Home Grown

Photo by Ronna Bolante

On a drizzly afternoon in Makiki, a neighborhood dense with high-rise condominiums, Nalani Boon (left) plucks a few cherry tomatoes from her small garden. The patch of green grass and soil isn’t hers, exactly. Boon just rents it from the city and county of Honolulu, as part of its community garden program.

The city program began under Mayor Frank Fasi in 1965 and now includes 10 locations on Oahu, including Manoa and Hawaii Kai. In Makiki, members pay $15 a year in water fees and membership dues for their own mini-gardens, each 10 feet by 10 feet.

“We have 160 plots in Makiki,” says Boon, who joined the association 17 years ago and is now its president. “Most of the people here live in condos, and they’re usually frustrated gardeners. Their lanai can handle a few potted plants, but if you want to get your hands dirty, you need a garden.”

In addition to the satisfaction of growing their own produce, gardeners save money at the grocery store, too. “I like to make stir-fries, and Chinese peas can cost $4 or $5 a pound,” Boon says. “Last winter, I probably grew about $200 worth of peas.”  

Applicants for a community garden space can expect up to a four-month wait, says program coordinator Nathan Wong. To find out more, contact Wong at 522-7063.

For information on how to apply for a community garden plot, download this document from the City and County’s Department of Parks and Recreation.