Warm aloha from Maui, Hawaii!! I have been spending the last 7 months on the islands, eating lots of tropical fruit, growing veggies, living closer to nature, and enjoying the beach and the rainbows. Hawaii is truly a tropical paradise, and one thing that makes it so is that so many people here are growing food! Not necessarily in a farm or on a large property, but in their back and front yards! It’s so wonderful to wake up in the morning, go outside, pick some grapefruit, and make some fresh juice (this is what I did today). What if I told you that you can do the same thing in the Midwest? Ok, maybe not grapefruit, but you can definitely grow blueberries for a smoothie or apples that you can turn into fresh juice! Let me show you how the people in this neighborhood in Maui grow fruit!
This is some of the bounty from the yard at the house where I am currently staying. I found it through a pet sitting assignment on Trustedhousesitters.com – just a regular house in a regular subdivision in Maui, HI. There is a normal size back yard with grass for the dogs to play, while the fruit trees and veggies are planted along the periphery/fence.
This is one of the corners of the backyard – there are a couple of eggplants, spearmint, lavender, lemongrass, Hawaiian chili pepper, a papaya tree, a tangerine tree, a pretty flowering tree, two hibiscus bushes, a pink grapefruit, and a plumeria. It all grows in a very small space, looks beautiful and tastes amazing!
In other corner of the back yard there is chayote squash vining on the fence and two beds with ginger and turmeric.
The lemon and lime trees at the front of the house – they kind of grow together in one jungly citrus tangle and have so much fruit! We have been giving it away and shared some with the neighbor, who in turn gave us some amazing arugula and basil.
Pretty sweet to pick your own limes when you need them and not having to go to the store. Certified organic 😉
Before you think I am staying at a place that’s an exception, let me show you what the neighbors have. This is the house next door – the lavender is growing right at their doorstep. They also have pumpkin vines, an awesome vegetable garden, a tangerine tree, some papaya tress and beautiful rose bushes – all in their front yard to delight the eye of the passer-by!
This is lilikoi, also known as passion fruit. The flowers are gorgeous and then they turn into deliciously flavorful tropical fruit. The yellow one on the photo is just about ready to be picked!
This is how the passion fruit vine grows! The neighbors water it and pick the fruit when it’s ready!
Just a bit down the street you can find star fruit …
… it grows on a cute little tree in the front yard of these people’s house. When we walk the dogs we pick fallen fruit off the ground and indulge 🙂 This could be an apricot tree in the Midwest…
These guys have tons of coconut in their front yard and around their house! The palms are not only pretty and quintessential for Hawaii, but also loaded with juicy coconuts!
Why buy bananas when you can grow some? Banana trees grow in clusters and produce a lot! You can do the same with blackberries or a peach tree… This photo was taken from the sidewalk.
The neighbors across the street have a beautiful lemon tree – can you see the lemons?
Papaya is my favorite, and these people grow it along their fence for everyone to see and lust over…
Almost everyone in the neighborhood (and in Hawaii in general) has a mango tree. They have beautiful shape and can get as big as you let them to.
This is a view from the second floor of the house I am staying at – our papaya is on the forefront, then the neighbors mango tree and the banana patch in the other neighbors’ yard.
This is the tangerine tree in our back yard. I had fresh-picked tangerines for the first time 3 weeks ago, and they taste amazing. Every time I let the dogs out, I snack on one…
Fruit trees look beautiful and they also give you lots of food – for you, your family and your friends! Planting some in your back/front yard does not mean not having any decorative plants. You can mix and match them as you like – this gorgeous hibiscus grows right behind the tangerine tree.
