By: Ellaine Kryss Hubilla
Starting your own urban garden is a trial and error process. However, with enough knowledge, there’s a possibility to lessen errors. As a newbie, there are things to consider before you start your own urban garden.
Tips on starting your own garden
According to Atty. Glo de Castro, who started her own urban garden and who runs the successful gardening blog Urban Gardening Mom, “First, you need to consider your garden space and the amount of sunlight that it gets.” This is because sunlight is an important component to make your plants thrive. Any lack or excess amount of sunlight will compromise your plant’s health.
“From here, you need to choose which plant varieties to grow,” she adds, because not all plants require the same amount of sunlight. It is still important to identify how much sunlight your plant needs.
“If you don’t have enough sunlight, you may opt for artificial lighting. Of course, this will entail some amount of investment. So natural lighting is always preferred,” she explained.
Aside from considering the amount of sunlight your plants will receive, it is also important to have some patience because growing plants require a time investment.
For newbie gardeners, it is important to start small. Start with plants that are easy to grow like water spinach, snow cabbage, and mustard. If you happen to successfully grow these plants, then you can move on to other plants like herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and many more.
Earning a living through urban gardening
Atty. Glo de Castro started her urban gardening journey following these basic yet important stages. Now, she is successful in the field. She was able to start her own business, the Urban Gardening Shop, as an extension to promote her urban gardening advocacy.
Following the basic steps in urban gardening will not always guarantee success. There are other factors to consider such as the quality of the seed you have sown, which is usually one of the reasons why new gardeners fail during their early attempts in growing plants.
Atty. De Castro shared that it is important to use quality seeds to ensure a higher germination rate. “Also, the use of quality potting media also improves drainage and minimizes stunted growth in plants.”
She added that when you consult what your plant needs through online inquiries, your search results may yield various gardening supplies like fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, etc. However, you wouldn’t really know what your plant needs, what works best on it, or if these inputs are necessary for your plants in the first place.
This is why the Urban Gardening Shop was created to cater to the needs of newbie gardeners who are having a hard time finding materials for individual usage. Atty. De Castro explained that “One of the challenges we face here is the availability of supplies – especially good and high-quality and effective supplies.” What the attorney finds ironic is that “while we are largely an agricultural country, seeds and gardening supplies are not as readily available, compared to other countries.”
Moreover, although there are local companies that are capable of producing seeds of good quality and other inputs, “most of them catered to large agricultural farmers,” and “It’s only in recent years that they began to realize that urban gardeners are a fast-growing market, not only here in the Philippines but also in other countries,” she added.
Atty. Glo de Castro saw this problem as an opportunity to produce high-quality gardening supplies that can reach Filipinos all over the country through establishing e-commerce business in the form of the Urban Gardening Shop.
“People from Visayas and Mindanao can order seeds and various supplies online. I was able to convince some of my suppliers to allow me to sell their products at a modest margin.
I started with a few products at first, then eventually, my following grew and these customers are ordering regularly from the shop,” she explained.
Although the process for full operation is still in progress because Atty. De Castro is still fixing some logistical issues, she is continuously working to improve the operations of her online business so that she can bring the products to her customers faster than before. She explained that “it’s been a challenge – especially now during the lockdown in Luzon and many other places in the Philippines.”
Securing the quality of her products
With how far Atty. Glo de Castro went from starting a small urban garden to a now successful business, it is safe to say that people are patronizing her products due to their good quality. But what is the secret of Atty. De Castro in making her products always at their best?
“Over the years, there has been a proliferation of SME’s (small and medium enterprise) for garden supplies from seeds, fertilizers, potting media, and the like. They’re all available online – but the problem is that you don’t know which ones are really effective,” she explained. This is the reason why she only offers products that she had tried personally to prove their effectiveness. “Most of the products I endorse are sourced locally, from local suppliers,” she said.
“Many local suppliers have approached me to market their products online. As part of my advocacy, I try to help local suppliers of gardening products. I ask them to give me a sample first which I have to try before I recommend them to the public.” Her paramount consideration is that products must be environmentally-friendly. She added that making your own compost is better because you wouldn’t need to buy it if you have time to prepare.
The secret of success in business gardening
Business is a matter of risk, you may fail or you may succeed. But there is a way to guarantee success—the one which is not measured by monetary value but rather with fulfillment. According to Atty. De Castro, “you have to find a niche. Where are you good at? What are you most passionate about? Build on that passion– to lead you to your customers who share the same interests as you.”
In this modern time, with the vast application of technology, it’s now easier to connect with people. Atty. De Castro advised people who are interested in gardening ventures to make use of the available technology to make the world their market and to not limit themselves to their geographic location alone.
However, Atty. De Castro added that it is important “to find a bigger purpose–an overall mission that drives you—more than just making money,” whether it is your passion in planting, concern for the environment, or your desire to feed your family with home-grown food that guarantees safety.
“Your mission will serve as your moral compass – to guide you as you grow your business. For me, my bigger purpose is to help my fellow gardeners succeed in gardening-by providing them with the necessary information, as well as easier access to the good quality supplies,” Atty. De Castro shared. “By constantly providing them with tips and guiding them in their gardening journey, you build your credibility with your followers. In the end, people will buy your products because they believe in you,” she added.
Photos courtesy of Atty. Glod De Castro.
For more information, visit Urban Gardening Mom.
This article appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s May to June 2020 issue.