The budding farm tourism business in the Philippines can adopt a unique idea showcased at the 50th anniversary celebration of Known-You Seed in Kaohsiung, Taiwan recently.
The unique idea is to grow vine vegetables with big fruits in containers. That is something different from what is usually done in the Philippines which is planting low-growing plants in containers for urban gardening such as leafy greens, eggplant and the like.
At the research farm of Known-You in Pingtung county, wax gourd or “kundol” with a big fruit is grown in a plastic container that is just about 1.5 feet in diameter. There are many varieties of fruiting vine vegetables that can be grown in containers. They are just provided with sturdy trellis for support.
Aside from the kundol, different varieties of squash or pumpkin that come in different sizes, shapes and color were conversation pieces among the visitors at the research station. Just like the butternut type with several mini fruits (less than 400 grams each) in one container. There was also a bigger variety with two fruits.
Known-You also showcased several varieties of cucumber that were also very attractive because of their profuse fruiting. Other varieties exhibited included different hybrids of watermelon, honeydew melon, netted melons, ampalaya, patola and some others.
To provide additional incentive to attract visitors to the agritourism farm, a paid seminar on how to grow vine vegetables in containers could be offered by the tourism farm. This will include selecting the container to be used. There are a number of choices. One can use the rubberizd container that is often used for fruit trees. Others may be halved plastic drums like those blue drums that are common in the market. There are also plastic pots available in plant shops that are also used in growing big specimens of ornamental plants.
Then there is the preparation of the growing media which could be a mixture of carbonized rice hull, processed organic fertilizer, coco peat and other materials that will make the media easily drained but at the same time will retain moisture for a considerable period.
Because the plants will draw nutrients from a limited volume of media, adequate fertilizers shoud be provided. Slow release fertilizer can be mixed with the potting media right from the start to promote proper growth. The right formulation should be provided. To complement the fertilizers placed in the potting media, foliar fertilizer may be applied either weekly or every 10 days, depending on the appearance or condition of the plants.
Protecting the plants from insects and diseases is also very important. What’s good about the plants in containers is that they are manageable because they don’t grow very tall. They are confined to the height of the trellis which could be just five to six feet or thereabouts. There are different ways of checking insect infestation. One can use organic pesticide to avoid chemical contamination. One important strategy is to observe cleanliness in the farm.
The owner of the farm can assure continuing availability of vine vegetables in fruit by staggering planting. There should be plants that are growing in different growth stages.
The farm tourism destination can generate income not only from the paid seminar and entrance fee. The farm can make readily available the materials to whoever would like to grow their own vegetables in containers. Such gardening materials include pots and garden tools, seeds and seedlings, fertilizers and crop protection products.
Another highlight of the seminar could be showing how to prepare the fruits for the table. In Taiwan, they just steam the cut-up pumpkin fruits without removing the skin. Even without any dressing, the steamed pumpkin is really nice to eat, especially the varieties that are glutinous.
Of course, growing vine vegetables in containers is not only for agritourism farms. Families in the urban areas can have a few containers in their home gardens. That way, they will experience joy and fulfillment in growing their own food.