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.

Gardening fun can extend beyond just growing plants ! Gift ideas for fun loving people –

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 🙂

Fast Forward to 2018, our vegetables gardens now look like this!

Creative PET bottles garden containers

Vertical Salads!

We grew really cool salads like oyster leafs, ice plants, spinach and many more in hanging recyclables. Do check it out on the Exotic and Greens page.

The learning journey never stop and it is so fun!

We hope you will join us.

Just do it! 🙂

Last but not least, workshops are available.







Home Made Super Soil

Home Made Compost is possible in crowded, urban tropical cities like Singapore.

This process of recycling kitchen green waste into compost for gardening , is good for plants, ourselves and the environment .

Look at how my edibles garden turned out with this “home made” super soil for yourself  !

From THIS –

Composting methods in Singapore

March 2015 – Dead or dying citrus plant, abandoned after Chinese New Year

Benefits of Organic Compost

March 20 2015 – Dead Tree awakening with organic compost!

TO THIS – !!!

How to use and benefits of organic compost

Dec 14 2015 – A fully recovered plant! 🙂

How to use and benefits of organic compost

A healthy thriving plant again

Update of this tree on July 17 2016 (16 months from when I start composting in this pot) –

using compost

2016 July 17

This plant continued to thrive on its own without much fuss. Every six months, we still used this pot as an open composting bin. It remained amazing to witness how recycled raw greens for compost is good for gardens.

home made nutrients rich soil

2016 July 17

Uses of compost

How lime/citrus begin their fruiting journey – Isn’t this cute?

When I see how this little tree continued to prosper, its as if it talking to me, ” I am okay now. Thank you! ” 🙂

Benefits of recycled green waste compost

Jan 20 2017 – STILL ALIVE and Thriving!

No other fertilizer was added in this pot, beside composting of peels and adding earthworms from the garden. Imagined this – whatever nutrients that this plant gained from the compost, allowed it to rejuvenate its drive to recover from a dying state. Then I often wondered what we will gain when we consumed edibles grown in this kind of natural compost ?  Will we be able to rejuvenate ourselves as well?


Meyer Lemons –

How to use and benefits of organic compost

Growing Meyer lemon in compost pot

Sweet basil 

How to use and benefits of organic compost

September 16 2015 – Sweet Basil

How to use and benefits of organic compost

Layer upon layer of kitchen raw greens, soil, dried leaves are added to the pot until its almost full.

How to use and benefits of organic compost

Sweet basil in compost pot is bigger than my herbs grown indoors

Rosemary and Curly leaf Parsley

How to use and benefits of organic compost

Rosemary and curly leaf parsley thriving in spite of the thunderstorms!

Our MINT was grown without pesticide and in our own compost from recycling kitchen greens waste –

Benefits of home made organic compost

Kids love to harvest home grown mint for tea when they are studying

Bell Peppers or Capsicums – 

Growing bell peppers in home made compost

Bell peppers or capsicum grown in home made compost, taste sweeter. Kids are eating them raw like green apples!

Growing red bell peppers in home made organic compost

Red and Green bell peppers in the same pot

Even strawberries! 🙂

Growing strawberries in outdoors Singapore garden

We weed our strawberries outdoor to learn more about growing them in the tropics.

Two varieties of strawberry plants were weeded here from October 2015, to see how they fared in our special acidic compost in normal SG temperature.

So far, sick plants have recovered in them and survived our terrible haze and thunderstorms, to flower and bore fruits by December 2015.

Growing strawberries in Singapore

2017 – One of my plants thriving in natural SG environment

Why not wolfberries too?

Growing wolfberry or gojiberries in Singapore

February 28 2017 – Wolfberries or Gojiberries

In our household, recycling raw greens for compost bins is second nature! 🙂

How to make organic compost

We are striving toward zero-waste in our household

What GREEN goes into our compost bin?

  • Fruit Peels (banana, watermelon etc)
  • Fruit or Vegetable Pulp (from juicer, raw)
  • Soya bean pulp (Okara , 豆渣 / 豆腐渣)
  • Used tea leaves or coffee grinds
  • Egg shells – membrane inside egg shells can attract snails. Contrary to beliefs, snails love to eat egg shells. Having them on surface soil will attract snails to the plants and will not deter them from feasting. This need to be buried deep in outdoor gardens.
  • Spoiling raw vegetables or fruits – remove seeds if possible as they may germinate in the compost bin
  • No fish, meat or bloody innards as the scent of rot is foul and likely attract rodents


How to make organic compost

Any plant based waste from kitchen

5 Easy Steps to prepare organic compost OUTDOORS

  1. Cover the holes with net or any material (pebbles, sand) that allow liquid to drain while stopping soil/compost erosion
  2. Dried leaves or any organic dried matter from the garden
  3. Any soil – new, used, spent
  4. Add kitchen green waste
  5. Cover with soil and dried leaves, raise the compost container for aeration is a good idea.


