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The Joys Of Farming In Hawaii 101

Several years ago, I decided it was time to start planning the orchard that I had been wanting. After deciding that avocados could be a viable passive income crop, I went searching for the perfect grafted avocado tree. What I learned was that there are over 500 different varieties of avocados and that much of the decision regarding varieties would be dictated by the soil type, the weather, and the altitude. I also learned that there are two different types of cultivars (A-type or B-type), and the opening times and pollination behaviors of each vary. This is somewhat important because it is best to have some of each type in an orchard, if possible.

Which Variety of Avocado?

Armed with all this knowledge, I started to look for small grafted varieties that were on my list. Luckily for me, I got on the Plant It Hawaii website and realized that some of my choices were not a good fit for North Kohala or were just not available on the Big Island. I emailed Plant It Hawaii, and they happily spent a lot of time with me going over the best varieties for my orchard. After some deliberation, I decided to plant Green Gold, Kahalu’u, Linda, Sharwil, and San Miguel varieties. Unfortunately, with the recent volcanic eruption, many farms were displaced or their crops were damaged or destroyed, which meant I was not going to be able to plant all my trees at once. (This ended up being a blessing in disguise)!

Plant it Hawaii

Getting Ready to Plant!

With my baby grafted avocado trees ordered, it was time to make sure the space was going to be ready for them. This meant that my old fencing that successfully kept a cow or two in had to go and new “pig” fencing had to be installed. Pig fencing is not cheap, and my advice to any farmer is to do it right the first time. I knew pigs would tear up my young orchard and the irrigation in no time and leave me with a huge headache. So, up the pig fence went!

As the pig fence was going up, the massive holes for my tiny avocado trees were also being dug. The philosophy behind such large deep holes has everything to do with getting the best nutrients to the roots, giving the roots plenty of deep soil to grow in and therefore grow to be sturdy trees that can withstand North Kohala winds.

Green Golds and Kahalu’u Are Planted!

Once the fence was up and the holes were dug, it was pretty much time to plant the trees. With a good dose of dolomite and fertilizer in the bottom of the holes and some fill, the trees were planted! Within five days of being planted, the Big Island was under a hurricane watch, and the winds that were projected would have taken the avocado trees with them. So cages had to be made in a hurry and installed on every tree.

Caging 28 trees quickly was no small task, and I would suggest having the materials ready long before you need them. Ideally, the cages should probably be made before planting the trees. And I will not plant any new trees without having the cages ready. Live and learn!

Caged avocado trees

Besides being destructive to trees, the winds also dry out the soil.  So, once the cages were all installed, I had to move quickly to get the irrigation in place. Luckily I had already installed the backflow preventer, which was required by the Department of Water Supply to apply for agricultural water rates. These young trees were going to take a lot of water during the summer months. Eventually, they should not need irrigation if North Kohala gets the rainfall it normally gets. But for now, the irrigation had to be installed.

Backflow Preventer

Essential Irrigation Pieces & Parts

Scraps of turf grass

Luckily for me, irrigation has come a long way since I last dealt with it and the tubing, the valves, and the connectors are fairly simple and straight forward. I had trenching done along all four rows of trees and down one side of my fence so the water line could be installed quickly. We made loops of tubing that were predrilled with irrigation holes and fit over the cages. The only real issue we had was connecting the loop tubing to the main water tubing. We ended up having to go back and redo them using plumbers tape, which seemed to do the trick.  Turning the water on to the now very thirsty young trees was a real joy, and finding very few leaks was its own great moment of satisfaction!

The last job that remained was cutting pieces of scrap turf grass into strips and laying them around the cages to help prevent the guinea grass from swallowing up the young trees. This took several full days, and once the strips were in place, it became obvious that we now needed to water them! This issue has not really been solved yet as we are still hauling water to the turf strips since North Kohala has been much drier this fall than usual. Hauling water is a never-ending job, and if I had it to do over again, I would come up with a double tubing system of some sort so that the turf also got watered when the trees did. But I am happy to say that my mini orchard is thriving and I couldn’t be happier. In three to five years, I will hopefully have more avocados than I know what to do with!

The first avocado trees are growing out of their cages!

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Barbara Abe

November 14, 2019

Terri, I loved your article! When I got to “it was a blessing in disguise” it ended and I had to hit “read more” and was glad I did. Great article and I hope you will have avocados for sale when I next visit the island of Hawaii! Thank you!

Grant Wiscour

November 14, 2019

Much fun! We picked up a Green Gold, Kahulu’u and a Yamagata at Plant It Hawaii’s sale the other day for our little grove in Ocean View. We’ll be ready for some avos in a few years as well!

Keep us posted on the progress.

Julie Keller

November 15, 2019

Wow, what a project! I knew you were plating avos but I had no idea to what extent. Thanks for sharing your experience, very informative blog and my mouth is now watering for avocados, lol.

Lisa Velasquez

November 15, 2019

Perhaps I should grow some agave and distill tequila?
Guacamole and margaritas North Kohala style!

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