Gardening For Life

As a self-taught gardener I learned by experience that any soil can be improved. The secret is to amend… amend… amend…

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I learned that early from reading Organic Gardening magazines in 1978. I also learned that it was possible to garden without poisons or fertilizers.

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When someone tells me they have clay soil, sandy soil or rocky soil, I can tell you that I’ve seen it all. I’m not a Master Gardener but I know how to plant and to be a good gardener you must start with the soil. No matter what type of dirt I’ve encountered, by adding compost, mixing potting soils or top soils to the existing soil helped me achieve a rich loamy medium in which to plant.

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My compost piles have always been created by digging a hole one foot deep and three feet wide. Into this goes vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, fruit peels, egg shells layered with leaves and grass cuttings to aerate the pile. I moisten it from time to time and turn it with a hoe or shovel in order to cover the scraps and keep it from getting compacted too tightly. When I see earthworms I know I’ve got a good thing going and within weeks it’s becoming a healthy rich mixture to add to my garden. Nothing animal goes into my compost.

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When planting bulbs like dahlias here on Maui, irises, tulips, ixias, freesias, tulips and crocus (in the mainland) I dig to the depth instructed on the package and learned at Sassafras Nursery in Topanga, California, to add bone meal and blood meal in the hole mixed with a little dirt to promote root growth and give a boost of nutrition.

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I love to keep a garden diary and tape seed packets onto the pages. This helps you remember what you’ve planted and what you fall in love with for future use. I hope this helps some of you. The way to plant a garden is to design your layout whether it be square, round, curvy or straight. Set the borders then weed it out, dig a foot deep to loosen the soil, add compost, bags of rich potting soil or truckload of compost from a place you trust. Always create your own compost too.
Design your rows. Imagine lettuces, kale, Chinese greens, onions, basil, cosmos, Hawaiian chili peppers.
I start my tomato seeds in flats.
I like getting them established before transplanting into the ground. I suggest planting things that grow fast like string beans. Plant them near a fence or make a tee pee for them to climb. Bush beans are an amazing variety that produce tons of beans at only a foot tall. I love snow peas, snap peas and carrots are wonderful to pick.

 

I suggest a raised bed type garden for root veggies because you are almost guaranteed to have nice loose soil for your beets, carrots, turnips, radishes and daikon.

 

Read lots of magazines like Martha Stewart, Garden Design, Victoria, Elle Decor, Country Living, FarmGirl Magazine for inspiration and visit the farms in your area like we do on Maui. The Lavender Farm, Kula Country Farms, protea farms, tropical flower farms, orchid farms, coffee farms are all an inspiration. We learn from each other and it becomes a passion for gardening and a lifetime of joy…

 

Call me or email me anytime if you have a question about gardening.
If i don’t know the answer I’ll get it for you from one of my amazing friends…

 

~ Marilyn

 

Come take a farm tour with us and we’ll share the most amazing beauty…

 

808 283-9131
808 280-1621

 

Marilyn Jansen Lopes
http://Mauicountryfarmtours.com

Plant a garden… Dream a Farm

Gardening in the shadeHere at Maui Country Farm Tours we visit the farms on Maui. It is so beautiful and inspiring to meet with farmers and learn about Maui’s agricultural beauty. We hope to inspire many young people on Maui to pursue a dream in agriculture contributing to the future of Hawaii. The land is changing and small farms are needed to provide food and products for the island and the world. We love to share the beauty and I want to be a part of this future dream of sustainable living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Please see our farm tours page to learn about all the farms we visit. Inspired by Ali`i  Kula Lavender Kula Country Farms and many other farmers of Maui like Greg and Susy Stille of  Piliani Kope Coffee Farm I long to create my own special place.

Gardens are like children. They need nurturing and love but once established they do well on their own.

I learned about gardening by just getting started. As a young girl I collected images of old English garden posters. I loved the cottages that looked so dreamy and full of flowers like antique roses, delphiniums, canterbury bells, foxgloves and irises overflowing from gardens with paths leading to enchanting storybook houses.
 I knew nothing about gardening when I began at the age of twenty five. I want to share this so you know that one can start anytime in their life to enjoy the gifts of gardening.
organic comfrey
When houseplants were the rage in the seventies, (a revival of Victorian times) my father didn’t want dirt in the house so I began to plant outside. I became obsessed with planting because obviously I was born for it. I found such joy digging in the earth and watching things grow. I hope to share this joy with you.
I purchased seeds and followed the instructions on the packages. I knew nothing about soil and nutrients and enriching with compost until I met a friend who turned me on to Organic Gardening magazine. It was then I knew I would always be an organic gardener because I could never use chemicals that could harm animals or human beings and cause cancer.
My first soil was sandy. My first flowers were zinnias, that grew on skinny unhealthy stems almost tipping over with the weight of the huge flower heads. The next flowers were gorgeous heavenly blue morning glories that surprised us every morning when we looked out the window on a gray California morning to see hundreds of heavenly blue flowers clustered at the top of a vine. They were gorgeous and I was hooked on gardening. I began to prepare my soil in raised beds of a wall next to our fence. I added big bags of potting soil to the sandy earth and mixed in compost. I planted carrots and California poppies to create a lacy look experimenting with flowers and vegetables mixed together. As an artist I always designed with color and texture in my mind. Later I would learn about succulents, drought resistant ice plants, ground coverings and vegetables.

Heavenly Blues
After thirty years of gardening and planting everywhere I’m dreaming of a small farm on a hillside overlooking Kaho`olawe, Lanai and West Maui. I really want to grow lettuces, beans, carrots, beets, citrus, cabbages, onions, tomatoes, peas, asparagus and herbs of all kinds. I see them in curved rows and various areas with pathways leading to hidden flower gardens with cutting beds, succulent gardens, trellises for roses. There will be fences for lilikoi vines and row upon row of papaya trees and palms that could line a drive. I could grow coffee too. I will grow native plants and have experts to teach the growing, propagation and uses for these plants.
 Maui Kitchen Garden
I’m imagining visitors coming from all over the world to enjoy the beautiful gardens and products created from the fruits, vegetables and flowers all grown on Maui.
For now I continue on our half-acre in my small plots here and there and will share the journey with you as I prepare my new raised beds and grow lots of food. Last year in my 10 x 12 foot garden I grew amazing varieties of lettuce, cabbage, kale, mesclun mix, onions, chives, basils, tomatoes, Hawaiian chili peppers, snap peas, string beans, daikon, zinnias, cosmos, morning glories, small carrots and all organically of course. I rarely have pests because I create healthy environments for my gardens by companion planting and first of all making a nice healthy soil.
 Organic Romaine
There are many methods of gardening and you hear a lot about the no till style of layering ingredients that decompose on their own (lasagna gardening) but I have always preferred to dig my dirt a foot deep, mix in compost and organic nutrients to prepare my soil. This has worked well for me. Up-country Maui has nice earth rich in nutrients and the cool nights are wonderful for lettuce and cabbages. We have year round beautiful weather but still subtle changes that are better for winter and summer crops.
organic bibb lettuce
Please follow my newsletter for more elaboration on the gardens and information on a Native plant each month.
What will you grow?