By Vina Medenilla
In San Fernando City, La Union, a balcony located on the third level of a building is also a lush edible garden filled with fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants.
Roxander Maynigo, 37, and his wife Jo-Ann, 35, started growing food at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last March 2020. With the extra time they have at home due to the circumstances, the couple was able to build an urban garden.
After a year of gardening, they now enjoy a steady supply of food from 25 kinds of vegetables, a few medicinal plants, and 10 types of fruits. On a balcony that measures 4 ft in width and 35 ft in length, the crops that they grow are okra, eggplant, pechay, sitaw, squash, ampalaya, tomato, patola, upo, kangkong, camote tops, saluyot, alugbati, mustasa, singkamas, sibuyas, bell pepper, chili, lemon, calamansi, onion leek, bokchoy, lettuce, malunggay, and papaya. There are homegrown fruits in containers also, namely chico, banana, langka, lanzones, guyabano, avocado, tamarind, suha, macapuno, and guapple. They also grow medicinal plants such as oregano, lemongrass, insulin plant (Costus igneus), and curry patta (Murraya koenigii).
The challenge that comes with urban gardening is the restriction in space, but this did not hinder the couple from growing the food they want to consume. Despite the space constraints, this has pushed them to be more creative and resourceful in gardening. “We support environmental advocacies so most of our gardening materials are upcycled. We use big water bottles, broken water jugs, broken pails, tin cans, milk cartons, and biscuits plastic boxes as our pots. One of the advantages of having potted plants is that you can arrange [the plants] based on your design,” said Roxander.
Building a healthy environment and stronger relationships
They only grow crops for personal consumption. The rewarding part of vegetable gardening for the Maynigos, aside from having naturally-grown produce, is being able to share what they grow with other people. Most importantly, building a strong bond with their kids Ezoj, 12, and Oxan, 3, by engaging them in the garden.
All the family members help in watering the plants with rice water every morning after their morning meditation. Sometimes, their youngest also waters the crops in the afternoon using her toy teapot. From sowing to harvesting plants, the Maynigos make the most out of their family time through gardening.
Getting children interested in gardening
For parents who want to get their kids involved into nature, growing plants at home is the safest and most efficient way to start, especially considering the current situation.
In Maynigo’s household, they started planting fast-growing vegetables that can be produced in as fast as 30 days like kangkong, pechay, lettuce, alugbati, and radish. This way, kids can witness the development of plants in a short period. “Harvesting is one of the happiest moments for kids,” said Roxander.
From sowing, maintaining, to cleaning the growing space, make sure to involve the children in every process for them to appreciate the work that food production involves as well as the value of nature that they can carry with them as they grow.
Some studies show that young ones who help in food production are more likely to eat more produce and to try different varieties of fruit and veggies. There are also several traits, values, and skills that can be developed and improved through gardening. It helps promote self-confidence and can teach them to be resourceful. This is also a great way to lessen their screen time and increase their outdoor time.
In a post, Jo-Ann wrote, “Gardening is a great way to get the entire family outside for fresh air and physical activity. Backyard and urban gardening really help bring families, friends, and neighbors together for a common purpose. The purpose of growing sustainable food together.” She added that it will teach children to learn valuable lessons about nature, the food system, and sustainability.
Agriculture plays a major role in crises like the current health crisis, said the couple. By increasing food production and setting an example for the younger generations, we prepare ourselves for anything that may come in the future.
Photos from Roxander Maynigo.