THE Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) GREENIN’ Philippines program recommends 10 ways to help plants stay healthy during El Niño:
1. Move plants away from direct exposure to sunlight. The longer the exposure of plants/trees to the sun, the lesser the water it preserves. Perhaps you can consider bringing your garden (or part of it) indoors.
2. Make shade. Raw materials available, such as dried coconut leaves or an agricultural net, can help provide shade to minimize transpiration (evaporation of water from vegetation).
3. Give your plants the right amount of water. Water can be the primary reason for a plants’ death--when they either get too much of it, or not enough.
4. Watering plants at the right time. Water the plants before 9 o’clock in the morning and after 4 o’clock in the afternoon to protect the plant from wilting. Transpiration rate is at its peak between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
5. Mulching. Putting mulch surrounding the plants can preserve soil moisture content. Mulch can contain dead plant leaves, wood chips or bark chips, twigs, cardboard or newspapers.
6. Mixing with clay. If your pot soil is sandy, mix it with some amount of clay. Sandy soil dries easily. Adding clay should help retain moisture.
7. No weeding. Weeding during El Niño makes the soil directly exposed to sunlight which leads to losing the much needed moisture that plants need.
8. Clustering. Instead of scattering potted plants, group them in a cluster. This way, they will lose water and are exposed to sunlight only on the external sides.
9. No burning of leaves during El Niño as this poses a fire hazard.
10. Bamboo or tube irrigation. This is a makeshift technology of watering the plants during the time of water insufficiency. Put the bamboo/tube directly or next to the roots then pour the water in the bamboo/tube so that the roots can directly absorb the water and avoid water run-off. (Neña Okay, RAFI Forester)