Garden Journaling & Planning Tools

By Michelle Domocol
Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

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.

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Gardening journal

Planting Calendar

garden planning sheets

Pollinator Planning & Garden Motif Planning

Garden Education Activities

Flavorful, Fruitful Harvest

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

This November, fruit markets and fruit growers will offer seasonal treats like lansones, papaya, guyabano, atis, sambag, and mangosteen. When my family goes to the fruit market we search for the Longkong variety. It comes in compact clusters with super sweet and aromatic fruits (Photo 2, D). Longkong is a cross between other lansones varieties called Paete and Duku. This November, don’t forget to pick up your favorite varieties of some lansones or other in-season fruits.

In celebration of November’s seasonal treats, here are some fun facts and cultivation techniques that help lansones produce delicious fruits.

Photo 1. Different types of mulch for lansones cultivation.
  1. Lansones are grown throughout Philippines’ orchards, farms and backyards. They are usually planted in November or other months during the rainy season. Since they thrive in high humidity and moist soil, farmers and gardeners, water lansones regularly during the dry season.
  2. To preserve the soil moisture, lansones growers add a layer of compost and mulch over their roots. Mulch (Photo 1) can be:
    • A: dried banana pseudostem fibers,
    • B: rice hulls,
    • C: coco coir, or
    • D: coconut husk chips
  3. Most farmers like to transfer lansones seedlings into the field. The seedlings transfer when they have a pair of mature leaves and a strong root system. Young lansones seedlings are planted with partial shade over their canopy. Lansones are commonly intercropped under mature coconuts since their fronds provide natural shade. Other shading companions are madre de cacao and ipil-ipil trees. Otherwise, you can shade seedlings with netting cages or mini pergolas made with banana fronds.

Photo 2. Seedlings and fruits of lansones during cultivation and harvest.
  1. Pruning is essential for fruit growth and pest reduction. Farmers and gardeners remove any unproductive side branches, watersprouts, dead branches and some top portions of the young tree. Watersprouts are thin, useless branches emerging from old bark. Pruning trains the branches to be aerated, well-spaced and lateral. When the top of the lansones canopy is partially removed, it keeps the height at 1 meter. This height is more accessible for harvesting.
  2. Lansones fruits appear in 7-inch long bunches (Photo 2, B & C). Depending on the variety they can be compact or loose bunches with up to 25 or more fruits. When it’s unripe, lansones skin is green (Photo 2, B). As it matures and approaches harvest time, lansones skin becomes thin, leathery and brownish-yellow (Photo 2, C-E).
  3. After planting lansones, you’ll have to wait for 15 to 20 years to see fruits (Photo 2, D). While farmers and gardeners wait, they usually harvest faster-growing trees and vegetables grown in between the lansones trees.

Wow 15 to 20 years! Lansones cultivation makes me appreciate the arduous journey growers and fruit seeds make. As you munch on your delectable fruits this month, I hope you feel inspired to thank a local fruit farmer or learn more about fruit cultivation.

Till next post, hope you have a fruitful, flavorful November.

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October’s Optimistic Seedlings

By Michelle Domocol
Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

Gardening is a constant invitation to observe, experiment, and refine your plant growing techniques. October is an opportune time to learn new skills and sprout a wide range of optimistic seedlings.

In October, Cebu’s weather and rainfall is generally suited to planting squash seedlings, seeds of leafy vegetables, a few root crops, beans and more. Here are a few suggestions of specific vegetables you can plant from seed or seedling:

  • Leafy Vegetables: repolyo (cabbage), cauliflower, pechay, mustasa (mustard)
  • Onions: garlic (ahos), sibuyas bombay (onion)
  • Gourds: sikwa (luffa), calabasa (squash), kalubay (bottle gourd), ampalaya (bitter gourd), sayote (chayote)
  • Sun-loving veggies: kamatis (tomato), okra, taong (eggplant)
  • Roots: gabi (taro)

For a complete monthly planting list, download the free planting calender here.

This list above includes links to previous growing guides. Click on one of bold vegetable categories above to see my specific guides for squashes, leafy vegetables and more.

