NO rain again in our little garden nook! But it’s ok, because we had started to plant while it was raining and we have done a lot of mulching, keeping the topsoil drenched for months. We will test the tree seedlings that we had outplanted during the rainy months that extended until late October. Thanks to the typhoons!
Our tree seedlings have acclimatized. Most have grown twice their original size. While others are enjoying the sun, some wilted due to lack of rain. Supa, a native tree, is among the first casualties. Another is a little guyabano that must have been too young to be dropped into the wild.
“It’s ok,” said my mentor, Celso Salazar, president of Pangasinan Native Tree Enthusiasts. He added that even in the forest, some wildlings die when the sun is too hot and there are no caretaker plants around it.
These are pioneer trees that act as shields for young trees. These also store rainwater in their roots to share the moisture to plants around them when there is no rain.
Among caretaker plants that birds plant in meadows are Binunga and Alim. These usually grow on areas that are not planted to anything and these provide shelter to birds and other meadow creatures. Thanks to caretaker trees, we have a place to rest when the sun is too hot to handle.
Our narra trees are now robust and spreading their branches. Also their roots are fixing nitrogen to enliven other plants around them.
Now we are expecting our eggplants to produce more. These are right under one of four narra trees that we nurture.
By the way, along with one narra, we also planted catmon, macopa, talisay and coconut in our bid to harvest the rain. Narra, catmon and talisay are native trees whose roots go straight into the soil subsurface. Their leaves tend to cover the topsoil with nutrient-filled humus, enriching and detoxifying it in the process. Humus or decaying matter on the soil surface also hosts useful living creatures. Some insect larvae also live under the fallen leaves that we had decided long ago not to burn.
In the meantime that our trees are growing, my Kuya tried to plant some okra, sitaw, squash and upo under the bush-sized trees that we outplanted last year. He dug square pits – two cubic feet on the sandy soil. He dumped dried leaves and cow dung in these pits, then sowed squash, upo, sitaw and okra. Two months later, we are now enjoying a daily harvest of okra, squash flowers we call burak and from time to time kalabasa. Sadly we lost our first two upos to people who visit our garden when we were not looking.
There are stray cows and it makes us feel good to say that the cows took away our upo. Kuya waters the pits with water in which he soaked cow dung. The results are satisfying. We have a lot of harvests to share with people around us. My sister-in-law comes daily to help with the daily harvest. Some cousins who live nearby also come once in a while to check on us and to share in garden tasks.
I realized that Kuya is the agriculturist among us. He does engineering work like trellises, repairs and maintains our little farm shack, does waterworks and an irrigation system and plants trees. And most of all he maintains our tree nursery.
He does all these a little time each day. He does not stay for the night in the garden but comes daily to do all these. When we leave the garden for some time out, he also feeds farm animals mornings and afternoons. His son and grandson help around every other day to check on the planting sites and farm animals.They also come to harvest produce.
Notice that we do not include watering in delegated tasks. We used to do it ourselves. However, my Kuya recently devised a watering system involving a big water container and a long hose. The container filled with gray strained water, or with which green leaves have been fermented, is positioned near the water pump. Water is then siphoned to areas needing water.
This new method provides us more time to do other tasks for the garden.
In the absence of the rainy season, we have positioned our nursery near water pumps and under fully grown trees. However, we noticed that acacia roots get inside our seedling bags, taking nutrients and water from our seedling bags. Again it was Kuya who noticed that his seedlings were wilting. He found out that fine roots invaded his nursery. To remedy this, he lined the area with old tarpaulin to protect the nursery seedlings. By the way, the tarp also keeps seedling roots from getting inside the soil.
We will be losing some of our tree seedlings to the hot summer again, but we are more optimistic this time about coping with the incoming dry months.