By Edgar S. Godin
When we heard that growing vegetables in pots and other containers was profitable, we decided to make the rooftop of our store in front of our house into our garden. The roof is made of concrete and is located in open sun so it is perfect for growing sun-loving vegetables.
The area is just 4 meters (m) x 4 m so it is only 16 square meters. When you think about it, it is very small but we soon found out that the small space can produce more veggies than our family of five can consume. So we sell whatever is in excess right in our store.
We use black plastic nursery bags for growing our plants. Depending on the distancing and the kind of vegetables, our rooftop can easily accommodate 60 to 80 plants. At an average distance of 75 centimeters (cm), we can already have 60 plants growing alongside each other. This means we can grow 10 or more kinds of vegetables simultaneously.
For example, we can plant six eggplants, six okra, six tomatoes, and so on. The six eggplants, when they start fruiting, can give us enough fruits for cooking three times a week. Say you can harvest one fruit per plant at a time; you already have enough for your favorite eggplant omelette. The same is true with okra, which you can harvest three or four times a week.
Other vegetables that are easy to grow are camote for their shoots, alugbati, kangkong, pechay, and lettuce. As early as three weeks from planting, you can already start harvesting shoots from your camote. Kangkong and pechay are also harvestable in less than one month from planting.
On August 6, 2017, we planted 15 eggplant seedlings and 20 okra. These were more than what we usually planted previously of these two veggies. They were in addition to the camote, kangkong, pechay, and two varieties of pepper that were already growing. Our intention was to have extra harvest that we could sell in our sari-sari store.
By the last week of September, we started harvesting from the eggplant and okra. Because the rooftop garden is very visible to passersby and buyers from our store, many of them kept inquiring if the fruits were already available. They really wanted to buy our organically grown vegetables. We estimate that we were able to harvest 1.5 kilos of eggplant and 20 to 30 pieces of okra every week during the whole month of October. And we were able to sell what our family could not consume.
When the okra stopped flowering, we cut their stems, leaving about a foot above the growing medium. Then we planted beside the topped okra stems with Diamante Max tomato. After a while, the okra began sprouting new shoots and in no time they started flowering and bearing fruit again. The tomatoes, meanwhile, also started flowering. The tomatoes were transplanted on November 7 and during the first week of January 2018, we started harvesting the ripe fruits.
Just before Christmas 2017, we transplanted five seedlings of Galaxy ampalaya. As I was writing this story, the ampalaya vines were starting to climb the trellis. We expect that before we harvest all the tomatoes, the ampalaya will start bearing fruit. And up to now, the 15 eggplants that were planted at the same time with the okra continue to reward us with their tasty fruits.
Sometimes it is hard to believe that a small space of 16 square meters could produce such a bountiful harvest. Believe it or not, in a previous season, I planted 24 tomato seedlings and I was able to harvest a total of 27 kilos. Each plant produced more than a kilo!
Because our plants are very healthy and fruitful, many have been asking us what fertilizer we are using. Well, since the plants are mainly intended for our own consumption, we only use organic fertilizer. No chemical fertilizers.
Here’s what we do. We have two plastic containers (balde) that we use as compost bins. All our kitchen wastes like fruit peels and vegetable trimmings are consigned to the two containers. Every three weeks we are able to collect enough compost which we use for fertilizing our vegetables. Every time we transplant seedlings, we add 35 percent compost to the garden soil that we use as planting medium.
Aside from compost, we also use fish extract to supplement the compost. Fish extract is really effective in boosting the growth of our plants. This is how we prepare the fish extract. We just crush the fish or pass it through a blender and collect the liquid which we mix with the water for watering our plants. We apply this two weeks after transplanting.
Growing your own vegetables really gives you a wonderful feeling. Just imagine, a 16-square meter space on a rooftop can provide us enough fresh and very clean vegetables for our own consumption, and more. Just remember, the vegetables that you yourself grow taste much better than anything you could ever buy from the market. Believe me!
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2018 issue.