Zambales Author Turns Herb Garden Into A Thriving Side Business – Manila Bulletin

Due to the cost, distance, and inconvenience of buying herbs in the market, 32-year-old poet and novelist Jinque R. Dolojan decided to start an herb nursery.

By planting, you nourish not only your belly but also your soul, said Jinque R. Dolojan.

To buy vegetables and other food items, Jinque and her husband Cristristan D. Dolojan have to travel two hours to get to the market. This fueled the couple’s interest in starting to grow leafy greens in their garden instead. Jinque, who is also a graphic designer, shared that in addition to their love for plants, they also love products that promote health and well-being. Before the pandemic, the Dolojans even had a small store that carried vegan and other healthy products.

A corner inside the Jinque Dolojan herb nursery.

The ease of getting food from the backyard

Jinque or JinQue RD (a nickname she uses for her writings) grew up with her grandfather who was an avid gardener. Her childhood filled with precious memories of nature introduced her to the cultivation of herbs.

Seeing them as “sacred” life forms, Jinque decided to grow herbs in 2015. When she started producing excess amounts of basil, she decided to put them up for sale. Thanks to the teamwork of Jinque and her husband, they were able to provide herbs not only to their families, but also to their fellow cooks and customers like the chefs and herb lovers in their province.

Right now, they have separate grow locations for crops. In Iba, Zambales, they grow rice and other vegetables on a 1,100 m² farm owned by parents from Cristristan who emigrated to the United States. The other is a small backyard nursery measuring 12 by 25 feet and located in Palauig, Zambales, where the Dolojans reside. Most of the time, Jinque takes care of the nursery, while Cristristan takes care of the farm.

Jinque Dolojan also grows cilantro in a plant bed.

Husband and wife grow various crops including rice, cassava, basil, arugula, kale, Mexican tarragon (Lucid tagetes), Jamaican oregano (Lippia micromera), variegated oregano, thyme, rosemary, lavender, mint, lemongrass, lemongrass, betel (Piper betle), celery, parsley, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), and pepper.

In the Jinque herb nursery, the main crop is Genoese basil, a variety native to Italy. For her, the garden serves as their “backyard pharmacy”. That is why she does not use any chemicals that could harm the health of her family and consumers. Jinque only uses a mixture of compost, garden soil, and charred rice husk for plant fertilizer.

Genoese basil is the main nursery crop as it is in high demand in their province.

Most of his clients are restaurants, herb enthusiasts and gardeners in Zambales. The majority of herbs sell for P50 each. Selling farm produce increases family income, helps them pay their bills and reduce their grocery expenses. “Say, if we haven’t had any food grown in the garden, we’ll be spending P9,000 per month (calculated as P100 per meal, three times a day) just on the vegetables we eat. So if we maximize the yield from our garden, we can save more, ”she explained.

Problems along the way

“Most herbs generally don’t suffer from the problems other crops have. Jinque adds, “It’s rare for healthy herbs to be attacked by pests, with the exception of cilantro and basil which are preferred by aphids and grasshoppers. She uses neem oil to fight pests. The major problem when it comes to grasses is the need for water and the nutrient deficiency of the soil. Jinque explained, “Some herbs require a generous amount of water (like celery) and some don’t (like rosemary and lavender).” To remedy this, she studies their individual needs and takes note of them to avoid implementing the wrong care.

The aftermath of super typhoon Ulysses. It is a rosemary plant that shows signs of overwatering on its leaves.

Jinque emphasized that you should know that herbs are sun-loving plants and should be watered with caution. To have successful herb production, growers need to watch for overwatering indications from time to time. Herbs also like well-drained, compost-rich soils. As they grow quickly, trim the herbs regularly for their optimal growth, she added.

Jinque hopes to own an area of ​​200 hectares that will promote holistic living, food production and animal husbandry. Now that they are producing food, they no longer have to depend on the market for most of the food they consume.

Photos by Jinque R. Dolojan.

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Terri S. Tomasini