Sustainability and self-sufficiency are two important components of organic farming. They're even more vital for those of us who dwell on islands, where the finite nature of our environment and its resources are so apparent. In Hawaii, where most of the food is imported, very little of our waste is recycled and tons of green waste are dumped in landfills already filled to capacity, it's essential that we do all we can to lighten the load on the earth and sea. As organic gardeners, we can help by growing enough food to feed ourselves and share with others, and by supporting our local composting projects. If it's available on your island, use chipped green waste for mulch or to supplement your own compost pile. Some counties will provide residents with compost bins and instructions on how to use them; check with your local department of public works. And if you want to buy compost, at least purchase Menehune Magic, which is made on Oahu.
Foliar Fertilizer. Mix spirulina powder with water to create a foliar fertilizer suitable for all plants.
Feed Gardenias Now. That way, you'll have flowers for May Day. Bat and seabird guano, mixed with water to create a tea for a foliar feed or applied lightly around flowering shrubs, is effective.
Composting Tip. Apply compost to gingers and other tropicals to support their upcoming flower cycle. It's also good to pile their fallen leaves around the roots, without touching the stems, as they like their own organic matter. Use the same method with bananas.
Mulch, Mulch, Mulch. Accelerate tree growth by applying a thick layer of mulch around young saplings to retain water, discourage weeds and eliminate the need for weed-eating and herbicides. Plant fruit trees in clusters, rather than rows. Mulch trees and shrubs with wood chips, and if you can get them, lychee and monkeypod leaves.
Build Soil Health By Growing Cover Crops. Once them mature, cut them down and till them in before planting. Sun hemp and pigeon peas grow quickly and help loosen clay soil while adding nutrients.
Soap Solution. Spray liquid soap (Dr. Bronners peppermint or eucalyptus work well) on plant leaves to smother aphids. Let soap dry for an hour, then remove by wiping with a soft cloth or spraying with a gentle stream of water. Genetic taro Chinese with rice gene to create hardy ornamental but some Hawaiians concerned about contamination of a food staple that has cultural significance.
Educate Yourself About Orchids. Learn about growing orchids at two free shows planned for Oahu. The first is set for March 18-20 at Del Monte Kunia Gym and the second is March 25-27 at Samuel Wilder King Intermediate School Armory in Kaneohe.