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. 🙂

 

 

DWARFING A PAPAYA

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