Wednesday | August 16, 2017
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Garden Guy: A few tips to help sprout a green thumb

Not a green thumb?

All is not lost — please read on.

Many people repeatedly fail when attempting a vegetable garden, as well as other plantings. One solution is to build raised beds and in some instances, this might be the best approach. But before building an expensive raised bed, a little investigation and a few changes could produce the desired bountiful garden.

First of all, efforts need to be directed toward modifying the soil. Here are some important considerations:

1. The pH could be too low for good growth, a common occurrence in Hawaii. In this case, an application of lime will rectify the situation.

2. Soil nutrient levels might be deficient; common elements lacking are potassium, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium. These can be corrected with the addition of the proper fertilizer. Nutrient deficiencies and pH imbalances can be diagnosed with a soil analysis.

3. The soil might be contaminated by plant pathogenic fungi.

Additional inquiries should include learning the proper planting dates. Failures in the garden are occasionally caused by planting cool season vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli and cabbage in the summer or warm season crops such as peppers and tomatoes in the winter. Moreover, the wrong varieties are often planted. Reading the publications available on the CTAHR website,, will reveal which varieties do well in Hawaii.

These are a handful of factors that might assist you in developing a green thumb and a lush garden. Don’t give up. First obtain a soil analysis, and then educate yourself: read about the plants you want to grow. Take gardening classes. Use the CTAHR website along with

HELP! After air-layering a very healthy branch of my double pikake plant, it was ready to cut and plant. It’s been a week since planting and now the leaves are slowly dropping. Is this normal? I realize it must be in a state of shock. What can I do? Thank you for your help. — Pat

Yes, the new tree is probably under some type of environmental stress. Having been just cut from the mother plant, conditions need to be close to ideal in order to help make a transition from the ‘mother’ to being on its own. A hot, dry period during the acclimatizing phase could be harmful. On the other hand, excessive water can cause root rotting fungi to grow and attack the newly sprouted roots.

A couple of other considerations: The air layered segment might have been removed from the plant a little too soon, thus, not enough root development. Again, under ideal conditions, it could still survive. The tree might have been heavily infested with insects such as whitefly, mites or scale. Vog might have played a part. With pikake, one or a couple of nights with temperatures in the low 60s will shut down flowering. Perhaps the cool nights would also cause leaf drop in a stressed cutting.

All things considered, the air layered segment isn’t necessarily dead, so there is really nothing to do at this time. If the roots are still healthy (white), new leaves might soon emerge.

Nutritional value of avocados

The oily pulp of the avocado fruit is highly rich in protein, vitamin C, several B vitamins, potassium and other minerals. The fruit is also a good source of vitamins A and E and has a high content of soluble fiber. An avocado is also an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids, the type that plays a significant role in lowering bad cholesterol. Cardiologists noted diets high in this fat have lower incidences of heart disease.

Avocados have the highest protein concentration of any commercially produced fruit. They routinely exceed 2.3 percent protein per unit fresh weight. The oil in avocados can be used as a natural skin moisturizer, cleansing cream, makeup base, sunscreen, lipstick, bath oil and hair conditioner.

Hilo resident Nick Sakovich is a professor emeritus of the University of California. He has worked in the field of agriculture for 30 years. Email your questions to Sakovich at


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