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105. Anna Peach | Squash and Awe | Kamuela, Hawaii
21st December 2015 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:29:46

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The squash and awe blog

Anna Peach writes the squash and awe blog about her gardening adventures around the world as well as how her Irish Wisconsin roots led her to growing heirloom squash in Hawaii’s challenging growing environment. She will inspire you to see how you can easily find simple local solutions that will not just help you grow your own garden but make a difference for the planet as well!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m originally from Wisconsin. So I was raised around farming and gardening. I was also the generation where they were steering you

I have a background in business and art, I did photography and sculpture.

all comes in handy with blogging to capture the world around you comes in handy.

looping and lap back to doing in farming and gardening

I also have that background as an educator so I also like getting that information out.

Do you want to tell us.


I used my artwork as an pop to travel

when you’re free lancing as an artist

tick list from when I was a little kid

fueled by a lot of national geographic

took a job as an organic gardener in Ireland

1994, I also

spent about 3 years in Indonesia the good things about 3 separate trips allowed me to do my artwork and photography there. You are also absorbed into the community

ag and fishing,

all kinds of things and related to farming and gardening wearing traditional ways of putting up food as well, Indonesia, south Pacific, Tahiti and Fiji, Tonga

quite off the beaten path, around

Id say I’m kind of driven by food

I love to learn to cook, the tie between farming, gardening and our food system is all things

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

I really have been thinking about it, I’d say about  kindergarten. Our farm was  close to where I went to school for kindergarten,

Back in the day when the little farm kids all walked together. I just recall, eating, I would pull up maybe 10 carrots and that would feed me on the way back to the farmhouse. So my mother would always try to get me to eat dinner, and eat a snack. I never had an appetite on the days I came home from school. She saw these carrot tops, I never got scolded, to be there

encouraged to have a post of my own, with the family. We had a lots of chicken so I collected a lot of the eggs. lots of potatoes

being Irish loved potatoes I would be in charge of the potatoes left behind.

carrots were really my love

squash grower now,

luckily my mom noticed this is an opportunity for me to have little independence as a little one. Kind of a happy ending, it was of course food generated.

i liked the taste of carrots and it turned out just fine. So thank you mom!

And still at it!

It’s fluctuated throughout my life, I’ve been in the cities, and as you say, traveling where it’s other peoples farms and gardens that I participated in. It’s  cross between an urban gardener and living in a rural area

in NYC volunteering at the Brooklyn Grange which is a rooftop farm, it’s over an acre in the sky. That’s actually the same principals I learned there  I’m using here in Hawaii, using here in./

So an acre high or an acre on the top of a building?

It’s an actual acre on top of the building part of the auto industry and 7-9

What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you?

for me its always about the soil… all the cycle of soil. microbes and worms and soil building. I’m finding

here in Hawaii you have volcanic soils

wind erosion

really high winds

5-6 hurricanes stopped county at a certain point expecting about 4 more

by the time they get to Hawaii, winds end heavy flooding.

replenishing the soil constantly is something i think of when I think of organic gardening.

your plants

grow in straight compost, I have a 1/4 acre in squash production, it fans out to about a half acre, but it is a solid bed of compost because underneath is quite rocky

urban farming of building all your soil by hand

Where are you getting your compost because that’s been a challenge for us. 

I went commercial because I had a squash crop fair year that was statewide

Squash Delivery Vehicle

I decided I was going to go commercial in doing that I have a great relationship with area chefs in the restaurants I deliver the squash to them, .

also closed the loop, I collected their green waste

primarily organic produce, we have a lots of fish, ahi tuna, so I will also pick up all their fish scrap and I add sugar,  brown sugar which will ferment the fish and I make my own fish fertilizer.


It’s a little bit of work up front. You have to really think of the chef and the restaurant and their schedule. I drop them off and then I pick them up and process them

The great thing about fish emulsion, it will sit in the shed for months, does fine on its own

pickled it fermented

very much alive

something that is otherwise is quite pricy

stepping up, mine is between a farm and a garden, it’s a 1/4 acre some people gardens are that side.

decided to do no till because it wasn’t gonna work another way

There have been 6 people on the property, where I’m at, and I’m the first one to try and build soil and  I think that’s why I’m there.

relationship within the community

we don’t have in all areas

where you take your green leafy matter. We don’t even have that.

