Instead of just pleasing the eye, your garden can easily satisfy your taste buds and stomach as well.
You do not have to move to Kranji or Lim Chu Kang to set up an orchard.
Common vegetables that take well to a home garden include spring onions, leeks, garlic, lemongrass, sweet potatoes and kailan. These vegetables are sun-worshippers and thrive well in Singapore’s weather.
It is easy to get started — place any unused bulbs of these vegetables in water, and you will notice new shoots within a week. For sweet potatoes, do the same before plucking off fresh buds to be placed in soil. For kailan, in particular, leave the main stalk untouched during your harvest to enjoy repeat yields.
Less commonly grown vegetables can also be cultivated with the use of special seeds that can tolerate warm climates. Cabbages and tomatoes are such examples, with tomatoes requiring frequent pruning to prevent the leaves from competing with the fruits for nutrients.
Tip: Use water saved from washing rice and vegetables on these plants and they will grow beautifully.
Tropical fruits such kumquats, pineapples, chikus and bananas are all-time local favourites. Patience is key as these plants could take at least eight months to a year before yielding fruit.
Fruit trees are also an option, especially if you enjoy mangoes, guavas, papayas and rambutans. Most of these trees require loamy soil with adequate soil depth for their roots to fully develop. For active growth, fertilise evenly around the trunk with animal dung or chemical fertilisers. Be warned though — fruit trees may attract bats.
In recent years, home gardeners in Singapore have successfully grown fruits such as grapes, apples, watermelons, rock melons and even avocados. Beyond landed properties, these experimentations are also gaining popularity in high high rise apartments. For urban gardening, at least, it seems the sky’s the limit.
Tip: Fruit trees require balanced irrigation and fertility programmes. Avoid retarding growth by over- or underwatering, or over- or under-fertilising them. Do not chase pollinators such as bees and butterflies away as they are required for some crops to produce fruit.
Herbs have long been treasured for their medicinal and culinary values. Other than adding flavour and zest to your dinner, they can cure colds and even help you sleep better. Growing herbs is relatively easy as they are not fussy with soil and do not require much fertilising.
The curry leaf plant is popular among beginners as it does not require much watering. Overall, it is relatively easy to grow and care for. The pandanus plant, on the other hand, prefers a damp environment. Do not be alarmed if you notice yellowing as it is likely caused by excessive sunlight. Cut off those yellow leaves and the plant will soon start to heal.
Fortunately, the fastest way to grow herbs is through propagation. The next time you get your hands on herbs such as basil, mint, rosemary, thyme or oregano, save a young leaf or two and place these cuttings in water. Transplant them to a pot when new roots begin to form and you can look forward to a healthy supply of fresh herbs for years to come.
Tip: Plants that have similar watering needs should be grouped together for more effective gardening. If you are buying herb plants from nurseries, be sure to wait a week or two before using them in your food as they are usually treated with insecticides.
Convinced that gardening is a fruitful hobby? Consider how much of each crop you would like before kickstarting your edible garden project. Plan your garden with care and start small. A good half-hour of work every two or three days should keep your garden productive and healthy.
Enjoy the fruits of your labour!