Posts Tagged ‘Taro’
Growing taro has been exciting for me, but Spring always results in a few losses. It’s a pretty big stress on these plants to go dormant when they’re used to continuous growth. My new barrelponics system will solve that by keeping the water warm thru a solar water-heater. But this Spring still needs to be dealt with.
I have been keeping my sickly taro in my aquarium water filter to recover for several weeks now. It has worked out perfectly, but that window is losing its direct light, so I grabbed a spare and took it down into the pit greenhouse to test it on my pair of test bucket-lo’i. The taro already in the bucket lo’i have been doing very well – one variety never went dormant and the other is coming back from dormancy pretty vigorously. They are also now in the sun as the shade from the southern wall is receding. The taro in the fish-filter are still growing fine, but they’re starting to reach a little harder for that light, so it’s time to find an alternative location for my Taro ICU.
I plopped the filter on there, filled it up with water and turned it on. Within moments I had a good flow. My poor skeeter-fish in there wasn’t sure what to make of this new intrusion, but it wasn’t long before they were back at the surface hunting for food. I didn’t have the taro I am keeping in the other fish filter out there yet, so I rummaged thru my pots of taro looking for weak taro keiki – ones that are having trouble getting started. I found a pair of Ula Ula Kumu and one of my Haokea that suited the task pretty well. They all had little corms on them and would probably have come out fine after some period of struggle, but I am going to dig all these up anyway and put them into a barrelponics system so it’s no harm.
They’re now propped up in the fish filter and looking pretty good. I’ll know in a week or so how they do but given my experience with some keiki that were in much worse shape, I’m confident that these guys will take off vigorously. This is the same basic idea that is behind barrelponics – using fish water pumped thru a tank to feed plants. I’m only missing the pea-gravel that barrelponics uses in this instance, and for me the water is kept much higher because the taro I have in there are wetland taro.
Incidentally, the upland grown Piialii that I grew for a couple of years and finally decided to plop in the mud of one of my bucket-lo’i is waking up just fine and putting out it’s first wetland grown leaf. The one I have in ICU is also putting out a new leaf. A very happy future awaits these Pi’iali’i – they’re one of my favorite taros.
Once I get a third filter this afternoon, I’ll move the rest of the taro down there to benefit from more direct sunlight. A pair of them could probably be planted in a pot of topsoil mud and plunged into one of my bucket-lo’i tho – they’ve gotten pretty big already thanks to the fish water. I expect this to serve as an example of the potential that the barrelponics lo’i system will perform and am looking forward to seeing a mass of taro growing in 30 containers here later this spring. I’ll keep ya’ll posted on the progress.
I started a couple of in-ground taro beds early last Spring. The idea was to see if I could keep taro alive thru our harsh environment. I’ve had other beds fail but that was during a multi-year drought. One is dug in about 9″ deep and is positioned in a way that drainage water that runs across our property when it rains hard will flood it good. The other isn’t dug in but has a berm of soil around its borders to slow the exodus of water. It too will get flooded as well.
The soil was a nice black sandy loam. Before I dug, the soil had supported dense stands of giant ragweed that stood nearly as tall as the house, and Johnsongrass that was taller than me for years so a lot of organic matter and infrequent floodings in the Fall and often early Spring has converted that soil into some very rich living soil, contrasting with the rest of our property that is a very sandy and dry soil.
I planted Bun Long in the bermed bed. 21 of them got planted at 12″ spacing. Normal spacing is 18″ but since the heat is so extreme here I felt that planting a little denser will shade the soil better. The Kai Kea went into the dug-in bed. Unfortunately, in digging it out, the prime soil was removed and the remaining soil was rather rocky. Nevertheless, I cleared out good planting holes for each keiki.
They grew gangbusters that very wet Spring. The weeds grew up around them too, but a fringe benefit was that the grass kept the soil cooler – I’ve cooked enough taro in our hot Texas summers, so I kept them only moderately controlled. Deer nibbled on the leaves but not much – apparently raw taro didn’t fit into their palate very well.
That summer the rain stopped. I kept them watered, but even with regular waterings, even the weeds wilted and the taro declined. I had backups of both varieties but it was still heart-breaking to see them suffer. Eventually they disappeared altogether and for me that was the end of that experiment. I moved on planning the next experiment for the next generations of taro.
This Spring and summer were also very dry too. We got spatterings of rain here and there during the Spring and then that stopped altogether when it went from an unusually cool Spring to an extremely hot Summer with zero precipitation. The beds had become overgrown with weeds but I had all but given up on them anyway and no taro had sprouted anyway. I occupied myself with pit-greenhouse renovation plans and that in turn got put on the back-burner with the opportunity to get started in beekeeping – something that I had been waiting for for a long time.
But, this late summer we eventually did have some significant rains with a little bit of flooding even. For a couple of weeks it would rain every few days and in some cases every day. The good soaking was refreshing – the drought and heat had killed half of my remaining collection of taro, even with irrigation. That’s another issue I’ll be addressing this winter to prepare for next Spring.
Nevertheless, I mowed the tall grass down to get some good green material for mulch to prepare one of the beds to plant bananas, and after mowing that bed down and mulching it, I see a taro leaf. A few days later I go back out there and there’s another taro leaf. Two or three of the Kia Kea had sprouted! That was thrilling. I inspected the Bun Long bed and found a sole sprout out there too.
I took a scythe out to the Bun Long bed and cleared out the vegetation there to let more sun get to the soil and watered it some more. Now there are a few plants sprouting up. And, in the Kai Kea bed, nearly every plant that I put in there has come back! After more than a year of sitting in there dormant and dry, these taro have returned with vigor!
I have plans for assembling some lo’i and the taro in these two beds will be relocated to friendlier locations. All of my aquatic containers did spectacular this year so the Kai Kea and Bun Long will receive similar treatment. Having them come back is great – but I want them to grow enough to pull in a harvest and it’s apparent that the summers here are just too extreme to put them in the ground and have a harvest from them without some significant soil modification. For the upland beds I’ll use infrequently flooded raised beds – flooded and allowed to dry down to mud and repeated. That way both the wetland and upland taro will never dry out.
But, it’s still exiting that these taros have survived this extreme environment. Not only did they overwinter in dormancy, they also survived the extreme Texas heat and drought too. Kudos for those taro – they’ll get a special place in my new beds for certain.
I installed a couple of patches one wet Spring with high hopes that maybe things would be different now. Well, they were for a while. The taro grew great. Then, the rain stopped, as it invariably does. And with the stop in rain came a rise in heat. Even with irrigation, the weeds would suck the soil dry and before long I decided to let the weeds shade the taro just to keep the soil and taro from being cooked right in the soil. Eventually the taro disappeared and that was that for last Summer’s experiment. Here is the tale of a surprising resurrection of these taro after a full year of dormancy in very hot, very dry and in the winter very cold soil.