Wednesday, May 27, 2015         

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If you've got an infestation of aphids, thrips, mealybugs or whiteflies and you're not squeamish about small-scale biological warfare, beneficial insects, also known as natural enemies, may be an attractive option.

Is your morning coffee from Kona or Kauai? Are cucumber, zucchini and squash part of your diet? Love lychee? You can credit our kama­aina honeybees, descendents of European stock, for doing much of the work to pollinate our local produce.

Plants are amazing! They need no added nutrients to germinate. Once they sprout, they'll need fertilizer to grow but inside each little seed is the energy and food required to reproduce another plant. Each seed capsule also retains information of environmental pressures to where it was grown.

Q: Why are some of my mango flowers turning dark? A: According to University of Hawaii at Manoa plant pathologist specialist Scot Nelson, the symptoms you see are caused by a fungus that first appears as a white powder on the flowers and eventually alters infected flowers.

Sunnhemp (Crotalaria juncea), a legume plant from South Asia identifiable by its bright yellow flowers, is becoming a common cover crop. Tropic sunnhemp is an excellent source of organic nitrogen, which can reduce dependence on commercial fertilizers.

The rainy season is off to a strong start this year, with most areas across the state reporting above average rainfall. While rain is generally a good thing in the garden, too much rain can pose challenges, particularly when it comes to plant disease.

A Chinese yellow swallowtail laid her eggs on my lemon tree, and now I have fat little green caterpillars voraciously eating the leaves on their way to becoming beautiful butterflies.

While we are all familiar with the mushrooms we find in our grocery stores, I hear concern from home gardeners surrounding mushrooms and other fungi in our backyards.

Summer is the perfect time of year to plant a pollinator garden. Creating a habitat is one of the best ways we can support our pollinators and slow the declines we have experienced in Hawaii due to habitat loss, pesticide usage, disease and introduced species.

So many of us have stories about being stung by a different type of ant, tropical fire ants, when we've stood in the wrong spot at a picnic or at the beach park, but these little fire ants are different.

Studies have found that home gardeners are apt to apply more pesticides than farmers or landscapers and with the National Garden Association reporting that 85 million U.S. households engage in home gardening, the collective misuse of pesticides is an issue of growing concern.

Every rosarian living in Hawaii recognizes the telltale signs after Chinese rose beetles have made a feast out of the foliage on their rose bushes. Left uncontrolled, these beetles may make a buffet out of every leaf on every bush growing in your rose garden.

One of the advantages of living in Hawaii is that we can garden all year, and winter is actually the best season for planting a number of vegetables. It is also a time when gardeners can perform tasks that will help plants do well all year.

The rainy season is upon us, and often when it rains, it pours. Heavy rains can turn your landscape into a soggy, muddy mess and lead to more serious environmental problems such as flooding, erosion and water pollution.

Q: I've heard the term "Hawaiian papaya." Is papaya a native plant? A: No, papaya was introduced into Hawaii from Barbados in 1911. The introduced species was later named "Solo" in 1919.

"Resilience" is fast becoming the buzzword in many circles, much like its sister term "sustainability" has been in vogue since the Rio Earth Summit and other efforts made it famous in the 1990s.

AS the rainy season gives way to the hotter, drier months of summer, it's important to consider ways to conserve water in the home garden and landscape.

Gardening with children is an activity that engages keiki and adults alike. Parents, relatives, neighbors, educators and group-activity coordinators all have the potential to ignite a child's lifelong appreciation for our Earth's natural systems and gain valuable life skills.

Home gardens, whether a collection of potted plants on a lanai or a backyard with fruit trees, reflect an owner's personality and interests. Urban gardens, with their splashes of color and scent, are also a source of nutrition for insect pollinators.

It was more than 5 million years ago when a fern spore drifted on tradewinds to settle upon these islands. Fern spores were some of the first plant parts to inhabit these large volcanic rocks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Potted plants are a popular holiday gift, especially poinsettia, Christmas cactus and Norfolk Island pine, or perhaps something more exotic or trendy. Eventually you may want to transplant that prize into your yard or garden.

