Growing hobby yields bounty of benefits

posted August 09, 2020 at 08:40 pm
by  Manila Standard
Gardening is one hobby that has become more popular during the coronavirus pandemic, with everyone advised to stay home and stay safe. 

A quick search on social media will reveal a flourish of posts by “plantitos” and “plantitas” eager to show how their gardens are growing and encouraging others to discover their green thumbs.

It is more than a trend, though. Growing plants at home, especially fruit-bearing ones and vegetables, have social and environmental benefits.

To help get more people interested in gardening and raise awareness on food security, Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and the Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI) have co-produced a web series called “Kalye Mabunga.”

It can be viewed every Friday at 8 p.m. till September 25 at www.facebook.com/SmartCommunities.

The web series was produced in line with the government’s Plant, Plant, Plant campaign that encourages people to attain food security at the household level by making available healthy, nutritious food in their own homes. 

It is supported by the Department of Education, Bangsamoro Development Agency, PLDT-Smart’s Gabay Kalikasan, and TV5’s Alagang Kapatid Foundation, Inc.

‘PLANTITO, PLANTITAS.’ Mitch Gatdula, Charlie Desales and JM Banzuela are just some of the home gardeners featured on the ‘Kalye Mabunga’ web series produced by Smart Communications and the Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI).
Topics covered include the kinds of vegetable, fruit, and herbs that thrive in an urban setting; garden maintenance; recycling used materials into gardening supplies; and using plants for art projects – all suitable even for children.

As the following seasoned gardeners will attest, the rewards they reap from gardening far outweigh the time, effort, and minimal investment.   

Michelle Gatdula says that since she went into urban farming in 2016, she and her family have an unlimited supply of fruits and veggies. “The garden-to-table approach has been great for us,” says the time,” the Manila-based HR Manager says.

When the metropolis was locked down in March, she missed the outdoors, “so we created a scenery indoors that’s close to my heart.” Now also into ornamental plants, she has built an “indoor jungle”.

Charlie Desales: Guaranteed safe produce

Mass-produced crops generally contain chemicals to prolong shelf life while in supermarkets. This was reason enough to make Charlie Desales of Antipolo City decide to grow organic lettuce, pechay, arugula, kinchay, kale, tomato, peppers, eggplant, and cucumber at home.

“I can be sure that my vegetables are clean, with no pesticides that could harm the body and the environment,” he explained. A marine resource consultant, Desales is into aquaponics, a type of gardening wherein one can grow plants in water medium.

JM Banzuela: Sense of fulfillment

JM Banzuela of Kawit, Cavite, concedes that gardening can be hard work and does not always have “a happy ending”. But she continues, “that’s how I learned to do better.” 

The BPO employee started planting vegetables for sinigang in 2018, and it never ceases to amaze her ‘how, from tiny seeds, plants grow bigger and bigger every day.”

She now grows and sells potted plants and shares her knowledge with aspiring gardeners online. “I find a sense of fulfillment in this,” she says.

Marie Claire Hernandez: Business potential

Marie Claire Hernandez of Calamba, Laguna, received a cactus as a souvenir from a friend three years ago and got hooked on succulent plants. She specifically likes aloe hybrids and Echeverias, “mainly because of their diversity and beauty.”

Her plant hobby turned into a business in 2018. “I started buying and selling at first, then I got into propagating,” says Hernandez, 36. 

Providentially, a lot of people began collecting plants during the pandemic due to gardening’s stress-relieving benefits. The boost in sales enabled her to sustain their family’s income at this time when most of their businesses had to scale down due to quarantine restrictions,” she says.

Ma. Joy Olanday: Healthier environment

Growing up in a rural area, Ma. Joy Olanday knows that air quality is much better in the province. When she moved to the city, she filled her home with plants, creating a green space of clean and fresh air.   

The 53-year-old public school teacher grows herbs such as basil, oregano, and dill, as well as decorative plants. “I also grow a few fruit-bearing trees and vegetable plants, to live more sustainably,” Olanday says. 

Experts say that home gardening can help reduce negative environmental impacts by promoting sustainable agriculture; lessening the financial and environmental costs to transport, package, and sell food; and reducing water runoff.

Cher Anonas: Family bonding

Cher Anonas says the pandemic has given her more time to pursue gardening, but it was mainly because of the encouragement of her husband, who works in the agriculture industry. 

“We are into kitchen and edible container gardening - local vegetables, herbs, and more,” the social media professional and event host explains.

Now even their kids have become more interested in nature, seeing how she and her husband work together. “We’re now closer as a family, because of this unique shared activity,” the Antipolo-based mom says. 

“We also just started an online gardening business called ‘The Plantsmiths’, with the goal of sharing with other families our own journey into urban kitchen and edible gardening,” Anonas says.

Jajaj Chiong: Fostering friendships

Jaja Chiong first got into gardening in 2019 after accompanying her aunt to a plant market one weekend. Since then, she has been collecting ornamentals, specifically philodendron species. 

“They are majestic to look at in their giant form, yet also very intricate when they are smaller – I spend so much time staring at their details!” the 36-year-old gushes.

Her gardening hobby also fostered friendships. 

“The whole plantita/plantito movement got really big during this crisis, and I’ve been able to connect with old friends who share the same love for plants as I do,” the insurance advisor says. “I have also made new friends – people who want to share cuttings and barter their plants.”

Aris John Trinidad: For mental health

Aris John Trinidad, 34, first got into urban gardening in 2017 as a means of coping during a stressful time in his life. “I needed something to help me zone out – and plants were the answer,” the freelance clothing designer says.

He was living in a studio unit with a floor-to-ceiling, East-facing window, complete with a small plant box on the facade of the unit. 

He thought to himself: “Sayang naman yung magandang location, parang gusto ko i-maximize yung space kasi ganda ng pasok ng araw lagi.” He went to a plant market and bought some herbs and has since been in love with urban gardening.  

“Tending to my plants keeps me productive. I can say it has helped me stay mentally healthy, especially during this crisis,” he says.

More “plantfluencers” will share their stories on how they developed their backyard farms as well as best practices on Kalye Mabunga.

In addition, the series will also feature kid-friendly episodes to educate them about food and farming to make them appreciate the value of agriculture even at a young age.

Topics: Gardening , coronavirus pandemic , Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Training Institute , Smart Communications
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