks before planting. Prepare the soil: clumps of unrotted organic materials not only interfere with seeding, but may result in nutrient deficiency and disease problems.

Natural and organic materials that yield plant nutrients upon decomposition are often available for purchase.

Rock phosphates are natural deposits of phosphate in combination with calcium. Raw materials dug from the earth are very hard and yield phosphorus very 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. Broadcast the material over the soil surface and work into the topsoil at least three weeks before planting. Manure or other organic fertilizer should be added at this time.

Potassium is widely distributed in nature. Wood ash, banana peels, seaweed, potash salts and ground rock potash are used alone or in combination with other materials. Specific application rates must be determined for each material and its combination.

An advantage of using organic fertilizers is they contain many of the secondary or micronutrients also needed by the plants in addition to nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Besides the general amounts of secondary or micronutrients found in most organic materials, certain ones are concentrated into materials such as gypsum and dolomite. Reducing the acidity of the soil is the primary purpose for using lime in the garden, but liming materials also provide nutrients for plant use. Calcium and magnesium are provided by lime. Lime to sweeten the soil should be applied only when the needs have been established by a reliable soil test. Apply lime two or three months before the garden is planted. Mix well with the soil and keep moist for best reaction.

In irrigating the garden, it is advisable to thoroughly wet the soil once a week unless sufficient rain falls, so the soil is moistened throughout the root zone. Light sprinklings tend to wet the surface and encourage shallow root growth. Use of organic materials as soil conditioners and fertilizers improves the soil’s ability to retain moisture. A good garden mulch conserves soil moisture and nutrients, reduces soil erosion and weed growth and provides a barrier between fruit and soil. It also moderates the soil temperature.

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 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.