Visit to World Farm

Spreading out like the promised land... lots of flowers in this section!

Spreading out like the promised land… lots of flowers in this section!

The last several weeks have been super busy for me, hence the lack of gardening developments and blog posts. I think last month was the first month I’ve ever not blogged since starting The Curious Gardener! It’s not fun when life takes up all your time and energy that you can’t garden… Well, a friend and I needed to decompress, so last weekend we went to the famous plant nursery, World Farm (properly known as Hua Hng Trading Company), at Sembawang Road.

Rows of basil plants.

Rows of basil plants.

For plant lovers in Singapore, it’s like a trip to paradise because it’s big and the turnover of merchandise is fast. To quote my friend, the variety of plants can change every three days… I don’t know how true that may be, but they do have a good variety of plants from all over the world – fruit and ornamental trees, and flowers and herbs – as well as gardening accessories. Some areas were empty because we assume things had been brought to the Singapore Garden Festival at Takashimaya that weekend. The herb area was particularly bare, but I managed to get a replacement pot of mint since I’d lost mine during the hot season.

New to me was another variety of mint with a very intriguing scent – eau de cologne mint! Looking up its properties after buying the plant, I see it has some medicinal properties:

Traditional medicine uses include its beneficial effect on digestion, use as an antiseptic, and as an herbal tea remedy for headaches and general ailments. A few crushed leaves taken from the garden and rubbed on the forehead will ease a mild headache. It is also anti-spasmodic, carminative, cholagogic, diaphoretic, and has vasodilation properties. (from herbcottage.com)

I also was on the lookout for different varieties of the keng hwa plant that I’ve mentioned here several times. Why? Well, my friend has a very prolific variety that we’re a little envious of, plus we’ve also heard of a variety with red flowers. I was fortunate to find both types at the nursery that day. The red one looked like it had been recently potted and didn’t have any flower buds to show, but the white ones did. We hope both plants acclimatise to our home and start to flower in the not too far future.

Dragonfruit plants

Dragonfruit plants!

Dragonfruit plants are in the same plant family, and I was interested to observe a few mature plants there, especially how they were propped up.

Flowers that need less sunlight? There's something beautiful about the sight of them in a big cluster!

Flowers that need less sunlight? They’re lovely when in a large cluster!

I also couldn’t resist getting some flowering plants – not as many as I’d wanted to, but there’s always another trip! If you haven’t been to World Farm, you’ll find it at 15 Bah Soon Pah Road, Singapore 769962, and if you go on the weekend, go early to beat the crowds, or visit during the week.

 

Don't forget to use the handy carts when selecting plants!

Don’t forget to use the handy carts when selecting plants!

© 2018 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


Share

Growing moringa from seed

First leaves of the moringa plant.

First leaves of the moringa plant.

I’ve been attempting to grow moringa for a while now – quite a few times, actually. We call it the drumstick tree – so named for the long bean pods that may or may not resemble drumsticks. Those pods, when cut into short lengths and added to curries, are a delicious find. The outside of the pod is thick and fibrous, but the insides soften into a jelly-like texture that you scrape off and eat with the curry gravy. It sounds odd but is simply yummy!

Since my dad enjoyed eating curries, he grew the tree once, a very long time ago. The tree grew about two storeys high and was quite abundant. What Dad didn’t know then was that it isn’t a hard-stemmed tree. When strong winds blew by, the branches broke easily. After a couple of times, Dad decided it wasn’t safe to grow it as he had situated it next to the fence and didn’t want to damage the neighbour’s property. And that was the end of the drumstick tree in our garden.

Moringa seeds have a rather hard casing. I cracked them open a little to hopefully hasten the germination process.

Moringa seeds have a rather hard casing. I cracked them open a little to hopefully hasten the germination process.

Fast forward to the present, and we now have more information on the plant. Imagine my surprise to learn that the drumstick or moringa oleifera tree has many more uses than just the edible pods. Just about every part of the plant can be used – the pods are edible; the seeds yield an edible oil called ben oil; the roots can be shredded and used as a condiment (they taste like horseradish); the young leaves are edible, etc. It has many positive purposes, and grows well in semi-arid to tropical and subtropical regions. My interest in it at the moment is also that in permaculture, it is considered a good “chop and drop” plant, where you prune it often and use the chopped branches to mulch the ground.

Well, I mentioned that I’ve tried growing it a few times. It is supposed to be able to grow easily from cuttings, but for some reason, I haven’t had luck with that. The first couple of times, I simply stuck the cutting into a pot or the ground, and kept the soil damp to encourage roots to grow. It looked like leaves were starting to grow out from the stems, but nothing happened. So I tried rooting the last cutting in water. That didn’t turn out so well, either. The combination of the cutting in water created a slimy, smelly liquid that I changed daily for two weeks before calling it quits. I finally got hold of some seeds at the end of last year, and sowed them. At last, I got results…

Germination in progress... our first moringa plant!

Germination in progress… our first moringa plant!

Moringa seeds have a surprisingly hard casing. They look light and papery, but the triangular seeds are sealed tight! Since I was impatient to get a plant growing, I decided to crack open the seeds a little to give them a little head start. In spite of that, it still took almost two weeks before the first seed germinated. It was a thrill to see the little seed leaves beginning to push upwards. No, actually I don’t think they were seed leaves. When opened fully, they looked like regular tripinnate moringa leaves.

