From garden to table: a guide to planting your food at home

As Araneta City takes part in the October 16 celebration of World Food Day, we’re sharing some indispensable tips on how to grow your own nutritious produce at home.

Listed down below are five nutritious vegetables and fruit seeds that you can buy at Farmers Garden. Read downward to uncover how to grow your very own vegetable bounties.


Squash 

A good source of vitamin A, squash -- or kalabasa in Filipino -- is a common vegetable found in Pinoy delicacies. It is known for keeping the eyes healthy, boosting the immune system, and supporting cell growth among others. Cook it for a healthy and tasty dish like pinakbet or ginataang kalabasa.


According to experts from Farmers Garden, growing squashes at home is very easy. Plus, this herbaceous vine can give produce all year long. Just follow these easy steps for planting and growing squashes:

  • Fill a container with soil rich with organic material. Make sure the container has drainage holes.
  • Sow two to three seeds per pot at a depth of two centimeters.
  • Water before and after sowing then regularly afterward.
  • Place the pots in spaces with temperatures ranging from 18 degrees to 30 degrees Celsius. 
  • It is important to prune and vine train the squash plant as it grows. To do this, pinch the tip of the seedling at its five-leaf stage to encourage branching. Allow two main branches per plant. 
  • Squash plants can pollinate with the help of bees and butterflies but you can help it pollinate through manual pollination every morning.

Squash produce can be harvested at different levels of maturity, depending on one's preference. It is commonly harvested just before they are fully ripe or when its stalk (also known as its peduncle) begins to dry up. However, squash fruits are best harvested with a portion of the peduncle attached to prolong their freshness when off the vine. 


Okra


An okra farmer in Farmers Garden advised that sunlight and warmth are key factors in growing okra, which is why summer is the best time to plant them. The easiest way to get seeds is from the okra itself, as the pod dries from the vine. But you can also buy seeds from Farmers Garden for convenience.


While these can be easily planted in containers, it’s important that each container remain outdoors. Follow these steps to grow okra easily at home:

  • Use a pot that’s around two gallons deep with drainage holes.
  • Fill the pot with loam soil that’s rich in organic compost and contains a good mix of sand and silt.
  • Place only one okra seed in each pot. Simply bury the seed around an inch-and-a-half into the soil, and soak it with water.
  • Expect the okra seed to germinate sometime between three to five days, given the right conditions.
  • At this point, it’s important that the seedling is given enough sunlight to encourage growth. Unless you have organic compost, do not apply fertilizer for the time being, and allow it to naturally sprout.  
  • In around two to three weeks your plant will grow its permanent leaves and will be around five to six inches tall. If you want to transfer it to another pot or to its permanent container, now is the time to do it.
  • At this stage, you can also start putting fertilizer in your okra’s soil. Simply put it around the plant and carefully mix it with the soil.
  • A fully-grown plant can withstand hot weather with little water but it’s still important to water your okra two to three times a week.

While okra isn’t everyone’s favorite vegetable due to its slimy texture, it contains a lot of vitamin C, K, C, and B6, as well as magnesium and folate. It also contains lots of antioxidants and zero fat, which is why it’s recommended for those who have hypertension and other heart conditions.


Bell Pepper

In the Philippines, bell peppers are usually sourced and produced in Cordillera Region and in Northern Mindanao where places are usually cold to achieve their best fruit quality. It is ideal to grow bell pepper seeds in low elevation areas, where temperature is usually warm, around October to December.

Since it’s tricky to grow bell peppers in our climate, Farmers Garden growers told us that bell pepper plant care in early stages is critical, and temperature is an important factor. Here are some tips on how to easily grow bell peppers at home:

  • Sow the seeds in germination boxes with well-draining potting soil.

  • Place one to three seeds in each container.
  • Water the sown seeds thoroughly for the first three days.
  • Regulate watering as soon as the seeds have germinated.

  • When your little plants get to be a few inches tall, gently pot them separately in small pots.
  • As the weather begins to warm, you can get the small plants used to the outdoors by hardening the seedlings off – putting them out during the day for a bit.
  • This, along with a little fertilizer now and then, will strengthen your bell pepper plants.
  • Healthy pepper plants should produce peppers throughout late summer.
  • Begin to pick the peppers once they are 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 cm.) long and the fruit is firm and green.

