Monthly Garden Calendar for Hawaii

Organic Gardening Month-to-Month Almanac

By Joan Conrow



Hawaii's benevolent climate makes it ideal for permaculture—the concept of putting your landscape to its most effective use by choosing vegetation that will provide some of your basic needs. That might mean planting a mix of trees for food, building materials and other uses, such as koa, milo, citrus, banana, neem, mango, coconut, kukui and native cotton, and selecting a mix of perennials for their medicinal and other purposes, like noni, Suriname cherry, awa, tumeric and sugar cane. In that way, you'll be able to reap many benefits from your landscape, while still getting the shade, privacy, windbreaks and aesthetic qualities you desire. It's all a way to live more self-sufficiently in these isolated islands, where we are already overly dependent on outside sources for most of our basic needs.

Flowering Trees. Experiment with air layering a favorite flowering tree, like puakenikeni or plumeria. It's easier than you think (look for detailed instructions in garden books) and you'll end up with a tree that has all the qualities of the original.

Seed Sowing. Sow seeds of cabbage, snow peas, Chinese greens, soybeans, broccoli and turnips to make the most of the cool, wet weather.

Compost Time. Start composting in earnest; check with your county's solid waste office as some offer free home composting units and/or presentations on the best method.

Local Trees. Grow an ohia lehua, the beautiful red-flowering, hardwood tree endemic to Hawaii, if you want a striking specimen tree in your landscaping. Although most often found in the mountains, ohia can grow almost anywhere with ample water.

Stay Away From Non-Native Flowers and Plants. Resist the urge to plant wildflower seeds from the mainland—even if they're pretty—and other nonnative flowers and grasses that can easily spread in Hawaii's mild climate. What's lovely elsewhere can quickly become a pest species in the islands.

Developing Delicious Papaya. Plant papaya seedlings in areas with good drainage as they rot in standing water. Plan to feed them monthly through the year; they like lots of nitrogen and compost.

Plan Your Plantings. Schedule your plantings with the moon (and turn off outside lights so you can see it and maintain Hawaii's dark skies.) Plant root crops between the full and new moon, and aboveground crops between the new and full moon.

Cut Back Diseases and Dying Plants. Get rid of insect-infested, yellowing, diseased or otherwise stressed shrubs and landscape plants. A little extra kaukau (food) like compost or kelp will help restore their health.

Splendid Starfruit. Plant a starfruit tree now and you could be eating its sweet, juicy fruit this time next year.

Be Civil With Spiders. Resist the urge to kill spiders, although they're everywhere now. Their numbers will diminish as spring approaches, and they eat a lot of mosquitoes. Most are harmless, but the small, round crab spiders can inflict a nasty bite.