Column – Green Thumbs Up – Rain, rain, may you stay forevermore? 


By Elina V. Ramo

IT has been raining daily, or nightly, since last week and it is really a welcome occurrence, these rains. We have been literally drenched to the bones in the last three days. It has been a while that our pails and tabos have been resting near water pumps. (These too, have not been of much use since July.)

Having saved a lot on labor watering our garden, we were able to do more like outplanting tree seedlings that we have been nurturing in our mini-nursery of native trees. Not only that, we also joined volunteers in planting a 20-hectare area in Mangatarem. I have been doing it since the end of May and it has been almost weekly that we go out to plant trees.

This week, we are back in the bosom of The Happy Scion and we have continued outplanting seedlings. I remember that in August last year, we outplanted tamarind, duhat, supa, bani, bitaog and balitbitan. Sadly the rainy season stopped abruptly in August, just after we had the seedlings in their permanent place.

As we had planned earlier, the sampaloc must be on the East to act as windbreakers while still allowing sunlight to penetrate the small leaves. We might be wrong then, because tamarind trees appeared slow-growing. What we need are fast-growing trees and shrubs that can immediately hamper strong winds. We could have pursued another proposal to plant neem and acacia mangium seedlings on the eastern side outside the fenced portion that we intend to devote to vegetables.

These are equally fast-growing large trees. These are exotic invasive species though but we intend to have these cut once native tree seedlings come. Right decision may be to disallow these in the East because these would shade our plants.

We had planted Bani, a native species that is best suited in coastal areas. We chose it because it is nitrogen-fixing, like narra. Actually we have five narra trees sporadically planted for its nitrogen fixing qualities. Only one Bani survived the long hot summer. Despite daily watering, the young bani seedlings still died. Aside from Bani, we also have Supa, another native species. Like Bani and Narra, Supa is also nitrogen-fixing. Of the three, Supa has oil from its wood that may be used for lighting.
We are definitely not planting neem nor mangium anymore. We have a lot growing by themselves. If these grow in some pre-designated area, then we prioritize native ones.

The recent ipu-ipo came from the East and this damaged a portion of our garden, even the lone aratiles was almost uprooted. Now it is leaning to the West. Narra, Supa, Bani, some duhat and tamarind now line up the easternmost fence. We tried to sow madre cacao from cuttings but these only dried up. It is said to be nitrogen-fixing also and a windbreaker as well.

On a second row a few meters away are breadnut (kamansi), tui, sablot and Tagpo. These are all native trees with edible parts of either fruits, flowers and young leaves. We also added molave and catmon, all windbreakers, and also good coastal trees.

In the meantime, we always visit the planting sites when the rains allow. We harvest whatever the rains have nurtured. Camote tops, malunggay leaves, wild ampalaya, saluyot, okra and sitaw tops are in abundance. Squash flowers are not as robust as in summer and some sitaw are turning yellow due to too much water.

There are a lot of eggplants in the bushes but no tomatoes nor pechay this time.

Cassava yield is not as satisfactory, volume and taste-wise. This rootcrop is best harvested before the rainy season, according to my garden partners.

The prospects of a La Niña phenomenon are showing that we should brace ourselves even more with forecasts of more rains until November.

We have been losing farm animals due to these natural disasters and we feel good our chickens are not dying from diseases but from drowning in water catchment containers that collect rainwater. I saw a chick one time and I saved it on time. Another was not as lucky though. One dumalaga, a hen yet to lay its first egg, drowned while we were away on a weekend.

Losses are far too small compared to the gains we have been reaping due to the rains. Despite the shortfall I still love the rains. We are coping well with farm duties adjusted accordingly.

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