Sunday, April 1, 2012

What Lies Beneath

Gardening sucks in Hawaii!

Let me rephrase that, Gardening sucks in Hawaii for me.

Let me rephrase that again, Gardening in Ewa, on the beach is really, really hard.

I'm sure that there are places here on Oahu that regardless of the variety, you plant it and it grows. Well maybe, but I doubt it. You see I am an Oregon State University Master Gardener. (toot, toot.) I spent all my time while I still lived in Oregon, pushing the boundaries of my USDA zone 7-8. I created microclimates and tried to get every palm and tropical plant I could get my hands on, to grow in my garden. And sometimes it worked. And sometimes it didn't.

So imagine how excited I was at the prospect of finally, finally having an actual real life tropical garden! Well, things are not quite turning out the way I had hoped.

When we first moved into our house down here in Ewa Beach, we focused on the inside, gutting the bathrooms, walling in random windows between walls, taking out random sliding glass doors (between rooms) and creating arches, painting every single surface (including ceiling fans and light fixtures). So when at last I could put my attention to my small but completely tropical garden, I was thrilled.

Well until that first time I turned on the hose. I turned on the hose to water our sorry excuse for a lawn when the weirdest, grossest thing happened. The lawn came alive! It came alive with every matter of black and brown beetles. Many of them roaches. When the water poured the bugs crawled out of the earth like some freakish, hellish horror movie. I am not exaggerating, hundreds of bugs crawled out of the earth and scrambled for dry ground, many racing towards the concrete and my home beyond! I was literally waiting for the zombies rip themselves from my lawn.

The thing is we didn't really have a bug problem IN the house. The prior owners had kept up on the fumigating and it wasn't really an issue. But outside was a completely different story. You see our house was vacant for a year, (another weird Hawaii law: if you open a permit for any kind of work and don't use a licensed contractor, you can not sell said home for one full year.)
Why? Lamest law of all time because all work needs to pass inspection, so what difference does it make who is doing the work? And the result is no flipping of homes, which means many ugly, dilapidated homes stay that way. So dumb because renovating these worn out homes is nothing but money, money, money. Dollars in materials, dollars in real estate fees, dollars in sales, dollars in property taxes. Win. Win. Win. Win. But no one asks me, so...

Anyway, so I am thinking that because no one has done a thing to the yard for a year the local creepy, crawly livestock have taken up permanent residence in my yard. Lived free, and prospered. SO before I can even get to planning and planting I have to bring out the heavy artillery and wage an all out war on these insects.

Ugh. So gross. Bugs like you've never seen before.

And I like to go Organic. But this was completely out of the question, I needed the most toxic stuff I could get my hands on. It was either that, or move. This is when I discovered Diazinon has been outlawed. Damn, that shit was good. Anyways, I spent months just trying to kill the creatures that teemed in my soil. The idea of working that soil with these hands made my skin crawl. It took about a month and a half of hitting it hard (keeping the dog out of the yard) to really completely reverse the "Zombie Effect" as it has since been labeled.

So now (I think) I'm bug free and I start to plan, and buy and dig. And I quickly discover that I do not have soil, I have sand. There is approximately an inch and a half of dark, loamy obviously imported, soil covering the entire surface of my yard. But once the shovel goes in I discover that what lies beneath is nothing but sand. At first I was hopeful. After all there were about three obviously successful plants growing on the property, maybe plants could grow in this? I was so used to the thick clay that I had for soil in Oregon that at first I was thrilled, realizing that planting would be a cinch. I would amend, I would back fill, I would make this work.

You know the problem with sandy soil? Well, besides the fact that there aren't any nutrients in it. It doesn't retain water. I live where it is 80 degrees everyday and I have soil that will not retain a drop. This means I must water every day. Every day. And amend, amend, amend amend.

But the absolute worst part of gardening in Hawaii is that THERE AREN'T ANY NURSERIES! Seriously, like none. I live in the land where nearly everything will grow-- but no one sells any plants! Oh don't get me wrong, we have a Lowe's and a Home Depot and they have garden departments. Pitiful little plots of mistreated plants cared for by employees that don't know a thing about plants. Where are the nurseries? These wonderful places filled with plants lovingly cared for by people who actually like to garden? Where? Well apparently there are such places, so I hear, over on the windward side. But none conveniently located within 40 minutes (one way) of my home. Lame. Lame. Lame.

But I will overcome damnit! I will. I will fight creatures great and shinny! I will pile on the manure! I will drive for hours for plants! I will fertilize. I will water, water, water! I WILL have my tropical garden, I will.

1 comment:

  1. I had a friend in Hawaii who had to built raised garden beds to keep the bugs out. He filled it with bags of soil because--you're right, sand is terrible for growing stuff.

    He uses miracle grow (daily) with his water and has some of the largest cucumbers I've ever seen.

    Even if you got the bugs out of your yard, chances are they're in your neighbor's yard's too and will just migrate back if they're not keeping up with their bug extermination.