Vegetable Gardening in Hawaii

ediblelandscapeAugust 17, 2012

In the last 15 years of off and on growing of vegetable gardens in Makawao and Nanakuli, I have discovered some vegetables are easy to grow and productive, and others aren't. Vegetables planted in the ground are susceptible to root-knot nematodes. Before I discovered how damaging these are I watched cucumbers, peppers, string beans, eggplant, strawberries, and tomatoes get up to bear only to die back and whither. These I have found must be grown in pots of sterile soil. sweet potatoes, green onions, taro, okra, dry-land watercress seem to do well in ground. They must be resistant to the nematode. Keep in mind, the pineapple growers fumigate with a very poisonous chemical to rid their fields of nematodes, and that chemical has poisoned the ground water on all the islands. So getting rid of the nematodes in the soil is difficult if not impossible. Squash, beans, and cucumbers all get rust. You make the rust worse by overhead watering. Some people spray with dormant oil and fungicide. I have heard baking soda is a good fungicide with dormant oil, and it is cheap and non-toxic if it works.

I hope other gardeners who read this post will offer their advice. We gardeners need experienced growers to save us from trial and error.

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steiconi(12a-Big Island, HI)

Thanks, that's great info!

My results are a bit different from yours, could be 'cause I'm on windward side, at 1500 foot elevation; I've had great luck with Hawaiian Chilies outdoors in the ground, same plants going strong for 3 years; jalapenos and other haoli chilies have produced well for a season or two. String beans do great in the ground here, too, and I've got eggplant and strawberries that have lasted 2 or 3 years.

Cukes, tomatoes, zukes--there I'm in total agreement with you! We grow them in the greenhouse with fresh soil/mulch each season, but that's not enough anymore, we'll have to switch to containers.

I've completely given up on snow peas, spinach, broccoli, but swiss chard, cabbage, kale do great.

herbs mostly need to be grown under cover so they don't drown--we get 170" rain a year, you may have different results.

Who else has results to share?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 10:11PM
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Well, I don't have a ton of veggie experience to share; I used to live on the Big Island and mainly grew fruit trees there, but have gotten into growing some veggies in my back yard here on Oahu in the last few years (Kailua, but not very close to the ocean, so salt is not an issue).

I rent, so most everything I grow is in containers. I use whatever I can find for containers, but mainly those big Rubbermaid Roughneck tubs. They seem like mini garden beds to me, and the plants definitely seem to do better in those than in pots. I start them off with the cheapest potting soil available (usually Super Soil) and then fertilize every so often with an organic fertilizer.

I'm still learning what I can and can not grow easily here in Hawaii, and in this area specifically.

Ok, so the big successes: Kale does great, and I love it! Chard does very well, but sometimes gets diseased to the point that I have to take it out. Lettuce used to bolt very quickly, until I started growing the UH "Anuenue" lettuce, which is more bolt-resistant. I also have 3 large bushes of UH Waimanalo Eggplants (each in their own Rubbermaid tub) and they produce so many eggplants I'm actually getting a little tired of them. I'm also growing yardlong beans, which are popular in hot, humid Asian countries. These do great; fast growing and heavy producers of delicious, tender green beans. Radishes never fail, but I'm not really a huge fan. They're healthy, so I do grow them occasionally. I've also gotten a lot of nice fruit off of a volunteer cherry tomato bush. Other things that are growing like weeds; basil, mint, fennel, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, and green onions.

I am also trying some other things, but the plants are just getting started, so I don't know how they'll actually produce. I'm growing 2 different kinds of Asian cucumbers from Evergreen Seeds (they have so many seeds for different Asian plants that I'm thinking would be better adapted to out climate than seeds bred for North American climates). Also trying some different kinds of Asian melons, also from Evergreen Seeds. I'll have to see how they hold up against fruit flies too, or if I'm going to have to bag them while they grow. I'm trying 2 different kinds of sweet potatoes; the typical Hawaiian purple sweet potato, and also a white-fleshed one that my sister gave me. The vines are thriving like crazy, but it's not time yet to dig and see if there are any tubers. I know the leaves are edible, but I don't care for them too much. But, if I ever get hungry enough, I'm glad they're out there as an option. I'm also growing long squash and kabocha squash. I did get one long squash from my older vine (totally delicious and ridiculously huge) but for the most part the flowers don't get pollinated and I'm too lazy to climb up the tree where it's growing and do it by hand. I planted 2 more long squash vines though, so hopefully with more vines there'll be a lot more pollinating going on. Also trying UH seed program cherry tomatoes and UH bell peppers, and a few Asian eggplant varieties from Evergreen Seeds. All are doing well so far, but are not old enough to produce.

Things that didn't work well for me AT ALL: beets (never got very big, but the tinies were tasty; I'm going to keep trying with these, because I do love beets), standard bush pole beans, dill (i think it just got too hot for it; i'll try again in the winter), and spinach was a total joke. Though I do know of a farm on the Big Island that actually grows spinach organically in volume, so it can definitely be done.

