A Food Forest Garden

Below are photos of some of the produce collected from the garden on a daily basis. Some days are better than others, depending on the season. There is a lot of variety in our small harvests and our meals are designed around such variety.

We don’t produce crops in the way prescribed by conventional agriculture. You won’t see rows of the same crops grown together in tilled plant beds. Low in cost, labour and maintenance, high in diversity, this has been a way of securing food in tropical areas since prehistoric times. But with the advent of modern agriculture for commercial food production, these edible forest gardens and the old practices and traditions that created them, were lost. Sadly, even in non-commercial settings, food forest gardening is little known, as majority of the population became educated in the ways of conventional agriculture.

Below are three photos depicting most agricultural practices.

Our Food Forest Journey

We are creating our food forest garden on land that has been developed as a coconut plantation in the midst of government-led campaigns for copra production. Synthetic fertilizers given out by government were regularly used. Coconut trees were planted very closely together, many less than a meter apart, such that an area of less than 2,000 square meters had 60 coconut trees. The land was also planted with exotic and invasive mahogany and gmelina trees in a similar campaign for fast-growing sources of timber. The land also had a history of cattle grazing.

Rocky and sloping and such a history of use spanning over 75 years left us with land that is very difficult to manage. The only way, it seemed, to get anything to grow, was through the forest garden.

Our food forest garden includes livestock. We have native chickens and muscovy ducks that free-range. These fowls are problematic because they destroy seedlings and young plants. But this problem also became the opportunity to use companion planting to protect plants during the vulnerable stages of growth. The goats are put in the garden on a leash when some areas need pruning and trimming. The food forest surrounds pigpens with soil flooring regularly filled with coconut leaves, banana leaves and wood chips collected from here and nearby areas. When the pens are cleaned, bedding material are composted and used to amend the soil.

Piglets foraging in the garden.
Ducks in the garden.

Rain water harvested from the roof of our home and the pigpens is used to water the garden. The gardens close to the house are irrigated with greywater from the kitchen and shower. Kitchen and table scraps are composted in sections of the garden that need improvement. Anything trimmed or cut down from the garden returns to the garden.

Plants have grown well irrigated by greywater through a simple wastewater treatment system.
Ornamental plants thriving in an infiltration planter. Water from the kitchen goes through a simple homemade grease-trap, and into this planter.

Rain gardens were dug up to control flooding and soil erosion. Rain gardens also became protected areas for such crops as taro which ducks loved to attack. Pioneer native bushes and trees were allowed to grow, attracting native birds, insects, lizards and other species. They also proved to be resilient trellises for climbing crops such as winged beans, yam beans, lima beans, passionfruit and gourds.

This year, 2019, it will be our 9th year working this land. A lot of improvement have taken place and the land is more productive and diverse than it has ever been. Our yield is growing though still far from the yield of land worked in the manner of conventional agriculture. But our inputs are much less invasive, less expensive, less labour-intensive and more environmentally beneficial.

The north garden plots, trying to protect the soil from erosion and the vulnerable plants from attacks by ducks and chickens.
The south garden plots, located on sloping land, wood borders used to lessen erosion and protect from duck attacks.

We still have more work to do which develops and evolves slowly over time. Invasive trees will need to be removed and replaced with native varieties. The number of coconut trees will have to be reduced so more diverse crops can grow.

If you would like to grow crops and raise livestock for domestic or commercial production, please consider the food forest gardening method. A good introduction to the food forest garden is by way of Masanobu Fukuoka’s natural farming.  However, while food forest systems seem to have its roots in the tropics, a lot of information about food forests on-line are written for temperate and sub-tropical climates. But by understanding the basics, observing your natural environment and working with people who have kept the tradition of forest gardening, you can create your own food forest garden. Good luck!

