As much as I like the thought of a huge kitchen garden out back, with a constant supply of the freshest organic greens and herbs, it just isn’t going to happen. In our city home, we have about 6 square meters and several large pots devoted to kaffir lime bushes (for leaves), kalamansi (calamondin), dayap (local limes), lemongrass, betel leaves, grape leaves (?!), chillis, rosemary, basil, oregano, galangal, etc. It’s nice to have these straight out of the garden, but other attempts to do tomatoes, bok choy, arugula, lettuces, etc. have all failed miserably and repeatedly. And yes, I have in fact purchased the seeds, planted them myself in everything from soil to soil-less potting mediums and watered them until they sprouted, only to see them DIE like they were hit by the plague again and again. Even our part-time gardener who drops in two times a week has been unsuccessful at the tomatoes and other greens.
However, around our office in Cebu (a city an hour’s flight South from Manila), where I spend some 6-8 days per month, there is some 3,000 square meters (3/4 of an acre) of sloping idle land that I have always thought would make a decent vegetable garden. For the past 30 years this lot was the neighborhood garbage dump, so cleaning up waste materials was a project in and of itself. Then we decided to try and grow several types of vegetables with the hope that all of the crew would be able to enjoy whatever they harvested. We started in earnest in March of this year. And while it isn’t Martha-Stewart-ish at all, it has been amazing to watch seeds sprout, grow and bear fruit. Really amazing. And no, I have very little physical input into this endeavor, as one reader snidely put it, “gentleman farming” indeed. So this is definitely the crew’s garden…
Turns out the soil is pretty horrific (the whole island is a big limestone rock) so we will have to do more composting and perhaps adding in some horse manure or other natural nutrient boosters in the months ahead, but here are some photos of efforts to date… Up top, part of the large crop of corn, the first thing to be planted, as of late May this year, and over 150+ ears of corn were eventually harvested in June while I was away. I didn’t get to taste any, but the crew assures me it was nice and sweet. In the second photo, a robust crop of okra, from seeds I purchased at the Manila Seedling Bank. And above, a squash, struggling to acclimate itself in the hot dry weather in Cebu. I think the squash from a seed packet I bought in the states, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.
In the photo above, are malunggay or moringa or horseradish trees that were grown from seeds I collected behind the beach house, post here, and I thought it was just really cool how the seeds did so well in Cebu. I have taken to saving seeds from all kinds of fruits and veggies so we can try and grow them in the garden.
Pechay or bok choi looked brilliant sprouting in their little seedling box, but every single one of these plants died or were eaten by bugs. :(
I was AMAZED that these and a few more seedlings grown from seeds taken from limes I brought in from Vietnam sprouted so readily. It’s been two months since I took these photos and they have some pretty wicked thorns on the stems by now. Not sure if these are the kaffir limes or plain limes that I brought. Didn’t label them. Duh.
The bird’s eye chilies are doing really well, and we have several dozen plants that are thriving and hundreds of chilies for the picking. Oddly, I think if they don’t have healthy or enough soil, the chilies don’t seem to turn bright red…
I was in the garden last week and the okra are just starting to bear fruit, so in a month or so there should be a bumper crop of okra!
Little bamboo trellises for ampalaya or bitter gourd seemed a bit flimsy two months ago…
…but have yielded some pretty darned good-looking fruit, if you ask me!
More bamboo trellises for patola or angled loofahs that have yet to bear fruit.
And though we didn’t plant this jackfruit tree, it stands in one area of the garden and it had some 40+ fruit at last count! That is a STUNNING number of fruits and they are enjoyed either unripe and cooked with coconut milk or ripe when they are sweet and pungent. In the past, neighbors would “lift” all of the fruits when the lot was empty and forlorn, but now that the lot and tree is being tended, it has really returned the favor with all of this bounty!
And finally, let’s not forget those goats that I got a year or two ago, as lawn mowers… the randy goats have gone from 3 to 6 in no time, and we even ate a young one in a kalderetang kambing (goat stew) a month or so ago… Lately, I have collected butternut squash seeds, the seeds of the citron I featured weeks ago, and other goodies that we will be attempting to grow in the months ahead. A few free range chickens… some quail… hmmm. But no luck with the tomatoes so far. :(