By VINA MEDENILLA
“If you want to be happy for a lifetime, be a gardener,” says Kenneth Joy Fuentes Gonzales, 43, an employee at the Municipal Planning and Development Office (MPDO) of Norala, South Cotabato. Aside from being employed, part of Gonzales’s daily routine is tending to her garden.
Relaxation, satisfaction from, and inclination towards plants are the reasons behind her involvement in urban gardening. For a hobbyist like Gonzales, gardening is also a source of new experiences and lessons that hones her creativity and helps her to be more patient.
Gonzales uses the available spaces in her residence to keep her plants. Her collection is composed of different varieties of anthurium, syngonium, caladium, alocasia, aglaonema, calathea, fern, begonia, dieffenbachia or dumb cane, and philodendron. Philodendron varieties are her favorites because they are easy to grow and propagate.
Gonzales usually propagates philodendrons through cuttings. Philodendrons love indirect sunlight and well-draining soil. Gonzales makes sure to keep the soil slightly moist, but prevents from overwatering it as this may attract pests and diseases.
For the growing medium, Gonzales uses a mixture of rice hull, compost (made of decomposed leaves, fruits, and vegetables), and cocopeat to help retain the moisture that the plants need.
Gonzales also checks the soil moisture by feel and appearance. “What I usually do is I stick my finger into the soil for about two to three inches deep.” She waters them only when she feels that the soil is already dry.
She visits her garden every day after work to see any presence of pests or diseases. She also uses a complete fertilizer every three weeks.
Like other gardeners, Gonzales learns a lot from trial and error. She opted for potted plants to make the most of the small empty corners around her home. This does not only save her space for more ornamentals, but also allows her to rearrange her plants anytime.
Even though she’s been gardening for more than a decade, it was only recently that Gonzales decided to venture into plant selling to make up for her gardening expenses. The rise in gardening during the pandemic helped in her decision to make her plants available to the market. As a longtime grower and newbie seller, putting up plants for sale is like sharing a piece of her work with other gardeners who have the same passion.
Gardening, for Gonzales, is not just an extra job or task because it is something that has always been part of her daily schedule for more than 10 years.
Photos from Kenneth Joy Fuentes Gonzales.