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Home farming
Photograph: Kashmira KasmuriHome rooftop garden

6 simple tips to get your home farm growing

Gardening isn’t always a breeze, but the joy is in the process

Cheryl Sekkappan
Written by
Cheryl Sekkappan
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Green is in. And by that we’re referring to Singapore’s growing interest in home farming. Don’t believe us? Over 400,000 vegetable seed packets from NParks’ Gardening with Edibles campaign have been snapped up by aspiring gardeners, a first for the nation. But creating a flourishing home farm isn’t as easy as popping seeds into the soil and calling it a day. We speak to avid gardeners Joanna Chuah and Brian Thian about their gardening journey and gleaned some expert advice.

RECOMMENDED: Garden city: why Singapore has gone bananas for home farming and Where to order an indoor gardening kit in Singapore

Start small
Photograph: Kashmira Kasmuri

Start small

When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to get excited and overstretch. In fact, “it’s possible for a small and well-tended plot to yield more food than a huge space”, says Brian. So, start with no more than three or four plants, and focus on mastering the basics. Joanna suggests taking what you have from your kitchen: seeds, cuttings, or tubers, and learning how to get each to grow and thrive. By working on these basic building blocks, you will slowly acquire the knowledge and confidence to move on to more challenging plants over time.

Go native
Photograph: Kashmira Kasmuri

Go native

Tropical plants naturally thrive in Singapore’s climate so it’s best to start with native varieties so you don’t set yourself up for disappointments. What’s more, many of these herbs and vegetables are used in a gamut of local recipes. Joanna has a herb corner where she grows herbs like lemongrass, Thai basil, kaffir lime and mint, while vegetables like eggplants, sword beans and luffa do well in her garden. Brian also recommends kang kong, sayur manis, bayam (spinach) as safe bets for your vegetable plots. He himself is tending to avocado, cashew and banana trees – definitely something to aspire to.

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Tend your soil
Photograph: Kashmira Kasmuri

Tend your soil

To give your plants their best shot, invest in good quality soil. Make sure it is suitable for the plant and its stage of growth – seed mixes for example, are finer and lighter than typical garden potting soil. Even then, Joanna stresses that the soil you buy from packets is essentially dead: “It takes rain, insects and animals coming in to freshen up the soil and make it come alive.” Brian also believes that “a good gardener grows his soil, not just his plants”. That’s why he has a worm bin in his garden, where worms do the work of recycling food scraps into nutrient-rich compost. For the home gardener, Brian and Joanna suggest to start off by feeding your soil with eggshells, coffee grounds or other organic discard from your kitchen to help it grow fertile over time.

Gather the right tools
Photograph: Kashmira Kasmuri

Gather the right tools

Not only do the right tools make your life easier, they help protect the plants you’re working so hard to raise. Invest in a sharp and sturdy pair of pruning shears to minimise the risk of injuring your plant as you’re pruning or harvesting. If you have a larger plot of land to play with, a good spade or long-bladed shovel will save you time and effort as you carve out your garden. Head to a gardening centre like Far East Flora Garden Centre, your local hardware store, or even Daiso to get fitted. 

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Tap on the local community
Photograph: @ling_gigi/Unsplash

Tap on the local community

NParks has a wealth of gardening resources on their official website, including helpful video tutorials for beginners. For more community flavour, head to Facebook groups such as Green Culture Singapore, Urban Farmers Singapore and Plant Swap Singapore to glean advice, tips and tricks from fellow Singaporeans. If Instagram is where you like to hangout, then don’t forget to follow Joanna (@wwedibles.sg) and Brian (@briansgardenadventures) for their fun, inspirational and educational gardening content.

Go with the flow
Photograph: Kashmira Kasmuri

Go with the flow

Gardening is a relaxing and fulfilling activity – as long as you go with the flow. Failures and setbacks are bound to happen: seeds may not germinate, plants may die off or not bear fruit. Brian emphasises the importance of having a resilient mindset and a willingness to learn. Through continued trial and error, close observation, love and dedication, you’ll soon have your own little corner of green paradise.

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