Harvesting Strawberries In SG Apartment!


The day finally arrived to pick and taste the fruits of our labor! No one, not even ourselves, anticipated that this day would arrived so quickly.

Harvest strawberries in Singapore

Picking fresh strawberries in Singapore

We picked our first SG strawberries on October 20 2015, two months earlier than expected. 🙂

As our plants are cultivated in water bottles and not pots , our fruits are very small as a result. But that is okay because they made up for its size with flavor! 🙂

Picking Strawberries in Singapore

My fellow researchers/gardeners are thrilled to bits !

Harvest fresh strawberries in Singapore

Summer’s wish has come true!

Picking fresh strawberries in Singapore

Picking strawberries in Singapore!

Picking fresh strawberries in Singapore

Home grown strawberries in Singappore

Pick and eat home grown strawberries

Strawberries needed to be picked as soon as they are ripe. They have a strong strawberries scent which attracts fruit flies otherwise! 🙂

Pesticide free strawberries in Singapore

Pesticide free home grown strawberries

Our home grown SG strawberries tasted like jam with a punch of apricot, very flavorful! They are so different from supermarkets’ strawberries.

Lets hope other gardeners can contribute ideas of how to make them grow better, and share their input! 🙂



Strawberries’ Overview – From Seeds to Fruits :)


My 11 year old daughter’s birthday wish was to harvest strawberries in our apartment. 🙂

It would not be a hard wish to grant if we were living in a temperate climate region, but we are living in Singapore, a tropical country.

Right from the start, we were met with disbelief and skepticism when we tell friends what we want to do. They all think I was crazy!!!

Our impossible mission began March 2015, after watching a few videos on how other people grew strawberries from seeds.

Most of these how-to videos were from Europe or United States. There were none from South East Asia, at least not the English speaking ones that we could find.

The first strawberries germinated on April 4 2015, from a packet of seeds from Far East Flora, a local nursery near home.

Strawberry Seeds in Singapore

It took 10 days to see our first strawberries seeds sprouting! There was no going back after this point.

Strawberry seedlings from seeds in Singapore

A week later, we decided to see if we could harvest seeds ourselves and germinate seedlings from store bought fresh strawberries.

We discovered that matured seeds from ripe fresh fruits had a faster germination rate of 2 to 5 days instead of 10 days. This is Summer’s video on how to choose the matured fresh strawberry seeds for germination :

However in late December 2015, we were advised by American growers that harvesting from fresh strawberries was not a good idea. All our supermarkets’ strawberries are hybrids, they would not grow true to parent plants. Our own experience with these seedlings showed they did not last long. Most of our seedlings from fresh strawberries died at 5th month or after they were transplanted to deeper pots.

Harvesting ripe seeds from strawberries

Kids are harvesting mature seeds from ripe strawberries 🙂


I hope this excitement of discoveries and spirit of learning led them to research in fields of their interests when they grow up.

We created our group on Facebook, ” SG Farming in Apartments”,  to share our experience on May 1 2015.

More pictures on how we began to harvest day’s post is pinned at the top of this group. Our link is at : https://www.facebook.com/groups/866039746800973/

Please follow our post “How to Germinate Strawberry seeds” for tips ! 🙂

By mid May 2015, we had 60 strawberry seedlings thriving in our bedroom. The kids and I are now strawberries “farmers”!!! 🙂

Grow strawberry from seeds in Singapore

Strawberry baby plants from seeds in our SG bedroom 🙂


From these tiny sprouts, more leaves appeared. They were such pretty seedlings, and this was the first time we seen strawberries’ seedlings!

The question of  whether our strawberry plants can really really bear fruits troubles me constantly 🙁  I told my daughter we would take them as far as we can, not wanting to disappoint her with false hopes.

Strawberry seedling

Our 1 month old strawberry seedling

Strawberry seedling at 3 months

3 months old Strawberry seedling has an emerging crown

As we would be away during the June holidays, and not wanting to bother my elderly parents too much, we decided to give half of our 60 seedlings to seasoned gardeners in Singapore.

Strawberries seedlings shared with Singapore gardeners

Sharing our strawberry seedlings with Alex Ng, who successfully grew grapes along his corridor 🙂

Due to over-watering, pests had invaded our soil when we returned home after the June break.

I decided to change the soil instead of applying pesticide, and took the opportunity to look at strawberry’s roots.

strawberry plant roots

3 months old strawberry plant has an emerging crown and long roots

Strawberry seedling has long roots

Close Up look at strawberry roots – very long and taper

Please follow post on “How to Transplant Strawberry Plants” for tips!

By the 4th month, strawberry plants became hardier.

They are drought resistant and need less water. At this time, the soil should be more acidic. Yeh Gerald from Urban Farmers (Singapore) Facebook’s group, advised to add used ground coffee to the soil.

Strawberry seedling stages

4th month strawberry seedling


Strawberry plant length at 4 months

Strawberry plant at 4th month is 29cm

As the strawberry plants grew, space to grow them at my only sunny window in the apartment was running out.

Strawberries from seeds

Crowded Table top – strawberry seedlings!!

Vertical garden seem the only solution left.

All our vertical towers are recycled from used plastic water bottles and painted white to reflect heat away from the plants.

Strawberry farm in Singapore bedroom

Strawberry plants covered our windows and filled our table  space!


I am guessing that my daughter is the only kid in school who can say she is sleeping and studying in a strawberry garden in tropical Singapore!

On Sept 20 2015, when the strawberries were five months old, flowers buds were found on our the strawberry plants. A couple of days later, these flowers bloom.

We were really happy to see them. Fruiting seem possible at this stage.

Strawberry plant flowers

Our first glimpse of a strawberry plant’s flower

Two legged bees were put to work, pollinating these flowers with a paint brush. A friend from our gardening group, Ms. Regina Fok, send us a link with information on how to do this.

Summer presented a video in YouTube to show how we pollinated ours.

This is my theory. In Singapore, because of high humidity, we cannot relied exclusively on natural elements like wind or bees (which we don’t have in our room) to pollinate strawberries’ flowers.

Self Pollinate Strawberry flowers

Human Bee Shona pollinating strawberry flowers in Singapore

The best chance to see fruits is to lend a human’s helping hand.

When pollination is successful, the petals dropped the next day and its head started to droop downwards.

Self pollinated strawberry flower

One day after self pollination (Sept 21 2015) – Strawberry flower looked bruised.

Self pollinated strawberry flowers

Self Pollinated strawberry flower on the right  has shed all petals,begin to fruit.

stages of strawberry fruit growth

On the right, flower has shed all its petals and begin fruiting journey. On the left, a fruit becoming more developed.

Fruiting process start as soon as petals are dropped and the flower’s bud drooped down. This happened within a week instead of months as we expected.

Strawberry plant baby is really ugly!

First stage of strawberry fruit development

First stage of strawberry fruit – flower lost its petals, head drooped downward

Second stage of strawberry fruit development

Second stage of strawberry fruit development – flesh and seeds are green

Third stage of strawberry fruit development

Third stage of strawberry fruit development – seeds began to redden

4th stage of strawberry fruit development

4th stage of strawberry fruit development – seeds redden further while flesh remained light green

5th stage of strawberry fruit development

An unexpected surprise – strawberry fruit flesh turned from light green to white while seeds remained red

6th stage of strawberry fruit development

Pink blush on strawberry fruit’s white flesh overnight

Last strawberry fruit development stage

A recognizable red strawberry fruit at last!

SG Strawberries first harvest

Oct 20 2015 – Our first strawberries harvest. Absolutely thrilled!


This story shared on TEDx stage on May 28 2016. 🙂 Thank you, TEDxPickering Street for the honour to share our story.


All the videos here are written and presented by children, using their own words.

Summer is 11 years old and she is our spokesperson for the English communities. Shona is 8 years old, and she is presenting in Japanese. (Year 2015)

They both enjoyed making these how-to videos and sharing our experience.

We hope you enjoyed them too.

PS. This is how we grow 50 -60 strawberry plants at home !! :))

August 7 2016 – We harvested our second variety of strawberries. The children and I love these Heirloom Pineapple strawberries even more than the red variety! 🙂 Check out why they are so special at the link.










The general rule of thumb for anyone who loves kale and want fresh harvest regularly is to grow 3 to 4 plants per family member.

Grow your own at home saves money, as this is a cut and grow plant. As a gauge, a 10 weeks old plant will yield 5 big leaves every week. Cost to grow this super food can be as little as $1 per week or zero if we have our own compost. Additional perks as home growers are we get to choose when to harvest, whether younger more tender leaves or the bigger foliage from more mature plants. In any case, own grown is always best, as we grow them without chemical and there is no waste. We only harvest when we need to. NO carbon footprint from plants to mouth at home! 🙂 

However, space may be a major constraint to grow enough of these wonderfully delicious and nutrients packed greens for urban high rise dwellers like ourselves in Singapore.

To solve space challenges, I chose to grow in PET bottles with Kratky’s non circulating hydroponic instead of soil to save space.

Fresh vegetables on Minimal space

2018 January 8 – squeeze for space

STEP 1 – Germination Method

It is important to keep seeds moist at all times. They can be sowed on wet tissues and lightly covered with another tissue. Cling wrapped or ziplock in bag to maintain moisture on seeds bed.

Germination speed is faster on tissues (2 days) than on soil (9 days).

Grow kale from seeds

October 17 2017 – Germinated (2 days)


Kale benefits

1 day after germination

STEP 2 – Transplanting Seedling

Transplant seedling when true leaves (the second pair of leaves) emerged and about 4 cm long. At this stage, it need more sunlight.

Tip – For speedier seedling’s growth, keep grow lights on longer while maintaining moisture with foliage misting.

In Hydro – Make sure roots reach nutrient feed.

In Soil – kept moist and seedling is upright.

Kale benefits

1 week old kale

Kale benefits

2 weeks old kale in “incubator”

STEP 3Adjusting Sun Exposure

For better tasting kale, where leaves are tender and less bitter, adjust sun exposure when seedlings are one month old.

Grow in morning sun which is not hot or remove from direct afternoon sun to grow in partial shade, made better tasting leaves.

Grow Kale from seeds in bottles

January 2 2018 – First harvest


Cut bigger or outer most leaves stem as close to main stem as possible.

Keep younger smaller leaves on plant until they grow bigger, usually in a week time.


Grow Kale in Singapore

Cut and Regrow Leaves

Kale benefits

Fresh kale salads


Kale Care and Health Benefits

Grow back within 10 days

I love how mobile my vegetables “garden” is, that they are all grown in jars and PET bottles. in natural sunlight and feed. Garden to table in a minute when we harvest our salads!

Fresh Kale health benefits

January 20 2018 – another harvest



I wanted something more natural than what is available commercially and one friend customized a liquid feed for me.

For anyone who likes an alternative choice to grow edibles safely, this hydro kit is available for sale  (plant is not included) ! 🙂

Direct from growers who listened and care about how we grow food.

Grow food Naturally

Hydro Leafy Kit

KALE Notes

  • Likes moist , well drained and loamy soil
  • Grow in partial shade if there is too much sun
  • Temperature over 27C or under strong direct sun will turn leaves bitter and tough
  • Seeds to harvest is 70 – 90 days , estimated height 10 inches tall
  • Harvest big (outside) leaves and the plant will regrow new leaves
  • Hardy biennial plant (2 years to complete its life cycle, to bolt , to decline)
  • Belongs to cabbage family

Kale Benefits

  • Most nutrients packed vegetable (Vitamin A, B6, C, K, Manganese, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper, Potassium)
  • High anti-oxidant (beta carotene, quercetin, kaempferol)
  • Lowers cholesterol, reduce heart disease
  • Zero Fat
  • Protects eye sight
  • High Fiber content

Delicious Juice Recipes

  • Pineapple-Kale-Blast (Prolific Juicing) – 8 Kale leaves with stem, coriander, Pineapple, half cucumber and 1 medium apple
  • Simple Kale – Kale leaves, lettuce, cucumber, lemon, apples (adjust sweetness with apples)
  • Kale + Coconut Juice (Alan Tan, urban farmer)
  • Green Goddess (Prolific Juicing) – 8 Kale leaves, 2 cups spinach, 12 strawberries, 1 lime, 2 apples, mint, optional – ginger



ICE Plant

Out of boredom on December 30 2017, I decided to sort out my seeds collection and found ice plant seeds which were bought in April.

I had totally forgotten about them!

There are about 135 varieties and under them, 1900 species of ice plants. Originally discovered in the dry and barren South Africa’s mountains, they thrived better in sandy soil. In addition to leaves, their flowers are also edible.

Ice Plant in Singapore

Grown by Dr. Wilson Wong (Green Culture Singapore Facebook Group’s Creator)

Surprisingly the seeds germinated very fast, in fact only 19 hours, using strawberry germination method.

How to Germinate Ice Plant

2018 January 1 – Ice Plant’s first sprouts!

Ice Plants in Singapore

2018 January 7 – 1 week old seedling

Transplanted on January 08 to sandy medium, will hope they grow well ! 🙂

Ice Plants in Singapore

Customized sandy based medium


Ice Plants Notes

  • Tolerate full Sun but not heat over 27C
  • Drought tolerant
  • Prefers dry hard packed medium – more sand, perlite
  • Flowers are edible
  • Thick and succulent leaves with salt crystals
  • Market price in Singapore – $160 + per KG



Thanks to Jack Yam’s sharing with easy to follow tutorial and accompanying photographs, a lot of gardeners learned how to grow microgreens.

With Jack’s permission, his pictures and instructions are shared in this post.

Step 1 – Recycle any plastic container suitable for growing! Drill or cut holes at the base for drainage. This allowed excess water to drain from the soil.

Grow food at home

Cut or drill holes for drainage

Not handy with electric drill, I re-used easier to cut soft plastic containers instead! Drainage holes were created by snipping corners with a pair of scissor.

Grow Harvest Eat from garden to table

Re-used plastic containers!

Step 2 – Fill only 1 inch depth of good gardening soil mix, customized or buy ready mix.

Microgreens from seeds

Fill and pat down soil

Step 3 – Water well, the medium should be very wet and then slowly drained from the holes we had cut/drilled below.

Grow Eat Fresh Food

The soil is very wet


Step 4 – Sow seeds on the surface. Press gently on seeds to ensure that they touched the soil but were not buried. 

Grow Eat Fresh Food

Seeds are on the surface

Lesson learned from our own experience, DO NOT cling wrapped the container as mold will grow. However this is easily remedied with sun exposure after a few hours.

Our microgreens’ journal began on December 17 2017 following Jack Yam’s instructions.

We hope to grow many varieties of microgreens and be able to harvest fresh from our table top gardens!

Grow microgreens from seeds

Broccoli and Red Beet seeds from Gardeners Day Out event in Singapore

  1. Broccoli seeds germinated in 18 hours!
Grow Eat fresh food at home

2017 December 18 at 2pm – Broccoli

Impatient to taste our first microgreens, we harvested on December 24 2017, exactly 7 days later.

Grow Harvest Eat microgreens

Broccoli microgreens taste like broccoli

Jack Yam advised there is no fixed rule as to when microgreens can be harvested. They can be as young as one week old with a set of seed leaf or more mature 3 to 4 weeks. The older seedlings will have more leaves and better bite. Microgreens are generally eaten raw and however old they are when we harvest them, they taste really good.