How to prepare compost bins for outdoor garden

Cover pot’s drainage holes with net to allow water to drain out but not erode the soil and compost.

Dried leaves, grass, used pets’ bedding (such as straw, hay), tree barks, shredded paper, cardboard can be used as brown for layering in compost bins.

How to prepare compost bins for outdoor garden

Step 2 – Dried leaves from trees.

Any soil (old, new, spent) can be used in the compost bin except soil that had been infected by pests such as roots mealy. We don’t re-used such soil because there may had been unhatched eggs in them.

How to prepare compost bins for outdoor garden

Step 3 – Add soil

How to prepare compost bins for outdoor garden

Step 4 – Add raw greens etc. Cover with soil and top off with dried leaves so less fruit flies hovering around the pot!

How to prepare compost bins for outdoor garden

Layers after layers are repeated until my pot is almost full.

What to do when it rained, and the compost become wet?

After a heavy rain, its good to “turn/stir” the pile and add dry soil . I usually top off with dried leaves to ward off fruit flies. The soil smell like orange, nothing foul.

In our tropical heat when there is a dry spell, our compost would be ready in 2 – 4 weeks.

How to prepare compost bins for outdoor garden and what to do when compost is wet

Almost ready

A “ready” state is when the green waste are indistinguishable from each other.

Composting in Singapore

The ready product is a soft, citrus smelling dark soil!

Benefits of composting

Color of nutrients rich compost is BLACK !

Home made compost

Lots of worms as raw greens break down! Not for the squeamish 🙂

When the compost is ready, the color of the compost is very dark and none of the peels and kitchen raw greens are distinguishable. This is my super soil which I used as a top soil in my pots.

2) For apartments’ corridors composting,  please followed this group’s “Composting in Singapore” instructions.

There is no smell and not much presence of pests , it is neighbors’ friendly but takes longer to breakdown.

Compost bins suitable for apartment’s corridors

How to prepare compost bins for indoor area without pests or smells

Step 1 – Plastic Bin with cover, drilled holes at the bottom for drainage

How to prepare compost bins for indoor area without pests or smells

Step 2 – Cover holes with net. Second layer is shredded newspapers, followed by dried leaves and soil.

How to prepare compost bins for indoor area without pests or smells

Step 3 – add greens and my idea of a toilet roll for aeration! 🙂 Top off with soil, newspapers and cover bins!

How to prepare compost bins for indoor area without pests and smells

In the process of breaking down organic matter for compost, heat and moisture are created in the compost bins. Newspapers absorb liquid and smells.

Composting in Singapore

Thumbs UP – Compost bins like these are neighbors friendly – no smells, no pests!

For an easy non fussy indoor method, Lim San had uploaded a new video in February 2017 –

Just for knowledge, the following video showed what happened in my compost bin when too much raw greens is added over brown ratio! Thus do keep Lim San‘s advice in mind (Brown : Green , 30:1 ratio) when starting a new compost bin! 🙂

Compost bins in Singapore

Bins can be used outdoors but mind the mosquitoes breeding when it rained on the bin’s covers! Best to lay a cloth than tile like this.


We love to cook with edibles from our organic garden!

It is possible to grow edibles without using commercial fertilizers.

Sweeter edibles grown in home made organic compost

Young chefs in training and home made Quiche with herbs from our garden 🙂


Growing vegetables with children in our organic garden

SG Strawberries kids helped built this  edibles garden (2015 ) 🙂

Recycling waste for compost

September 1 2017 – still at it!

Benefits of composting

2017 November 5 – Gardens get better the longer we compost!

A small pleasurable plot of edibles, grown in nutrients dense compost by recycling waste, and shared freely with neighbors now. It was an empty corner where people abandoned plants and discarded pots, changed for the better.

Gardening has become my voice for sharing ideas to promote recycling in our communities and how every household can play a part to protect our environment. This is also a good way to teach the younger generation how to grow food from “own-made” super charged soil! 🙂

SG Strawberries kids

2018 March 15 – Trio who helped me with this garden

Benefits of natural compost fertiliser

2018 August – Outdoor salads “Bowls” in natural compost

In addition, we took science out of the textbooks and learned how to protect our environment while growing delicious food.