Saturday, September 22, 2012

Growing organic the Singapore way.

Many years ago, one friend was searching for a vacant place here in Singapore to grow organic wheatgrass.
Her sister who had lived in France contracted one hereditary sickness so she wanted to consume wheatgrass juice on a regular basis and she wanted it fresh.

So she searched high and low for a tiny plot of land to grow this healthy sprout but to no avail. As she could not find them at that time, ultimately she grew the beneficial sprouts on small kitchen trays in the balcony of her HDB flat.

So I am extremely astonished to discover in the last few months that there are unoccupied lands here for all interested gardeners and enthusiasts to grow their own preference of crops and they can even have them grown organically.
In the north of this country just directly opposite a military golf course is this particular grassland where the vicinity has been historically used for solely agricultural purposes so far.

Through the times of development of Singapore in the course of the history of the nation and with the rapid invasion of newer HDB estates, this piece of land remains untouched, undisturbed and has not even been used for any commercial or industrial uses. Strange, isn’t it?

For that reason, this farming land remains unadultered by harsh chemicals or detrimental industrial fluids or that category of contaminated matters. Therefore so far, this land can be considered as pure organic land!

The huge piece of level land has been sub-divided into smaller plots of individual minor farm plots of about 120 sq metres each, all being reserved for individual rental at an affordable and reasonable monthly cost.

Every requirement for the general farming is adequate and present for the initial jump-start of a greenhorn farmer except only for the provision of water.
Water is made only available from the catchment of rain water of the natural sky. One has to improvise the use of one’s canvas roof and to guide the rain water from heavy downpour along inbuilt gutters and downpipes to one’s own water drums or self dug shallow ponds.

During hot weather of long period of drought, one must make numerous trips to the solitary available washroom only 100 metres away and to have the tap water transported on plastic pails for all-purpose watering or future storage for the next few days.

When my contact finds this piece of land a few months ago, one thing on the agenda is to grow some fruit trees at the rear of the plot. This takes about 20 percent of the plot size.
 The fruit trees are grown independently from the other vegetables as according to their rate of growth. In short, fruit trees take too long to grow and to fruit and they are therefore grown as one cluster separated from the general crops of table greens.
The remaining 80% of the plot is used for general farming where one can grow anything according to one’s fancy and one’s available time and energy.

I have of course discovered that farming is not as simple as what we observe on the TV where one old man will carry one farming tool to plough and then to water and then by magic, the crop is ready!

It’s far from that. There is so much to do, so much to take care and consider, there is the plowing, the seeding, the watering, the pruning, the checking of daily weather and the periodic spraying of organic pesticides amongst many more and then there is the big big harvest at long last.
With so much to do and so little labour available, I have been roped in to help every now and then.

Eventually I end up helping building the only gutter and downpipe of the plot for the collection of rain water into the only collection drum.
It has been a straightforward but tiring task but yet turn out to be an eye opener for someone like me who though in the building line for years have never have this hand on experience for the actual assembly of a simple gutter and downpipe.

The whole task takes 2 agonizing long hours in the hot sun and I am beginning to appreciate the hard work of an experienced workman who has built all the buildings that I have supervised in the past.
Many others have been roped in for all the plowing, the making of the simple canvas roof, and even for the plain metal trellis for the growing of  the creepers like the long bean and the pumpkin.
Then the agricultural interest begins with the planting, the seeding, and the pruning which goes on and on for the next few months. It’s indeed an exhausting and tedious job and after many months of hard unrewarding work, true commitment is definitely needed to persevere on.

First, there is this first initial trial crop of the soya beans. It sprouts and grows so fast that it cannot be harvested on time. I have the satisfaction of tasting one of its first crops of the fresh green soya beans and it tastes tasty and crunchy to my pleasant surprise.

Soon, a new kind of crop has to be introduced which the new plants will grow just as well but at a more acceptable pace.
In lieu, many garden vegetables and herbs are grown. The local long bean and the climbing pumpkin are grown on the simple wire trellis from the roof truss and they grow quite rapidly soon to fine handsome blooms.

Common vegetables like the red chili, the delicate tomato plant, the beautiful radish with its unique jagged leaves and the lady finger or the okra growing from its stately tall plants with large yellow flowers have been introduced.

Sweet potato is also grown but they grow so fast that I have eaten several rounds of its nutritious leaves for many dinners.

The lady finger or okra pods when harvested are red in color whilst some are still green and suitable as food when they are harvested on time but the red ones can be too hard to be consumed .

Eventually, tiny seeds of the Hong Kong Kai Lan are placed in the well mixed soil. Before long I get to eat plenty rounds of Hong Kong Kai Lan for dinners and these again are like other edible plants that are harvested here taste just as yummy and as crunchy.

Although the taste may be identical as those from the HDB markets but these that I have consumed  direct and fresh from the farm are unquestionably consumed with greater satisfaction derived as the fruit of one’s hard labour like one’s homemade fares.
Many friends and relatives furthermore have the opportunity to enjoy this simple joy of taking vegetables crisp from the farm and also being part of being involved in fun of organic farming.

Local fruits and many kinds of tropical trees are also grown. The pineapple, the papaya, the pomegranate, the Jambu Ayer, with the sour sop tree, the sweet chiku fruit, the star fruit with small purple flowers and the Indonesian kedondong tree are all part of this organic venture.


So far, none of the many fruit trees has given any reward for our labour as they grow so slowly.

 But during my last visit, I have seen some green Jambu Ayer fruits in the budding, with some green papaya fruits hanging along its slender stem.

In addition, we have harvested a huge bunch of green Malaysian bananas which according to our knowledgeable neighbor, the bunch though been there for a while will ripen shortly. Another species of the red banana tree is also being grown though it is still a dwarf tree.

The whole cluster of unripe banana has been transported to our home, and then has been cut into individual ones of at least large 10 bunches , and though it is still unripe ,nonetheless it remains tempting to everyone who receives  one.

In a little while soon, it will be the beginning of  harvesting of all our labour as there are more forming of fruits and in their seasonal fruiting and of course also we will have the long- awaited fun of harvesting.

Lastly I like to mention that there are many other ordinary crops that are grown such as the the Kangkong (Morning Glory) that has grown uninvited on the mesh fence, the pandan plants, being the Asian vanilla as a needed ingredient for many local dishes and desserts, the low creeping water melon plant that spreads swiftly on the ground, the broad leaf Elephant’s yam or taro plant and the exotic but thorny succulent Aloe Vera known as the “Miracle Plant”.


In conclusion, this will be the launch of a wonderful adventure of organic farming in land-scarce Singapore and maybe one day in the future, this kind of experience will come in very useful and essential during unexpected wartimes or yet during the predicted and expected Biblical Tribulation of the 7 years timeframe ( crazy to imagine, isn’t it but it may come to pass? ) and even when one may emigrate to other countries with plenty of vast lands for further countless cultivation of their indigenous crops.

So,thanks everyone for reading this blog and may it spur many to organic farming here in Singapore.



Angle Luk said...

I am interested in farming. How can I rent one of these little plots of land? And where? WHat are the documents needed for it?

Me and me only said...

Angle, you have to go to the Seafood restaurant opposite Sembawang Golf course and enquire at the office.It only costs a hundred or 2 each month to rent.

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