Fertilizers for home gardens can be expensive, heavy, require large storage areas and contribute to nutrient pollution in Hawaii's streams and groundwater.

With cooler weather upon us, now is a good time to begin planting some heat-intolerant vegetables. For those who like to propagate their own plants, it's also a good time to begin germinating seeds.

The autumn season in temperate regions like the mainland is a time for the trees to shed their leaves before the coming winter. Autumn is the last growing season for most plants before chilling frost prevents further plant growth.

Native plants are plants that were not introduced by humans, and by definition they can't be invasive. Only a small percentage of non-native plants are invasive, but those that are can cause a great deal of damage.

Chives and scallions are herbs grown for their onion-flavored leaves and stems. Like the common garden onion, they are members of the genus Allium, in the lily family.

Vertical gardens, also known as green walls or living walls, are gaining in popularity.

When your plants don't appear healthy and the leaves are sticky, sucking insects could be the culprits. The stickiness is probably honeydew, and I'm not talking about the melon.

The sweet potato is a "canoe" plant brought to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesians. The Hawaiian names are uala and uwala.

Naio (Myoporum sandwicense) has the notorious nickname of "bastard sandalwood," which sometimes is softened by the more innocuous label "false sandalwood."

Fresh, ripe-on-the-vine, plump and nutritious tomatoes are tempting to anyone planning a vegetable garden. As many a frustrated gardener has discovered, however, there are numerous challenges to successfully growing tomatoes in the islands.

Q: I have a rose bush in my yard with many holes in the leaves, but why don't I ever see any insects? A: The holes in your leaves are most likely caused by a pale reddish-brown beetle called the Chinese rose beetle.

Blueberries can be grown in various Hawaii climates. Southern highbush blueberries have flowered and fruited at as low as the 250-foot elevation, even without a companion plant for cross-pollination, and they are relatively easy and very rewarding plants.

One question often asked of Master Gardeners and extension agents is, "How do I keep fruit flies from stinging my fruits and vegetables?"

Legumes are known for their high protein content and the symbiosis they form with rhizobia bacteria, which provide them with free nitrogen from the atmosphere.

University-trained extension master gardeners routinely put themselves in the hot seat while fielding an array of home-gardening questions via phone and email help lines and at Plant Doctor clinics in the community.

Three, tall slender gold trees grow in Thomas Square near the corner of Ward Avenue and Beretania Street, across from the Honolulu Academy of Arts. They bring joy whenever I see them.

Q: I have tiny white insects on the backs of the leaves of my gardenia. When I brush the leaves they fly up into the air like dandruff. What are they? • Q: I am trying to garden organically and don’t want to spray for whiteflies; what are other methods of control?

Ohia lehua is the icon of Hawaii forests, right along with native koa, and it's the predominant tree that makes up a million acres of watershed forests. What would Hawaii be like without ohia lehua?

She was born with the name Lydia Lili‘u Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamaka‘eha. This column celebrates our beloved Queen Liliu­oka­lani's most cherished blossom, the crown flower (Calotropis gigantea), or pua kalaunu in Hawaiian — also known as liliu on Niihau.

Puu Mahoe literally means "the hill of twins," but it is so much more. Puu Mahoe is a cinder cone on the eastern flank of Haleakala. You have to go through three locked ranch gates to get there. It's worth the trip.

Today my oldest nephew, Travis Choy, is getting married to Youna Choi. This article about stephanotis (Marsdenia floribunda), known as pua male — "wedding flower" in Hawaiian, is dedicated to them.

Mock orange hedges, once the toughest thing in town, are dying; they are drying up. What's going on? Mock orange is one of Hawaii's best drought-tolerant and attractive hedge plants. It is in the orange family, Rutaceae, and comes from driest parts of India.

Maybe we should grow some ko. That's the Hawaiian name for sugar cane. Did you know that it's a canoe plant? Ko was carried here by the ancient seafaring Polynesians, who developed many wonderful and ono varieties here in Hawaii.

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