Monday, May 23, 2016

Home Gardening: Illustrated Models

Included is a plan of a Homesite - an ideal integrated garden around a home in a suburb and rural setting. Compare this with Bahay Kubo. Update it. Innovate it according to your concept, situation and needs.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog []
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday []

Lesson: Home garden. It is fun, exercise, and source of food and medicine - and income. Study these models and find out which are applicable in your area. Share your experience with the members of the family, school and your community.

Patola (Luffa acutangula) on trellis. Home garden project at Barangay Valencia, San Juan, MM
These gardening models have been developed from studies and observations of successful projects locally and abroad. They serve as guide to participants and listeners of Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (School-on-Air) to help them in their projects, particularly in times of food scarcity, such as the present situation caused by the El Niño phenomenon.

But even during normal times, these models are useful to gardening enthusiasts, especially children and senior citizens who find this hobby highly rewarding to health and leisure, and as a source of livelihood, notwithstanding. Those who are participating in projects in food production and environmental beautification, such as the Clean and Green Movement, and Green Revolution projects, will find these models similarly valuable.

One however, can modify them according to the peculiarity of his place, and in fact, he can combine those models that are compatible so as to develop and integrate them into a larger and more diversified plan.

One who is familiar with the popular Filipino composition Bahay Kubo, can readily identify the plants mentioned therein with those that are cited in these models. And in his mind would appear an imagery of the scenario in which he can fit these models accordingly.

Here is a plan of a Homesite - an ideal integrated garden around a home in a rural setting. Compare this with Bahay Kubo. Update it. Innovate it according to your concept, situation and needs. Allow innovations as long as these do not lose the essence of the plan. You can even expand the area, adding more features to it.

In effect, this Homesite model becomes a model farm, a Homestead - one that has economic and ecological attributes that characterize the concept of sustainable productivity cum aesthetics and educational values.

We invite all followers and readers of this Blog to adopt these models in their own capacities wherever they reside - in the rural or urban area - and whenever they find them feasible, and thus join the movement which PBH has been carrying on in the last twenty years or so.

It is for this nationwide campaign that PBH has earned, among other programs, the Oscar Florendo Award for Developmental Journalism, indeed a tribute to all those who have participated, and are going to participate, in the pursuit of the noble objectives of this campaign.

Keep track with the development of this project, learn more about its practical methods and techniques, and participate in the open forum of the radio program. Most important of all, share with the millions of listeners your experience with your project on how you made it a successful and rewarding one. Which therefore, makes you a resource participant to Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid. Tune in to Radyo ng Bayan DZRB 738 KHz AM Band, 8 to 9 o'clock in the evening from Monday to Friday, with Melly Tenorio and Ka Abe Rotor.

Home Gardening:

Green Patch at Home

Dr Abe V Rotor  

 By size, my home farm is a Liliputian version of a corporate farm. Intensive cultivation-wise however, it dwarfs the monoculture of a plantation. It is only when your area is small that you can attend to the requirements of an integrated farm with basic features of a garden.

       When I moved to the city, I put up perhaps the smallest garden, a corner lot equivalent to a space of a two-bedroom bungalow. Here, after two years of experimentation and redesigning evolved a garden ensconced like in a shell, an example of tri-commodity farming where I have vegetables, poultry and fish.

         My wife, who is an accountant, estimates that presently, the garden could save up to 20 percent of our family's expense for food, in exchange for twenty family man-hours every week. Labor makes up to 50 percent of production costs, she says. Since gardening is a hobby in lieu of outdoor games, we agreed not to include labor as cost. This gives a positive sign to the garden's financial picture.

        We do not also consider in the book the aesthetic value of weekends when the garden becomes a family workshop to prove green thumbs, and the influence my family has made on the community by giving free seeds and seedlings, and know-how tips. When my children celebrate their birthdays, the kids in the neighborhood enjoy harvesting tomatoes, string beans and leafy vegetables - a rare experience for boys and girls living in the city.

     What makes a garden?

        Frankly, I have no formula for it. I first learned farming from my father who was a gentleman farmer before I became an agriculturist. But you do not have to go for formal training to be able to farm well. All that one needs is sixth sense or down-to-earth sense, the main ingredient of a green thumb.