Planting Calendar for the Philippines

PLANTING CALENDAR (PHILIPPINES)

I started planting vegetables late last year. At the moment, I have beautiful looking tomato and eggplant plants but no fruits yet. So I thought that maybe I made the mistake of planting in the wrong time of the year. I have asked around about best times to plant but it seems that most backyard farmers here don’t really know and simply follow the rice growing season; generally, they start planting their seeds at the onset of the rainy season. This seems logical for backyard farmers who have no irrigation system for their crops. However, planting off-season may also mean the crops won’t be producing until the ideal conditions (especially rainfall and temperature) are available, or they may die or not produce at all.

So I looked for a Crop Planting Calendar for the Philippines and found some information. I hope this serves as a useful guide for you. I intend to follow this guide (I think that Bohol is type Three Climate) and compare with the results of my efforts from last year. Ultimately, if I am able to record the results of various experiments with growing seasons, I will hopefully come up with the ideal growing calendar for our specific location.  There may also be varieties of crops that may be planted off-season, and there are various technologies, such as irrigation, protected cropping or greenhouses, poly-tunnels, etc., that can be used to extend a crop’s growing season. I suggest you experiment, record your results to understand better the crops and conditions in your location.

TYPES OF CLIMATE

The Philippines has a wet and dry season and the relationship between these seasons create the 4 different types of climate in the country. Here are the 4 different types of climate in the Philippines:

TYPE ONE CLIMATE

Two pronounced wet and dry seasons: Dry from November to April; wet during the rest of the year. This covers the western part of the islands of Luzon, Mindoro, Negros and Palawan.

TYPE TWO CLIMATE

No dry season with very pronounced rainfall from November to January. The areas covered are Catanduanes, Sorsogon, the eastern part of Albay, the eastern and northern part of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, a great portion of the eastern part of Quezon, the eastern part of Leyte and a large portion of eastern Mindanao.

TYPE THREE CLIMATE

Season not very pronounced, relatively dry from November to April and wet during the rest of the year. Areas covered are the western part of Cagayan (Luzon), Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, the eastern portion of the Mountain Province, southern Quezon, the Bondoc Peninsula. Masbate, Romblon, Northeast Panay, Eastern Negros, Central and Southern Cebu, part of Northern Mindanao and most of Eastern Palawan.

TYPE FOUR CLIMATE

Rainfall more or less evenly distributed throughout the year. The area covered: are Batanes Province, Northeastern Luzon, Western  Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, Albay, Eastern Mindoro, Marinduque, Western Leyte, Northern Negros and most of Central, Eastern and Southern Mindanao.

Here is the Planting Calendar organized according to the Type of Climate:

TYPE ONE CLIMATE

Two pronounced seasons: Dry from November to April; wet during the rest of the year. This covers the western part of the islands of Luzon, Mindoro, Negros and Palawan.

RICE

Lowland (June to September and October to December)
Palagad (January to February)
Upland (April to June)

    CORN

Dry Season (October to January)
Rainy Season (May to June)

    PEANUT

Dry Season (November to January)
Rainy Season (May to June)

    BEANS

Batao (May to June)
Bountiful Bean (May to June and October to December)
Cowpea (May to June and October to November)
Cadius (May to June)
Mungo (July to September and November to February)
Patani (May to June and October to January)
Saguidillas (May to June)
Sitao (May to June and November to February)
Soybean (May to June)

    LEAFY VEGETABLES

Cabbage (October to December)
Cauliflower (October to February)
Celery (October to February)
Lettuce (August to January)
Mustard (August to January)
Pechay (October to December)

    FRUIT VEGETABLES

Ampalaya (May to July and October to January)
Cucumber (May to June and September to December)
Eggplant (May to June and February to September)
Melon (October to January)
Muskmelon (October to December)
Okra (May to June and October to December)
Patola (May to June)
Squash (May to June and October to December)
Tomato (October to January)
Upo (October to January)
Watermelon (November to January)

    ROOT VEGETABLES

Sweet Potato (May to June and December to February)
Gabi (May to June)
Ginger (May to June)
Radish (October to December)
Sinkamas (October to December)
Tugue (May to June)
Ube (May to June)
Cassava (May to June and October to December)

