Garden In a Box

More and more folks are growing their own produce, even condo-dwellers. Here’s a primer for getting started. It’s bursting out all over the place. It’s on walls, hanging from bags and creeping out from an assortment of funky containers

Rasa Fournier
Wednesday - September 08, 2010
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A ladybug nymph — ladybugs are great for gardens

so October would be the best time to start the seeds, while the soil is warm. Some of the best summer bloomers are eggplant, tomato, squash, pumpkin and asparagus.

What about fruit? UH has a papaya seed called “Waimanalo low bearing,” that can work on a lanai. Small citrus trees - lemons, limes - also work.

“You can walk around community gardens and see exactly what people are growing at that time (of year),” says Grzebik. “Absorb all of that information when you go into a garden so that you’re not reinventing the wheel. It’s already there.”

Upkeep: A little attention each day wards off long-term problems. The plants need to be watered - perhaps daily in warmer temperatures. Check your little garden daily for soil moisture, as well as harmful insects: “Because we have a year-round growing season, we have year-round growing season for insects too,” advises Grzebik. Beneficial insects do some of the job, but if creepy-crawlies such as slugs, aphids, spittlebugs, spider mites or mealybugs are getting persistent, garden centers carry non-toxic insect repellents like the plant-based neem oil. With slugs, it’s iron, which is good for the soil. Some pruning and leaf washing also can do the trick.

These small steps in monitoring the garden are crucial to the health of the plants. Grzebik says that once the plant becomes stressed, it quits producing, or it attracts harmful insects. “It’s hard to recover once you’ve forgotten to water it for a week,” she notes. “So the main thing is staying on top of it, and hopefully it’s something that you enjoy - you go out to your lanai at least every other day and you like to look at the plant and see that it’s growing.”

Resources: Volunteers at Pearl City Urban Garden Center’s free phone line, 453-6055, are available Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to noon. They have seed catalogs, bug catalogs, university publications and more. Grzebik’s goal is to make the gardening process a cinch: “We have our fingers on so many rich resources locally and within the university system, so we just need to link you to them instead of you searching maybe through Google and finding things that aren’t applicable to Hawaii.

It’s almost not hard at that point because the publications will tell you how much to water, when to fertilize, what to fertilize, what types of plants. You just follow that information and you have success. It’s all been done before.”

The center also welcomes visitors to explore its many themed gardens for ideas. For some hands-on activity, attend the workshops it holds ongoing second Saturdays of each month. Mark your calendar for Sept. 11 for a demonstration on sustainable gardening through incorporating rain barrels into your watering system.

For a class schedule or more information, visit

The UH gardening folks also have a regular booth at the Saturday KCC Farmers Market.

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