Posts Tagged ‘Bucket’

PostHeaderIcon Bucket Lo’i

Pi'iali'i growing in a bucket-lo'i.

Pi'iali'i growing in a bucket-lo'i.

For the last couple of years I’ve kept taro in the greenhouse in large molasses tubs filled with water. The taro themselves grew in smaller buckets of topsoil submerged in these tubs, which I have dubbed bucket-lo’i. Of all my taro, these taro grew the best and produced the largest corms and healthiest leaves. The upland beds just didn’t have good enough soil to keep the taro healthy, and the containers of taro just never flourished. Containers have been too variable to grow happy taro. The soil is either too dry or too wet, too rich or too devoid of nutrients, too hot or too cold – all in the same pot over the course of a season. But the bucket-lo’i – they were steady as a rock. The water has an excellent moderating effect, changing temperature slowly and also keeping the taro hydrated.

Pi'iali'i corms big enough to fill my fists. There are bigger, but I'm happy with this size.

Pi'iali'i corms big enough to fill my fists. There are bigger, but I'm happy with this size.

I had tried using water to grow taro before but failed. Problem is, I used the same media I was using to grow containerized taro. Not soil. In the end, that proved unsuitable and rotted out the taro. In researching growing lotus in a bucket, it came to light that topsoil was the ideal media. I used this topsoil to grow my lotus and Chinese Water Chestnuts and they grew richly and without troubles so I decided to give it a go for the taro too. At that time I had a number of varieties of taro that really would have benefited from wetland cultivation. Even under the best of conditions, they simply did not thrive with upland cultivation. Sadly, many of them are lost and I’ll have to take a collection trip to Hawaii and/or get contacts there to send me starts to rebuild my collection and get this conservation thing happening again. Fortunately, some of my favorites have survived, so it’s not all bad news. In time, once I work out these details, I hope to have the entire collection of taro listed here growing happily in my collection. We’ll see.

This may look a little redundant, but the water on the greenhouse floor goes away. Honest.

This may look a little redundant, but the water on the greenhouse floor goes away. Honest.

Rather than fill up a full tub, I decided to experiment with 3-gallon buckets first and plunge that into the 25-gallon tub of water. So I filled up a couple of 3-gallon buckets with topsoil as I was digging an inground taro bed. I watered that into a good mud and stuffed a couple of offshoots into each. I grabbed a couple of 25-gallon molasses tubs and filled them up with water then plunged the buckets of taro into this. The plain ol’ topsoil worked perfectly. Here my topsoil is silty with a bit of sand and clay – not a bad loam at all. Not nearly too rich for the immersed taro either. They just kept growing and growing and growing. It worked so well that all I had to do was top off the tub every once and a while. Nearly maintenance free. With all the projects I have, I like that a lot. I kept gambusia fish in the buckets too – they keep the mosquitoes under control and give off just a bit of nitrates for the taro. When the rest of my taro was suffering for one reason or anther, the taro in the bucket-lo’i were thriving. That was convincing enough for me. I lost a lot of varieties of taro before this and it is time to stop losing taro.

Bun Long taro waking up from dormancy and ready to go into their new home.

Bun Long taro waking up from dormancy and ready to go into their new home.

So, I’ve decided to take the tubs to the next level. Instead of smaller buckets nested within big tubs, I’m planting straight into the tubs themselves, filling them with topsoil leaving room for a few inches of water. Into this I planted the taro. First varieties to go into the tubs are Bun Long, Pi’iali’i and a variety I call Porter’s Kai Kea. All three are robust taros that have performed well for me in the past. The Bun Long and Porter’s Kai Kea had actually spent the last year in a couple of flooded 3-gallon buckets that got stuck in a corner of my greenhouse. They survived an unusually frigid winter that killed many of my other tropicals down there. So they’re being promoted. The Pi’iali’i starts came from the bucket-lo’i experiment down in the pit-greenhouse. All three are also proven delicious taros too.

Freshly planted bucket lo'i. From left to right, Bun Long, Pi'iali'i and Porter's Kai Kea.

Freshly planted bucket lo'i. From left to right, Bun Long, Pi'iali'i and Porter's Kai Kea.

With the additional room the taro will be able to get a little bigger than those sitting in the three-gallon buckets and hopefully produce a lot more keiki – offshoots. Of course, the Pi’iali’i in the 3-gallon bucket has put out ten keiki again – so I expect even more when they become established in the larger buckets. The primary goal for the buckets is to multiply my crop. Even these buckets are just a stepping stone for me on the path of building true lo’i – inground flooded beds in which I’ll grow taro in much greater numbers than these buckets. But for now, these tubs are sufficient.

Same three buckets a couple of chilly weeks later. When it warms up, the taro's growth will accelerate significantly.

Same three buckets a couple of chilly weeks later. When it warms up, the taro's growth will accelerate significantly. The plants in the foreground are Butia capitata seedlings.

Eventually I’ll have a little collection of buckets growing taro. I’ve already got six down in the pit-greenhouse plumbed and ready to go and a few more up topside I can scrounge up and re-purpose for this project. From that I’ll have enough taro to have a handsome little harvest, make some lau  lau, and produce keiki for the larger beds. Even with the larger beds up and running I’ll probably keep these bucket-lo’i going as backups.

To keep the mosquitoes under control I’ll use mosquito fish in each bucket, which will also provide a small amount of nitrates that will feed the taro. I may experiment with azolla too. Azolla is an aquatic fern that’s also a nitrogen fixer. It will also serve to help keep the water cooler too – it will cover the water similar to how duckweed does. I certainly cannot wait to see these in full growth – mature taro is a lovely plant to behold.