    OTHERS

Garlic (October to December)
Onion (October to December)
Sweet Pepper (May to June and September to December)
Condol (May to June and October to December)
Chayote (May to June and October to December)
Spinach (October to November)
Sweet Peas (October to December)
Carrot (October to December)
White Potato (October to December)
Talinum (May to June and October to December)
Kutchai (October to December)
Arrowroot (May to June)
Tapilan (May to June and September to October)
Beets (October to January)
Jute  (May to June)
Endive (September to October)
Snapbeans (October to December)

 

TYPE TWO CLIMATE

No dry season with very pronounced rainfall from November to January. The areas covered are Catanduanes, Sorsogon, the eastern part of Albay, the eastern and northern part of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, a great portion of the eastern part of Quezon, the eastern part of Leyte and a large portion of eastern Mindanao.

    RICE

Lowland (October to December)
Palagad (May to July)
Upland (June to August and September to November)

    CORN

Dry Season (March to May)
Rainy Season (January to February and August to September)

    PEANUT

Dry Season (January to February)
Rainy Season (May to June)

    BEANS

Batao (February to April
Bountiful Bean (January to May)
Cowpea (January to March and May to June)
Cadius (February to March)
Mungo (February to June)
Seguidillas (February to April)
Sitao (May to June)
Soybean (January to March)
Tapilan (January to March and August to October)

    LEAFY VEGETABLES

Cabbage (January to March)
Cauliflower (January to March)
Celery (January to March)
Lettuce (March to June)
Mustard (January to March)
Pechay (January to March)

    FRUIT VEGETABLES

Ampalaya (June to August and November to February)
Cucumber (March to April)
Eggplant (January to April and August to September)
Melon (March to June)
Muskmelon (March to June)
Okra (Whole Year)
Patola (March to September)
Squash (Whole Year)
Tomato (January to April and August to September)
Upo (November to March)
Watermelon (January to March)

    ROOT VEGETABLES

Sweet Potato (Year Round)
Gabi (Year Round)
Ginger (Year Round)
Radish (November to December and March to May)
Sinkamas (October to November)
Ube (Year Round)
Cassava (Year Round)

    OTHERS

Garlic (November to December)
Onion (December to March)
Sweet Pepper (February to March and August to September)
Chayote (February to March)
Spinach (January to March)
Sweet Peas (February to March)
Carrot (March to August)
White Potato (February to March)
Talinum (June to July and November to December)
Kutchai (March to July)
Arrowroot (June to September)
Beets (January to March)
Jute (January to March)
Endive (December to March)

TYPE THREE CLIMATE

Season not very pronounced, relatively dry from November to April and wet during the rest of the year. Areas covered are the western part of Cagayan (Luzon), Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, the eastern portion of the Mountain Province, southern Quezon, the Bondoc Peninsula. Masbate, Romblon, Northeast Panay, Eastern Negros, Central and Southern Cebu, part of Northern Mindanao and most of Eastern Palawan.

    RICE

Lowland  (June to August)
Palagad (November to January)
Upland (April to June)

    CORN

Dry Season (October to December)
Rainy Season (April to June)
Third Crop (December to February)

    PEANUT

Dry Season (September to October)
Rainy Season (April to June)
Third Crop (December to January)

    BEANS

Batao (May to June)
Bountiful Bean (May to June and November to January)
Cowpea (May to June and November to December)
Cadios (May to June and October to November)
Mungo (December to January and September to October)
Patani (May to June and November to December)
Seguidillas (May to June)
Sitao (May to June and November to January)
Soybean (May to June and October to December)
Tapilan (May to June and November to December)
Peas (April to June and November to January)

    LEAFY VEGETABLES

Cabbage (April to June and October to December)
Cauliflower (October to December)
Celery (May to July and October to December)
Lettuce (April to May and October to December)
Mustard (May to July and October to December)
Pechay (May to June and October to December)
Spinach (May to June and October to December)

