Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Winged bean surprise

When I started volunteering at the school garden, most of the plants, even the cow grass, were dying due to the lack of rain for weeks. Only the trees, larger plants and a particular vine were surviving in the heat.

Due to the lack of support, the vine was growing out of control, into a big ball of tangled leaves, like a green tumbleweed. I thought it was the blue pea creeper (Clitoria ternatea).

In our cleaning up exercise, we removed the vine but the roots refused to budge. Soon, new leaves started to form again. Once the weather changed for the better (wetter), it grew even faster than ever, often strangling the new plants (tomato and lady's fingers) we had put in nearby.

When pastel lilac flowers appeared, I realised it could be the winged bean, a tropical legume that grows abundantly in hot, humid equatorial countries. I decided to wait and see if my intuition was right.

When I was at the school garden this evening, I snooped around and found this bean pod lying beneath the leaves. It appears to be a winged bean pod that had grown out of shape.

I found some new pods under the thick canopy of leaves. We need to build a support soon to ensure that the pods grow up nicely.

I have eaten this bean at the nasi padang stall. It is usually cooked in a spicy sambal sauce. According to Wiki, every part of the plant is edible, from the tender pods to the flowers (used for colouring rice), leaves and roots. Even the seeds can be made into a flour or coffee-like drink.

Looks like we have a valuable plant growing in our midst. I must get the kids to help build a trellis for this plant tomorrow.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hot air

This is the last bunch of flowers from the lipstick plant. Flowering season has stopped for now. The leaves seem to be turning yellow as well. I blame it on the hot and dry air blowing from the aircon compressor which my son had just installed to act as a chiller for his aquarium. I can't move the compressor, so I have moved my plant to another area in the patio.

I'm surprised the succulents are still doing fine. In fact, they're slowly outgrowing their home. I may have to remove some rocks and drift wood to make space. It's placed directly beneath the lipstick plant, so they're constantly showered with red confetti from above. They may like the hot air from the compressor. It's like a dessert environment.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A gardener's paradise

My parent's place is a gardener's paradise where edibles grow in abundance. These are the works of my father who grows these organically for our own consumption.

Here is where you find sweet potato vines growing everywhere as ground cover, leaving weeds no chance of surviving in our yard. It is also where papaya trees are laden with sweet, yellow flesh fruits.

There's a mustard green patch (below) just outside our porch.

And along the side of the house, you will find artemesia growing profusely.

More artemesia....

My father has started growing spring onions too.

And the chives are extra large, at least twice as thick and tall as the store bought ones.

Mum likes to scatter pumpkin seeds randomly around the yard. Don't be surprised to find big fat pumpkins peeking out amongst the sweet potato leaves. I even spotted one crawling up the lime plant, with a pumpkin hanging in the air.

Here's a closer look.

Mum scours the yard for female pumpkin flowers every morning. Armed with male flowers, she helps with the pollination. This is the result of her handiwork - a brand new baby pumpkin!

We always have dragon fruits and papaya fruits growing in the yard.

The passion fruit vine that my kids planted years ago is still going strong.

Look at the flower (top) and fruits hanging on the vine.

Even the grape vine that my brother planted more than 10 years ago is very much alive. The big and strong lime plant lends support to the vines growing around it. In the photo below, you can see them co-existing happily together.

Spring cleaning

While maintaining a patio garden isn't as back breaking as having a lawn, I still have to set aside some weekends for major cleaning. I removed the bitter gourd vines today as they were smothering my dracena. I have blue pea growing in the same pots now. These creepers are not as aggressive as bitter gourd.

While the heavy rainfalls have been great for my plants, algae has also been growing rapidly in the wetter areas. I spent the entire morning scrubbing the tiles. It was hard work! See the water logged area near the coleus?

I counted a dozen rosebuds on the rose plants.

They're small but pretty.

When I was walking by the fruit stall this morning, I stood outside for a long time, contemplating if I should ask the seller for the pineapple crowns in their trash bin. Finally, I went up to him and asked politely if I could have the crowns to grow in the school garden. I'm quite shameless I know.

Here they are, sitting pretty in a pot of soil. I'm trying to root them first before bringing them to school.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A few good buys

It's the last day of the Garden Festival. When I was there to bring my coleus home, I chanced upon some really good buys from the garden shops.

