In 2005 I bought this sweet small house on an acre of land consisting of nothing but a’a lava rock. Then in May of 2008, I started this blog. I began to share photos and write about how that acre of lava was developing (or not developing).
Since late spring of this year, I was given a home that is closer to the college where I teach, closer to town, and has land that will actually grow something. It is still rocky, but the lava has decomposed enough that it manages to provide more of the lush greenery for which Hawai`i is known.
While I lived in Ocean View, I complained about not being able to grow anything, or at best what did stay alive was growing at a snail’s pace! Now my complaint goes in the opposite direction – everything grows too quickly! This view into the side yard was taken in April.
Two months later in June, it was so overgrown that no one could walk through it! There is a lot of work to be done still, but with the help of some friendly landscapers, it is beginning to take shape. I’ll post more pictures as things start to look beautiful again.
I look forward to cleaning out this little area with its raised beds. It is a perfect spot for growing herbs, or starting seeds, or potting seedlings, and more. The purple sweet potatoes growing here were probably from starts the previous owner was tending. I will transplant some of those into a backyard garden.
Friends have given me lilikoi seedlings and several white pineapple plants. So much to look forward to here!
When I returned from my trip to California mid-June, I saw how much some of my plants had grown. Of course, a few things had run their course and were regrouping for the next growth spurt.
For instance, a few little snippets of ivy geranium that I’d broken from a friend’s plant had actually grown and was covered with brilliant magenta blossoms. What richness! Above is a single bloom. Here is a view of several together.
The brugmansia that had given its first bloom a month before, now had eight trumpets hanging! After waiting several years for a blossom, I can now count on it giving me flowers regularly. Those eight have died now, and six more are waiting to open. I think I was too excited to hold the camera still, or maybe it was the wind blowing the blooms, but you can the difference between my one lonely first bloom and now.
I had planted one small piece of orchid cactus given to me by a friend. I started looking up “orchid cactus” with Google and found many sites that said it is neither a member of the orchid family, nor is it a true epiphyllum. So far I haven’t found a site that tells me exactly what it is, other than it is related to a desert cactus. I’ll keep looking. Whatever it may be (or not be), the bloom was beautiful. I found it when I went out to water mid-day on July 3.
At the beginning of May, I planted some heritage canna bulbs from Old House Gardens. One was a Florence Vaughn Canna (1893), and the other was a Canna Indica (1596). Until they bloom toward the end of summer or in the fall, the leaves are flamboyant and perky. There is something rather wholesome about having plants from bulbs that come from a line that is over 400 years old!
I want to put in a plug here for Old House Gardens. I ordered a sampler package from them online, then got a phone call from a woman there who wanted to know my elevation, what kind of soil I had, typical range of temperature, and the like. Before she put together my sampler, she wanted to know what might grow best here. Everything they sent me has grown beautifully! I can’t say the same thing for another company that sent me bare root plants. After a year, not one of them has done anything! Very disappointing!
These gladiolus bulbs were also from Old House Gardens. This picture was taken on June 27, and they were about half the size they are now. Everything is growing amazingly fast! You can see the cannas growing in several spots behind the glads.
This pikake plant was a gift at our Garden Club Christmas party. I have since planted it in the ground in one of my “lasagna” patches and it’s about twice this size. I took this picture because of the blooms, which are incredibly sweet smelling.
By the time I take pictures and get them into this blog, the plants have at least doubled in size, but I keep trying to let you know how things are growing. This small potted lime tree was covered with little limes that are now about three times as big. I picked off some of the smaller ones to allow the others to grow to a decent size.
There is a fresh crop of veggies coming up, too. Everything here is two or three times this big, also, just since I took these photos two weeks ago!
Only a few kale plants came up, but even those few were looking hearty.
Then I went out one morning and this is what I saw! Something had completely stripped the leaves. Feeling a bit like I was closing the barn door after the horses were out, I cut the bottom out of yogurt containers and stuck them around each plant. At least it will keep whatever was eating them from getting any new growth. And there are already new leaves cropping up in the middle of this disaster.
I did the same thing with the Thai hot peppers that I’d recently planted. I didn’t want the “flesh-eating” bugs to get them, too!
I should probably pick off the beautiful flowers from the Siam Basil, but the bees seem to love it, so I just leave them alone. It’s such a treat to see the bees actually working. I may even decide to keep a hive of my own.
This photo gives you a better idea of how some of these plants are laid out. At the far end you’ll see the Siam Basil, Holy Basil, and regular Sweet Mammoth Basil. You can see my three Thai hot peppers, and the pathetic stripped kale. At this end is a luxurious patch of Greek oregano. You can probably see the pieces of gutter guard I’ve placed over new seedlings of spicy mesclun and a blend of loose leaf lettuce seedlings. It’s not just bugs I need to watch for, but birds – and Kaimana (my cat) who loves to dig in what he considers his private litter box! In the bottom left-hand corner, you see the source of the squash vine.
