By VINA MEDENILLA

Although there has been an increase in grape and strawberry production in the country, it is not yet as widespread as it could be in urban areas. 

A gardener in Antipolo, Rizal does not only grow the common crops, but he also cultivates grapes and strawberries in his residence. 

Constancio E. Estuye Jr., 60, a chief marine engineer in a foreign vessel who is an active seafarer to date. He always finds time to keep tabs on his garden whenever he is on or off the ship. 

Read more about the varieties that he grows and how he faces the challenges in his garden here.

Here are some of Estuye’s growing techniques: 

Space. For the growing area, do not plant these fruits in flood zones to avoid the risks of drowning them. 

Propagation. He propagates grapes through vine cuttings. “After two months [of isolation] in a seedling bag, when grape tendrils come out, that’s the time [when you can transplant] the rooted grapes seedling to the soil.” 

Sunlight. Grapes must be in full sunlight for at least eight hours a day. Daily monitoring of the grapevines and strawberry plants is crucial to prevent any troubles that may arise in the garden, said Estuye. 

Estuye’s property in Morong, Rizal where Japanese shoga strawberries also grow.

Pruning. It is best to prune grapes in any period except the wet season. When the flowering stage takes place, do not spray any insecticide or fungicides as this may also destroy the flowers. In this grower’s case, he prunes the grapevines two weeks after the application of fertilizer. 

For the strawberries, he removes the old leaves to improve and promote crown growth and to prepare the plants for their fruiting stage. 

Cut the strawberry runners or stolons to produce more flowers and berries. Otherwise, you can let the runner grow if you want more seedlings for propagation, said Estuye.  

Fertilizer. Estuye also produces his own vermicast for his garden. He integrates this in rearing rabbits for their manure, which he then uses as food for his African nightcrawlers (ANC). 

Harvesting. After four months or about 120 days from pruning, the fruits will likely become ready for collection. 

Harvesting is not simultaneously performed by Estuye since he grows different grape varieties with dissimilar growth and timelines. 

A photo of Brazilian hybrid variety taken during their grape picking.

He has influenced others in this gardening journey including the one closest to him — his wife, Marissa, who has also started collecting houseplants like aglaonema, caladium, and more.

Photos from Constancio E. Estuye Jr.