Back in the 1940s, progressive and futuristic farmers were aware of the big mistakes farmers and ranchers had made in the earlier days causing lands to deteriorate. Today, we are still trying to improve our relationship with the environment Terms like sustainable agriculture, integrated pest management, organic farming and permaculture are used by folks concerned about minimizing our negative impact on the planet. We now focus on minimizing our carbon footprint as we experience the effects of global warming.
Coca, opium, marijuana and hundreds of other plants used to alter our perceived reality are nothing new to earlier cultures and civilizations. We often think of mood altering drugs with trepidation but they have been part of the human condition for thousands of years. Marijuana, opium poppies and coca leaf have been used as were certain mushrooms and even the sap of the angel trumpet tree. As in the case of the angel trumpet, it can be also very poisonous so only the shamans of South and Central America might be trusted with its use. Many of the substances derived from these plants are now illegal in some countries due to the possibility of dangerous misuse. In the case of angel trumpet sap, it can easily kill you if ingested. Others are so much a part of our culture that we hardly give them second thought. These include coffee, tea and chocolate.
Looking for a way to save on food bills? Then plant vegetables. For many backyard vegetable gardeners on the mainland, spring means the beginning of their gardening efforts. However, this is Hawaii so we can plant our vegetables anytime depending upon the microclimate. There are many vegetable gardening activities for the entire year.
When weather conditions are dry, it is a good time to explore ways to conserve water. Organic material is essential to good soil. Well-decomposed organic matter helps increase water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil. Undecomposed material like leaves and clippings used as surface mulch can help conserve moisture and keep weeds under control. Nematodes, those little microscopic worms that feed on your roots, will do less damage in a high organic soil. Organic matter may also increase the minor element and microbiological activity of your soil.
The young soils of our island vary from ash deposits to a’a and pahoehoe lava. There are a few exceptions where volcanic materials have had the time to decompose like the Kohala Mountain region, but it is hard to find soils as they are defined on older continents of the world. Most folks here have to start from scratch.
Summer is a great time to enjoy Hawaii’s flowering trees like the royal poinciana, tabebuia species, cassia shower trees, narra and many more. Speaking of narra, this beautiful yellow flowering tree from tropical Asia is rare but should be planted more. There is a beautiful specimen at Hale Anuhea in South Kona and another in the Lanihau shopping center by the old Bank of Hawaii site. The royal poinciana, Delonix regia, usually has flowers of crimson red to burnt orange. A rare form with yellow flowers is also available at some nurseries.
Foundation plantings are like spandex garments. They smooth out bumpy features and add a dressy look. When properly used, a foundation planting serves definite purposes. It connects the structure with the grounds and adjacent ornamentals so that the building and grounds appear to have grown together into an eye appealing design. Shrubs and vines also tend to soften and blend architectural lines. Such plants give the home a finished look.
Summer means many fragrant flowers blooming in abundance. Most noticeable is the family of gingers. Gingers are coming into flower a little late in forests and gardens this year due to cool weather conditions in some areas of the island. Visitors to our islands frequently comment on how fragrant our air smells with the abundance of flowers in bloom. Kamaaina often take for granted that which we have in abundance. When we are in good health, we sometimes we don’t appreciate it until we get sick.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, folks worldwide have fantasized about travel to all kinds of exotic places. It is forecast that the travel industry will soon be booming. However, some caution should be considered. Hawaii is a great choice for most mainlanders, but what about residents of Hawaii that have dreams of Machu Pichu, Tahiti or Southeast Asia?
We just celebrated Cinco de Mayo and Boys’ (Childrens’) Day a few days ago but don’t let that distract you from the really big day. It is Mother’s Day, and if you forget any of those favorite women in your life, you are in real trouble. Trying to wrack your brains for just the right last-minute gift can be frustrating. Don’t panic — relax and be creative at the same time. If you plan a restaurant brunch or dinner to celebrate, be prepared for crowds and a long wait unless you have made reservations well in advance.
May Day in Hawaii is Lei Day as well. We celebrate Lei Day on May 1, but continue with leis throughout the year. Now there is also a noticeable spring fever effect when it comes to local gardeners, because many flowers start heavy blooming at this time.
“April showers bring May flowers” is an old adage and it holds true in many parts of Hawaii as well. With longer days, most folks are getting chronic Hawaiian spring fever. This means being close to nature with plants.
When it comes to community outreach, the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) Extension Service is comparable to the way Peace Corps reaches out to folks in other countries. The Master Gardener program is an important component of the CTAHR Extension Service. That program is set up to assist local folks with home gardening issues. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this service has been severely limited, but is again available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Kona Office in Kainaliu.
Spring in Kona’s unique tropical cloud forests and East Hawaii’s rainforests is heralded by abundant new growth of ferns, especially our endemic cibotium treeferns. If you want to get a sense of what life was like during the time of the dinosaurs, visit the Kona Cloud Forest above Kailua. The area abounds with ferns that once were dominant millions of years ago.
Spring officially occurs when the sun reaches the equator as it appears to move northward. Of course, what is actually happening is that the earth is tilting toward the South Pole and will continue to do so until June 20. Then it is officially summer. Since we are roughly at latitude 19 degrees north, the sun will appear to move northward for a short time and then move toward the south until Dec. 21. Many plants respond to day length including plants that form bulbs.
The old saying that March comes like a lion and leaves like a lamb usually holds true but this year only time will tell. Spring flowering trees are on schedule like the cherry blossoms of Waimea. The annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is not be happening this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the trees are still creating a great show. Check them out soon before they disappear for another year. As they begin to fade, blue jacaranda, silver oak and ohia will begin to brighten the landscape.