What is soil? Big Island soils?

There’s the Google answer, and the pie chart with the breakdown. But then the soils professor told us, “Almost every soil on the Big Island is an exception.” And thus, we launched into the gripping story of Big Island soils. Do you know what kind of soil you grow plants in?

Last week I attended a Master Gardener 3-hour lecture on “Understanding and Managing the Soils of the Big Island” by Dr. Jonathan Deenik. For some reason, he wasn’t able to give the lecture in-person last year, so I wanted to attend this year’s class. I looked at the printout of his Powerpoint slides, and wondered if that was all he’d cover in three hours. It didn’t seem like that much.

He is a self-described former hippie, had shoulder-length hair, and had his Locals-brand slippers on. He was a force of nature! I never for a moment imagined I’d enjoy a lecture on soils so much! I almost felt hypnotized, like I need to study more of this stuff. Dr. Deenik was so passionate and entertaining, and add that to his knowledge of soils, and what he wanted to convey to us … it was really a delight! He made it understandable and could focus us on what was important for us. He asked a lot of questions and kept us engaged. We didn’t even get through all the slides he had, and my copy is just chock-full of notes. I so wish we could learn every subject by someone who’s passionate about the subject, and can tailor what’s taught to what level of learning is appropriate for the particular audience.

We’ve had a soils and tissue sample done recently for our coffee land. We try to do it at least annually. I’m looking forward to getting the report. Maybe it’ll mean a little more to me now than just numbers/levels of various macronutrients. I’d love to hear Dr. Deenik interpret the results, but I won’t be so fortunate.

Friday and Saturday were gorgeous here on the farm, the peak of this heavy round of blossoming. Our trees were covered in Kona snow, and a pleasant, light fragrance, similar to citrus flowers, wafted on the breeze. Early mornings, the wind comes down the volcano; afternoons, the breeze goes from the ocean direction, up the hill. When you drive around the area, all the coffee trees have blossoms. Some others’ trees are a bit more anemic looking than ours. Long verticals without too many leaves, but they’re blossoming, too.

On another note, during my last week’s volunteer stint at Amy Greenwell Garden, we were offered sweet potatoes for eating or planting. Another volunteer crew had harvested them. The varieties weren’t kept track of. After I age them to sweeten, I guess I’ll cut off a piece of each potato before roasting and eating. But I’m not sure I’ll be able to track which ones taste good with the piece I want to make a slip sprout from. We’ll have to think more about how to do this. It fits right in with UH’s EOGO (eat one grow one) strategy for pineapples. This could actually be EOGS (eat one, grow several).

Strategy success will also depend on the pigs. This is how they start growing sweet potatoes at Greenwell Garden.

The pigs have actually not been too pesky lately (since December) and are rarely showing up on our home cameras. We suspect someone hunted more for holiday feasts. I’ve also seen at least three dead piglets on the side of the highway in the past weeks. I always wonder if it got hit by a car, or if someone killed it elsewhere and dumped it on the side of the road thinking that a County worker will deal with the problem.

4 thoughts on “What is soil? Big Island soils?

  1. Sharleen, you always write well: occasionally, as with this post, you write beautifully. Your first three paragraphs are delightful.
    –Jon

  2. Very cool. Your master gardener program sounds amazing. I may have to sign up here and give it a whirl. I love that you get to taste a bunch of sweet potatoes to find the one you would prefer to grow!

    1. There’s an education component to start, which was very organized and well done. And then there’s a number of hours of approved volunteer work that has to be done annually for three years. There, you have to make it work for your interests and needs. Like many things, it is what you make of it. 🙂

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