What we do have is fire ants, it’s an invasive ant that is spread around the island

invasive plants don’t want to be transported around

I decided to find some of these other things, the brewery in town their waste will be hops which is nitrogen rich. There are so many coffee houses

public library tax forms are fun to use, so it’s cheap mulching. I use the cardboard and the papers are a layer. I also have mulch I chip right on the property. It’s finding a balance for your region. It breaks down very fast, the sheet mulching technique is good because our winters are pretty mild.

stormy in the 50s only gets down to the 40s, things really you can compost all year round, so we’re lucky there.

so many great books on composting

think creatively who has what in your community. It’s not to run ourselves ragged and drive all over looking for things.

close to an area where fishing is big, and the fisherman love it and I can bring them back that fish fertilizer

they feel like nothing was wasted, people are starting to have that feeling again. 0 waste

use everything that you can

once you’re there you feel content, that closure, it’s sone you’ve got it and its not just going into our landfills!

Who or what inspired you to start using organic techniques?

I was raised in the 70s and you we’re really steered away from it. Where I lived was really pretty and you never want to have pretty farmland because it can become a pretty subdivision! My farther passed away when I was quite young. Big ag, huge combines. It was kind of exciting for my brother and I, we would go out and play and watch. He started using these giant piles of pink pellets, sort of like bbs, of chemical fertilizer. My brother and I wanted to run on the piles, and I remember my mom scolding us, all of a sudden there was this safety hazard on our farm, even as a little kid I was confused. If he was growing food, I didn’t understand what those had to do with food, little simple questions from children these are questions, I never bought that idea, that we need to do that. My family did very well using just very sustainable methods! That’s why for me, I grow heirlooms, I am a food historian, as well, I’m a plant historian, is what I have become I’m trying to connect more my grandfather’s generation their way of doing things. My grandmother was excellent at doing all kinds of things, canning and pickling and using everything and being grateful everything around you.

Perfect for the day after Thanksgiving!

How did you learn how to garden organically?

when I decided to do this, I stepped up from, I built gardens here for  a friends o mines family. Just my local library, I’m old fashioned I pulled out a bunch of agriculture books. People think

There’s so much info out there, that’s why you and I are trying to do is get more of that info, so this knowledge isn’t lost, food historian and a seed historian, William Woys Weaver I read anything he’s published. He’s written for Mother Earth News, he’s in Pennsylvania, he has several books out, he’s also a chef and cook! He’s the one, I want to say back in ’78 got Julia Child to get out of the kitchen and into the garden and learn about heirlooms. He was really at the forefront of making heirlooms a culinary treat for all of us. He’s just one off the top of my head. It’s completely possible to use your library system.

And pool information and remember not everything is going work for you but sometimes you’ll find things that don’t work for you and that knowledge is more valuable.

Im big fan of falling on your face a little bit.

I’m a super big fan of local libraries. Our local library is pretty tiny, but their interlibrary loan program is awesome and I’m always getting books. The access in the US through our interlibrary loan program is so amazing!


In the state of Hawaii, includes Honolulu, which has a huge population amazing books over there, as compared to where I am! much more remote location

keep our libraries going… wonderful programs.

I always say if I was president I would make our libraries open maybe not 24/7 but pretty close and expand adult ed, which a lot of people do use but could be expanded for sure!

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

It was a tough year, a lot of the squash! The ones that did well,I really enjoyed growing, a complete surprise! It was a black corn, an heirloom corn from Peru,. It grew beautifully! It grew to 8-9 feet tall! Putting out multiple ears on a stalk.

I use the 3 sisters technique

where you take one variety of squash and one variety of bean and one variety of corn. And one shelters the other, creates learning now with the 3 sisters, They’re saying now that squash, the reason they were grown at base of the corn, they secrete a chemical that surpasses weeds, so it might have been more then just shading the grown there maybe a better choice it prevented weed growth!

