July Joys & August Arrivals

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

How has your farm or garden faired in the July weather? Are you letting your soil rest and adding layers of nutrient-rich compost? Or maybe you’re harvesting some fruits?

This July, I spent my summer enjoying new places and learning a new language. But now August has arrived and I’m ready to share more design and garden inspiration.

Throughout August, I’ll post more design inspiration for food production, outdoor relaxation, and habitat restoration. I’ll feature:

○ Seasonal fruits available in August
○ Indigenous Philippine re-forestation species
○ Terrace Gardening
○Unique Floral Arrangements
○ Outdoor Eco-Activities for Children & the Young at Heart

and more! Also remember to check out my other blog, Inflourish: Around the World, to learn about gardening techniques in environments and gardens outside the Philippines.



August Arrival: Caimitos

In the meantime, did you know many delicious fruits are available in August because they need the dry season to develop their fruits. Caimitos (star fruits) are one of those delectable fruits available in August. Check your local vendor to see if they are available particular area. Before caimitos reach your local markets, they are grown in the ground or in containers.

Here are some tips to help you grow caimitos in your garden:

  1. Many experienced gardeners plant caimito seeds just before the rainy season. For beginners, I suggest you get a healthy young caimito sapling (aka a young caimito tree) to plant in a container or in the soil. Plant your young caimito sapling in a spot with full sun exposure. These plants thrive with sunlight and warm soils. Ideally, your soil should have great drainage. But I’ve seen caimitos thrive in poor soils around Cebu.
  2. If you have a small caimito sapling, make sure your hole is 3 times the diameter of the container. Dig a hole as deep as the container so the roots remain healthy.
  3. Fill in the hole with soil and water thoroughly. Make sure the water is directed at the roots.
  4. Fertilize your caimito every 2 months within the first year of planting your sapling. You can use vermicompost with rice hulls or other types of mature compost. After the first year, you can apply the organic fertilizer to the soil around the caimito 3 times a year.
  5. Make sure the caimito is watered every two days for the first week of planting. Then reduce the watering to 2 times a week for the first two months. Increase the frequency during the dry season. And reduce watering during the rainy season.

Kamunggay, March’s Featured Crop

By Michelle Domocol

Inflourish: Cebu Blog

Kamunggay (aka malunggay or moringa) is an absolutely delicious crop filled with amazing qualities. The tree’s leaves can be harvested and transformed into classic soups, stews, sauces and pestos. You can blend them and make sweet shakes, smoothies and sorbets. If you have the equipment, you can extract the medicinal oil from kamunggay’s seed pod. The leaves can also be pulverized into a fertilizer for vegetable crops.

To top it all off, the kamunggay is intrinsically valuable without harvesting. It provides food and shelter to important birds and wildlife. The tree also improves the surrounding with nitrogen and macro-nutrients. Kamunggay is globally known so I recommend you research how different cultures around the world grow, harvest, and benefit from this wondrous, miracle tree.

Below are general gardening procedures and my planting maps for a small agroforestry plot in Healing Present. The main trees were limonsito and kamunggay. As seen in the cross-section diagram in Photo 1, they were planted along a hill and served as erosion control.

Photo 1. Planting Map (top) with cross-section (bottom) of agroforestry tree combination

After planting the rows of kamunggay seedlings, the crew waited a few weeks for them to mature. Afterwards, they planted the calamansi seedlings. Mani-mani was planted in between the rows of trees. All of these species thrived in full sun exposure and nitrogen-rich soil.

To learn more about agroforests, click here.

Here are more quick-reference Kamunggay Highlights:

WHAT DOES KAMUNGGAY NEED TO GROW WELL? Kamunggay loves sunny areas. Although the tree is drought tolerant, they can be watered to make sure the roots spread and become healthy.

HOW DO I PLANT IT? Plant healthy seedlings that are at least 5 weeks old rather than seeds. When transferring the seedling into the soil, try not to disturb the root system. Make sure you hole is filled with vermicompost and loose soil. If you’re planting multiple trees in a row, the space between each tree should be 2 meters.

HOW DO I HARVEST KAMUNGGAY? It depends on which part of this amazing tree you want. Most Cebuanos harvest the leaves. Do not wash kamunggay branches or leaves before stripping off the leaves. Pull the leaves off the branches first, in a stripping motion, and then simply rinse them.

Photo 2. Iced Kamunggay Almond dessert (top) and Mango Kamunggay Pesto (bottom)

HOW DO I EAT KAMUNGGAY? Kamunggay is a delicious way to get your daily doses of Vitamin A, C, E, Iron, and Potassium.

My lola used to make soup with kamunggay, sayote, kalabasa, and the best broth. Photo 2 shows Kamunggay ice cream and Mango Kamunggay pesto.

If you’d like the recipes, check out Healing Present’s recipe online book store. Contact healingpresent@gmail.com if you are outside the Philippines and want copies of these recipe books.

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.

Raising Blooming Food & Blossoming Students!

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog
Young visitors at Healing Present growing herbs in the Edible Buffet garden

In Healing Present’s Edible Buffet garden, children planted herbs, veggies and flowers. This interplanting method was readily used. With this type of planting scheme, you too can build simple and fun children’s gardens. If you’re a teacher in an outdoor classroom, you can have a steady harvest of edible plants for scrumptious meals with garden-based activities. Your classes’ flowers primarily attract beneficial insects that help your veggies and herbs grow. As you learn what grows well in your area encourage students to experiment every season. Add new varieties. Ask your students to record and journal what plant varieties were bountiful. Your garden can change every season so why not keep it thriving and buzzing with engaged students and blooming food. Below are more tips and insights to building educational and productive raised bed gardens.

