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Aspiring 'plantito,' 'plantita'? Farmer Nico Bolzico gives 'plantips'
Multimedia personality and 'agripreneur' Nico Bolzico giving a tour of his farm in this scene from Wil Dasovich's YouTube video.
Wil Dasovich via YouTube, screenshot

Aspiring 'plantito,' 'plantita'? Farmer Nico Bolzico gives 'plantips'

Seph Asong (Philstar.com) - August 31, 2020 - 2:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — There’s no denying that plants have gotten their share of the spotlight since the start of the pandemic.

As we count down the days we’re confined in our houses, we’re also counting the increasing number of greenery that we bring into our homes. The pandemic has turned many of us into "plantitos" and "plantitas" — and Nico Bolzico is no exception.

This comes as no surprise, as most people know that the entrepreneur-public figure grew up in the fields of Argentina and continues to grow his agriculture and livestock business here in the Philippines. As he shared, “I’m a big environmentalist. I was born in a farm, I grew up in a farm, so I know what the Earth can give us and how important it is to maintain an ecosystem.”

This ecosystem might just be what most of us are replicating through our quarantine plant hauls. Planting is a simple way for us to reconnect with nature and adding a bit of greenery can instantly brighten up an otherwise drab space. 

Now, if you find yourself in agreement with two green thumbs up, Nico has just the right tips to get you started on your path to "plant parenthood":

There’s always room for plants

No matter how big or small your living space is, you’ll always find plants that would fit your space and match the vibe that you’re going for.

For Nico, it’s creating his own oasis despite not having a wide outdoor area in his property.

“We don’t have a garden in the house, but we have a balcony that Solenn turned into a jungle. It almost looks and feels like we have a garden,” Nico enthused. 

Pause with your plants

Houseplants aren’t just for decoration and aesthetic appreciation — they do so much more than give us Instagram-worthy foliage. In fact, studies have shown that, on top of giving us clean air to breathe, plants are beneficial in reducing stress levels and boosting one’s overall mood.

When asked about his everyday must-dos, Nico shared, “I take 10 to 15 minutes to sit outside in the balcony, surrounded by plants, imagine that I’m in my farm, and meditate.” 

His daily companion through all this? A cup of Nespresso that prepped himself. For him, having his plants, his space, and his coffee is part of what he calls a harmonious routine.

“I really need that pause during the day, where I have my plants and coffee to relax with. It’s my way of rooting myself to the earth,” he explained.

Give back to nature

Though planting is followed by many benefits, it also comes with negative impacts, especially on the environment. The culture of hoarding, the rising concern over local poaching, and the noticeable hike in prices are just some of the undesirable effects of the hobby that’s steadily gaining popularity.

But, as Nico said, “It’s not about taking, taking, and taking from the earth. It’s also giving back what you took from it.”

For him, one way to give back is to be aware of the issues that can affect the environment and what steps one can take in the direction of a solution. When asked about how he helps restore nature, he said, “I think the most important and the easiest way to address this is that for every organic matter that we extract from the land, we must find a way to it back.”

He elaborated that organic wastes, like dried leaves, vegetable scraps and even used coffee can go into the soil to bring nutrients back into the land where we take our plants and resources from.

Nico’s insight on the importance of being rooted in nature is what drives him to partner with sustainable brands like Nespresso, which recycles not just the aluminum case of every coffee capsule, but also the used coffee grounds that come with it. After being separated from the aluminum, the coffee is then sent to farmers to serve as fertilizer or as a medium amendment for nutrient-rich and aerated soil. The coffee brand's boutiques and retail stores have collection points for used capsules ready for recycling.

In addition to Nico's tips, Seedibles, a brand specializing in planting kits offered via its @seedibles.co Facebook and Instagram pages, shared the following tips for those who want to hop into the planting bandwagon:

Grow plants you can eat

There’s nothing more cathartic than watching your plant grow from a humble seed to an abundant harvest — the unique feeling of serving it up for dinner after a long day, you can proudly say, “I grew that.” It’s the experience in full circle. 

Keep it simple

Make a list of three to five plants you enjoy with your meal and focus on those for your first season.

Grow from seeds

Apart from being part of the incredible seed-to-harvest transformation, there are multiple benefits to being there from the very beginning.

If you want to grow an organic harvest, it is important to make sure your plants were not doused in pesticides. This keeps them and you healthier. This is something you’ll have full control over.

Plants grown from seed also tend to be healthier because they do not suffer "transplant shock," which is the unavoidable trauma that happens when plants change environments and when fragile root systems are disturbed during planting. 

Find a good location

Location is essential. Most plants require at least six to eight hours of sun a day. Morning sun is the best and is usually less harsh on your plant. 

Watch how the sun travels over your space throughout the day. Note the shades and hot spots. Observe your space before deciding on a final spot. This decision will impact the life of your plant.

Healthy soil is a must!

There’s a big difference between high-quality well-balanced organic soil that is rich with nutrients and microbial life, and just a pile of dirt or depleted topsoil. Good soil is usually teeming with microbes and elements that break down and store organic fertilizers. Store-bought sterilized mixes usually don’t have that.

Soil is the number one area to spend money on when you’re starting out. Whatever you do, do not skimp on soil. 

For container gardening, potting mix (not garden soil, loam soil, etc.) is the best. It’s designed to give your plants the texture and drainage they need. Seedibles, a local enterprise, offers a generous amount of their Signature Potting Mix available on their online boutique.

"We are inspired by a firm philosophy that our lives are closely interwoven with nature and each other. We design quality plant therapy grow kits and bio-organic plant boosters that will not only make you feel confident in harvesting your own organic food, but can also prove to be a therapeutic experience that will bring you closer to your family, friends, and your most authentic self," the brand said in a statement sent to Philstar.com.

Water well

Watering is the second most important requirement for your plants. Some rules of thumb include:

  • Watering in the morning is the best. But if you can’t, water in the evening.
  • Water deeper and less often rather than shallow and frequently.
  • You must also water the base of your plants instead of just spraying them overhead.

Always water your plant when they need water, even if it means you’re watering many times during a heat wave. A great way of telling whether your plant is thirsty is through a combination of feeling whether your soil is dry and gauging whether it’s hotter than usual. 

Go for organic fertilizers

There are three main macro-nutrients that plants need: Nitrogen (promotes green growth; up), Phosphorus (promotes root and flower growth; down), and Potassium (promotes overall health including the plant’s immune system, and temperature tolerance; all around). 

While synthetic fertilizers offer all of these, organic fertilizers not only provide NPK, but also provide secondary and micro-nutrients, vitamins and other elements that help improve soil structure and health, resulting in stronger, healthier plants. 

While going organic can be a bit more expensive, if you factor in the benefits to your health, soil health, environmental considerations and sustainability — especially in terms of where they are sourced, how they are made, and how they get into our waterways — they provide immeasurable value. Always read the label!

Don’t be afraid to kill your plants

As the old riddle goes, “What’s the difference between a master gardener and a rookie gardener? The master gardener has killed way more plants.”

Lots of things can lead to the death of a plant, and they’re not because you don’t have a green thumb. This is where experience really pays off. Be patient, experiment and pay attention.

Learn from the struggles and the killings. The more you get to know plants and their needs, the faster you’ll have a full harvest.

RELATED: 'Quaranthings': Homemaking hacks from Heussaffs, Neri Miranda, Gold Squad

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