An empty rooftop is something that gardeners see as an opportunity to turn into a productive green space.
An example of this is the rooftop garden of Ricardo C. Gio, the Municipal Local Government Operations Officer of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Leyte.
He was able to establish a vegetable garden, mini pond, as well as native chicken raising area in his 118 square meter wide rooftop on the third floor of his house in Tacloban City.
Gio loved planting ever since he was a kid and learned gardening all by himself through reading books and watching online videos. He has been doing container gardening since 1999. He started his rooftop garden in 2014, after the renovation of his house that was affected by typhoon Yolanda.
Despite having a full time job, he still allots time for gardening. He goes up to his garden at five o’clock up to six o’clock in the morning and returns from five until seven o’clock in the evening. On weekends, he usually spends long hours in the garden.
Through gardening, Gio said that he is able to advocate for food security. He takes advantage of the internet to reach a wider audience in promoting this and aims to influence others in growing their own food regardless of status. He believes that it can also save poor communities from hunger and malnutrition.
In his family, both young and old members enjoy gardening as a hobby. Each of them has tasks in maintaining their garden that involves weeding, soil cultivation, watering, and maintenance of the mini pond and the small poultry area.
Gio began growing food in a raised bed. Presently, he produces different varieties in his vegetable garden such as tomato, eggplant, pechay, chili pepper, sweet potato, cassava, bitter gourd, malunggay, mulberry, basil, mint, lemongrass, cucumber, cranberry, string beans, turmeric, ginger, dragon fruit, and more.
For beginners, Gio suggests growing low-maintenance crops like camote, pechay, tomato, and pepper as these are easy to propagate.
He uses carbonized rice hulls mixed with compost soil and vermicast for his planting medium, while his seeds come from kitchen scraps, stores, and his friends.
When it comes to containers, there are plastic vases available in stores but some are pricey, Gio said. As an alternative, any improvised containers are great as long as the container’s thickness is appropriate to the plant you will be growing. Gio uses styrofoam boxes (used to store grapes in the market) to grow pechay, onion, and upland kangkong. Crops like eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers must be planted in at least one-foot-deep containers.
Gio avoids fertilizers that are harmful to the plant and the environment so he makes his own natural fertilizer. He creates this by composting weeds, withered leaves, branches, stems, and non-oily kitchen leftovers.
Aside from the economic benefits of gardening, this also serves as a stress reliever for Gio. This does not just contribute to the conservation of the environment but it allows him to provide clean and quality vegetables for his family.
The major challenge in his garden is the birds that eat the seedlings and young plants. To solve this, he covers young plants with plastic containers until they grow broad leaves.
According to Gio, before you start planting, make sure to have time for gardening; an hour in the morning and two hours in the afternoon will do. Start with easy-to-propagate crops while considering the space that you have. And if available, use the seeds from vegetables and spices from your kitchen, dry them, and set them aside for germination to become seedlings. Lastly, raise your plants naturally for safer and healthier produce that is equally important to the environment as well.
Insights and photos from Ricardo Cagara Gio.