By Vina Medenilla
There is no such thing as a flawless experience when it comes to growing food, especially if one opts for the natural route.
One gardener who agrees with this is Joanne C. De Guzman, a cultivator of leafy greens, among other crops.
She says, “In gardening, it is almost impossible to perfectly grow a vegetable from seed to fruiting without challenges.”
Poor plant growth and pests = nutrients, water, sunlight, and season
De Guzman, like many others, had her share of agricultural losses from major hurdles she encountered such as pests and poor plant growth.
Despite these challenges, there are steps that growers may follow to at least lessen the damages or prevent them from happening again. Some of them are as follows:
Feeding crops with nutrients. De Guzman says that plant growth may be improved by providing nutrients that a plant requires during each development stage. Needless to say, soil health must always come first.
Giving enough water and sunlight. Plants grow in response to the amount of water and sunlight they receive, thus if they are underwatered or not given enough sunlight, this will stunt their growth.
Speaking of sunlight, leafy vegetables like tatsoi, pechay, pak choi, and mustard require four hours of direct sunlight every day, whereas fruit-bearing vegetables require six.
They will continue to grow if given fewer hours of sunlight than suggested, but this does not guarantee that they will reach their full potential, said De Guzman.
She also avoids using synthetic chemicals on her crops.
How does she deal with pests naturally? “What I do is that I partner with nature. I plant vegetables that best thrive in a particular season. I’ve noticed that there are less incidents of pests issues following that.”
It is critical to water according to the plant’s needs. Dehydrated leafy greens, according to De Guzman, taste bitter.
She continued, “Underwatering can also attract pests. When plants are dehydrated, they become stressed and emit a smell that invites pests.”
Planting in the right season. Each plant thrives best in a certain period, and gardeners must be aware of the season of the plants they wish to cultivate.
Brassica vegetables, or veggies that belong to the cabbage and mustard family (Brassicaceae), are best grown during the cool, rainy season, particularly from November to early March.
This is because pests infestations are more prevalent in warm climates, said the vegetable grower.
She added that leafy greens are “not heavy feeders, so we should always make sure that the soil is rich in organic compounds to sustain their health.”
“You can harvest Brassica veggies using the cut-and-come-again method where you just take off some leaves as opposed to cutting it off completely. This will enable you to harvest for a longer season.”
Among the lessons she learned in growing these crops is this: “Failure is only considered a failure when you don’t learn anything from it. Facing difficult situations is truly an opportunity to learn as compared to having it easy.”
Through these struggles and failures, she found that the best way to deal with nature is to experience it firsthand.
Photos courtesy of Joanne C. De Guzman