By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Aside from being able to grow plants of all shapes and sizes, another fun thing about gardening is that it lets people unleash their creativity and resourcefulness. This is translated through the arrangement of plants in the garden or even in the planters used.
Roy Laoagan Jr., a farmer from Tabuk, Kalinga, is one such person who listened to the probinsyano in him and created a planter out of a versatile crop: bamboo or kawayan in Filipino.
Laoagan Jr., who is more of a palay farmer than a gardener, decided to create a makeshift planter out of bamboo to support his partner’s love for gardening.
He said that he has been involved in palay farming for more than 10 years and has more experience in it than his partner, Carmie Palbusa Atas Caga, who had prior experience in growing vegetables and ornamentals since she was raised in Benguet where highland crops and ornamentals grow in abundance.
“When the lockdown began due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my partner started propagating seeds. We eventually ran out of pots and we couldn’t go to the market because of the lockdown. So we both thought of using bamboo since we had plenty of it,” the palay farmer said.
Bamboo (Bambusa bambos) is a woody perennial evergreen grass that is tree-like in appearance. It can be found in diverse climates from hot tropical regions to cold mountains.
Bamboos are usually cultivated as ornamental plants but due to its tree-like structure, it is also used as timber in construction and as a material for furniture, accessories, and trinkets.
The idea came to the couple since they also use bamboo as a water pipe, which meant it could be transformed into other necessities as well.
He began by choosing mature straight bamboos because its symmetry is visually pleasing while its maturity makes the bamboo less likely to break and can also withstand the modifications that Laoagan is set to do.
Next, Laoagan Jr. used a hole saw connected to a drill to create the holes in the bamboo which will serve as planters. He estimated the distance between each hole to make sure that no space of the bamboo will go to waste.
“We didn’t have enough space for veggies so we used bamboo since it looks nice. At the same time, we’re also using our natural resources and minimizing the use of plastic planters,” he said.
The couple transplanted iceberg lettuce (lactuca sativa) in their makeshift planters to maximize the space in their land. However, growing iceberg lettuce in the bamboo planter is not without some challenges.
Due to the summer heat, Laoagan Jr. said that they had to water the lettuce regularly to keep it from drying up or becoming too bitter. Additionally, they weren’t able to apply fertilizer to the iceberg lettuce since the holes of the bamboo planters were just enough for the vegetable.
“We didn’t apply any fertilizer since the hole is just enough for the plant and applying fertilizer requires a distance of five inches away from the plant,” the palay farmer said.
This, however, didn’t stop the couple from growing lettuce. Through thorough supervision and the right care, the iceberg lettuce managed to thrive in the makeshift planters.
Aside from iceberg lettuce, Laoagan Jr. and his partner planted a thousand giant sunflowers, where 600 managed to bloom.
Despite their different specializations, Laoagan Jr. and his partner work together to make plants grow using the available resources around them to promote sustainability and environmentally friendly gardening.
This article appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s July to August 2020 issue.