Grow Your Vegetables

Strawberry-to-be

As if we needed another reason to love our new home, Reason #8745 comes in the form of a generous community garden in our complex. I say generous because only five or six households (out of 72) use the 1500 square feet of gardening space. Not that I’m complaining!

We discovered this gem one Sunday afternoon after seeing a note about ripe lemons waiting to be harvested in “the garden behind the tennis courts”. We wasted no time in checking this out – who doesn’t want free lemons?? – and were pleasantly surprised by not one, but THREE lemon trees, heavy with branches of plump, ripe meyer lemons, located in what looked like an overgrown community garden. There were hordes of blackberry bushes and foxtail, peppered with clumps of mint and wild fennel in most parts, but it looked like someone was actually farming and tending to a small plot where they had kale, peas, broccoli and cauliflower in the pink of health. It didn’t take long before we signed up for a plot of our own, which at almost 100 square feet of space, should be producing more than enough for the two of us this summer.

Our plot; before (background) and after (foreground)

Growing up in Singapore’s concrete jungle, where the only thing I’ve ever tried to grow were beansprouts in school science experiments, this whole gardening and grow-your-own-vegetables-in-soil activity is a brand new adventure. Which probably explains my zest for building my gardening credentials by hanging out at Home Depot and Lowe’s to stock up on tools and essentials, and attending workshops by the Master Gardeners to learn about planting for Summer. Of course a pair of cute boots wouldn’t hurt….after all, one must look the part! Especially while undertaking the necessary, if unglamorous, job of weeding that proved surprisingly therapeutic, especially after a frustrating week.

So after an afternoon of Weeding Therapy, and another spent preparing the soil for planting, we’ve started our little square off with five types of tomatoes, a bunch of mixed and butter lettuce, a serrano pepper, some lavender bushes and a couple of strawberry vines. To these we added zucchini, peas, carrots, radish and rocket from seed, so the next few weeks will be interesting to see if any shoots appear.

Our neighbors' Kale flowers (left) and our tomato supply

An excellent companion to our gardening ambitions to date is this book on Creating Your Backyard Farm by Nicki Trench, where she takes you through the steps needed to prepare your garden – from understanding soil types, the virtues of compost and the equipment you’ll need to detailed chapters organized by vegetable categories like Root Vegetables, Squashes and Onions, all brimming with information about planting season, plant spacing and tips for countering pests and diseases. The book ends with a chapter on keeping hens, bees and goats, which we won’t be doing anytime soon, but the sections on ‘How to handle a hen’ and ‘Classic chicken behavior’ make for fascinating, if unconventional, bedtime reading. I’ve never gone through a guide book as quickly as I have with this, and highly recommend it if you’re ever looking to venture into the world of backyard farming.

Happy Marigolds and young Lavender

Looking at our plot, I felt a sense of pride that’s probably similar to what new parents must feel. There’s so much promise and potential in this small space, that with diligent care and attention, should yield a fair amount of vegetables this summer. Or not. That’s all part of the fun isn’t it? Stay tuned for more garden updates!

A bee at lunch
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11 Comments

  1. El

    Fantastic. I’m very excited that you have a garden. There’s nothing like fresh veggies in the summer. You find weeding therapeutic? Want to come over and weed our yard ;>)

  2. Even my tiny patio garden makes me happy! I love using the fresh herbs that I grew myself when cooking, and even if I just get a few tomatoes or one bulb of fennel, it somehow tastes better.

  3. You are indeed lucky to have a community garden in your complex! Here in Melbourne there aren’t many community gardens around and most have very long waiting lists for a plot.

    Having your own kitchen garden is awesome. I grow some potted herbs and the difference between freshly picked & store bought is like night and day. Can’t wait to find a place with a backyard so that I can grow more vegetables.

  4. Oh! that’s so fantastic!! I live in a concrete jungle but I often get nostalgic about our garden back home in india.. whenever I go back, mom cooks fresh vegetables from the garden.. simple pleasures….

  5. El: If that means I get to taste and take home some of your gorgeous chocolate chip cookies, I’m in!!

    Stacy: Totally agree – home-grown triumps over store-bought anytime!

    Gilbert: It’s only in the past 2 years that I’ve really come round to this vegetable and herb gardening idea, after managing not to kill the thyme and rosemary plants we acquired shortly after moving here 😉 Good luck with your backyard hunt – sending you positive gardening vibes from California!

    Asha: Simple pleasures indeed! I would love to see what your mom grows in her garden!

    Dana: Yup, you got that right. After tasting our tomatoes last year, I can’t wait to see what this year’s plants will bring. Keeping my fingers crossed!

  6. That’s true it is the best, especially when you put flowers with vegetable plants (to avoid insects, but also for the beautifull arrangement it can be).
    We have here a small vegetable garden, but it is a pleasure for our kids to see things growing.

  7. What fun, so happy to hear you are enjoying your new place. If you have not made it up to the Alhemeny Farmers Market yet, they had a great variety of plants to choose from – I got some shiso and a guava to experiment with. Although, I have not plot of land I do have a lovely bay window packed with plants.

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