This month is a great time to start using planting calendars, garden journals, and other garden planning documents to explore/ study your garden’s progress. Below are my record-keeping, garden planning sheets, and fun gardening activities to track & improve your garden. They may inspire you to create your own custom documents.
And in 2023, check out our online store. I will launch my collection of garden journals, planting calendars, and gardening education books.
December brings the planting season for my favorite munggos. This magnificent bean is the base ingredient for my favorite foods–tinunuang ng munggos, sotanghon, hopia, and halo-halo. Munggos (Vigna radiata or mung bean) is used in many regional dishes around the Philippines.
Different baranggays and households have their variations but the base vegetables in each munggos stew is similar. Whether its meatless tinunuang munggos or served with buwad bolinaw, baboy, with shrimp, there are vegetables that complete the dish. The added vegetables are usually:
All these vegetable ingredients can be planted in December. But’s let’s focus on the star vegetable: Munggos. Here are some general growing guidelines.
Choose a garden site with at least six hours of direct sun and high humidity. Make sure your plots are free of any competing weeds.
In a raised bed or farm plot, add 2 inches of compost to the soil. Plant the seeds 1-inch deep (Photo 1). Each seed should be 2 inches apart from each other. Create rows about 24 inches apart. Alternatively you can broadcast your seed. Pour the seeds into a bowl. Grab a handful of seeds. Spread the seeds along the ground in an even layer. Make sure you cover the seeds with a 1-inch layer of soil.
Water your young munggos weekly. During the rainy season, you don’t need to water as often. And as it grows older it will need less water and because drought tolerant. Make sure you water the roots instead of the leaves to prevent any fungal growth. Make sure the soil is most but not soggy or waterlogged.
Harvest your mung beans when the pods about 5 inches. Ripe pods are fuzzy with a brownish or black color. Remove the entire bean vine. Then hang it upside down in a dry shed or room. Place a banig, fabric or newspapers under the munggos vines to catch the beans. You can remove the rest of the beans once the pods are completely dry.
If you want to store fresh mung beans place them in a referigerator. Use them for 2-3 days. You can also dry them completey. Spread fresh beans on fabric or banig and remove any excess moisture. The dried beans can be stored for years in air-tight container.
December is the holiday season throughout Cebu. Families, schools, churches, restaurants, and offices are busy planning for Christmas parties, Sinulog festivities and other barangay fiestas. Many households and local businesses are prepping for the arrival of overseas family members. In that spirit of holiday festivities and joyful reunions, here are two fun family activities to share:
Activity #1: Family Storytelling Garden. Grow your own magical, native tree with your children, nieces or nephews. Certain native tree is perfect for small spaces or cozy backyards. As the tree matures, you can surround it with add seating, tables, cheery decorative lights, and art. You and your family can spend a fun time taking pictures, sharing meals and telling stories around your magical tree. Here are some native trees with their own magical, natural qualities:
Winged Alibangbang (Piliostigma malabaricum ). This beauty is adorned with flowers shaped like cattleya orchids. The leaves are resemble butterfly wings. It grows to 10 meters with either white, purple, or yellow blossoms. They are resistant to fires and droughts. And their strong roots are used to regenerate dry, hilly areas in the Philippines.
Perfumed Champak (Magnolia champaca). This tree possess beautiful yellowish-orange blooms with a fragrant aroma. In a small space, it will adapt to a compact 8 meters. In the wild, they can grow to 50 meters.
Mighty Maritima (Drypetes falcata). This small, straight-trunked tree symbolizes strength. It’s strong roots famously withstands floods and typhoons.
Activity # 2: Lucky New Year’s Garden. Usually, families in Cebu prepare bowls of round, lucky fruits to welcome prosperity. What other traditions do you have on New Year’s Eve? In my house, we where polka dots, have a bowl of lucky fruit, turn on all the lights. How about another tradition–A Lucky New Year’s Garden? With the children in your family, grow a lucky fruit to celebrate the upcoming new year. You and your family can plant lucky pomelo, star fruit, or limonsito (Photo 1) in containers in your backyard.
Here are some general reminders when growing fruit trees in containers:
A: Beginner gardeners should buy a young grafted or marcotted tree with an established ball of roots (rootball). Pick a dwarf variety so it fits your small space. Grafted pomelo, star fruit, and calamansi all like full sun exposure. So give them a bright, sunny spot in your garden.
