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 withΒ rosemary and thymeΒ ? These herbs are not easy to grow for even some seasoned gardeners.

I have learned to be more specific with my advice. πŸ™‚ 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! πŸ™‚ Last but not least, who the experts are in that area and be able to ask directly! πŸ™‚

Some edibles need not be grown from seeds. Most plants can be propagated. The word, simply mean to grow from a parent plant.Β By the way, I learned about this method when I helped my then 10 years old daughter with homework. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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.

IMG_3164

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.

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? Β 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! πŸ™‚

 

Gardening basics for new gardeners

Hydroponics salads following Lim San‘s instructions!

And even a video from the kids! πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚ Kids too, are better at science subject because of our hobby.

Gardening basics for new gardeners

To Table πŸ™‚

Last word on gardening.:)

It is FUN.

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

Just do it! πŸ™‚

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!! πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

GRAPES and COWBOYS :)

And … COWGIRLSΒ ! πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

These are the grapes growers who do so in Singapore high rise gardens! πŸ™‚ 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! πŸ™‚

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” Β 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, Β 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 ! πŸ™‚ Thus, tip for gardeners!

If all else failed, start cursing!! πŸ™‚

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 ! πŸ™‚ 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) πŸ™‚

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!!! πŸ™‚ Like him, I experimented like a mad scientist!! πŸ™‚

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!Β 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 isΒ Alan TanΒ , whom I wrote about inΒ January 2016, “Mr. Green Fingers” in this blog. HeΒ 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! πŸ™‚ I often wonder what his neighbors thought of this “wild window” and “wild corridor” ! πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

Sharon Verena – Highest grape vine in Singapore πŸ™‚

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 ! πŸ™‚

Wild Edibles in high rise

Champagne grapes vines

Wild edibles

Grapes Vines creep along high above Singapore! πŸ™‚

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 :Β 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. πŸ™‚ Β Indeed, maybe, this is also the secret to their success –Β Not afraid to fail, thus dare to try anything!

Alex Ng’s TIPSΒ 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.

 

 

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. πŸ™‚

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 ! πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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 PehΒ  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! πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

 

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! πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 Β crave fresh harvest at doorstep and sought beauty in green private corners wherever they can. πŸ™‚

 

 

Mr. Green Fingers

You guess right , Mr. Alan Tan ! πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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)

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Alan Tan harvested his butternut squash on Jan 5 2016

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 26 2015 – White gourds from Alan Tan’s garden

Organic okras

Priceless okras from Alan Tan’s garden

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 18 2015 – Alan’s okras

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Jan 02 2016 – Alan Tan’s Red Okras

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 26 2015 – Red Okra

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Nov29 2015 -Alan Tan’s Japanese Pumpkin!

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Nov 29 2015 – Bountiful Harvest from Alan Tan’s garden!

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Alan Tan buried raw greens for compost too!

His office is not the only place where we can find crazy cool plants ! πŸ™‚

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 13 2015 – Passion Fruit vines outside the elevator’s landing of his apartment!

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

Jan 21 2016 – Pretty wild lift landing ! πŸ™‚

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

Nov 22 2015 – Grape Vines almost obscuring the view πŸ™‚

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 30 2015 – Alan Tan’s Grape Vines

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

June 2015 – Rare chocolate mint!

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 2 2015 – Sick strawberry plants thriving again under his excellent care!

Not only did Alan Tan grew plants well, he is very willing to share his 10 years gardening knowledge and fruits of his labour πŸ™‚

Singapore gardeners who shared and gave generously

Jan 13 2016 – Harvesting seeds to share with fellow gardeners

Singapore gardeners who shared and gave generously

Dec03 2015 – Old Cucumber left to ripe for seeds

Singapore gardeners who shared and gave generously

Jan 02 2016 – Cucumber seeds collected and dried for sharing

Singapore gardeners who shared and gave generously

Jan 16 2016 – Everything that he grew, Alan shared his seeds with fellow gardeners.

Many who visited his garden in Boon Keng Road, were amazed with his garden and I am sure, touched with his generosity. Β πŸ™‚

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

Jan 14 2016 – Lynda Chua with Alan Tan

I am sure there are two phases that Alan Tan heard very often.

” Wow! Amazing!!! ”

and

” Thank you” πŸ™‚

Singapore gardeners who shared and gave generously

Alan Tan shared his vegetables with passers-by πŸ™‚

These ladies will miss your organic edibles garden at Boon Keng Road soon .

Can’t wait to see what Alan will be planting this year at his new work site!!! πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SG WINDOW FARM

Ever reminisced about what we were doing when we were 21 years old?

Certainly mine was not even close to what I love doing now – growing strawberries!!! My hobbies then were stars away from what this young man loved doing! πŸ™‚ Thinking back now, I must have been quite an airhead!!!

I am still in awe by what this young man built in his parent’s kitchen, an aquaponic “farm” to grow vegetables!!

Singapore amazing private garden

Sept 16 2015 – Bai Choy and Red Pepper

Singapore amazing private gardens

Sept 16 2015 – Bai Choy and capsicum seedlings

Just 21 years old, he built the complete setup by himself and through trial and errors, improved on the initial set up to grow a lot of organic vegetables by September 2015.

Singapore amazing private gardens

September 7 2015 – Cherry Tomato

Singapore amazing private gardens

Sept 16 – Cherry Tomato

 

This is the design of his set up :

Aquaponics

How Xi Zhe built this awesome aquaponic system

Aquaponics

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

 

In my layman understanding of his sketch, I think a series of pipes drew water from the fish’s wasteΒ tanks below the “farm” to feed his vegetables –

Aquaponic window farm

Upgraded fish tank

Aquaponic Window Farm

July 2 2015 – Bio Filter

And somehow, his vegetables fed the fishes πŸ™‚

Aquaponic Window Farm

Filtered fish water feeding his vegetables

Aquaponic Window Farm

Xi Zhe – Red pepper seedlings

In November 2015, Xi Zhe and his parents moved to a smaller apartment and there was no room for his farm.

I wrote this post to share this young man’s incredible farm and enterprising DIY spirit.

Even though the physical set up is gone, we will remember his “farm” and Β will cheer for his future one!

Aquaponic window farm

Shade to protect his vegetables from the too hot sun

PS. If anyone likes to understand more of Xi Zhe’s design, he is a member in our Facebook group, “SG Farming in Apartments”. I am sure he will explain better than me how his set up work ! πŸ™‚

Aquaponic

Summary of Xi Zhe’s completed aquaponic system πŸ™‚