By JAMES TABABA
With the rainy season gradually tapering off and making way for a transition to cooler temperatures, here are recommended crops to plant in the month of August.
Malunggay (Moringa oleifera)
Malunggay is a highly nutritious and fast-growing tree that is commonly found in the Philippines. It is known for its small, oval-shaped green leaves, edible pods, and white flowers. It is widely cultivated and valued for its various uses, including as a vegetable, herbal supplement, and as a natural remedy for several health conditions.
Malunggay grows best in temperatures between 25 to 35°C but can tolerate a wide range of conditions. It prefers well-drained sandy or loamy soil with a pH range of 6.3 to 7.0. It can tolerate a variety of soil types but performs best in fertile, organic-rich soil. Good drainage is crucial to prevent waterlogging, as it can negatively impact the plant’s growth.
Malunggay can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. Seeds can be soaked overnight and then planted directly on the field. Malunggay cuttings involve taking healthy branches from existing plants and planting them in the soil or in a rooting medium.
It generally grows well in fertile soil and doesn’t require heavy fertilization. However, incorporating organic matter during soil preparation can enhance its growth.
Malunggay trees can start producing leaves and pods within 6 to 8 months after planting. The leaves can be harvested once the tree reaches a height of about 1 meter (3 feet). Pick the leaves by hand or use pruning shears to remove the leafy branches.
Citronella (Cymbopogon confertiflorus)
Citronella is a grass with various industrial uses, particularly for its oil. It is valued for its applications in perfumes, mosquito repellants, soaps, disinfectants, and more.
Citronella thrives in a humid climate with regular rainfall. It can be grown in low and high altitudes, but it does best around 600 to 700 ft. above sea level. Citronella can be cultivated in various soil types, but deep sandy soil is ideal for better oil quality. While it can grow in less fertile soil, a sufficient level of fertility is still necessary. Applying urea or a 16-20-0 fertilizer at 2-3 bags per hectare as basal or side dressing is recommended.
It can be propagated using tillers obtained by dividing old clumps. Each clump can yield about ten sturdy divisions. Plant two sturdy divisions, or tillers, in each hole, with a distance of 3 x 3 ft. between plants. Planting should be done during the rainy season to ensure proper establishment.
The usual practice is to harvest citronella nine months after planting. Cut the leaves about 6-8 inches above ground level, ensuring not to cut too low to include oil-free parts. Remove old, dry leaves from the fresh leaves before processing.
Saluyot (Corchorus olitorius)
Saluyot, also known as Jew’s mallow, bush okra, or Egyptian spinach, is a versatile plant in the Philippines. While it is primarily cultivated for its sturdy natural fiber used in manufacturing sacks, textiles, and furnishings, there are also cultivars grown as a leafy vegetable. Saluyot leaves are rich in protein, iron, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and dietary fiber.
The plant thrives in humid to semi-arid areas throughout the tropics and subtropics. It responds well to warm, humid weather and is often grown near riverbanks. Saluyot grows well in loam or silty-loam soil types. It can tolerate a pH range of 4.5 to 8.0.
For direct seeding, the seeds should be drilled uniformly in rows spaced 20-30 cm apart. The recommended seeding rate is 3-5 kg/ha, depending on the viability and size of the seeds. If transplanting, the seeds should be sown in a seedbed and lightly covered with rice straw or dry cogon grass.
Saluyot benefits from added fertilizer, especially nitrogen. Conduct a soil test to determine the specific fertilizer needs. In addition to organic fertilizer, topdress with urea at a rate of 2 bags per hectare after each harvest. Tea manure and fermented plant juice (FPJ) can also be used to improve soil fertility.
For harvesting, saluyot can be cut 30 days after transplanting, leaving about 20-25 cm of the plant above the ground. Subsequent harvests can be done at 1-2 week intervals for up to 7 months.
Upo (Lagenaria siceraria)
Upo or bottle gourd is a popular vegetable known for its elongated and bottle-shaped fruits. It is a vining plant that belongs to the gourd family. Upo is commonly used in various Filipino dishes and is highly sought after in local markets.
Upo prefers temperatures between 25 to 35°C. and a well-drained loamy soil with good organic matter content. Proper soil moisture management is crucial to prevent waterlogging, especially during the wet season.
Plant pre-germinated seeds by placing one seed per hill, with a distance of one meter between hills. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. During the wet season, it is advisable to plant in ridges or above furrows to prevent seedling rotting caused by excessive flooding.
To produce high-quality fruits, provide trellises for the Upo plants. Trellising is especially important during the wet season to minimize fruit rotting and malformation. Construct overhead trellises using ipil-ipil or bamboo poles, spaced 2 to 3 meters wide and 2 meters high. Intertwine tie wire or nylon twine crosswise and lengthwise on top of the trellis for added strength. Provide a ladder-like trellis or vertical pole for each Upo plant to support the vines’ climbing. Tie the stem lightly to the trellis until it reaches the overhead trellis.
Fruits develop rapidly, typically taking 15 days to reach marketable size from the day of fruit set or 60 to 80 days from sowing.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Basil is a popular culinary herb known for its aromatic leaves and distinctive flavor. It is widely cultivated for culinary purposes and is used in various dishes, sauces, and salads.
It prefers temperatures between 20-30°C and requires ample sunlight but it can tolerate some shade but may produce fewer leaves during the rainy season.
Basil prefers well-drained soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH range of 6.0-7.0. The soil should be rich in organic matter and have good water retention capacity. Proper soil preparation is essential for optimal growth and productivity.
Choose high-quality basil seeds from reputable suppliers or use seeds harvested from healthy basil plants. Sow the seeds in seed trays or pots filled with a well-draining seed-starting mix. Cover the seeds lightly with soil and keep the medium consistently moist. When the seedlings have developed 4-6 true leaves and the risk of frost has passed, transplant them to the desired location.
Basil leaves can be harvested once the plants have developed a sufficient number of leaves. It typically takes about 60-90 days from planting for basil to reach harvestable size, although it can be harvested earlier as young leaves for a milder flavor.