I have always been fascinated with the concept of the “Victory Gardens” that were a mainstay in supplying fresh vegetables and fruit for the home front during both World Wars. The idea of growing food for our own use in a small scale in our own yard has always appealed to me.
Through the years, wherever we have lived, we have had little gardens and big gardens ….but have always had something edible growing in our yard.
The smallest garden was something similar to what the French call a ‘potager’ since I had no yard when living in a first floor condo in Miami, but had a sunny area outside my front door where I had a few herbs and tomatoes growing in large pots.
The largest garden was while living in South Carolina and my husband decided to plant a couple of acres in an area between his office and the plant we owned. The kids called it ‘the truck farm‘ and hated to help harvest the resulting ‘bounty’. Needless to say, we had more than enough to share with the employees, friends and neighbors and anyone with whom we were remotely acquainted!
Since moving to this property 4 and a half years ago, we have planted edibles here and there, but never had an area that was completely devoted to an edible garden….until now.
This past Labor Day weekend we decided it was time.
A few weeks ago the bottom sections of our living room windows were converted from rough, dark cedar wooden panels to clear glass jalousies. The wooden panels are approximately 4 feet long and about 6 inches wide. Loath to get rid of the now discarded wooden panels, we decided to use them in the garden as edges and borders for our beds.
My son Anthony has what I call ten green thumbs. One of his three university degrees is in tropical agriculture and we are now putting to good use whatever he learned at UH-Hilo
I hope you enjoy following our gardening adventures, even though in the beginning it might be a bit boring.
Day 1- Saturday, September 2, 2006
The perimeters of the garden are enclosed on the SW side by our cottage. The NW side is lined with several dwarf banana trees we planted when we first moved here. The NE side is bordered with a large palm, a Caribbean papaya and a Surinam cherry bush that has grown into a small tree.
The SE side is the walking path that ties the upper part of the property where our cottage sits with the car port and main house in the lower section. A large mango tree, another Surinam cherry, a small jaboticaba tree, a patch of yellow heliconia and a traveling palm draped with yellow passion fruit vines line up this last boundary.
Colin, the son of a friend of ours was contracted to bring two pickup loads of ripe compost available for the taking from the Hilo Transfer Station (aka da dump)
The garden area was mowed close to the ground and we mapped out the sites for the beds.
We built a large 8 x 4 bed for the tomatoes and basil and 7 beds that are 4x4 squares. Another area was heavily mulched for our new pineapple bed and we left the little fig where it was originally planted, since it finally decided to start producing fruit….it is now showing two figs!
Photo #1 - Anthony soaking the newspaper padding Bed #1 - (click on each photo for larger versions)
Since we decided it would be an organic garden, we did not use chemicals to get rid of weeds or grass inside the bed areas. Instead, we have been saving newspapers for a couple of months and lined the bottom inside of each bed with several thick layers of newspapers, then hosed them down to thoroughly soak them all the way through.
Colin filled each bed with as much mulch as they would hold and I went behind him with the hose to soak it down so that it would settle as much as possible.
Photo #2 - Colin spreading mulch
The use of mainly mulch in each bed will help with weed control. By planting each plant or seedling in pockets of soil carved out of the mulch, each bed is technically it’s own composting pile. The mixture of soil we are using is approximately equal amounts of organic dirt, pro-mix and garden soil.
After the seeds come up, we will side-dress with organic manure and afterwards side-dress again with soil since the original soil with which we started will have ideally decomposed somewhat. Later when our plants star producing and vegetables start to form, we will side-dress yet again with a weak manure mix or weak manure ‘tea’ to give it a good start-up kick.
Day 2 - Sunday, September 3, 2006
The mulch beds got another thorough soaking in the early morning. The trellis for the tomato beds were set up and beds #4 and #5 were planted.
Bed #4 - A rosemary plant in the center, 4 butternut squash already showing some fruit and a lemon thyme. Shortly I will plant some garlic cloves around to help control pests.
Bed #5 - Hawaiian Sugar Sweet #9A corn planted in bottomless paper cups. We also planted some Rubeckia daisy seeds for color. The bottomless little paper cups are placed in pockets in the mulch to which some of the planting soil mixture has been added. Fill the cup 3/4 with soil, add the seeds and cover with ¼ inch soil.
The purpose for using the paper cups (not waxed so they will eventually decompose into the soil) is to discourage slugs and cut worms from getting to the seedlings when they start sprouting.
Photo #3 -
Everything was given a good hosing with the mist setting on the hose.
Day 3- Monday, September 4, 2006
I trimmed the bottom portion of the Surinam cherry and to be able to weed and discovered hundreds of keiki (babies). I placed an offer on Freecycle big Island to share the seedlings and had a great response.
We planted beds #3 and #8 and moved some existing potted herbs from other areas of the yard to a permanent place in our new garden.
Bed #3 - two French tarragon plants. Batchelor Button seeds, mesclun mix, mizuna, lettuce mix and Okame (Oriental) spinach
Anthony leveled the mulch as much as possible and covered it with 1 inch of soil mix. He scattered the 4 different lettuce and greens seeds and topped them with ½ inch of the soil mix.
Bed #8 - Bush Beans and Snap Peas - two rows of each
Anthony dug 4 shallow trenches in the mulch and filled with 2 inches of soil. The seeds were planted at a depth of 1 inch and about 2 inches apart. The trenches were then covered with 1 inch of the soil.
All the beds were watered with the mister.
I also started on bed #2 by digging a trench along one edge, filling with soil and transplanting a few dozen small chive plants moved from another area in the yard. Along with the chives, I had a few pieces of marjoram, so I know that soon we will have some more marjoram scattered in this bed.
An old wheel barrow we had used as a planter was moved to the new garden area. The wheelbarrow contains more marjoram, a bit more chives, a lemon balm, a small rosemary and several lemon basil I was rooting.
Moved the Mexican tarragon to a corner of bed #6
Day 4 - Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Did no work in the garden except to water everything early in the morning. While running errands in Hilo we bought some Japanese egg plants, parsley, garlic chives, Roma tomatoes, zucchini plant and an Italian basil. The plants were left at the store with our name on them since we could not come straight back home and were reluctant to leave them in a hot car.
Day 5 - Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Raining off and on most of the day. A good nice soft rain which the garden is gratefully drinking up.Tomorrow we will pick up the plants left in town and will try to get them all in the ground.
……….and that is how my garden grows... today!