When I’m designing and growing raised bed gardens in outdoor classrooms, students love combining flowers and edible crops. Some projects allow a more collaborative garden planning process with students. This is a key teaching method for student involvement and project engagement. When we plan together, we invite inspiration and

  • list down student’s favorite meals,
  • browse through inspiring online art and illustration websites
  • peruse seed catalogs or
  • visit botanical gardens to brainstorm the best and most meaningful plant selection.

In this collaborative, student-centered method, students determine what grows in the garden. They help direct the artistic and scientific investigation in their outdoor classroom. Through their involvement, I want the students to care and feel connected to the garden. As they contribute planning input, they may engage more with fellow students and their lessons. If they grow vegetables and herbs they recognize from their favorite meals and snacks, they may feel more invested.

I also want them to incorporate flowers they remember from past vacations or field trips. Memories of food and exciting field trips reinforces continuity between old and new concepts.

As a teacher and designer, I sometimes wish we could grow and build everything our students want. But that’s not always possible. At best, we can grow a simple cross section of our student’s requests. Thankfully, simplicity can breed focus and innovation.

Many new garden-based teachers ask themselves what grows well together? What plants are easy to grow?

Well there are a multitude of approaches and answers to these questions. One method I favor is organic, chemical-free interplanting. It’s a safe and fun way to interplant a combo of flowers, herbs and vegetables with students.

Here are some planting combinations our team has planted in the Eastern US, California, and Healing Present:

  • cluster of large wooden barrels planted with masses of bokchoy and napa cabbage were interplanted with dill. Separate raised beds of sunflowers were installed beside the bok choy and napa cabbage
  • Raised beds with Rows of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage interplanted with marigolds. At the edge of each row, Queens’s Anne’s lace, lamb’s quarters, golden rod
  • Paths lined with dwarf bean varieties; every fourth bean plant was combined with zinnias and tansies
Photo 1. Raised beds and container gardens in Healing Present

Whether in class or at home, choose a raised bed that suits you or the end user. Be it students, your family, or fellow community members. Match the raised bed to the specific needs of your end users. Who’s primarily gardening in the garden? You? Taller, Adult students? Younger, shorter students? Visitors with specific mobility needs? When you’re planning, take the time to investigate raised bed products or build custom raised beds. In Healing Present, different raised beds and container gardens that serve various visitors, farmers’ needs and the requirements of our clay, rocky soil. Photo 1C shows raised beds that accommodate visitors with wheelchairs and limited mobility in their backs. Photo 2 shows my designs for seated planters. These suit gardeners who’d prefer or need to physically sit while taking care of plants.

Photo 2. Planters and Raised beds with attached seats.

Choose or design raised beds with features that accommodate the height of your students. Photo 3 displays a variety of planting combos and raised bed materials. Photo 3A shows a raised bed with a durable, plastic basket weave frame. Inside, you can plant flowers like Iris and purslane and vegetables like purple camote (sweet potato) and munggos (mung bean).

Photo 3. A) Durable, Outdoor plastic Bed with camote, eggplant, iris and purslane B) A speckled, concrete raised bed frame with Canna and cosmos flowers interplanted with eggplant and kamatis (tomato); C) A treated hardwood raised bed with yellow and red canna flowers mixed with cabbage varieties (like napa) and bok choy; D)A corrugated aluminum raised bed with blooming coleus and cosmos; alongside delicious basil and raddish.

In Photo 1, Healing Present use small containers, coconut shells and green roofs to substitute our site’s ground is naturally rocky and heavy soil. So we can’t directly plant in the ground all the time. Sometimes our vegetables and herbs grow better with lighter soil with less rocks. So we give it to them in containers. In Photo 4A, you can see Healing Present bed frames are made of local fish netting in protective greenhouses. This helps our farmers increase harvest yield, improves the drainage of our rocky soil and protects the bok choy and lettuce from pests and wind. Photo 4B also shows kale thriving in a netting raised bed with lighter soil, vermicasts, and compost.

We offer health education and aim to treat illnesses with nutrition and holistic therapies

Towering Pergolas in Children’s Gardens

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

When I designed a children’s garden for Healing Present and other schools in the Philippines, I needed an special architectural element that would impress students. One structure wowed children: Living Arches. Living arches can be rectangular pergolas, curved arbors, or archways filled with growing vines, ephiphytes, flowers, or edible flora.

Children are awed by towering structures that gently envelop a space. Arches strewn with plants can make a garden entrance, stairway or outdoor path magical. Interactive pergolas and archways can be a delightful design choice. In Healing Present’s, I designed pergolas with edible fruiting vines, berry shrubs and flowers. This design facilitates fun harvesting activities and healthy fruit snacking.

Photo 1. One of the Healing Present pergolas with herbaceous borders along the path.

I made sure the plant varieties for Healing Present’s pergolas produced eye-catching shades of red, pink, orange and yellow petals or fruit. The edible fruits were multiple passionfruit types varying from yellow, purple, red and green hues.

Other seasonal planting schemes included:

  • Aromatic Shrubs/Trees: Acerola Berry, Bengal Berry, Cinnamon Tree
  • Fruit Vines: Apple guava passionfruit, Cherry Passionfruit
  • Edible and Medicinal Groundcovers: Cosmos, Mitsuba, thai basil, holy basil, Vietnamese coriander, Lemon Grass

Overall a broad biodiversity occupied the pergolas and archways. Some of the pergolas included herbaceous borders (Photo 1) and playground features (Photo 2) beside or underneath the pergola. This gave children a visual and edible feast at their feet and above their heads. The delicious assortment of tastes, sounds, textures, aromas and tasty treats were a sensory treat.

Photo 2. A) Custom-made “monkey bars” B) Slide C & D) Swinging Rope Bridge