It’s Time to Go and Grow

There is something amusing about growing sweet corn in the city, or at least, attempting to. Haha! It feels weird, challenging, and fulfilling at the same time. Since the summer of 2015, I have tried to grow corn in our container bed three times. The first time produced the best results, the second time became a bit of a struggle because of the stormy weather, and the most recent one was, well… a product of grace.

 

I say this because I was not intentional in giving the seedlings organic fertilizer during its first month. So, when I finally gave the plants fertilizer, they grew fast! They grew so fast that the pollens were produced before the ear of the corn. In a normal cycle, the ear of corn and its hair must appear first, so that when the pollens appear, the hair can be pollinated.

It was very unusual of me because most of the time, I give my best efforts whenever I grow my plants. Just a few days ago, honestly, I was expecting only 10 kernels on each ear of corn, but by God’s grace, He allowed them to grow more. Whew! Although, the ears did not fully develop as you will notice in the photos below. This is obviously a consequence of my earlier actions.

 

Thankfully, in the Philippines, it is still a good time to start new corn seedlings since the next few months would not be as rainy as the previous ones. With this, I’ll be planting five more seeds this December and hopefully, by March 2018, plump ears of corn will be ready for harvest. Just so I can be accountable to you, this time, I will not be lazy or forget to fertilize during its early stages. I just purchased a sack of chicken manure for my plants. So, really, I have no excuses. But, if you remember, please remind me in the coming weeks? Haha!

 

In a way, it was a humbling experience for me to grow corn for the third time. I know that this is just one of my hobbies, but it does teach me to become more responsible and proactive with my actions. Gardening, through the years, has helped me appreciate the importance of patience and hope because it does take time and faith to wait and believe that the plants will grow and bear fruit. However, I am reminded that producing the results that I hope for would not happen if I sit and wait for things to unfold. I still need to be intentional in doing my part and in learning from my shortcomings.

Okay, Nic. You can do this! It’s time to go… and grow!

 

How to Grow Okra in Containers

Out of all the vegetables I’ve planted at home, so far, okra was the easiest and the most fruitful plant that grew in a few months. From two plants in containers, I was able to harvest more than a hundred okra pods! Woohoo!

I’ll be sharing some of the photos and tips throughout the process. Hopefully, you can grow some too!

Most of my family and friends don’t like this slimy vegetable, but I think through time, people will learn to love it and its health benefits. It’s also one of the vegetables that help fight diabetes. Cool, right?

How to Grow Okra in Containers:

1. Plant one seed in a small plastic cup or container. It’s better to choose a soft type of plastic container so you can easily remove the seedling after a few weeks. Make sure that the container also has small holes for better drainage.

2. Because our weather in the Philippines is hot, I usually water my plants twice a day. You’ll know that you’ve watered enough when water starts to leak from the bottom holes of the plastic container.

3. Once the plant is 4-5 inches tall, you can now carefully transfer it to the bigger container where it will grow for months under the heat of the sun. Try not to hurt or pull the roots while you’re transferring the seedling. This might hinder your plant’s growth.

4. Continue watering the plant twice a day and applying organic fertilizer every two weeks. Soon, you’ll see the plant grow as tall as two meters in 2 months.


5. As you watch and water your plant, you’ll notice beautiful yellow flowers growing on the plant. These flowers will turn into the okra pods after a few days. It’s important to note that okra pods get tougher as they grow longer. So, once you see okra pods that are 3-4 inches long, make sure to snip them off of the plant. This is the best size for tender okra pods.


6. Another observation: The plant grows taller and expands more branches every time you snip off okra pods. After more than two months, I needed to stand on a chair just to harvest the pods at the top of the plant.

7. Another tip: the okra pods can get a bit prickly. It will be better if you use gloves whenever you harvest the pods. But, don’t worry, once they’re cooked, they won’t hurt your throat.