Sorry, I wrote a whole book here, I think! This is why I don't post on forums; get me started about my garden, and I have no idea how to be concise :)

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 12:04AM
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Here at about 1000' on the windward side of West Maui i have grown arugula, bok choy, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, bush beans, lima beans, pole beans, tomatillos, garbanzo beans, snap peas, snow peas, leeks, round onions, carrots, onions, shallots, ginger, all kinds of herbs, wing bean, pipinola, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, turnips, radish, beets, peppers, eggplant, lettuces, kale, cow peas, long beans and zucchini. All pretty much grown right in the clay although i do have a few raised beds. I took a soil sample to the extension office and amended based on the findings before i started planting and that seems to have really helped. I also try to rotate plantings and amend with as much organic matter as i can get my hands on.
The things i've had trouble with include regular sized tomatoes, melons, squash and cucumbers due to fruit fly damage. I've abandoned spinach because chard grows so much better and the perpetual variety is a decent substitute. Fava beans and runner beans grew but not very well but i want to try some different varieties before i give up on them. Tried peanuts one year but the birds ate them. Peppers are hit and miss between the fruit flies and the pepper weevils but i enjoy some success as well.
Planting things at the right time of year really helps. I don't worry too much about plant disease and i don't like to spray insecticides but the bugs can really get you down. Floating row cover is a gardener's best friend.
So lilaalil i guess you are not the only one who has hard time being concise ; )

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 5:17AM
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Update: just got my first sweet potatoes! I planted some a bunch of slips about 4 months ago in one of my old rubbermaid tubs with some potting soil. Just dug them out and got about 15 nice potatoes. They were grown from one of those purple-skinned, white-fleshed sweeet potatoes from the grocery store. The best part is, I just replanted the vines again, and in another 4 months should get some more potatoes, all off of one parent potato from the grocery store.

I also have a bunch more growing in this raised bed filled with red clay soil that came with my house. They've been there about 2 1/2 months, so in a month or so it'll be time to dig those out and see how they did in the clay. Supposedly clay is not the best for these, but I had the slips needing a home, and that bed just sitting there empty... we'll see.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 7:28PM
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Congratulations on your harvest! Sweet potatoes are good any time of year but especially now. Sweet potato haupia pie maybe?
Containers are a good idea for sweet potatoes. Easier to harvest and easy to contain. The vines will take over the world if you look the other way for a little too long! It will be a good experiment to see how the sweets do in clay v. container soil. I usually end up slicing all of mine in half with the shovel ; ( Still good to eat!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 2:49PM
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I have had some success with each of the following towards the back of Manoa:

Hawn chili peppers - lasted 2-3 years then died.

Cherry tomatoes - got quite a few off of one plant before the dreaded grey mold killed all the leaves.

Arugula! slugs don't seem to like it. It grows and grows. Handy hint - If you cook it it loses all of its bite and is just like spinach.

Rosemary - super easy but how much can you eat? Likewise with turmeric, basil, and Cuban oregano.

Papaya - super easy, but somehow I never get the right gender ones, and it takes months to determine if you do or not.

Bananas - take fo-evah! but will grow.

Okra - some only grow 9" then stop. finally got some to grow to 3ft and got a decent number of pods off them. I think they need lots of sun.

Sweet potatoes - easy but some get disgusting big grubs in them. Once you cut into one of them you never want to eat a sweet potato again.

I'm trying bitter melon now. They started off well but now are kind of dying back. The melons I got off them were very tiny and turned orange before they could get big enough.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 1:24AM
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I been doing small scale gardening in my ewa beach subdivision lot. I buy my seeds online. I love soybeans so much, but when I planted it, it only yield enough for myself, not the kind you buy boiled from the store. I guess I got to try nitrogen rich soil next time.Okra: I got like 4-5 plants that were from seed packets also from the mainland. it grew for like 5 feet tall, hairless variety, it produced a great amount of okra, pretty big and you just have to watch and harvest it on the right time or it will get so tough to eat. No luck on tomato here, I am not sure why? sweet potato: yes, I have Okinawan purple kind, I eat the young shoots like salad style. takes 4 months for it to grow. Long squash: I bought a small plant from home depot, and it grew like crazy, and the vine literally wrapped around my lime tree. it lasted for about 6 months and I pretty much gave away fruits to friends and neighbors. Papaya: so easy, but scary because the tree grew up to 20 feet tall, had to cut it for safety reason. green peppers, bell peppers, did pretty slow but it was the only one resistant to bugs? arugula....soooo much of it but too bitter!!! kale, and collards, I never really eat them but tried to plant it and they did pretty well. pak choi. no luck, grew some but only small kind harvest. Malabar spinach, a native of asia, grew like crazy in my backyard. I am still trying to experiment with different plants. I compost, I never use pesticides because I grow plants that I eat. anybody have luck on kohlrabi?

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 12:52AM
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Hi All,
I recently moved to Maui and have been trying to learn more about all the different fruits & vegetables here. A friend just gave me this huge thing which he said he found in his yard. It's about 2' long and is green. Does anyone know what kind of vegetable this is? I'm thinking squash? Is it safe to eat & if so what is the best way to prepare it? Thank you for the advice! Have a great day :)

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 6:09PM
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Pali27: Long squash / Opo squash

It can be cooked like most any zuke/squash. Most people pick them smaller than that, but they tend to stay rather tender even at large sizes like that. The size it's at is bordering on the area where it may be bitter, though.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Sat, Dec 21, 13 at 4:46

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 4:44AM
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that's Upo long squash, good for soups, but harvest it early when its smaller. I usually sautee it with garlic, onion, tomato, add chicken, beef, or pork, and use chicken broth for soup.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 2:04AM
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