By Vina Medenilla
Growing food nowadays is advantageous to households, not just because it can produce food amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, but also because it gives healthy options to the family in terms of providing fresh food and de-stressing benefits.
Rammer ‘Bong’ Quiboquibo, an urban grower in Cainta, Rizal is a gardener who uses hydroponics in his garden. Hydroponics is a method of gardening where plants are grown in water with nutrients instead of soil.
His hydroponics garden is found in their home’s terrace. Quiboquibo grows leafy greens like varieties of lettuce, pechay, pak choi, tomato, variety of peppers, kangkong, as well as herbs like oregano, basil, dill, and bitter gourd.
Since he has limited space at home, he only grows small plants that are easy to maintain and that he can grow and serve his family within a short period of time.
In starting a garden with small spaces, Quiboquibo said that you should consider plants that you and your family would like to eat. In this way, it becomes more satisfying if you eat food from your own garden, he added.
The benefit of gardening at home is that your household gets to consume more food with nutritional benefits. Quiboquibo also said that gardening relieves his stress and that he takes satisfaction in seeing his plants grow from seeds to crops that make an appearance on their dining table.
Challenges in home gardening include the usual garden pests: birds that eat sprouts, aphids, and mice. To prevent pest attacks, he uses nets and screens. His last option is using non-chemical pesticides. In some cases, he re-starts his garden instead.
In terms of plant growth, the only challenge is sunlight because his terrace has a roof that restricts the plants from getting more sun. To solve this, Quiboquibo assembled improvised LED lights and plans to provide grow lights as well so his plants can have an artificial source of light.
DIY hydroponics bed
To construct his hydroponics garden, he uses net cups or styrofoam cups. He drills holes at the bottom and sides of the cups and fills them with the growing medium. His growing medium is coco peat. He also adds clay pebbles to provide an additional structure for the plants and to prevent the development of moss. Afterward, he sets the cups into the growing bed.
There are two beds required to make a hydroponics system. This refers to used rectangular, fruit styrofoam containers. The beds must be overlapped; the top bed will be the growing bed where the cups are inserted while the bottom bed will be the nutrient solution (NutSol) bed.
To prevent the NutSol from leaking, he uses plastic liners. He creates holes in the growing bed with the same size as the styrofoam or net cups’ body. Afterward, he will insert the cups into the holes.
The NutSols that he uses are Snap and Masterblend, which can be purchased online. At least one-fourth to half of the cups must be soaked into the nutrient solution. The NutSol must also be refilled from time to time.
After 30 to 45 days, most of the leafy vegetables can be harvested. For basil, you can continue harvesting for a period of three months while for okra, harvest can last from six months to a year.
A tip from Quiboquibo is that asking people with experience in hydroponics as well as watching or reading about it is how you will learn as a grower.
For those who want to start their gardens during these times, save the seeds from the vegetables in your kitchen like tomato, okra, and eggplant and regrow them.
Save your biodegradable waste and turn it into plant fertilizer. Reuse ice cream containers or paint buckets as pots to lessen waste. After a few weeks, you can harvest some of these plants that you planted in your garden.
Photos from Bong Quiboquibo.
This article appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s May to June 2020 issue.