Gardening in the Tropics

Living in a tropical country means that you are blessed with weather that is conducive to growing plants in your backyard. In the Philippines, the temperature ranges from 27-32 degrees Celsius, although it can get higher due to humidity and the kind of terrain where you plan to garden. Basically, the Central Luzon plains get the most sunlight and plants and vegetables that can tolerate heat are perfect in this area. On the other hand, mountainous regions like the Benguet and the Cordilleras are perfect for growing fruits and veggies that thrive in a temperate climate.





Examples of vegetables that grow best in plains and higher temperature and may be grown in your backyards are tomatoes, sunflowers, okras, peppers, for starters. These are considered high-value crops since you can actually get something out of your plants aside from ornamental purposes. Tomatoes are grown out of seeds using different mediums like vermiculite or soil-less seed starter that is made out of tree fiber. You may also choose to plant seeds directly on loam soil.




Prior to planting seeds directly on loam soil, you must till and aerate the soil and leave it under the sun for 2-3 days to minimize the number of bad bacteria that are naturally present on the soil. These can potentially ruin your crops by stunting growth and producing ugly fruits and vegetables. Moreover, create elevated plots to keep your plants clean and free from puddles of water that drain on lower ground. After you have sun-treated your soil, you may already plant the seeds taking care not to plant too many on one hole. Ideally, you may put 2-3 seeds and space them 5 inches apart. Water them regularly in the morning and in the afternoon just before the sunsets.




If you are going to use soil-less mixes, make sure that you put your seed starter in containers with holes to drain the water. First, soak the mix that you intend to use for starting your tomato seeds. You may plant the seeds in used plastic soda bottles that were cut in half. Follow the same number of seeds and spacing as those that were planted on soil. Seedlings will begin to sprout in 3-4 days if kept under direct sunlight. When this happens, wait until the seedlings have at least 2 sets of leaves (a total of 4) before planting it on to similarly-treated soil.




The same may be done for the okras, peppers, and sunflowers, although you might want to plant just one seed at a time for sunflowers since these could get very big. Transfer them when the seedlings are about 5 inches tall and space them about a foot or two apart. You may also grow them in terra cotta pots that are bought cheaply in Bulacan and Pampanga areas.




Growing these plants and vegetables in your garden is beneficial because crops like pepper, for example, may fetch higher prices during off-season. Growing your own will ensure you have plenty and you won’t have to buy them at incredulous prices. There are potting mixes and seeds available in major supermarkets and malls, make sure to buy those that are locally-produced first prior to experimenting on imported seeds. They are much easier to grow and are twice as hardy because they are well-suited to the climate in the country. A good tomato seeds packet costs approximately 60 pesos, depending on variety. Also, start with a few kinds of fruits and vegetables first, prior to buying lots of kinds to get a feel of backyard vegetable-growing, then you can move on to more difficult kinds to plant when you’ve successfully grown your first batch of easy veggies. Have fun starting your vegetable garden!