How to Grow microgreens at home

Dec 29 2017 – Broccoli leaf

How to Grow microgreens at home

2 weeks old seedling

2) Red beet was our second microgreen variety to try .

The seeds are really cute as they looked like wholemeal cereal bites!

Grow Harvest Eat microgreens

December 17 2017

Red beets germinated on December 19 2017, 2 days later.

Grow Harvest Eat microgreens

December 19 2017 – red beet

First harvest and taste on Christmas day 2017!

Grow Harvest Eat microgreens

Red beet

How to grow microgreens at home

Red Beet Leaf taste like beet!

Whole food grow at home made great snacks as well!

Grow Harvest Eat microgreens

Red beets and broccoli greens!

Growing microgreens was really easy and  fast to harvest.

In spite of their size, they packed a punch in nutrients, texture and taste.

Our grow rack of  anti-aging, healthy and colourful microgreens is expanding! 🙂

How to grow microgreens at home

2017 Dec 30 – Growing more varieties

One Time harvest 

  1. Spicy Taste – radishes, mustard/mizuna (wasabi tasting) , rockets
  2. Thai Basil
  3. Broccoli
  4. Pea / dou miou
  5. Red Cabbage
  6. Sunflower
  7. Alfalfa
  8. Red Amaranth
  9. Coriander
  10. Fenugreek
  11. Basil (green , purple)
  12. Kale
  13. Pak Choy
  14. Spinach
  15. sesame
  16. Chia seeds
  17. Water Cress
  18. Edamame
  19. Fennel
  20. Cucumber
  21. Chard
  22. Stevia
  23. Pumpkin leaves
  24. Sorrel
  25. Chives

Multiple harvests microgreens – cut will regrow

  1. Corn (Jack Yam’s tip – the white part of shoots are very sweet but the longer the shoot grows, the texture is fibrous)
  2. Wheatgrass

Most leafy greens can be harvested early to be eaten as microgreens or let to mature to grow into salads. Thus we can use vegetables and herbs seed for microgreens. For example, any type of kale, basil, pak choy, amaranth etc.

Microgreens vs. Sprouts

They are not the same.

Sprouts are germinated seeds and harvested in 48 hours. Consumed sprouts are mainly the seed, stem, roots and underdeveloped light color leaves. Their ideal growing conditions, 100% humidity and warmth (27C/80F), sometimes carried risks of pathogenic bacteria. In Europe, consumers are often advised to cook sprouts before eating.

Microgreens are young greens and harvested from 2 to 4 weeks. Their growing conditions are completely opposite the sprouts conditions – high light and sun exposure, low humidity and good ventilation. They have 2 developed cotyledons (seed leaf) and partially developed true leaf. Usually consumed raw without roots as they are cut above soil level.

An USDA 2012 study on microgreens yield an interesting detail. The nutritional benefits of microgreens varied when its grown in artificial lights and natural strong sunlight. According to this study, natural sunlight will yield the maximum nutritional content for microgreens.







Coriander – Grow from seeds

I love this aromatic herb for many reasons. Its add flavor to any dishes and packed a punch in health benefits.

Coriander or Cilantro’s health benefits

  1. Reduce levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing levels of HDL
  2. Lower blood sugar and pressure
  3. improve bowel movement
  4. Rich in vitamin C, K and protein
  5. Anti-inflammatory benefit

What’s there not to love about this herb?!

Health benefits of cilantro

My first home grown coriander on March 23 2016

In South East Asia, this is relatively common herb in our markets but there may be parts of the world where its not so easily found. Thus, it would be useful to learn how to grow from seeds.

Health benefits of cilantro

Coriander Seeds – round with hollow casing

Coriander seeds can be found not only in plant nurseries which are more expensive but also in dry goods shelves of supermarkets. These seeds are used in Mediterranean and Asian kitchens to add flavor to stews and sauces.

For better germination success, I like to “crack” the seeds before sowing on wet tissues or other medium.

Health benefits of coriander

Stratify seeds before sowing – easy to crack seeds with finger nails

The seeds were sowed on pre-moist soil and placed in an area where I have some morning sun.

Health benefits of cilantro

7 days to germinate

Coriander can be eaten as microgreen or slightly more mature plant.

Health benefits of coriander leaves

3 weeks old cilantro or coriander

ZERO Carbon Footprint

In 2015, when I started planting strawberries, I thought keeping them cool in our tropical climate is important. As I grew and learned, I found it is possible to grow them in our natural environment without too much fuss once the seedlings established (4 months ++).

Thus, this discovery, the compilation of 2 years of observation and data collection resulted in new ways to grow strawberries, in soil or hydroponic, without using any cooling elements from electricity.

Zero carbon footprint mean we can grow strawberries at very low cost in Singapore.

Soil Based using wind

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

Aug 26 2017 – In modified air-pots from 1.5L PET bottles

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

Soil based plants in natural environment

Passion made Possible Strawberries

Vigorously fruiting when the time is right

Hydroponic strawberry plants in Juice Jars

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

Aug 24 2017 – A thriving fruiting plant without carbon footprint

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

How many fruits can you see on this plant? 🙂

With hydroponic trial, it is now possible for us at home to study the plant intimately – to look at the roots system and how the crown behave as the plant matured. Roots – wise, this is not possible when the plant is in soil.

From seeds to harvest, it is also faster in hydroponic ( 4 months) versus soil based ( 6 to 8 months).

This is the diary of my first hydroponic strawberry, grown without electricity and the convenience of technology.

My first low cost hydroponic strawberries journey began on April 3 2017. Seeds were sowed March 27 on wet sponges. They germinated within 7 days.

Such tiny seedlings, I was glad I sowed them individually on sponges and need not delicately transferred at this stage.

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

April 3 2017 – Germinated!

The thrill of seeing strawberry seeds germinated is the same as when I first started in 2015.

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

May 24 2017 – See how tiny they were?

Hands literally trembled when I transplant these tiny 2 months old seedlings! Were not sure if how I did were correct.

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

June 04 – Young seedlings in yogurt bottles!

The rate of growth in hydroponic is very fast. We see visible spurts in growth in roots mass and height of the plant from the second month.

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

July 12 – 3 months old

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

August 02 – First flower bud spotted

Without electricity, this plant is grown in stagnant still water and yet achieved aerated characteristics.

Passion made possible strawberries

August 16 – Plant signalling flowering stage with vivid red stems

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

August 17 – Flower open and new buds seen

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

August 18 2017 – One pollinated flower (without petals) and another bloom.

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

August 20 – Fruits started its journey

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

Tiny sweet fruits for picking!

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

The color of ripe!

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

Tabletop fruit plant from seeds 🙂

Tiny fruits from a small plant but its been immensely satisfying for me.

This trial proved that without technology, home grown (tabletop) strawberries is possible.

Growing them hydroponically made it easier to harvest fresh fruits direct from table to mouth!

Observation of after harvest stage –

The plant shared similar characteristics of soil based plants. Leaves and fruits production start to wane. There were more brown than vivid red stems.

Grow strawberries in Singapore

Oct 18 2017 – Leaves begin to brown

Grow strawberries in Singapore

Fruits production slowed

Whether soil based or hydroponic, strawberry plants displayed slowing vigor after a few months of fruits production. The characteristics of slowing growth is the same – less vivid red stems, more brown leaves and stunted fruits.

Similar to strawberries grown in the natural cold zone, after plants have adequate “rest”, the red stems returned and flowering starts.

GRow strawberries in Singapore

2017 Dec 24 – Renewed vigor after resting

A mature plant has a developed crown and multiple splits.

2018 Update – Aren’t they pretty?

Grow strawberries without carbon footprint

2018 January 23

Grow strawberries w zero carbon footprint

Good size strawberry –

Grow strawberries in the tropics

2018 Feb 1 – strawberries ripening

Grow strawberries in Singapore

2018 Jan 27 – Harvest Day

Grow strawberries in Singapore

2018 Feb 4 – Sweet berry taste with white flesh

Size of fruits are not dependent on weather. We observed that the same seeds grown in USA, are the same size for the first year harvest. Gradually over-wintering outdoors will improved their plants while in Singapore, remained same.

Grow strawberries in tropical country

Size of fruit is same as grown in USA

Second Generation –

With fruits, another opportunity to learn and a wild ride has began!

Passion Made Possible Strawberries

August 20 – red seeds from our fruits

Wonder how the next generation grows? 🙂

Passion made Possible Strawberries

August 27 2017 – First sprout !

Here we go again! Second generation has began. Seeds sowed on August 20, first sign of germination was spotted on August 27 2017 (7 days)!

Grow strawberries from seeds

Oct 15 2017 – A faster growing seedling in hydroponic than soil based

Grow hydroponic strawberries in Singapore

2017 Dec 24 

Last but not least, we had observed that in addition to vivid red stems, roots also have an indicative signal for flowering stage! 🙂

2018 Update on second generation seedlings –

Grow strawberries w zero carbon footprint

2018 January 23 – Flowering

Aloe Vera Care & Benefits

The following notes and illustrations are from Eric Lim (June 11 2017) who hope they are helpful to fellow gardeners.

Healthy Aloe Vera looked like this –

Healthy Aloe Vera Signs

Healthy Aloe Vera

Unhealthy Aloe Vera symptoms –

Aloe Vera Plant Care and Problems

Unhealthy Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera plant problems and solutions –

Aloe Vera Plant Care and Problems

Aloe Vera Plant Care and Problems

Aloe Vera Plant Care and Problems

Aloe Vera Plant Care and Problems 2

Aloe Vera Plant Care and Problems

Aloe Vera Plant Care and Problems 3

How to grow aloe vera –

Aloe Vera Plant Care and Problems

How to propagate aloe vera 🙂

Interesting information about Aloe Vera from my readings –

  • is a succulent and like the cacti, cannot tolerate any medium that allowed water to stay stagnant. (Eric Lim recommend lecca balls, cacti mix, basically it is similiar to rosemary/lavender which loves the dry medium in this customize soil formula post! Another method is potting soil with more sand and perlite to allow water to drain out quickly. 🙂
  • Bright light area is best
  • Water this plant only when the soil is very dry

Benefits and Uses –

  • Hair & Scalp Care – Aloe Vera gel contains proteolytic enzymes which repair dead skin cells on scalp. Its a good conditioner that not only allow hair to shine but also reduce dandruff, itching and promotes hair growth! 🙂
  • Skin Care – reduce inflammation and rashes
  • First Aid – relieve sunburns and other minor burns

Natural Care with Aloe Vera Gel – Blend to a paste and apply

  • Dry Skin – pinch of tumeric, teaspoon each of honey and milk, rose water
  • Sensitive Skin – cucumber juice, yogurt and rose oil (I use pure essential oil extract)
  • Scrub – a cup of sugar and two tablespoons of lemon (have not tried! )
  • Hair Mask – coconut oil and few drops of rosemary essential oil


Disclaimer – I love these natural remedies but only try at own risk! 🙂




Gardening 101

I was a noob myself in 2015 and still remembered how I start.

What seem common sense to seasoned gardeners may not be so clear for new gardeners. I read a lot of posts in every group that I joined, researched gardening books and online videos and yet, with the volume of information available, questions still arose.

What was simple to experienced gardeners is a minefield for new gardeners!

How to start? Make a list of what you want to grow.

What to grow? In the past, I often advised, “Grow what you like to eat” ! But what happened if new gardeners are like me, a connoisseur who love to cook with rosemary and thyme ? These herbs are not easy to grow for even some seasoned gardeners.

I have learned to be more specific with my advice. 🙂 Here is a list of some easy edibles to consider. For example, mint, kang kong, basil, peanuts, pak choi, arugula etc. Rule of thumb for beginners is, “READ FIRST” then rushed out to buy the gardening essential. The reason is, plants have different needs and the designated area for gardening may not be suitable. Most edibles thrived better where there is sun. At least 6 hours of sun if possible or at least, a very bright area. If there is no sun, fret not, your options are limited but there are grow lights or just grow more shade loving plants instead.

Gardening tips for new gardeners

See that Magnifying glass on the right corner?

Effective use of social media as a learning tool start from knowing how to source for information quickly. Use this magnifying glass to search for answer to questions. You will be amazed how quickly Facebook gathered and collect related posts for reading. The questions we asked as noobs may have been posted many times before. To save time, this was how I learned gardening using social media groups. An advantage of such tool is being able to learn at your own chosen time and be able to find out common problems (pests, pollination difficulties) affecting these plants and how to handle them before experiencing them yourself! 🙂 Last but not least, who the experts are in that area and be able to ask directly! 🙂

Some edibles need not be grown from seeds. Most plants can be propagated. The word, simply mean to grow from a parent plant. By the way, I learned about this method when I helped my then 10 years old daughter with homework. 🙂 Thus cut a stem or trimmed off the end on a slant cut, and stick this in water and wait for roots to emerged. Then plant in your preferred medium. This is my blog post on mint and included in it, a video where my daughter will show you how. 🙂

Gardening basic for new gardeners

Rosemary propagation – better chance of rooting if stems are from a live plant than grocery herbs!

What soil to buy ? Ever stand in front of the aisle where soil are sold? It is a different reality when standing in front of rows of soil options isn’t it? These are just too many types to choose from!

Seeds Compost – Likely it will have more husk and sieved soil to retain moisture. For this brand, fine sand is added to keep the soil loose for young roots to grow without hindrance. Fertilizer is included to last 2 months. Its a darker color compared to Horti brand. For your information, seeds do not need fertilizer to start.


Then what is the different between seeds compost and seed potting mix? I think not much difference in terms of purpose. Seeds compost or potting mix tend to have less barks, more loose and water retaining properties than other types of soil. For seeds, I preferred to start them in seeds compost.

Gardening basics for new gardeners

Seeds Potting mix and Potting soil

What is potting soil? Essentially its the same thing but with more barks, some perlite (volcano ash that had been heated into pebbles form), and fertilizers for growing plants. Most seasoned gardeners customized their own mixes for different plants. Check out the formulas at the above link.

In addition, direct from local growers, soil or hydro kits for beginners are available!

Gardening basics for new gardeners

Soil for edibles


On fertilizers, my personal advice for new gardeners is to remember why we are growing edibles in the first place.

We grow to eat. The kids will be eating them too. There is no deadline to rush the produce to the market. Thus, please give your plants time to mature and if needed, then add fertilizers. Most soil from the stores already have fertilizers in them for 4 – 8 weeks.

Again, there are many different kinds of fertilizers available. I preferred organic fertilizers, such as rabbit poo (any herbivore animals’ poo) or worm casting. I also make my own seaweed fertilizer and recycled green waste for compost in my outdoor gardens. Amy Choong made her own orange peel soil conditioner which I will be be trying out soon. Some gardeners kept earthworms and harvest worm tea and casting (poo) for their gardens. Most fruit bearing plants need higher Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) fertilizers. Please Google to find out more.

Gardening basics for new gardeners

Worm casting – many different brands available!

How about soil – less options?  If you are just considering your options, why not try Lim San‘s method first, out of recycled cups and plastic bottles. Trust me, plants don’t really care where you grow them in as long as their growing conditions are met! 🙂


Gardening basics for new gardeners

Hydroponics salads following Lim San‘s instructions!

