The Light is Growing: Hawaii’s Cool Season is a Perfect Time to Reinvigorate Your Garden
Yes, it’s still winter! But recently we passed the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox that was known in ancient times as Imbolc...a time when the forces deep within the Earth are beginning to stir… you know that dreamy time before you awake. Perhaps you are feeling the urge to clean up your gardens and start seeds for this next round of growing. As the light begins to grow you are in tune with that impulse.
There is still time to plant cool season crops in Hawaii. The nights are cool and will be cool for the next few months. We are getting some rain and storms that are causing flooding and erosion problems in some areas of the Islands. Nature is showing us the changes and adaptations we need to make for our growing areas to be more resilient. I hope your home garden or market farm safely weathered the last two storms.
Winter is a beautiful time to be out in your garden and observing the seasonal changes that are happening in your ecosystem. As the light begins to grow, all crops begin to respond to that warmth.
Remember it’s not too late to plant Cool Season Crops! Start Now to Harvest in Early Spring!
Lettuce: Almost all varieties of lettuce grow well with cool nights. Right now there are 8 varieties on the Marketplace and all have been grown and vetted in Hawaii’s unique climates. Usually at this time of year lettuce doesn’t bolt, so if that has been a problem for you in the past this is a good time to try again.
Green Beans: Green beans seem to have less pest problems in the cooler season and they produce for a longer period of time.
Peas: They always appreciate a cooler night and day, the cool weather crisps them up!
Tomatoes: Ok… so it’s true that tomatoes like the warmer weather but if you live in an area where it rains a lot in summer plant NOW and you’ll have much better luck. Also this is not the fruit fly season.
Broccoli: Loves the cooler nights and days and will produce side shoots for 1-2 months.
Peppers: If you live in an area that has wetter summers try planting them now.
Corn: As the daylight lengthens sweet corn and popcorn likes to grow. Corn is a plant that is somewhat adapted to cooler temperatures. So, planting can be done as early as possible in the spring which would be the end of February. Seed to mature corn will take between 55-95 days. Plant a block every 4 weeks for a more continous crop for the table.
All Herbs: Great time to get herbs started!!
All Flowers: Great time to start flower seeds either in the ground or in trays for transplanting later. Check out the NEW Bright Lights Cosmos that would be stunning with the Orange Cosmos & Orange Marigolds and a purple or blue flower like Forget Me Not or Love in a Mist. Plan tall Love Lies Bleeding in the background for eye popping color.
Mustard: The Mustards and all the other greens have their best taste in the cooler time of year.
Don’t Forget To Add the Compost!
Adding compost from your finished summer piles will be a welcome addition to any of your garden beds. Winter is a good time to add other organic amendments to the beds that you may have collected or made. Sprinkle wood ash from your fireplace or basalt rock powder. Maybe you have some Korean Natural Farming Preparations. And, if you live in an area where seaweed washes up on the beach, go collecting and add to your compost pile or spread out to dry and crumble into your soil. All seaweed is super high in all the trace minerals found in salt water - a perfect side dish for your garden plants.
Set up a Dedicated Place for Starting Seeds
You probably already have an area dedicated to starting seeds but just in case…..
For the first 25 years I lived in Hawaii, my “nursery” or place where I started seeds was under a tree on a pallet with 4 cinder blocks. Today, I have a small greenhouse and potting shed but that wasn’t always the case. Remember that seedlings like a bright shade to get started as full sun is too bright. Easy access to water is important as seeds and small plants like to be watered frequently. I like to keep a 5 gallon bucket with an old nylon stocking a quarter full of compost soaking in the water, and use that water for watering in new seeds, transplanting, and giving older plants a little pick me up!
A Special Talk Story and reflective garden planning guide that may interest Hawaii’s home gardeners
Professor Robin Wall Kimmerer, Plant Ecologist and author of "Braiding Sweetgrass", spoke recently at UH Manoa. That evening she reminded us that the plants all around us are our wise teachers and our plant relatives. She has much more interesting information for Hawaii’s Gardeners in this link to the inspiring talk.
Listen to the beautiful essay, The Serviceberry, a story authored and read by Robin Wall Kimmerer, that speaks the human relationship to the the precious gifts of Nature.
Inspired by Robin's essay, our friends at Fruition Seeds created a guide to garden planning with Robin Wall Kimmerer that you may find offers thoughtful ideas to contemplate as you reimagine your home garden.
Thinking of you all fondly as we start a new year and growing season.
Hawaii Seed Growers Network