The 3 grow in harmony together, if you’re not familiar look it up because it’s great for small gardens! Because you just grow them right there together.

benefit each other

chose as a wild card for the are

just for thanksgiving

took some of the black corn, I looked up the history

it’s a flint corn

it’s the national drink of Peru, when you go to someone house, you’re given a cup of, it’s like a hot tea, it’s it’s made with pineapple piles as well as cinnamon and lime juice.

honey, boiled together looking at this majestic corn it makes almost like a cranberry tea, but it has its own flavor and its really beautiful but who knew?

That’s the great thing about researching in the culinary books, all of these plants have been celebrated in parts of the world! That’s what keeps me excited is looking into the history of these things and finding, that’s a welcoming drink into everybody’s house!

I do share it with the community and the chefs who are ordering  the corn.

I’m gonna just say really quick, one year I was  so sick and mike had just harvested the corn and I had been in bed for like 2 days and somehow I got some the broth from the corn and I swear it was like Chicken Noodle Soup for 

Corn and squash

you can do it in lots of different ways

my farm is in a clock if you will, what there are these raised mounds, because squash like to be grown

raised mounds, I have about 10 in a circle

irrigation that goes off every day. Just to give people and idea of where I am, Im up at 2700 foot elevation.

almost desert conditions, its not the Hawaii most people think of .

I’;ll get the corn started at first, there’s lots of guides to that, I’ll plant them quite close about 8-10 inches

apart, I plant really close, and make mini blocks

I also made a big block of maybe 40 plants

Keep in mind I’m growing in straight compost so they are getting plenty of nutrients. Of course the beans at the base of the corn, once the corn out is up out of ground then I plunk in the beans.

stage it.

squash isn’t always a team player

big and fumbling and vining so you want to make sure theater ones get a chance to grow upwards before you put your squash in. The beans what they do is use the corn as a trellis, pick any kind of pole bean

great when we get dry weather


love rattle snake pole bean, it’s very versatile it can be a green bean or as a

used a dry bean


Plus when I go to the kindergarten, the kids all want the rattlesnake.

hawaii has no snakes

none, zero

interest in snakes too, because we have none!

The beans will be climbing up corn and of course the squash grows outwards away from everything. So they like pole beans and the squash grows up the corn? Like the corn is the pole.

Beans grow up the pole


Popcorn only grows about 4 feet t

might have to add poles

I’m finding a lot of these beans that can be big climbers

lima beans as well, and Here in Hawaii the lima beans can get to be 16’ tall?!

We don’t have the normal if you will seasons with a real spike in temp when it holds that temp for several months. Our weather comes and goes,

yesterday was was quite warm, today was cold and windy and raining, our weather fluctuations sort of ebb and flow

great long season

comes and goes

plants are long land raised squash

adapted to those conditions

lima beans need a long season, a very long season, so here they are almost perennial plants, believe it or not people don’t really grow them, Lima beans went out of fashion for a lot of people. But Fresh Lima Beans are fantastic. I use them in my chili. Because Lima Beans are the best I have tried

The reason for the blocks is for the pollinations. That’s

pollen can transfer . That’s where the blocks come in, if

will not get kernels developing, it could have been stormy weather comes

kernels are still good, they look funny, those ones, the pollen needs to touch each of the silks

each strand of silk, it needs to touch, it needs to transfer from the tassels downwards, so the block comes in handy because it ups your chances of the pollen transferring.

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

Rare squash for seed

Every year I do squash trials. I definitely want to grow that black corn again, and more of it, I really loved it

Every year I get the heirloom seed catalogs, I’m sure you can relate to this. I’m actually getting ready to plant again now, which seems really strange, but we have a funny winter season, if you time it right you can get things to grow in the winter time, certain things.

I’m looking to get planting in the next month, always I’m trying new varieties of squash, new to me.

new to me

old varieties

ones that I haven’t explored

Species Mushata, there’s 4-5 varieties, I should say species of squash, and within each species there’s  lots of varieties to choose from

eggplants are something I grow in the summer time

I adore growing chili peppers

6 days of flooding, now keep in mind I’m out in the dry arid part

lot of overcast days, high winds.

this year, was a little bit, I don’t want to say it was a complete wash, IO just celebrated Thanksgiving, I was very...




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