Growing snap beans

When it came to the decision of what veggie to start planting, my first thought was beans. We had experimented with them as children and it was a nice thought to go back to carefree days through this activity.

The first beansprout!

So on my next visit to a nursery, I checked out what seeds they had and ended up with snap beans. According to the description on the packaging, these are especially suited to hot weather and humid conditions. Just perfect for Singapore, right?

The seeds were dark purple, just over about 1cm in length. There were 13 of them in the foil packet, and I wondered if all of them would grow to maturity and supply us with lots of beans.

I sowed the seeds in a planter to give them a chance to germinate undisturbed. Snails can do a lot of damage, given the chance — and I wanted to make sure I eventually have something to harvest. Lo and behold, 5 days after sowing the seeds — and exactly as they said on the packaging — the first seed broke through the earth, like some sort of creature pushing its way out of the dark and into the light.

Bean plants at 1 week old

It really did seem like they were outworldly creatures as bumps began to appear on the previously-flat surface of the earth in the planter. Each time I went to peek, there would be another bump appearing, and once it broke through the earth, you could see the unwieldy head of the bean pushing its way up, curled under the stem. Once the whole bean was out, it would shed the seed casing and start tilting it’s head upwards. Then the seed leaves would start to emerge.

Boy, I think Mrs Thomas, my old Bio teacher will be impressed I remembered that much!

Out of the 13 seeds that were planted, only one didn’t make it. After a couple of days, I transferred the seedlings to a bed I had prepared. To make sure they liked it there, I had loosened the earth and mixed in some compost a few days before.

Bean plants at 3 weeks

I wasn’t sure if these bean plants would be climbers or bushes. It wasn’t indicated on the packaging and research on the Net said string beans could be either one. And so I waited and watched.

After a couple of days, it became apparent that they were climbers, so I had to make a short trellis for them to call home.

The 4-foot bamboo sticks were bought from a nursery. I decided to use a “tepee” design, with the base of the sticks stuck in the ground and meeting at the top. I used bag ties to secure the tops and the horizontal sticks.

It has been pretty entertaining watching where the tendrils would creep to. The top 4-5 inches of the stem are green, and have a sticky, prickly texture to them. As the stem grows longer, it changes colour to red/green, and that feels nice and smooth, like a regular stem should.

At first, I helped direct the plants to the poles so they could start growing upwards. Those that did wound themselves around the supports in an intriguing, windy manner. A couple of the plants had the misfortune to be trampled over by our dogs.

I love to watch how plants keep growing... Even new leaves thrill me!

Take note not to plant things in areas where your pets are used to running freely. When you do that, you have to be prepared for casualties. In my case, I had to put up big, visible barriers and give a lot of verbal warnings. After about a week, the dogs got the idea. However, they still can’t seem to resist strolling over the soft, compost bed every so often.

Thankfully the plants are matured now, and the tepee’d trellis protects the roots. But, I lost 2 plants to the rampaging dogs, before the trellis was constructed. A third plant managed to survive because it had been beheaded quite high up and managed to re-sprout leaves.

The plants are now about a month old. If the packaging is accurate, I have another 6 weeks to wait until they reach maturity. I’ll keep you posted.

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Starting out in gardening

I initially got interested in gardening because of my fascination with propagating plants. My sister got the ball rolling when she started passing me cuttings from her garden that she didn’t want to just throw after pruning. Just poke the stems in a pot of earth, she said. They’ll grow from there, she said. Obviously, it didn’t always work, but I became determined to increase my success rate.


Peacock Tree flowers

That opened my eyes to looking out for pretty plants, and I began exchanging seeds and cuttings with friends and family, and collecting them from wherever else I could. My pride and joy are my Peacock trees – orange and pink varieties – that I grew from seeds. The flowers add gorgeous splashes of colour to the garden and the trees attract all kinds of birds and creatures.

Up to now, I’ve only been interested in ornamental plants, because I viewed fruiting trees as being higher maintenance. Insects, snails and aphids are attracted more to them, and my dad had a constant battle spraying insecticides and fertilizing the plants. It seemed like a lot of trouble to me, without a guaranteed good harvest.

Then, something began to change in the last couple of years. I began to pay more attention to cooking shows on TV and it looked really cool when the chefs would walk over to potted plants and snip off a bit of fresh herb for whatever they were cooking. For the fun of it, I bought a pot of rosemary and another of mint. The rosemary didn’t survive, but the mint hiccuped and came back from the brink of death. I began to take the herbs more seriously and began reading up on how to help them survive in our tropical weather.


Sprouting beans

At the same time, a couple of other things clicked into place in my head. I grew up hearing of the struggle that many had during the Japanese Occupation, with not enough to eat. They had to grow things like tapioca to supplement their food rations. A friend Down Under also complained recently about the rising cost of ginger, and I joked that she should plant some herself. She claimed that she doesn’t have green fingers, but an online search indicated that it’s fairly easy to grow ginger. I found a bit of old ginger in the kitchen that had begun to sprout, stuck it in a pot and it began to grow. Alas, I hadn’t planted it deep enough, and it didn’t survive when I tried to transplant it to the ground. That was it. I had to experiment a bit more and succeed at it.

And so the Curious Gardener came about. I want to try to grow as many kinds of vegetables as I can in sunny Singapore, but there’s obviously much more to it than opening a packet of store-bought seeds and following instructions. This site could just be about trials and tribulations of planting, but I’m hoping there will be successes to share as well. Hopefully, the journey will be a good one!

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