By James Tababa
Here are five crops you can grow in the hot summer month of April.
Hyacinth bean/Bataw (Lablab purpureus)
Hyacinth bean, locally known as bataw, is a legume grown for its young tender pods, young leaves, or mature seeds that are used in cooking. Some farmers use the hyacinth bean as fodder for livestock because it contains high amounts of protein. After harvesting, the remaining crop residue is plowed together with the soil to increase its nutrients.
Pole-type varieties of hyacinth beans need trellises to support their growth, while bush-type varieties do not need trellises to stay upright. Most hyacinth beans have purplish stems and white to purple flowers, and their pods have purple margins.
Hyacinth beans grow best at 21°C. They can withstand high heat but still need sufficient watering. They prefer to be planted in well-drained loamy soil rich in organic matter with a slightly acidic pH of 6.0 – 6.8.
To plant hyacinth beans, plow and harrow the soil two to three times to break up clods. Soak the seeds overnight to facilitate germination. Plant two to three seeds per hill at a distance of 80 cm between each hill and 100 cm between rows. It takes seven to 10 days before seedlings start to sprout above the soil.
Additional fertilizer is unnecessary for soil with a high amount of organic matter. Water the plants to keep the soil moist but not too wet.
The pods can be harvested 75 to 90 days after sowing or when they are still tender and soft. Mature beans can also be harvested for their seeds but must be cooked thoroughly.
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)
Okra is a popular vegetable in the Philippines. Its fruit is a good source of protein, calcium, and iron. It is an export product of the Philippines to Japan and Korea.
Okra can be planted in all seasons but thrives best in long warm growing seasons with temperatures of 20-30°C for optimal flowering and fruit development. It grows well in well-drained silty to sandy soil with a pH of 5.5 – 7.0.
For land preparation, plow and harrow the field two to three times with a depth of 15-20 cm to allow better growth of roots. Soak the seeds overnight to promote uniform seed germination, then plant the okra at the rate of 2-3 seeds per hill at a distance of 30 cm between hills and 60 cm between rows.
The required rate of fertilizer should be determined by soil analysis. However, in the absence of soil analysis, two to three bags of complete fertilizer (14-14-14) and 20 bags of organic matter can be applied per hectare, followed by side-dressing 10 grams of urea (46-0-0) per hill 30 days after planting.
After 60-75 days after planting, young and tender fruits can be harvested. Commercial size is about 10-15 cm long. Harvesting early in the morning or late in the afternoon is recommended to maintain the freshness of the okra fruits.
Sponge gourd (Luffa sp.)
Sponge gourd or patola is a herbaceous vine cultivated for its edible fruit. The two types commonly found in the market are the smooth type (Luffa cylindrica) and the ridged (Luffa acutangular). Aside from being eaten as a vegetable, the fruit can also be dried and processed into the natural loofah sponge used for scrubbing the body when washing.
Sponge gourd is usually planted in the dry months of April – May or September – November because it prefers temperatures of 25-28°C. It can grow in a wide variety of soil but grows best in clay-loam or sandy-loam soil with a pH of 6.5-7.0.
In growing sponge gourd, the field should be plowed and harrowed several times until weeds are removed and the soil is loose. During land preparation, two bags of complete (14-14-14) and 20 bags of organic fertilizer per hectare could be added as basal fertilizer.
Plant four to five seeds on each hill with a depth of 2.5 cm. Space planting 100 cm between hills and 200 cm between rows. Construct a sturdy trellis to support the weight of mature sponge gourd and to keep the fruits off the ground. After four weeks of planting, side dress two bags of urea (46-0-0) and one bag of muriate of potash (0-0-60).
It will take 60 – 85 days after sowing to harvest the fruit. Sponge gourds are harvested when the flesh is tender and the seeds are still immature, usually about 12-15 days after flowering.
Winged Bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus)
Winged bean, locally known as four-cornered bean and sigarilyas, is a leguminous vine with climbing stems that is grown for its edible fruit used in cooking vegetable dishes.
Winged beans grow well in loamy-sand or clay-loam soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0, and the suitable temperature is from 18 to 32°C.
To grow winged beans, soil is plowed and harrowed thoroughly to facilitate root growth. Apply one bag of urea (46-0-0), four bags of triple superphosphate (0-46-0), and one bag of muriate of potash (0-0-60) as basal fertilizer before planting.
Seeds can be soaked for 24 hours to make them germinate faster. Plant the 2 -3 seeds directly into the soil 2.5 cm deep and 100 cm apart. Then, construct a 1-1.5 meter high trellis to support its growth.
The pods are ready to harvest 75 to 90 days after planting when they are still immature and tender. Harvesting can be done at 3 – 4 days intervals for about five months.
Arrowroot (Marantha arundinacea)
Arrowroot or uraro is grown for its starchy roots and underground stem that is processed to make flour for making bread, biscuits, and cookies. Unlike other flour, the arrowroot produces superior-quality starch that is easily digested when eaten.
Arrowroot can be grown anywhere in the Philippines, with enough water for irrigation or uniformly distributed rainfall. This plant grows well in loose loamy or sandy-loam soil. Compacted clay soil should be avoided because it will result in poor root development. It is important that the soil is plowed and harrowed deeply to provide favorable conditions for root development.Arrowroot can be propagated by planting shoots that originate from its stem called suckers or from rootstock with two or more nodes. Two suckers can be planted per hill at the distance of 75 cm between rows and 100 cm between hills.
It is recommended to apply six to eight bags of complete fertilizer (14-14-14) throughout the whole growing period.
The starchy roots and underground stems can be harvested eight to ten months after planting. However, higher starch content is attained when harvested at eleven to twelve months. Like most root crops, arrowroot is harvested by passing the plow along the furrow to expose the roots.
Production guides are available for download on the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry website here.