By Tiana Kamen

Tiana Kamen is seen here teaching children how to garden. Left to right, Hi‘iaka Acoba, Lilia Akuna and Kaioli Acoba.

The title of my bew book, Farm to Keiki — Cooking, Gardening and Nutrition with Children, was originally supposed to be Creating Your Dream Garden, before the editors decided to change it. While that title didnʻt make the cut in my book, this spring I encourage you to be creative and start dreaming of the garden you always wished you had.

The first question I ask when dreaming up a garden is, “Why do you want a garden?” Is it to grow food to feed your family? To save money? To live more sustainably? To connect with nature? To teach your children to eat healthier? To make yourself eat healthier?

Defining a soulful purpose creates the foundation for a bountiful garden and a happy home.

I remember dreaming up my first garden when I moved back home to Hawaiʻi after college. I was just starting the Kauaʻi School Garden Network and interning at the bountiful Kauapea Farms in Kilauea. I enlisted my now husband, an expert landscaper and permaculturalist, to build my dream garden because I had big dreams to make happen. I wanted my garden to support school gardens, so I made it into a “laboratory” where I could discover fun plants for kids and harvest real foods to use in my teacher workshops. I also wanted my garden to live more sustainably and grow as much food as I could to sustain my diet without relying on imported foods. Because the amount of fossil fuels that it takes to import food to Hawaiʻi directly contributes to climate change, I believe sustainability is a righteous purpose for everyone to want to grow a garden.

The next dreamy garden questions could be, “What do I want to grow?” I ask myself what foods I want to eat, what plants I want to use, when is the best time to plant, or does this plant even grow in Hawaiʻi? Some plants such as garlic and apples need a cold snap to live, so you may want to do a little reserach before planting that apple tree — unless you are in Kokeʻe.

So what would I grow in my dream garden? First I would grow the foods I eat most often and are easy to grow, such as herbs and leafy greens. I am a nutritionist, so I also dream about planting a wide diversity of foods, because each food plays a special role in human health. For example, I would grow legumes for protein, root vegetables for minerals, leeks and kale for detoxification, sweet potatoes for a complex carbohydrate and so on.

I also love to fill my dream garden with medicinal and culinary herbs and plants such as turmeric, ginger, holy basil, yarrow, chocolate mint and comfrey. And when I put my chef hat on, I dream about growing the special varieties of foods I can’t find in stores or farmers markets such as purple lilikoʻi (passion fruit), fino verde basil and asparagus.

What are you favorite foods? Plant those.

Once you know what you want to plant (at least for this season), you will have a better idea of what your dream garden will look like. Observe your environment to determine where to grow your garden. Where is there at least 6-8 hours of sunshine? Where will you get water?

Tiana Kamen

My first dream garden was in a raised bed my husband made from cut logs found in the compost yard — designed into the shape of a honu (turtle). I named it Aunty Jessi’s Honu Garden. As dream gardens do, the honu garden changed from year to year, but what kept growing was our love. My husband proposed to me in our garden and we also got married right next to our garden! While I can’t accurately say a garden will help you find your spouse, I do promise that having a garden will light up your life and at least make some dreams come true.

It’s never too late to grow your dream garden. In fact, the best time to do it is now. As the sun shines longer, and passing showers bless us daily, your garden plants are destined to provide you with bountiful produce for the summer. Wishing you the best of luck in planting your dreams, one seed at a time.

  • Tiana Kamenis the author of Farm to Keiki — Cooking, Gardening and Nutrition with Children. Visit farmtokeiki.org to view the book online for free or contact her at tiana@farmtokeiki.org for more information.