By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
When we talk about strawberries, the first thing that comes to mind is the cold temperatures that are usually present in elevated areas such as Baguio and the Mountain Province, which are famous for this crop. This is because strawberries grow ideally in locations that have a temperature of 15 to 26 degrees Celsius.
This piece of information, however, did not stop Jowett Rodriguez, an electrical engineer working in a construction company, from growing strawberries far from the aforementioned areas–in his house in Dasmariñas, Cavite.
“Strawberries are very challenging to grow since [people] claim that it only grows in cold areas. A lot of people discouraged me at first but with the information that I got online, I found out that it’s possible to grow them in warm areas as long as they are properly cared for,” Rodriguez said.
He added that in order to grow these plants, you have to be aware of the essentials that they need in order to not only survive, but to bear fruit.
Strawberries (Fragaria × ananassa) are succulent and fragrant fruits that are bright red in color. They are usually obtained from the plant with the same name. It can be eaten raw or processed to create jams, candies, and other sweets.
Growing strawberry babies
In growing strawberries, Rodriguez warns that you have to be patient because complex plants need a little more time to grow.
He started with runners rather than seedlings because he found it easier to grow strawberries using this method.
“Runners are straw-like stems that grow from a mother plant. Runners eventually sprout roots and this is where new plants are formed. It is easier to propagate strawberries with these instead of growing them from seeds,” he said.
The electrical engineer managed to grow strawberries in pots since he realized that potting strawberries causes them to fruit more while also keeping them safe from diseases that are found in the soil.
“Strawberries need full sunlight but not too much to avoid heat stress. I used Polyethylene plastic to cover my plants to keep them from getting too much sun,” Rodriguez said.
Another tip in growing strawberries according to Rodriguez is to avoid overwatering the plants because it could lead to root rot. The ground only needs to be moist and not wet.
At the same time, strawberry plants need to be properly watered to avoid dehydration.
“The pots should also have a good drainage to keep the water from filling your plants’ bases. Afterwards, use natural fertilizer like vermicast or chicken manure to help the strawberries grow,” Rodriguez said.
He added that you have to pay close attention to the plants to see if there are any signs of infestation or disease.
As with many plants, properly caring for your strawberries could lead to fruitful results.
“It’s fulfilling and stress-relieving when you see your strawberries in the flowering stage. This is where you realize that all your hard work is worth it,” Rodriguez said.
The farming dream never stops
Rodriguez first started gardening when he acquired his house in Cavite. He wanted to establish a garden to freshen up his surroundings.
“It’s relaxing when there are plants and trees in your environment. I grew up in Tondo, Manila which is mostly crowded so I didn’t have a chance to plant there,” he said.
He started landscaping in 2016 before he decided to convert it into a fruit and vegetable garden.
Presently, Rodriguez grows grapes, mulberry, and fruit trees like guyabano and atis. He also has vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, and pechay. Most of his crops are potted, with the exception of the trees.
Rodriguez is keen on sharing his bounty with others by offering runners and other planting materials that could help aspiring urban gardeners start their own home garden.
“I’m encouraging everyone to start your own garden so you could have an unlimited supply of vegetables and fruits because they grow right in your own home. There are many ways to do it especially if we’re really determined to,” he said.
Through proper research and asking for advice, the former Tondo boy who didn’t know a thing about gardening managed to grow different crops and even the complicated strawberries which now brings him much joy.
This article appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s May to June 2020 issue.