Farewell February, Marvel at March!

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

So we ended our first month of Inflourish: Cebu articles and posts! I’ve had so much fun sharing stories about Healing Present’s land management and design. Throughout March, I’ll continue to post fun gardening projects, outdoor design inspiration and land management food-for-thought. I’ll feature:

  • Healing Present’s farm crew & their amazing garden skills
  • Greenhouse management activities
  • Philippine Native re-forestation
  • Indoor Gardening

and more!

In the meantime, click below and download your own free Cebu Planting Calendar. I made it just for you! Enjoy!

A for Agroforestry

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

With Healing Present and other landscape design clients in Cebu, I use agroforestry practices. Agroforestry is a set of sustainable land management strategies practiced globally. These land management practices take many forms and integrate existing and accepted types of farming. In Healing Present, I chose agroforestry as a design approach for their crop systems and forest rehabilitation projects. This design approach met their preferences for organic cultivation and environmental stewardship. If successful, agroforestry can achieve goals that are important to me, my clients and maybe you too. These goals include:

  • increase organic crop productivity
  • restore and conserve local native plant and wildlife biodiversity
  • maintain a healthy and clean water supply

Agroforesters in the Philippines commonly include practices like shaded perennial intercropping, living fences, erosion-control vegetation strips, and windbreaks. To learn more about agroforests in other countries, click here.

Don’t worry if these terms are new to you. Below is an example of how these strategies are combined in a landscape.

As you can see Photo 1, three main components are included in this agroforestry system. The shorter perennial food and medicinal crops occupy the central food gardens. Then the outer layers are taller fruit trees and native habitat species. If site conditions were favorable, you could even grow some of those shorter perennial species under the tree canopy. The vegetation strip with native trees serves as natural erosion control. Th trees’ roots stabilize the soil and reduce major landslides. In practice, these species are not frequently managed. Instead, they are monitored monthly and designated as a biodiversity corridor.

Less visits from the farm crew and others humans allow shy wildlife to feel safer in a new biodiversity corridor. The native species also:

  • increase the land’s soil fertility,
  • provide nutrient-rich mulch layers
  • regulate nitrogen cycles, and
  • support local food pollinators.

The staggered rows of fruit trees are both windbreak and living fences. This means some species protect crops, farm facilities and local wildlife from storm damage and high winds. As a living fence, a group of the fruit trees demarcate property boundaries. The fruit species are situated closer to the central food gardens. They are seasonally harvested for personal and commercial use. The central food gardens are cultivated and managed daily. Other examples of agroforestry systems include the following combos:

  • Sample 1. Taro, Sweet potato, Pineapple, Breadfruit, Mango, Papaya
  • Sample 2. Cassava, Pili, Chayote, Coconut, Guava, Leafy Vegetables
  • Sample 3. Shade tolerant herbs and yams with Sun-loving Native tree species like Talisay, Molave and Narra

The planting design must reflect your site conditions, harvest needs and environmental goals. For instance, Sample 1 is full of species for food harvests, soil improvement, and windbreaks. Sample 2 is great for food harvest, medicinal uses, and living fencing. Sample 3 can provide erosion control, food harvests, habitat restoration, and soil improvement.

I also practice agroforestry because the methods aim to address Philippines’ major environmental crises. Many agroforestry practitioners in the Pacific and Southeast Asia recognize biodiversity conservation needs to be integrated into agricultural landscapes. This action reduces the direct pressure agriculture can play when practiced with destructive land conversion, chemical-based fertilization, and crop cultivation that depletes soil. Through my environmental studies and research in Cebu, I learned we need biodiversity preservation and ecological health. We also need food systems that safeguard biodiversity and the sustainable use of our natural resources. Beyond human needs, the indigenous wildlife of greater Luzon, Mindoro, western Visasays, Mindanao and Sulu have suffered species losses from weakly managed wildlife reserves.

Unsustainable agriculture and biodiversity loss directly impact our economic health. Millions of Filipinos depend on the services and biological products of functioning forests and ecosystems. Without functioning forests, coastal storm buffers, fertile soil, and healthy watersheds, we are susceptible to natural disasters, commercial market instability, widespread malnutrition and a degraded water supply. Cebuanos know all too well, the price we pay for rapid, exploitative urbanization, massive deforestation, and coastal degradation.

It’s no wonder, agroforestry is selected as a land management approach in the Philippines.

If practiced successfully, agroforestry can increase harvest yields, improve soil fertility, restore habitats, and protect watersheds from agricultural chemicals. Indeed, agroforests can’t substitute well-preserved natural ecosystems. And it’s certainly not a panacea. But perhaps it’s a step in a beneficial direction.

Camote, February’s Featured Crop

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

Want a fun, plant-powered recipe for your vegetable harvests? Check out Healing Present’s e-books. And great news, later in February, I’ll post downloadable gardening pamphlets, educational posters and e-books just for you. For now, enjoy some quick techniques on camote care.

1) HOW DO I EAT & COOK CAMOTE (SWEET POTATO)? I grew up with classic recipes like Camote-Cue (Caramelized Sweet Potato) and Camote Tops Salad. The leaves, purple camote and orange camote tubers are so delicious, versatile and nutritious.

2) WHEN DO I GROW CAMOTE IN CEBU? Generally January to March, November to December. But it always helps to ask experienced gardeners, farmers or plant nursery staff for your area’s specific planting seasons. Local knowledge is golden.

3) IS THERE AN SAMPLE LAYOUT WITH CAMOTE AND COMPLEMENTARY PLANTS? Yes! Here’s a diagram with camote, eggplants, mixed with beneficial flowers like iris and purslane. And here’s an article that more vegetable garden combinations.

ANY SPECIAL TIPS FOR GROWING CAMOTE (SWEET POTATO)? Here are general tips and reminders for growing camote. If you want a more detailed description for growing and harvest, later in February I will post special, illustrated downloadable gardening guide.

  • Grow camote in a sunny location where it’s exposed to 6 hours of sunlight. Camote thrives in garden soil with good drainage and lots of organic matter. If you have low-quality soil, you can mix the soil with earthworm vermicast (“worm manure”), aged compost or other sources of organic matter.
  • Remember to plant vine cuttings or clean, sprouted camote tubers. These tubers are called slips. One way to plant slips is by burying them at a 45-degree angle, leaving the sprouting end exposed.
  • Harvest the camote tops or young shoots any time while you wait for the camote roots. The roots require more patience. It can take 4 months to harvest them.
  • If your harvest camoted has cracks and rough skin, your soil needs organic matter.
  • Heavy, clay with lots of limestone rocks soil is common in Cebu. This isn’t ideal for camote. So plant your camote in large containers like a raised bed with light, well-draining for the best harvest. In Healing Present, we even designed custom raised beds with netting to help with drainage. Check out pics in this link.