    FRUIT VEGETABLES

Ampalaya (May to June and November to December)
Cucumber (May to June and October to January)
Eggplant(May to June and November to January)
Melon (May to June and October to January)
Muskmelon (November to January)
Okra (May to July and October to December)
Patola (May to July and October to December)
Squash (May to June and October to December)
Tomato (October to January)
Upo (April to May and October to January)
Watermelon (October to January)

    ROOT VEGETABLES

Sweet Potato (April to June and November to January)
Gabi (May to July and October to December)
Ginger (May to June and November to December)
Radish (November to January)
Sinkamas (October too January)
Cassava (May to June)

    OTHERS

Garlic (October to December)
Onion (big bulb) (November to January)
Sweet Pepper (May to June and October to December)
Chayote (May to June and November to January)
Spinach (May to June and October to December)
Sweet Peas (April to June and November to January)
Carrot (October to December)
White Potato (October to December)
Talinum (May to June and November to December)
Kutchai (May to June and October to December)
Arrowroot (May to June and December to January)
Beets (November to January)
Onion (small bulb) (November to January)
Endive (November to January)

TYPE FOUR CLIMATE

Rainfall more or less evenly distributed throughout the year. The area covered: are Batanes Province, Northeastern Luzon, Western  Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, Albay, Eastern Mindoro, Marinduque, Western Leyte, Northern Negros and most of Central, Eastern and Southern Mindanao.

    RICE

Lowland (May to July and August to October)
Palagad (November to January)
Upland (April to June)

    CORN

Dry Season (September to November)
Rainy Season (April to June)
Third Crop (December to February)

    PEANUTS

Dry Season (September to November)
Rainy Season (May to June)
Third Crop (November to February)

    BEANS

Batao (May to June)
Bountiful Bean (May to June and October to December)
Cowpea (May to June and October to December)
Cadius (May to July)
Mungo (May to June and November to January)
Patani (May to June and November to January)
Seguidillas (May to June)
Sitao (May to June and October to January)
Soybean (May to June and November to January)
Tapilan (November to December and June to July)
Peas (June to July and December to January)

    LEAFY VEGETABLES

Cabbage (June to September and October to January)
Cauliflower (April to July and September to January)
Celery ( June to July and January to February)
Lettuce (May to June and January to February)
Mustard (June to July and September to January)
Pechay (May to July and January to June)
Spinach (April to May)

    FRUIT VEGETABLES

Ampalaya (May to June and September to January)
Cucumber (June to July and October to December)
Eggplant (June to July and November to January)
Melon (November to January)
Muskmelon (November to January)
Okra (June to July and September to October)
Patola (May to June and December to January)
Squash (May to June and November to January)
Tomato (May to June and October to January)
Upo (April to May and October to January)
Watermelon (April to May and November to January)

    ROOT VEGETABLES

Sweet Potato (May to June and September to November)
Gabi (June to September and January to February)
Ginger (May to July)
Radish (May to July)
Sinkamas (May to June)
Cassava (May to June and December to January)

    OTHERS

Garlic (September to February)
Onion (September to January)
Sweet Pepper (May to June and September to January)
Chayote (May to June and October to December)
Spinach (April to May)
Sweet Peas ( June to July and December to January)
Carrot (May to June and November to January)
White Potato (October to December)
Talinum (June to July and January to February)
Kutchai (June to July)
Arrowroot (May to June and November to December)
Beets (June to July and November to December)
Onion (September to January)
Sesame (May to June and January to February)
Jute (April to May)

Not Sure Which Climate type?

If your location is not listed above and you’re not exactly sure which of the 4 is your climate type, you can use the illustration below as an initial guide. Happy farming!

West Garden is Getting Greener

It has been nearly 4 months now and here are photos showing progress on the West Garden. From September-October last year we had construction work on the western part of the garden to rebuild the old pigpens. In November, we proceeded with mulching, planting and digging rain gardens in areas prone to flooding. La Niña also meant above average rainfall from October-March, so it was quite a challenge trying to get the garden into good shape. We had some important practical goals: (1) to control flooding in the area when it rains, (2) to improve fertility and texture of the soil, (3) to grow more forage crops for the animals, and (4) to make the garden resilient if or when the drought (El Niño) comes.