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PostHeaderIcon Bucket Lo’i Growing Big

Same three buckets a couple of chilly weeks later. When it warms up, the taro's growth will accelerate significantly.

Same three buckets a couple of chilly weeks later. When it warms up, the taro's growth will accelerate significantly.

It’s been a couple of months since I last posted about my little bucket-lo’i project. I have several 25 gallon molasses tubs re-purposed to be used as pots to grow my taro in. Since these particular taro plants prefer semi-aquatic conditions, I opted to not drill a drain hole in these tubs and to flood them several inches above the soil line. Since I have had problems with compost rotting immersed corms, I opted for plain ol’ top-soil dug from under my large oak trees. A very black and healthy soil. I used similar to grow my lotus, Chinese water-chestnuts and cattail with very good results, as well as smaller buckets of taro I immersed in larger tubs of water down in the pit-greenhouse. So I followed success and planted my new taro tubs the same way.

Taro two months since the previous picture - significant progress in growth.

Taro two months since the previous picture – significant progress in growth.

It was nice to get the taro planted directly in the larger tubs. The 3-gallon buckets I have immersed down in the greenhouse are okay when the taro is young keiki, but they grow big fast. Interestingly, the Pi’iali’i I have planted in a 3-gallon immersed bucket down in the pit-greenhouse have divided, going from two to 13 plants in that little bucket. I’m about to get another tub filled with top-soil to transfer them as soon as they get a little larger. It is very gratifying seeing this progress after struggling for so many years to make some headway in this project of mine. Taro and upland containers just don’t like each other for long. As they get big they also suck those containers dry in a day or two so they’re a LOT of work unless you use really large containers – which I didn’t have at the time. I did have a Xanthosoma sagittifolium growing in a 25-gallon tub of compost and it actually did pretty well – I’ll do similar with my surviving upland taro later on, get them potted up from their 3-gallon pots to the much larger 25-gallon containers and treat those as raised beds.

Brand new planting from freshly obtained huli. Next time I'll try keiki and see if they do better.

Brand new planting from freshly obtained huli. Next time I'll try keiki and see if they do better.

In any case, the largest success I’ve had with taro to date is the bucket-lo’i and this bucket-lo’i upgrade is a significant step forward for me, finally. I’ve lost a lot of varieties of taro along this road of discovery and hope to finally start rebuilding my collection soon, now that I know I can keep them alive and that they an actually thrive under my care. I am absolutely ecstatic at their abundant growth. They got a bit of a slow start with the cool Spring but are making up for lost time. And they have a few more months of active growth to go before they go into corm-making mode.

Porter's Kai Kea.

Porter's Kai Kea.

I’m sure they’d prefer moving water tho. The lo’i of Hawaii typically route river-water thru them so that the water is always fresh and often cooler. Of course some of today’s commercial flooded lo’i are vast affairs that may or may not have actively flowing water. But of particular inspiration to me are the smaller lo’i like those at Kipahulu. In any case, even without moving water, my taro is doing great. I do have several tubs down in the pit-greenhouse that are set up to recirculate water so eventually those will be put to use to mimic the river flow – but that’s a project for later.

Pi'iali'i

Pi'iali'i

In any case, when I planted out the young taro they were tiny things. Some of them had survived a year of neglect hidden behind other pots and half grown-over by sweet-potatoes in the pit-greenhouse and where actually sprouting again this Spring. That would be the Bun Long and Porter’s Kai Kea that I dug up from the beds and put down in the greenhouse as backups. I was pleasantly surprised to see them sprouting again so they became candidates for the bucket-lo’i upgrade. I also had some Pi’iali’i that I experimented with over the winter in an aquaponics setup in my grow-room. They survived – which is a Good Thing ™. But they didn’t thrive. I figure they’d have done better if I had them outside in the full sun in a larger aquaponics setup and that’s yet another project for the future too. However, I decided to put them in a system that I knew would work since my other immersed bucket of Pi’iali’i was doing so well.

Bun Long

Bun Long

The Pi’iali’i is still a bit smaller than the other two. They took a little longer to wake up and get into gear. Of course, that variety doesn’t get as big as the Bun Long so that could explain some of the size issues. The Bun Long can get as tall as me when it’s mature while the Pi’iali’i will remain around three feet tall. How big they’ll get in their tubs I’m not sure. Down in the pit-greenhouse the Pi’iali’i grew pretty tall but then they were partially shaded so they may have been reaching for light. Where these tubs are they get full sun until about two in the afternoon then bright shade until the evening so they’re growing a bit more compact.

Happy leopard frog making my bucket-lo'i its home.

Happy leopard frog making my bucket-lo'i its home.

In any case, these will hopefully become the parents of much larger beds. I plan on getting liners and sinking beds into the ground and actually producing a tidy little crop of taro. Until then, these tubs will have to do. But I’m glad that they are working out as expected – better than expected even.

And nature approves too. In both the new tubs and the tubs down in the greenhouse as well as my lotus tubs, I’ve found a leopard frog in each. If a frog makes your pond or tub a home then something is going right. Frogs are typically early indicators of environmental stresses – similar to a canary in the coal-mine. So seeing these frogs taking up residence in my tubs is very promising. I’ve also seen dragon-fly larvae skins hanging onto the stems of my lotus, as well as water-striders and water-bugs in my tubs too. Life is returning and thriving. And where life is happy, so is my taro and other aquatic plants.

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