By Vina Medenilla

In the midst of the global crisis that we are experiencing today due to COVID-19, many people are starting to realize the importance of growing food for security and convenience. Gardening can be a great starting point if you want to grow your own nutritious vegetables at home.

One of the gardening types that you can do in your rooftop, balcony, or backyard is raised bed gardening. Raised bed gardening is where the plants are sowed in a constructed, elevated bed above the ground. It is suitable for planting vegetables, herbs, and ornamental plants.

Ronaldo Polo Rojo, an active seafarer and gardener in Zamboanga City, uses this kind of gardening. He currently has two raised beds set for vegetables in his 100 square meter home garden. One bed is for pechay mixed with alugbati and the other raised bed is for tomatoes.

Intercropping pechay and alugbati

In intercropping pechay and alugbati, you must plant pechay first as it grows faster than alugbati. Pechay can be harvested after 25 to 45 days. You can plant alugbati two weeks after planting pechay. The alugbati’s leaves can be harvested after 30 to 40 days. Alugbati has a long lifespan and if you trim it, they tend to multiply more, Rojo said.

To be successful in intercropping, balancing the plants’ needs is important. Make sure that both plants have sufficient sunlight and space to avoid competition in getting the nutrients that they need for their development. Use vermicast as fertilizer and water them daily, especially during summer.

Alugbati and pechay are intercropped using the raised bed technique in Zamboanga.

This kind of gardening minimizes pests and at the same time, it can save space in your garden.

Besides the raised beds, Rojo also does container gardening. This is also an excellent method to try, especially if you have limited space at home. Container gardening is easy and flexible; it can be a pleasant decoration by turning it into hanging plants using plastic bottles or pots and by tying it up using nylon strings or ropes.

Building a raised bed

Constructing a raised bed can be done using recyclable materials available at home. Wood, plastic containers, sacks, and bottles can be used as a medium for planting. Instead of throwing these materials away, you can reuse them to reduce trash and to lessen your expenses in buying materials for your garden.

Building a raised bed does not necessarily have a proper procedure to follow, Rojo said. Anyone can build one as long as it is made of wood or lumber. Form it into a rectangular shape with the height of at least four to six inches above the ground and you’re done.  

Growing tomatoes in a raised bed garden.

Raised bed or container gardening does not just give an organized and refreshing look to your home but getting food would be easier and accessible for you and your family, too. 

In terms of getting seeds, since there are restrictions in getting materials due to the COVID-19 situation, Rojo said that getting and regrowing seeds from vegetables that you consume is a good technique as you start gardening. Seeds of tomato and squash are some examples. Instead of throwing them away, this can be grown in your garden or even in small containers like tin cans or sacks.

Planting tips for beginners

Rojo said that if you are starting a raised bed or a container garden, you must start with easy-to-grow vegetables like pechay. You must be innovative in whatever resources you may have like using recyclable materials for planting. Patience, time, and effort are also needed in growing plants to give them proper care and attention. Studying each plant’s characteristics and needs are important in managing and growing healthy plants.

For raised bed and container gardening, two things that you should consider are location and soil. It is crucial to place your raised bed or containers in a position where there is enough supply of sunlight as it is essential for the plant’s growth. Getting and maintaining healthy soil is a way to keep your plants healthy as well.

Any reusable containers can be used for planting, in this case, a pitcher is used by the grower.

Beginner or not, gardening can be beneficial in saving you money and in saving the environment. No one needs a green thumb or a large area to succeed in planting, so don’t be deceived and start learning how to garden.

Photos from Ronaldo Rojo.