The entire patch of thai basil in the school yard was so badly infected over the school holidays, we removed them completely. The boy who helped to plant them was almost in tears. I promised him we'll grow new ones again. So when I saw the basil plants on offer, I quickly grabbed one. This will be transplanted into the school ground next week.

Rusty seems to like the smell of basil.

We have intention to grow more rosemary plants in the school garden. Even though I was planning to bring some cuttings from my bush, I went ahead and bought these 2 young ones anyway. At least these are already established and growing well. It's not that easy to grow rosemary from stem cuttings.

I also bought some herbs for my own patio garden. Here's Rusty (again), checking out my new stevia plant.

He likes the laksa plant (Vietnamese Coriander, Polygonum odoratum) as well. The leaves will come in useful when I cook laksa.

Finally I have a kaffir lime plant in my garden. They leaves are great for tom yum soup.

This purple petunia was too gorgeous to resist. It's really pretty, though not that photogenic. It joins the other petunia growing on my window sill.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who's doing well?

Despite the lack of direct sunlight in my patio, some of the plants are still doing very well.

The bananas are taking forever to grow up but they're getting there.

I'm getting a good harvest of sweet mulberries. If only they were bigger.

Balsam is one of the easiest plants to grow. They do well no matter how much you ignore them. The red ones are so pretty.

The purple ones, though not as flamboyant as their red counterparts, are still lovely.

Each time I make omelettes, I run to the patio to deposit the egg shells on my cherry tomato plants.

Remember the miniature roses from Ikea? They're doing great in the shade! They've been blooming.

One of the chillies turned red today.

If only the mustard green vegetable tastes as good as it looks.

Another bitter specimen in my garden. I've got two bitter gourds growing in the patio.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chilli plant

I've never had much luck growing chilli in my patio. They always start out very healthy and then die from pest infestation before reaching maturity.

Then one day, my friend Patricia gave me a young seedling. She scattered some seeds and ended up with too many seedlings. I happily accepted the plant and hoped for the best.

In less than two months, the plant has not only grown taller, it is giving me lots of chillies. It's looking healthy too!

It's my first successful chilli plant. I can't thank Patricia enough.

A secret

Since I'm feeling so generous today, I shall share a little secret with you. I bring my son to the fish farm every weekend. This is the place where he gets his supply of fish and aquatic plants for his aquarium.

I usually sit in the car while he shops. Today, I decided to venture out and snoop around to see what the fascination is about. I have no interest in fish, naturally I gravitated towards the aquatic plant section.

Lo and behold! A huge array of lush aquatic plants beckoned. They look just like what I would grow in my garden and they're alot cheaper here. These (below) only cost S$1 each. All I did was put them into a pot of soil when I got home.

Years ago, I planted a small and sickly aquatic plant (discarded by my son) in my garden and it grew into a huge and attractive bush. So I'm convinced that these two new plants will adapt and grow quickly in my patio too.

Just look at how rapidly these 'weeds' (below) have multiplied.

The ones in the foreground are aquatic plants tossed out by my son today. Once they're in my hands, they become non-aquatic plants.

In future, you may want to try sourcing for plants from the fish shop. You'll save yourself some money and end up with exotic plants in your garden too.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The secret gardener

I volunteer at a school garden every Wednesday afternoon. For about 2 hours, the kids and I will sow seeds, pull weeds, grow things and water plants. Time flies so quickly, I have very little time to do more work. Sometimes I go back during the weekend to do fertilising or mulching.

There is a patch of land in the school yard that we've been planning to convert into a vegetable garden. Trouble is, the gound is so compact, it is almost impossible to dig any holes on a normal day.

When it rained for 6 hours this morning, I knew I had to get to the school quickly to plough the land. True enough, the ground was soft and wet when I arrived.

Using a small chungko (digging tool), I started making furrows from the flat piece of land. This cat appeared from nowhere and followed me around while I worked.

After an hour or so, I created four long and narrow beds. Then I added compost to enrich the soil.

I transplanted kang kong vegetable seedlings sowed by the kids a week ago onto one bed.

The second bed was reserved for lady's finger seedlings.

Finally, I grew lemon grass on the last two beds.

I also planted pandan around the garden.

It was such a productive afternoon. The teachers and kids will be surprised when they walk into the garden on Monday.