First things first, let us define certain words or terms that we have been using here and will use in subsequent columns. Letâ€™s get these technicalities over and done with, after which we can concentrate on farming and appreciating the fruits of our labor. I got some definitions from a booklet of Botanical Interests, Inc., a seed company in Colorado, USA.Â Â And I have added my own insights and research materials. Let us learn together.
Open-pollinatedÂ seeds are varieties that are pollinated naturally by wind or insects without human intervention.Â Â These seeds will be true to the original variety.
HeirloomÂ seeds are open-pollinated varieties that has been passed down through the generation or at least 50 years.
HybridÂ is a variety created by crossing two separate varieties to achieve desirable characteristics.Â Â A hybrid tomato, for example, may have been created to have excellent disease resistance, produce uniform, prolific fruit, or have superior flavour.Â Â If you save the seeds from a hybrid though, the resulting fruit may revert back to the characteristics of one of its parents.
GMO or genetically modified organism or genetically engineered organism.Â Â Take note, they are not even called plants, they are simply organisms.Â Â Botanical Interest does not sell GMOs.Â Â These varieties have had their DNA scientifically altered to make them more pest, disease or chemical resistant.
GMO seeds are controversial because no one is sure of their long term effects on the environment and to people.Many countries have rejected the use of GMOs for food, feeds or propagation.Â Â There have already been reports of less than ideal effects of GMOs.
Unfortunately, according to Greenpeace Philippines, our Department of Agriculture, through the Bureau of Plant Industryâ€™s Clarito Barron, has already â€śreviewed and approvedâ€ť 67 genetic modifications of plants, or what scientists call transformation events.In a statement, Barron said, â€śOf these transformation events, eight are set to receive government approval for propagation.â€ťÂ Â The plants under study include variants of corn, soy beans, potatoes, cotton, alfalfa, canola and sugar beet.Right now, Greenpeace Philippines reported that the GMOs in the Philippines are: (1) For importation as food, feed and processing; and (2) For commercial propagation.
Greenpeace Philippines said that field testing of GMO varieties is to find â€śsubstantial equivalence.â€śÂ Â â€śIt is not a safety assessment but only establishes that food derived from GMOs should be considered the same as and as safe as a conventional food if it demonstrates the same characteristics and composition as the conventional food.â€ť
Here in the Philippines, there is a growing concern and protest against GMOs. I donâ€™t know about you, but I am not planting and eating anything GMO.Â Â That is why we need to plant our own food or buy from known sources.Â Imported veggies and meat are suspect, as far as I am concerned. The cows, pigs and chicken from which those meat and meat products were derived might have been fed GMO feeds.Â Â Ngek!Â Â If you need more information about GMO, please ask Mr. Google.
OrganicÂ refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed.Â Â Organic seed, much like organic food production, is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic pesticides and inorganic fertilizers.Â Â The ecological management system promotes and enhances promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity.
Botanical Interests organic seeds are â€śCertified Organicâ€ť which means that their seeds and packaging facility have been inspected and meet strict standards set forth by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture).
In many countries, including the Philippines, seeds are properly labelled as hybrid, heirloom, open-pollinated or organic.Â Â GMOs are not labelled.Â Â Â By next year, according to the implementing rules of the Organic Agriculture Act, only products from farms that are â€śCertified Organicâ€ť can be labelled â€śorganic.â€ť
AÂ PerennialÂ is a variety that you plant once and stays with you for as long as conditions (sun, soil, water) for their blooming remain beneficial or for at least two years. The advantage of a perennial is that it doesnâ€™t need to be replanted every year. A disadvantage is that it has a shorter bloom period than most annuals. When choosing perennials for your garden, mix varieties with different bloom periods so that you have color in your garden over a longer period of time. Examples are hibiscus, sampaguita, rosal, aster, chrysanthemum, asparagus, chard, kangkong, alugbati, talinum, purslane, sweet potato,Â Â herbs, kiwi, berries, arugula, garlic, garlic chives, land cress, ginger, sorrel, yakon, yam, sayote, shrubs and trees.
