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Home Food & Recipes Gardening in the City? Here Are Some Tips From an Expert!

Gardening in the City? Here Are Some Tips From an Expert!

The country's lone expert on soil physics shares with us his secret on how to make urban gardening a lot easier.

In times of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, many are affected especially in the food sector. Farmers are finding it difficult to bring their produce to other provinces and cities, and there are also fewer options of where to get ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat food.

This is why many are now turning to home gardening to grow their own fruits and vegetables for their cooking needs. But it’s a bit harder to grow these in the urban setting, as the soil is not as fertile in cities compared to rural areas.

Good thing, is the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) launched the Galing PCAARRD: Kontra COVID-19 program to help the public cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and alleviate their stresses and worries amid the health crisis.

A part of the initiative is the Gulayan sa Pamayanan project which will be implemented in Las Piñas, Valenzuela City, Marikina City, and Manila. Its goal is to promote urban gardening as a means of livelihood even in cities without much fertile land for planting. (Read: The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Certified Plant Tita or Tito)

Interesado ka ba sa urban gardening? 🌿🍅Ito ang isang gabay para sa paggamit ng Enriched Potting Preparation (EPP)…

Posted by DOST PCAARRD on Monday, April 13, 2020

For the Gulayan sa Pamayanan project, PCAARRD has tapped the Philippines’ only soil physicist, agriculturist, and soil science and gardening technologies expert, Dr. Eduardo Paningbatan, to help in the cause. His Enriched Potting Preparation (EPP) technology will be used for the said project.

For everyone to understand urban gardening and EPP better, My Pope sits down with the expert himself, Dr. Paningbatan. Here’s how our conversation went.

What made you explore urban gardening technologies?

Some 14 years ago, I had a health crisis—high cholesterol, triglyceride, and I even had diabetes. My doctor told me to take care of my health as at the time I was also overweight, so I had to change my eating habits—I had to eat healthier.  That’s when I developed urban gardening technologies so I could grow my own fruits and vegetables because I wasn’t sure if the produce at the grocery had pesticides in it. (Read: Healthier food options? We asked Chef Sau del Rosario for tips!)

At that time, I was working with PCAARRD as a consultant. I decided to present these technologies to them because I saw that it had good results, and it was fairly easy to do even in an urban setting. That was how I was advised to share these technologies throughout the Philippines.

Dr. Ed Paningbatn showing his fruiting patola. This is grown in a half soda bottle and installed in a container with hangers. (Photos by Zac B. Sarian)

How does Enriched Potting Preparation (EPP) work?

Basically, the EPP makes use of a super paso that has three main parts: pot, potting medium, and fertilizer. The pot is a recycled P.E.T bottle while the potting medium and fertilizer were both developed by me. The potting medium is organic and also has three basic components: coco husks, soil [top soil], and compost.

In addition to that, as a scientist, I followed some hypotheses for the potting medium. I looked into three things that plants need in order to grow and stay alive: water, food, and nutrients, and I made sure that the EPP would provide the plant with all three. (Watch: The Beginner’s Guide to Organic Gardening)

I also developed a fertilizer—a nutrient solution—for the plants using my knowledge on what is good for it. Everything about the EPP is science-based, even the way soil absorbs and retains water has been studied when I was developing this technology.

(Left) Dr. Ed Paningbatan Jr showing his basket of Arugula and mint. No insect probem! (Right) Dr. Paningbatan with his two sets of pechay that could be installed in a stand or could be provided with hangers for hanging in a convenient place in the garden or backyard with limited space. (Photos by Zac B. Sarian)

Who would benefit most from the EPP?

The Enriched Potting Preparation technology is actually dedicated to senior citizens, as I developed it when I was 60 years old. I wanted to show everyone that anyone, no matter what age, can still do gardening. It does not require too much effort from anyone, so even the elderly can do gardening with it at home.  (Read: We asked three seniors: What is your mission at this stage in your life?)

Also, in Metro Manila, most people have limited knowledge of how to grow plants. So for the Gulayan sa Pamayanan project, we want to help urban dwellers learn more about urban gardening and realize that it’s not as hard as it sounds. With the EPP, they can grow almost all kinds of vegetables they need like lettuce, pechay, basil, and the like.

What are your tips for those who want to try urban gardening?

#1: Start with the right materials. Anyone who wants to start gardening on their own should always use the appropriate pot for the plants they plan to grow, and the appropriate soil for the plant. You should also use a good fertilizer that has little to no chemicals.

#2: Use appropriate gardening techniques. You shouldn’t just copy what everyone else is doing. Different plants require different techniques for it to grow and flourish, it’s not a one size fits all. (Read: How to grow a garden just like the one in Pope Francis’ summer home)

Watch Dr. Paningbatan explain the “super paso” below:

*For more information about the Gulayan sa Pamayanan project, contact PCAARRD at [email protected]

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