Archive for the ‘Natural’ Category

Ancient Adlai: an answer to Food Security

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We’re running short of rice. But our country also has an alternative grain. This is the tropical and indigenous ADLAI. It is also called “Job’s Tears.” It’s a versatile grain. Our ancestors cultivated this ancient grain as a staple. The aborigines of Mindanao, considered as the first inhabitants of Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur, have been growing adlai as staple food in the highlands, the same way those in the lowland eat rice. The use of adlai as a staple though has diminished over time.

Adlai grows like grass. You can plant it anywhere and it thrives well despite a harsh climate. After harvesting, Adlai continues to bear grains. When you cut its stalk, a panicle appears again. It is also tolerant to pests and diseases. Farmers can harvest 5 to 6 times a year!

 

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Adlai has been included in DA’s food-security blueprint. It is also part of the Slow Food International Ark of Taste. The grits can also be ground into flour. It can also be made into crackers, rice cake and cookies. It also has 3x more calories and 6x more protein than rice and is regarded as a cure for diabetes. We should learn to eat this indigenous grain like we eat rice.

We grow two varieties: halayhay and Nomiarc dwarf.  We’re saving the seeds of this indigenous cereal and growing more in our farm. There could be enough seeds for everyone. Not only is it a food staple, but we use it as a windbreak and fence, in companion cropping, and especially as part of our ecological pest control.

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Growing Food not Lawns: A Day of Backyard Farming

This workshop is especially for those interested in starting their own backyard garden, urban kitchen garden or small farm while practicing sustainable, holistic and biodynamic methods. We are combining the wisdom and hands-on expertise of real farmers. For would-be and aspiring farmers, this is a rare and powerful learning opportunity.

During the workshop, you will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn to grow healthy food to eat and also have a backyard “farm-acy” for herbs and medicinal plants
  • Gain a basic understanding of biodynamic growing, permaculture, agro-forestry and sustainable agriculture practices.  In particular, we introduce a method of transforming your backyard into a food forest.
  • Make a compost heap
  • Integrate chickens in your garden and learn how to produce your own eggs
  • Learn practical skills to grow food in your backyard or small farm
  • Plan your garden for the year
  • Learn ways of managing insects, attracting beneficials and controlling disease through organic methods
  • Start to culture and raise earthworms in your home
  • Use vermi-compost for your farm

In collaboration with SLOWFOOD MANILA.

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DATE AND TIME:  The Introductory Backyard Farming Workshop will be held on January 28 Saturday.  The Workshop starts at 9AM with a short break in the morning.  Lunch is from 12:30-1:30.  It ends at 4:30- 5:00.  Some practical work is included. We will discuss building soil and composting, growing your garden and pest control.  You will also see our homestead and how we grow our garden at home. 

Want to know how the day will go? Take a peek: backyardschedule-jan28

VENUE

The workshop will be held at Clubhouse of Hacienda Sta. Elena, Barrio Malitlit, Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

EXIT ETON: Turn left on Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road (you will see Paseo de Sta. Rosa on your left.) Go straight until you see Vista Mall on your right.  On your left will be a sign “Sta Elena City.” Make a left into Sta. Elena City (it is before Nuvali). You will pass Fontamara homes, Mesa Homes, Augusta, then you will reach Georgia Club Rotonda. Make right at the Rotonda. It is a long road. You will see walled communities such as Belle Reve on the right. At the end of the road is another Rotonda, make a left. Follow the long road until you see the Hacienda Sta. Elena gate.  Enter the gate and ask for directions to the Clubhouse. 

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Take the bus to Balibago, then take a tricycle ride from Sta. Rosa exit (tricycle terminal) to Sta. Elena City.

MEALS: All meals are included in the workshop fee. Healthy yet scrumptious meals made of local, organic or sustainable ingredients will be served. Please bring your own water bottles, plates and utensils. If you have any food allergies or preferences, please inform us so that we can discuss how your food needs can be met.

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ABOUT THE SPEAKER:

Nicolo Aberasturi is the President of Flower Depot, a flower grower and retailer of organic and bio-dynamic flowers, and the President of DowntoEarth, a grower and supplier of biodynamic vegetables, and pasture-raised meat, pork, dairy, poultry, smoked and cured meats. He is a Trustee of the Organic Producers Trade Association of the Philippines and a member of the Philippine Biodynamics Association.

Nicolo has been in farming for 20 years and began practicing sustainable agriculture in 2004, while applying bio-dynamics in 2007. Today he manages Earth Flora, a vegetable and flower farm in Dahilayan, Bukidnon, using sustainable and humane agricultural practices. In 2011, he returned to his roots in cattle farming and is now working or networking with small family farms, to raise animals in the pasture.

