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Start small and close by
If you are not already growing food, then starting small and close by the house is the best strategy for success. Many people get excited about gardening and they put lots of effort into a relatively large area, only to be overwhelmed with maintenance such as weeding, watering, replanting, etc., eventually becoming frustrated and abandoning the project. Starting small allows you to learn what works for you in terms of crops, methods, and your ability to keep up with the work. As you get some experience under your belt, you can expand on the area with a better sense of your limitations. It also allows you to experiment, without risking large losses of time, space, or money.
Planting close by your home allows you to keep a watchful eye on your project several times a day. “Out of sight, out of mind” applies especially to garden plots, so putting your new planting near where you naturally spend time daily will remind you to give attention to the garden when it needs it, such as watering, weeding, replanting, and harvesting. A garden close to the house improves your ability to control wild animals that can cause problems, such as chickens, turkeys, and pigs. Moreover, having a garden or animals near the house will allow you to easily experience your garden and learn about its needs and cycles.
Some examples of starting small near the house include:
- A container garden in large nursery pots can be placed next to the lanai, front door, or kitchen door, and can produce a good amount of food, depending on the number of containers.
- A small garden bed, about 3 ft x 10 ft can provide abundant kitchen greens and herbs.
- A small raised garden bed, such as one built on a platform fashioned from used pallets, is a good height for working without having to squat or stoop over.
All of these examples can start small and can be scaled up over time, as desired.
Craig Elevitch is director of Hawai'i Homegrown Food Network and an educator in agroforestry. His books include Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands (2000), The Overstory Book: Cultivating Connections with Trees (2004), Traditional Trees of Pacific Islands: Their Culture, Environment, and Use (2006), and Specialty Crops of Pacific Islands (2011) all of which promote diverse agricultural systems that produce abundant food.