Planting is so much fun

Planting is so much fun

In a recent article “How to solve hunger,” Slowfood’s Chit Juan encouraged the establishment of community gardens/farms in urban areas, on rooftops, vacant lots, school, home and church gardens. It really is a good idea, especially these days when a lot of people are restricted to home and have time on their hands. The plantita/plantito fad should hopefully morph into urban farming, planting edibles instead of only ornamentals.

Living in a condo is not exactly conducive to urban gardening/farming. But having two balconies – facing west and southwest – allows us to try and grow some greenery. And so in pots of all sizes we have ornamentals to brighten up and improve air quality in the apartment – a blue palm, bromeliads, sansevieria (also called snake plants, said to absorb pollutants and allergens) and xanadu, all residents of the apartment long before being a plantita came into vogue. Some of them are descendants of plants we brought over from my mother’s garden almost two decades ago when we moved to the condo; others are “donations” or were “kidnapped” from friends’ gardens.

Not all plants though take to condo living, at least not for the long-term. We had a pair of red palms, but they sadly did not survive when the apartment was being repainted. I’ve been repeatedly frustrated with rosemary and mint; they seem to be growing well and then one day just wither away.

We’ve been more successful with other more practical and hardier plants. We have sitao and sili, alugbati and aloe vera. Our big-leaf oregano are thriving and so healthy they almost look like fake plants.

The drivers and guards in the building have their own “plantation” – on the little strip of sidewalk on one side of the building. Since it’s a side street that doesn’t get much pedestrian or vehicular traffic, they’ve set up their pots and crates and styrofoam boxes filled with pechay, malunggay, alugbati, kamote and more.

Sometime ago, some officials undertaking what was supposed to be street clearing operations ordered all the pots removed; this time, ningas cogon proved to be a good thing because after a few days, the pots returned to the sidewalk and nobody has come around again to object.

A vacant lot in the subdivision where friends live and where our two dogs go for pasyal and exercise offers more serious farming – malunggay, of course, which grows everywhere; kamote, more sili, sometimes talong and kamatis and upo, also ampalaya. Someone else has rows of corn.

On another nearby vacant lot is a very prolific santol tree; the mango tree, however, is a pathetic companion. There’s a cherry tree that we planted about four decades ago that doesn’t bear fruit but has thick foliage that offers very good shade from sun and rain for passersby.

My manang, who can make anything grow, complains that people keep beating her to the harvest, often not even waiting for the produce to ripen. I tell her it’s OK since the produce feeds people and it’s good to share, but I don’t think she’s quite sold on that. But continue to plant we surely will, perhaps even expand our menu of edibles. Please join us, eating your own produce tastes so good!

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