So, there you have it! A quick guide to growing okra plants in containers. Let me know if ever you plant some okra seeds! I’d love to hear from your experience and tips too!

Happy gardening!

Make Room for Growth

This morning, I harvested my second batch of pechay leaves, which are also known as Bok choy or Chinese cabbage in other countries. The leaves I got from this batch were much bigger than the first ones I had last August. The ironic thing about it? I didn’t even know that I had one pechay seed growing in the pot until I saw a seedling in it three months ago. Today, by God’s grace, I snipped off a lovely bundle of big pechay leaves here at home.

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I happily showed my family members the stalks of pechay in my hand while they were having brunch earlier today. I then shared the background of the story and emphasized how interesting the experience was. Even though I exerted so much effort in the first batch by regularly watering, adding organic fertilizer, and taking care of the plants, they weren’t able to reach their maximum size. Why? Because there wasn’t any room for growth.

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One major mistake that I made while I was growing the first batch was planting too many seeds in a small area. Because the seedlings were overcrowded, their roots could not expand and fully develop under the soil. This resulted to smaller leaves and thinner stalks.

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For the second batch of pechay leaves, however, since it was only one seedling growing in the pot, it had adequate space for its roots to expand.  Even though I wasn’t able to add fertilizer to it as often as I did to the first batch, it still grew and reached its maximum potential. There weren’t other pechay plants absorbing the nutrients in the soil.

I learned two things today as I took photos of the larger pechay leaves at home.

 

FIRST: Hindrances to growth may also be the good things in life.

It is very easy to put the blame on the weeds and difficult moments in life whenever we experience delays in our growth. However, I am learning that even the good and seemingly harmless things may also hinder us from experiencing the best and becoming the best version that we can be. Of course, this still depends on how we respond. In gardening, I realized that fruit-bearing or leafy greens shouldn’t be overcrowded in a pot if we want them to grow and reach their full potential.

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In the same way, personally, I am reminded to be more wise and intentional in the way I manage my time, resources, and activities. For example, I’ve noticed how casually surfing the internet or social media applications take up a lot of hours in a day. Even though these aren’t bad tools, if I am not careful with how I use them, I may end up “overcrowding my soil” and not leaving enough space for more important things that can help me grow.

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Another example is being idle or enjoying too much rest or sleep. Yes, I do believe that rest is important. But, I also know that if I just sleep all day and not plan ahead on the activities that I can productively do in a day, then it would be a waste of time and resources.

What are the activities (both good and bad) that hinder me from reaching my full potential? In what areas do I need to improve on? (e.g. Physical fitness, communication skills, homemaking skills, preparation for exams or work, etc.)

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SECOND: God makes things grow.

This is my favorite part in this blog entry – the part where we talk about God’s grace. There’s something about the grace of God that strikes our hearts, humbles us, and inspires us to press on. In my case of growing pechay leaves, clearly, it was God who caused the growth of the second batch. Originally, I did not want to grow pechay during the months of September to December because I knew that we would be having rainy days in this tropical country. But, God allowed one pechay seed to be left behind and He helped it grow even without me attending to it daily. AMAZING.

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This experience encouraged me to depend on the Lord and not on my own strength and wisdom. He makes things grow. He can allow us to experience growth and reach our full potential in the different areas of our lives. We just have to trust in Him, do our part, and see Him work wonders in and through us. When I saw the lone pechay sprout in the pot, I had the choice to pluck it out. But somehow, even if it was just one seedling growing in the pot, I saw its potential and started to take care of it. I didn’t know that after three months, it would become a beautiful harvest, by God’s grace.

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Maybe there are areas in our lives right now that seem hopeless or seem to have no progress at all, just like the lone seedling in the pot. Maybe it’s a financial struggle or a heartbreak that we can’t seem to let go. Maybe it’s seeing little development from all of the hard work we’ve been doing or a blurry vision of our dreams and goals in life. Whatever it is, I hope that you will also be encouraged to surrender it to God, do your part, and trust that in His perfect timing, He will allow it and you to improve and grow.