Here is a closer view of how I’ve put the gutter guard material over the freshly planted seeds. Since I took this picture, the seeds are up about ½ inch. I also placed the same material over okra and arugula seeds.
Another good use for gutter guard is shown here. I was sent some heritage Moon ‘n’ Stars watermelon seeds from my Cuz’n Don in Mississippi. I made a circle around each hill with three seeds in each one. Several of them already have sprouts about an inch high. I may even get a watermelon out of this.
Several people have asked to see my front garden patch from a couple angles.
It doesn’t take a lot of space to provide good food. From these little beds in front, bigger beds in the back, and even the beets growing among the daylilies in my patio, I can keep myself with a healthy supply of food. Here is a bunch of arugula, lettuce, other mixed greens, herbs, and the onion-tasting flowers from the chives – all ready for a big salad. I ate the whole thing, with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and crumbled feta cheese!
Writing this has made me hungry! Must be time to go pick a few leaves and eat lunch!
Even though we don’t have as well-defined a change in season as most locations on the mainland and other parts of the world, there is a certain feel to this time of year. For me, it is a time when I simply have to pull up what has stopped producing and prepare the beds for new plantings. That time came for me this past week. Between the rain and the wind, I was able to do a little of that.
I was down to a few bug-eaten leaves on the mustards and collards, so those were pulled up and fed to the chickens. The same thing was true of my string beans, although I have new beans planted and they are already sticking up their heads.
I was able to get my potted Bearss Lime into a larger pot. I need to trim this back a little bit, although you aren’t supposed to do a lot of pruning on citrus plants. I still haven’t decided if I’ll keep it in a large pot or if I’ll try to put it into the ground eventually.
The four small beds I have by the driveway were cleared out. I thought I’d empty out the sweet potato bed because it didn’t look like anything was happening, and look what I found! So I replanted a few of the tiny ones.
All that is left in the other three small beds is one pineapple that is slowly growing, the chives, and cilantro. You can see that I’ve put scrap pieces of lattice behind the back two beds. When I plant things like eggplant or bitter melon, they can grow up and over the lattice.
You may remember where I wrote about my “pig dirt” in other posts. Here it is as I was hauling buckets of it into other areas of my plot. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to see how high this pile is because of the angle of the camera.
I finally got down far enough that it wasn’t feasible to keep shoveling it up and into buckets. So I decided to put a border of lava stones around the outside. I thought I would make a large round bed for planting. Here is my meager beginning of that process. You can see the veggies still growing in the small beds.
A friend commented that I wasn’t creating a round bed, but a square bed with rounded corners. It doesn’t matter what you call it, but with a little work, it’s starting to take shape. I still need to put more stones on the larger side to delineate the path where I’ll put black cinder.
Here is a close up of the small crescent bed on the left. You can see where I’ve put small stones to divide it into patches. I’ve put in three kinds of basil and Greek oregano. Everything is starting to sprout.
It feels like everything in my yard is without color, that it’s all just a shade of gray and an occasional touch of light green, but this is that “in between time” before things start to look lush again.
I have a few patches in all my beds that haven’t been planted yet. The seed packets are on my table, ready for sowing. This next week is Spring Break, so maybe I’ll be able to get around to a few gardening activities.
Some plants seem to do well by moving the lava rocks, dumping in soil, and putting in a rooted cutting. For regular garden vegetables, however, this method doesn’t work.
The only way to have veggies is to build raised beds. There are many advantages to raised beds, and especially when you are dealing with a yard of lava. With the help of a friend, I built several small beds.
Local friends have a piggery nearby, and they have been helping me out with their dump truck full of cured “pig dirt.” Their real soil, added to the natural by-product of pigs, mixed in with my compost material, creates rich soil. I wish I could cover my whole acre with it! It doesn’t look as big in the picture as it really is (next picture). I’d already used a lot of it before I took this shot.
Gradually, I shoveled buckets of it into the beds with visions of fresh veggies floating through my brain. I’d been hungry for beets, so that was the first thing I planted. They looked so pretty growing in their rows.
The first picture above shows my first harvest of little beets (the other produce there is not from my garden). I cooked up the greens first, because they don’t last very long once they’re picked. I’ve eaten all the beets now, so it’s time to plant more.
I also picked a mess of collards and mustards from the small beds. For just one person, the small beds are ample.
This past week, the same friend helped me build a larger bed out by the shed. We bought 4X4 lumber on sale at Lowe’s and created this 8’X4′ bed. I put cedar mulch in the bottom to keep the soil from dropping down into the lava too quickly, and now I’ve started to shovel in more “pig dirt.” As soon as it’s full of soil, I’ll plant more veggies.
I’ll build a few more of these larger beds. As you can see, it will take a lot of buckets before I fill this bed! This represents only three buckets of “pig dirt.”
I can hardly wait to show you pictures of the new veggies that will be growing here. So far, the wild local mouflin sheep haven’t decided to eat my produce before I do.