Making Their Garden Grow

Stephen and Meg Lin have noticed better health ever since they started growing their own food.

“It’s made a difference,” says Meg. “I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the freshness of the food or eating organic. But we haven’t been getting colds or the flu.”

The Lins enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of gardening. It’s time well spent outdoors in nature and they get the satisfaction of growing their own food and sharing it with family, friends, and neighbors.

“I’m amazed at the quality of my food that I cook now because of the fresh ingredients I use from my garden,” says Meg. “Eating tomatoes I grow in my garden taste better than what I would buy at the store or even the farmer’s market.”

Meg opened her garden up to the public during the Manoa Urban Garden Tour this summer by the grassroots community organization Malama Manoa.

“We want to show Manoa residents how to use their outdoor green space,” says Eliza Lathrop, Malama Manoa's president. “People are interested in learning more. We’re cultivating a community of people to do outdoor activities.”

Manoa gardeners Ed and Pat Chung have a big yard to grow their own vegetables and raise chickens for eggs. “We believe in growing our own food that’s ground to table,” says Ed. “There are so many toxins in the ground that gets into the food. At least I know what I’m putting into my food.”

Manoa’s lush green valley gets plenty sunshine and rain, making it ideal for gardening. But anyone can start their own garden, even in small spaces. Here are some tips to start your own garden wherever you live:

Start small. You don’t need green acres. Find a small section of unused space in your yard. You’ll eventually catch the gardening bug and expand to other sections.

See what works best. Plants around your house can grow differently depending on the amount of sunshine and rain each side of the house gets during different seasons of the year.

Learn from others. Ask your neighbors what they do to get ideas and tips. You’ll also be creating a community of like-minded gardeners and can trade produce.

Little by little. You don’t have to spend all day in your garden. Just half an hour a day of upkeeping, either before or after work, can produce big results.

Manoa residents also raise chickens for fresh eggs.

Meg Lin raise bees in her garden for honey.

Meg is proud of her home-grown papaya. In the background is her native Hawaiian mamaki tree. She steeps tea leaves and mint overnight in a pot of hot water for home-brewed iced tea.

Meg's vermicompost turns scrap food waste and worm droppings into fertilizer for her garden.

Meg grows dryland taro to make homemade pork laulau.

Manoa residents Steve and Meg Lin are weekend DIY gardeners.

Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive. Ed Chung shows seedlings he planted in recycled drawers he got from Re-use Hawaii.

Ed Chung raises tilapia in his hydroponic garden. Nutrient-rich fish waste in the pond is cycled to water and fertilize the vegetables above.