Bucket Lo’i Growing Big

Same three buckets a couple of chilly weeks later. When it warms up, the taro's growth will accelerate significantly.

Same three buckets a couple of chilly weeks later. When it warms up, the taro's growth will accelerate significantly.

It’s been a couple of months since I last posted about my little bucket-lo’i project. I have several 25 gallon molasses tubs re-purposed to be used as pots to grow my taro in. Since these particular taro plants prefer semi-aquatic conditions, I opted to not drill a drain hole in these tubs and to flood them several inches above the soil line. Since I have had problems with compost rotting immersed corms, I opted for plain ol’ top-soil dug from under my large oak trees. A very black and healthy soil. I used similar to grow my lotus, Chinese water-chestnuts and cattail with very good results, as well as smaller buckets of taro I immersed in larger tubs of water down in the pit-greenhouse. So I followed success and planted my new taro tubs the same way.

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Bucket Lo’i

Pi'iali'i growing in a bucket-lo'i.

Pi'iali'i growing in a bucket-lo'i.

For the last couple of years I’ve kept taro in the greenhouse in large molasses tubs filled with water. The taro themselves grew in smaller buckets of topsoil submerged in these tubs, which I have dubbed bucket-lo’i. Of all my taro, these taro grew the best and produced the largest corms and healthiest leaves. The upland beds just didn’t have good enough soil to keep the taro healthy, and the containers of taro just never flourished. Containers have been too variable to grow happy taro. The soil is either too dry or too wet, too rich or too devoid of nutrients, too hot or too cold – all in the same pot over the course of a season. But the bucket-lo’i – they were steady as a rock. The water has an excellent moderating effect, changing temperature slowly and also keeping the taro hydrated.

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Making a Poi Pounder

This is the lava stone from which a poi pounder will be carved.

This is the lava stone from which a poi pounder will be carved.

A poi pounder is a stone shaped somewhat like a half an hour-glass with a rounded bottom. It’s usually carved out of a gray lava with tight pores. In those days, these stones were pecked at with a hammer stone to shape it – a process that took many many patient hours. Once the shape was finished then another stone would be used to polish the pounder. I opted to use a diamond-bladed grinder instead.

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Time to Plant

New Henon shoot emerging about this time in 2008.

New Henon shoot emerging about this time in 2008.

The hardest part of planting boo is thinking years ahead. After all, bamboo is a long term commitment. Once planted and established, it’ll take a bulldozer to get rid of it, so one has to be absolutely certain that it’s planted exactly where one wants it to be planted, and planted in an area where it can be perpetually maintained. It’s bed will have to be tended forever once it’s planted to keep it from spreading out of control. Or planted where it doesn’t matter about spreading. It’s actually not a hard thing to keep boo under control, but it takes a little effort.

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Aquaponics Vanilla

Newly rooted vanilla in 11" buckets out in the greenhouse.

Newly rooted vanilla in 11" buckets out in the greenhouse.

I have been growing vanilla for the better part of a decade. And I’ve killed my share of the orchids as I learned the ins and outs of this mysterious vine. It has been an education that I paid for, but one that was worth every penny – as today I have vanilla that is just going bonkers and growing like a weed. It all revolved around a chance observation…

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Taro Survivors

Kai Kea patch after a year of drought and heat and winter dormancy.

Kai Kea patch after a year of drought and heat and winter dormancy.

I started a couple of in-ground taro beds early last Spring. The idea was to see if I could keep taro alive thru our harsh environment. I’ve had other beds fail but that was during a multi-year drought. One is dug in about 9″ deep and is positioned in a way that drainage water that runs across our property when it rains hard will flood it good. The other isn’t dug in but has a berm of soil around its borders to slow the exodus of water. It too will get flooded as well.

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Boo Update

Happy Henon bamboo

Happy Henon bamboo.

It’s been two weeks since I potted up the Giant Grey Henon, the Moso seedlings and the unidentified boo that I had planted at the back of the property and subsequently rescued after a total lack of progress for four years. The Henon is topside in a 25 gallon container and the other two are down in the pit greenhouse in 3 gallon containers.

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Taro ICU

Aquarium Pump Lo’i

Aquarium Pump Lo’i.

Growing taro has been exciting for me, but Spring always results in a few losses. It’s a pretty big stress on these plants to go dormant when they’re used to continuous growth. My new barrelponics system will solve that by keeping the water warm thru a solar water-heater. But this Spring still needs to be dealt with.

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My First Bananas

Summer of 2006, young collection

Summer of 2006, young collection.

If there was a first food-producing tropical plant that I’d recommend for beginners, I think it would be the ubiquitous banana. It is a very tolerant plant, grows in a variety of soil conditions excepting perhaps boggy, is the very image of tropical with it’s large, lush, richly green leaves, and with patience and care they produce super yummies that the whole family can enjoy. No, really – 150 lbs from a Williams Hybrid is gonna require the whole family and perhaps the neighbors and their friends to eat… Realistically, most nanners don’t produce that much, especially grown in temperate regions (with winter protection), but it’s immensely satisfying bringing in something that grew from your garden and bananas are no exception.

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Earth Sheltered Pit Greenhouse

First Framing Attempt

First framing attempt.

In this area of Texas, I have two problems that I encounter when growing tropical plants. In the winter it freezes – a no-brainer – and in the summer, it gets too hot for many of the tropicals I grow. It’s a pretty unfriendly environment for a plant that is used to an 80-95F range 365 and a quarter days per year. But, the land wasn’t expensive, we have family here, and our well flows good even in the depth of drought, and most importantly, my better half doesn’t want to cart the kids off to some remote Pacific island no matter how much I beg. So, determination and innovation is what I have left – and a blank slate of a property to exercise that on.

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