If there’s one good thing that emerged from these crazy COVID-19 times, it’s that more people than ever took to growing indoor plants during the Circuit Breaker period – on top of churning out delicious bakes that peppered our Instagram feeds.
Confined to our homes, many people filled their space with beautiful indoor plants to cope during this stressful period. Some brought green thumbs to their community gardens to add more colour to their neighbourhoods.
NParks’ Gardening with Edibles initiative encouraged this plant-growing hobby. The statutory board just announced that it is distributing another 400,000 seed packets. Their aim is to get people to grow produce and support Singapore’s “30 by 30” goal for a more sustainable food future.
If you haven’t gotten started, now is the perfect time to cultivate those green thumbs. Interested in making your living space that much greener? Check out our tips on how to grow your own plants and vegetables.
1. Choose the Right Plants
If you’re looking to grow indoor plants, it’s important to pick plants that thrive in low-light conditions.
One hardy and resilient plant is the snake plant, which doesn’t require much water or light, and has the added bonus of air-purifying properties.
Another indoor plant to consider is lucky bamboo; not only can it withstand poor light and infrequent watering, but it’s also believed to bring luck and prosperity and improve the energy in your home.
With its lush green leaves and gorgeous white flowers, the statuesque peace lily is also a popular choice among plant parents. While it loves dim light, it does need regular watering, or else it will wilt.
One thing that all three plants have in common is their ability to survive in less-than-ideal conditions. Forgot to water them? Don’t worry; they’ll still be alive.
Low-maintenance and pleasing to the eye, they’re ideal for busy professionals. You can use them to liven up empty corners and nooks, add a pop of colour next to a display cabinet, or make a decorative statement. For inspiration, check out how this renter transformed her bright and airy shophouse into a lush ‘jungalow’ filled with over 70 different (!) plant species.
2. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Shopping Local
Instead of splurging on expensive exotic plants that need a jetplane to get here, why not shop at your local nursery or garden centre? Establishments like World Farm, Sing See Soon and Far East Flora have been in business for decades and stock a wide selection of plants and flowers from all over the world. All at reasonable prices too!
The knowledgeable staff are dedicated to helping customers with their plant needs and will be happy to advise you on choosing and caring for your plants.
If you’re looking for edible plants, you’ll be glad to know that kailan, caixin, bayam or Chinese spinach, sweet potato and kang kong are commonly grown in Singapore. They’re easy to grow and well-suited to our hot and humid climate, making them great for budding gardeners. You can easily buy seedlings in supermarkets like FairPrice and Cold Storage, nurseries, e-marts and online stores.
Not only are you supporting local businesses and keeping them afloat during this trying time, but you’re also reducing your carbon footprint as well. Score brownie points for being environmentally friendly while ensuring precious lifeblood for home-grown companies!
3. Show Your Indoor Plants and Vegetables TLC
Whether you have shade-loving ferns or cherry tomatoes that relish plenty of sunlight, it’s essential to know what your indoor plants and vegetables need so that they can flourish. Pay attention to the soil mix, frequency of watering, water level, sunlight and location of your plant to give your babies the optimal chance of survival.
For example, it’s crucial to get the amount of sunlight right during the seedling phase so that your vegetables can grow leaves and be transplanted to bigger pots. Excessive watering can cause root rot and mould, while inadequate sunlight affects plants’ ability to photosynthesise, leading to stunted growth and yellow or brown leaves.
Spend some time learning the basics of caring for your leafy friends, and reap the rewards of your investment when they eventually bear fruit. After all, it’s sad if your indoor plants and vegetables end up dying because of overwatering or lack of sunlight. Not to mention, it’s neither eco-friendly nor financially wise move to replace them repeatedly.
4. Create an Eco-friendly Garden
You might have heard about eco-friendly gardens, but how exactly do you go about creating one? It involves growing plants native to or commonly found here, avoiding chemical fertilisers, and using ethically sourced materials and natural pest control methods.
