6 Tips to Grow and Harvest Your Sunflower

Here are some tips to  help you grow sunflowers. Sunflower

  1. Water your sunflower seed start container every morning to keep the soil and sprouting seed moist.
  2. Once the sunflower sprout reaches a height of about 4 inches, transplant it directly into the soil. Sunflowers have long tap roots, so they don’t grow well in containers.
  3. Choose a spot that gets direct sunlight at least 6-8 hours each day.
  4. Give your sunflower plenty of water every morning, watering at the base of the plant. Try to avoid splashing water onto the leaves as excess moisture can cause powdery mildew and interfere with the growth of the plant.
  5. As the sunflower reaches its maximum height, it will begin to droop at the head. When petals fall off, the center florets dry up and the seed kernels begin to swell. At this stage, it’s best to cover your flower head with a mesh onion bag or loose burlap or paper bag. This keeps birds from eating your seeds.
  6. Cut the stalks at the base when the ripened seeds develop a hard shell. If you plan to eat your sunflower seeds or preserve them for your bird feeder, wait until the seeds are completely dry; then remove them by hand or by rubbing them over wire mesh into a basket. Store in tightly closed containers to maintain freshness and keep rodents away.
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Soil Building with Cover Crops

The hottest summer months in Kihei are tough on most garden plants, but it’s a great time to introduce cover crops for improving soil health and preparing for the next planting season. These crops also serve as great tools to teach students about nitrogen and its role in the life cycle.

All plants need nitrogen to make amino acids, proteins and DNA. Approximately 80 percent of the air surrounding the earth is nitrogen gas. However, nitrogen in gas form is not usable by most plants. First, nitrogen needs to be converted from its atmospheric gas form to ammonium compounds to become available to plants. To achieve this, many organic farmers use nitrogen-fixing cover crops. Cover crop benefits and tips include:

Boosting Soil Fertility & Nitrogen Fixing

Cover crops, also known as green manures, recycle nutrients and add organic matter to the soil.  The nutrients are absorbed and stored inside plants. When nutrients are needed for the next crop, the old plants are dug into the soil or used as mulch on top of the soil. We always explain to students, “old plants make food for new plants.”

Legumes – such as alfalfa, peas, beans, clover and vetch – are particularly beneficial to replenish nitrogen available to plants. During the process, called “nitrogen fixing,” rhizobial bacteria take residence in root nodules of legumes and convert biologically unavailable atmospheric nitrogen gas to a plant-available ammonium compound.

Inoculating Seeds for Better Nitrogen Fixing

There are multiple strains of nitrogen-fixing rhizobia, and each is specific to a certain type of legume. For instance, the rhizobia strain associated with vetch will also work with peas, but not alfalfa. When legumes are inoculated with the proper strain of rhizobial bacteria, they produce large, pink nodules on the roots of the host plant. The pinkish color indicates the presence of a hemoglobin-like molecule that is necessary for nitrogen fixation to occur.

Rhizobia live naturally in the soil. However, the strains already present may not always be compatible for your cover crop or in the amount necessary for effective nitrogen fixation. To increase the odds, many gardeners inoculate their cover crop seeds by lightly dusting them with the appropriate rhizobial bacteria strains prior to planting. Rhizobial bacteria powder may be found in or near the seed section at your local nursery. Check the label to ensure the inoculant matches your cover crop seed of choice. We’ve had difficulty finding inoculant on store shelves on Maui, so ordering online is the best option here. Peaceful Valley has a great selection of seed inoculants with instructions on proper use of each strain.

Improving Soil Structure & Habitat

Cover crops strengthen soil structure, letting more air into the soil, improving drainage, maintaining viable living space for beneficial microorganisms and insects. Cover crops can also help the sandy soils found in Kihei hold more water. While some cover crops are drought resistant, beneficial bacteria generally fare better with moisture.

Preventing Soil Erosion and Compaction

Cover crops help prevent soil from being carried away by wind and rain. The roots penetrate the soil and hold it in place. Having plants constantly growing in your gardening spaces also gives a visual cue to help deter kids from marching through and compacting the soil.

Controlling Weeds

Bare soil can become quickly overgrown with weeds, which can be difficult to remove once they’ve become established. A good ground cover can prevent weeds from growing by competing for nutrients, space and light.

Want to learn more? You’re invited to help us plant new cover crops and learn hands-on how to improve nitrogen availability for healthy new garden plants. Attend our upcoming Work & Learn Days or email info@GrowSomeGood.org for more information on participating in classes with Kihei Elementary & Lokelani Intermediate students.

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What and When To Plant in South Maui

Here are a few pieces that we’ve gotten from various sources that may help others decide what to plant and when to plant it.

This one page summary tells what to plant by elevation.  (Source: Master Gardeners)

Vegetables in South Maui Chart  – This list was prepared and presented by Susan Wyche at a South Maui Sustainability session on growing in South Maui.

