BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO

Living in the city has numerous benefits. Among these are access to modern transportation, job opportunities, government agencies, and high-end hospitals. 

But these advantages also come with a downside. Cities are known for being polluted and crowded, thus affecting the health of their inhabitants. Plus, the lack of space limits the activities people can enjoy.  

People’s health isn’t the only ones affected by the cities’ current conditions. The environment also suffers from prolonged exposure to greenhouse gas emissions and a lack of greenery in the city. As this continues to be a pressing issue, many individuals began finding ways to preserve the environment. 

One solution is through urban gardening or the practice of growing food in the city. This promotes food security and sustainability while leaving a positive impact on the environment. Cityfolk who grow their own food can reduce greenhouse gas emissions that come from transporting produce from farms to markets, purify the air in the city, and beautify their surroundings. 

While many may find urban gardening challenging, Narciso “Nars” Adriano Jr., the owner of the agribusiness Lettuce in A Cup, believes that this can be possible through hydroponics.

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in water without soil. This is recommended among those living in the city because not everyone has access to ideal soil for growing plants. It’s also practical since beginners can start using styrofoam boxes or recycled materials. 

Adriano clarified that the water used in hydroponics contains nutrient solutions to aid in plant growth. Urban gardeners also need to consider the other requirements in growing plants such as air, sunlight, a well-developed root system, and UV protection when the weather gets extreme. 

A cost-effective hydroponics method for beginners 

There are different types of hydroponics methods that cater to the experience of urban gardeners. Beginners can start with the Kratky method because it’s simple, has no moving parts, and the nutrient solution is absorbed by the growing medium. 

Adriano added that because the Kratky method is a non-circulating technique, no additional inputs are needed after the original application. It also doesn’t require electricity, pumps, or water and oxygen circulation systems. 

But those who want a more advanced setup can try the NFT (nutrient film technique) method. This involves electricity, pumps, and circulation systems to get nutrients in the water to flow through the plants’ roots. 

Urban gardeners can create a low-cost hydroponics set up in their homes using a styrofoam box or grow box, water, net pots or styrofoam cups, nutrient solutions, and a growing medium. 

The first step is to sow seeds in a planter. The cocopeat should be sterilized with a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide. The planter should also be kept away from direct sunlight and watered within the first to fourth day. 

On the second day, the seedling planter should be transferred inside a greenhouse with direct sunlight. 

After four days, the seedlings would have sprouted and the roots have begun to establish themselves, the plants need to undergo hardening. This allows the plants’ roots to become accustomed to being submerged in the nutrient-film solution. 

Placing the seedlings into a hydroponics setup without hardening can cause root shock and stunt the plants’ growth. 

The planter should be watered from the button with plain water. After a week, bottom watering should be done with a 50 percent nutrient solution. 

Gardeners who don’t want to use cocopeat can opt to use styrofoam instead. The seedlings can be placed in between the styrofoam before they’re transferred into a pot or cup.

Once the plants’ roots have been accustomed to the conditions in a hydroponics setup, gardeners can transfer them into the net pots or styrofoam cups. All that’s left is to maintain the plants by monitoring the water to see if it’s still clean, adding more if they start to dry out, and preventing pests like flies, cockroaches, rats, and more from infesting the plants in the setup. 

Having access to fresh, healthy produce is only one of the advantages of gardening in the city. Those who have entrepreneurial minds like Adriano can also turn it into a profitable business. But more importantly, it’s a small step for those living in the city to preserve their environment and promote greener surroundings. 

The Philippine College of Physicians Matapat Chapter discussed the topic of urban gardening during the webinar “Farming in the City: An Introduction to Urban Gardening” held last Friday, November 12. The webinar coincides with the organization’s advocacy of caring for both human health and the environment.