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  • Nancy Redfeather

Get Ready for Spring! Hawai’i Seed Growers Share Their Garden Plans for 2024

Updated: Mar 19

The idea for this blog started with Glenn Teves musing about getting ready for the spring growing season in Hawai’i and wondering what the other growers were doing……so I decided to ask them. 


 

Planning ahead for your spring vegetable garden will help you to be more aligned with the garden treats you bring to your kitchen table. 


I know in Hawai’i we can grow all year around, but in spring when the sun begins to rise toward the mid-heaven from its southern winter arc, the amount of available light increases and the Earth, which has been kind of “resting” in Hawai’i through the winter months (November -February), begins to awaken with increased energy and growth forces.  After gardening in Hawai’i for 46 years I see that and I’m sure many of you do also.  Also, each island has its unique micro-climates with their challenges and opportunities.  In Kona, April begins our wet season and for the rest of the state, the dry season begins.  Overall, the weather slowly begins to warm, the daily hours of light grow longer, and the plants are happier!



Check out the Spring Growing Plans

of 8 of our Seed Growers

 

Glenn Teves, Puakala Farm. Ho'olehua, Molokai


Spring is right around the corner but first we need to get through Kaulua, when summer and winter collide into spring. I try to predict what the season will be like, which is close to impossible but I can get real close in terms of temperatures and what crops will grow under these conditions. The islands are very different in terms of weather and also pests - which are blowing up! As an example, strong winds have made it difficult for caterpillars and flying insects, and this allowed the brassicas to thrive, but I know it’s not the case on all islands and locations. 

 

I’m trying to predict 2-3 months down the road, but for me the wind direction is the real spoiler and can wreak havoc in many crops especially the top-heavy ones.


Without windbreaks, you’re gambling too much. The wind direction will determine the amount of rain, and worse are the slow moving southerly storms that we’ve experienced on Molokai through the entire month of January, easily bringing 25 inches.  At the same time Windward areas like Hilo and Puna were fairly dry.

 

For spring planting this year, I have my favorites and will definitely plant them. These include bulb onions before March, chili peppers, lettuce, eggplant, tomatoes, and pak choy. The 'iffy' crops include watermelons, cucumber, and squash. The fruit flies are here hiding in the bushes. If the Bragada bugs arrive, this will be the end of all brassicas with the exception of a few collard varieties. 

 

A minimum of three 200-cell trays of seedlings can make up for lost crops on our farm which is a trifecta of seed crops, subsistence, and market garden crops. For each new month a few summer vegetables can be added to the mix. 

 

The take home message here is diversity builds resilience! Don’t put all your eggs in one basket or it just might get scrambled. 

 

You can follow Glenn’s work on Instagram @puakalafarm

 

Britton Price, GoFarm Hawai’i Alae (N.Hilo) and Milk and Honey Pahoa, Hawai’i Island

 

A farmers life is busy in the spring! In February we wind down some of the orchard crops, so everything that has completed fruiting is getting pruned. This tends to be a large and timely task that takes a good deal of the focus.

 

I also set out some air layers while pruning, and with the budding avocadoes I have some grafting chores this time of year as well. If I am planting trees I like to get them in by the end of March so they can gather the good rainfall before the drier summer months arrive.


As for our veggie production, we aim simply for an assortment of kitchen crops that can handle the still chilly mid 60's degree air we experience through April at 550ft on the East Side of Hawaii Island. We focus on leafy greens and herbs, our peppers can wait until late April when the nights should be warmer.


In the greenhouse we are sowing early spring crops like green onions, cilantro, kale, and some of our favorite Asian greens like pak choi, won bok, komatsuna, and tatsoi.


Last year we saved seed from UH Manoa lettuce, which showed impressive bolt resistance during the long hot summer! We will replant those seed along with Canasta.


This is also the time of year we get our plantings of kalo successions started. The huli are planted every 3 weeks so we will have a steady supply of kalo to bring to the table throughout the year. 


This winter Jay's tomatoes (a Kipahulu variety) was really successful for us - avoiding powdery mildew and giving us piles of golf ball sized cherry tomatoes every day. We will reseed those and start seeding other varieties in the next few weeks. Most of the crops we are growing out for seed will wait to get started until late spring in hopes of a dry ripening in the summer months.

