By LYN V. RAMO
How many city dwellers want to test their green thumb but could not due to lack of space? The Solid Waste Management Division of the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO) shows exactly how the slab roof of its building in New Lucban was converted into a farm of vegetables and flowers.
LUSH BURGUNDY MAYANAS. Framing the stairs with such beauty and color are medicinal herbs and orchids. Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS
Think of a vegetable or an ornamental plant, and chances are these can be found in the roof garden CEPMO staff tend during their free time.
The roof garden started only in March 2005. At present CEPMO personnel boast of bountiful harvests of seasonal and perennial vegetables which they bring home to their respective families from time to time.
Depending on the season, there are gourds, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, ampalaya, okra, sitaw and onions. These remind us of the popular Filipino song Bahay Kubo. This roof garden, however, is in the middle of a concrete jungle of urban landscape.
Imagine strawberries lining a wall, and on the other end arrow roots, intended as an ornamental but accidentally producing the rare root crop only found bountiful in Tuba’s black soil farms. Yakun, the phenomenal medicinal herb which is edible from roots to leaves, also grow in large worn-out plastic trash bins placed in two corners of the roof top. Salad greens such as fancy lettuce, bell peppers, leeks and many others come fresh and crunchy.
Side by side under a nylon roof that gives a greenhouse effect are more ornamental plants. Benguet everlastings planted in plastic chemical containers are almost in bloom. Mayanas in burgundy, red, yellow or green give the rooftop garden a variety of colors. Bigonias and geraniums also lend an array of colors.
Stairs and porches also host more herbal plants like aloe vera, yerba buena and more mayanas. Flowering plants and ground orchids a selection of bromeliads and cymbidiums are among the more expensive ones.
In the backyard, gabi rise up to four feet, sweet potatoes share space with chayotes, and ube wind up the concrete walls.
Asked why the plants are so robust and bear large fruits, Gloria C. Burbano of the Solid Waste Management Division, proudly said the compost from the Irisan dump site nourished the plants.
A snack of boiled young corn on cob satisfy the palate with the distinct fresh harvest goodness usually experience in the corn farms. Similarly, a bucketful of organic salad greens completed a healthy lunch in the office.
“Pagay-ayatak a buyaen dagiti nalalangto a mula. Nakaad-adu nu agbungada ket inaldaw pay nga adda’t maisida,” (It makes me glad to see the robust plants. They bear a lot of fruits that we have something to eat daily) beamed Juanita Baga, 62, a CEPMO staff who tends the rooftop garden with Yolanda Li-is, 45.
GREEN THUMBS. City hall employees Juanita Baga and Yolanda Li-is tend the rooftop garden in New Lucban. Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS
“It is not in our job description to care for the garden, but we find bliss just watering and watching them grow,” Baga added.
Li-is said there are no pests in the garden that biodegradable garbage nourish. She admits, however, that sometimes ammonia is sometimes added to the pots and plots to give the plants added boost.
Of the rooftop garden size, CEPMO’s Ruben Cervantes jestingly says “A three-hectare corn farm is up there on the roof,” adding three boxes may yield as much as a three-hectare farm with compost from the city’s garbage dump.
Now, who says city dwellers cannot try their green thumb for lack of space? A visit to CEPMO’s New Lucban rooftop farm will prove not only the green thumbs can enjoy garden-fresh produce and flowers for the vases daily. #