Above photo shows the southern end of the west garden. We have moved the sheet roofing left on the ground to a better location under the house. The stumps of gemelina wood lying on the ground have been stood up to serve as support for potted plants. A rain garden was dug up at the end of the canal. Pathways and plant beds were established. Getting seedling to grow in this area is difficult because it is next to large mahogany growth. The mahogany trees shed their leaves and increase tannin seepage into the ground. Mahogany trees also create dappled shade, making it difficult or impossible for sun-loving plants to grow. This area also floods quite considerably when it rains, killing young seedlings.

We have managed to grow plants that thrive in such difficult conditions such as San Franciso plants along the hedge and green and purple gabi (taro). Some pandan have managed to survive as well.

Above photo shows the longest side of the west garden. We have trimmed the young Jackfruit tree and the banana tree on the right side which was trampled to the ground by construction work have regenerated. The path became flooded, muddy and dangerously slippery and this has been amended by paving with sand and gravel. There is a large area mulched with dry coconut leaves on the left – this used to be a goat pen. Now, kangkong and kamote planted there are crawling over the mulch. Soil from dug-up rain gardens and compost from the pigpens were placed around the coconut tree where vegetation has started growing.

We have also planted flowering vines and placed support for them to climb on going over the pathways. This will take some more time! Some climbing plants were also planted along the wall and we are hoping that in time, the wall will be covered with vegetation.

Above photo shows progress in the area that used to be the old boar pen. The vacated area was a mud pit and needed a lot of mulching and treatment with lactic acid bacteria to decompose manure and aerate the soil. Over time, what used to be a barren area is now starting to become green with kangkong, kamote, papaya, gabi and forage crops such as madre de agua (tricanthera). The dry banana leaves on the right are reserved for the sow when she gives birth this month.

Here (above photo) is a closer look at one of the rain gardens. Water goes down slow in this location but the gabi planted here seems to love it. Some pandan, tiger tail plants and kangkong are growing in the vicinity.

This photo (above) shows the other rain garden which drains faster than the previous one. The gabi planted here are doing well. Some kamote are growing along the canal leading to the rain garden. A banana was planted nearby, although not flourishing, it is managing to survive. A lot of grass is growing here as well, much more here than in the other areas.

One side of the old boar pen (above) showing one of the flowering vines and the madre de agua (tricanthera), planted as cuttings and now growing very well.

Along the old goat pen (above), this photo shows the growth of two types of kangkong and an okra seedling.

Another view of the West Garden towards the old boar pen showing more vegetation and an orchid planted on one of the posts used for the pen. We have mounted more orchids in the other posts left from the old goat and pigpens.

We are very happy with progress on the West Garden, considering the state it was left in by construction work last year. We are hoping that as more vegetation grows in this area, it will be less prone to flooding and will be protected from drying out during the hot summer months.

What has helped tremendously in this effort are mulching, rain gardens, compost from the pigpens and the application of lactic acid bacteria and a small amount of indigenous microorganisms. We have our fingers crossed hoping the garden will continue to thrive when summer approaches.

La Niña and Outlook for Philippine Forage Crops

We are currently experiencing the extended effects of La Niña. La Niña is defined as the positive phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) associated with cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. La Niña is said to impact global climate, disrupting normal weather patterns and can lead to intense storms in some places and droughts in others.

In the Philippines, La Niña often means heavy rains and as a consequence, flooding. According to the “Climate Outlook (January-June 2018)” by the Climate Monitoring and Prediction Section of PAGASA-DOST, “Weak La Niña is present in the Tropical Pacific; may not last beyond March 2018, but varying impacts occur.”

