Archive for the ‘compost’ Category

Keiki Garden Adventure

October 7th, 2014

Keiki planted herbs and vegetables into a patch of rich soil at The Green House. Photo by Nina Wu.

Keiki planted herbs and vegetables directly into a patch of rich soil at The Green House. Photos by Nina Wu.

Gardening seems like a natural hit for keiki — get your hands dirty, hold earthworms and learn how plants grow. I spend more time writing about gardens than actually gardening myself (I need more time - that's my excuse). My four-year-old likes to tag along, help water the few native plants and pots of herbs in our yard and pick lemons from our tree.

So when The Green House  held it's hands-on Keiki Garden Adventure workshop on a recent Saturday in Pauoa Valley, I decided to sign up. It made for a fun Saturday morning. My son was shy, at first, but when I asked if he had fun later that afternoon, he said: "Yah!"

Here are a few tips I learned:

>> When planning an edible garden, think about what will grow based on sunlight, soil composition and moisture. Observe what's growing well in your neighborhood to get an idea — bananas, papayas, citrus, avocados, sweet potatoes all do well in a tropical climate.

>> You can create healthy soil through composting and sheet mulching. No matter what type of soil you have, adding compost and vermicast to poor soil will improve overall soil quality.

>> When taking a plant out of a pot, using  your fingers to fluff out the end roots is helpful before planting in the ground. You want to plant it just right, not too low, not too high, to make it happy

>> Ecoscraps, an all-organic compost mix, is available at Home Depot. This mix is made from a variety of composted fruits and veggies, with no chemicals. It was started by two college students, Daniel Blake and Craig Martineau, who noticed how much food was being wasted at an all-you-can buffet –what began as a dorm room project grew into a business venture.

Betty shows the keiki some examples of seeds, explaining how they grow into plants.

Betty shows the keiki some examples of seeds, explaining how they grow into plants.

Betty Gearen, the teacher, started the morning by having the kids shape "wormies" out of a chocolate-cinnamon dough that she later baked up as a yummy treat.

She brought out a few examples of seeds and explained how they grew. Then the kids got to get their hands dirty making "seed balls" — a mix of soil, compost, and a little clay — sprinkled with various flower seeds. Add water and shape into small balls. A reused paper egg carton makes the perfect container.

Drill three holes into a plastic gallon container and you've got a watering can.

The Green House is now offering the new EcoExplorer Learning Center for two to five-year-olds from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"With the Aina as our playground and Mother Nature as our guide we have created an innovative place where keiki will blossom in a fun, safe, nurturing eco-environment that has been created just for them to imagine, wonder and explore.

Keiki will learn creative arts, literature, math, cooking, gardening and yoga through the center, which embraces Montessori and Waldorf philosophies. To learn more, contact program director Karla Meek,

Keiki examining peeled beans under magnifiying glasses.

Keiki take a close look at peeled beans to see how seeds grow and examine the soil with magnifying glasses to find useful bugs.

Recycle. Compost. Landfill.

June 1st, 2011

At the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, you can choose to recycle, compost or contribute to the landfill. Photo by Nina Wu.

At the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, you can choose to recycle, compost or contribute to the landfill. Photo by Nina Wu.

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was inspired by the way recycling bins are set up everywhere — from SFO International Airport to the Ferry Building at Embarcadero and at the California Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park.

At the Academy, your choices are to recycle (and there are photo illustrations explaining what to recycle, including plastics No. 1 to No. 6, tin foil, and glass), compost (90 percent of your waste can be composted, including paper plates, food scraps, wood chopsticks and biodegradable utensils), or landfill (plastic wraps and rubber bands).

I thought it was an ingenious way to remind people that when we throw trash away, it doesn't just go away, especially on an island like Oahu.

So maybe we could try the same thing here — at Honolulu International Airport, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and in Waikiki, where we really need it. Unfortunately, only plastics No. 1 and 2 are recycled here in Honolulu, and we don't have a large-scale facility where compostable utensils can actually compost — at least, not yet.

Kudos to Bishop Museum for getting a solar PV system, which makes so much sense.

At SFO airport, there were bins for paper, which would be most appropriate for recycling newspapers. We should set that up here at Honolulu airport.

The compost at the California Academy of Sciences is picked up by Recology, which then goes to Jepson Prairie Organics two miles east of Vacaville, where it is converted into compost that goes to farms, vineyards, and highway erosion control projects. The Academy averages about 120 cubic yards per month from its compost bins, and 300 cubic yards per month from its recycling bins. Not bad.


If you're heading to San Francisco, the museum is a great way to spend the day.

Check out the four-story tropical rainforest, and walk among butterflies and birds, or lean back in your seat and go on a journey to the edge of the universe while watching "Life: A Cosmic Story" at the Planetarium. The aquarium is fun, too — the fish from the Philippine Coral Reef will remind you of Hawaii.

On exhibit this summer: "Snakes & Lizards: The Summer of Slither" (May 9 to Sept. 5, 2011). Shiver! Thank goodness we have no snakes (that we know of) here in Hawaii.

The California Academy of Sciences, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, is a Platinum LEED-certified building, with radiant floor heating, a 2.5-acre living roof (that you can check out), walls insulated with recycled blue jeans, a solar canopy of 60,000 photovoltaic cells that will supply at least 5 percent of the academy's energy needs, toilets that are flushed by reclaimed water, and rechargeable sensor faucets.

It's an inspiring example of what can be accomplished in green building. Even more simple is the idea of putting out three bins — one for recycling, one for composting, and one for the landfill.


The California Academy of Sciences' 'Living Rooftop' features native plants which become a home for winged visitors including birds, butterflies and insects. The hills house the Academy's rainforest and planetarium. Skylights help bring in natural light and ventilate hot air from the building. Photo by Nina Wu.