        Take these gardening experiences.

1. Get the most sunlight

        A maximum of five hours of sunlight should be available - geographically speaking that is. Morning and direct sunlight is ideal for photosynthesis. But you need longer exposure for fruit vegetables, corn and viny plants like cucurbits, ampalaya.  So with crucifers like mustard and pechay. These are long-day plants.

       Well, to get more sunlight, I prune the surrounding talisay or umbrella trees twice a year. I use the branches for trellis and poles. Then, I painted the surrounding walls white to increase the intensity of reflected and diffused light.

        Plot the sun's course and align the rows on an East-West direction. Plants do not directly over-shadow each other this way. This is very important during wet season when days are cloudy and plants grow luxuriantly.  Other than maximizing solar radiation you also get rid of soil borne plant diseases. Sunlight that gets in between the plants helps eliminate pest and pathogens. And in summer, you can increase your seeding rate, and therefore potential yield.  Try planting in triangular formation or quincunx.

        Outline that part of the garden that receives the longest sunlight exposure. Plant this area with sun-loving plants like okra and ampalaya.

        Lastly, remember that plants which grow on trellises and poles "reach out for the sun" with less ground space. Put up trellises at blind corners and train viny plants to climb early and form a canopy. For string beans, use poles on which they climb. You wouldn't believe it but as long as your rows are aligned with the sun's movement and trellises and poles are used, you can plant more hills in a given area, and you can have dwarf and tall plants growing side by side. Try alternate rows of sitao, tomato and cabbage.

2. Try Mixed Garden or Storey Cropping
        What is the composition of an ideal garden?

       Again, there's no standard design for it. The most practical type is a mixed garden.  A mixed garden is like a multi-storey building.  Group plants according to height.  That is why you have to analyze their growing habits.

     Are they tall or dwarf?  Seasonal, biennial or permanent?  What part of the year do they thrive best? Refer to the planting calendar or consult your nearest agriculturist.

        Look for proper cropping combinations through intercropping or crop rotation. Malunggay, papaya, kamias, banana and the like make good border plants. Just be sure they do not shade smaller plants. Cassava and viny plants trained on trellis are next in height. The group of pepper, tomato, eggplant follows, while the shortest in height hierarchy are sweet potato, ginger and other root crops. Imagine how these crops are grouped and built like a storeyed building.  We call this storey cropping.

       A friend commented, "Why streamline your garden the American way?" I agree with him. Plant the Filipino way.

       At any rate there are crops "we plant and forget." Before the pot starts to shimmer, you realize you need some malunggay leaves, a dozen tops of camote, a handful of fresh onion leaves, etc.  All you need is to dash into the backyard and pick these green ingredients.

3. Practice Organic Farming

       Traditional farming is back with modern relevance.

     Organic farming is waste recycling - not by getting rid of the waste itself but by utilizing it as production input.

       "This system is an alternative to conventional chemical farming", says Domingo C. Abadilla in his book Organic Farming.

        I practice organic farming for two reasons - and for a third, if I may add.  Crops grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides are safer and more nutritious.

       What would you do with poultry droppings and Azolla from the fishpond?  Plus the kitchen refuse and weeds?  Make valuable compost out of them. For potash, sieve ash from a garbage-dumping site. Just be sure it is not used for industrial waste.

       Can we grow crops without insecticides? Generally, no.  But there are ways to protect plants in a safe way.  

·        Use mild detergent, preferably coconut-based soap, to control  aphids and other plant lice.

·        Plant tomatoes around pest prone plants.  They exude repellant odor on a wide variety of pests.

·        Keep a vigil light above the garden pond to attract nocturnal insects that may lay eggs on your plants at daytime. Tilapia and hito relish on insects.

·        A makeshift greenhouse made of plastic and mosquito net will eliminate most insects.

      If you find stubborn insect pest like caterpillars and crikets, make a nicotine solution and spray. One or two sticks of cigarette, irrespective of its brand, mixed into a bucketful of water will do the trick. But be sure not to use the solution on tomato, pepper and eggplant. It is possible that tobacco mosaic virus  can be transmitted  to these crops.