AnÂ annualÂ plant is a plant which blooms only once, during its annual cycle.Â Â However, they may produce seeds that will germinate and regrow soon after they die.Â Â There is no guarantee that those plants will be identical to the original plants. Annuals usually bloom for a longer time period than perennialsâ€”in many cases they bloom most of the growing season.
Examples of annuals are petunia, marigold, cosmos, pechay, lettuce, mustard, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, grains, beans, beets, cantaloupe, artichoke, celery, collard, cucumber, eggplant, kale, leeks, okra, onion, hot peppers, sweet pepper, squash, spinach, tomato, watermelon and many others. The list is long because almost all vegetables are annuals.I belong to several groups of farmers in Facebook (Home Farmers Club, Natural Farming, Organic Farming, SOAP, PNFI, Agriculture, and others).
That is why I am able to â€śborrowâ€ť pictures of plants.Â Â Most discussions focus on how to germinate, sow and maintain plants, and how to combat common problems like plant diseases, pests and others.Letâ€™s learn about common seed challenges and solutions from Botanical Interests, Inc., and my own research and experience and from my FB friends.
Seed germination problems.Â Â Seeds may not sprout if a) unusually cool or wet weather occurs,Â Â b) if planted too early when soil temperatures havenâ€™t warmed up sufficiently,Â Â c) if seeds are not sown at the recommended depths and/orÂ Â d) if seeds are not kept consistently moist.Â Â Your commercial seed packets would have sowing information.
Soil.Â Â Â Donâ€™t overfertilize your vegetable garden.Â Â Excess nitrogen can sometimes cause excessive foliage growth and few flowers or vegetables.Â Â Usually adding ample organic material to your garden soil every three months will supply sufficient nutrients.Â Â Common natural fertilizer used are vermicast, fowl and farm animal manure, green fertilizer such as forage and cover crops and natural farming technologies such as fermented fruit juice, fermented plant juice, indigenous microorganism (IMO), fish/snail amino acid (FAA), calcium phosphate, water soluble calcium and water soluble phosphoric acid and prepared organic solutions like Fertalive.Â Â Fertalive is 100% organic concentrated solution developed by John Evans, a 9-time Guinness Book of Records holder for biggest vegetables and fruits, manufactured here in the Philippines using local materials.
Diseases.Â Â Many plant diseases can be prevented by starting with high quality seeds and good gardening practices such as rotating your crops to different locations within your vegetable garden and cleaning your gardening tools regularly.Â Â A good cleaning solution is orange peel soaked in vinegar for 10 days.Â Â Example of natural defensive concoctions for plants are lactic acid bacteria serum (LABS).
Pests.Â Â Old fashioned, low tech and chemical free options should always be the first line of defence against insects and are usually effective.Â Â Natural attractants for flying insects are flavour and fragrance (oriental herbal nutrients or OHN and ginger-garlic extract), FAA and fluorescent light.
Sunlight.Â Â Vegetables and most flowers crave sunlight.Â Â Without enough of it, they get leggy and donâ€™t produce vegetables or flowers.Â Â Â Most vegetables need at least 8-10 hours of direct (not static) sunlight.Â Â Some root crops (carrots, beets) and leaf crops (lettuce, kale) can manage with 6 hours of direct sun.Â Â Â See your flower and seed packets for individual recommendations.
Weeds.Â Â Weeds compete with plants for water, light and nutrients.Â Â They can also harbour harmful insects and diseases.Â Â Keep your flowers and vegetable beds and containers weeded at all times, particularly during initial seedling emergence.
Mulch.Â Â Mulch is a layer of almost anythingâ€”grass clipping, leaves, coco coir or coco peat, artificial materials such as landscaping fabric and plasticâ€”which is placed on the surface of the soil to keep the soil moisture in and prevent weeds from coming up.Â Â Mulch should be applied strictly enough, several inches if possible to keep weed seedlings from emerging.Â Â Some perennial weeds will still make it through the mulch, but because the soil below is moist (because of the protective layer of mulch), these weeds will be easier to pull.
There, next column, we shall discuss how to sow, treat and handle seeds and seedlings with tender loving care.Â Meantime, enjoy your urban farm.Â Â If you donâ€™t have it yet, visualize one and letâ€™s make it a reality.