Grow OKRA !

My okras seeds came from Alan Tan’s amazing edibles garden, and their journey began on December 27 2015. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

NEW DISCOVERY – I accidentally cut the top stem of an okra plant and learned something new about this easy going plant! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ ย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚





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’sย 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 waterย and keep her roots cool all the time.ย 

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 ! ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Aquaponics design

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

Aquaponics design

Awesome aquaponic system in retail spaces ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Zheย 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 ย 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? ๐Ÿ™‚

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? ๐Ÿ™‚ 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? ๐Ÿ™‚


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 ย 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? ๐Ÿ™‚

Aquaponics in Singapore

Tabletop aquaponics

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

  • 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 ๐Ÿ™‚