Gardening 101 with Deborah

Dr Deborah Wong

Gardening 101 with Deborah

One of the top trends globally during this Coronavirus period has been gardening. This week, we sat down with Deborah, who started gardening a year ago, to find out more about it. 

What plants do you grow? 

We have a few decorative plants, like snake plants, money plants, palms, ixoras and succulents to name a few, but most of our plants are grown for food!

We have a herb garden with a few different types of basil, mint and rosemary. We also grow green leafy vegetables like Kang Kong, Spinach, Choy Sum and Pak Choy. These grow really well in our climate and we have a steady supply for the dinner table. We also have chillies, lime, eggplants, melons, zucchinis, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and just started a papaya and mango tree. We’re not sure if the trees are going to fruit and we’ll probably only find out in a few years! 

Choy Sum
Shallots

How did you get started with gardening?

It’s a hilarious story. We started gardening because buying vegetables was too expensive and troublesome. When I was cooking for myself previously, I would meal prep for the week on the weekends. Vegetables didn’t hold up well being stored for a week and I couldn’t be bothered to go to the store every other day just to pick up vegetables. We also try to eat as clean and healthy as possible, and organic vegetables are so expensive! I really knew I needed to be eating more vegetables though, and so decided to explore food gardening. 

When we first started, we bought some potting soil, seeds and a container. Of course nothing happened. That was when we learned the importance of soil aeration and drainage. Most plants need well draining soil and plants are as likely to die from overwatering from overzealous plant owners as they are from underwatering! It’s also really important to space your plants out appropriately so that they have room to grow. 

For seedlings, they need a sterile soil-less, well draining environment, away from direct sun. We use a mix of perlite and peat moss for germination. Perlite is a naturally occurring mineral that helps with soil aeration. It holds water well while also encouraging good drainage – kind of like a slow release water capsule!

After germination, we then transfer them to their ‘permanent’ location consisting of a mix of compost, peat moss, perlite and potting soil, with the ratios being slightly different depending on the plants’ preference for hydration and drainage. The amount of direct sunlight needed also varies from plant to plant and will determine where you place them in your house after germination for ideal growth. 

Another lesson we learnt is to never water your plants in the day! If the leaves are wet while the sun is up, the water droplets create tiny lenses to focus the sun’s rays and can end up burning the leaves of plants. This is particularly important in Singapore’s sunny and humid climate, where the water droplets take longer to evaporate. 

Mushrooms
Melon
Gardening Deborah
KANG KONG

It all sounds like a lot to learn! What are some recommendations for those who are looking to start gardening?

Start by deciding where you will be planting! The amount of light you have will determine what type of plants you can grow. The amount of space you have available will also determine the type of pots you can get. Some plants have shallow roots and grow more horizontally whereas others grow deep roots but only require a smaller pot. You can then go online and search for plants that suit the growing environment and area you have. 

There are a lot of resources available both online and offline. We took a class with The Living Centre, and it was really helpful to get us started. Facebook has some great groups as well such as Urban Farmers, SG Container & Urban Farming and SG Farming in Apartments 

You can get all your gardening needs from any plant nursery in Singapore although we do like World Farm for its good price and large variety. We get our seeds from Greenspade, Seeds Masters and The Living Centre and we have been using the Vegepod for our green leafy vegetables. 

As Rudyard Kipling says “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade” Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and just have fun with it! You’ll get to eat your rewards! 


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