By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao 

Watering is only the basic thing to do when it comes to caring for plants. Advanced care requires fertilization and pest management to make sure that the plants are free from disease and pests, and are healthy as they grow. 

Millennial farmer and founder of MNL Grow Kits Carlo Sumaoang shared some of his knowledge on the subject during the recent AgriTalk episode to help gardeners like him become well-versed in caring for plants. 

In a previous article, Sumaoang talked about the basics of seed sowing and some tips on how to keep plants well-maintained. Here, he shares some tips on pest management and fertilization. 

Pest management

One common enemy of gardeners from all over the world is pests. If left untreated, pests can cause serious harm to a garden. To help mitigate its harmful effects, Sumaoang suggested some approaches that can easily be done and are non-invasive to the plants. 

The first suggestion that he offered is hand-picking the pests off of the leaves upon the first sign of infestation. 

“Bigger pests can be picked off by hand but smaller ones may need to require the use of needles or sticks to get them off the leaves. Make sure that you go over both the front and the back of the leaf to completely remove any trace of pests,” Sumaoang said.

He added that the pests should be crushed immediately after picking to keep them from reproducing. 

If hand-picking doesn’t seem to cut it, another approach gardeners can try is using laundry soap, particularly Perla, and dishwashing soap. Although not entirely natural, this is a non-invasive approach that could help eradicate pests. 

First, mix Perla soap in water. It’s not enough that the bubbles will form; the mixture has to be cloudy to show that the soap is really incorporated into the water. As for the dishwashing soap, make sure that it’s a mild solution before taking one tablespoon and mixing it in one liter of water. 

Afterward, transfer the solution to a spray bottle and spray on the leaves of pest-infested plants every day for two weeks. 

“The process of eradicating pests does not take two days or so. It needs to be done for at least 14 days to make sure that the plants are completely free from pests,” Sumaoang said. 

But if gardeners are keen on using natural ingredients, Sumaoang mentioned the use of neem oil and similar products to get the job done. 

Two kinds of natural fertilizer to use 

Aside from pest management, another thing to consider for optimal plant growth is the use of fertilizers. As much as possible natural fertilizers are encouraged because it lessens the adverse effects that chemical fertilizers have on the environment and to consumers. 

Sumaoang said that there are two kinds of natural fertilizers: basal and foliar. 

Basal fertilizers are powdered fertilizers that are applied in the soil. On the other hand, foliar fertilizers are liquid in state and are applied through the leaves. 

“Some of the best basal fertilizers you can use are processed animal manure. Although manure, these don’t have any foul odor if processed properly. Plus, these are rich in nutrients that plants need,” the millennial farmer said. 

To apply basal fertilizer in small pots, about four spoonfuls can be placed on the soil but should not be applied too close to the stem because this might cause the plant to be irritated. Water the soil after application to allow the nutrients to seep into the root system. 

For pelletized basal fertilizer, four to eight pellets can be applied to the soil before watering. 

As for foliar fertilizer, Sumaoang said to take any mix that you prefer and spray it onto both the front and back of the leaves for full coverage. Plus, foliar fertilizers can also be watered on plants. 

Despite the limited amount of time, Sumaoang shared some of the necessary information that gardeners need to maintain their plants. Although helpful, these tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to caring for plants. There are more out there that gardeners can discover on their own, thus making gardening a productive journey. 

Watch the full video of the webinar here