Bucket Lo’i Growing Big

Same three buckets a couple of chilly weeks later. When it warms up, the taro's growth will accelerate significantly.

Same three buckets a couple of chilly weeks later. When it warms up, the taro's growth will accelerate significantly.

It’s been a couple of months since I last posted about my little bucket-lo’i project. I have several 25 gallon molasses tubs re-purposed to be used as pots to grow my taro in. Since these particular taro plants prefer semi-aquatic conditions, I opted to not drill a drain hole in these tubs and to flood them several inches above the soil line. Since I have had problems with compost rotting immersed corms, I opted for plain ol’ top-soil dug from under my large oak trees. A very black and healthy soil. I used similar to grow my lotus, Chinese water-chestnuts and cattail with very good results, as well as smaller buckets of taro I immersed in larger tubs of water down in the pit-greenhouse. So I followed success and planted my new taro tubs the same way.

Taro two months since the previous picture - significant progress in growth.

Taro two months since the previous picture - significant progress in growth.

It was nice to get the taro planted directly in the larger tubs. The 3-gallon buckets I have immersed down in the greenhouse are okay when the taro is young keiki, but they grow big fast. Interestingly, the Pi’iali’i I have planted in a 3-gallon immersed bucket down in the pit-greenhouse have divided, going from two to 13 plants in that little bucket. I’m about to get another tub filled with top-soil to transfer them as soon as they get a little larger. It is very gratifying seeing this progress after struggling for so many years to make some headway in this project of mine. Taro and upland containers just don’t like each other for long. As they get big they also suck those containers dry in a day or two so they’re a LOT of work unless you use really large containers – which I didn’t have at the time. I did have a Xanthosoma sagittifolium growing in a 25-gallon tub of compost and it actually did pretty well – I’ll do similar with my surviving upland taro later on, get them potted up from their 3-gallon pots to the much larger 25-gallon containers and treat those as raised beds.

Brand new planting from freshly obtained huli. Next time I'll try keiki and see if they do better.

Brand new planting from freshly obtained huli. Next time I'll try keiki and see if they do better.

In any case, the largest success I’ve had with taro to date is the bucket-lo’i and this bucket-lo’i upgrade is a significant step forward for me, finally. I’ve lost a lot of varieties of taro along this road of discovery and hope to finally start rebuilding my collection soon, now that I know I can keep them alive and that they an actually thrive under my care. I am absolutely ecstatic at their abundant growth. They got a bit of a slow start with the cool Spring but are making up for lost time. And they have a few more months of active growth to go before they go into corm-making mode.

Porter's Kai Kea.

Porter's Kai Kea.

I’m sure they’d prefer moving water tho. The lo’i of Hawaii typically route river-water thru them so that the water is always fresh and often cooler. Of course some of today’s commercial flooded lo’i are vast affairs that may or may not have actively flowing water. But of particular inspiration to me are the smaller lo’i like those at Kipahulu. In any case, even without moving water, my taro is doing great. I do have several tubs down in the pit-greenhouse that are set up to recirculate water so eventually those will be put to use to mimic the river flow – but that’s a project for later.

Pi'iali'i

Pi'iali'i

In any case, when I planted out the young taro they were tiny things. Some of them had survived a year of neglect hidden behind other pots and half grown-over by sweet-potatoes in the pit-greenhouse and where actually sprouting again this Spring. That would be the Bun Long and Porter’s Kai Kea that I dug up from the beds and put down in the greenhouse as backups. I was pleasantly surprised to see them sprouting again so they became candidates for the bucket-lo’i upgrade. I also had some Pi’iali’i that I experimented with over the winter in an aquaponics setup in my grow-room. They survived – which is a Good Thing ™. But they didn’t thrive. I figure they’d have done better if I had them outside in the full sun in a larger aquaponics setup and that’s yet another project for the future too. However, I decided to put them in a system that I knew would work since my other immersed bucket of Pi’iali’i was doing so well.

Bun Long

Bun Long

The Pi’iali’i is still a bit smaller than the other two. They took a little longer to wake up and get into gear. Of course, that variety doesn’t get as big as the Bun Long so that could explain some of the size issues. The Bun Long can get as tall as me when it’s mature while the Pi’iali’i will remain around three feet tall. How big they’ll get in their tubs I’m not sure. Down in the pit-greenhouse the Pi’iali’i grew pretty tall but then they were partially shaded so they may have been reaching for light. Where these tubs are they get full sun until about two in the afternoon then bright shade until the evening so they’re growing a bit more compact.

Happy leopard frog making my bucket-lo'i its home.

Happy leopard frog making my bucket-lo'i its home.

In any case, these will hopefully become the parents of much larger beds. I plan on getting liners and sinking beds into the ground and actually producing a tidy little crop of taro. Until then, these tubs will have to do. But I’m glad that they are working out as expected – better than expected even.

And nature approves too. In both the new tubs and the tubs down in the greenhouse as well as my lotus tubs, I’ve found a leopard frog in each. If a frog makes your pond or tub a home then something is going right. Frogs are typically early indicators of environmental stresses – similar to a canary in the coal-mine. So seeing these frogs taking up residence in my tubs is very promising. I’ve also seen dragon-fly larvae skins hanging onto the stems of my lotus, as well as water-striders and water-bugs in my tubs too. Life is returning and thriving. And where life is happy, so is my taro and other aquatic plants.

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About MikeV

I'm a horticultural enthusiast. My life is deeply shaped by my plant passion. I am decidedly tropical, influenced by having lived on Guam, by life on Hawaii as a young child, and a deep infatuation for fruit and veggies common to the tropics.

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