DowntoEarth grows vegetables using bio- dynamics and sustainable practices. It raises livestock sustainably and works with a network of sustainably family farmers and ranchers in Mindanao. All of DowntoEarth’s animals have been raised on pasture. DowntoEarth is dedicated to ensure traditional, all-natural, humane and sustainable methods for growing crops and raising animals for food.

PAYMENT OPTIONS

FEE: P2500 (includes lunch, snack and all course materials.)

P2000 Students/Seniors

Group Discounts are also available.  Scholarships are available.   

Fee includes

• Lecturer, all course materials, healthy and delicious lunch, tea, coffee and water

TO REGISTER: registration-form-jan28

To ensure your place, please send full payment by January 18, 2017.  You can pay via bank deposit or personally at our shop (Makati Curb Holdings,  #7433 Ground Floor, Unit J, Yakal St., San Antonio Village, Makati City.  Alternatively, you can pay us at our DowntoEarth booth in the Salcedo or Legaspi markets on Saturday or Sunday. 

Bank Deposit Details:

Deposit to BPI Account (Arnaiz Ave. branch) Account Name: Earth Flora Inc. Account Number: 9661-0147-65

Checks are accepted. Please issue the check under the name of Earth Flora Inc.

Early registration is advised, as slots are limited. If you have deposited, please scan the deposit slip and email it to info@downtoearth.ph.  Once your payment has been received, confirmation will be sent with a receipt and further details about what to bring.

*Cancellation Policy

If for some reason you cannot make it to the workshop, a fee of P500 will be charged to cover administration costs up to two weeks prior to the commencement of the workshop and the balance will be refunded to you. Within 2 weeks of the workshop commencing however, a 50% cancellation fee will be charged. If for some reason the workshop is cancelled, you will receive at least 2 weeks notice and your full payment will be refunded. 

If you have other questions, please let us know or SMS 0915-8979044.

Seed Bank

“Seeds are more valuable than guns and bullets. –Lucinda Bailey a.k.a. The Seed Lady”

She might be right. Whether it be war or a disaster, seeds may be more valuable than guns and bullets. You can feed your family with seeds you have sown, or with a small patch of vegetables nearby. I still remember the last calamity. Entire communities were going hungry, cut off from the rest of the world. What if they had a homestead, or a community garden nearby?

We ought to start saving seeds. Call it survival packets.

Cherry TomatoSeed saving is an age-old practice. Traditionally, farmers would select the most robust and disease-resistant plants and then save the seeds during a season. With the advent of hybrid seeds however, farmers have stopped the practice of saving their own seeds. This is because seeds harvested from hybrid plants produce seedlings that are unlike and inferior to the parent seed. Also, most of the seeds you purchase are treated with fungicides.

Our small farm has started a seed bank. (Biodynamic practices require the use of untreated seed. One way to ensure that seeds are not treated is by saving the seeds yourself.) We bank on heirloom seeds that are open pollinated. These are seeds that have been handed down and successfully cultivated for generations. A vegetable variety can be considered an heirloom once it has been cultivated for over fifty years. Heirlooms have a different flavor. We have heirloom seeds for tomatoes, eggplant, and some varieties of corn. We even have seeds for purple corn, a locally adapted variety that we got from individual farmers. Heirloom seeds reward us with better tasting produce. Unlike the hybrid varieties, heirlooms can be saved and replanted every year. (Hybrid varieties require planting new seeds every year.) Additionally, heirloom seeds adapt to the location over time and what you have are resilient seeds that will grow abundantly where you are. They are more resistant to disease or to harsh weather.

Heirlooms

We’re looking to save more and more varieties of heirloom vegetables, flowers and herbs. We’re trying to find and collect heirloom varieties and then grow these on site. And then we collect seeds when they are fully ripe and dry.  Easy seeds to collect are from tomatoes and beans. As our climate becomes more erratic, seeds that have been passed down, adapted to our soil, and grown resilient over time, will thrive and produce better crops.

Saving seeds gives us the means to grow our own food. It is the key to food sovereignty because you know how to get food and exactly where it comes from.  A huge chunk of the seed market is already controlled by big companies like Monsanto and Bayer.  These seeds are treated with pesticides, herbicides or are even genetically-modified. If you are able to save your own heirloom, local, open pollinated variety seeds, you are able to replant and regrow them every year, without being dependent on the big companies that patent and control hybrid varieties.