And even a video from the kids! 🙂

Gardening basics for new gardeners

Small space gardening – From “garden”

The benefits of growing your own vegetables? There is no waste, we only harvest what we need and then the plant continue to grow. Even if I only have one sunny window and a table, with Lim San’s methods, I get to grow and harvest fresh vegetables from this table! 🙂 Kids too, are better at science subject because of our hobby.

Gardening basics for new gardeners

To Table 🙂

Last word on gardening.:)

It is FUN.

The next thing to do after reading all of this information?

Just do it! 🙂

PS. Even if you have not decide whether to go with soil or soil-less, or have no soil on hand ? Don’t worry, seeds can start on damp kitchen paper too!! 🙂






Customize Soil Mixes

We all know that plants have different preferences for where they rest their “feet” (roots). Some plants preferred very dry medium, like rosemary and lavenders, while others thrived in moist but well drained mixes . Generally, plants do not tolerate having their roots soaked all the time. Thus, it is important to know how to customize soil mixes or at the very least, how to adjust ready mixes for different plants’ needs.

Seasoned gardener, Guanster Guan, shared his soil formula for dry loving plants which need very well drained soil. By this, he meant that water need to drain out very fast, it does not sit in the soil. His ratio is 1:1:1 of the following :

  1. LECA balls (small ones)
  2. Rice Husks
  3. Baba Organic Vege mix (suitable for edibles)
Customize soil mixes for different plants needs

Ratio 1:1:1 of leca balls, rice husk and vege soil mix or other organic compost

Customize soil mixes

Close up look at Guanster 1:1:1 ratio for non-water retaining soil

Guanster also advised gardeners to adjust this ratio according to the garden’s environment. For example, if  the garden is located in a high rise where it is dry and windy,  to add more vege mix (or other good quality compost) so that the medium do not dried up too fast.

Customize soil mixes

Baba Vege Soil Mix (Organic) or other good quality brands

On the other hand, if the garden’s location is humid, where the air flow is bad and stale, it is advisable to add more LECA balls which allow aeration for the roots.

For soil mixes that contained compost, perlite (volcano ash that had been dried in 1200C heat), cocochip etc, his ratio advice is not more than 30%  of each because this media will become acidic over time. Plants such as lavender and rosemary which preferred alkaline PH do not thrived in acidic soil.

On super soil mix for most other plants, his preferred formula are these with lecca

Customize soil mix

Plants which preferred more moisture – Naturegro Compost and Garden Formula Potting Mix

For edibles, add in Baba Vegemix (picture is third one from the top) for a potent formula. Another gardener, Ooi Shirley, enjoyed good harvest with this Baba Vegemix for most of her plants. Jaimie Lim used Garden potting mix for seeds and rosemary plants. Guanster used Baba vegemix to germinate seeds.

For succulent n cactus, Guanster’s formula is Baba cacti/succulent mix , volcano sand and lecca at the ratio of 1 : 1: 2

Soil for cacti and succulent

Customize soil mix for cacti and succulent

Cacti and succulent soil

Ratio 1:1:2 of Baba cacti, Volcano sand and lecca

Mix thoroughly and remove any coarse particles.

cacti and succulent soil mix

Cacti and succulent soil customize and mixed thoroughly

On burnt soil, Guanster advised this will break down into a powdery form over a year. This prevent aeration and thus choked plants’ roots. He preferred to use dried rice husks (non carbonated) which break down into plant food instead.

On volcanic soil, he felt that as it has a sticky texture, it is best to mix with volcanic sand rather than compost. Or volcanic sand with compost.

Guanster stressed that this is his preferred soil formula that he hopes to share with fellow gardeners.

Don’t have to follow 100% ! “. 🙂

There are more than one way to garden and customize soil mixes. Most seasoned gardeners have their own formulas. It is important to understand the WHY’s and use this information as a guideline for available options only.

Regarding feeding, his advice is reduce dosage and increase frequencies. Plants suffer shock when gardeners do the opposite, that is feed once a month but increased dosage than recommended. This applied to every fertilizer.

Still unsure ? Fret not , soil & hydro kits for beginners are available here! 🙂

How to check plants health when buying from nurseries –

  1. Check the base of the stems (especially for rosemary and lavender). DO NOT buy if the lowermost stems are black or browning. This indicate roots rot already. Plants in this condition will die soon.
  2. Check the color of the leaves. Stressed plants showed distress in leaves as well, for example, brown and discolored leaves.
  3. Check the soil for fungus or algae.

Most of local nurseries plants came from Cameron Highlands or other parts of Malaysia. The reasons why most of these plants suffered stress are the following :

  1. Weather – our local weather is hot compared to the plants’ growing environments in Cameron Highlands.
  2. Transportation and time – Plants from orchards in cooler Cameron Highlands are packed in a) peat based media to retain as much moisture as possible during their long journey to Singapore. However, this media is not suitable for humid Singapore. b) The plants are also wrapped in plastic and packed in boxes, to prevent spill in the cargo. This increased the heat stress on the plants. 3) Long queues at customs put these plants in extreme stress conditions when they finally reached our nurseries.

Knowing how to customize soil or media for different plants’ needs increased the survival rate for these plants. For rosemary and lavender, as we found out in earlier posts, Guanster also gave the same advice, that is change the media from nurseries’ coco peat base to very well draining media. He preferred formula is 1:1:1  (lecca, rice husks and vege mix). Other gardeners from the above 2 hyperlinks, have other formulas.

Less severely stressed plants can be treated. Once media is changed to a more suitable type, these plants’ are slowly acclimatized.  First placed plants in partial sunlight or filtered bright area (afternoon sun). The best is 4 to 5 hours of morning sun. Water as prescribed to the plants’ needs.




And … COWGIRLS ! 🙂

In every group of various communities, there are bound to be a small group of rebels who are not satisfied with the ordinary. They defied every established rule to do things their own way and explore new boundaries!

These are the grapes growers who do so in Singapore high rise gardens! Having no land and facing countless challenges are not going to stop these cowboys/girls from growing what they want and how they want to do it!

GrumpyGrapes – Not sure if you are reading this right? How could growing grapes be possible in hot tropical crowded cities like Singapore?!

Grow grapes in SG corridor

June 29 2016 – Harvest day is around the corner !

Well, this apartment’s corridor “vineyard”  had broken its own record on June 29 2016. More than 35 brunches of grapes, not counting newly formed flowers stretched along a 10 m length of vine. The gardener, Alex Ng,  said with his usual caustic wit, that no special fertilizer was added, only the occasional cursing after happy bouts of Heineken and the sun seem to do the trick ! Thus, tip for gardeners!

If all else failed, start cursing!! 🙂

Grow grapes in Singapore

Grape vines supported on bamboo poles along a common corridor!

For young vines, Alex add chicken poo or other organic fertilizer every 2 weeks, and use rice or fish/aquarium rinse to water his plants. As the vines matured, they do not need much to bear fruits. To cope with the heat, Alex watered his grapes religiously two or three times a day and with large volume of water. He harvested grapes all year round and after each harvest, pruned back the vines and wait for new shoots to develop. Alex Ng kept seedlings and regrow from cutting after each pruning of his vines. All his plants are grown in pots, and supported by 2 m length bamboo poles and lift 2 m from the floor.

Grow Grapes in Singapore

Simple No Frills Trellis made of bamboo poles.

If this bamboo pole support snapped, grapes are going to rain down on people on the street ! 🙂 I am sure no one will complain.

Grow grapes

Out flung grapes hung precariously over the side of the corridor’s railing!

Grapes Growers in Singapore

Grapes – A sight to behold along this corridor!

According to Alex, grapes typically took 3 months to ripen on the branch. For some cultivars, when there is sufficient sun, they will turned from green to this purple hue.

Grape growers in Singapore

Grapes turned red when there is sufficient sun

Je t’aime Isabella! – If you had heard Henry Lim described his Isabella (not his pretty wife’s name, by the way), one could easily be mistaken that he was talking about his amoureux (lover) 🙂

Grapes growers in Singapore

Isabella grapes

It took him 3 long years from cutting to young plant to its current maturity. Along the way, he encountered numerous setbacks. From a blank paper, he literally learned how to grow grapes in our region from scratch. How and which soil mixes/ what trellis work best, pest control, fertilizers (organic and inorganic), composting, worm casting, repotting issues, pruning methods, experimented with coconut water (for its cytokinins properties) and diluted beer fertilizer etc.

Grapes in high rise apartments

V-shaped trellis worked best for Henry LIm. Maximum sun exposure!

His journey seem to echo my strawberries journey!!! 🙂 Like him, I experimented like a mad scientist!! 🙂

Grapes in high rise gardens

First time fruiting after 3 years ! Stages of ripening – Green, Red, Burgundy

No-one really understood the work behind all the success stories/pictures until one experienced it. I am sure for every gardener who did , understood this deeper than anyone else and more so, all those heartaches felt when things don’t work out.

But, finally they did.

Grapes in high rise gardens

100 days from flowers to harvest day! First stage of fruiting

For Henry Lim, harvest day was on June 4 2016! Determination, 120 hours of research, trials of experimenting and steely grit, paid off.

Grapes in high rise apartments

Isabella – Sweet, Juicy, more flavorful than supermarkets! One seed per grape.


Another “cowboy” gardener is Alan Tan , whom I wrote about in January 2016, “Mr. Green Fingers” in this blog. He started growing grapes in 2015, at his kitchen window. His grape seedling grew so quickly that his vines almost obscured the kitchen’s view and lend a wilderness chic to this apartment facade! 🙂 I often wonder what his neighbors thought of this “wild window” and “wild corridor” ! 🙂

Grow growers in Singapore

High rise grapes vines

As long as gardens do not blocked emergency exits along high rise corridors, personally, I rather hoped to share more wild green stories in Singapore’s high rise public housing. I applaud Alan’s green fingers in bringing natural green beauty into an otherwise, mundane building. 🙂

Sharon Verena – Highest grape vine in Singapore 🙂

Finally, a cowgirl’s story!

Believe me, Sharon has more growing at this high rise garden than grapes! I think to cover all that she grew here, I will write a blog post solely for her garden … soon ! 🙂

Wild Edibles in high rise

Champagne grapes vines

Wild edibles

Grapes Vines creep along high above Singapore! 🙂

Nowadays, growing grapes in high rise apartments and communities’ gardens are more common. But if it had not been for these cowboys/girls who challenged and overcome our space limitations and shared how to do it, we may not have gotten this far.

Henry Lim and Alex Ng continued to share their knowledge in SG GrapeGrowers group ( link : https://www.facebook.com/groups/SGGrapeGrowers/ ) with our communities.

SG Grapes Growers

July 9 2016 – Henry Lim visiting Alex’s vineyard, look at those clusters of grapes in the background!

Like most gardening enthusiasts, we all enjoyed our chats with these renegade gardeners. Not only their drive to learn and generosity to share their knowledge but also, they all seem to posses a keen sense of humor, an ability to laugh away their failures and strong will to overcome setbacks. 🙂  Indeed, maybe, this is also the secret to their success – Not afraid to fail, thus dare to try anything!

Alex Ng’s TIPS on how to start growing grapes in Singapore –

  1. Buy a stem cutting from nurseries in Singapore (cheapest one is $6 at World Farm and other nurseries may stock more exotic varieties at higher price)
  2. Re-pot to largest pot, preferably minimum size 40 cm height and depth
  3. Normal well drained garden soil is good enough for grapes cutting
  4. Once transplanted , leave in bright area for a few days before moving pot to an area with direct sunlight. Grapes can grow well in areas without direct sunlight but it should be in an area with bright natural light as much as possible.
  5. Water daily
  6. No need to fertilize in the first few months
  7. The pot need to be in a place where there is room for trellis to be built as the grape need to climb as it grows. Under the right conditions, healthy grapevine will grow a few inches each day.
  8. The trellis can be built later as the cutting grows.
Her World magazine

Her World magazine (Singapore) – Oct 27 2017 🙂


Green Fingers’ Sanctuary

Our country, Singapore, measures 50 km (31 miles) from east to west and only 27 km (17 miles) north to south but supports over 5 million multinational people! Due to lack of land mass, most people lived in high rise apartments, and have no private outdoor gardens. 🙂

But as I discovered after creating my gardening group, “SG Farming in Apartments“, gardeners in Singapore had carved whatever space at disposal for green sanctuaries that fed the souls and stomachs ! 🙂

Edibles Corridors – Living in high rise apartments, corridors became the ideal spots for a garden, especially when there are ample sun! Although sunlit space is valuable, gardeners grow what they love on minimum space that do not obstruct walkway for their neighbors. 🙂

Singapore private gardens

Amy Choong – Salad bar and even okras from recycled cups and bottles

Amy Choong used recycled cups and bottles to grow edibles in 90% sand and 10% compost with home made soil conditioner. Her edibles include okras, herbs, tomatoes and a broad selection of leafy vegetables! 🙂

Singapore private gardens

Amy Choong‘s Garden

Amran A. Hassan‘s amazing suspended herbs garden in recycled cups and hooked along a corridor’s wall!

Singapore private gardens

Amran A. Hassan ‘s herbs garden

Every space, even the wall along a corridor, is precious when there is no ground for a garden in urban cities.

Corridor Edibles Gardens

Full view of Amran’s herbs wall

One of the first post of corridor gardening by Guat Lian Peh  to my then newly mint group last year ( May 2015), and therefore left a deep impression. She was one of the first to teach me how to grow a vegetables garden along a corridor using normal household baskets! 🙂

Singapore private gardens

Guat Lian Peh‘s corridor vegetables “Farm” !

Singapore private gardens

Guat Lian Peh‘s new corridor crops include climbers!

Where there is no space, these corridor railings are very useful to hook racks so that gardeners can safely grow plants without having their pots fell from high rise apartments and caused harm to people on the ground.

Singapore private gardens

Evelyn Saw‘s fresh greens!

Edibles Corridors

Urika Sia – Garden on racks

Edibles Corridors

Climbers along corridors!!

For safety reasons, there are by-laws over-seeing corridor gardens in high rise apartments in Singapore. A minimum 1.2 meter clearance space is needed, in case of fire or other emergency evacuation . Breeding grounds should be dry and gardeners must ensure there are no stagnant water to breed mosquitoes, as dengue cases here are always a concern.

Edibles Corridors

TN DNY – Recycled an old bed frame for a narrow garden bed for his corridor!

Consideration for neighbors is good policy when corridors are shared. Less frictions living in close proximity with each other made life easier for all. And gardening became a shared joy and create opportunities for closer bonding.

Edibles Corridors

Freshly harvested radish from his old bed frame! 🙂


Singapore private gardens

In addition to this oregano, TN DNY grew thyme and rosemary very well too!

Other gardeners like Tong Alan, who are skilled with tools, made their own grow bed out of huge drums that include a central composting tower to feed soil with organic matter while they grew vegetables on minimum space! 🙂

Singapore private gardens

Tong Alan’s vegetables “plot” in drums!

These heavy drums sat on hand- made trolleys to access sun whenever needed! They are simply too heavy to cart around otherwise. According to Alan, one drum required about 150 kg of soil to fill.

Singapore private gardens

Labor of love learned from internet resources like YouTube.

