These days, as Singaporeans are more and more interested in healthy living and organic products, and with cost of vegetables on the rise, cultivating your very own home garden is not only a healthy choice – it’s also lots of fun for the whole family!
You don’t have to live on landed property to have a garden to call your own. A balcony or kitchen window ledge works just as well. Do ensure that your children are old enough to understand not to ingest the soil, or find a way to keep your garden out of their easy reach.
Benefits of A Home Garden
A home garden can be a great way to teach kids how plants grow, cultivate a healthy interest in plant life, and increase awareness of how their actions help or impede the plants’ growth. Along with learning about scientific concepts like fertilization and photosynthesis, children can learn the value of diligence, commitment and patience, and discover the wonders of nature for themselves. And being able to harvest food from their garden fresh to the table will make any young ‘farmer’ beam from ear to ear!
Here’s how you can start:
Step 1: First, visit your nearest nursery and ask for a bag of good organic soil, which means there are no chemicals in the soil. Tell them you are going to grow vegetables or herbs.
Step 2: Next, make a pit stop at Daiso (or any store that sells garden supplies) to pick up some basic supplies – a shovel, garden fork and some planter boxes. You can even recycle some items around the house to use as planters, such as empty milk cartons, plastic bottles (cut in half) or used meat trays. Simply cut a few holes at the bottom to allow for water to flow out easily.
It’s wise not to be overly ambitious for a start. Here are a few plants that are relatively hardy and easy to grow in our Singaporean climate – some of them might be in your fridge. You might want to start with stem cuttings first, which are generally easier to grow, and move on to seeds when your children and you are more confident.
Here’s a guide on choosing plants by National Parks
Step 3: For a start, try cutting spring onions or leeks to a get a 3cm-long section from the roots, and plant them in the soil with the roots section under the ground.
Step 4: Another good plant to try is basil, which adds a great fragrance to many western dishes like pasta, roast chicken and focaccia bread. Grab some fresh basil (sweet or Thai) from either the supermarket or local wet market. Pull the leaves off around the lower part of the stem so that no leaves sit in the water and rot.
Fill up a small bottle or cup with water and stick the basil in. After 4-5 days, you should begin to see roots coming out from the bottom part of the stem. After a few weeks, you can choose to continue to grow them in the water or transplant them to a planter box with soil
Some other plants you can try if you are just starting out:
- Italian Parsley
- Potatoes or sweet potatoes
Ready to try seeds? Try these:
- Lady’s finger
- Florentine tomatoes
- Malabar Spinach
But… what if you just don’t have a green thumb? Sometimes, no matter how good your soil, how diligently you water and tend to your garden… your plants just fail to thrive.
Take heart that it’s probably nothing to do with your physical fingers or skill at gardening, but a combination of other factors such as the hot and humid weather in Singapore, the condition of the soil, or the mix of plant types in your crop. Moving your garden to another part of the house or changing what you grow can sometimes make a huge difference. So, if at first you fail, don’t give up just yet – try, try again!
By Dorothea Chow, photos by TNAP