Sunday, June 4, 2023

Urban Gardening 30 Storeys Up and Lessons in Sowing & Growing

Growing Genovese Basil from seeds was worth it
It's not the first time I sowed seeds ever since I've moved abodes last year but this is the first time I did so with the earnestness of before when I had a thriving ledge garden patch. The weather's like scorching hot the past month or so but there has been some rains and a typhoon (Betty aka Mawar) lately. Judging from my experiences last year when I was sidelined for almost four months by Long COVID that the adjacent buildings create a funnel effect that make what can be somewhat innocuous winds be blustery and at times, a bit of a concern. 

Typhoon Betty may have missed making landfall but even then, we felt the effects of the windy conditions here in Metro Manila. My 20-year old hulking ZZ plant, the only survivor of my former ledge garden, got toppled by the wind. My insulin plant showed some signs of weariness. Even if my young basil plant tended to dance with the wind, it nearly dried out because of the windy, drying conditions. Even then, I sowed some seeds of hope -- upland kangkong (water spinach), ampalaya (bitter gourd), sage, lettuce, pepper, and even a narra (genus Pletocarpus) seed I found stashed in my cache. My weekends have turned into back to the earth episodes which I really miss.

Quick grower ampalaya

The kangkong and lettuce took merely days to sprout though the lettuce seedlings seem to mind the windy conditions more. The ampalaya took just a week to sprout and after leaving the ground, the leaves and stems seem to grow within hours which I find incredible. Whether I can make a trellis to let it climb to fruiting stage is something I'll deliberate later but for now, I'm enjoying the growing stage. 

My chili pepper seeds sowed two weeks ago did not germinate so I sowed anew, this time using the long variety. It took almost 10 days for them to germinate but I'm glad they did. I use a lot of pepper in cooking so I want to look forward to being able to harvest them fresh.

Upland kangkong flourishing
I hope the weather stays a bit warm for my sage seeds to germinate in another two weeks. I'm also optimistic that the narra seeds I found tucked n an airtight Nalgene bottle will still germinate. I miss my 3 footer narra seedling which I had to tuck indoors because of a nosy new neighbor in my former abode. Talk about people who seem to hate nature.

In any case, there's a challenge to gardening in a balcony 30 storeys up. I'm thankful I get reflected light in the morning, and direct sunlight from noon till sunset. However, the wind funnel effect created by the nearby buildings is something I have to work around. 

Last year, in the midst of Long COVID and the strings of typhoons, the wind kept the windows and doors of my home sing with the constant drumming. Even my front door kept to the beat as the wind entering the hallways also create a wind funnel effect. The same thing can be said of late. It's tricky as no amount of netting may protect my plants, what with the wind occasionally carrying off roofing materials and pots from other balconies.

Pepper seeds finally germinated

Anyway, I'm still trying. I'm not the type to tolerate not having something green and growing where I live. Until I can compile enough leaves at work if I make it past probation (or win my share of good fortune) so I can go back to the mountains, this is what will suffice for the moment. If I can grow even just a bit of my own food (or even just herbs), I'd be happy.

P.S. 1 - I did away with using popsicle sticks for marking the planting pots. In the long run, using plastic knives may be more environmentally sound as they can be recycled - just sandpaper to remove the markings. They won't rot with repeated watering and exposure to the elements.

P.S. 2 - I tried upcycling empty egg cartons as seedling starter trays but in the blustery conditions, the thin layer of soil and lightness of the container just can't deal with the wind. Better to stick with pots from hereon.





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