by Vina Medenilla
Growing up in a family of farmers, Roland Recamara, a bank employee and a gardener, used his knowledge in planting and started growing plants at home. Last March, Recamara was assigned to work from home to abide by the guidelines under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed to combat COVID-19.
It served as an opportunity for him to work on his garden and grow his own food amid the crisis. “Indeed, it really helps a lot because we don’t buy vegetables anymore for our tinola,” he said.
The time he used to spend traveling prior to the quarantine, is now used as his gardening time to cultivate vegetables and to maintain his vertical garden and his ornamental plants.
He has been growing ornamental plants in his balcony for years and due to the work-from-home setup, it allows him to grow vegetables as well. When he first tried vertical gardening, he reused several 1.5 liter plastic bottles, planted cabbage and alugbati on it, and attached them on a malunggay tree.
However, as he watered his plants, he felt that there was something missing, especially when he faced the walls in his garden. To fill that emptiness, he came up with the idea to hang his plants on the empty walls using steel matting, hanging pots, and rope.
Recamara said that an advantage in this type of gardening is that it saves you from occupying so much space at home. This can also be handy in making an idle wall become a productive one, which is exactly what his wall has become.
He suggests cultivating vegetables like alugbati as they are easy to grow and to nurture. Low-maintenance plants are recommended, particularly if they have to be reached with a ladder to be maintained. Currently, Recamara grows pechay, kangkong, eggplant, alugbati, camote tops, ampalaya, herbs and spices like basil, as well as ornamental plants like snake plants and waves of love.
He waters his plants twice a day, before and after his work. In the morning, he waters at around six and he goes back at around 5:30 pm. As per Recamara, watering the plants at night makes them grow and develop during night time while watering them in the morning will keep the soil moist (especially during summer) and will prevent the plants from dying.
Having the plants vertically aligned makes watering so much easier and efficient. It does not just save you from exerting too much energy but also saves water consumption. There’s no need to water them per pot as when you water from the top; the water flows on the plants below, Recamara added. However, it won’t be an easy job to maintain your vertical garden without a ladder. Having a ladder is a must particularly if your pots are high and are placed where there’s no source of water from above.
Vertical garden challenges
Yellowish leaves – Usually, the problem he encounters with his plants are the leaves that turn yellowish in color. To solve this, he creates and applies natural fertilizer (composed of manure, loam soil, and coco peat) to the plants.
Time management – As a full-time bank employee, time management is another challenge for Recamara. Due to his workload, there are times that he only gets to water his plants at around eight to nine in the evening after finishing his work. Despite this, he still makes sure he waters them every day.
For newbie gardeners, Recamara’s advice is to know what crops are viable to grow in the environment that you have in your location. A place with enough exposure to sunlight and sufficient water source is also important to consider. Decide the vegetables or crops that you and your family would want to grow and consume. After setting a good spot and knowing the plants you’ll grow, determine your purpose. Passion and dedication are crucial in gardening, Recamara said. Lastly, check the available resources such as pots and used bottles at home so you’d know what you have and what you need.
Planting may be energy and time-consuming at times, but it is something that heals and benefits us and our mother earth. Learning how to grow food from scratch is never too late but actually a timely thing that many people just began doing due to the worldwide crisis, so we hope you are too.
Photos from Juliet Borgonia.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s September to October 2020 issue.