Learning > Inspiration

Tools and tips on growing a garden plot

Start with a spade, a good pair of scissors and shears, and easy plants like okra

Raffaella Nathan Charles on 03 Feb 2018

The Straits Times


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Hobbyist gardeners are involved in a flurry of activity, planting even on the grounds of the Istana three days a month in special plots set aside for them.


And edible gardens are all the rage: Out of 1,300 community garden groups islandwide last year, 80 per cent grew edibles, said the National Parks Board (NParks).


In total, 220 new allotment gardening plots will be opened on Feb 10 at five more parks, said the board last month. These are the Bedok Town, Chua Chu Kang, Yishun, Pasir Ris and Sengkang Riverside parks.


Allotment gardens, now wildly popular, make available plots of land for community gardeners to grow their own plants. Each plot is a raised planter bed measuring 2.5m by 1m and can be leased for three years at $57 annually.


Mrs Emily Fong, a retiree in her 60s, leases a plot at HortPark.


"The best part isn't the harvest - it's meeting new friends and sharing tips with these like-minded folk," she told The Straits Times.


She grows passion fruit, bananas, watercress, pandan, chilli and an oyster plant. After 11/2 years of owning the plot, Mrs Fong has picked up many tips and tricks.


So for someone lucky enough to snag an upcoming plot, how should he get started?




Since plots are small, gardeners hardly need fancy or huge tools, said Mrs Fong.


"A pair of good gardening scissors, a pair of pruning shears and a spade is more than enough," she said.


For cheap and durable tools, Mrs Fong recommends $2 items from Japanese retailer Daiso.




Organic fertilisers are kind to the wallet and easy to make, according to Mrs Fong.


One brew is a fish emulsion fertiliser - a mixture of brown sugar and fish guts, left for about three to four months.


"I usually just ask fish mongers at the market for the guts," she said.


A less odorous alternative is a fruit peel fertiliser. Orange or lemon peels with brown sugar and water - which are then left to ferment for three months - can be used as an enzyme spray, she said.




Snails are unavoidable, she said.


"Simply crack eggshells and leave them in the soil to drive the snails away," Mrs Fong advised. The shells act as a barrier around the plants as they are too spiky for snails and slugs to crawl over.


For flying creepy-crawlies, insect traps can be bought at nurseries or gardening stores. These are transparent bottles containing a sweet-smelling liquid. "Put a few drops into the bottle, and voila - the insects all come flying to the bottle instead of my fruits," she said.


She has two, which cost $6 each.




Okra, or lady's finger, grows extremely fast - fruit pods can pop in a few days - and bitter gourd makes for a fuss-free harvest as well, she said.




To keep the soil fresh and loose, grow legumes - like peanuts or long beans - which is the advice from an NParks gardening video tutorial. For allotment gardeners, soil is provided by the board, and they need only add more top soil to replenish nutrients.




Mrs Fong visits her plot only once a week, so she has invested in a battery-operated irrigation system. Beginner gardeners can buy a big tank that takes 80 to 90 litres of water and lasts a week. Mrs Fong sets a timer to water her crops for one minute every 12 hours.


Water is provided by NParks.


Shared water points are available for use at the allotment garden. Storage boxes or a storage area is usually provided for gardening tools.


No electricity is provided. There are also no surveillance cameras.


To date, 480 plots have been snapped up by gardening enthusiasts at four parks islandwide.


Registration for the new plots will be held from 9am to 3pm at the five parks on Feb 10. For more information, visit www.nparks.gov.sg/gardening/allotment-gardens


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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