Hi there! Welcome to the first of my occasional posts about gardening in Haikou in which I will be sharing my experiences of attempting to grow fruit and vegetables, year round, in a tropical environment. I’ve enjoyed growing plants in my home county, the UK, since I was a child however the high temperatures and near constant humidity of Hainan offers somewhat of a new and I hope rewarding challenge.
Perhaps from the get go I should disclose that just like the vast majority of urban dwellers in both Haikou and China as a whole, I don’t have a garden. If only! I do however have two large balconies from which I plan, over time, to produce a sustainable amount of produce from.
So what will I be growing?
Mostly plants that you would expect to see here although there will be a few experimental exceptions.
Spinach (Italian, winter) spinach beet, Swiss chard, rocket, amaranth, coriander, dwarf French beans, tomatoes, capsicums and chillies.
I would also, in the fullness of time, like to experiment with blueberries and redcurrents. Berries typically don’t like humidity and I have never seen either fruit on sale here however these two are some of the most adaptable and resilient of the of berry species, so I think they are worth a punt.
Hainan is hardly blessed with an abundance of garden centres. Indeed, in all my time here I have never encountered one dedicated horticultural shop. You can though nonetheless pick up just about everything you need from Taobao. My initial purchases have been:
Plant box: These really are quite superb. They can be assembled in a variety of formations and are perpetually expandable. They come unassembled (assembly is easy, takes about 20mins) and have an irrigation system which allows you to water from the bottom up with substrate wicking. I will get a couple more of these.
Soil: Obtaining soil is one of the biggest issues here. I was though able to order just short of 30 pounds of good quality soil from this shop. When looking at other shops beware of shipping costs. Note the small, shiny particles in the soil are vermiculite; a purposefully added natural substance which allows for better aeration.
Coconut coir: Coconut coir is a soil substitute made entirely from coconut husks. When water is added it will swell to many times it’s size before crumbling apart. For the price these are a great way to quickly create a large amount of substrate. About 2/3 of my plant box came from ¾ of the block (size large)shown.
Seed trays: Pure and simple seed trays, bought here, enough said.
These materials, bought for less than 300 RMB, along with some seeds brought back from the UK have been enough to get started. Next time, more on the growing process itself and bokashi, production of soil from food waste without traditional composting.