Besides edibles gardens, there are spaces created for beauty that soothe gardeners’ souls in our high rise living quarters as well! 🙂

The world outside these gardens may be a hub of activity and newspapers filled with alarming developments around the world, looking at these pictures of quiet solace, I understood what they meant for gardeners tending to these beauties.

Singapore private gardens

Minnie Lee‘s cosy garden gave her peace and satisfaction 🙂

Singapore edibles corridor garden

Minnie Lee’s quiet enjoyment with her flowers and edibles garden

Singapore private gardens

Saodah Hasbolla‘s flowers brightened her day!

Singapore private gardens

Farreeda Bagam Mssm ‘s garden was featured in a local documentary June 2016!

Singapore private gardens

Farreeda D.I.Y hanging poles from tree branches to save space (above right)

Mohd Sanny is known in our gardening community for his lush and fragrant flowers corridor’s garden but his video is unable to load in this blog post currently.

Singapore private gardens

Mohd Sanny‘s lush Bosten Ferns clean the air.

Singapore private gardens

Caroline‘s therapeutic corner – Orchids Galore on a DIY rack handmade by the gardener’s spouse

Singapore private gardens

Caroline’s therapeutic corner

All over the world, gardeners shared the same passion, to filled space with beauty and where possible, grow food and harvest fresh.

In urban crowded cities like Singapore, gardening is a growing trend as more people  crave fresh harvest at doorstep and sought beauty in green private corners wherever they can. 🙂




Notice I did not add a “tree” behind the papaya in the title? There was some debate during the sharing of this post in our group (SG Farming in Apartments) whether a papaya plant is a tree , herb or both! 🙂 What is interesting about papaya plant is that it has three sexes : Female (fruit bearing), Male (non-fruit bearing) and bisexual (fruit bearing and has both male and female flowers on the same plant)!

The tips to germinate a fruit bearing papaya plant starts from choosing the right seeds. Firstly, black color as opposed to lighter shade seeds increased the chance of a fruit bearing plant. This information came from member Galih Galih in our group. Another resource ( agriculture90 ) recommended to soak black seeds in lukewarm water overnight and then chose the ones that sink to the bottom. In addition, seeds from the tip to the middle of the fruit’s cavity is better for germination than from the base of the fruit. From my own experience, removing the outer skin covering the seeds made germination faster.

Anyhow, the dwarfing papaya method was shared by Mr. MaderaRoja de la Secoya (or MAI), on how to keep papaya plant low for easier harvest and allowed it to be grown in pots. According to MAI (his shortened Thai name), this was not his original idea. He seen this post from another contributor, and tried them for his fruit trees (orange and lime) and they worked! The plants are able to thrive in pots, did not grow to full size but the fruits are of normal sizes.

Dwarfing fruit trees

Potted Papaya in pot (pruned roots) and grounded Papaya are the same age (6 months old)

At the maximum height, papaya roots that had been pruned will grow to 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) only. According to Mai, it would take a very long time for dwarf papaya to reached this height and they would likely die of old age thereafter.

So how did this method work?

Dwarfing fruit trees

2 weeks old papaya plant from seeds

When the papaya seedling is 2 – 4 weeks old, remove it from pot.

Dwarfing a papaya tree

Good roots mass had developed , gently removed soil from roots.

Mai has shared that in his region (Chiang Mai, Thailand) only bisexual papayas are available, so this is what the root mass looked like. One main tap root with many root hairs along the whole main root.. MAI advised to save as many roots hairs as possible when cutting the main root. From my reading ( arlene1027 and contributions from gardeners in South East Asia) on this plant, it seem that we can confirmed whether the mature plant will produce male or female flowers based on their roots. Since only female or bisexual plants produce fruits, it is important to know how to tell the difference. Male root is straight while female root is shorter, developed in a bunch and has more than 1 main root.

Dwarf a papaya

Bisexual Roots mass uncovered (papaya seedling)

How to dwarf fruit trees

Pruned or cut the tip of the tap root

How to dwarf fruit trees

Tap root has been pruned!

How to dwarf a papaya plant

This is a Female papaya roots (contributed by  Farreeda Bagam Mssm on June 16 2016)

After the papaya’s tap root has been trimmed, this seedling should be planted in the biggest pot possible so that it can grow to its mature height without further transplanting. His experience has been that papaya plant do not take to transplanting easily. They will die if their roots are disturbed when they are a few months old. Lesson learned – *** Do not uproot papaya plants for transplant when they are already a few months old ! ***

How to dwarf a papaya

3 months old papaya – On the left, root had been pruned vs. normal size

To avoid transplanting when his papaya plant outgrew a pot, MAI checked at the bottom of the pot and trimmed off roots that are extending out of it.

Regarding fertilizer, Mai’s experience had been that papaya can thrived with no fertilizer, “in plain old dirt” .

Disclaimer Advisory –  Local SG gardener, Ms. Annie Lim, shared that her seedlings did not survived this root pruning. on February 05 2017 . Perhaps not all seeds are suitable for this method. Do try on one first and observed before proceeding with the next seedling.

RECIPES – Mai also shared that a squirt of lime and a dash of pepper on ripe papaya is not only delicious but also settled a queasy stomach! 🙂 Other delicious Thai recipes for papaya salads can be found on his favorite blog -http://recipes.organicmountains.com/green-papaya-salad/

FEW months old Papaya dwarfing method

To keep few months old papaya (with normal un-pruned roots) from growing too tall, “topping off” method is quite common. This is a method where the top of the papaya plant is trimmed off and a lattice is built over the plant. MAI said the plant will regrow in a lateral pattern instead of reaching for the skies! The fruits will also hung in a lateral way making for easier harvest. I am sure we seen images of these in the internet.

MATURE Papaya Shortening Tree Method (Taiwan)

Are there no hope for mature papaya plants?! Gardeners who grew papayas often lament about controlling mealy bugs infestation. What made this problem acute for mature papayas is its height. According to Suan-Loke Tan (Urban Farmers Singapore group), when papaya plants grew too tall (3 meters and taller), they become more difficult to manage pests. A lot of gardeners would stopped maintaining the plants and they will decline. Eventually these plants would be chopped down and discarded.

A method to shorten the height of mature papaya plants was introduced in a YOUTUBE video from Taiwan.

According to this video (in  Mandarin and Chinese dialect), papaya plants can be shortened by cutting three vertical slits on the “trunk” of the papaya, so that it can be stretched to bent over. Unlike other tree-like plants, papayas’ inner cores are like bamboos with hollow center. Cutting deep slits on the plants’ exteriors will not killed it. In fact, growing them in a lateral way, will slow down its growth and doubled its normal productive lifespan from 3 to 7 years! Water and nutrients are more effectively distributed to the top of the tree in a lateral way than vertical. Fruits grown this way are sweeter and tastier too. Last but not least, pest control at waist height is much easier and effective!

One local brave (!!) gardener , Mr. CheongWeei Gan from UrbanFarmers Singapore, decided to test this out on 5 of his own plants.

Shortening Papaya method

May 29 2016 – One of the 5 trees in Mr. Gan’s experiment

Slits were cut on the “trunk” of this papaya, so that it can be bent. A support was used to hold up the plant in its new position. Some of the leaves were trimmed off as well. This papaya had already produced fruits when it was bent. As seen in this picture, the leaves are facing downwards. Some gardeners in Singapore expressed concern that this plant may not recover!

Shortening Papaya method

June 3 2016 – Papaya plants are so hardy that the cut area has dried up and healed 5 days later!

Two weeks later, the plant has recovered. The leaves are no longer facing down and have moved upwards towards the sun.

Shortening Papaya method

June 19 – Papaya plant has recovered!

Shortening Papaya method

Slits cut into trunk so that it can bent over

Mr. CheongWeei Gan had these observations based on his experiments to share –

  1. Ideal height to apply this method is 5 to 8 feet. If the tree is too short, the shortening effect is not optimum. Too tall or too old, the papaya plant had become too woody and its harder to bent and likely caused the vertical strips to break or tear. Nutrients and water distribution will be disrupted and the plants would take a longer time to recover.
  2. Thin trunk needs 3 – 4 vertical strips while thicker trunk 5 – 6  strips for better bent effect. He will be experimenting whether different bent positions affect shortening effect and would try to find the best bent position to optimize this shortening.
  3. Papaya plants do not thrive in water logged soil. Most plants die because of root rot than any other reason.
  4. Plants with unhealthy roots have few leaves and the bottom most leaf is only 1 to 2 inches from the tip of the top leaves. In healthy plants, the lowest leaf is more than a foot from the “growing tip”. This is one of the way he gauge whether his papaya plant is in good health or not! 🙂

On this method of shortening, Mr. CheongWeei Gan felt that the real test will be whether the new fruits after the current harvest would be as claimed, that  they taste better and sweeter being grown on a lateral trunk than on a vertical one. 🙂

Updates to follow!



SUMMARY of Papaya Plant Growing Information ( Gardening Know How ) –

  1. Full SUN
  2. Water frequently for best fruits production and do consider mulching to retain moisture
  3. Best in growing zone 9 – 10
  4. These plants can produce either female , male or bisexual flowers. Only female and bisexual flowers produce fruits. Supermarkets’ fruits seeds tend to be produce bisexual flowers (both male and female flowers on the same plant).
  5. At maturity and grounded, the plant can reached 30 feet



Grow OKRA !

My okras seeds came from Alan Tan’s amazing edibles garden, and their journey began on December 27 2015. 🙂

These were amazing seeds, they germinated in 4 days!


December 31 2016 – Okras seeds germination (Sowed on 27-12-2015)

I am sure the seeds are good because Alan took much care preparing them for sharing among the gardening communities.

Okra plants from seeds

Red and Green okra seeds prepared by Alan Tan

Red okra from seeds

Jan 3 2016 – 7 days old okra seedling

He recommended transplanting them to bigger pot when 6 leaves are present, but as usual I was running out of space at home and my okras were moved to outdoor gardens much earlier!

Red okra from seed

Jan 14 2016 – Red Okra, I will later regret not transplanting to a much bigger pot!

Green okra from seed

Jan 13 2016 – Green okras in a 30L pot (Plastic rim to support young seedling, was removed when stems were stronger)

Green okra from seed

May 30 2016 – Green Okra progress

This green okra’s journey has not been easy. Grasshoppers almost killed this plant by feasting on its leaves at 2 months old. The growing journey is slow down but it did not died, and today its still fruiting. Thus I considered okra to be an easy plant to grow even for beginners, as it is a hardy plant. Once problems arose and treated as they happened, this plant will recover on its own. For the grasshoppers problem, I used Pak Mat’s homemade pesticide recipe to spray on the leaves and plant.

Grow okra from seeds

May 30 2016 – Green okra from seeds! Better in wider deeper pot 🙂

Red Okra from seed

Feb 10 2016 – Red okra, only 2 months old!!

Red Okra from seeds

Okra Flowers

Red Okra from seeds

March 2016 – red okra

Red Okra from seeds

May 24 2016 – Red Okra became a “tree” !!!

The taller the plant grew, the thinner the okras.

Red Okra from seeds

Size of the red okra 🙂

NEW DISCOVERY – I accidentally cut the top stem of an okra plant and learned something new about this easy going plant! 🙂

Okra information

June 29 2016 – Accidentally cut the topmost stem while harvesting okra

Okra information

Topping off method seem to work for okra too


July 17 2016 – New okras at lower-most stem after topping off method applied.


Size of okras harvested from topped off plant.

Topping off okra plant

By cutting off the top of the okra plant, its fruits will grow at the lower most stem!


The plant did not die or grow taller, but new leaves and fruit start developing at the lower most of the stem, making for easier harvest! However I found that the fruiting had slowed, instead of 2 – 3 fruits at one go, it now fruit one at a time.

I am sure many gardening enthusiasts in various gardening communities seen Alan Tan’s bountiful okras harvest postings. He made it seem so easy to grow them!


January 02 2016 – Okras from Alan Tan’s garden, a simple gift that touched our hearts, because we knew the care he took to grow them 🙂

Lessons learned from my first okra experience – Bigger pot is needed for healthier okra plants. The roots are quite massive and they need a lot of room in the pots. 🙂  If the pot is too small (like mine), the okra plant will grow very tall and easy to topple when there were strong gusty winds. The okras were also skinny, not as juicy.

Otherwise these are relatively easy edibles to grow even for beginners. 🙂





Gardening is no longer about just growing plants! Its a combination of great D.I.Y ideas like this and plant knowledge which will allow gardeners to grow plants that’s typically out of zone.

And that’s why I love Wanqing Lee’s ice box idea for a tropical strawberry planter! For material cost of less than SGD $10, she crafted an amazing strawberries’ chill grow bed which yielded flowers in less than 2 months for her plants!

Tropical strawberry planter ideas

Wanqing Lee’s 1.5 month old strawberry plant has flowered!

She did not even used electricity to keep her plants chilled all day under full overhead sun on her balcony.

DIY strawberries pot

How Wanqing Lee cool strawberries’ roots, simple wicking used.

By now, we know strawberries need sunlight, compost and chill roots to thrive. So Wanqing used a simple wicking system to draw chilled water and keep her roots cool all the time. 

Lushgro Bloom solution is wicked only when the plants need the extra boost or when roots has already extended out of her cups towards the solution. She chose this method of soil and hydroponics to give the plants more roots space while still remaining in cups to save space.

Her water is kept chilled with ice block from Daiso –

strawberry planter ideas

ICE Block from DAISO

This frozen ice block is enough to keep roots and water chilled for 6 hours under direct full sun with the help of an additional safeguard ! 🙂

Tropical strawberry planter's ideas

Insulation Pad over ice box cover! Keeping roots cool is key to keeping strawberry plants healthy in the tropics!

Based on her results, it seem that seedling growth is faster as well by keeping them on a chiller (wick water for seeds) –

Tropical strawberry planter's ideas

Germinating seeds on a chilling ice box

Tropical strawberry planter ideas

These seedlings are sowed at the same time but the ones sowed on chiller conditions grow faster!

To maintain the chill factor, please note that insulation pads also covered her soil when the seedlings are taller.

I believed this chill box idea can be used on all cool loving plants which loved sun. For lavender which preferred a drier soil, no wick should be used but the chill box will maintain cooler roots under our hot tropical sun. 🙂

Ethan Phang’s Sleek Aquaponics

The idea is simple. Reared some marine life, be it fishes or shrimps, then channel the aquarium water to feed vegetables. Its a self-sustaining system which auto-irrigates your edibles while you are on holiday ! Sound great, right?

But this post took me the longest time to write, even though I told Ethan Phang ages ago that I love his set up and wanted to write a post on it. I wanted to understand more about how it work before actually penning it down. But you know what? The more I read, the more questions arose! 🙂 There is more to this than drawing fish water to the veggies bed, and I still don’t know the half of it, so please pardon me if I got some of the facts wrong. 🙂

Aquaponics design

Sleek and clean looking aquaponics system, DIY by Ethan Phang.

Aquaponics design

Awesome aquaponic system in retail spaces 🙂

According to Ethan, fish waste and water alone are not enough nutrients to feed a good yield of vegetables. There is a need to maintain healthy microbes growth which act as catalyst to break down different form of waste into minerals that the plants used. The plants will in turn filter the water so that the marine life can live in the same system.

