By Russell T. Nagata
University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
Komohana Research and Extension Center
Hauoli Makahiki Hou! This is the time of year that many of us are making resolutions that we hope to carry out in the coming year.
As you decide on your list of resolutions, consider resolutions that can be tied into your interest of gardening and can have a great and profound impact on your wellbeing as well.
We can resolve that in the coming year we will take better care of ourselves. Related to the garden, this can take many forms. Here in Hawaii, we grow very few apples, but we certainly can grow many other fruits and vegetables, as well as ornamentals that can delight the spirit.
Pledge to have more exercise and the garden is a great place for low, medium impact activities. Walking and working around the yard can be great to keep muscles loose and moving. The garden can also be a place to unwind, reduce the stresses that accumulated during the day.
Promise to eat better and more nutritionally balanced foods, and the best come fresh from the garden. While nearly all of us will never grow enough food to sustain ourselves and our family, we certainly are capable of supplementing our diet with good fresh fruits and vegetables with minimal effort.
Be a little adventurous and try something new.
If the task of growing a new plant is a bit too much to take on, try eating something new and different. If you like it, you can then try to grow it in your own garden. It could be a fruit or vegetable you never tried before, or it could be a new variation of something you have always eaten.
For example: Try an eggfruit or other sapote, or maybe a dragon fruit. As for vegetables, nearly all of us eat red tomatoes, but how about yellow (Yellow Pear), orange (Valencia), dark purple/black (Black Cherry), or even green striped (Green Zebra)?
Lettuce is on of the easiest crops to grow and with a little planning; you can grow all of the lettuce your family require. It comes in many variations of texture, color and from loose leaf to heading types. It will grow in most garden soils, potting media and even hydroponically. Harvest can be done in as little as three weeks, as in baby leaf lettuce, and anywhere until the flower stalk starts to elongate for flowering.
You can also make a resolution that you will plant a tree, maybe a new fruit tree in your yard. Plant something you will eat or use on a regular basis like avocado, tangerine, lemons, limes or perhaps a starfruit. It has been said the best time to plant a fruit tree was yesterday, and the second best day is today. How about a great future shade tree, one that you can sit under and relax on those balmy days?
With the demise of the local honey bee population due to a host of pests preying on honey bees, planting nectar and pollen food source plants can assist in population recovery by providing good sources of food year round. Many of these can add color and fragrance to your garden. There are many choices that you can plant from trees, shrubs and herbaceous annuals. One of my garden favorites is the basil, which comes in a variety of color, taste and aroma. In my garden, basil is one of my indicator plants for honey bee activity.
Gardening can also be great for social interaction, as in comparing notes, produce and plants with friends and neighbors. Share your garden plant knowledge with others and make Hawaii a better place to live. Nearly all schools on Hawaii Island have a school garden program. Volunteer at a local school that has a school gardening program to share your knowledge.
The University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources can help you to get started by providing gardening information through the Master Gardener Program.
Master Gardeners are dedicated volunteers who are trained to assist the general public with gardening questions. They can be reached in Hilo at 981-5199 on Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, or coming to the office at 875 Komohana St. You can also leave them an email message at HIMGA@hawaii.edu. Those in Kona can seek advice from the Kona Master Gardener’s on Thursdays at 322-4892, from 9 a.m. to noon, or in the office at 79-7381 Mamalahoa Highway.
And if you need to know, my garden resolution for 2013, it is to terrace the area behind the house to create a relatively flat lawn area, develop and plant phase 2 of the vegetable garden and to select and plant a few more fruit trees.
For more information on this and other gardening topics, please visit the CTAHR electronic publication website at http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/Site/Info.aspx or visit any of the local Cooperative Extension Service offices around the island. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.