Backyard Farming Workshop this August

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BackyardSeriesSchedule

VENUE
The workshop will be held at the beautifully rustic Pavilion located beside a family farm at Fun Farm Pavilion, Sta. Elena Golf and Country Estate, Barrio Malitlit, Sta. Rosa, Laguna

FROM SLEX / SOUTHBOUND: Exit Cabuyao / Sta Elena. After tollgate, make a right. About 500 meters is the Sta. Elena Village Gate. Enter there and follow the sign to the Fun Farm.

FROM TAGAYTAY/STA ROSA ROAD: Make a left into Sta. Elena City (it is before Nuvali). You will pass Fontamara homes, Mesa Homes, Augusta, then you will reach Georgia Club Rotonda. Make right at the Rotonda. It is a long road. You will see walled communities such as Belle Reve on the right. At the end of the road is another Rotonda, make a left. Follow the long road until you see the Sta. Elena gate on your right. Enter and follow the sign to the Fun Farm.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Take the bus to Balibago, then take a tricycle ride from Sta. Rosa exit (tricycle terminal) to Sta. Elena City.

MEALS: All meals are included in the workshop fee. Healthy yet scrumptious meals made of local, organic or sustainable ingredients will be served by Pizza Morena by Jenny Burns. Please bring your own water bottles, plates and utensils. If you have any food allergies or preferences, please inform us so that we can discuss how your food needs can be met.

PAYMENT OPTIONS
Workshop Fees
Daily Basis: P2400 per day
P1800 Students/Seniors
Complete Entire Series (3 days)
Discounted Rate P7,000
Students/Seniors P5600

*Scholarships are available.  We have installment options too.

Fee includes
• Professional lecturers and experts in their field
• All course materials
• Healthy and delicious lunch, tea, coffee and water

Ecological Pest Management

This is the 6th of a Series on Backyard Farming.  This article deals with natural methods for pest and disease management and control.
We practice ecological pest management in the farm. This means that you manage the ecology of your farm and not just get rid of pests by toxic pesticides.
  • Build a strong ecosystem with healthy soil, mulch and organic fertilizer. Your first line of defense is a healthy soil. Your plants will be healthy if your soil is healthy. Healthy plants will be able to resist insect and disease attack.
  • Mulching is a good way to control pests.  The mulch will house beneficial insects and earthworms.
  • Crop rotation will keep your soils healthy too.  Make sure that plants and not planted on the same spot every time.   Multiple cropping or companion planting also helps rid you of pests and diseases.  These too methods will provide a continuous source of food and encourage beneficials insects to remain in your bed. See article on Crop Rotation and Multiple Cropping.
  • We practice cover cropping in our farm.  The legumes boost our soil’s nutrient content, build more organic matter in the soil, and prevents erosion.
  • Make sure you have plenty of earthworms too!
  • The kind of plants you have will be crucial for pest/disease management and control.  Make sure you plant varieties that are resistant to the diseases that are common where you are.  Also, plant the kind of plants that thrive well given your topography and weather conditions.

If despite a healthy ecosystem and healthy plants, you still have pests/disease here are some tips and physical controls:

1.  For temperate crops, keep the leaves dry.  This is because insects and fungus thrive on wet leaves.  Wet leaves also spread disease.  In the farm, we use drip irrigation to make sure that our leaves are dry and there is not too much water.
2.  Your best control is BIOLOGICAL control.  This means you need to understand the life cycle of insects or pests so you can control them.  Also, the more variety of insects and animals you have in farm, the better your Biological Control.
Beneficials3.  We rely a lot on Beneficial Insects.  These are using insects, microbes, or bacteria to control pests and disease. They keep the population of damaging insects under control.  Unlike pesticides, they only kill the BAD guys.  IN our farm, we use  ladybugs, lace wings or stingless wasps that feed on pests.   For example, ladybugs are able to eat up to 1000 aphids a day.  Lace wings eat more than 200 pest eggs a week.  Wasps (Trichogramma) are able to control up to 28 species of insects.  You can read more about nurturing and making use of Beneficial Insects here.
Homemadetrap4.  We also make Homemade Controls and Sprays.  Here are some of what we use:

  • Flypaper
  • Do-it-yourself Sticky Traps:  Hanging sticky traps in trees or posts can help capture a lot of flying insects.
  • Neem Citronella:  Neem does not immediately kill the insect. Instead, it alters an insect’s behavior or life. Eventually the insect can no longer feed or breed or metamorphose, and cannot cause damage.
  • Fish Emulsion (Fish Amino Acid/Foliar): More than a pesticide, it doubles as a great fertilizer. Fish emulsions are wonderful sources of nutrients.  Read about Fish Emulsion here.
  • Coconut oil tobacco
  • Raw milk and Raw whey
Common Pests:   These are the common pests you will find in the garden and our recommendations:
  • Worms and Caterpillars:  They eat the larvae of plants and eradicate seedlings.  Effective controls are beneficial insects, multiple cropping and crop rotation.
  • Aphids: Aphids feed on the sap of the plant. They also transmit disease. You get aphids usually from too much nitrogen in soil and too much water or over fertilization.  Control aphids maintaining balance in soil.  You can do this by lessening water use and in our case, spraying BD 501.  We also us Neem Spray and alternate it with Coconut Oil Tobacco.  Another way is to flush aphids with high pressure sprayer (fish emulsion/milk)
  • Leaf Miner- You can prevent Leaf Miner if you spray Fermented Fish waste and Milk. You can also use sticky traps.  Crop rotation is recommended for prevention.
  • Flea Beetle–These insects attack during summer months and usually Asian vegetables.  They like dry environments.  Control these pests by wetting beds and mulching.
  • White Fly- You can use a spreader sticker (sticky traps) or coconut-oil based soap spray to control White Fly.
  • Diamond Back Moth–These moths will attack cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.  To prevent outbreak, control the moth that lays the eggs through light traps, ordinary mosquito traps or have sacrificial beds.
Common Diseases
Note that with healthy soil enriched with biodynamic compost, most of your disease problems will disappear.  However, these are common diseases you may encounter:
*Always remember to prune or remove diseased plants.
  • Mildew is a fungal disease and includes white patches on leaves, discolored or yellow leaves and wilting.  Remove the infected areas and dispose it.  Do not add to your compost pile.

-Powdery Mildew- During dry season, you may experience powdery mildew.  To control or prevent this, keep leaves wet.  You can also use milk spray or neem oil.

-Downy Mildew- During wet season, you may experience downy mildew.  Don’t wet leaves at night.  You can also use milk spray or neem oil for prevention.
  • Blight– This is bacterial damage that causes rotting stems and roots, black or brown spots and lesions.  Trichoderma can suppress blight.  Once you have it, make sure to remove the plant and dispose.  Do not put in your compost pile.  To avoid the disease, practice crop rotation and plant resistant varieties.

Good luck!  You will be able to manage pests and diseases with a combination of: (1) Strong Ecosystem; (2)  Attentiveness; and (3)  Good use of organic controls.

Structures for Backyard Gardening

This is a 5th of a series on Backyard Farming.  This article discusses simple structures for your garden and water conservation techniques.

A backyard farm or a kitchen garden will be usually small.  Most of us will have a small yard, a patio or even some space with a window.  Here are some of the structures you can use:

Yards:  Instead of having a lawn, create space for an edible garden.  This means you should have space in your lawn or yard for a bed or two.  Use the borders of your spaces for vegetables too.  We recommend you use raised beds for your farm or garden.  Make sure they are at least 24 inches deep.

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Containers:  You can grow vegetables in containers too.  Just make sure they get enough sun.  Make sure your container is big enough for a full grown plant.  You will also have to always water as containers dry out quickly.  The soil will also have to be fertilized and changed every planting cycle.  In our patio, we grow some of our vegetables in large black bags.

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Small structures:  

While you can already grow vegetables outdoors in raised beds or containers, you can put up small and cheap structures using bamboo, pipes or wood.   Screen houses will protect your plants from insects and from nature: too much rain, wind or sun. You then use mosquito nets for your sides (buy these from general merchandise shops or those that sell fishing gear.)  The rooftop is often made of UV treated hard elastic plastic.  You can buy these from Hobee Packaging Co.

Our farm has built Bamboo Greenhouses. (Read more about our greenhouses.)  Bamboo is treated with borax and boric acid. It is important to sit your post on cement to avoid termites and rust.  We then use thick elastic plastic as a cover.  We use Use U.V. stabilized greenhouse film.  A short term structure can last you from 6 to 8 months.  You can also build long term structures of 2 to 3 years.

