By Julio P. Yap Jr.

For those residing in urban areas like Metro Manila who would like to have their own gardens but don’t have the land or space to plant vegetables, urban gardening is the answer.

This is one of the solutions in bringing and conducting agriculture in the urban setting.

For Mer Layson, this is possible with the use of discarded bottles or containers, right attitude, and strong will.

Mer Layson shows his ready-to-harvest mustard and lettuce plants which were grown in discarded plastic bottles.

In doing so, one can have a ready supply of fresh vegetables, at the same time, beat the ever-increasing prices of vegetables in the market, aside from having a source of healthy food for their families.

For some, this idea could be unbelievable, but in other areas and in some cities of the country, this concept has been proven to flourish even in any available space, like windows, terraces, or in the very limited space of an apartment or high-rise condominium building.

According to Layson, who has been practicing urban gardening by utilizing the grills of his rented apartment building in Manila, all you need are discarded plastic bottles cut in halves, pierced with small holes on the side, and filled with a small amount of soil, and presto! You now have the containers to plant different varieties of green leafy vegetables.

For his handmade receptacles which he calls the “self-watering plant containers,” Layson was able to plant, and eventually harvest easy-to-grow leafy vegetables like lettuce, mustard, pechay, including chilli pepper and the panigang variety of pepper.

To maintain the quality of his yields, Layson says he sources the vegetable seeds from Allied Botanical Corporation (ABC), particularly the Condor brand.

With the use of his improvised containers, the burden of watering the plants everyday will be eliminated.

Layson was able to cultivate different varieties of vegetables by hanging the plastic containers in the grills of his rented apartment in Manila.

Watering could only be done when water level in the containers becomes almost dry.

Layson says you can use any size of discarded plastic bottles, depending of course to the variety of vegetable which you may want to cultivate.

For the different varieties of lettuce like Condor’s Red Wave Lettuce, Layson only uses the 330 milliliter plastic bottles, but for the taller varieties like the Montana Mustard and the Black Behi White Stem Pechay, he uses the 1-liter or 1.5-liter soda bottles.

Another advantage of planting your own vegetables is that you can naturally grow them without the use of fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.

Since the plants are just within reach and can be viewed or seen at any time of the day, pest infestation will not be a problem at all, according to Layson who calls himself the “magsasakang reporter” for being one of the reporters of a daily publication in Metro Manila.

Another advantage of planting vegetables in small containers instead of ornamental plants is that it can enhance the aesthetics of an area in your home, at the same time, provide fresh vegetables for your family.

Besides providing food, there are other benefits of urban or container gardening, such as, improving the nutritional status of your family, ensuring food security, possible generation of additional income if ever there is surplus in your production, and savings which could have been spent for buying vegetables in the local market.

Layson also says that one of the valuable benefits of urban gardening or container gardening is wellness.

“With the very stressful city life and pressures of living in the urban areas, urban gardening can very much serve as an effective relaxant,” he pointed out.

Layson demonstrates how to germinate vegetable seeds by using a seedling tray.

Enthusiasts of urban gardening have already reported and testified that the wellness effect of the hobby is an ideal and leisurely activity.

“If I can do it, you can do it too. Who knows, you might even become more productive than me in the long run,” he said, as he urged the public to practice urban or container gardening in their homes.

For those who would like to know more about container gardening and how Layson prepares the improvised containers, he is conducting free seminars at his home which is located in No. 1406, Sto. Sepulcro corner Union Streets in Paco, Manila every Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

However, those interested should contact him first through mobile number 0917 867-5197 for reservation.

Aside from container gardening, Layson is also sharing his expertise on how to organically plant, harvest, and process soya beans, and eventually, how to market the processed products like soya milk, soya coffee, and soya ice candy.

Incidentally, Layson has been processing organic soya products for quite some time already and has been recognized and awarded for his dedication to his profession, advocacy, and above all, love of God.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s November 2018 issue.