This past March, I introduced techniques like crop rotation. In that post, I explained how plants are grouped by their similar cultivation needs. Crop rotation is about enhancing plant compatibility.

Plant Incompatibility is when you place two vegetable groups with drastically different watering, sun, or soil requirements next to each other. Problems can occur. You may see stunted growth, leaf diseases from mineral deficiencies, mold, or pest infestations.

For more details, check out March: Food x Flower Gardens.

Below are some sample designs that integrate crop rotation groups and outdoor seating areas (Photos 1 to 3). The sample planting arrangements can be applied to home or school gardens. Each design features raised beds and plots with particular vegetable groupings. You’ll also notice pollinator attractants like cosmos and pest repellents like lemongrass.

A combination of Crop rotation groups, pollinator attractants and insect repellents ensure:

  • fertile soil (full of minerals and nutrients for healthy vegetables)
  • weed control, and
  • pest control
Photo 1. Design A

Leafy Vegetables & Onions
Combinations of repolyo (cabbage), cauliflower, pechay, and mustasa (mustard) are featured in all three designs. They all benefit from weekly watering and deep, fertilized soil. Remember you don’t need to grow all types of leafy vegetables in one space. You can combine 2 options like cauliflower and pechay.

Leafy vegetables and onions are commonly grown together (Photo 1 & 2). The members of the Onion family such as garlic and large white onions repel pests (like aphids and beetles) that can harm leafy vegetables.

Gourds like sikwa (luffa), calabasa (squash), kalubay (bottle gourd), ampalaya (bitter gourd), sayote (chayote) really thrive in compost-rich soil and mulch. When they grow together, you can easily monitor their leaves. Gourds require ventilation and trellising to prevent mould on the leaves and vegetables. When they are in the same garden section, you can gently tie their long vines to a trellis, net, arbor, pergola (Photo 1 & 3). For instance, in Healing Present’s farm, we’ve grown sayote with ampalaya on the same trellis.

Photo 2. Design B

Sun-loving veggies
Kamatis (tomato), okra, and taong (eggplant) can be grouped together as well (Photos 1 to 3). All three of these vegetables need plenty of water, sun exposure, heat and well-draining soil. They also need lots of nitrogen in their soil.

Photo 3. Design C

Different cultivars of gabi/taro (Colocasia esculenta) can grown near edges of ponds or swampy areas. If you include these root crops in shallow ponds make sure the roots are planted in soil (Photos 1 to 3). They do not have floating roots. In some parts of the Philippines, gabi is combined with other species of taros like Xanthosoma sagittifolium, giant taro (Alocasia macrorrhiza), and swamp taro (Cyrtosperma chamissonis).

I hope this intro to plant compatibility and crop rotation inspires you to explore new gardening techniques. Be that new seedling…so full of potential and optimism. Who knows? This month you may find a technique that boosts your garden’s growth. Green fingers crossed.

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Atis: The Ice Cream growing on Trees

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu

This September, atis is available at most fruit markets around the Philippines. I know most people associate atis with its custardy consistency. But I like to freeze fresh atis. Scooping out the smooth, creamy sweetness of frozen atis is second to none.

As farmers harvest ripe atis fruits, the trees continue to sprout new shoots. New atis leaves unfurl. Young fruits ripen till the next harvest (Photo 1). Under the best conditions, atis carry on  producing fruits from July to late November. Since September is part of the dry season, farmers continue to water and fertilize these precious ice cream trees.

Photo 1. Atis fruit maturing in the Healing Present agroforest. (Photo by S. Suson)

In celebration of Atis, I’ll share some cultivation tips (Photo 2):