Aquaponics design

Grow bed for veggies

To write this post, I sought out Xi Zhe as well, who built his own aquaponic system when he was 21 years old. I shall borrowed his “Nitrogen Cycle” diagram on the right, to demonstrate how an aquaponic system work (hopefully!) :

Aquaponics design

Xi Zhe’s awesome aquaponic system

In the simplest layman’s term, fish waste and water need to ‘mingle’ with bacteria, where they are broken down into useful minerals for the plants. The result is nutrients rich water which will be drawn to the plants’ grow bed. The plants absorbed these nutrients, then  act as a filter for the marine life. The cycle will continue with the help of pipes, timer, pumps and a bell siphon.

The next puzzle for me – What is a bell siphon and why it served an important function for such aquaponic system? 🙂

We all know as gardeners, that stems and roots should not sit in water too long , right? In soil based plants, we always used “well drained” soil to ensure that water are drained from the soil and the plants do not suffered root rot. So, it is the same for an aquaponic system. A bell siphon ensured that when too much water is piped up to the grow bed, this excess water does not sit around causing plant’s roots to rot.

This device is a mechanism to “cycle the water” said Xi Zhe. The “cycling” ensured that nutrients reached the plants while not letting the roots sit in water all the time. It is usually installed inside the grow bed, so that excess water will be discharged with the help of air pressure when water over-filled it. According to Ethan, a good bell siphon is one which self adjust to control the water level. I am sure a lot of trial and error are needed to get this to work right.

Aquaponics design

How a bell Siphon work, to discharge excess water from the grow bed

To doubly ensured that his plants’ roots do not sit in water, Ethan only allowed 2 inches of water to cycle in his grow bed at any given time. And then, where his plants sit in the grow bed, there is at least 2.5 inches gap between roots and water so that the roots can breathe.

Aquaponics Design

Ethan’s aquaponic rosemary in the background !

Want to know why Ethan’s rosemary is thriving here with the rest of his edibles? 🙂 To ensure that his grow bed work well for different plants’ needs, whether thirsty or dry loving herb like his Rosemary, Ethan’s plants are not planted directly in leca balls. In fact, on closer examination, every plant is individually potted in soil as well. For drier loving plant like the rosemary, the pot is higher away from water source. And that’s how he ensured that different plants with different water preference can be grown together! Ingenious, right? 🙂


Ethan’s aquaponic system for any space

The most difficult concept for me to grasp in this aquaponic system is how to breed the bacteria needed to break down waste into nutrients for the plants? Different gardeners used different methods but this is how Ethan did it.

He added worms in his grow beds!

Remembered his water level is kept low, only 2 inches height of water per cycle? As the water level is kept low in the 15 inches depth of leca balls, it created a perfect humid environment for the worms to thrive. The worms’ waste provide good nutrients for the plants as well.

Into the fish tank, he mixed the milky water from the aquarium’s filters for its nitrate microbes properties. These are the bacteria which will consume the ammonia released by the fish waste. The water which is pumped up to the grow beds are nutrients rich minus the ammonia.

Leca balls played a part too, as they are “good habitat to breed” the microbes and bacteria present in the water (Ethan Phang).. Both he and Xi Zhe agreed that when algae appeared to be growing out of control, you’d know the water is nutrients sufficient!



June 22 2016 – Thriving grow bed and plants are lush and healthy.


Ethan testing different grow lights for his aquaponics system

Ethan Phang designed his aquaponic systems this way, in layers behind glass tanks, to show how Mother Nature’s  eco-systems work in sync to produce food. If we protect and guard every eco-systems carefully, Mother Nature takes care of itself, its a self sustaining cycle. Spoiled one part of it, everything falls like a house of cards. Thus, his aquaponic showpieces are not just to decorate an empty corner, they are “windows of nature” and carried an important message as well – Please, protect our environment!

Not all Ethan’s showpieces are big, some are tabletop size as well! Aren’t they cute? 🙂

Aquaponics in Singapore

Tabletop aquaponics

Last but not least, Ethan Phang shared tips on how to keep aquaponic system as low maintenance as possible –

  • Don’t exposed the tanks to direct sunlight
  • Artificial lights on for maximum 6 – 7 hours a day
  • Don’t over feed the fish
  • Dont keep too many fishes in the tank, especially those that eat a lot, example: tilapia, koi
  • Preferred shrimps or algae eaters

For a custom built of these sleek aqua systems, please contact Ethan Phang for quotation at kingii494@yahoo.com 🙂

Hydroponics Strawberries

Finally! A well documented hydroponics experiment contributed by member Cher Keng Heng and posted in our “berries crazy” group, SG Farming in Apartments!!!

Germinate Hydroponics Strawberries

This is Cher Keng Heng’s 3 months old strawberries, grown in hydroponics system

Germinate Hydroponics Strawberries

April 3 2016 – Fruits in 4 months!

Gardener Cher Keng Heng grew his strawberries in his office, where the environment is cool at 22C all day long (24hours) and I am assuming 7 days a week. Ideal strawberries environment indeed! He did not freeze or chilled his medium in this environment and they still grew well!

These were the steps to his germination method:

  1. Seeds in sponge :
    Germinate Hydroponics Strawberries

    Step 1 – Place 4 seeds in sponge like this

    Germinate Hydroponics Strawberries

    Can use long pointed net cup and sponge for seeds placement

    Germinate Hydroponics Strawberries

    The long pointed cup fit a PET bottle opening exactly

    Germinate Hydroponics Strawberries

    Secure seeds position

    Germinate hydroponics Strawberries

    Germination took place in 10 days, same as my soil based method.

    Germinate hydroponics Strawberries

    LED lights of white, red and blue was used. 12 hours per day

    Germinate hydroponics strawberries

    Cher Keng Heng’s one month old strawberry seedling!


  2.  Important Tip! Cover seeds environment to create a mini greenhouse and ensure humidity –
    Germinate hydroponics Strawberries

    This is his simpler fuss free way to germinate seeds!

    Gardener Cher Keng Heng also shared his observations on soil based and hydroponics strawberries for a comparative study with us. These were his observations –

    Soil based seedlings are smaller than hydroponics strawberry seedlings.

    Germinate hydroponics Strawberries

    Soil based (left) vs. hydroponics seedlings

    Hydroponics seedling had massive roots mass like this –

    Germinate hydroponics strawberries

    Hydroponics strawberry seedlings

    Germinate hydroponics strawberries

    Soil based roots were lesser

    Germinate hydroponics strawberries

    Hydroponics strawberry plants flowered in 60 days compared to 150 days for my soil based plants.

    For the best results of hydroponics strawberry plants, Cher Keng Heng felt that aeration is key. That means,we need to keep water moving and the liquid need to be clean for best roots development. Stagnant water that is not clean will caused algae/moss in the water resulting in red leaves on strawberry plants.

    Germinate hydroponics Strawberries

    Suspected Fungi problem caused by algae growth in stagnant water


    Ideally an automated system of aeration in the nutrients solution, cool environment and ideal light will allow strawberries plants to thrive in Singapore’s tropical climate, but for normal households like mine, this is an extra expense that I cannot meet! 🙂

    So, its back to mostly soil based experiments for me, but knowledge is invaluable, and I am thankful to Cher Keng Heng for sharing his wisdom! With this new information, I have also upgraded my white strawberry pot, to half hydroponics and soil with aeration, hoping for better flowers in the white strawberry plants!

    Hydroponics SG Strawberries

    Aeration from air pump to the nutrients solution in reservoir!

    Hydroponics SG Strawberries

    Flowering White Strawberries plant too risky to transplant, testing out half hydro with aeration method

    On another note, for gardeners wanting to try hydroponics method but do not wish to spend so much money, please check out Lim San‘s no frills DIY method from mostly recycled material. He is an extremely creative gardener who has built awesome gardens with less, and a successful strawberry pioneer as well ! 🙂




Orange Capsicum

Orange capsicum’s journey began on September 27 2015 with seeds from fresh supermarket capsicums. This is the second time I grew capsicums after culling my first crop due to fruit flies larvae infestation in the pot.

Growing bell peppers in home made compost

My first pot of capsicums culled because of fruit flies infestation 🙁

As a reluctant gardener for commercial fertilizers or pesticide, I chose to start over rather than apply harmful strong chemicals to rid my edibles of the pests. The larvae problems were serious. They affected the fruits as well as the general health of the whole plant. My pot became the children’s favorite horror house to gross their friends out ! 🙂 It was full of creepy soft white worms and the capsicums rot before they ripened.

After the infested capsicum plants were removed, I killed the larvae in the soil with hot water and then sun baked it for months in our tropical heat. When the soil seem “recovered” I began composting in it again. This time I learned my lesson!

My compost was topped  with soil and then thick layers of leaves or tarp to ward off rotting greens smell which attracted the fruit flies in the first place.

On September 20 2015, seeds were harvested from FairPrice supermarket’s orange capsicum.

Germinated on September 27 2015 (in wet tissues, 7 days)

Orange capsicum from NTUC Fairprice supermarket in Singapore

As capsicum seeds are large and easier to handle, I germinated them in wet paper towels rather than soil. The trick is to keep the seeds moist without turning mouldy.

Germinating capsicum seeds

Orange Capsicum – Sowed on wet kitchen tissues (7 days)

The seeds are covered in damp paper and then ziplock in plastic bag. This would prevent evaporation so that the seeds could be kept moist longer. Paper towels were checked daily and dampened as needed to keep seeds moist. Germination took placed in 7 days.

Grow capsicum

Capsicum seeds germinated in damp paper and ziplock in bags

Due to limited sunny space to grow my edibles at home, PET bottles became my favorite “pots” to transplant seedlings to. They save soil and space as well as teaching kids how to recycle plastic bottles for better use in our daily life!  🙂 Drainage holes were cut on the side of the PET bottles instead of at the bottom.

Grow capsicum

October 2015 – Capsicum seedlings

Capsicum seedlings looked deceptively small and new gardener may be tempted to squeeze more plants per pot to save space and soil, as I did in my first pot. 🙂  Ideally, they should be individually potted to grow better. However due to lack of spare big pot, I transplanted 2 orange capsicums seedlings to this 60 Liters compost pot. The rest of the seedlings were moved to a friend’s farm.

Grow bell peppers

2 months old seedlings transplanted to outdoor compost pot

In spite of common literature on the need to feed capsicum plants well with readily available commercial fertilizers, I am reluctant to use them. I counted on my home made compost and kelp fertilizer to grow these edibles slowly.

Plants in the natural environment set their own time table, I believed edibles taste sweeter when we don’t rush them! 🙂

Grow bell peppers

Almost 4 months capsicums in 60L pot

Grow bell peppers

January 2016 – Finally flowered!

When the weather get too warm (above 31 degrees Celsius), capsicum’s flowers had a tendency to drop, and I learned to ice and mulched my top soil with cocopeat to keep their roots cool. Plants that thrived in Genting Highlands generally need this treatment to do well here.

Grow bell peppers

Fairprice ice recycled here when weather is warm

January 4 2016 - First Capsicum flower

January 4 2016 – First Capsicum flower

Grow bell peppers

March 1 2016 – 6 long months to fruit!

Organic Capsicum

March 12 2016 – My 3 S’s capsicum – Slower, Sweeter, Smaller – grown without commercial fertilizers and pesticide!

Bell Peppers or Capsicum from seeds

Jan 03 2017 – Small harvest every month! This plant just keep on fruiting in our natural compost.

Home grown bell peppers

Home grown capsicums are a snack in this household, crunchy and sweet!

Capsicums/Bell Peppers Growing Tips –

  1. Best individually potted, minimum pot size diameter and depth about 20 inches
  2. Well drained soil aided with perlite or sand
  3. Shady sunny spot or morning sun in the tropics
  4. Heavy feeder, recommended fortnightly feeding of manure ( goat, chicken, rabbit), compost, kelp fertiliser and/or fish emulsion. I also buried banana skins and ground coffee, soya bean pulp on the side of the pot when flowers dropped.
  5. Mulch top soil with coco peat to retain moisture and ice soil to keep roots cool when temperature rises above 31C

Apartments’ Rice Paddies

In land scarce Singapore, it is not impossible to grow rice for fun and where space allowed, for our own consumption. I thought this is a great gardening project to do with children as well. Hopefully with the experience, our urban kids will  know how difficult it is to harvest just one cup of rice and learned to cherish every morsel of grain on their plate. 🙂

Apartment rice paddy

February 24 2015 – Ms. Serena Ganesh’s home grown grains

Serena Ganesh's rice grains before they turned brown

Serena Ganesh’s rice grains before they turned brown

This is a labor of love for Serena Ganesh’s family! She harvested her grains by hand peeling each husk after other attempts failed. Members from our gardening group (SG Farming in Apartments), such as Edmund Gan, recommended to wait till the stalks are fully golden brown before grinding the husks on a sieve to separate the grains.

Grow rice in containers

Feb 25 2016 – Serena Ganesh hand split and peeled husks from rice

Tips for Germinating Grains:

  1. Soak the seeds 24 – 36 hours, drained away water and cover seeds with towels to keep them moist or directly sowed on very moist media
  2. Brown rice is better than white as the latter had been processed (Gardening Know how blog
  3. Germination took placed between 3 – 5 days in a sunny area
  4. Need strong sunlight


Grow rice in pots

February 27 2016 – Budi Widodo had already soaked these grains for 24hours before sowing on really moist towels.

How to grow rice

Soak seeds or direct sow on very wet medium

Budi Widodo grew rice along his apartment’s corridor, where he has about 6 hours of indirect sunlight. After his seeds germinated on wet towels, he would plant them here before transplanting to a deeper trough until harvest day.

Grow rice in pots

Budi Widodo cut holes on the side of his “pot” to drain water when it rained

Grow rice in pot

Budi Widodo’s rice paddy trough

For soil sowing, William Toh recommended to thoroughly mix potting soil with water until its muddy and then add more water till it covered the soil, before planting grains in the mud pool.

February 3 2016 - William Toh's rice paddy in cookie jar

February 3 2016 – William Toh’s rice paddy in cookie jar

Grow rice in pots

William Toh’s rice paddy in cookie jar “incubator”

William Toh - This is how wet the soil needs to be

William Toh – This is how wet the soil needs to be

Grow rice in pot

Feb 15 2016 – William Toh’s rice are growing well


The key for a good rice harvest 🙂 is to keep the soil constantly moist and to grow them in warm sunny places.

The International Rice Research Institute also recommended to prepare the soil well with 7:2:1 ratio of potting soil, manure/compost and rice husks, mixed thoroughly with water for the young seedlings to thrive.

I liked to share pictures from Serena Ganesh’s mature rice paddy 🙂 See how big this crop grew ?!  For interested gardeners, do consider a bigger pot than a cookie jar for a more bountiful harvest! 🙂

Grow rice in pot

Serena Ganesh’s potted rice paddy

Grow rice in pot

Serena Ganesh’s potted rice from seeds

It would take 4 – 5 months from seeds to harvest day.

Last but not least, please remember to check and change the stagnant water in our rice paddy “fields” for mosquitoes breeding, while enjoying our gardening projects! 🙂


Began by accident on January 14 2018, when rice seedlings were discovered in our pots.

