By Nadine Keller, Finder Blogger: The Green Thumb, and founder of www.aerospringgardens.com
Think you can’t grow and consume your own greens in Singapore? Think again.
Space for gardening is hard to come by in a dense, urban and metropolitan city like Singapore. Most of us live in apartments and might only have a balcony for outdoor space.
Add the fact that we live one degree north of the equator and conditions for growing edible plants prove very challenging.
Hydroponic growing is still considered unconventional but there’s no doubt that it’s a more sustainable and practical way to grow food in limited spaces. Anyone can start their garden hydroponically and still transfer to soil.
The best way to start your family garden is to figure out what the kids eat.
Kale, Rocket, Mizuna and Lettuce grow quite well in this climate. Herbs like Mint, Rosemary, Basil and Parsley thrive as well. If you’ve got space for a trellis, growing tomatoes, cucumbers and chilies is also feasible.
There are many “grow mediums” available for hydroponic use but we’ve found that Grodan rock wool cubes made of Basalt Rock render the best results.
The cubes retain a few days of moisture and we place these moistened slabs in plastic trays when sowing. Our starter cubes have little holes in each cube so you can place seeds in easily.
We then cover the hole with a little vermiculite, a substrate often used in soil gardening.
You can also start seeds the paper towel way – we do this for larger seeds like pumpkin or melon.
Wet a paper towel in a container, place seeds on towel, cover with another well moistened paper towel. Keep in cool area of house. Change paper towel and moisten every other day. When it starts sprouting and emerging from its seed shell, transplant to a cube or soil.
Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow from seed and sure to be something the kids won’t mind once it’s cooked in their spagbowl.
It’s one of the first herbs to emerge when growing with rock wool cubes, about two to three days. We then place the trays close to the light but not under direct sunlight.
Mint is difficult to grow from seed. The seeds look like minute coffee grains and when they emerge, they just as easily topple over and play dead.
There’s an easier way: Cut an existing leggy mint stalk about 3 to 4cm long at the node just before leaves form. Remove lower leaves by peeling them downwards along the stalks.
Place in a jar of water and wait for roots to form. This should happen in just over a day. Change the water every two days. Once it really has roots, transplant to a cube or soil.
Tomatoes are surprisingly easy to grow in this climate but are very demanding. They need a lot of sunshine, grow very large roots and drink a lot of water.
To get them to fruit, you need to know how to pinch and prune plus hand pollinate the flowers if its not windy or if no bees are around.
There are many varieties of tomatoes in existence but cherry toms and dwarf species like Vilma do best in this climate.
Germination takes about seven days and you can expect your first fruit in three months if you give it everything it needs.
About Nadine Keller
Raised in Singapore by German-Singaporean parents, Nadine has lived in Sydney, New York and Paris. She returned to her Singapore roots in 2008, and recently went out on a limb with partner Thorben Linneberg to offer Aerospring Gardens, a cool, vertical growing system – perfect for compact condo and HDB living. Nadine will help you learn to grow tricky plants like tomatoes, cukes and more.