One plant native to Singapore is the lipstick plant which features bright red flower buds, and is commonly sold in nurseries too. Another species commonly grown here is aloe vera, a tough desert plant with spiky leaves that can handle dry conditions. Its gel can be used to treat minor cuts and burns.
Regarding gardening tools and equipment, choose those sourced and made by local stores and communities. They have the advantage of a smaller carbon footprint. Look out for cob, rammed earth, straw and oak, as these are eco-friendly materials.
You may also want to add compost to the soil to enrich it and improve drainage. Composting is the process of decomposition where bacteria and microorganisms break down organic matter.
You can make your own compost using a mixture of dead leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps like vegetable peelings, eggshells and coffee grounds. If you use the right compost, there’s no need for chemical fertilisers since your indoor plants get nutrients straight from the soil. This will result in healthier plants that are more resistant to disease and pests.
Water conservation is also a big factor when tending to a sustainable garden. Instead of using treated water from the tap to water your plants, you can use rainwater for free!
5. Grow Your Own Food
If you’ve ever wondered what goes into your food, why not grow it? You’ll get to enjoy the satisfaction of harvesting your own crops and adding them to your home-cooked dishes.
Some delicious herbs and vegetables you can grow include cucumber, chilli, lady’s finger and butterfly pea flower. Thai basil, mint, parsley, curry leaf, lemongrass and pandan plants are widely used to add flavour to dishes. They’re great additions to any herb grower’s garden.
NParks has handy guides on how to grow and care for leafy, fruiting and root vegetables, as well as herbs and spices. Leafy vegetables like bayam, Chinese mustard and lettuce require lots of sun, soil with good drainage, and moderate watering. Likewise, arrowhead, radish and tapioca, which belong to the root vegetable family, thrive in sunny conditions and are propagated by seeds or stem cuttings.
6. Join a Community Garden
It can be daunting and confusing to know where and how to start your gardening journey with so much information online. Fret not – one way to dip your toes is to join a community garden, where like-minded plant-lovers come together to share information and horticultural tips, as well as foster community spirit through gardening. NParks’ Community in Bloom initiatives are a good way for newbie gardeners to meet and learn from experienced gardening enthusiasts.
With over 1,600 community gardens across Singapore, there’s bound to be one in your neighbourhood. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even start your own community garden project. Find out how to do so here.
Otherwise, you can lease one of the 360 islandwide allotment gardens opening soon; applications have since closed, but fingers crossed that more plots will be released in the future.
7. Check out Gardening Interest Groups
With more people taking up gardening, many gardening interest groups and programmes have sprung up to cater to this burgeoning interest. Singapore Urban Gardening and SG Container Gardening & Urban Farming are two Facebook groups where individuals share their passion for plants and vegetables. Over at Meetup, Singapore Edible Gardening Group brings together members who share knowledge and resources on growing edible plants.
Founded in 2012, Edible Garden City is part of the grow-your-own-food movement and advocates sustainable urban farming. It runs farm tours and gardening workshops and supplies fresh vegetables, flowers and herbs to families and food establishments. To date, it has built over 260 food gardens in schools, hotels, residences and restaurants.
8. Participate in the Ugly Food movement
Ever picked up fruit at a supermarket and put it back because it had a bruise? You’re not alone. Such mindsets are the reason why grocery stores and supermarkets conduct stringent quality checks on produce, discarding those that look less-than-appealing.
Last year, around 744,000 tonnes of food was thrown away in Singapore, of which almost half were fruits and vegetables. It’s a scenario that’s common worldwide.
That’s why organisations like the Ugly Food movement are set up to encourage sustainable living and reduce food waste. As an individual, what can you do?
For starters, you can grow your own food. Aside from having more control over what you eat, you ensure nothing goes to waste. Even if you’re still opposed to blemished produce, you can always turn them into compost.
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This article was written by Audrey A.. She can’t wait to move into her own place so she can finally get a cat (or two) and an espresso machine to fuel her love for flat whites. For now, she’s saving up and dreaming of her next trip.
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