B: Give your fruit trees well-composted soil that drains well. Water them regularly for the first few months. As they mature only water them when the soil is dry.
C: Choose a container that is 30%-50% bigger than the rootball of your fruit tree. Young trees (aka saplings) already have an established ball of roots. Make sure your container is big enough for them to spread and stay healthy.
Hope you’re inspired to create fun memories in the garden. Happy Holidays and have a fun-filled time with friends and family!
November is time to plant one of my favorite snacks: singkamas. I like preparing eating fresh sinkgkamas slices. They’re naturally sugary and crunchy. When I was younger, my lola would slice a bunch of singkamas and store it in a big pitcher.
I loved it so much that I sold bags of Lola’s sliced singkamas snacks to neighborhood kids in Cebu. It was the best and most fun way to share good food, learn about Filipino currency, practice Cebuano and make new friends. Lola set up a cute wooden table right outside the local basketball court and I sold fresh singkamas to my friends and new customers.
How do you eat singkamas—as fresh, raw slices? in salads? in stir-fries? If you want your own supply of singkamas, it’s quite easy to grow in a small space, apartment balcony, or modest backyard. Here are some cultivation techniques to get you started.
Prepare large pots or a raised bed. For instance, the pot could be 11 inches wide x 14 inches (Photo 1).
Place the containers in a sunny part of the garden and fill them with well-draining soil. Mix the soil with compost to increase soil fertility.
Plant the seeds 2 inches deep. Seeds can be planted 8 inches apart. Seedlings should emerge in a week.
Singkamas develops large, fast-growing INEDIBLE leaves and vines (Photo 2, A & D). The seed pods are also inedible. Support the vine with a trellis (Photo 1).
Prune the flowers and leaves so that the plant is only 3 feet high (Photo 1). This ensures most of the nutrients and energy are feeding the singkamas roots you plan to harvest.
After 4 months, the singkamas roots will be ready for harvest (Photo 2, A). They’ll look like fat, cream colored turnips (Photo 2, C). Cut off all the vines and leaves and wash the singkamas roots. You can store them in the fridge or freezer for future meals.
If you’re feeling ambitious and have more space, you can add other complementary November plants like beans and ginger in the singkamas garden.
Till next post, hope you feel inspired to plan your own starter singkamas garden.
Luckily, November’s planting season includes vegetables that grow in small spaces or containers. Even with the reduced space, they produce a big harvest. Even better, these vegetables are readily used in meals so you’re plentiful harvest won’t go to waste.
Some of these high-yielding, small-space veggies (Photo 1 & 2) are: letchugas (lettuce), mustasa (mustard), petsay (pechay), okra, spinach, kamatis (tomato), luy-a (ginger), rabanos (radish), ahos (garlic), sibuyas bombay (onion), and atsal (bell peppers). And have some empty walls or fences, grow gourds (like kalubay and kalabasa) vertically. Check out this article for growing vertical, space-saving techniques.
Below are some container sizes and plant spacing suggestions to start your own kitchen garden this November (Photo 1 & 2). Keep these dimensions in mind when you’re deciding which vegetables fit in your small space. For detailed food garden designs, order my new Kitchen Garden design book.
All of these small but mighty vegetables can grow in raised boxes that are at least 3′ x 6′ or larger (Photo 1). If you prefer, individual garden tubs or pots, go for it. Here are a few special notes for particular vegetables (Photo 2).
Okra: 1 okra seedling can be grown in a container at least 12” wide x 11” tall
Atsal: 1 atsal (pepper) seedling can be grown in a container that’s 10” wide x 10” tall
Kalubay & Kalabasa: 1 gourd per 12”x 11” pots. You can plant more in larger containers.
Kamatis: Plant 1 kamatis (tomato) seedling plant in a 9” wide x 6” tall container. Depending on the variety, it may need a larger container.
Remember, don’t ever feel pressured to grow a huge variety in your kitchen garden. Grow what you regularly eat and use in the kitchen. I know beautiful, healthy kitchen gardens that specialize in different varieties of lettuce. And that’s it—just lettuce. If you have more time, resources and confidence, then add more vegetables each season. Be patient, enjoy, and grow at your own pace and skill level.