Horti Group Visits Costales Farm

Horti Group Visits Costales Farm
Josie Costales and Maripaz Godinez posing with upright tubular planter with beautifully growing lettuce. Atop is a green onion to repel insects that might damage the lettuce.

The Costales Nature Farms in Majayjay, Laguna is becoming a favorite destination of visitors who are interested in organic farming. This is the farm that Ronald Costales and his wife Josie started in 2005, after the former gave up his high-paying job as vice president of a big IT company in Makati.

The latest to visit the place are the members of the Philippine Horticulture Society, headed by Dorie S. Bernabe, whom we joined last June 20. That was our fifth time to visit the farm and in every visit there is always something new to see.
 
The white tubular plastic grow bags are the latest innovation on the farm. These are either installed vertically or horizontally and planted to shallow-rooted leafy greens like lettuce, pechay, chives, green onion and the like.
 
The unique technique of growing leafy veggies excited many of the visiting members of the horticultural society. They intimated they were eager to adopt  the same very doable technology in their own homes.
 
How is that done? The plastic grow bag or tube which measures about five inches in diameter and four feet long is available from a Makati-based company and is said to last for about three years. Ronald fills the  tube with a combination of equal parts of organic fertilizer (vermicompost) and carbonized rice hull. If it is a standing planter, it is supported by a bamboo pole planted in the ground. The tubular planter is simply tied to the bamboo support.
 
Planting holes are made all around the tubular planter from bottom up. An “X” is incised on the desired spot for planting the seedling. At the top of the tube, Ronald plants Pearl onion or any green onion variety. This is supposed to repel the insects that could damage the leafy greens. So far, we did not observe any insect damage on the plants that are growing very well. Watering the standing planter is very simple. It is done by pouring the water at the top of the tube.
 
Ronald has another way of using the tubular grow bag. He installs a couple of bamboo poles above the ground where the filled grow bags are laid. Then vegetable seedlings are planted. In less than a month, the lettuce and other veggies are usually ready for harvest.
 
The novel planters are found in many spots at the Costales farm. They are all along the pathways and even under fruiting trellised ampalaya. The technique is perfectly right for adoption by urban gardeners who have limited space where they live. The advantage is that their harvest would be very fresh and the owners would be sure that they are very safe to eat.
 
Aside from the lecture on the tubular planters, Ronald explained to the visitors many other things they are doing to produce healthy organic food. They produce organic eggs laid by hens that are free-range in an enclosed portion of the property. The chickens are given concentrate feed without antibiotics. The fowls also eat the grass and insects they find on the range.
 
Ronald said they grow a lot of rabbits, too, because their manure is said to be very rich in nutrients, much richer than the manure of other livestock. The rabbit manure is fed to the earthworms that produce the vermicompost which they use in growing their plants.
 
The high-value crops that are grown, aside from several varieties of lettuce, include cherry tomato, French beans, Japanese cucumber, sweet corn, eggplant, culinary herbs. These are either grown in greenhouses (there are 18) or in the open. They also have fruit trees like rambutan, Satsuma orange, pummelo and lanzones. In between the fruit trees are beds of either vegetables or culinary herbs for maximum use of space.
 
Ronald said that visitors don’t only go to their farm for a tour. Many also go there to attend a three-day seminar on integrated organic farming. At the time of our visit, there were 17 seminar attendees  coming from different places.
 
The seminar attendees as well as the farm tourists also enjoy the snacks and meals that are served. All the ingredients are organic. A favorite beverage that is served is a herbal tea of tarragon and mint. Another popular drink is cold Japanese cucumber juice.
 
In sum, the visitors are very happy for the farming and gardening ideas that they see at the Costales farm. And they are likewise satisfied with the food and drinks served. 

 

Horti Group Visits Costales Farm
Dr. Romeo Gutierrez, in front, with upright tubular planters with beautifully growing lettuce.
Horti Group Visits Costales Farm
Members of the Philippine Horticulture Society listen to a briefing on vermi-composting.
Horti Group Visits Costales Farm
Norma Villanueva of the PHSI reaching for fruits of Satsuma orange. Note the beds of herbs and vegetables in between fruit trees.
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One thought on “Horti Group Visits Costales Farm

  1. i want to try planting lettuce in that tubular plastic grow bag. can you tell me where i buy them? are they available in the visayas region?

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