By James Tababa
Here are five crops you can plant in the month of February.
Bitter gourd (Momordica charantia)
Bitter gourd or ampalaya is a tropical vine known for its bitter fruit and shoots. It is also known to have high nutritional and medicinal properties. It contains vitamins A, B, and C, iron, folic acid, phosphorus, and calcium. Bitter gourd is one of the main ingredients of the native dish, pinakbet.
Bitter gourds can grow in all soil types, but the best is sandy loam or clay loam soil. The soil is preferred to have high organic matter and a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0. Planting can be done throughout the year, but it is best from October to February.
To prepare the land, it is plowed and harrowed 2-3 times at a depth of 15-2 cm.
Bitter gourds can be transplanted or direct seeded. Before sowing, the seeds can be pre-germinated by soaking the seeds in water overnight. For direct sowing, a single seed is planted along the furrows at a distance of 1.5-2.5 meters.
For seeds sown in seedling trays, a mixture of garden soil, carbonized rice hull, and compost in a 1:1:1 ratio is prepared to fill the trays. The seedling is ready to be transplanted after 15 days when true leaves are developed.
Organic fertilizer can be incorporated into the soil before field operation. Then 20 grams of complete fertilizer (14-14-14) is applied to each hill before planting. After 3-4 weeks, 10 grams of urea (46-0-0) is side-dressed before hilling up. The application is repeated every two weeks.
Irrigation is important in the growth of bitter gourds. Irrigate when necessary. Dig drainage canals to prevent water logging.
Trellising is necessary to support the vine and to produce good-quality fruits. Trellis can be made from bamboo or wooden posts. It is constructed when the plant is already 15 cm high. Vines are trained by tying them to the trellis.
Bitter gourds are harvested 18-20 days after flower emergence or when they attain their full size while the seeds are still immature. The fruits are harvested using a sharp knife or scissors. Harvested fruits should be packed in baskets lined with fresh banana leaves or used newspaper to avoid bruising. Discard damaged fruits.
READ: For a not so bitter experience: Guide to growing ampalaya plants
Radish (Raphanus sativus)
Radish, locally known as labanos, is mainly grown for its developed tap roots. In the Philippines, the pungent root of radish is eaten raw in salads, prepared as pickles, or cooked together with meat, fish, or shrimp. It is one of the main ingredients of the famous sinigang.
Radish is suited in higher elevations where it is colder. It is recommended to be planted from October to March. Radish grows well in friable silty load and sandy loam soil with slightly acidic 6-6.8 pH.
The land should be plowed and harrowed twice to achieve the desired soil structure. Seeds are directly seeded in a 30 cm raised planting bed. Three or four seeds are planted in shallow furrows 20 cm apart. Moisture should be maintained by irrigation to prevent drying of the soil for the seeds to germinate.
The general fertilizer application involves adding 60 kg of nitrogen, 90 kg of phosphorus, and 90 kg of potassium per hectare in the soil during the land preparation. Then, 60 kg of nitrogen per hectare is applied three weeks after the emergence of the seeds.
The roots are harvested when they attain the desired size. Harvesting of tap roots usually takes 45-60 days after sowing.
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Lettuce is a high-value salad leaf vegetable. Lettuce comes in loose (looseleaf, romaine) or compact (Iceberg-type) forms of leaf arrangement. It is predominantly grown in Benguet, Bukidnon, and Cavite.
Lettuce grows well in cool areas ranging from 15 to 18°C. Head-type lettuce needs cooler temperatures of 10-15°C to form compact leaves.
Silty clay loam and clay loam soils are the best soil types for growing lettuce. Soil with high organic matter and water-holding capacity is preferred.
Seeds are sown in seedling trays or seedbeds with a soil medium composed of 1 part soil, 1 part compost, and 1 part sand. Nets or plastic roofing should be placed over the seedbed to protect the seeds from heavy rain and birds.
The land is thoroughly cleaned and pulverized before transplanting. The physical property of the soil can be further improved by applying organic fertilizers.
After 14 days, the seedling is carefully uprooted for transplanting. Seedlings are planted 15 to 30 cm between hills and rows.
One tablespoon of urea (46-0-0) is mixed with water and applied in the soil every two weeks.
Lettuce is harvested 30-45 days after transplanting. Harvesting is done early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid wilting.
READ: How to grow lettuce (a beginner’s guide)
Lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus)
Lima bean is commonly known as patani. It is a legume that bears oval-shaped pods consumed as a vegetable. Lima beans can be categorized into two depending on their growth habit. Bush-type lima beans only grow to about 2 feet and have smaller seeds. On the other hand, pole-type lima beans can grow up to 12 feet high, which requires a trellis.
Lima beans are preferred to be planted in soil with a high organic matter and a pH of 6.0-6.8. Lima beans are grown in the months of November to March. It grows best in temperatures from 15-21°C.
Lima bean seeds are directly planted 5 cm deep in the soil with a distance of 40 cm between hills and 75cm between rows. Organic-based fertilizers are applied in the soil before planting. Lima beans do not require extra nitrogen fertilizer since it is a leguminous crop.
The pods of pole-type lima beans are ready for harvest 85-90 days after sowing, while bush-type lima beans can be harvested as early as 60-80 days.
Muskmelon (Cucumis melo)
Muskmelon is a type of fruit vegetable grown for its sweet round fruit. It is commonly eaten fresh or made into a beverage. The distinguishing characteristic of muskmelon from other melons is its netted peel.
Muskmelon grows best in well-drained sandy loam soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5. It can be grown in low to mid-elevations. It is preferably planted in the months of September to February.
Land preparation involves two times of plowing and harrowing to pulverize the soil. Applying organic fertilizer at the rate of 1-2 kilograms per linear meter of bed is recommended.
Muskmelon can be directly planted or transplanted. Transplanting can be done to increase the survival rate of the plants and reduce the cost of replanting missing hills. Seedlings sown in seedling trays of seedbeds are ready for transplanting after 2 to 4 weeks. The seeds or seedlings are transplanted at a distance of 50 cm between the hill and 75 cm between rows.
A combination of 1:1 urea (46-0-0) and muriate of potash (0-0-60) is applied at the rate of 10-20 grams per hill every two weeks.
Muskmelons can be grown without a trellis. However, trellising provides more ease of management and reduces disease occurrence in fruits, especially during the wet season.
Muskmelons are harvested 60-80 days after transplanting. The maturity of the fruit is determined by the stem slip or the degree of separation of the fruit from the vine. It is best to harvest when the slip is about ½ or ¾ detached from the stem. At this stage, the fruits are not yet too soft.
READ: 10 tips to grow melons in containers
Production guides are available for download on the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry website here.