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SIMPLE IRRIGATION
As we have consistently stated, you need rich living soil with plenty of organic matter.  The irrigation technique we recommend is TRICKLE IRRIGATION.  This is a system where water drips slowly directly to the roots of plants through pipes (with small holes.)  The mechanism allows the water to drip directly where it’s needed.  You also do not  have runoff or wasted water.  The technique also reduce evaporation, soil erosion and deep drainage.  More importantly, it gets rid of many foliar or root diseases that spread through the water.
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When to irrigate
Irrigate plants closer to the evening so you decrease the loss of water through evaporation (except if you water by sprinkler. If sprinkler, do it in the morning to prevent fungus).  Some other techniques we follow:
When it is a Full moon, there is an increase in the water element. We sow seeds two days before a full moon to take advantage of the water.
When it is a New moon, there is more water in the soil. Two days before a new moon, we do transplanting to take advantage of the soil’s increased water content.
Water conservation techniques
Here are other water conservation techniques we use:
•RAIN HARVESTING AND CANALS
Catch the rain.  You can do so by having rainwater catchments like basins, ponds or canals.  When it rains, the water falls from the rooftops to micro basins or canals, which catch them.  What you can also do is line the canals with thick mulch (4 inches at least) to ensure less evaporation.  It is best to take advantage of slopes in your garden so the rainwater gently seeps towards and is absorbed by your beds.
•NATURAL WINDBREAKS
Plant legumes in between and at the boundary of your beds to act as windbreaks.  The windbreaks again reduce evaporation.
•CONSERVATION TILLAGE
Raised beds get more aeration in its roots so you do not need to till as often and protect topsoil.  Also, a good topsoil won’t be washed out by rain.
•MULCHING
Mulch your beds to conserve on water.  Read more about Mulching.

Sowing and Transplanting

This is the 4th of a series on Backyard Farming. This article discusses sowing and transplanting.  We will give you tips on how we ensure that are seeds are able to germinate and that plants are able to survive well before they are moved to plant beds.

You have prepared your beds, started to make your soil healthy and put in your compost.  It is now time to sow your seeds or set out your seedlings.

Backyard Farm Nursery

Backyard Farm Nursery

Sowing

Seeds should be allowed to germinate.  Seeds only germinate when they absorb enough water (moisture), light and air. 

When to Sow?

If you want to follow the Biodynamic calendar, the right time to sow is right before the full moon. This is when water (including the water in your ground) rises because of the influence of the moon. This is also the time when seeds will be able to absorb the most water.  Thus, the best time is two days before a full moon.  Note though that when it is the rainy season and you already have too much water, you do not have to follow this process.

Also, as this is just a backyard garden, it might be best to sow seeds every 2 weeks so you have a steady supply of your crops.

How do you sow? 

 

Sowing Process

Waking up Seeds

Sowing your seeds

Sowing your seeds

We recommend that you sow in multi-celled trays.  The procedure we follow is this:

  1. Make a Potting mix:  Mix together 1/3 rich top soil, 1/3 compost and  1/3 river sand;
  • You can use the soil that is silted down from your beds and that goes to your drain canals as topsoil
  • River sand is dark gray and comes from a riverbank, not the sand for construction
  • Put the potting mix in multi-celled trays

2.  Wake up your seeds. Put seeds in damp tissue.  Mist it thoroughly overnight.   Cover for protection and keep in dark to wake up the seeds.

3.  Put seeds in potting mix, which are in the trays. We recommend 2-3 seeds per cell.  As you put the seeds, cover it a little with your potting soil.

4.  As soon as your trays are ready, put them in your nursery or seedling house.

Transplanting

Transplanting is the method where you uproot your seedlings from a seed tray, and then replant them to a new location.  What we do is that a few days after sowing, we prick the seedlings or small plants and first transfer them to small transparent plastic bags.  The plastic bags ( 1.5×3 inches) are big enough to so plants will be able to develop secondary roots in 2 to 3 weeks.

Transplanting

Transplanting

Moving to beds

Moving to beds

When the seedlings/plants are ready to be moved to beds, we transplant them.  We recommend you do so on a cloudy day, especially when there is not much wind.   Transplant late afternoon so it is not too hot and your plants can adjust the whole night before the are exposed to harsh elements during the day. Also, water your beds a day before you plant.

  1. Make plant holes in your bed, big enough for the root ball of your plants but not too deep.  The lowest leaves should be above the topsoil but make sure that it is not too shallow so that the plant bends.  Always try not to disturb the roots.
  2. Firm up your plants by pressing the surrounding soil towards the roots.
  3. Water the bed.
  • The distance between plants should be that the leaves do not overlap those of the next plant when they have grown.

You have sowed and planted, now the real fun begins!

Next article: Building Resilient Structures for your Backyard Farm or Kitchen Garden; Water Conservation

Coming Up:  Integrated Pest Management