Cool Season Planting Tips & Challenges of Year Around Gardening Plus...Take Back Your Salad Bowl!
Updated: Mar 3
The change of seasons is upon us as cooler weather and more rainfall in most of the state signal the beginning of our most productive gardening time. Weather changes are already happening from Ka’u to Hanalei. In Kona, during the first week of October, after 2 years of continuous rain, one day it just stopped - the sun came out and it hasn’t rained at all, until today. This week there was a blizzard on Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea with much needed rainfall here in Kona, and I can hear my broccoli and cabbage plants drinking in the cool rain during the cooler nights. Gardeners in Hawai’i look forward to this cooler and wetter season to plant vegetable varieties that just don’t like growing in our hot and dry summers.
Lettuces, green beans, peas, broccoli, cabbages, green onions, bulb onions, garlic, arugula, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, winter squash and pumpkins, potatoes, kale and beets will enjoy both the cooler nighttime and daytime temperatures and increased rainfall. Some vegetables like cabbage, chard, and beets won’t flower and seed at lower elevations here in Hawai’i, though could possibly produce seed at higher elevations, such as in Waimea on Hawai’i Island. The Hawai’i Seed Growers Network continues trials and experimental plantings to find the right varieties of cooler season crops that will thrive here in Hawai’i in various locations. We are also planning some new projects for 2022 that will benefit both home growers and our communities so stay tuned!
Recommendations for your Winter Planting of locally grown seed. Look on the Hawai'i Seed Growers Network Online Marketplace for varieties of greens, herbs, green beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers, & squash. Kona folks, because it’s very dry for us during the winter it’s finally time to plant eggplant, peppers, okra, and tomatoes and lettuce again.
Take Back Your Salad Bowl!
This combination has become one of my staples!
I’ve been thinking a lot about salads lately. I’m a big salad lover…salad every day just seems to help food slide along through the digestive system with ease and I love how creative and nutritious they can be, using whatever vegetables, herbs or fruits you might have on hand!
The markets here in Kona sell mostly mainland organic lettuce and the 2 years of rain basically ran off most of our lettuce farmers but I’m hoping they will be back with the drier weather. Mainland lettuce tends to be a little on the tough side, not sweet and crisp like my home grown varieties, and the cost of vegetables seems to be rising every month! So over the past 3 years I just started growing all my own lettuce in my kitchen garden.
My daily foundation salad bowl comes from my garden and consists of lettuce, grated carrot (Red Core Chantenay likes to grow here and will seed occasionally), green and a purple cabbage sliced very thin, tomato if I can grow one, and finely diced cilantro. Then I can add other vegetables, or herbs, or sprouts, or fruits including my daily avocado. I like to make a dressing of flax oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.
Check out the amazing lettuce varieties we have on the Marketplace right now! Varieties like Kawanui Mescher, Kauwela and a Molokai Lettuce Mix, Orcas Lettuce, a Mix of Loma and Hawaiian Sunset, Canasta and Jericho Romaine Lettuce. Try one of each locally adapted variety, mix it up adding taste and color and take back your salad bowl!!
If you haven’t tried our locally grown tomato varieties you're missing that sweet homegrown tomato taste that you just cannot buy. Try our newest variety added to the Marketplace, called Old Brooks (a gorgeous full size, slicing tomato!), Black Plum, Gold Cherry, AVTO, Jay’s Tomato, Chadwick Cherry, Austin Red Pear, or Tommy Toe and Large Red Cherry.
Sow SEEDS and transplant lettuce once per month
In order to have lettuce from your home garden every day, I sow either just before or on the new moon or the full moon EVERY month. I usually sow at least 4 varieties, for taste and/or color - starting about 10 seeds in each community pot.
When they have their first set of true leaves, I transplant them into a flat. Then once a month, I set out 1-2 flats of lettuce in a small plot or a few rows. I usually plant between 30-60 lettuce plants per month.
That may sound like a lot, but I provide lettuce for our family and one other family. I use about 25 heads a month for my own family. That would cost between $50-$75 a month, so I’m getting the freshest possible food for my health, the most delicious taste and saving money!
Sow your carrots directly in your garden bed once every 2-3 months, and start a community pot of Cilantro once a month, and your favorite varieties of tomatoes every 3 months. Then you too will have a never ending Salad Bowl in your home garden!
Check out CTAHR Extension Agent Jari Sugano’s article, “Fast Green Food: Grow a Salad Bowl in Your Backyard”:
Reducing slug populations is critical for food safety!
The last point here is about safety. You know your garden better than anyone. If you see a slug, it goes into the Slug Jug, right? Reducing slug populations is critical for family food safety. I don’t have a slug problem here, after many years of culling them, but still, I wash each leaf with care before rolling them up in a paper towel and putting all the leaves from 4-5 heads at a time into the refrigerator.
To Learn more about the health benefits of enjoying lettuce, watch this short video:
Invasive Species Alert: Keep an eye out for a new invasive species who showed up in Kona during the fall - the Avocado Lace Bug has defoliated most of the avocado trees in Kona. Avocado is a staple food that families use every day. Tackling the invasive species problem in Hawai’i is imperative since so many of us home growers are now growing a portion of our families food. Check out CTAHR’s Bulletin on the Avocado Lace bug here.
Challenges of Growing Year Around in Hawaii’s Home Gardens
Lastly, by fall I usually find myself exhausted from trying to keep up with the mowing, planting and weeding of the rainy and warm summer season in Kona. I felt a bit envious this week, when my good friend from Colorado told me that her gardening year was finished, and that all she had to do was clean up a few annual flower beds and then take the next 6 months off and go to the hot springs, camping, hiking and work on her art. It really got me thinking about all of us here in Hawaii who garden year round, how do we find our balance?
Gardener burn-out is a real hazard of year around farming or gardening in Hawai’i. But my husband is quick to remind me that the folks in Colorado have a really hard time getting fresh organic food all winter long and that we are very fortunate, since fresh food certainly contributes to increased good health….sounds the like no pain no gain mantra, but I think he’s right. So, what are ways to garden so that we can we create more balance in our quest to continue growing food for our families?
I think next summer, I’m going to take some time off, and only plant varieties that will grow easily in the warm wet summer here like kalo, pumpkins, beans, & corn.
I’d really love to publish your thoughts on the subject so if you can find the time…..please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll incorporate them into a future Blog!
At this time of year we are all feeling deep gratitude for the bountiful Earth that provides for our needs every day, and grateful for the strength and knowledge it takes to be a home gardener in Hawai’i. From all of us at the Hawai’i Seed Grower’s Network to all of you…Season’s Greetings to you and your Ohana, and we hope you enjoy the Winter Growing Season, may it provide abundance.
Nancy Redfeather and all of us at the Hawai'i Seed Growers Network