Turn the page: old books make a good garden mulch
It was brought to my attention by an email from Pamela Wong, president of Friends of the Library, Kona (FOLK) that our Kailua-Kona public library is overloaded with books.
She reported that over the past year, books that are no longer in circulation have piled into the library’s storage facilities. Kona Bay Books has also donated numerous books to reduce its inventory in preparation for their move to a smaller space. All of these books are currently in storage units as well as in the library garage. The storage facilities are now overflowing.
The last sale of books to the library was over a year ago and no sales are expected in the near future. Although the library is starting to allow limited access for volunteers to sort the stacks of books, the problem of too many books is real. Many of the books in storage are old and in poor condition. Some are manuals and expired manuals. Not all of them are worth selling or reading. The volunteers who sort the books end up sending a lot of them to the landfill.
It’s disturbing for book lovers like me. It’s time to get creative. Stacks of books do not deteriorate in the landfill, but they do decompose when placed individually and split open on the floor. Gardeners to the rescue.
We can all use these bound books as mulch in our gardens.
Clear Englebert has been doing this for some time with great success. He picks up books from the library and takes them to his farm where he removes the covers, opens the books and puts them like shingles around his fruit trees. Not only do they suppress the growth of weeds, but they also attract worms and other soil creatures by adding life to its soil. With the rain that we are currently receiving in Kona, they are breaking down quickly. As long as the library’s supply of hardcover books continues, you can always get more.
I told Englebert about his book planting operation. He gets both hardback books and paperbacks in the library. He selects books printed in black ink and removes the thickest covers before planting them. He then opens the books and places them on the earth-like shingles on a roof.
Some of the books of his charges are printed in colored ink. These, he chooses not to plant them but often finds them worthy of placing them in the free boxes of the libraries of the districts.
He reports, “I see books flowing quickly from the boxes in the neighborhood library like Patel’s in South Kona. Children’s books often disappear within days.
He added that he stopped worrying about the tiny amount of glue in the binders, but decided not to use book mulch in his vegetable patch. He also researched books printed on smooth paper and found that the smooth coating was clay. He’s not averse to adding a little clay to his rocky Kona soil.
Overall, he finds books to be a great mulch for his fruit trees. He typically chooses to use book mulch on plants that are a bit out of sight, as open books lack the aesthetic appeal that other mulches might offer. The good news is that the books are free and their use is a great service for the library as well as for our gardens.
An additional idea for using old books is stacking them in a low retaining wall or edging for a raised bed. When stacked, they will decompose very slowly and provide an interesting feature to your garden.
Although FOLK distributes books to organizations, school libraries and concerned citizens eager to make reading a viable pastime, they must continue to move books out of storage and into willing hands.
Gardeners can become willing hands. For books to plant on your farm, orchard, or garden, contact Ken Guerra at (808) 322-0077 or email your request to Friends of the Libraries Kona at folk @ folkhawaii, com You can also email Ken directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diana Duff is a plant counselor, educator and consultant living part-time in Kailua-Kona.
Every Saturday: “Work Day at Amy Greenwell Garden” from 9 am to 12:30 pm Meet at the Garden Visitor Center in front of the Manago hotel in Captain Cook. Come with a mask and be prepared to practice social distancing. Volunteers can help with the maintenance of the garden and are welcome to bring a brown bag for lunch. Water and snacks provided. Call Peter at (808) 323-3318 for more information.
Tuesday: Training of trainers workshops on worker protection standards at 10 a.m. in English and 1 p.m. in Spanish at the Kona Cooperative Extension Service in Kainaliu. Train those who want to train people who spray any organic or conventional pesticide. More information at the HDOA Pesticides Directorate at (808) 974-4143 or (808) 333-2844. Register online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/train-the-trainer-worker-protection-standard-wps-workshop-tickets-156592699981.
Online: Access training videos at http://pesticideresources.org for safety information videos of worker protection standards.
Save the date: June 24-25 Hawaii Coffee Association Annual Meeting and Conference. Held virtually. For more information, visit hawaiicoffeeassoc.org/events Go to https://my.demio.com/ref/wqXU6XBC8Oboy30Z for the program and to register.
Farmer Direct Markets (check websites for latest hours and online markets)
Wednesday: “Ho’oulu Farmers Market” at Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa in Keauhou Bay
Saturday: “Keauhou Farmers Market” from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Keauhou Shopping Center
Information about their online market at keauhoufarmersmarket.com/onlinemarket
“Kamuela farmer’s market” from 7:30 am to noon at the Pukalani stables
“Waimea Town Market” from 7:30 am to noon at Parker school in the center of Waimea
“Waimea Homestead Farmers Market” from 7:30 am to noon on the schoolyard of the middle school and the primary of Waimea
Sunday: “Pure Kona Green Market” from 9 am to 2 pm at Amy Greenwell Garden in Captain Cook
“Hamakua Harvest” from 9 am to 2 pm on highway 19 and rue Mamane in Honoka’a
Plant advice lines
Anytime: email@example.com; Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the UH-CES in Kainaliu at (808) 322-4893.