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?!
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!! 🙂
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.
If this bamboo pole support snapped, grapes are going to rain down on people on the street ! 🙂 I am sure no one will complain.
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.
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) 🙂
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.
His journey seem to echo my strawberries journey!!! 🙂 Like him, I experimented like a mad scientist!! 🙂
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.
For Henry Lim, harvest day was on June 4 2016! Determination, 120 hours of research, trials of experimenting and steely grit, paid off.
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” ! 🙂
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 ! 🙂
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.
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 –
- 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)
- Re-pot to largest pot, preferably minimum size 40 cm height and depth
- Normal well drained garden soil is good enough for grapes cutting
- 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.
- Water daily
- No need to fertilize in the first few months
- 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.
- The trellis can be built later as the cutting grows.