This article was first published in March 2021.
One of the good things to come from lockdown (besides spending more quality time with the family), was the discovery of making an edible garden. I’m usually quite happy when my plants don’t die, but since the MCO, I have now graduated to growing edibles. Especially for our eco-themed month: let’s start an edible garden!
Our super gardening guru neighbour and our communal neighbourhood garden have been the inspirations for my own garden. My neighbour has donated plants to me as she ran out of space – which we gratefully and happily accepted! She even comes over to help me replant and offers advice.
With all this newfound information, I thought it high time to share what I’ve learnt. Plus, this is a great way to involve the kids, get them off their devices and get their hands dirty. It’s quite amazing to eat something that you have grown yourself.
How to start your edible garden?
You will need:
- Space with full sun / partly shaded (depending on what you’re growing)
- Water source
- Growing medium
- Tools and pots
- Seedlings or seeds
- A sifu to call when you need help (this one optional-la)
Step 1 – Decide what you want to plant
First, do some research into how easy it will be. We started with passion fruit, kangkung and Brazilian spinach, which grow amazingly well on their own. I was happy to find that these are hard to kill. Different plants need different water/sun needs, so you will need to find a suitable space and move them from time to time to see what works. For our passion fruit we totally lucked out and it just loves where it is. We live in a semi-D, so we ‘led’ it from our garden onto our balcony (as it’s a vining plant) and it just keeps fruiting. I do throw some rice water and coffee grounds onto the soil from time to time. Who knows, but whatever it is, it’s working.
Step 2 – Prepare your materials
Get some troughs, and some large pots for your edible garden. Have a look here at our article about how to convert old tires into pots. Tools are also key (secateurs, hand spade, trowel and a dust pan for getting spilt soil).
Get the mixing mediums of compost, sand and soil. Really, there are many ways to mix your soil. Have a look here for different potting mixes. It’s very important to make it nutritious. For me, I mix cheap ‘Sungai Buloh soil’ with my home made compost. But this requires driving out a little. You can order True Top Soil and compost from Ground Control. They sell lots of great products which are very nutritious, but on the steeper side. They also have exciting wicking gro-tongs. You can also order soil and compost from Tet, who has a farm out of town and sells vermicast, aka worm poo. For the plants, get seedlings if you can or seeds if you don’t mind waiting. I get seedlings when possible and by the grace of my lovely neighbour.
Step 3 – Are the seedlings happy?
Once you have bought and transplanted your seedlings, keep the soil consistently moist and keep checking if it’s happy. Leaves turning yellow could be due to over watering or under watering. My gardening sifu tells me a 10-20 second rule of watering per plant, (depending on the size) using a very gentle shower spray, watering the soil, and not the leaves. Thanks to Mr Google you can check most signs on the net. Check out this guide on what leaves are trying to tell you..
Step 4 – Fertilise and maintain
Every other week or so, give your plants some love. I alternate between Milagrow and Wood Vinegar. You can get them both from This Wonderful Life in Plaza Damas, Sri Hartamas.
Step 5 – Enjoy the fruits of your labour
Enjoy watching your little garden come alive! Brazilian spinach and kangkung just keep on giving in a cut-and-come-again method. You can harvest by cutting off the tops, leaving about 2 inch of the stem above soil, and it will grow new shoots. After several harvests over a few months, when you feel your kangkung is spent of energy, snip off healthier stems and poke it into the soil; and voila, they all come back up. Brazilian spinach can keep going for a couple of years!
I now also have (mostly thanks to my neighbour sifu!) divine mulberries, Rosella, guava tree, aloe vera, ginger, curry leaves, lime bush, pandan, lemongrass and mint. I am also working on growing zucchini and a fig tree! And even if you live in an apartment, you can still grow your own edible garden. I recently found (online) so many inspiring people growing from their balconies. Check out Free Tree Society as well as this article on how to start your edible apartment garden.
The best part is both my daughters helping out – one of them digs worms out of the earth, while the other one has put gardening as an activity for her school assessment. It’s wonderful to be part of nature together!