A few tips for beginners:

  • One of the easiest things to grow here is basil.  It works year round, sun or shade, in a container or in the ground.  Pinch off flowers to keep sweet flavor. Plant different types for culinary delight.  Take cuttings if plant starts looking tired, put them in water and plant the “new plant with roots” in about a week.
  • Cherry tomatoes are the easiest to grow here.
  • One issue during the summer is transpiration.  With our hot winds and sandy soil a plant may wilt in just hours. With watering they may actually perk up but if you see this happening, you may have to water twice a day!  Mulching helps as does adding more compost to the soil.
  • When plants “go to seed” before they are even ripe or full grown, it is often because our soil temperatures are high.  Spread mulch thick and recognize that some things just won’t grow during our hot seasons.
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Garden Tip: Treating Slugs with Coffee

Garden Tip: Treating Slugs with Coffee
For an all natural, good for your soil and plants slug treatment, use your leftover morning coffee and coffee grounds around your vegetable garden plants. While different studies have shown varying degrees of success using coffee sprays and coffee grounds to treat for slugs, we’ve had great success using coffee in the Kihei Elementary School Garden project. It really works. Read more about the University of Hawaii study on treating slugs with caffeine.

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Powdery Mildew and Other Fungal Diseases

Not many gardeners have gone a season without some powdery mildew. Even in dry areas, a sprinkler gone awry can cause this fungus to seemingly creep over a garden and destroy it in days. We got this tip for keeping powdery mildew under control from the keynote speaker Tane Datta at CTAHR’s  Organic Gardening Workshop.

Remember that powdery mildew is a fungus that usually appears as a white or gray powder on tops of leaves. The first sign is usually twisting and curling of young leaves on the lower part of the plant. You usually see it on beans, cucumbers, melons, mangos and squash but we’ve seen it on tomatoes and many ornamentals too. Although it rarely kills a plant, it causes poor growth and lower yields.

Prevention is the easiest way to manage any fungi by ensuring plants are healthy, get enough sunlight and have good air circulation. If you have had problems before, choose mildew resistant varieties. Make sure not to overfeed your plants as this severely stresses them.

Fungi spreads from the spores being flown around by wind or from just growing from one plant to another. Spores can live in the soil for a long time.

Always make sure to sanitize (remove) really bad areas. Be careful to not shake the foliage as that will spread the spores. It is ok to put plants with powdery mildew in your compost pile as long as the pile gets hot. Otherwise, discard in a sealed plastic bag.

So here’s the big tip — don’t try to treat Powdery Mildew the same way each time. Mix up different types of treatments and you’ll have a lot more success! Here are a few of the organic methods people report having success with.

  • Spray liquid seaweed onto your plant’s leaves. Research has shown that this has a powerful “booster” effect to your plant’s health and it helps fight off the powdery mildew.
  • Sulphur sprays are quite effective at stopping the spread of powdery mildew. They also destroy beneficial soil fungi as well so don’t spray too much.
  • Mix 1 heaping tablespoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of dormant oil, and ½ teaspoon of insecticidal or dish soap in one gallon of water.
  • Mix cow’s milk at a ratio of one part of milk to nine parts of water and spray weekly.
  • Pour one part of standard 3 percent-strength hydrogen peroxide with three parts water. Spray on plants daily until mildew subsides.
  • Kaligreen® is an organic solution with potassium Bicarbonate. Mix according to instructions.
  • SERENADE® is another organic product that comes in both a powder and liquid.
  • There are also fungicidal products on the garden center shelves featuring jojoba oil and neem oil.
  • Here a new one… one of the most effective measures in preventing and treating powdery mildew is to spray the foliage of your plants daily with plain water from the hose. Powdery mildew hates water! The only caveat with this method is to be sure you do it early in the day so that the foliage completely dries before cooler evening temperatures arrive, otherwise you may invite other fungal diseases, such as black spot, into your garden.

Happy Gardening
Reposted from South Maui Sustainability.org blog.

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Garden Care & Fruit Fly Trap Workshop This Saturday

kihei elementary school garden south maui school gardens projectWHEN:
Saturday, October 8
Garden Care: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Workshop: 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

WHERE:
Kihei Elementary School Garden
250 E. Lipoa Street, Kihei
Center campus adjacent to cafeteria and main office.

Caring for the Garden

Help us create the best garden ever this year at Kihei Elementary School. In the plans: peace pie (pizza) garden, gardens of the world field, expanded Native Hawaiian canoe garden, pollinator gardens, herb spirals, bamboo teepee tunnel of vine plants (beans, cucumber, lilikoi, etc), three sisters garden and more!