Ready for a bigger home now, the moringa plant is almost two weeks old here.

Ready for a bigger home now, the moringa plant is almost two weeks old here.

Almost two weeks later, there are a couple more sets of what I’d ordinarily call true leaves, and I think this baby is ready for a bigger home. Dare I plant it out in the garden? Not yet. There are hungry snails out there, and this is a tender, young plant – and at the moment, our only moringa plant. Nope, I’m going to coddle it a bit longer until it grows a thicker, taller stem that snails can’t munch right through. Fingers crossed that that’s not just wishful thinking!

© 2018 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


Share

Bountiful bittergourds!

Our typical harvest on a single day, at least three times a week!

Our typical harvest on a single day, at least three times a week!

Our little slap-and-dash trellis has definitely done its job. I set it up to support a volunteer mini bittergourd plant that started growing just under the canopy of one of our peacock flower trees, and did my best to direct the plant away from the tree, lest it grow upwards and beyond our reach. That was two and a half months ago, and since then, the vine has flourished. Besides covering the entire length of the trellis, it has branched out multiple times and is thick and healthy, and oh so bountiful!

One of the "little monsters"...

One of the “little monsters”…

To our delight, it is a different variety of small bittergourd from what we’ve been growing. The fruits tend to be more stout and cylindrical, and can be bigger than what we’ve grown before. There have been a couple of little monsters around 10cm long, and we have a lot of fun going on “treasure hunts” on a daily basis just to see what is growing and how big it can grow!

Just one of several clusters of bittergourds on the plant.

Just one of several clusters of bittergourds on the plant.

At the moment, the plant is producing lots of fruits. We can harvest six to ten or so fruits a day, up to three times a week. The flesh is nice and crisp, and remains so even when we eat it in a stir-fry. I’m grateful for whichever bird that deposited the seed in our garden. After all, this was how we first started growing bittergourds way back, about seven years ago!

© 2017 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


Share

Growing in gardening knowledge

Taking questions from the class in the cosy home setting.

Taking questions from the class in the cosy home setting.

It’s always useful to learn things from those who really know what they’re talking about, so I decided to check out what the Centre for Nature Literacy and Enterprise (CNLE) at the National University of Singapore has to offer. Their Gardener’s Series of workshops caught my eye, and I decided to start at the beginning with the two-day Basic workshop.

There were a few pluses that helped with my choice. Firstly, it’s SkillsFuture claimable – meaning as a Singaporean who has received SkillsFuture credits from the government to use for skills development and lifelong learning, I could tap on my available credits to offset the cost of the course. Secondly, the workshop was going to be held at my permaculture buddy Alexius Yeo’s home, and I never pass up an opportunity to wander in awe around his garden! Last but not least, Alexius was conducting the class. Since he is very passionate and knowledgeable about all things gardening, I knew it would be well worth giving up two Saturdays to learn from him. And so I signed up.

Demonstrating the consistency of soil when different components are combined.

Demonstrating the consistency of soil when different components are combined. Looks gross but it’s great for plants!

The first Saturday dawned sunny but slightly overcast. Twenty-something of us arrived at the house before 9.30 in the morning – and what a diverse crowd it was! There were retirees, people of working age, and a couple of students; and in typical Singapore fashion, the group was comprised of different races and religions. Some people had more experience than others, but the atmosphere was open and good. We were all there to learn, not just from the class, but it appeared there were tips we could also pick up from one another since we had different areas of interest that we each dabbled in.

The first part of the first day was a little heavy on theory, but it was good to start with basic knowledge. Then it got more interesting when we got into the components of soil and how to mix them for different purposes. Samples were passed around, and Alexius demonstrated different ways of combining them for different types of plants. We took him very seriously because he was sharing hard won experience, and we could clearly see the results in his garden.

How to prepare the stem for marcotting.

How to prepare the stem for marcotting.

The second Saturday was a bit more hands-on as we learned different methods of propagation and tried them out after Alexius demonstrated them. There was also more opportunity to interact with each other while waiting for our turn to try preparing stems for grafting and marcotting, or during the breaks. We had potluck lunch on both days since we were at Alexius’ home, and it was a good time to circulate and get to know each other. I was tickled to find that I’m not alone in loving to experiment with growing new plants, as many people wanted cuttings and seeds, and had already tried growing interesting plants. One of my classmates was so eager to get her hands on the multi-petaled blue pea flower plant that she gave me a lift home so she could get some stem cuttings from our garden!

Naturally, everyone had questions to ask about their own plant-growing experiences, and Alexius fielded all of them adeptly. He may look young, but he’s one of the trailblazers in the urban farming movement here, and is quite the veteran. There were questions ranging from how to grow certain types of plants to how to manage pests and plant diseases, and more.

Alexius' permaculture garden is cosy and serene.

Alexius’ permaculture garden is cosy and serene.

The second session wrapped up with a discussion on the uses and how to best grow some of the interesting plants in the garden. Moringa, basil and sand ginger were familiar, but there were less common ones, like Wandering Jew, joy weed and Moses in a cradle, which can be used to make a cooling tea. There were many more plants discussed, but you should go for the workshop if you want to know more about them. ;) It certainly provided good entry level knowledge for gardeners and had lots of great tips thrown in along the way, and for my part, also gave me a few more gardening buddies. It was definitely worth giving up part of my weekend for this!

© 2017 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


Share