 

At this time of year, I like to seed the nitrogen-fixing tree/shrub crops - our coppicing crops that will be planted out and used for summer shade and mulch. Our favorites are pigeon pea, caliandra, gliricidia, and sunn hemp. These nitrogen fixing crops are great in your summer garden to provide some welcome shade during the long and hot days of summer.

 

At GoFarm Alae, beginner farmer students are just wrapping up their 9-month training cohort so all of the students fields will be entering a 60-70-day cover crop recovery period and veggie planting will resume in early May after cover crops are mowed and covered with silage tarps.

 

You can follow GoFarm Hawaii on Instagram @gofarmhawaii and on Facebook

Learn more about their beginner farmer training programs at www.gofarmhawaii.org 

 

Evan Ryan, Pono Grown Farm Center. Makawao, Maui



 

At Pono Grown, I am busy cover-cropping beds, fertilizing, seeding our spring summer crops of tomatoes and cucumbers, and uncovering and sifting compost. I am also seeding my seed crops. It’s a busy time of year!

 

Note:  Evan has also written an excellent book for Hawaii’s home gardeners called Hawaii Home Gardens.  You can check it out at www.hawaiihomegardens.com 

 

You can follow Evan and Pono Grown Farm Center on Facebook and on Instagram @ponogrownfarm and www.ponogrown.org 

 

Haley and Matt, Ahiki Acres. Waimanalo, Oahu



 

The cooler temps make it hard to believe spring is approaching. Our winter crops are thriving- our cauliflower (Song TJS from Johnny's) and radicchio (Vesuvio, Pasqualino, Mirabella from Uprising Seeds) have survived heavy winds and heavy rains these past couple of months. Meanwhile, our lettuce has suffered. Lettuce is our number one crop for production because salad mix is our most popular item at the farmers' market and with our restaurants. Unfortunately, we've been struggling with lettuce production due to heavy rains which "drown" them and high pest pressure from flea hoppers. We've been rigorously trying to increase our soil health and plant health to fend off the flea hoppers. We are avoiding any spraying. 

 

As we enter spring, I'm beginning to start our summer crops in the nursery including cut flowers, basil, eggplant and okra. While I try to get a handle on our lettuce fiasco, we are decreasing lettuce production and planting more beets, carrots, and beans in the field. 

 

I'm also excited for spring because we are about to plant our first cover crop at our new farm and we plan to begin growing vegetables at the new farm by this Summer.

 

You can follow Haley & Matt's farming adventures on Instagram @ahikiacres and learn more about their work at www.ahikiacres.com 

 

Melissa Emond, Kona Sown Farm. Kealakekua, Hawai’i Island


This year at Kona Sown, I am trying to get an early start on planting. I am currently prepping planting areas all over the farm in anticipation for the first real soaking rain. I am going to be ready this year, yay!

 

I will then get my summer crops in the ground - mainly kalo, squash, herbs, ginger, olena (turmeric), pineapple, and eggplant. I have been prepping beds by either hand weeding or solarizing with weed mat and then mulching heavily (at least 6” deep) with horse manure mixed with coffee parchment.


These mulched areas will be ready when I need them and the depth of the mulch will carry my beds through the growing season with only occasional spot weeding needed.


This is the lowest energy method I have found to do a variety of plantings. 

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch in all seasons. 

 

Also, because we just hit our dry season (late, but at least it arrived) and last year we had cold nights into April, I have planted another round of crops I usually only plant in the fall- broccoli, peas, cabbage, & chard. This will hopefully get more of my favorites on the table for more of the year. Fingers crossed. In the new screen house, I have cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and green beans (hopefully for seed). All of which are starting to pick up their rate of growth, Dec/Jan things really slow down.  Spring energy will change that!

 

You can follow Melissa and Kona Sown on Instagram@konasown


Daniela Dutra Elliott, University of Hawai’i Windward Community College, Botany & Horticulture. O'ahu



At the moment my fields are fully planted. We started preparing for cooler weather in November by starting onions from seed and vernalizing garlic. I start planting in January to take advantage of cooler weather. By May, my vegetables have been harvested and I will focus on my tree crops. We take a break from growing vegetables from May to August when temperatures are too high. I will have a nice cover crop growing to get the plots ready for fall. For me, Spring is harvest time!