“It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:7

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How to Grow Melons in Containers

As mentioned in my previous post about melons , here are some things that we can take note of when we’re growing melons in containers. :)

1. Grow Seedlings

Start by planting seeds in small plastic cups filled with soil. It’s best to plant one seed in each cup for easier transplanting. Then, sprinkle fertilizer on the soil to help the seedling grow. After two weeks, it will most likely grow 4-5 inches long. By this time, you’ll see heart-shaped leaves (well, sort of) which have a furry texture.

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2. Transfer to a Bigger Pot

When the seedling is about 4 inches long, you may transplant it so its roots can grow deeper in a bigger bed or pot of soil. You may use a large pot that is 15” wide and 15” tall. Any pot or container with a similar or larger dimension is enough. Before carefully transferring the seedling, make sure to sprinkle fertilizer on the soil and mix thoroughly. I usually add 2-3 tablespoons of powdered organic fertilizer to loose soil.

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One important factor to consider when transferring the seedling is being gentle with the roots. Transplanting can be very stressful for any plant, so try to do your best not to damage or cut the roots in the process. Also, once the seedling is placed in its new container, its roots must be covered with soil and mulch (e.g. dried leaves, hay, etc.). This will protect the roots from being exposed too much to the heat of the sun.

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3. Watch Out for Flowers (Male and Female)

This is one unique trait of fruit-bearing vines. They grow male AND female flowers. The latter ones eventually become the fruit, when they are properly pollinated with the male flowers. It’s important to look out for the flowers when the plant is growing because the female flower only opens up for a few hours in its lifetime.

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If you don’t get to transfer pollens from the male flower to the female flower, the fruit won’t grow. The male flowers will first appear and then, after a few days, female flowers will bloom too. The difference between the two is the flower’s stalk. The male flowers have a thin stalk; while the female flowers will have a rounded one, similar to having a small ball below the yellow petals.

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4. Pollinate by Hand

When the fruit-bearing vines are grown in larger areas like farms and fields, pollination is usually done by the bees. But, if we want to grow fruits from vines in smaller containers at home, it would require pollination by hand. How exactly do we pollinate by hand? It’s a simple process, but it can only be done when the female flower opens up. Once you see the petals of the female flower spread out, you can get one to three male flowers and remove its petals.

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Our goal is to transfer the yellow dots (pollens) from the middle of the male flowers to the bud of the female flowers by carefully rubbing it against the latter. After a few hours, you’ll notice that the petals of the female flowers will start to close up and cover the bud. Then, in a few days, it will begin to form the fruit.

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5. Fertilize and Water when needed

You can add fertilizer to the plant every time it goes through the different stages of growth (e.g. when the plant grows it leaves, longer stems, flowers, and fruits). Another option is to add fertilizer every two weeks. On the other hand, when it comes to watering the plant, you can water the plant once a day, depending on the weather in your area. Since it’s hot and humid in the Philippines (where I live), I usually water the plant once or twice a day. However, by the time the fruit matures, it’s best to lessen the water added to the plant’s soil. Overwatering may hinder the fruit from reaching its maximum sweetness.

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6. Harvest

Melons that are ready for harvest will show the ff. signs:

a. The color of the melon will turn from green to orange or yellow orange.

b. The fruit will have a sweet smell especially when you go closer to the stem of the fruit.

c. The stem will easily detach from the fruit when you slightly move the melon.

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If you are into gardening, growing fruits from vines is a fun and challenging experience that I would recommend. There’s nothing like slicing a sweet, homegrown melon in half and seeing the seeds and juices flow on the chopping board. It was such a refreshing and delightful moment! If you would like to give it a try, I would encourage you to plant the seeds in January or February, so you can harvest it by March or April. Fruit-bearing vines don’t grow well during the rainy season. Hopefully, I can try to grow more early next year.

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