How to Grow Organic Vegetables in Your Own Backyard (or Balcony)

One of the life goals that I share with my husband is to grow our own organic vegetables for our family.  So when we received an invitation to join an Organic Urban Gardening Workshop at Cedarhills Garden Center, we immediately said YES!


Cedarhills Garden Center is a one-stop shop for all your gardening needs.  They sell everything from potted herbs and plants, soil, seedlings, plant boxes, and everything else you might need to tend your garden.  They just recently launched their Organic Urban Gardening Workshops, and John and I were able to join the second one in July.


The workshop covers topics such as seed soaking, EM Technology, sprouting, seed planting, plant containers, transplanting, cutting, potting medium preparation, bed planting, companion planting, crop rotation, composting, natural fertilizers, and pest management.

If you’re new to gardening, here are some starter plants you might want to consider growing:

  1. Lettuce
  2. Okra
  3. Eggplant
  4. Basil
  5. Marigolds
  6. Tomatoes

IMG_7679Here I am preparing my own EMAS solution, which we used throughout the workshop to water our sprouts and the soil for everything we planted.  It is a mixture of the natural and probiotic technology EM, which was developed 28 years ago in Japan by Dr. Teruo Higa, who is famous for his book series, “An Earth Saving Revolution.”


EM™ means “Effective Microorganisms™” and it is made up of beneficial and highly efficient organisms. These microorganisms are not harmful, non pathogenic, not genetically modified, nor chemically synthesized.

Originally, it was developed as alternative for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, however, the use of EM technology™ in the last two decades, has expanded from agriculture to effluent and waste water treatments, control of foul odors, farms and animal health, human health and innumerable industrial treatments. At present, EM™ is used in more than 120 countries and there are over 54 manufacturers in the world. – Source

IMG_7615Here’s John participating in the bed planting activity.  We decorated our beds with pebbles, which we learned are not just used for decorative purposes, but for pest management as well.

IMG_7690To grow our sprouting seeds, we first soaked the seeds in EMAS for 30 minutes, which will increase their chances of actually sprouting.  You can easily grow your own salad sprouts this way!


Our lecturer, Gerard Sioco, talked about different kinds of gardens you can start at home, no matter how big or small your free space may be.  John and I already have a few pots on a rack in our balcony!

5Cedarhills Garden Center can even help you set up makeshift cabinets with LED light so you can grow lettuce even inside the house.


IMG_7687If you’ve got an actual garden, you might want to consider setting up your own mini greenhouse.  This is on our wish list!


The workshop also touches on how you can make your own compost from kitchen scraps, as well as other types of natural fertilizer.


I was feeling a bit under the weather during the workshop, so it was a bit tiring for me.  We took a break at their on-site restaurant, Hillside Cafe & Juice Bar.

IMG_7593We had tomato soup with coconut cream, and also tried their natural flu shots (cold pressed juice).


Hillside also has a lot of other interesting vegetarian dishes such as lentil and malunggay hummus, pitas with cashew cheese and black olive tapenade, beancurd chicharon, falafel soft tacos, vegan Caesar salad, vegan pasta Alfredo, zucchini pesto pasta, and tofu teriyaki.  We’re planning to go for lunch the next time we’re at Cedarhills to shop for gardening supplies.


The workshop fee of P1995 per person includes snacks at Hillside (sandwich and iced tea), as well as a starter kit for each student to take home.  The kit contains all the things you planted in class, but if you;re really serious about growing your own vegetables, you’ll have to buy more things like plant beds, potting medium (mixed/enriched soil), EM/EMAS, seeds or seedlings, and gardening tools.  You can find everything you need to get you started at Cedarhills.


Allow me to share some of the things I learned from the workshop…

URBAN GARDENER’S SHOPPING LIST (What You’ll Need to Get You Started):

• Soil
• Water
• Seeds
• Seed Strainers
• Trowel
• Garden Shears
• Widger
• Dibber
• Watering Can
• Seedling Trays
• Pots
• Plant Labels
• Measuring Cups
• Measuring Spoons
• Stirrer
• Scraper
• Cleaning Rags
• Apron



• Open seed packets and get enough seeds for you to plant – don’t get too much! For very small seeds, you will need about 3 seeds per seedling tray, and for bigger seeds, just 1 seed per hole.
• Put the seeds into the seedstrainer and immerse in diluted EMAS for 30 mins to 8 hours (not more than 24 hours).

• After soaking, plant the seeds into the seedling tray.

• For best results, water with diluted EMAS.
• You can also water with NON CHLORINATED WATER. Where can you get non chlorinated water, you might ask? You can either have an Aquasana filter installed at home, OR let your tap water sit in a balde, uncovered, for 24 hours. The chlorine will evaporate naturally and you will have non chlorinated water!
• For maintenance, water twice a day, or even thrice on very hot days.

• Once the seedling sprouts 2-3 true leaves, it’s time to transplant them.
• Water both the seedling and the potting medium where it will be transferred with diluted EMAS.
• Transplant the seedling from the tray to your pot.
• Water again with diluted EMAS all around the plant.
• Two weeks after transplanting, side-dress your plant with a solid organic fertilizer such as Bokashi or coffee grounds (which you can get by the sackful at your local Starbucks). Be careful not to put your fertilizer too close to the roots of your plant.

• For maintenance, water with non chlorinated water daily, and diluted EMAS at least once a week.
• Water with diluted organic liquid fertilizer once a week.

6. Enjoy your harvest!


5 Tips for those interested in joining the Organic Urban Gardening Workshop:

  1. Register early so you can avail of the early bird discount.  They only accommodate 16 participants per workshop, and the slots go fast (the August workshop is already sold out).
  2. Bring a USB so you can save the entire presentation right after the class.  No need to take notes!  Pay attention to your lecturer, and feel free to ask your table assistant any questions you might have.
  3. The workshop venue is NOT airconditioned, but it is air-cooled and sufficiently ventilated.  You will sweat, so I still suggest wearing something cool and comfortable + be sure to bring an extra shirt.
  4. Bring a big jug of ice water so you can stay hydrated too.
  5. Be prepared to get your hands dirty.  Bring your own tissue and wipes.
  6. If you forget anything you learned at the workshop, don’t worry!  Cedarhills Garden staff are all very helpful.  You can simply pay them a visit and ask any one of them whatever questions you might have!


CEDARHILLS GARDEN CENTER, #57 Mother Ignacia Avenue, Quezon City, Phone: 0907-ORGANIC

Open Daily:

Monday-Sat 8:30am-6:00pm


Supplementary images courtesy of Cedarhills Garden Center

4 thoughts on “How to Grow Organic Vegetables in Your Own Backyard (or Balcony)

  1. Thanks so much for this post!:-) I am into learning things about home gardening and wanting to learn about composting. I might try to attend the workshop too! Thumbs up for this info! More power and God bless!


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