  • Atis seedlings thrive in open, sunny spots with well-draining environments like limestone-based soils. Choose an areas with any obstructions like nearby buildings or powerlines (Photo 2). If an atis tree’s roots are crowded, obstructed, or rotting in wet soils, you will not produce healthy fruits. So be sure to give atis trees ample space and well-draining soil.
Photo 2. Main cultivation techniques for Atis tree
  • Make sure to weed around your atis trees. Ideally, 3 feet around the atis trunk should be weed-free (Photo 2).. Weeds include crab grass and common herbaceous growth around trees.
  • Atis don’t like competition from small weeds or other trees. Give at least 15 feet between atis and it’s neighboring trees (Photo 2). Many agroforests grow atis with mango trees and vegetable gardens. If you choose this mixed-crop planting technique, be sure to provide adequate spacing.
  • A 4-inch layer of vermicompost can be added around the base of the atis trunk (Photo 2). You can spread the layer 5 inches away from the trunk.
  • Atis trees are also periodically pruned to 8-12 foot high. If the grow taller, they may not get adequate air ventelation and sunlight throughout their branches (Photo 2).
  • Atis fruits are considered ripe when the segments on their greenish skin turn creamy-yellow. If they ripen on the tree, local birds and bats feast on the delicious fruit (Photo 3).  Sometimes, overmature fruits burst while attached to the branch.
Photo 3. Damaged, overmature atis may have burst or been partially eaten by a bat
(Photo by S. Suson)

Thanks for reading about my appreciation for Nature’s ice cream trees. Enjoy the rest of your week. And I hope you get to sweeten your weekend with some fresh atis.

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Terrific AgroforesTrees

By Michelle Domocol

Inflourish: Cebu Blog

In previous articles, I described the environmental recovery and reforestation techniques practiced at Healing Present. In this post, I’d like to continue our chat about agroforestry and forest restoration.

We select a variety of indigenous trees that will survive the current conditions of Healing Present’s site. We also choose them for the ecological benefits. Generally, all of the species chosen for reforestation enrich the land by:

  • increasing soil fertility,
  • supporting native wildlife,
  • feeding food pollinators like bees and butterflies, and
  • controling soil erosion
Photo 1. Healing Present crew grow, plant, and monitor the health of the native agroforest trees.

Healing Present’s crew cultivates hundreds of tree species (Photo 1). Many of these species are already established or waiting to be planted. The current rainy season and typhoon repairs delay our progress sometimes. But I want to highlight 5 indigenous trees and the important roles they play in our restoration:

1. Toog (Petersianthus quadrialatus)

When respected and left alone, this towering giant can grow to 65 meters. As part of an agroforest and restoration site, Toog has the ability to repel pests like destructive woodboring beetles. Toog are homes to important wildlife and mitigate the loss of tropical forest biodiversity.

2. Dakit (Ficus benjamina)

On a sunny day, you’d want rest against a Dakit’s trunk and under its canopy. On average, its leaves and branches spread to a 21-meter crown. The canopy provides the best shade for people, shade-loving plants, and animals. Thankfully, the shade also suppresses sun-loving weeds. On top of that, Dakit attracts vital seed-spreading wildlife like birds and bats. It can endure degraded soil and quickly occupy abandoned areas that need reforestation.

3. Kapok (Bombax ceiba)

Traditionally, Kapok’s seeds and pink blossoms were used for food and medicine. In Healing Present, kapok is primarily planted for its ecological functions. Like Dakit, it can quickly occupy barren woodland. Its fragrant flowers also attract key pollinators like bees and birds. In addition, a 25-meter tall Kapok tree can serve as a boundary marker. A group of Kapok can also form a living fence.

4. Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa)

Banaba (Photo 1) is more than the gorgeous purple flowers. Agroforesters treasure banabas and their ability repair unstable soils, control erosion, and add nutrients to formerly degraded forests. Beyond those incredible qualities, banaba can be pruned. The pruned leaves, fruit, and branches can be food for livestock and medicine.

5. Kamagong (Diospyrus blancoi)

Finally, we arrived at the beloved Kamagong. With its reddish, velvety mabolo fruit, Kamagong has so much more to offer than furniture timber. Kamagong in restoration projects are amazing partners in soil erosion control and wind-resistance. Wind-breaks and wind-resistant trees are like environmental guardians in a country so vulnerable to typhoons.

There you have it…5 rockstars in Healing Present’s growing reforestation project. I hope you get inspired to learn more about our precious environmental heritage and the various ways to protect it.

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