Rainfall Forecast:

  • January 2018 – below normal rainfall over western Luzon while generally near to above normal over Eastern Luzon and most parts of Visayas and Mindanao;
  • February 2018 – generally near to above normal rainfall with some patches of below normal rainfall over Ilocos area; Visayas and Mindanao, generally above normal rainfall;
  • March 2018 – below normal rainfall over western Luzon while generally near to above normal over Eastern Luzon and most parts of Visayas and Mindanao;
  • April 2018 – generally below normal over most parts of Luzon (except western Luzon); the rest of the country will likely experience near normal rainfall conditions.
  • May 2018 – generally near to above normal rainfall;
  • June 2018 – near normal rainfall over major parts of the country, while below normal rainfall conditions will be likely over northern Luzon.
  • Generally, near average to slightly warmer than average surface temperature is expected over the coming months over most parts; slightly cooler than average over the mountainous areas in Luzon in January-March 2018; cold surges may occur in December to February 2018.
  • 2 to 5 tropical cyclones may develop or enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) from January – June 2018.

Weekly ENSO monitoring is available at: http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/index.php/climate/climate-prediction/el-ninosouthern-oscillation-enso-status

Outlook for the West Garden:

Construction work took place around the western side of the garden in October-November 2017. We started mulching and building rain gardens, paths and plant beds in the effort to get as many crops growing as quickly as possible and to control flooding from storm water run-off in the area.

Forage is one of the most important crops we planted. We don’t have enough forage for the animals and would like 2018 to be the year when we would grow and double our production. Some of our current forage crops are: desmodium rensonii, indigofera zollingeriana, trichantera gigantea (madre de agua), and mini water cabbage.

Indigofera for forage.
Indigofera has 27─31% crude protein, which is relatively higher than any of the locally available leguminous forages. Leaves and twigs are harvested every 30 days to maintain their succulence. Indigofera is not to be confused with Creeping Indigo (indigofera spicata) which may be toxic to some livestock.
Desmodium cinereum (Rensonii) is a leguminous plant tagged as “alfalfa of the tropics” because of its high crude protein content at 20-23% of dry weight. Regular cutting stimulates multiple stems and increases yields of leaf. If seed production is required, defoliation must be timed to avoid destroying the developing seed crop. Not well suited for grazing or browsing.
Trichanthera gigantea is generally propagated from cuttings selected at the basal part of young stems. These cuttings can either be planted directly or put in plastic bags for transplanting later. Harvest begins 8 to 10 months after establishment and the first yields are about 15 t/ha of fresh matter. Trichanthera gigantea can be harvested for foliage every 3 months and yields 17 t/ha of fresh matter at a cutting height of about 1 m. Under hotter and drier conditions, cutting heights can be higher (1.3-1.5 m).

Growing but not thriving well are: ipil-ipil, madrecacao, mani-manian, malunggay and water hyacinth.

Failed to survive are: stylo.

We are looking for seeds/cuttings/seedlings of the following: napier grass, mulberry, mara mais, stylo, azolla.

Papaya planted in the west garden two months ago.

Forage and roughage for pigs and goats also come from the following: various fruit trees such as papaya, langka, banana, coconut, gmelina, mahogany, tiesa, tambis, balimbing; various green leafy vegetables such as amaranth, camote (leaves), kangkong, saluyot, alugbati, casava (leaves), talinum; and various grasses such as carabao grass, paragis, mimosa, busikad, etc.

Sow eating various common grass pulled out from the garden.

Ornamental plants that are trimmed also provide some forage but only in small quantities since some are considered mildly toxic: San Francisco plant (croton), various cultivars of canna, Fortune plant (dracaena), ornamental palms, ferns, wandering jew, lantana, duranta etc.

Piglet foraging in the garden.

La Niña does not deter us from developing the west garden. We have planted forage crops in and around the area. Normally, the rainy/wet season is also good vegetable planting season in the Philippines because this eliminates the need for artificial irrigation. However, tropical vegetable production experts note that the rainy season also means high humidity amidst high temperatures conducive to the proliferation of pests and disease. This is where disease and pest-resistant crops are valuable and topping the list of recommended plants are those with edible foliage and shoots.