No experience necessary in this learning garden. Plenty of garden care projects for the entire family. We’ll be expanding planting areas, building bamboo tee pee tunnels, amending the soil, clearing weeds and old plants, spreading mulch, painting garden signs…

Learn about gardening from your neighbors while working together to inspire keiki to learn from nature. As always, fresh fruit and beverages will be served.
Please bring a hat, sunscreen, gloves, closed toe shoes and a drinking cup.

fruit fly workshop kihei elementary school gardenLearning in the Garden:
Fruit Fly Traps

Urban gardening expert & South Maui School Gardens Project Co-Founder Kathy Becklin will explain why your melons, citrus, tomatoes and zucchini are getting stung and what to do about it. A fruit fly talk followed by a fruit fly trap workshop will take place from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Collect your own empty 2 liter soda bottles and bring them to the event.

We’ll supply the lures specific to fruit flies most common in South Maui. Suggested donation: $5 (DIY with your bottle), $10 (to have one made for you). Proceeds benefit Kihei Elementary School Garden. Email info@KiheiSchoolGardens.org for more information.

See you in the garden!

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5 Senses and Cover Crop Turning

Today we explored the 5 Senses in the Garden with Kihei Elementary School kindergarteners and turned nitrogen-fixing and phosphorous-rich cover crops into the soil for a final round with all grades before planting new fruits and vegetables for the year.

To start the adventures, Chef Kristin Etheredge gave each student gardener a taste of fresh apple bananas from her home and juicy strawberry papayas, then collected compost scraps to feed the soil. As we sampled the harvest, students talked with Kathy and Kris about similarities between soil health and human health, plant parts, decomposers in the compost, then discovered a bright red ladybug on a tour with Gadener Kirk, learned about beneficial insects and brainstormed describing words to write in their journals.

Mahalo to all for sharing mana’o and helping to inspire a new generation of chefs, teachers, scientists, farmers and urban gardeners on these islands!

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seed saving class at kihei elementary school garden

Seed Saving: The Cycle of Life… In Real Life

seed saving class at kihei elementary school garden
KES Teachers - Sign up for seed saving classes!

When teaching life sciences and sustainability with students of any age, seed saving is an essential element that bridges the gap between a text book explanation and real life.  As students experience the full cycle of a plant, from planting the seed to harvesting the seed, the concept of life cycles is experienced more deeply beyond words or charts.

You’re invited to dive into our wonderful collection of plant flowers, collected from garden goodies as they’ve bolted into Spring.

Class options include:

  • “Why Save Seeds?” talk story
  • Pollination – Self-pollinators and insects as pollinators
  • Wet & dry seed-saving techniques
  • Seed storage tips
  • Take away seeds for home gardens and next year’s school garden!

Volunteers are available 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to assist classes at Kihei Elementary School garden. To request volunteer assistance for your class, email INFO AT GROWSOMEGOOD DOT COM the following info:

Teacher / Grade Level

Number of Students

Requested Day / Time

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Why Care About Pollinators?

Pollination — the transfer of pollen grains to fertilize the seed-producing ovaries of flowers — is an essential part of a healthy ecosystem.  And pollinators play a significant role in the production of over 150 food crops in the United States.In this introductory curriculum educators have purposely chosen to focus on just two of the many pollinators as a means for teaching basic concepts about the process and importance of pollination.

Bees were chosen due to their primary importance among pollinators and butterflies were chosen because of the interesting and distinctive stages of their life cycle and their intrinsic appeal.

Find out more about butterflies, bees and other pollinators through activities designed to provide a systematic exploration of the topic using  scientific thinking processes at the Pollinator Partnership’s website.  This SERIES curriculum was funded through a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Nature’s Partners curriculum contained here is designed to be a highly adaptive and flexible resource for teachers and youth leaders.   Here’s a link to one of the learning modules if you’re ready to buzz and flutter into the world of pollinators.

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Wild Ones Seeds for Education

Deadline: October 15, 2011

The Wild Ones – Seeds for Education Program (SFE) began in 1996 and was named in honor of naturalist and Wild Ones inspirational leader Lorrie Otto, a pioneer in the natural landscaping movement in the United States and on who’s philosophy Wild Ones was founded. SFE annually gives cash awards to places of learning and other organized groups who successfully communicate their vision of creating natural landscapes using native plants for the purpose of educating users of the facility and the community. Applications are judged and winners selected by a volunteer panel of educators and naturalists. SFE Nursery Partners (native plant nurseries and propagators) also donate seeds, plants and guidance to grant recipients.

Many Wild Ones support community efforts to establish or maintain natural areas, and work with local schools, scout groups and other organizations to create butterfly gardens, rainwater gardens, or other projects.

The Wild Ones’ mission (to educate and share information about the benefits of natural landscaping using native species to promote biodiversity and environmentally sound practices) encourages members to interact with the community. As members see the results of their native landscaping in their backyards, they begin to notice other areas in their communities where naturally landscaping could be beneficial. They also become aware of community efforts to help children learn about the natural world. Many members support these efforts.  See more at  www.for-wild.org/aboutsit.html

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