Gardening for Sustainability
As Uncle Les from the Waipio taro farm tells us, in ancient times, Hawaiians knew how to use the land around them to their advantage. They developed the ahu’pua’a system to ensure that their area of land had all of the necessities for survival. At one time, the Waipi’o Valley ahu’pua’a alone could support between 30,000-40,000 people. Hawaiians grew a variety of crops, including taro, sweet potato, and breadfruit. Today however, about 90% of food consumed in Hawaii comes from off island. This means that food prices in Hawaii are higher than other areas in the United States. If there was some environmental or otherwise significant disaster, the people of Hawaii would face a major food shortage. Buying locally can also be very expensive in certain places around the island. I don’t live in an area with an easily accessible farmer’s market, and much of the produce in stores is very expensive. So, what can all of us do? We can live like the ancient Hawaiians and grow our own food. Planting just seventy dollars worth of seeds produces around five hundred and thirty dollars in produce. Think of how much money you could save annually by having a garden! Even with only a little space in your yard, you can still plant plenty of fruits and vegetables. The following are some easy and low maintenance vegetable crops I have grown in my garden in Waimea:
• Sweet Potatoes
• Green Onions
Gardens aren’t just limited to vegetables though. Planting citrus trees and fresh fruits (such as strawberries) adds diversity and sweetness to your diet. In my garden, I have planted many strawberry plants which produce strawberries for me and my family. Planting insect-repelling plants such as marigolds and basil also helps protects your garden from being eaten by insects.
I was inspired to improve my garden after visiting and helping out HIP Agriculture during the HOI Summit to Sea course. HIP Ag grows their own organic produce and practices sustainable agriculture. After enjoying a delicious homegrown meal there, I decided that my own garden should have a wider range of vegetables so that I can pick my own food for meals. The problem is, where I live, there is very little growing soil. The area around where I live doesn’t get a lot of rain and is mostly dry. I also have very little space in the ground to garden. My solution: building a self-watering raised bed in a sunny area outside my house. I looked up raised bed instructions on the internet, and building one is surprisingly easy! All you need is some wood, a rubber or plastic sheet base, some screws, and drain pipes. After building it, all you have to do is fill up the drain pipes underneath the bed every few weeks and just like that, you have a low-maintenance, water-saving planter bed! In my raised beds I am hoping to plant pineapple, lettuce, beans, and more tomatoes. I will be able to build at least one raised bed when I get home. By building a raised bed and planting vegetables in it, I will save my family money and be more sustainable.
While I’m choosing to use raised bed to garden, there are other ways to save space. You can use hanging pots or trellises to keep beans or tomatoes from spreading out or falling over (I use trellises for my tomato plants). For more easy gardening, you can set up a compost or worm bin food scraps to make fertilizer for your plants.
Gardening isn’t just for Hawaii. Already, nearly half of Americans have gardens. That’s about 164 million people! Schools and communities have set up their own gardening patches for many people. These gardens teach others, especially younger generations, how to be more sustainable and how to grow your own food. Hopefully through my garden I can inspire others to become for sustainable.