There are many reasons to grow your own greens. Saving money is one possible goal, and concerns about food safety is another. With so much information (and misinformation) about the produce we buy these days, the surest way to know your where your produce comes from is to harvest it from your own garden. The best reason to grow your own herbs and vegetables, however, is simply the satisfaction of eating something that you have coaxed into being with your own bare hands — farm-to-table within the comforts of your own home, so to speak. As city dwellers, it is also a great way to get close to nature and its bounties — especially if you have children and want them to develop a greater appreciation for what they eat.
Most of us do not have the luxury of a sprawling backyard, but it is entirely possible to start a small garden even if you stay in a high-rise apartment. Here’s how to flex your green fingers.
Study the sunlight
Start by figuring out how much sun you get at home. Apart from balconies and corridors, study also the spots next to all the windows. You can make use of ledges and counters, and secure vertical gardens onto windows and walls. It is possible to use artificial light to grow plants indoors but why do that when you live in the tropics and sunlight is free?
Get creative with space
Space is the biggest constraint when it comes to urban farming in Singapore. Create space by using not just floors and counter surfaces but suspension systems as well. For instance, metal rails across or next to windows can be used for hanging plant pots and planter boxes. A spice rack can also function as a herb garden. If you’re friendly with your neighbours, you can even ask to use some of their corridor space. The greenery is pleasant to the eye and no one will say no to offers of fresh, organic homegrown vegetables harvested at their doorstep.
Start with the easy herbs and plants
Basil, mint, thyme and rosemary, as well as local flavours like laksa leaf and pandan require little maintenance and are pretty easy to grow. If you know someone who grows them, you won’t even need to buy them — simply ask for some cuttings and start them off from there.
Sprout kitchen scraps
Leek, spring onion, chives, garlic and onion are just some of the members of the allium family that can be grown from food scraps. You can also do the same with lemongrass. After you have eaten the good parts, save the ends that have some roots to them or an intact bulb. Suspend in water with only the bottom (where the roots are) getting wet, and wait for an adequate root system to sprout before replanting.
Also pot these commonly eaten vegetables
Try growing also chilli padi and sweet potato leaves. The latter is especially known as a hardy plant that can thrive even in poorer soil, plus it’s delicious and nutritious. Lady’s finger is another species that will grow well if you have a sunny spot. Kailan, which can be harvested multiple times off the main stalk, will go a long way towards fulfilling your two servings of vegetables a day.
Join urban farming communities
Once you get into home gardening, you will have plenty of questions. Different plants grow well in different conditions, and there is an endless amount of new things to grow and details about soil management or fertilising and pruning to learn. The good thing is, urban farmers typically find great joy in sharing what they have learnt through experience. Join communities like the Facebook group Grow Your Own Food in Singapore to pick the brains of more experienced gardeners. You can also check out urban farming initiatives and workshops like Project 33 to get inspired.
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