City gardening

The Joy of Urban Farming

Study where the sun shines when setting up an herb garden. Photo by Moje Ramos-Aquino for

I have an open garage cum farmlet in my front yard. About 18 square meters is planted to atis (sweet sop), langka (jackfruit), kamias, palm, ylang-ylang and mango. I eat the atis fruit once a week (if the bats and birds do not beat me to the ripe ones). Kamias fruits are used to season my food and when there is a lot of them, I make them into candied kamias. My langka are the sweetest of all and I harvest two to three big fruits once a year. I use the extra for ginataang langka(cooked in coconut milk). The mango tree has not produced any fruit yet. The ylang-ylang gives my whole yard a wonderful scent, especially at night. My neighbors partake of the fruits anytime for free, they just need to knock.

Atis ready for the picking in the author's urban farm. Photo by Moje Ramos-Aquino for

It is a delight to wake up early, and sit on my terrace amidst my herbs and spices garden while sipping my tarragon tea and making plans for my day. I also spend lazy Saturdays and most evenings in the terrace with my books and tea. And I am earning from my farmlet already. I sell my seedlings, organic fertilizer, organic soil and other farm inputs.

Ah, the joys of farming in the city.

The author in her farmlet. Photo courtesy of Moje Ramos-Aquino for

Starting your urban farm
Having an urban farm need not be expensive. It also serves another purpose—recycling.

First, clean up your space—backyard, front yard, terrace, windowsills, laundry area, alleyways, and other vacant spaces around your house or condo unit. Don’t kill spiders because they are harmless and they eat insects that might harm your plants.

Study where the sun shines most and which parts are shaded. Some plants like full sun (8 hours), others, partial sun (4 hours) and some, full shade. Vegetables and herbs like full sun.

Second, take a mental picture of your future garden. Given your space and the availability of sunshine, what do you see planted in there? Do you want fruit trees? Ornamentals? Vegetables? Herbs and spices? Do you a space for a pond?

What will be its physical requirements from you? Gardening, health buffs would say, is a very good exercise because of the physical exertion, albeit gentle and measured, it requires. Will you be doing a lot of bending and stretching? Will you need to fetch water from a faucet far away or nearby? Will you be working under the sun for a while? How will you address these issues so that you will have unimpeded and enjoyable time in your garden/farmlet?

How do you like to take pleasure in your home garden? How do you like your garden to smell like? Floral? Herbal? Spicy? How do you like it to taste like? Edible? Sour? Sweet? Bitter? Spicy? How do you like the feel of your garden? Smooth? Prickly? Soft to the touch?

Third, start collecting as many used plastic (at least 1liter) bottles of soda, water, vinegar, soy sauce, juice and others. You may also use jute bags; damaged pails, pots and basins; cookies tin cans, thick plastic bags, ice cream cans, and whatever can hold soil and water for some time. Of course, you can always buy those plastic or clay planters.

For your urban farm, unless it is a big tree, I suggest that you don’t plant directly on the ground. It might be better to plant on containers so that you can easily move them around or change the plants anytime. If you have beautiful concrete flooring, you may lay down some tarpaulin to protect it from staining.

Fourth, gather supplies. Gather some small stones and dry them under the sun. Or you can buy small pieces charcoal and rice hull. You will use these for the bottom of your container for drainage, aeration and anchors for the roots. Likewise, you might need to have your own garden gloves, hat, small garden fork and shovel, and pruning scissors.

You’re on to a good start. Next week, we will talk about the most important components of your urban farm—soil, water and sun—before we actually plant.

Italian oregano growing by the windowsill gives off a wonderful fragrance. Photo by Moje Ramos-Aquino for