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  • Writer's pictureNancy Redfeather

Making the Big Transition: Getting Ready for Fall & Winter in Hawai'i Home Gardens

August 2020 Blog – Hawai'i Seed Growers Network

Hawai’i has seasons. Gardeners in Hawai’i, through their observation over many years, come to know the signs of change. Weather changes, temperature changes, insect cycles change, light changes, and so what we plant can also be more in harmony with these changes.

Although the first day of fall isn’t for another month, can you begin to feel the summer season culminating as our garden crops ripen, mature, and finish? This is the time to begin thinking and planning ahead for what you want to be eating 3 months from now knowing that the seasons will be changing. During the next 2 months, the home gardener will be harvesting, replenishing organic material in the soils, thinking about seasonal changes and starting the cooler season crops. This is something I love about home gardening, it appears to be so simple, especially to people who don’t garden, but no, it is a complex weaving of many systems and lots of planning ahead required!

I know a lot of you are thinking about this, so I polled a few of the Hawai’i Seed Growers in the Network and asked them for their advice.

In the Hawaiian Islands, the weather will be changing in the next 3 months. We will be moving from the drier time of Ku to the wetter season of Lono. The Fall Equinox will occur on September 22, and from then on the number of light hours will continue to diminish until the end of the year. Orion and the Pleiades will be rising in the East, heralding the Makahiki season by mid-November. Also, the summer harvest of the garden will be happening in the next couple of months. If you live in the Kona area, hopefully, the rains will be lessening and a drier season will unfold.

· Do a dry weather dance

· Weed, compost, and cover crop summer beds after harvest before the weeds set seed

· Prepare and plant beds for fall crops

Jay reminds us that this is the last moment of this year to plant any corn varieties before the days get too short and the moisture high during maturation time. Also, this is a good time to plant Roselle as the flowers will always begin to set just past the Fall Equinox. Planting it before the end of August means it will have time to grow before switching to its flowering stage.

Glenn Teves, CTAHR Extension Agent from Molokai has seasoned advice for Hawaii’s growers.

· Start planning your cool season crops, which ones you will plant and where they might go in your garden.

· After your summer harvest, replenish organic matter in your garden beds.

· Also, you might want to think about doing a “crop free” period in some of your beds to let summer pests die off and give the beds at least a one month break.

· What you plant now, will bear fruit in 50-90 days so think ahead about what crops you want to be eating in November and beyond.

· For lowland areas, you can still plant some of the summer vegetables.

· Prepare your fall/winter beds ahead of the rains when it becomes more difficult to do that.

· Decide which beds you will rest and which ones you might want to cover crop from fall through winter.

· You could also separate your high water from your low water users so that you don’t over or under irrigate.

· If you live in a cool or wetter area, sow tomato and plant potatoes early so they are harvested before the onset of the late blight in the cool wet season November onward.

· Ordering Seed and seeding early, as fall comes fast.

· In Upcountry Maui fall extends to December, so plan accordingly.

· We use the fall to sharpen and repair tools, change oil in machines. Good to have a time of year to do these things and we do it in prep for spring.

In my home garden I successively plant leafy greens in a bed close to my kitchen. By preparing the entire bed ahead of time and leaving it heavily mulched, I can seed a small amount of leafy greens every three weeks and easily transplant successive seedlings into an already prepared and mulched bed. I need varieties that hold up well in significant rainfall, such as: Beet greens, Ethiopian or Rainbow Kale, asian greens, and Canasta lettuce. I also like to keep Koba Green Onions and Cilantro close to the house for those quick evening harvests when you just need a handful of delightful greenery to top your evening meal.

Crops that need to be protected from heavy rain, such as broccoli, soybeans and bush beans will go into the greenhouse to keep them from melting under Puna's nightly rains.

Nana's Fingers and Ka'ala Peppers - or any crop that I want to keep producing into fall and winter - will get a good cleaning, cultivating, feeding and mulching, hopefully before the steady rains arrive again.

Fields which produced all spring and summer will be cover cropped. Fields with damage due to root-knot nematodes will be cover cropped with a variety of mustard seed capable of suppressing or killing off colonies of these destructive little pests, which pile up in a plant's root system and steal off nutrients the plant is drawing up through it's roots.

· I will be directly sowing root crops into the soil in August/September. These include: carrot, daikon, radish, beets, and the Alan Chadwick green beans.

· I’ll start lettuce, arugula, Calypso Cilantro, Fennel, and cabbage into community pots to bring up & transplant.

· I’ll start more chard & kale probably in September/October, I still have some that are still in the ground, and I hope will last for a little while longer.

· Doing LOTS of weeding and edging, which means I’m making huge awesome compost piles!

· Collecting seeds from Marigolds, Zinnias, harvesting and drying my year’s popcorn crop (which was pretty dismal due to the torrential rains over the last 6 months but any popcorn is better than NO popcorn) and planting a very late pumpkin. I will also be harvesting my Peking Black Beans over the next 2 months as they have performed fabulously in the rains. It’s always good to have a big jar of black beans in the pantry! Remember gardening is about experimentation and observation, trying new things and keeping notes!

One more thing, let’s talk about Okra for a minute. Okra grows very well in Hawai’i. The Marketplace currently has two varieties that would grow well planted now. If you're thinking what is Okra? Check it out on our website, and you might listen to this short but very informative Okra Podcast….a conversation between a couple of Okra fanatics!

Finally, some of the Researchers at the College of Tropical Agriculture (CTAHR) gave a very informative mini-conference last week titled, “Virtual Soil Health & Sustainable IPM Mini-Conference.” It was heartening to hear what our “progressive” ag researchers are doing these days, and I think many of you would want to watch this presentation. It covered a lot of topics near and dear to our garden hearts! You can view it Here.

In my last Blog #7- “Growing and Thriving in the Summer Gardens of Hawai’i”, I reached out to all of you and asked you to share your knowledge, skill and recommendations for summer growing in Hawai’i. I was going to include that mana’o here at the end of the August Blog, but I didn't hear from anyone. Perhaps everyone is too busy to reply, but I’m still interested. If any of you have mana’o for wrapping up the summer harvest and moving into the fall/winter season, please email it directly to me and I’ll wrap it all up in a Shout-out to the whole group who receives these emails. Also, if you would like to share your experience of gardening during a global pandemic, or what it’s like to start a home garden for the first time, please share those thoughts also. I won’t use your names, unless that is ok with you, but just sharing your thoughts with others seems very important at this time.

Since this is a challenging time, I think it’s important to share what we know to be true for our areas. So be sure to let me know where your garden or farm is. There are a lot of folks who receive these Blogs that are first time growers, or haven’t grown for a long time. I think everyone can benefit from the knowledge of the many. I’ll just facilitate the sharing. You can email me at

Watch this space, lots of new varieties are on their way to the Hawai’i Seed Growers Network Online Marketplace.

Aloha, Stay Well, and enjoy the end of Summer Garden Bounty,

Nancy Redfeather

Hawai’i Seed Growers Network – Local Seeds for Local Needs

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