Recommended Vegetables for the Rainy/Wet Season:

Rooted taro, kangkong (water spinach) and camote (sweet potato) are easier to grow in wet and flood prone areas. The red and green varieties of taro we planted in the newly dug up rain gardens are doing well.

Okra, eggplant, beans, chili, corn/maize, squash and some gourds are known to thrive in wet conditions. However, they need to be planted in raised beds so they are protected from flooding. When seedlings have established at about 1-2 weeks, mulching needs to be done all around the seedlings in order to protect them from the battering downpour of rain. We have lost many young sprouts to heavy pouring rain, unfortunately, so we are also planting seeds in the beds where mulch have already been applied. The surrounding mulch protect some of the seedlings. Planting under a tree or bush also helps, as long as the area does not get flooded.

Taro thrives well in the rain garden.

 

Toxic Plants and Weeds

Although many plants are toxic in various ways, we try not to allow those with high toxicity to colonise the garden, particularly the weeds. While animals avoid eating plants that are toxic, we also try to identify which plants may be toxic and avoid giving those to the animals. Toxic plants we currently have are Estrella, Sinkamas (seeds are toxic), Sagilala (San Francisco/Croton), Red Ginger, Lantana, Katakataka (linked to some cattle poisoning), Buddha Belly Plant (ginseng in Tagalog), Cat’s Whiskers (Balbas Pusa), Castor Oil Plant (Tangantangan), Bangkok Kalachuchi (leaves and flowers are toxic to goats and cattle), Plumeria.

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Estrella (above) contains a toxic alkaloid, isotomine that can cause muscle paralysis and affect cardio-respiratory functions.

Protecting Plants from Chickens and Ducks

Chickens and ducks love foraging after a downpour. The earth is soft and is easy to dig up as chickens and ducks search for bugs, earthworms, seeds and seedlings. Even if the fowls are sufficiently fed, they still want to go around and forage, especially the chickens. Below are some of the methods we are implementing, hoping to duck and chicken-proof the garden. Admittedly, we are not always very successful but some plants do manage to grow this way.

Seeds are planted between coconut husks – another attempt at chicken-proof gardening.
Portable plastic netting frames are placed over seeds, seedling for protection.
Seeds are planted between stakes for chicken-proofing.
Other methods at chicken-proofing include fencing out raised garden beds and putting pots on wood stumps away from sight of chickens and ducks.

It has been two months since we started work in the west garden amidst the effects of La Niña. Work continues to minimise the effects of flooding and hopefully, get plants to grow and get established before what might be a long season of drought in the near future.

Mulching

Coconut trees finally got cleaned today – after nearly 3 years. It took such a long time because the guy who does it is as slippery as a rat out of a snake’s mouth. “Cleaning” coconut trees means clearing the tree of dead materials, trimming the leaves and cutting down coconut fruits that may pose a hazard over roofs, garden beds and pathways, and of course, cutting down mature coconuts (for copra or cooking) as well as a few young green ones.

We use coconut leaves – green or dry –  as compost, feed for the pigs and for mulching. We specially need mulch for the west garden. Several days earlier, I’ve started work by sowing mung beans and adding a thin layer of dry coconut leaves on the soil, plus spraying with a dilution of lactic acid bacteria to facilitate decomposition. Then we got help from Bebe and Atoy to further mulch the area.

Instead of digging and ploughing through the soil, we rely on mulching. Apart from spraying lactic acid bacteria, I am currently preparing a variety of indigenous microorganisms with large mycelium growth. This will be placed onto the soil, under the mulch, to inoculate the soil and increase microbial diversity, hoping to improve soil texture and enrich the soil at the same time.

I don’t expect to grow anything soon in several areas where mulch has been added specially over where the boar pen used to be. The manure in that area has not yet completely decomposed. However, some of the mung beans I tossed around several days ago seem to be doing fine.

There has been an unusually high amount of rainfall this year and I think we’re nearing the end of the rainy period. This would be a great time to mulch since there will be enough moisture and humidity to decompose the mulch, and the soil cover will be much needed as the dry season approaches.

To learn more about mulching, here are some helpful resources.