A few weeks ago in the midst of spring, I moved forward with a little tea planting project that had been on my mind for the longest time. Out of sheer curiosity, I reached out to my friends at Big Island Tea, asking if they might be able to send along a few tea plant seeds for me to experiment with.
Known for growing some of the best tea in Hawaii, Eliah and Cam of Big Island Tea were nice enough to send along a generous packet of tea seeds. After picking them up from the mailbox I came straight home to get them settled in.In side and shape, the tea seeds reminded me of unhusked hazelnuts. I was surprised that the seeds were so large. The seeds came with a quick note: Try to plant ASAP-keep soil most-acidic fertilizer. Aloha, Eliah. For a clueless wannabe gardener like myself, this was an adventure to say the least.
Eliah of Big Island Tea is a busy lady. On any given day she’s busy about her tea farm–growing tea, processing tea, and even giving tea farm tours. Not wanting to pepper her with annoying questions, I went ahead and planted the seeds in regular potting soil mixed with extra perlite for better drainage. Did she say perlite? No…but like I told you, I’m experimenting!In a few of the pots, I placed 2 seeds instead of one. Again, I had no idea if this was right. What Eliah did mention was to keep the pots in the shade, to ensure good drainage and to spritz with water when the first spout appears.
I placed the seeds about 1″ down into biodegradable planters filled with regular potting soil, then gave them a good shower with water. As the soil compacted, I topped each potted plant with a bit more soil and showered them again until the dirt was just moist.
To keep the soil acidic, I purchased some peat moss which I used to top the pots as the soil compacted over the following days. Occasionally, I would water with leftover tea–a trick that Eliah taught me when I visited her on the Big Island last year.
Status report: Success!! It’s taken about 5 weeks of watering and waiting and I’m thrilled to show you the first sprout to appear! Beautiful, isn’t it? I’ll be reporting back soon, perhaps a mid-summer update…stay tuned!
Eliah’s Tips for Planting Tea Seeds:
Keep soil moist
Use acidic fertilizer
Grow in the shade
Ensure good drainage
Use sprayer at first sprout
Water with tea
A big mahalo to Eliah of Big Island Tea for the seeds and tips! My gardening pal, Ben (my mom’s King Charles Cavalier), and I worked hard planting the seeds back in mid-May and are thrilled with the results!