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How This Mom Transformed an Empty Lot into a Lush Garden Without Spending Too Much

She's the ultimate plantita!
How This Mom Transformed an Empty Lot into a Lush Garden Without Spending Too Much
IMAGE Koji Arboleda
She's the ultimate plantita!

2020 has forced us to try a new thing or two because of the lockdown. Some of us experienced baking for the first time, opened up a small business, redecorated our space, and went online shopping a lot. One of the hobbies or interests that really blew up over the quarantine period was gardening, thus the emergence of the terms plantita and plantito. Well, one mom took her love for greenery to a whole new level and converted an empty lot in front of her home into her dream garden.

PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
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Naging tapunan na siya ng basura. Yung mga debris ng buong neighborhood—kung may mga repair sila sa bahay, binasag na concrete—they just throw it 'dyan,” single mom and businesswoman Raquel Young shares in this Preview exclusive. Having purchased the lot prior to the lockdown in March 2020, she never really bothered much about it until the first ECQ was implemented April last year. Seeing the rundown space every day across the street from her home, she just wanted to do a simple “clean-up.” The initial intent was just to make the vacant lot look less cluttered, until her passion project snowballed into something she didn't expect.

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Cleaning Up the Lot

Everything started when she decided to clear out all the garbage and unwanted debris. Then, she evened out the land and added some quality soil to make sure plants and vegetables would grow in the area. Take note: She didn’t hire any landscape architect or designer to help her out. Instead, she went straight to certain suppliers for all her gardening and construction needs. It was also just her and some household help who disposed of the trash and cleaned up the lot!

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How the lot looked like before, with garbage cans and wild grass growing everywhere.
PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
How the lot looked like once the land has been leveled and the weeds and wild grass have been removed.
PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
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Cultivating the Vegetable Garden

Being a self-made businesswoman, the single mom knows how hard work and patience pay off as long as you’ve got a vision in mind—gardening is no exception. The vegetable garden was her first priority and she made sure to plant fruits and vegetables so that her family wouldn’t need to go to the grocery anymore.

She shares, “Naglagay ako ng papaya, talong, tapos guava, and mga konting gulay lang. Ganun lang muna. Tapos syempre, ‘yun naman kasi in a month masasawa ka na [magtanim] pagka-nag-start na siyang lumaki. So nag-harvest kami after a mont, and ang harvest namin parang in a weekly basis.” All her veggies started as seeds, which she sourced from her suppliers, and then she just patiently cultivated everything and waited for them to grow.

She planted flowering plants, Cosmos, by the entrance of the veggie garden facing the street to protect the crops from pedestrians and vehicles.
PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
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The finished vegetable garden!
PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
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Designing the Main Garden

The next half of the lot would be a lush garden Raquel envisioned to spend lazy mornings and afternoons in—eating breakfast, drinking coffee, or even reading a book maybe. “Ever since, mahilig ako sa gardening talaga. And ang dami kong books about gardens and planting,” she shares. She started by building the pathway, which is actually made up of all the broken concrete and tiles people dumped on the site! A clever recycling idea if you ask us.

 

The pathway made up of recycled concrete and tiles. 
PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
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From there, she planned out the types of flowers, shrubs, trees, and vines that would propagate the garden. But most of the greenery seen now were actually just given to her. Having been a garden enthusiast for years, one of her suppliers reached out to her to take some of the plants that were close to wilting. “Kasi during the lockdown, walang bumibili, at mga halaman, namamatay. Kasi wala silang tubig doon,” she explains. “Kumbaga nakiusap lang siya sa akin, if I like to get some of the plants lalo na kasi kakapamili pa lang siya ng ibebenta niya bago mag-lockdown. So ang dami talaga niyang stocks. Ang nangyari dun, unti-unti kong kinuha because malulugi siya.”

 

 

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PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda

 

Creating the "Lounge and Living Areas"

Then, she added a tent, much like a gazebo, and transferred some of her couches and a coffee table to make it more homey, keeping to a minimalist beige and white color scheme for a fresh and stylish look.

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PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
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She also added some wooden benches and a swing along the pathwalk for whenever she and her kids get bored lounging on the couches. She even put some foldable wooden chairs and picnic tables by the foyer so she can host garden parties once the quarantine eases. And did we mention she even added an arc by the entrance, too? It's covered in beautiful vines, for some added ownership over the space.

PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
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PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
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PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda

Her neighbors all around the village were pretty amazed by how she converted the empty lot; people would even drop by to take photos for their social media. It does look like something you'd see in Tagaytay and not in the heart of Quezon City, after all! The mom even gives away seeds and cuttings to those who’d like to grow some of the plants and veggies seen in her garden.

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PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda

Working with What You Have

Raquel’s advice for aspiring plantitos and plantitas who'd like to do the same? “Give chance dun sa plants na akala mo mamatay na. And you don’t need yung mamahalin na pots. Kahit recycled plastic containers are fine. Dun ako nagpro-propagate, tapos tinatakpan ko na lang yung plastic with other plants.” True enough, the mom admits to spending as little as possible and planting based on what’s available—be that discarded seeds, half-alive cuttings, and so on.

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PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
PHOTO BY Koji Arboleda
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“I have a vision. Actually what you see now is not even 50% nung nasa vision ko,” she quips. And if that’s the case, we can only anticipate an even more aww-inspiring garden in the coming months.

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