As there was no room in my apartment for big pots and still being able to access strong sunlight, I will be growing rice in hydroponic! 🙂 These are how my rice began their journey –

Grow rice from seeds

Soaking for 36 hours

Grow rice from seeds

Germination stages

How to grow rice

2018 January 14 – single shoot

How to grow rice from seeds

Planted in mini net cup – 2 shoots on Jan 18!

How to grow rice from seeds

2018 Feb 14 – multiple shoots in a month!

Grow rice from seeds husks

Interesting “fur” on shoots

Grow rice from seeds

One month old roots (Feb 14 2018)

Our rice are grown with own nature based nutrients for leafy plants, suitable for soil or hydro feed.

Seeds or nature based nutrients are available for sale in SHOP !

Grow rice in Singapore

Grow our own Rice!


How to grow rice from seeds

Hydro Leaf nutrients

















Potted Longan Tree

As always, before I write a post in my blog, I like to research first and hopefully summarize what I learned from readings and gardeners who grew these wonderful edibles before I shared.

Grow longans

Feb 20 2016 – Anne Ang’s long awaited harvest day!!!!

First, there were not much written about growing longans from seeds. I guessed growing this fruit tree from seeds would take too long to mature and carried an additional risk they would not grow true to parent plants (meaning -not able to fruit!). But I am happy to see some SG gardeners unfazed by common opinions and had already germinated their seeds for observations.

Grow longan in pots

September 14 2015 – Irissa Lee’s 2 weeks old longan seedlings

Feb 10 2016 - Lien Li 's 2 months old longan seedling

Feb 10 2016 – Lien Li ‘s 2 months old longan seedling

Most gardeners would buy a grafted plant like Ms. Anne Ang did and cultivated the fruit tree in pot rather than grow from seed. This way, there is more assurance that the tree would bear fruits after 2 – 3 years compared to 6 years for plants grown from seeds to mature and another 2 years to see fruits if there are any!

Grow a Longan Tree in apartment

Anne Ang’s Longan Tree on her rooftop garden

Anne transplanted her plant to this pot which has a diameter of 50cm, and it is grown under full sun on her rooftop garden. It took roughly 2 years from the date of purchase to harvest day 🙂

Griw longan tree in apartments

Jan7 2016 – Gardeners advised not to bag fruits in plastic as it will retain moisture and caused mold.

Grow Longan

Feb 10 2016 – Almost ready to harvest. Fruits in air-through bags instead of plastic ones

Ms. Ang also recommended to grow this tree near flowers to attract natural pollinators like bees. Unpollinated flowers will drop and there would be no fruits.

December 31 2015 - Jason Ong 's longan flowers

December 31 2015 – Jason Ong ‘s longan flowers


Tips for growing longans in pots

  1.  Pot diameter to be minimum 50 centimeters, and the deeper the pot is best for roots development
  2. Full Sun
  3. Slightly acidic soil with PH 5.5 -6
  4. Well drained soil, mixed with sand and perlite to aid drainage
  5. Fertilize with manure is best every 3 months and water the soil well after adding this (all happy gardening blogpost)
  6. First harvest fruits are thin skin, thicker flesh only from second round harvest 🙂
  7. Trimmed top new branch to keep the tree from growing tall




DONUT Peaches

Just for fun, I wanted to see how far I can grow peaches in Singapore! 🙂

For any hard crust seed, it is better to remove the hard outer covering before sowing. Personally, I like to check the condition of the seeds too before I sowed them. Our fruits after all, were not harvested fresh on our land and shipping may rendered some damage on quality of fruits and seeds. It is a good thing too because as I discovered, not all pits have seeds.

Grow Donut Peach in Singapore

Use a nutcracker to break some of the hard crust. Not all pit has seed.

Gardening sites online recommended to dry the pit first for easier removal of the seed as the shell would be more brittle , but I did not dry mine before I applied the nutcracker and managed to break part of the crust and sowed the seed without totally removing it from the crust.

As this is my first time germinating peaches and impatient by nature,  I sneaked a peek at the seed on the 10th day by uncovering the soil and tried to dislodge it . When the seed did not budged, and seem “tied” to the soil, I knew there were roots holding it down.

donut peach seedling

Jan 26 2016 – Donut peach seed has germinated

The first leaf emerged from the soil on January 26 2016, the 19th day after sowing the seed. Most of the hard crust had split open.

donut peach seed germinated

Jan 30 2016 – Donut peach seedling pushing through soil

donut peach seedling

Feb 10 2016 – Donut peach seedling

Flat Peach Seedling

Feb 17 2016 – Donut Peach Seedling – seem to grow faster when there is sun

Flat peach seedling

March 5 2016 – can see the beginning of a tiny trunk :0

Donut Peach seedling

March 14 2016 – Donut Peach seedling

For most of my cool seasoned plants, I used ice to water them during the warmer days in Singapore. The higher the temperature, the more ice is needed. If the plants do not like too much watering, ice packs or ice bottles are used instead. Here are the various ways I chilled soil in Singapore! 🙂

Flat peach from seed

Cool seasoned plants need ice during warmer days.

Donut Peach

March 20 2016 – Donut peach

Flato Peach

March 25 2016 – new leaves

March 27 2016 - This peach seedling is growing fast!

March 27 2016 – This 2 months old peach seedling is growing fast!

Flat Peach

April 6 2016 – 70days old Peach seedling is almost 14cm tall

How to grow flat peach from seed

May 1 2016 – 3 months old peach seedling


Summary of Donut Peaches Requirements:

  1. Big pot with a diameter of at least 3 feet for better roots development
  2. Depending on varieties, it may take 3 -5 years from seed to harvest day
  3. Well drained medium of 1 part each of sand/peat/compost/perlite or equivalent
  4. Does not like wet soil
  5. Full sun
  6. Need a high Phosphorous fertilizer
  7. Self pollinating
  8. May need 100 hours minimum of chilled soil at 7 degree C (!!) to grow flowers 🙂 – Will worry about this later 🙂

Pineapple Strawberry

Our gourmet strawberries number 2  began its journey on January 16 2016 in tropical Singapore. 🙂 This is Alpine heirloom Pineapple strawberries, a low growing variety with 1 inch sized light yellow colored fruits.

The taste profile of this variety has been described as sweeter than red strawberries, with  an unforgettable impact of pineapple and rose.

Heirloom Pineapple strawberry

Jan 16 2016 – Germinated today! Sowed Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries seeds on Jan 7 (9 days)

These seeds were not easy to germinate. I succeed only on my third attempt. Germination tests will continue in 2017 to pin down the best method to germinate these wonderful strawberries.

Heirloom Pineapple strawberry babies

Jan 25 2016 – More Heirloom Pineapple strawberry seeds germinated

Pineapple strawberries are rarely sold in overseas supermarkets and even Farmers’ marts.

This variety does not travel well.

They have to be consumed the same day as harvest!

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries roots

Feb 3 2016 – Transplanting pineapple strawberries to deeper pots

Grow Alpine White strawberries

March 8 2016 – 80% seedling survived, seem hardier than the white soul variety

As we have germinated a lot of seedlings, they were tried in various containers to see how best to grow them while fulfilling the conditions that allow them to thrive in our tropical weather. This data will be updated when we get them.

Grow white alpine strawberries in Singapore

March 8 2016 – Described as low grower but looked big in my PET bottle at 09.5 cm height for 2 months old seedlings

Heirloom Pineapple strawberry

Heirloom Pineapple strawberry at 2 months old was a big plant and moved to grow bag.

Common problem seen on non-red strawberries in Singapore is cupped leaves. Seedlings tend to fail more during the second month of growth. I seen these in the red strawberries as well last year. From the 4th month, they became hardier.

Grow Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries

March 8 2016 – Cupped leaves (3 months old)

Heirloom pineapple strawberries

Cupped and then brown leaves before dying (1 month old seedlings). Transplant shock? Humidity? No idea really why they failed.

On the assumption that cupped leaves may be due to lack of aeration in the PET bottles, I decided to cut out the bottles’ bottom and net it. The leaves improved after this was done –

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberry

Leaves improved and a healthier plant after netting PET bottles

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries

Roots extending out of the net.

Recycling efforts continued this year as well. Most of my strawberries are grown in PET bottles, either 1.5L or 600 ml plastic bottles. This year, instead of painting these bottles, we recycled even plastic bags and old socks (suggested by member ” Shy Jean“) to shield them from the heat of the sun. Cooling with ice packs as shared by member Wanqing’s method was also explored during very warm weather. As much as possible, I hope to show gardeners that growing strawberries in tropical countries, is possible and with the least carbon footprint and costs.

Pineapple strawberry from seeds

Sun, Chill and Aeration for health! Isn’t these the same for humans too?! 🙂 Frozen ice pack cool the strawberries as they sunbathed! 🙂

Grow Heirloom Pineapple strawberry

June 2016 – The pineapple strawberry continued to thrive. Recycled old socks protect “pots” from our tropical heat!

Grow Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries from seed

July 28 2016 – Strawberry plant grown in a 600ml Sprite bottle

Grow Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries from seed

Smallest bottle strawberry plant at flowering stage

See why I enjoyed growing strawberries from seeds? We get the chance to witness each development closely as they evolved. Just watching how the crown began preparation for its flowering/fruiting journey is amazing. 🙂

Grow Heirloom Pineapple strawberry

First, just a single crown with one new “shoot”

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberry from seeds

Then it becomes two!

Grow Heirloom Pineapple strawberry

More than 2 leaves at the crown

Grow Heirloom Pineapple strawberry

The crown thickened and ready to multiply! The stems become redder as well.

Grow Heirloom Pineapple strawberry

July 14 2016 – First flower spotted!!


Human bees get to work on July 17 2016  –

Pineapple Strawberry from seeds

Summer began on the first flower to open! 🙂

Heirloom Pineapple strawberries

Household chores – Pollinating strawberries flowers (Shona, my niece)

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries from seeds

August 7 2016 – Children pollinating flowers

Grow Pineapple Strawberry

Self pollination with a paint brush

Pollinating flowers with new young friends (Jonas and Eva) from NakedGreens‘ gardening group! August 14 2016 –



When pollination is successful, strawberry’s petals will dropped completely.

Grow Pineapple Strawberry

Hopefully this developing fruit complete its journey!

Grow Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries from seed

Can’t wait to taste our yellow strawberries ! 🙂

Sometimes, even after successful pollination, the fruit may dry up in Singapore, halting its journey to fruiting. Thus, we always keep our fingers crossed till harvest day! Not taking any developments for granted.  The strawberry plant though continued to evolve. Check out how flowering stems developed from the crown. –

Pineapple Strawberry from seeds

Newly formed flowers just began.

Pineapple Strawberry from seeds

New flower buds

Grow Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries from seed

July 27 2016 -Pretty little bloom peeking out 🙂

Pineapple strawberries from seeds

Regardless of the color of the fruits, strawberries flowers are yellow center, either white or pink flowers.


HARVEST DAY (Parent Plants to our second generation seedlings to come)  – August 7 2016 :)

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries from seeds

Amazing taste – rose syrup, pineapples and only a hint of strawberries. Very light yellow and a strong scent of pineapple when ripe!

Heirloom pineapple strawberries

Aug 13 2016 – Saving these for the grandparents!

Grow Pineapple Strawberries

Aug 22 2016 – Sweet and flavorful ! Pineapple candies smell scent the room 🙂

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries from seeds

Kids love these yellow strawberries!!

Grow Pineapple Strawberries

Aug 21 2016 – Bountiful harvest.

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries

September 17 2016 – Do the fruits look like pineapple to you?  🙂

These strawberries took one month to slowly ripen and grow. Fruit sizes are about 2.5 cm to 3 cm when its fully ripe. Pineapple candies smell scent the bedroom! 🙂

Grow Pineapple Strawberries

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries – about 2.5 – 3 cm

Heirloom Pineapple strawberries

They are sweet, a surprise hint of rose syrup with pineapple and strawberries taste! 🙂


Video of our strawberries plants – (in English and Japanese)


Second Generation (Born in Singapore Strawberries) – Seeds from our ripe strawberries were sowed for the next generation of pineapple strawberries. Hopefully we will have acclimatized strawberry plants for Singapore soon.

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries from seeds

August 26 2016 – Very ripe fruits were sacrificed for seeds!

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries from seeds

Germinated on August 30, these seedlings are about a week old on September 7 2016.

Grow Heirloom Pineapple Strawberry from seeds

Sept 2016 – New generation of strawberry seedlings from born in Singapore Heirloom parents! 🙂

As the seedlings grew, we need more space to accommodate an expanding garden. Thus vertical space was considered again. A new method to grow them in less soil and using Singapore natural resources work well. 🙂 It will be shared in workshop sessions only.

Grow Pineapple Strawberries from seeds

Hanging Garden of strawberries and camomile plants

Grow Pineapple Strawberries from seeds

Jan 16 2017 7 am – Scented Window Garden at the balcony 🙂

Grow Pineapple Strawberries from seeds

January 26 2017 – My office where I wrote and replied posts!

Second generation‘s first fruit harvested on January 30 2016 –

Pineapple Strawberries from seeds

Jan 26 2017 – First fruit spotted!

Observations on second generation plants (February 02 2017 ) –

  • Hardier than Generation 1 , need no chilling treatment
  • Slower to flower
  • Fruits production is less than parent plants

With so many seedlings on hand, window of opportunities grew to learn more from them. For example, what kind of soil is best for strawberries? Working with soil specialist, we were able to put our seedlings through soil trials in order to pin down a formula that work for these plants in our climate. Thus, customized ready soil mix is in the pipeline soon! 🙂

Grow gourmet Strawberries from seeds

December 01 2016 – Seedlings from our parent plants

The learning journey never stops as we sought to learn more about our strawberries. What kind of soil is best for them? As these plants are not commonly grown (yet), everything from soil mixes to plant care have to be documented. After many months of trial and errors, I think the solution to best soil mixes is close! 🙂 What do you think of our progress on these 3 months old seedlings  ? 🙂

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberries from seeds

Same age seedlings! The bigger plant are grown in our customized strawberry soil compared to normal commercial organic soil 🙂

Another discovery on December 10 2016 – Stressed Alpine strawberries even a reputed non-runner variety like this one will sent out runners when they sensed danger! 🙂 I do not think this is a good sign for this plant. Surely it is no longer a heirloom, more of a mutant, and even if the runner is rooted, I doubt it will bear fruits. We will just have to wait and see how this plant grow, will update.

Grow Heirloom Pineapple Strawberry

An almost torn stem triggered runners in this plant

The instinct to live is high for this seedling! 🙂

Symptoms of stressed alpine strawberries

Dec 12 2016 – The more pronounced the tear, the more developed the runner.

Second Generation Strawberry Plants

Recovered from transplant shock very quickly, within 2 days instead of weeks.

Grow Heirloom Pineapple Strawberry

Dec 10 2016 – Suffered a transplant shock


Grow Heirloom Pineapple Strawberry

Dec 11 2016 – Recovered in the afternoon

Comparative Study of SG vs. USA seedlings –

Since we have seeds from USA Heirloom  and SG born Pineapple Strawberry plants, we thought it would be interesting to study how they grow together for a comparative study. These were our observation so far –

Heirloom Pineapple Strawberry from seeds

SG seed from our own plants germinated one of these SG seedlings on Aug 30 2016

The germination rate for SG seedlings was 4 days compared to 9 days for USA seeds, and as can be observed, the speed of growth is faster for SG seedlings as well. These pictures were taken on October 2nd 2016.