       A relative, a heavy smoker, visited us at home and we showed him our garden. When he touched the tomato plants, he was unknowingly inoculating mosaic virus. Tobacco virus can remain dormant in cigars and cigarette for as long as twenty years. Then it springs back to life in the living system of a plant belonging to Solanaceae or tobacco family.

4. Raise Fish in the Garden Pond

     Water from the pond is rich with algae, plant nutrients and detritus that add to soil fertility. While you water your plants, you are also fertilizing them. 

       The pond should be designed  for growing  tilapia, hito or dalag, or a combination of these. For tilapia, keep its population low to avoid overcrowding and competition. Stock fingerlings of the same size and age.
     Try growing hito, native or African.  When you buy live hito from the market, separate the small ones (juveniles), which will serve as your growers. They are ready to harvest in 3 to 6 months with 3 pieces making a kilo.  Hito is easier to raise than any other freshwater fish. One thing is that you do not change water often because the fish prefers to have a muddy bottom to stay.

        Feed the fish with poultry and fish entrails, vegetable trimmings, dog food, etc. Just avoid accumulation of feed that may  decompose and cause foul odor, which means that Oxygen in water is being replaced with Carbon Dioxide and Hydrogen Sulfide.

       Azolla, a floating fern, is good for fish and animal feeds because it contains 20 to 25 percent protein,.  It is also an excellent organic fertilizer because it is rich in nitrate, a product of nitrogen fixation by Anabaena, a microscopic blue-green algae living in the fronds of Azolla. Nitrate is important for plant growth. Grow Azolla in a separate pond, or in floating cage, so as to maintain a regular biomass supply. 

   5. Integrate Backyard Poultry

       Raise some broilers and layers in separate cages. Have other  cages to rear chicks and growers to replenish your stock.  Formulate your feed.  If not, mix commercial broiler feed and yellow corn grit in equal proportion. This is more economical and you may get better results than by using commercial broiler feeds alone.

      Construct a fence around the cages and have pair of turkey on the loose. Similarly you may rear a few native chickens to feed on feed waste. Clip their wings regularly to prevent them from escaping  and destroy your garden. I don't recommend piggery unless the neighborhood does not object to it.

6. Plant Fruit Trees Trees

       Do not forget to have some native fruit bearing trees such as guava, atis, guyabano, kamias, kalamansi and other citrus species.  If your area is big you can include coconut, mango, kaimito, bananas.  Rambutan, why not?  I saw fruit laden rambutan trees in some residences  in Quezon City. 

     Just like annual plants, adopt the East-West planting method for trees so that you can have seasonal crops in between their rows.  Use compost for the fruit trees, just like in vegetables. You can plant  orchard trees like mango, guyabano, coconut and cashew along the sidewalk fronting your residence.

7. Make Your Own Compost, and Grow Mushrooms, Too      

     In one corner, build a compost pile with poles and mesh wire,  1m x 2m, and 2m in height. Dump leaves, kitchen refuse, chicken droppings and allow them to decompose and become into valuable organic fertilizer. Turn the pile once a month until it is ready for use.
     In another place you can have a mushroom pile made of rice straw, or water hyacinth. After harvesting the mushrooms, the spent material is a good compost material and composting will take a shorter time. 

     To learn more about mushroom growing and composting, refer to the technology tips of DOST-PCARRD, or see your agriculturist in your area.  

8. Plant Herbals - Nature’s First Aid

         It is good to have the following plants as alternative medicine.  Lagundi for flu and fever, guava for skin diseases and body odor, aromatic pandan and tanglad for deodorant and air freshener, oregano for cough and sore throat, mayana for boils and mumps, ikmo for toothache, pandakaki for cuts. There are other medicinal plants you can grow in your backyard.  Remember, herbals are nature's first-aid.

         These and many others are the reasons you should have a  home garden.  One thing is sure in the offing: it is a source of safe and fresh vegetables and fruits, fish and meat, and natural medicine.  Most important of all, the garden is a recreation of nature itself, a green patch of a lost Eden.  
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