Island Gardening

Musa paradisiaca, apple banana flower
I haven't met a person who did not like to eat bananas. It can be eaten any time of the day and be prepared in many different ways. One of my favorite lunches is a peanut butter sandwich containing a banana sliced lengthwise. One sandwich will "stick to your ribs" all day. One needs to be creative to use home-grown bananas because it is either feast or famine. Neighbors and relatives benefit; drying preserves them for future snacks. Our favorite is the 'Brazilian Banana'. A peeled Brazilian weighing 100 grams, contains 118 calories, mostly from carbohydrates, vitamins A, B, and C, calcium, phosphorous, iron, protein and 370 mg of potassium, which is 15 % of an adult's recommended daily allowance.

Have you seen what bananas sell for in the store? At times one bluefield banana costs about 42 cents. Those with yard space could easily plant one or two plants.

Schefflera actinophylla, octopus tree
Tree canopies benefit us by:

  • Filtering the air we breathe and providing us oxygen.
  • Providing cooling shade and reducing heat buildup from concrete and asphalt.
  • Conserving the electrical energy used for air conditioning.
  • Increasing property value by as much as 5-10%. (15% when included with other landscape plants).
  • Reducing water run-off and soil compaction from rain.
  • Enhancing our serenity and closeness with nature.
  • Making our communities better places to live and work.
  • Reducing wind intensity.
Even though trees provide us enormous benefits, many are chopped back to resemble utility poles. A good pruner should try to talk you out of it and explain other ways that a tree can be reduced in height without "bald-heading" it.

Environmentally Safe Pesticides (Using a safer mouse-trap.)

Persea americana, 'Little Cado'
Makawao, Maui
Following last month's article on some of the pests that raise havoc in our gardens, I received several "what can I do to control the Hibiscus Erineum Mite" from people on the street and from a lady in Maalaea. She asked for the name of a systemic miticide to combat this devastating pest. This mite prefers to feed on the Chinese Red Hibiscus but will also damage hybrid hibiscus plants to a lesser extent. Unfortunately most of the chemicals will provide only a temporary control, and I do not know of a systemic miticide. The word systemic means that the plant absorbs the chemical so it is not washed off. When the plant pest feeds, it takes the chemical in and dies. Temik, now off the market because of misuse and its toxicity, was an outstanding systemic insecticide/miticide. There is now a substitute called Oxymil, but it controls everything but mites. Both of these chemicals are (were) not for use around the house and you need (needed) to be licensed to buy and apply them. Garden shops have many miticides to choose from including the SunSpray Ultra Fine Oil that lists the Erineum Mite as a target pest. I will discuss this product next time. You may want to replace your damaged hibiscus plants with a hibiscus that is not so sensitive, or to replace your hedges with plants with fewer or no pests. A good biological control is not available yet, and it may be a long time before one is found.

Pruning: A Necessity but Best When Done Correctly

Fagraea berterana, pua kenikeni
Haiku Maui
Most people are interested in pruning their plants properly and will find volumes written on the subject. Bookstores, libraries, journals and magazines are good sources of information. For the most part people can do their own pruning of shrubs and small trees. When you need to use a ladder to prune a tree, this is where it becomes more dangerous. A branch can fall and knock the ladder from under you. Also using a four legged step ladder is not as safe as a three legged orchard ladder. I speak from experience. A four legged ladder I was using, walked while I was about 8 feet above the ground. I jumped onto nearby grass but fractured my right forearm in 5 or 6 places. The therapy was many times worse than the injury. All is well now. I have full use of my arm and am a lot wiser.

This episode prompted me to go in with about three other persons and we brought in orchard ladders from the mainland. The freight for a single ladder was about the same as for the four. If you are interested in an orchard ladder, I suggest you inquire at a hardware store first. If you cannot find what you want on Maui, write to: Tallman Ladders, Inc.; 1460 Tucker Road; Hood River, Oregon 97031 (Telephone: (503) 386 2733). Ask them to send you their literature and price list.

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Tree Pruning: Some Basic Techniques. Save Trees, Save Money.

Cocos nucifera, coconut
Haiku Maui
Two weeks ago I wrote about pruning hedges and young trees and mentioned some safety precautions a person should take. I cannot over emphasize that it may be cheaper and safer for you to hire a knowledgeable person to do major pruning for you than for you to do the job yourself. Young trees with branches less than 2 inches in diameter, roses, and hedges may be possible for you to prune safely. It has been said that if you need to get on a ladder to prune a tree it is time to call for the help of a professional. However, if you do know good pruning techniques discuss these with the individual you are about to hire. Make certain that your trees are not butchered. Climbing spikes and broadleafed trees don't mix (See my article dated February 27, 1994). Make sure that the pruner is currently insured (call his agent) so that you are not liable. Inspect some of his recent work, and talk to these tree owners. The kind of work you require will dictate the skill needed by your pruner. Shop around and be selective.

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Mango Season Part I

Mangifera indica, 'Rapoza'
Makawao Maui
Mango is enjoyed by many people but is grown only in tropical and subtropical climates world wide. India alone has about 500 different types and is this fruit's major exporter. The Philippines is second. The main importers of mango fruit are England and France. Indians living in England and the British who formerly lived in India are the primary consumers of mango in England. As a kid I used to look forward to eating green and half green common mangoes dipped in a combination of black pepper and shoyu. We also partially dried half ripe mangoes that were cut right through the seed in halves then cooked them with Chinese Five Spice to make mango seed. We pickled half ripe mango flesh in sugared vinegar seasoned with Li Hing Mui seed and made pickled mango. We were envious of people who lived in Lahaina, or had friends living in Lahaina, because mangoes in that part of the island "came-in" earlier. Roadside stands sold (and still do) the early fruiting small type Lahaina mangoes. These fruit have a large seed, a somewhat stringy flesh, but are sweet tasting when ripe.

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How to propagate and care for your mango tree Part II

Mangifera indica, 'Rapoza'
Makawao Maui
In my last article I focused on mango cultivars recommended for Hawaii and how the Rapoza and Fairchild mangoes should be planted in areas where rain and high humidity are normal during flowering time. I also said that I was not aware of a dwarf mango tree, well one of the nurseries I visited said that there is such a plant. The dwarf mango's name was one I had not heard before and the salesperson did not know the fruit's characteristics.

The mangoes we typically grow are not true when planted from seed. Only seeds of the polyembryonic type mangoes (those that produce more than one plant from a single seed) will produce plants that are true to the mother plant - common mango, Paris, Julie, Shibata, Kurashige, and No. 9 or Chinese mango. Therefore to obtain a young tree that is true to its mother, propagation needs to be made vegetatively by using a piece of the mother tree you want to duplicate. Grafting is the most common form of vegetative propagation of mangoes.

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