Friday | May 22, 2015
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Today is Green Sunday in South Kona

After a two-year absence, the South Kona Green Market has moved back to the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook. To celebrate its return, the market is holding a grand reopening event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today. The celebration marks an alternative to Black Friday and has become an annual Green Sunday event. “Buying Local for the Holidays” is the theme. There will be an opening blessing, pony rides, a master gardener booth, a free raffle and an extensive roster of musicians.

The amount of money flowing through a farmers market is important but even more important is the velocity of the money flowing through the vendors. You buy a loaf of bread. The baker takes his bread money and picks up some vegetables from another vendor. The veggie grower gets a slice of pizza and the pizza gal buys a piece of jewelry for a gift. The jeweler now has the cash to buy some Kona coffee. The same few dollars have created all these transactions and circulated throughout the market and our local economy. That is how a vibrant economy works.

By comparison, money from purchases made at a national chain store move out of our community quickly and benefit corporate headquarters first and secondarily, the foreign country where the goods were manufactured. These purchases do not go to sustain our community.

Of course, if you are buying the latest high-tech gadget, you may not want to try the farmers market. The few dollars you may spend at a locally owned store, however, will likely provide you with better information and good follow-up service while putting money into our local economy. Choose local alternatives to the chain stores by buying from local retailers. And, if you buy an item from someone directly involved in its production, you are buying more than just the item. Local purchases help pay for ballet or ukulele lessons or the retailer’s food and rent. You are helping a neighbor get his brakes fixed. You are helping a friend pay his gardener. You are supporting the very base of our economic pyramid … the local one.

There are plenty of opportunities to buy local this holiday season. A farmers market is often more than fruit and vegetables. You can find farmers who sew, farmers who write, farmers who bake and farmers who do woodwork. With a little imagination, you can probably do all your holiday shopping at local markets. Your gifts will also be unique and memorable.

The South Kona Green Market is a good place to start. It continues to grow after being open for five years, and the managers and vendors are dedicated to serving the community. The motto is “From the land — by our hand.” You’ll find you can spend many hours exploring and enjoying the wide variety of products and services offered. Each Sunday, live music from some of the best island musicians is featured in addition to the nearly 50 vendors selling local produce, art and fine crafts, woodwork, jewelry and freshly prepared food. You can also get a massage or a psychic reading. It remains an all-local farmers and artists market that promotes local products and sustainability while offering a community gathering place.

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant with an organic farm in Captain Cook. Tim Bruno and his wife, Karen, are coffee and avocado farmers who also manage the South Kona Green Market.

Tropical gardening helpline

Ross asks: I am growing some University of Hawaii tomatoes but as soon as they start to grow, the bottom of the tomato turns a very dark brown or black. The plants seem healthy but all the tomatoes have this problem. Any thoughts?

Answer: From your description, it sounds like your tomatoes probably have blossom end rot. This rot is primarily caused by a lack of calcium in the soil. Sometimes it appears when the water supply to the plant has fluctuated and the fruit has difficulty taking up calcium. When the fruit gets insufficient calcium, the tissue breaks down, which causes the blackening at the blossom end of the fruit. This problem can also occur on peppers, squash and other fruiting vegetables.

Prevention is the key to avoiding blossom end rot. Before planting, do a soil test. Ideally you want to plant in soils with a pH between 6.5 and 6.7. Liming the soil can help adjust the pH. Apply as recommended by the soil test. Applying gypsum, calcium sulfate or lime, calcium carbonate, at a rate of about 1⁄2 cup per plant before planting can also help. Use mulch to retain moisture in the root zone and to amend the soil. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization, which causes rapid growth and overactive calcium uptake.

Once the problem develops, it is difficult to reverse, though you may be able to reduce the rot on developing fruit. Stabilizing the moisture level and feeding with compost or compost tea can help improve the plant’s health. Some positive results have been reported from foliar applications of magnesium, Epsom salts, which can help with calcium uptake. Other suggestions to slow down the problem once it starts include applications of powdered milk, crushed egg shell tea, bone meal tea and Tums tablets in the root zone. Each of these has some anecdotal reports of success. Try them if you like.

You can also let the fruit develop on the plant and cut the damaged part off when you are ready to eat it. Blossom end rot is not contagious and will probably not affect all of the fruit on the plant once the calcium and watering issues are addressed.

For more information on common tomato problems, including the blossom end rot, visit coopext.colostate.edu/4dmg/Pests/Diseases/tomaprob.htm.

Email plant questions to konamg@ctahr.hawaii.edu for answers by certified master gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.