 

You can follow Daniela at https://www.leeward.hawaii.edu/ag 

 

Donna Mitts, Namoku Farm. Honoka’a, Hawai’i Island


The lead-up to the Spring season starts by pouring over the seed catalogs I’ve been getting in the mail for a few months.  Even though I say I don’t need any more seeds, I end up ordering a few here and there.  Almost all the seed I order is open pollinated, (OP) but sometimes a tantalizing hybrid lettuce or spinach gets through my security system!



Then I check my Hawaiian Moon Calendar and start plotting out WHAT and WHEN to plant!


This Spring, I’m going to be doing a large carrot trial at Namoku.  I have two long beds about 40 feet each that will work well for the trial.  Then I will start thinking about and gathering all the amendments I will need for the soil.  I will pull back the weed cloth that has been helping me keep the weeds down over the winter - the cloth was used to cover the cover crops that were grown in the fall and then pulled up and laid down to decompose on the soil. Then I’ll prepare the beds and plant! I will be trialing 13 varieties of carrots for production, taste, and eventually for seed for the HSGN Marketplace!

 

You can follow Donna’s work and the work of Namoku Farm at https://kohalacenter.org/farmertraining/ohaha

 


Nancy Redfeather, Kawanui Farm. Honalo, Hawai’i Island



 Spring is the time when we begin planting our rounds of corn, popcorn, flour corn, or sweet corn and our Peking Black Southern Pea for the year.  We don’t plant popcorn or flour corn every year but we do plant sweet corn yearly.  Last year we tried the Brewbaker Brittle 9 created by Dr. Jim Brewbaker (available at the Online Marketplace!) and it grew very well with delicious corn.  We saved seed so we will plant it this year also.  We ended up drying some to make corn bread and some ears we froze whole. The reason we like to start growing those 2 crops (corn and black beans) is that the rainy season in Kona usually begins in April and the light is higher in the southern sky.  Corn loves water, sun, and plenty of compost!  We plant a few rounds of corn so that it doesn’t come in all at once, spacing plantings 2-4 weeks apart in blocks.  The Peking Black Southern Pea is the one we settled on after growing many different types of beans over the past 25 years.  It is a subtropical bean from India that is available on the HSGN marketplace. 


We buy 16’ horse fencing panels at LOWES and then cut in half making 8’ sections.  We use this as a trellis for the beans as they grow about 4’ high (the trellis is 4’x8’) and thickly produce many beans that are picked when the pod turns tan.  The beans are set to dry on the lanai and then shelled.  We try and produce a gallon of dried beans once a year.  This year I’m also going back to the Tahitian Squash my favorite variety.  It reminds me of a tropical version of the butternut squash, has a very small seed cavity, thin skin, and dark orange sweet meat. 


This year the HSGN will be conducting experimental field trials of Asian Vegetables that will be planted in the Spring. I will be trialing Red and Purple Shiso and some varieties of daikon (Chinese Radish). Asian vegetables should grow well in this upcoming warm wet season.  It is exciting to be trying new foods that will most likely be well suited to Hawai’i. 

 

The Three Sisters-corn-beans-squash will be the focus of the Spring planting that will be ready to harvest sometime during the summer months.  It rains a LOT in the Spring and Summer in Kona, so only some crops like to grow in that warm wet climate.  Whereas the rest of the state is picking sweet tomatoes, or lovely sweet peppers, or even lettuce, all those varieties melt in the torrential rains of Kona unless covered.  So, over time we have come to planting what likes to grow here in the wet season and what we love to eat. Occasionally doing some experiments. 


For additional information, there are a few HSGN blogs dedicated to growing the Three Sisters Garden that go into much more detail.  You can find them here:

 

 


You can read more about our Seed Growers here.


You can follow Nancy on Instagram @nredfeather, Facebook:  Nancy Redfeather and Kawanui Farm website:  www.kawanuifarm.org 

 

For most of you the Spring season will still be on the cooler side and will become drier as you move toward the summer months that are hot and dry.  Many crops love that kind of weather.  I hope you have enjoyed reading about the wide variety of planning and planting that is going on for the upcoming spring and summer season in Hawaii’s farms and gardens by our seed growers.





Wishing everyone a productive spring and summer planning time over the next few weeks. 

  

Until next time!


With aloha,

 

Nancy Redfeather

The Hawai’i Seed Growers Network


 

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Nancy Redfeather
29 במרץ

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