Most Filipinos do not realize that the Philippines is actually a haven for gardeners. We are fortunate to have a nice warm climate where gardening can be done practically all year round. In every Filipino household, there is at least one gardener, be it the grandparent, parent, or the household help. In recent years, an increasing number of Filipinos in urban areas have taken an interest in gardening, and this is evident in their online searches. If we check out the term “Urban Gardening”, the Philippines ranks among the top 3 countries with the most number of searches on Google for this topic, the other two being Austria and Switzerland. So why is this so?
Why Urban Gardening?
Over the past ten years, we have seen a rapid growth in real estate developments especially in the highly urbanized areas of Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao. As a result, spacious residential places within the city center have become more expensive, as cuts are designed to be more cost efficient. More urban residents now live in residential developments where open spaces are limited, and living areas are more compact.
Filipinos have taken up gardening as a hobby because it gives them an outlet to relieve stress, whether caused by work, home, or school, or simply by the worsening daily traffic situation in these urban cities. A lot of them have also chosen to adopt a healthier lifestyle, opting to go for organically grown foods. Growing their own herbs and vegetables seems like a more cost effective alternative, instead of buying them from other growers.
Gardening supplies and information have also become more accessible online, albeit to a limited degree. Seeds, pots, garden tools, fertilizers and pesticides are available online and they can be shipped directly to every home. Social media has also helped create greater awareness among Filipinos about urban gardening.
It is interesting to note that this activity is not limited to a particular class, age group or gender. Filipinos from all walks of life have taken up urban gardening– whether living in high-end gated subdivisions, condos, or in the local barangay (community).
Urban gardening in the Philippines: still a lot of room to improve
However, I would consider urban gardening in the Philippines to be in its “seedling” stage compared to more developed countries. For instance, if I search online for organic or garden suppliers that are locally available in the Philippines, the list is still limited, as compared to the immensely wide range of choices available in more advanced countries.
The Philippines also lags behind when it comes to seed varieties and easy access to good quality garden supplies. For instance, hybrid seed varieties that are suited especially for the urban setting are in limited supply, particularly the dwarf versions that can grow well in small pots or containers. There are a few suppliers of good quality organic fertilizers and pesticides but they are not yet readily available in retail stores. Likewise, most neighborhood garden suppliers focus more on landscaping services and ornamental plants. I had to source my garden supplies all the way from Quezon City, which is about an hour’s drive from home.
Worldwide, urban gardening will continue its uptrend
On the positive note, however, I believe that this increasing trend in urban gardening will continue for many years, as more communities get urbanized in the Philippines, or anywhere else around the world. This opens up a lot of opportunities for more enterprising people to develop innovative solutions to address the specialized needs of this rapidly growing niche market. Take for example the need for more efficient pots and soil mixtures, energy-saving lighting system to replace sunlight, as well as hybrid plants that produce more fruits with less inputs. With these innovations, more people are likely to be encouraged to engage in urban gardening and grow their own food in a more efficient and sustainable way.