Retired district manager enjoys growing fruits and vegetables on his rooftop garden – Manila Bulletin

After many years of working in a fast-paced or demanding industry, many retired employees choose to live simple and relaxed lives. They often find this way of life through agriculture. While some choose to move to the province to start farms, others prefer to stay in the comfort of their city homes and use the available space to grow food.

The latter is what Arnel Biado, a 66-year-old retiree, chose to do. It has been six years since he retired, but before that he worked as a district manager for United Laboratories, commonly known as Unilab. Today, Biado spends his time tending to the fruits and vegetables in his rooftop garden in Trinidad, Benguet.

Before starting his rooftop garden, Biado tried his hand at ornamental plants. He then turned to food crops for “taste satisfaction”. He added that the pandemic also inspired him to start thinking about food sustainability.

Biado started out by growing ornamental plants. This is a photo of his flowering Jade vine.

Biado takes care of his crops using the basic knowledge he acquired during his primary and secondary school years. Yet he didn’t limit himself to what he learned from the past. The retired district manager also used modern technology by going to YouTube and social media to learn more about his chosen hobby.

This is where Biado learned the techniques of growing food in limited spaces.

When life gave him lemons, he made them grow

Three kinds of lemons are currently growing on the Biado rooftop farm. These are the Meyer lemons, the variegated lemon, the American lemon and the dayap.

According to Biado, Meyer lemon has the most juice, while cooler and American lemons have less, making them suitable for making lemon infused water. He added that variegated and American lemons are tougher than the other varieties he grows.

Variegated lemons, one of the lemon varieties that Biado grows in his rooftop garden.

Biado explained that he propagated lemons by layering or air layering, an asexual method of plant propagation where roots are induced to form from the plant while it remains above the ground.

The retired neighborhood chief multiplies his lemons by layering or air layering.

Growing lemons on a roof isn’t particularly difficult. Gardeners just need to remember to place the lemon plants in a sunny spot, as lemons do well in these conditions. Lemons should also be planted in well-drained soil and watered regularly.

The retired district manager also grows other fruits such as Davao grapefruit, calamansi, figs and cherry tomatoes. He even grows vegetables like native gingers, garlic, chili peppers, and more.

While gardening offers many opportunities, it also presents many challenges. So even though Biado overcame the first hurdle of growing food in a limited space, he had to deal with the pests that frequent his crops, namely ants, aphids and caterpillars.

A mixture of chili peppers, garlic and dish soap is used as a natural pest control.

Since the crops he grows are for personal consumption, Biado avoids using chemical pesticides to control pests. Instead, he created a natural concoction made from chili peppers, garlic, and dish soap.

It has been six years since Biado retired as a district manager for a pharmaceutical company in the Philippines. During this time, he began to grow plants on his roof. And because of the pandemic, he turned his attention to food crops to achieve his goal of living a sustainable lifestyle through agriculture.

Photos courtesy of Arnel Biado

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Daniel E. Murphy