Getting know the transformation and the process of turning an eyesore lot into a veggie garden in Malacañang Park.

A vacant lot that used to be an eyesore at Malacañang Park was transformed in just little over a month into a lush vegetable garden of pechay, mustard, and upland kangkong.

By January 12, 2017, the plots were mulched with plastic and the seedlings planted.

The vegetable garden, exactly 628 square meters, is a joint project of the Presidential Security Group headed by Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista and the Tarlac Heritage Foundation, headed by Dr. Isa Cojuangco Suntay.

The transformation was really very fast, with members of the PSG doing the land preparation. They were advised by Anthony “Tony” Cortes, an agriculturist who used to work for a big seed company. Clearing was started on December 23, 2016. By January 30, 2017, the planting beds had been formed and the plastic mulch installed subsequently.

On January 6, 2017, the seedlings were planted by the soldiers, male and female, and these were then tended by them throughout the growing period on a rotation basis. Of course, Tony Cortes was always there to lend his know-how.

One purpose of the project is to show that even the most unlikely vacant lots can be turned into a vegetable garden that can benefit families whose daily diets can be improved with fresh harvests. The gardeners can even sell their harvest for additional income.

The project is also one way of opening the eyes of the soldiers regarding the possibility of undertaking similar projects on their own or for communities that they serve. During the harvest on February 6, 2017, with President Duterte attending, the vegetables were donated to Hospicio de San Jose and to the less privileged residents in the surrounding communities.

On February 2, 2017, exactly 27 days after the planting of the seedlings, a press preview was held. The vegetables were already ready for harvesting but this was scheduled later, on February 6, so the President could witness the harvesting. That was exactly one month after the seedlings were transplanted.

During the harvest, members of the PSG themselves did the harvesting and distribution to the beneficiaries. The recipients did not only receive the fresh veggies but also baskets of rice and sweet potato.

Dr. Suntay said that they will continue planting vegetables on the site where new vegetables can also be tried out.

THE SECRET – How come the vegetables were so fastgrowing and healthy? Anthony Cortes provided us the answer. First of all, they incorporated organic fertilizer in preparing the planting beds. Then, of course, the seeds should be of good quality.

On the second day, Anthony said, they drenched the planting beds with calcium nitrate, which contains nitrogen and calcium. The nitrogen promotes fast growth while calcium strengthens the cell walls of the plant so it becomes sturdy and more resistant to stresses.

Three days after transplanting (DAT), they sprayed Supravim on the young plants. This is a natural blend of 99.9 percent processed extracts of natural plants (phyto-chemicals) and is 100 percent biodegradable. It stimulates production of more and longer roots, which results in the faster and more efficient uptake of nutrients and moisture.

At eight DAT, the plants were sprayed with Supravim for a second time at the rate of 8 tablespoons per 16-liter knapsack sprayer and balanced (20-20-20) complete foliar fertilizer at 60 grams per knapsack sprayer.

The plants were sprayed for the third and last time 13 DAT at the same dosage as above.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s March 2017 issue.