Grow Heirloom Pineapple Strawberry from seeds

Heirloom USA seed germinated on Aug 30

Seasoned gardeners lend a hand to study how to grow strawberries better in Singapore from February 2016 –

Heirloom Pineapple strawberry

Terence Low of Naked Greens 🙂 Also Pak Mat (hydroponics), Calvin Soh (Guerilla Seeds), Alan Tan and even my lecturer on Hydroponics, Gregory Chow Kheong Keat (Ngee Ann Polytechnic)

Summary of Pineapple Strawberries Information –

  1. Perennial Plant
  2. has no runners
  3. Ideal soil temperature 16 – 21 degree Celsius
  4. Soil PH 6.1 to 7
  5. Can tolerate full sun or partial
  6. Small fruits of light yellow colors





Homemade Pesticide

While most of us fret over insects invasion on our chilli, tomatoes or capsicum plants, Pak Mat believes that  “Prevention is the best cure!”

Pests free Chilli plants

Jan 24 2016 – Pak Mat’s extremely healthy chilli

Making organic pesticide

Jan 24 2016 – Pak Mat spray his plants with his home made pesticide once a week

Benefits of home made pesticide for plants

Pak Mat’s organic pesticide is safe for one month seedlings too

Home made organic pesticide for healthier and pests free Chilli plants

Jan11 2016 – Pak Mat’s chilli plants in cocopeat medium

Pests free tomatoes plants

Just look at how healthy Pak Mat’s tomato plants are!

Home to make organic pesticide

Pak Mat’s tomato plants!


Pak Mat made his own organic insects repellent which he sprayed on his plants once a week.

This is his recipe :

1. Garlic (ratio : 3 Garlic to 1 of the rest)
2. Blue ginger
3. Ginger
4. Onion
5. Hot chillie padi (pepper) – About 10 pieces, soak in hot water first
6. Neem (Margosa) Oil (1 teaspoon)
7. Dish washing liquid (1 teaspoon)

How to make and store plants pesticide and repellent

Center pic – measured , stored and froze pesticide portion to be used in sprays later, took less space than bottles

Home made organic plants repellent

Likely this is the only pesticide ingredients that are edible too!!! 🙂


  1. Into blender, items 1 – 5 (sliced portion, add bit by bit into blender)
  2. Add water to aid the blending
  3. Pour thick mixture on a siever to collect liquid in an empty container
  4. Add Neem oil and liquid detergent
  5. Stirred well and allow the liquid to sit overnight before using on plants
How to make organic insects repellent and pesticide for plants

Pak Mat’s home made organic pesticide – may need to add water if its too thick to spray.

He advise caution for gardeners who like to try his remedy. The dosage is 5ml to a liter of water, adjust as necessary.

The liquid (in spray bottle, already mixed with water) will ferment over a few days if its not finished.

A thin layer of jelly substance appeared on the surface. This will not reduce its effectiveness, and its still safe for plants.

“The best way to see whether the above works well is to try on some leaves first. If everything is fine .. then only you spray on the rest of the plants.

Best time to spray is early morning or late evening. ”

He wanted to share what has work for him.

His plants have remained pests free so far. < Touch Wood!> 🙂

Home made organic pesticide for very healthy and safe edibles garden

Jan 10 2016 – Pak Mat’s chilli

Last but not least, Pak Mat wanted to add a disclaimer, please try this at one’s own risk! 🙂

Home Grown Peanuts

Fancy home grown peanuts? If your garden is sunny, its the easiest edibles to grow, even for beginners!

Jessica said she did not expect that growing peanuts was so easy.

Home Grown Peanuts

Just harvested Peanuts


Jessica grew her peanuts in 4 easy steps ! 🙂

Grow Peanuts

Sowed Peanuts without shells – raw, unseasoned types

  1. Threw peanuts without shells on her raised garden bed
  2. Cover lightly with soil
  3. Stepped lightly on them 🙂
  4. Water well
Growing Peanuts is easy

100 days from sowing to harvest

With 3 young kids and a full time job, she wanted crops that were hardy and need minimum care. She loved to harvest home grown edibles, but they must survived her “no tender loving care ” gardening style! 🙂

Even sowing the peanuts, she threw them without much order on her raised garden bed, “any how throw” style 🙂 , covered with soil and “sprayed water” !!

When there was no rain, her peanut plants went without water for 3 days in a row, under full overhead sunlight. As seen in this picture where she just harvested the peanuts, they were not buried deeply.

Grow Peanuts is easy

Just harvested from the soil

For most of us living in apartments, with no garden beds, it is just as easy to grow them in pots, as long as your garden has full sun. The pot should be wide at the base, considering these pictures of how the peanuts tend to be in bunches. I rather let the plant had more room to grow bigger peanuts ! 🙂

According to my reading, these seedlings are not easy to transplant, thus is best to sow directly in the pots where they will mature. Germination is quick, only 3 to 5 days, water well after sowing. Harvest day is 100 days from this point if all goes well! 🙂

Some folks in Singapore believed that soup from peanuts roots and de-shelled peanuts are good for growing children, especially boys. Peanuts are snipped off plant and used without husks. 🙂

Member LK Koay shared an old chinese recipe for this soup :

Growing peanuts is easy

Old Chinese recipe for peanut roots soup

As only the only bottom half of the plant is used, do rinse many times to rid the roots of soil AND recycle this water for your garden! 🙂

Sally Low shared how her very adorable peanut began its journey on May 27 2016 ! 🙂 Her peanut in shell germinated (in 7 days) after soaking for 2 days. This was not cracked or buried. Sally said she did not cut any holes in the PET bottle for drainage, instead she laid 1.5 inches of leca balls at the bottom before topping up the soil, and only mist spray thereafter.

Grow peanut

Peanut saying ‘Hi’, isn’t it cute?!

Grow peanut

May 27 2016 – The progress in a matter of hours!

Grow Peanut

Peanut charges ahead, growing fast!

Grow Peanut

Peanut’s journey

Growing peanut seem easy , why not give it a try? 🙂


For Lavender Fans

Just like rosemary, the consensus is to “love it less”!

Do not over-water.

There are gardeners who grew Lavender very well in Singapore. They shared tips on how to germinate and customized soil mixes so that this plant can thrive here.

Henry Lim's Lavandula angustifolia variety, from seeds

Henry Lim’s Lavandula angustifolia variety, from seeds

Henry Lim’s lavender journey :

Began in September 2015 with a Paris Garden kit.

His lavender seeds did not germinate for a long time and Henry initially gave up on the project and re-purposed the soil for other plants.

Henry said germination can take up to 2 months and he was lucky to spot lavender shoots growing in the pots with the other plants and quickly transplant them.

Germinate lavender seeds

Henry Lim transplant lavender seedling in customized medium

Henry Lim ‘s customized lavender soil recipe :

His formula consisted of 1:1 pebbles and compost, mixed in with crushed egg shells (boiled, dried and egg membrane removed). He did not used the medium that came with Paris Garden kit. He said lavender soil need to be well drained, a customized mix of aqua-clay, compost and crushed boil egg shells work for his plants.

How to grow lavender plants indoors

Henry Lim’s young lavender seedling in his customised medium. Pot placed in area with free flowing air.

Erin Lee’s Lavender Journey :

Germinating lavender seeds need patience, they may take up to 2 months to see tiny sprouts and then seedlings grew very slowly as well.

lavender plants in Singapore

September 17 2015 – 2 weeks old lavender (sowed in July 2015)

Germinate lavender seeds

November 2015 – 2 months old lavender seedlings

Erin watered her lavender every 2 days and only when top soil felt dry. They love the sun.

Germinate lavender seeds

Jan 29 2016 – Sowed seeds in July 2015, took almost 2 months to germinate

Germinate lavender seeds

Feb 21 2016 – Erin’s “heart” work paid off ! 🙂

Shirley Ooi’s lavender journey:

Germinate lavender seeds

Aug 11 2015 – Shirley grew hers in shade and water with 2 large ice cubes at night

Lee Michael’s lavender varieties (January 2017) –

Grow English Lavender from cutting

English Lavender

Grow French Lavender from cutting


Michael had successfully rooted and grew various types of lavenders from cutting. He used cactus soil mix and advised NOT to add fertilizers for these plants. To encourage a bushier lavender plant, he cut off the top of lavender after the cutting had established itself.

Grow Goodwin Lavender from cutting


Grow White Lavender from cutting


Kelvin Ho‘s first attempt at germinating lavender seeds yielded 75 seedlings! First sprout spotted in 14 days (2 weeks) and subsequently more seeds also germinated. 🙂  A lavender fan, Kelvin was determined to have lavender lined his corridor and has done extensive research and experiment to enjoy this success story to share.

Lavender plants from seeds

May 15 2016 – Kelvin Ho has successfully germinated 75 seeds so far!

Lavender plants from seeds

Kelvin’s lavender seedlings!

He experimented with various soil mix to find the best one to germinate lavender seeds better. This is his recipe –

Lavender plants from seeds

Kelvin’s customized soil mix – Cactus potting soil, perlite, Florabella soil, seed compost (all mixed together).

Lavender Plant

June 16 2016 – Lavender seedlings (one month old)

Kelvin Ho is no longer a novice where lavender plants are concerned! 🙂 Slowly his lavender corridor garden dream is a reality in 2017. This is his update –

Lavender plants from cutting

Blue boxes are actually cooling units with ice packs inside to keep roots cooler

Lavender Plants from cutting

Rooting more cutting in cups and mature plants are flourishing!

Grow lavender plants from cutting

Roots spotted on a cutting!!

Grow lavender plants from cuttings

Lavender Flowers , a most beautiful sight for lavender fans!

Other Observation  – Perlite with peat moss did not work well for lavender seeds. None of his seeds have germinated in this mix so far (May22 2016, Kelvin Ho) . In addition, Florabella soil is not suitable for lavender.

Cher Keng Heng‘s Lavender Germination method yield results in 2 weeks instead of 2 months! The lab where Cher Keng Heng grew his plants are 22 degree Celsius, 24/7, very ideal cool temperate environment ! 🙂

Sowed lavender in seed compost and covered it for maximum humidity which aids germination

Sowed lavender in seed compost and covered it for maximum humidity which aids germination

Grow Lavender

April 12 2016 – Germination in 2 weeks instead of 2 months!

Lavender from seeds

May 3 2016 – Lavender updates

lavender seeds

May 3 2016 –  To speed up growth, lavender seedlings are placed very near to LED lights for 24 hours. Any options can also be considered as long as plants received light and not heat.

May 14 2016 - Lavender from seed

May 14 2016 – Lavender from seed

May 10 2016 – As Cher Keng Heng grew (and experiment) most of his temperate plants in ideally cool controlled environment, I was completely shocked  when he shared pictures of  his lavender plant from a local nursery –

Lavender Plant care in the tropics

May 10 – Newly bought lavender in distress!

More than a few gardeners had shared the same tale. Lavender plants will wane and start dying one week after purchase. On closer examination, the source of the problem seem to be root rot.

Lavender Care in the tropics

Suspected the soil (some rot in the soil) as the cause of the problem once fly is seen hovering around the plant!

Initially we thought that changing the soil immediately may prevent this from happening but if the rot had already set in, it may not helped the plant much.

The best solution seem to be starting afresh with propagating clean (not brown or black part) stems for rooting. For nursery plants, do prepare cutting ahead instead of waiting till problems appeared.

Lavender Care in the tropics

May 11 2016 – Clean stem cutting work better (right)  vs. the brown stems.

Lavender Care in the tropics

May 11 2016 – Sit the stem in water, mist the leaves and cover (to prevent water loss)

Lavender Care in the tropics

May 11 2016 – Seems ok, stem did not turned brown.

Lavender cutting

Day 4 – The water is not murky, stem is not brown, no sign of root rot. Remained same on May 19 2016! Keeping fingers crossed…

Grow lavender from cutting

May 22 2016 – Rooted!!!!

Helen Tan advised to change water every 3 days or when water is murky to prevent root rot during propagation.

Day 4 - This is not good. Water is murky, stems are brown. Lesson learned - Best individually rooted.

Day 4 – This is not good. Water is murky, stems are brown. Lesson learned – Best individually rooted.

lavender cutting care

May 19 2016 – Important to know where to cut the stems for rooting

Second method (rooting in soil) –

Lavender Care in the tropics

May 11 – Rooting powder on stem before planting. Use clean stem

Lavender Care in the tropics

May 11 2016 – Mist leaves, cover ‘pot’ to prevent water loss (Plant in soil, rooting powder used)

Lavender care in the tropics

One day after – Lavender seems ok, not turning brown or limp.

How to grow lavender from cutting

Day 4 – look ok but …

Lavender Cutting Care

May 19 2016 – Stem start browning. Not a good sign 🙁

I chanced upon Sthh Sthh‘s lavender cutting success on May 17 2016 from Urban Farmers (Singapore) group and very kindly, he agreed to share his tips again :

lavender plants

Sthh Sthh’s 3 weeks old lavender cutting

Sthh Sthh’s method

  1. Cut 3 to 4 inches of green soft stems, just below leaf nodes
  2. Remove lower 1 inch of leaves
  3. Plant in well drained sterile soil (no compost or organic stuff)
  4. Water deeply once, check how he does it in the rosemary post!

    lavender plants care

    This is how dry Sthh Sthh’s soil gets before he water it deeply!

  5. Place under morning sun
  6. Observe for one week
  7. Soil base is same for rosemary and thyme ( or use Cactus soil)

Sthh Sthh think that his variety is Goodwin Creek Grey, (Lavandula dentata x L. lanata) and this variety is more hardy as they are able to withstand a bit more humidity and heat. Characteristics are silvery-grey, toothed-edged leaves, and long flowering stalks.

Once the stems have roots and for future lavender plant care, Regina Fok suggested the following guidelines for lavender plants in the tropics.

Lavender Treatment

Recovered Lavender Plant!!!

Tips on Lavender Plants Care in the Tropics – ( advice from REGINA FOK, USA)

  1. Water once every 3 to 4 days, only when top soil felt really dry or when the whole pot felt really light weight. This is how to tell when its time to water lavender plant.
  2. Use a syringe, filled with maximum 30 ml of water for lavender plant. Around the sides of the pot, dispense 5ml dose in 6 parts.
  3. Exposed to morning sun only
  4. Air-conditioned nights if possible
  5. DO not use ice
  6. Do not let lavender pot sit near where it can be rained on
  7. Cactus soil mixed with perlite and some compost can be considered as an ideal medium
    How to care for lavender plant

    Regina Fok’s cactus soil and perlite for her lavender in the USA. Leaves touching soil but not turning brown

    Where Regina lived in the States, her summer time can be as warm as 38 degree celsius, with high humidity. At night, the temperature will slipped to 25 degree celsius (our normal air- conditioning environment).

    How to care for lavender plants

    Thank you , Regina!!!