If you get plenty of fruit, you can always share it with others who don’t have any. There is never such a thing as “too much”. For example, at the previous place I was staying at there was a giant avocado tree. It was dropping about 20-30 huge avocados a day, so we started giving them away. We took them to coffee shops and handed them out, dropped off bags at the resale store for people to give away, shared them with strangers on the beach. No one turned them down, they were all delighted to get them. The “Food is Free” movement is all about that – grow food and share what you have too much of. (photo:web)
If you are not a fan of cutting grass, you can plant an orchard/veggie garden in your front yard… Be a leader and start the trend in your neighborhood! Tomatoes grow great in Missouri, so do lettuce and cucumbers – all the ingredients for an amazing salad! Growing food also promotes communication between neighbors and gives us the precious contact with nature that we need to stay balanced and healthy. Organic produce will no longer be expensive when you grow it yourself! (Photo:web)
I know what you are thinking – easier said than done. Been there, done that 🙂 This used to be my garden in Washington, MO – a combination of beautiful inherited decorative plants and some veggie beds I put in.
I used to get fresh stuff for salad every day – it was so awesome and delicious to pick it myself! The lettuce starters came from the Farmers’ Market in spring and in only 3 weeks I had ready-to-eat lettuce!
This is what the garden looked like on its second year. 4 veggie beds (three of them mine, and one belonged to my downstairs neighbor) and 10+ variety herb plants for us to share. The herb garden was a big success and I was able to share the bounty with lots of friends and neighbors. I also gave them starters to plant herb gardens for themselves.
Later on in summer I got lots of tomatoes and cucumbers – I used the front deck railing as a trellis for the latter, and it worked out perfectly! I could pick my “deck cucumbers” as I called them, right off the front door.
I also love the idea of sidewalk gardening! Something you might have to consult the city/parks department for, but if you really want to do it I am sure you will find a way. It can be a great project to do with kids (boy/girl scouts can do it together) in summer! After all, it’s a communal space, why not serve a community purpose! (Photo:web)
Another idea of sidewalk gardening – lots of progressive cities and towns are already doing it! That, along with community gardens around town is what we need to flourish and stay happy and healthy! I have already been discussing these ideas with Darren Dunkle, the head of the Parks Department in Washington, MO, but it will not hurt if you bring it up as well! Fruit trees have beautiful blooms, and come with a bonus – the blooms turn into delicious edible fruit!! (Photo:web)
By growing your own food, you will not only cut down your grocery bill and eat better quality produce, but also you will reduce the volume of trash you are producing. Most of the veggies/fruit we buy come in some kind of plastic packaging, which adds up to a lot of waste. A plastic bag takes from 20 to 1000 years to decompose in a landfill. Composting is also another great way to reduce waste and brings additional benefits – nutrient rich soil for your plants at no cost!
Oh, the excitement when I got my composting bin!! Built simply and cheaply with pallets attached with metal wire. This is where all yard waste and food scraps (no meat or dairy) went, which reduced my trash (recyclables excluded) to a small grocery bag a week, mostly filled with stuff scooped from Tiggy’s litter box.
Feeling inspired to grow some food?? According to a newsletter I got in my inbox, fall is the perfect time to lay the foundations of a garden! Kansas city even has classes that can help you get started!
Screenshot from greenabilitymagazine.com – growing food is not a new idea, we are simply rediscovering the old tried and tested truth!
Why wait until your neighbor puts in a garden? Do it first, or even better – if they have one, ask them for help to start yours! You do not have to live in Hawaii to grow fruit trees – peaches, pears, apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines and berries do not grow well here at all. However, they do incredible in the Midwest… 😉
Excited to start your own orchard or edible garden? Here are some resources for inspiration and how-tos:
To learn more about composting, re-visit this blog post.
A great guide on growing food for home use in Missouri.
How to grow a garden in town: learn from your neighbor, Ralph Gildehaus.
Eat Better, Live Better: On Self-Sustainability and Growing Your Own Food
Grow Food, Not Lawns on Facebook
Women Who Farm on Facebooks
Off the Grid Zero Waste Profitable Permaculture Farm
Thank you so much for reading this blog post!
Would you plant a fruit tree in your yard? Or do you already have one? More than one? A veggie patch? I’d love it if you share your thoughts in the comments below!