Over the past couple of years, due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, many people found themselves spending more time at home while supply chain issues left some grocery stores sparsely stocked. As a result, many people turned to gardening and started to grow their own food. If it is one of your New Year’s resolutions, this is a great time to start.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Sun – How much sunlight does your growing area receive? Note: The sun pattern shifts throughout the year so it is helpful to observe how the sun changes in your garden. What do you want to grow and how much sun does it need?
- Water – How much rainfall does your area receive? Will you be using a rain barrel to capture the water? Will you be watering your garden by hand or do you have an irrigation system? Your water source should be easily accessible to water your garden.
- Wind – Is there anything that will prevent air flow to your plants, or on the flip-side, do your plants need protection from the wind? Once the plants grow to full size, will they crowd each other and provide favorable conditions for insects and disease? Does the wind funnel through the area and damage or dry out the plants?
In addition to the environmental conditions, don’t forget to think about where you will be planting. Are you going to plant directly in the ground or in raised beds or in planters/pots? If you have compacted soil, it may be easier to grow in a raised bed or pots to avoid backbreaking work to prepare the soil for planting.
Do you know what’s in your soil? Soil is made up of organic matter, sand, silt and clay. Whether you have clay or sandy soil, adding organic matter to the soil is beneficial as organic matter will improve the water holding capacity of sandy soils and help with drainage in clay soils. The Agricultural Diagnostic Service Center at the University of Hawai‘i does basic analysis of your soil for pH, salinity and nutrients. They also offer other diagnostic services. Here is a link for more information: ctahr.hawaii.edu/Site/ADSC.aspx.
Now, for the best part: What do you want to grow? Whether it’s flowers or vegetables, you can jumpstart your garden by purchasing seedlings or plants to plant directly into your garden. If the plants you want are not available, another option is to grow your own plants from seeds. It can be beneficial to germinate seeds in a pot first and then when the seedlings are big enough to fend for themselves against pests and the elements, you can gently separate the seedlings and choose the ideal location to plant them. Plants such as peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, marigolds and zinnias can be grown this way.
Underground root vegetables like radishes and carrots, where the roots don’t like to be disturbed, should be grown by planting the seeds directly into the soil. Plants with small seeds like lettuce can also be planted directly into the soil and thinned out as the plants get bigger. Seed packets provide helpful information regarding the ideal spacing between plants, how tall the plant will grow, and sun and water requirements.
If you have questions or are looking for additional information, I recommend the University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) homepage (ctahr.hawaii.edu/site/Info.aspx) and the CTAHR Master Gardener page (ctahr.hawaii.edu/UHMG/general-resources.asp).
Happy planting! Stay tuned for more garden related articles in future issues.
Amy Tsuneyoshi grew up playing in the mud and still finds joy in getting her hands in the soil. She grows a variety of edible and ornamental plants in her urban jungle as well as native Hawaiian plants. She has a degree in Horticulture from the University of Hawai‘i, Mänoa, and is currently the President of the Friends of Hälawa Xeriscape Garden.