University of the Philippines Los Baños

“Earth here is so kind that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.” This is a line attributed to Douglas William Jerrold, an English dramatist and writer. And tickle the earth with his out-of-the-box landscaping style, the late Dr. Leonido R. Naranja did, so the kind earth soon laughed with a harvest.

He may not have lived long enough to see his landscaping approach catch on but the pockets of adoption may soon, altogether, create a change towards communities incorporating vegetables and food plants into spaces normally assigned to ornamentals.

It all started when Dr. Naranja spruced up an exhibit booth with vegetables instead of ornamentals. He probably did so since the exhibit was a side event in a conference of the Society for the Advancement of the Vegetable Industry (SAVI) at the UPLB Seniors’ Social Garden in 1999.

It was also around this time when Mrs. Loreta A. Lina, wife of then Laguna Governor Joey Lina, was on the hunt for an expert who could help design the demo garden of the project “Food Always in the Home” or FAITH. Fortunately, Mrs. Lina was able to visit the exhibit and lost no time getting the services of Dr. Naranja as a consultant of FAITH. And so Edible Landscaping as a creative food production approach came into being. Under the FAITH project, Dr. Naranja conducted a series of lectures for teachers of Practical Arts in the elementary and high schools of Laguna.

In 2009, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) and the High Value Commercial Crops Program (HVCCP) funded a project proposed by Dr. Naranja entitled “Technology Promotion and Commercialization of Edible Landscaping.” The project initially established a demo garden at the CA AgriPark in UPLB and a 6x10 meter edible garden showcase area at the DA-BAR grounds in Quezon City.

When Dr. Naranja passed away in 2010, Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. took over the project with the help of Bryan V. Apacionado, Maria Charito E. Balladares, Ryan Rodrigo P. Tayobong, and Norma G. Medina. They continued to implement the project after it was approved for another phase of implementation in 2011.

To intensify promotional strategies that would increase awareness on the benefits of edible landscaping, the project conducted seminars and training courses, and provided assistance to those who wanted to establish edible landscape gardens. For a more convenient and accessible location, the demo landscape garden was transferred from the CA AgriPark to the Ornamental Crops Nursery. It also improved the DA-BAR ground’s edible landscape garden with a more urban and modern theme.

Participation of the edible landscaping team in different events such as the 7th and 8th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition and the 11th Philippine Food Expo 2012, local and international conferences, and other exhibitions created more awareness and interest for edible landscaping.

“Edible landscaping produces organically grown vegetables, sometimes fruits, herbs and medicinal plants that substitute for ornamental plants that are commonly used in conventional landscaping,” Dr. Sanchez explained. He added that edible landscaping also results in an attractive, aesthetically pleasing and functional space, in addition to yielding safe and nutritious harvest.

"The success of edible landscaping lies in the proper planning and management of the site before, during, and after each production period. The process is governed by both the principles of landscaping and crop production to meet aesthetic and optimum conditions for good quality crop production,” Dr. Sanchez said.

Edible landscaping targets schools and the younger generation to create awareness on the benefits of gardening and eating vegetables. The project became part of one of the required subjects at the UP Rural High School. “We thank DA-BAR for funding the project, it gave us an idea on how to repackage the Agricultural Science & Technology curriculum into something earthfriendly,” said Prof. Rowena Posa, a former UPRHS teacher. “The Edible Landscaping Project is very useful and practical in terms of the utilization of inputs such as space and water supply. It also brings out a potential solution for the disposal of kitchen and farm waste, efficiently minimizing the need for synthetically prepared commercial fertilizers,” she added.

She thinks the project should be widely adopted, “Communities in different settings could easily adopt to its simplicity and practicality, may it be in rural areas or urban settings. It could easily entice everyone to go green, especially now that different earthsaving programs are going viral all over the world. This project has so much potential; it should be spread all over the Philippines.”

More schools, parks, leisure farms, and prime land developers have become interested in gardening and support the banner slogan of edible landscaping “No Filipino should be hungry,” Dr. Sanchez said.

No Filipino should indeed go hungry if more landscaped spaces are “tickled with a hoe” in this seemingly fun way to beautify them; and then Earth would surely laugh with a harvest.