Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bananas maybe?

When I moved into the apartment, the ex-owner left a sad-looking banana plant behind. That was 1.5 years ago. I have no idea if it is the decorative or fruiting kind of banana.

The banana plant is now big and beautiful. And useful too. The leaves come in handy when I'm grilling squid or stingray.

Today, I spotted a flower peeping out amongst the leaves.

A beautiful banana flower.

Will I will get bananas soon? Wow.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bittergourd flowers

The bittergourd vines are flowering but I'm not sure if I can expect any gourds in the end.

I've seen some bees buzzing around the basil, maybe they should come pollinate these flowers too. I spotted an ant on this flower (below) though. I hope it is doing the job.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sweet corn

Remember the sweet corn jean that I germinated at home (in early March) for the school garden? The good news is, they have produced ears of corn. I counted 15 yesterday and am pretty sure more are developing as I speak.

The rainy weather is indeed a blessing. Now that the soil is moist and fluffy, everything is growing well.

The okra plants in the foreground are no longer stunted while the sweet corn in the background look sturdy and healthy.

The school holidays are coming and the kids won't be back until 28th June. The corn should be ready for harvest by mid-June. I hope they will still taste good when school starts!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bittergourd and balsam

It has been raining alot which is good news for the garden. Everything looks ultra green and fresh now. This morning, I spotted a snail chomping on my sunflower shoots. No wonder the sunflower seeds never had a chance to grow. Uggh! I must have wasted at least 2 dozen seeds. These snails drive me crazy.

One thing for sure, they will never go near my bittergourd plants. I can even smell the bitterness from 2 feet away.

They're growing rather quickly, creeping on anything nearby for support. I hope they don't strangle my plants!

The many balsam plants are finally blooming. Look at the deep purple flowers. Soon there will be balsam seeds, followed by more seedlings. Then they will take over the entire garden. What have I gotten myself into?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Windy and dry

Every week, I spend a couple of hours at a primary school, helping out in the school garden.

It was during the dry season when I first visited the garden. We've had no rain for more than 3 months. All the trees and shrubs looked parched and miserable. The gound was bare and hard like concrete, even grass couldn't survive.

The first thing I did was to order a truck load of top soil to spread over the flower beds. Luckily the weather took a turn for the better and it began raining every week. The grass turned green and the trees flourished.

We began growing edibles in the once barren backyard. We planted lettuce, bak choi, spinach, brinjal, lady's fingers, radish, corn, turnips, onions and so forth. Something was soon troubling us. Many of the seedlings couldn't survive despite constant watering. The fluffy layer of topsoil soon became very dry and compacted. Some of the hardier plants like sweet corn, sweet basil and brinjal could survive, though they weren't exactly flourishing.

We sowed some cucumber seeds in two identical planter boxes placed side by side. The seedlings on the right box began growing very quickly and were soon creeping up the trellis.

The other one (below) fared badly right from the start. We couldn't figure out why though I had suspected it wasn't getting enough direct sunlight.

While working in the garden one day, it suddenly dawned on me that the garden is exposed to strong winds from the beach nearby. No wonder! The wind has been affecting the development of our plants.

The planter box of cucumbers on the right is protected by a large wall whereas the one on the left is not. That explains why they are developing so differently.

For me, it is an important discovery. I don't spend enough time at the school to understand the conditions. Even in my own patio garden, the amount of direct sunlight I get changes throughout the year, affecting the crop that I grow.

Now I know why the soil in the school yard is so parched. The wind strips away the moisture from the leaves and soil. It stunts the development of the plants.

The wind keeps bashing the sweet corn and lady's fingers until the roots are exposed, making the plants unstable. Needless to say, our spinach and lettuce couldn't survive at all. Only the sweet potato, yam and turnip seem pretty unaffected for now.

I'll have to rework the garden. Unfortunately, when it comes to growing edibles in a harsh environment like this, the choices are rather limited. Rosemary comes to mind but that area is probably too shady.

So we're working with shady, dry and windy condition here. Pretty hostile if you ask me.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fresh from my garden

I am almost too embarrassed to post this article of my garden that appeared in our newspapers last week. Here it is anyway.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I have always been attracted to Echeveria, a large genus of succulents in the Crassulaceae family, native from Mexico to northwestern South America.

Some years ago, I bought some for the office but the pretty rosettes grew tall and spindly until they lost their balance and fell over. They don't do well indoors.

I've read that Echeveries need bright light, heavy soil and excellent drainage. Yet I am also a little confused because they are also known to be able to tolerate drought, shade and frost.

Recently I couldn't resist bringing some home after a visit to World Farm. My biggest mistake was to drench them until the soil became too soggy. When their leaves started falling out, I quickly repotted the healthy ones in loose soil and denied them water for days.

Bingo! They began thriving in the shady corner. Instead of growing upwards like my previous ones, these grow sideways without losing their shape.

One is even producing little babies (see below), so they are sometimes known as hens and chicks.

I am not expecting any flowers from them, I am just happy that they are healthy again. Here are some closeups.

Aren't they pretty?