Strawberries are usually associated with highland areas such as Benguet. This is because they thrive best in an environment with a low temperature.
Analiza N. Alonso, 48, a housewife, defies this as she grows several strawberry varieties in her Cainta residence.
Alonso, a private tutor, made a decision to become a full-time stay-at-home parent and hobbyist during the pandemic.
Knowing that she’s had a knack for cultivating plants ever since she was young, she used the opportunity not only to grow different types of berries on her rooftop, but also to make a small business out of it for an alternative source of income.
“When the pandemic broke out, I was faced with the challenges of not being able to go out for groceries and food. The shortage of food gave me the green light to start my rooftop garden,” Alonso says.
In a 50 square meter space, she grows strawberry varieties including Sweet Charlie, Honeoye, Totchiotome, Akihime, Fronteras, Pineberry, Fort Laramie, and Festival. She also tends to mulberries, 30 fig varieties, blackberries, cherries, grapes, and various ornamental plants.
Alonso initially put up the garden so she could grow food for the household, but she turned it into a livelihood to continually support the family financially amid the pandemic.
Alonso sells strawberry runners from P90 to P120 while the other types of berries can be bought from P200 up to P3,000. Because of this, she can generate as much as P15,000 a month from the business.
From teaching mathematics to learning about the science of gardening
Her days usually start with watering and checking on her plants. Since she grows them in a city with hot weather, she makes sure that the runners are properly acclimatized. Alonso does this by making the rooftop suitable to the needs of her strawberry plants using techniques like increasing shade using a net and installing UV plastic to reduce urban heat.
In planting strawberries, Alonso suggests “make planting holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending it. However, don’t plant too deep. The roots should be covered, but the crown should be right at the soil surface.”
For the soil, she creates her own mixture to attain the required pH level of strawberries that should be at 5.6-6.5. Alonso is cautious when making her soil mixture since the wrong pH levels can cause the plants to burn if not properly maintained. The same is true for the temperature.
Based on her experience, strawberries prefer sandy loam soil so she mixes 30 percent of her soil mixture with 40 percent sand and 30 percent animal manure or vermicast.
“I had to go through the process of my plants dying and experimenting with different soil mixtures until I discovered the ideal one. I now have 13 strawberry varieties and I rely on them to make a living.”
Being raised in the province, Alonso said that planting has not always been easy for her, but it helps a lot in relieving her stress.
“It gave me a reason to look forward to tomorrow. It helped my family with our expenses and made the pandemic bearable.”
Although her lifestyle has completely changed in a snap due to the pandemic, this gardener came to a realization that growing plants is just similar to life—there are phases where we have to make mistakes, learn our lessons, and wait so we can be stronger and better.
Photos courtesy of Analiza N. AlonsoFor more information, visit Ana Strawberry Botanica on Facebook