As they do in Africa, let’s grow our own money
“Apenny saved is a penny earned” was a popular saying back in the good old days of Ben Franklin. Now, we add on a few zeroes to make “dollars saved are dollars earned.”
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 had to grow their own food for centuries. It is something we used to do in Hawaii before World War II. It is time we revisit those days to become more self-sufficient.
Let’s apply this effort to gardening enterprises. High food costs are everyone’s headache these days. As a result, yards and lanais are prime opportunity to help cut food costs. You can do it by planting vegetables and flowers. If you’re going to a have a top-notch garden, it’s time to plan the planting layout. Surplus vegetables and flowers may be shared, bartered or sold at local farmers markets.
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 full six- to eight-hour sunbath per day.
Next comes the vexing problem of what to plant. Choosing plants by height is one problem-solving 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 UH tomatoes and Manoa wonder beans.
In center rows and toward the front, consider medium-height plants. Tuberose, blue salvia, tall ageratum, giant dahlias, red salvia 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 local UHCTAHR Extension office.
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.
You can try your hand at success by using the organic approach or the 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 us a combination of all materials and methods shown to be safe, effective and nondetrimental to himself or his environment.
Here are some steps to aid you in supplying your vegetable needs:
Select a plot of good, well-drained soil near a water supply. It should be close to the home for convenience but 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 can be applied to the garden separately or combined, used in the compost pile, or mixed with manure.
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 could be beneficial to plants in subsequent seasons following application. The reaction of phosphate rock with acids from decaying organic matter tends to make the phosphorus slowly available to garden plants. 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. Materials such as wood ashes, banana peals, seaweed, potash salts and ground rock potash are used alone, or in combination with other materials. Since the potash bearing materials vary so much in composition and rate of decomposition, specific application rates must be determined for each material and its combination.
An advantage for using organic materials as fertilizers is they contain many of the secondary or micro nutrients 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 such naturally occurring materials such as gypsum (calcium and sulfur) and dolomite (calcium and magnesium).
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. Calcium and magnesium are the two elements most commonly provided by lime. Lime, to sweeten the soil, should be applied only when the needs are established by a reliable soil test. Apply lime well in advance of the planting date, preferably two to three months before. Mix well with the soil and keep moist for best reaction.
Use of organic materials as soil conditioners and fertilizers tends to improve the ability of the soil to retain moisture. Also, a good garden mulch will conserve soil moisture. Among the benefits of mulch are that it conserves soil moisture, conserves nutrients, reduces soil erosion, reduces weed growth and provides 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 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. If you have room for a medium-sized tree, plant neem since it can be used in many ways.
Natural predators should be encouraged wherever possible.
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