If you have red, yellow or orange bell peppers varieties, you just need to let it stay on the vine longer to mature. They’ll start out green, but you’ll notice they have a thinner feel. Once they begin to take on color, the peppers will thicken and become ripe enough to harvest. Enjoy!


Bell Peppers are a good source of vitamin C and iron and are usually served as fresh or cooked with other vegetables, fish, and meat. Other names of this crop are ‘sweet pepper’, ‘atsal’, ‘kampana’ or ‘lara’.


Ampalaya

Also known as bitter-gourd in English, ampalaya grown in the Philippines is considered to be the most potent among all of its varieties. Though not everyone loves to eat ampalaya, it contains a mixture of flavanoids and alkaloids which help the pancreas produce more insulin that regulates the blood sugar in diabetics.

Specialists from Farmers Garden said that it can be planted throughout the year, but the best season is from October to February. You can easily grow an ampalaya at home but with some special needs that one have to apply:

  • Ready the ampalaya seeds by breaking the seed coat lightly or cut the pointed tip using a nail cutter and soak the seeds in clean water for 24 hours.
  • Pre-germinate the seeds using a rag doll method. Wrap the seeds with a damp cloth and place them in a cool and dark place. Incubate for 24 to 48 hours or until the radicles emerge.
  • Place each seed in a pot with proper drainage to prevent fungal infections in your bitter-gourd plant roots.
  • You can use any type of soil. But it's best to use a sandy loam or clay loam with good drainage, high organic matter.
  • Water the seeds daily and patiently wait for at least a week before the seedlings emerge from the ground
  • Once the plant grows about 2-3 inches, provide support for the vine. Use a strong stick at first.
  • Once the bitter-gourd vines grow longer Incorporate trellises and ropes to provide support to your ampalaya plant
  • You can notice the flowers to sprout on the vine around its 8th week.
  • By the 12th or 13th week your produce is ready to harvest.

Amapalaya has many other herbal benefits such as antioxidant, parasiticide, antibacterial and antipyretic. Aside from its medicinal value, it is a good source of vitamins A, B, and C, iron, folic acid, phosphorus, and calcium.

 


Eggplant

A popular ingredient in various Pinoy recipes, eggplant is commonly cooked as tortang talong or eggplant omelet. It can also be mixed with squash to cook a pakbet. It’s one of the go-to, easy-to-cook vegetables that one can easily grow at home.

Here are some tips from a Farmers Garden shop to help you grow eggplants with ease: 

  • Prepare the materials needed: vermicast, compost, carbonized rice hull (CRH), polybag, shovel, sprayer, cotton, and eggplant seeds. 
  • Soak the seeds. Immerse the eggplant seeds in clean water with no chlorine for 30 minutes. This allows the seeds to germinate faster.
  • Using cotton as a strainer, transfer the seeds to a saucer or any plate, then set aside. 
  • Prepare the medium. The soil mix must contain an equal amount of vermicast, CRH, and compost. Once combined, add the medium to a polybag.
  • Sow the seeds in holes that are one centimeter deep. Spray the seeds with water afterward. 
  • Place this in a safe and shaded area. 
  • Nurture. Keep the seedlings moist every morning, but be careful not to overwater to prevent diseases. 
  • Transplant. When two to three true leaves sprout after a week, this is the time to transfer the seedlings to a wider growing space.  You can use a pot with good drainage.
  • Gently transfer the seedlings and water them after transplanting. 
  • Store it in a shaded area for three days. After doing so, gradually expose the plant to the sun. 
  • Fertilizer can be applied a week later. Vermicast or complete fertilizer may also be used depending on the availability and grower’s choice. 
  • Protect from pests and diseases. Experiencing pests and diseases in the garden can be stressful. To cope with this, create a natural concoction made from baking soda, dishwashing liquid, vegetable oil, and one-liter water. Spray this to the infected parts. 
  • Also, prune the leaves that touch the soil to impede the threats of pests and diseases.

  • Lastly, harvest the eggplants once they mature, which usually occurs from 40 to 50 days after transplanting. 


Click this link to get in touch with any of the Farmers Garden specialists to help you further on your home gardening adventures.

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