I really did have a lot to learn about gardening. I was not one of those persons gifted with a green thumb. In fact, I seemed to have the opposite of a green thumb, whatever that would be. A red thumb? That didn’t sound right, although green and red opposed each other on the color wheel. A brown thumb? A black thumb? Was that racist? Maybe a skeleton thumb, like the Grim Reaper.

The Black Thumb, a Professor Molly Mystery

I have the proverbial black thumb. I am the worst gardener in the world. I’m not simply incapable of coaxing a living thing out of the ground; I’ve had actual cactus perish in my care.

I am death, destroyer of flora.

Or so I thought, before I moved from Southern California to the rainy side of one of the Hawaiian Islands.

It turns out that I am not the plant kingdom’s answer to the Grim Reaper. In fact, now that I’m here, I’m surrounded by thriving, vigorous verdure. How do I do it?

Simple: sun plus rain. Hawaii generally has the highest ultraviolet index in the United States (13.2 today, on a scale I’d always assumed only went up to 10). And the eastern, or windward, sides of the Hawaiian islands get soaked, with up to 10,271 mm or over 400 inches of rainfall per year. Notoriously damp Seattle, by comparison, gets barely 50 inches.


Mean Annual Rainfall Hawaii
Source: University of Hawaii

I live in one of the soggy blue spots on the map. Here the default landscape is jungle. Gardening mostly involves beating back nature with gallons of herbicide and powerful weed torches (basically flamethrowers for your garden).

A brief visual comparison:

This is a vacant lot in California.
This is a vacant lot in California.
This is a vacant lot in Hawaii.
This is a vacant lot in Hawaii.

So now you know my gardening secret: Year round sunshine + buckets of rain + neglect gets you a lush, green landscape every time.

Just don’t forget the mosquito repellent.

First published for The Black Thumb release at Brooke Blogs