Disclaimer – While the solutions above suggested by Regina Fok, work for most lavenders suffering from heat shock or transplant, it may not be a solution that cured all ills for lavenders in Singapore. After all, there are many reasons why lavenders failed in Singapore. An example is fungus from our high humidity which also adversely affect its well beingThere is no cure for this, gardeners can only try to prevent this from occurring.

For a comparative study of how lavender seeds germinated in a cooler climate versus Singapore based data, Regina Fok has once again volunteered her time and data with us.

Lavender plants from seeds

March 23 2016 – 2 weeks to see first sprout! Grown indoors as outdoor is still winter, below 0 degree C (USA)

Lavender plants from seeds

April 8 2016 – lavender is 2 weeks old (USA), looks bigger than Singapore’s seedlings

Regina Fok (USA) decided to test how young lavender seedlings fared in the natural outdoor environment. She planted one pot outdoors and one pot indoors. Her temperature outdoor ranged from 29 degree Celsius daytime and 15C at night. From the observation here, it seem lavender grow better outdoors than protected from all elements indoors :

Lavender plant from seeds

June 2016 – Compare – Grown indoor (3 months old) USA

Lavender plants from seeds

June 2016 – Compare – Grown outdoor (3 months old) in USA

Regina Fok, based in USA, shared how lavender thrived in their natural environment. Hopefully, this knowledge from a hands on gardener, will helped us adapt our environment for these lovely plants.

How to take care of lavender plants in a tropical climate

Oct 30 2015 – Regina ‘s lavender garden in USA.

4 Tips to grow lavender well (Regina Fok) 

1. Lavender  hates high humidity but love the sun and heat.

2. Soil should be sandy, loamy  and well drained.  PH level needs to be neutral to alkaline.

3. If possible keep the plant within 20C to grow well. With a lower temperature, the plant can tolerate drought and the chill keeps the humidity out.

4. Its very important to keep the top soil dry to prevent root rot. Water only when top soil feel dry to touch.

Lavender plants retain its fragrance during winter

Jan 30 2016 – Regina’s lavender over-wintering outdoors still carried its fragrance, but the scent is stronger in the summer season 🙂

My 2 cents worth of advice, do consider rosemary soil and care for lavender as well. In addition, to line the pots’ base with rocks or pebbles to drain water out quickly.

Terence Low from Naked Greens and Sharon Eng  advised to add more sand to soil. This aid drainage.

Guanster Guan‘s tip on how to choose healthy lavender from nursery and customize ideal soil mixes.

As lavender germination and growth are very slow in our weather, many gardeners do give up after a few months. For lavender fans, its never a question if they are willing to wait and try numerous times until they learned how to grow lavender in Singapore.

Its a quest worth seeking, as lavender smells wonderful, and if we get to harvest fresh ones at doorstep, in spite of the many challenges, why not? 🙂












Rosemary is one of my “must- have” herb in my garden, but its one of the hardest herb to cultivate in our weather.

Home grown Rosemary plants to drool over! If only I have one sunny spot to grew this well at home as this herb loved the sun!

How to multiply rosemary from cuttings

Steve Teh’s healthy and thriving 6 years old Rosemary

How to care for rosemary

Steve Teh’s Rosemary is 6 years old with his Bay Leaf plant (Nov 10 2015)

Without any sunny spot to grow, your rosemary probably will look like mine :

Rosemary and Curl leaf parsley love sun

Rosemary and curly leaf parsley from seeds – not looking very healthy without the sun. Brought outdoors into my compost pots.

My second trial with rosemary cuttings from Terence Low (NakedGreens group) ‘s plants was more rewarding.

Mar01 2016 - 11 days to root in tap water! Woody stems can still root!

March 01 2016 – 11 days to root in tap water! Woody stems can still root!

Jack Yam, a member in our Facebook gardening group (SG Farming in Apartments), perfected the rooting method for rosemary, and had a pictorial tutorial on how to root them.

This is what he said –

  1. Trimmed away the leaves from mid to bottom of the stem
  2. Support the cutting so that only 1 cm of the roots’ end is in water
  3. Cutting root better in bright sunlit area
  4. Rooting rosemary cutting

    Roots showed in 7 days!Cutting root better in bright sunlit area.

    Rooting rosemary cutting

    Healthy roots are white color

Rooting rosemary cutting

Oct 03 2016 – Rooting rosemary cutting in mosquitoes safe method! Use what you have around the house too!

Rosemary rooting

Jaimie Lim‘s rosemary rooted in 5 days (tap water). Her cutting was a green stem from her own plant. 🙂

As our rosemary plants were in the outdoor gardens without shelter from rain, a customized soil mix was prepared to allow rain to drain out as fast as possible. 🙂

April 22 2016 - Rosemary cuttings can survived rain storms if the soil is prepped well to prevent water log.

April 22 2016 – Rosemary cuttings can survived rain storms if the soil is prepped well to prevent water log.

Rosemary from cutting

May 30 2016 – Grown outdoors and thriving! I generally let rain water these pots unless its a dry spell 🙂

Rosemary plant care information

July 12 2016 – Rosemary in outdoor garden, thrived in spite of being rained on etc One plant eaten by snail or stolen again!

Propagate rosemary cutting

October 25 2016 – update on rosemary cutting ! 🙂

Grow rosemary plant from cutting

Jan 27 2017 – After a week of heavy rainfall

The trick is mixing the soil, to be less soil! 😀 More sand, more pebbles, only 30% soil, the rain/ water must flush out as quickly as it arrived. How to get the soil mix right? Play with your mixes – Mix and match your soil one lazy afternoon, dip in a pail of water n see if it drained in one minute! 😀 Add more pebbles etc if they do not drain well. Lastly, the base of the pot is best lined with pebbles or rocks to aid draining as well.

Other gardeners also generously shared tips on how to propagate and keep rosemary plants thriving for years.  So my thanks to all of them for sharing.

Sthh Sthh from Plant Community Singapore shared how to root Rosemary from store bought herbs :

How to grow rosemary from cutting using store bought herbs

Oct 8 2015 – Used most of the leaves for cooking then use the stem for rooting

How to grow rosemary from cutting

2-4 weeks to see roots. Tap water used only. Once roots appeared, transfer to net pot with nutrients solution (Can use Lushgro A+B solution for leafy vegetables)

Sthh Sthh used his own mix of nutrient solution too.

His recipe is : NPK 21-21-21, a dash of epsom salt, and a teaspoon of seachem flourish trace minerals into 3 litre of water. EC about 2000. (I am clueless here as well, not being familiar to commercial fertilizers! )

Rosemary propagation

Rosemary Propagation – Only roots come in contact with nutrients solution


Rooting rosemary

Rosemary ‘s stem stayed dry in net pot while roots are in nutrients solution


Rooting Rosemary

Rosemary rooting pots suspended above nutrients solution


How to grow rosemary from cutting

Rosemary transferred to pot (Sthh Sthh’s post in Oct 2015)

STHH STHH also shared how he watered and adjust the soil media needed for a dry loving plant like rosemary and even lavender! Deep Water Soak Treatment

How to water rosemary plant

April 25 2016 –  When the soil become dry, STHH immersed the whole pot in a basin of water. Green Culture Singapore’s post.

STHH STHH – How I water my rosemary and thyme, very deeply. Entire pot is submersed in a basin of water. Then pot is lifted to drain.

If water does not completely drain in less than 1minute, your medium is too dense for rosemary or thyme. Time to add some grit. Many options are available – sand, pebbles, perlite, whatever that aid good drainage.

If your water does not soak deep into the soil, the roots of the plants will stay close to the surface, and if so, you cannot skip watering your plants every couple days, which also increases humidity, which is a killer for rosemary and lavenders here in SG.

Deep watering helps plants to establish better roots, and watering will be required only once a week, or twice a week when it gets hot. For suspected fungal infection, or for aeration of soil, you can add a little hydrogen peroxide.

How to water rosemary plants

STHH – The water must drain out in less than 1 minute, also to gauge whether soil used is suitable

And that is how STHH keep his rosemary plants so well. Please remember to only water these plants when the soil is dry.

lavender plants care

This is how dry Sthh Sthh’s soil gets before he water the soil !!!

Agnes Yang on Feb 8 2016 shared how she root her rosemary cutting (from a live plant) –

Propagate Rosemary

Feb 8 2016 – Agnes Yang’s Rosemary rooted in half strength seaweed liquid feed, 7 – 10 days to see roots.

How to multiply rosemary plants

February 9 2016 – Recycled plastic bottle to root Rosemary stems 🙂

How to grow rosemary from cutting

This is her seaweed feed from Sydney. Half strength used only.

Ms. Yang used a syringe to draw a small amount of this and she also said, ”  I’m using diluted seaweed solution. Cheaper than rooting hormones and works well as continuous support even after potting through watering with it”.

How to grow rosemary from cutting

Likely an equivalent type is available in Singapore 🙂

As rosemary is fussy about wet soil, these are the recommended soil mix recipes :

Steve Teh (Plant Community Singapore, Dec 8 2015) – Compost: perlite: coarse sand: rice husk. The ratio is 3:1:1:1.  Some limestone powder added in the mix for higher alkaline level. If  rice husk is not available, then add more sand and perlite. Coarse sand is from nursery and not the beach as the latter contained salt. If beach sand is used, it need to be washed first to rid of salt.

Veronica Yuen (SG Farming in Apartments, Jan 2016) – ” It require good drainage, use 50% perlite, 25% compost, 25%potting mix. Water once or twice a week.”

Terence Low, Naked Greens – 1:1 top soil and other part perlite, pumice or sand will do.

Guanster Guan ‘s soil mix formula, please click on the hyperlink.

All in agreement that Rosemary are sun lovers 🙂 Just don’t love them too much with the watering! 🙂

How to plant rosemary cutting

Steve Teh’s rosemary sought the sun aggressively!

Rosemary plants needs

Chef Donny Tan’s rosemary plants at his doorstep

Rosemary add an aromatic bite to salad and is not only used in roasting meat 🙂


How to grow Rosemary in Singapore

Chef Donny Tan create an aromatic and beautiful tomato salad with rosemary

Life’s simple pleasures from the freshest home grown herbs at doorstep!

After overcoming the challenges of growing rosemary, there is only happiness and satisfaction during harvest.

Grow Rosemary from cutting

Herbs for the kitchen, grown in own compost.







How to Propagate Thyme

Ms. Erin Lee started with 2 pots of thyme 🙂

Like many of us in Singapore, Thyme is a difficult herb to cultivate in our humid weather. More times than not, they died very quickly. Erin Lee said she failed many times too. But she kept on trying and finally she learned how to propagate thyme and grew them very well. 🙂

How to root thyme

Erin Lee expanding thyme garden 🙂

From 2 pots, her thyme expanded to 14 pots of healthy Thyme, which she harvested often for cooking or packed for the freezer.

I can just imagine the scent of fresh herbs along this corridor!

How to grow thyme well in Singapore

Nov 1 2015 – Erin Lee’s 14 pots of thyme!!!

Ms. Erin Lee shared her 3 steps to propagate thyme successfully :

  1. Cut thyme stems with roots (see picture)
  2. Plant roots in moist soil
  3. Grow stem cutting in shade, or allow only one hour of morning sun per day
How to choose thyme stem cutting for propagation

Find thyme’s stem with good healthy roots

Grow thyme

Cut the stem at the point below roots

How to root thyme

Stick the roots in soil, keep the soil moist and grow in shade (max 1 hour of morning sun only) until they recovered.

After propagation, the cuttings looked very weak and some of us may be discouraged had we not have Erin showing us that this is normal! 🙂


How to grow thyme

3 days after being separated from the parent plant! New stem look liked its dying

Multiply thyme from rooting

The newly propagated stems may look weak after a week, but new leaves are seen.

Erin Lee said as long as we see new young leaves on the stem, that is the sign that they are recovering and with care, this herb will continue to thrive. 🙂

Growing thyme

3 – 4 weeks later, the stems slowly stand upright.

How to grow thyme

This is how her thyme expanded to 14 pots!

And if all goes well, Erin Lee will have so much thyme that she had to share with friends or freeze them :

How to grow thyme

Thyme harvest

Tips to grow thyme

Chef Donny Tan’s thyme garden from the same rooting method

Beside the above method to grow thyme from propagation, we can also germinate from seeds.

Germinate Thyme from seeds

June 16 2016 – 2 months old Thyme seedlings

Due to high humidity in Singapore, germinating thyme can be quite challenging, however “not impossible” according to Anupriya. Her soil is a mixture of Aromax soil with home made compost and lots of crushed egg shells. She mist spray her soil once every 2 – 3 days and a deep watering soak (see how to in the rosemary post) for her pot once a week. Her thyme seedlings enjoyed 2 hours of morning sun everyday and about 70% of her seedlings survived.

Cooking with Thyme –

Having fresh thyme that we can harvest as needed, is wonderful. The scent of this herb is not heavy in roasts but it does add an extra aroma, and goes very well with lemon, garlic and butter! (See what I mean about not being able to stay on my diet?! ) 🙂

How to cook with thyme

Erin Lee’s roast chicken

How to grow thyme

This is my daughter’s favorite chicken meal – roasted with lemon thyme butter and avocado sides (Kids’ friendly gourmet)

Using thyme in cooking

Chef Donny Tan’s egg cocotte with thyme






Mr. Green Fingers

You guess right , Mr. Alan Tan ! 🙂

And who would ever guessed this amazing garden of international sunflowers varieties and wild organic edibles garden existed at all, if Alan had not shared pictures with the gardening communities of Singapore?!

It existed not in some plush location, but a corner of a construction site office where he work! 🙂

Awesome Gardeners in Singapore

Alan Tan with his dragon fruits

Singapore awesome gardeners

Jan 04 2016 – Alan’s Sunflowers varieties from around the world

Amazing Private Gardens in Singapore

Alan Tan’s Giant Sunflower

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Alan’s Sunflowers basking in the sun

Singapore amazing private gardens

Alan’s Giant sunflower

Sunflowers were not the only crop that he grew well.

Where he worked in the middle of an industrial park, Alan Tan tend to a lush organic garden of amazing edibles. He grew a variety of gourds, beans, melons, pumpkins, papaya, dragon fruits, okras etc so well that he often shared his vegetables with colleagues, passers-by and every visitor to his garden.

Awesome Urban Farmers in Singapore

Alan Tan’s organic edibles garden

Awesome urban farmers

Alan Tan’s cucumbers

Singapore amazing private gardens

Jan 6 2016 – small bittergourds like these are claimed to treat blood disorder n diabetics

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

I liked it that Alan Tan recycled used construction materials to grow his crops. This is such a good idea for climbing plants!

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

Alan Tan’s bitter guords

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 2015 – Look at the size of this bitter gourd from Alan Tan’s Boon Keng site!

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

Sept 15 2015 – Regina Fok from USA, was awed by Alan amazing garden!

Singapore amazing private gardens

Can’t believed this is in the middle of an industrial park in Singapore, right?

Amazing edibles gardens in Singapore

Oct 16 2015 – Snake gourds

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 4 2015 – Alan’s Japanese Melons

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Jan 18 2016 – Many types of long beans are also grown here (Alan Tan)

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 21 2015 – Another variety of long beans from Alan Tan’s garden

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 26 2015 – Alan Tan’s Long beans

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 24 2015 – Even a “giant” butternut squash! (Alan Tan)