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Me and my itchy fingers decided to move the Okra seedling from its recycled plastic bottle container to a bigger one. Three days after its move, one of its leaf turned yellow and wilted. Another leaf is turning yellow as I type. I don’t know if this will progress to the rest of the whole plant. It’s the only seedling that germinated out of over 10 seeds that I tried. Shucks.

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Dill is turning yellow too. Could it be overcrowding? Should I pull out the yellowed ones to make space?

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Feeling Blue.

Blue + Yellow = Green = Definitely not the colour of my okra & dill

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Snake Bean A: Pssst… guys, guess what I heard…  (conspiratorial whispering)

Rest of the Snake Beans: (gasps in horror) What do you mean she doesn’t know how tall we’ll be growing until? This is insulting. We’re at the end of our trellis already, her bamboo pole support sucks.

Snake Bean A: Look, it’s her first time growing anything, she has extended our bamboo poles already and we have not stopped growing still. She’s already at her wits end and wondering whether our continuous upward growth is due to overcrowding. Give her a break.

Rest of the Snake Beans: But we’re not going to stop. We are meant to climb… for reaching new heights! We’re aiming for the blinds!

Snake Bean A: Wait! Wait! She’s even considering whether to pull 2 of us out so that the rest of us will have more space. She’s worried that we might not flower at all.

Rest of the Snake Beans: But this is preposterous! You can’t expect us to just stop now. We must reach for new heights!  

Snake Bean A: Guys, guys, please. Just try to lie low take it easy for now. Please?

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I found my compost bin some weeks back! It’s a container for popcorn sold during Christmas,  someone didn’t want it, left it by the staircase and I came along. The moment I saw it, I thought “COMPOST BIN!”. I was thrilled that I found something that I could recycle and my mom gave me weird looks when I hugged the piece of trash home.

Ever since I started reading garderning blogs, I noticed that composting is a very big thing that gets mentioned everywhere. I would like to do something about my kitchen scraps too, instead of dumping them into landfills. Been surfing up on composting and even though I have only 7 containers of plants to date, I would still like to try my hand on composting. I can’t have a compost heap since I don’t have a garden at all, but I can try starting my very own apartment composting bin.

I’ve been feeding my compost bin:

  • dried leaves 
  • coffee grounds
  • tea leaves 
  • a variety of kitchen scraps such as fruit peels, vegetable ends, etc

But about a week or two later, I saw maggots crawling happily in the heap. Darn. Darn. Darn.

And that’s how my first attempt at composting went.

MM, a member of the Green Culture Singapore forum, went to my rescue when he answered my questions posted on the forum asking about what went wrong. Here’s what I learnt from my first composting attempt (cos all I thought was that I just needed to add my greens & browns):

  • My compost heap is too wet.
  • Grass clippings decompose quickly and help to get the process started. So I made a mental note to add some next time.
  • I need to add some high nitrogen matter (activators) to kickstart the process
  • I need to add as well some soil or compost for the bacteria that is naturally occuring in the soil.

Points all noted for my second attempt at composting.

I’ll be back, hasta la vista baby.

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Mark 29th March 2008 down on your calender for Earth Hour, where lights are turned off for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming. 

Here’s how I make Earth Hour a daily thing:

  •  I turn off and unplug all appliances that are not in use, instead of leaving them on standby-mode.
  • I turn off lights that are not in use.
  • I do not sleep with the air con on, although my husband goes along with this abit  reluctantly.
  • In public toilets, I dry my hands naturally by using only time, instead of the hand dryer. Yes, I am guilty of taking quick swipe on my pants at times and  leave wet palm prints unwittingly.
  • I take quick showers with cold water instead of using the water heater. Yes, even at night. And I’ve grown so used to it that it’s more enjoyable showering in cold water,  I feel more refreshed.
  • I stand very near a pail during my shower to capture the grey water (about 1/4 pail of water “saved” per shower,  especially from rinsing hair after shampooing), which I use for flushing my toilet bowl with a scoop. Effective enough for the yellows, I still flush for the browns though.
  • I hang dry my laundry instead of using a dryer.
  • I am trying hard not to spend too much un-necessary time surfing the internet on frivolous stuff. Need to log off and get in touch with real life.
  • I try to recycle as much as I can. 
  • I make use of the excellent public transport system in Singapore and take the buses and MRT as much as I can. I’ve boycotted cabs since the last price hike in end Dec ’07 and this is an achievement for someone who has single-handedly helped many cabby uncles raise their families in my lifetime. Okay, so I’m exaggerating abit here.
  • My mom washes her vegetables in a container (instead of running water) and keeps the water for giving dirty dishes their first rinse.  

As an additional incentive, trying to conserve as much energy and water as possible pays off in the monetary sense as well. Our monthly water & electricity bill for a family of 4 adults (with 2 being home the whole day) comes to be about S$60 monthly. My friends have told me that their average monthly bill comes to be about S$100 over monthly. The difference would translate into S$480 savings in a year. Hope this inspires you to look into creative ways that you could conserve energy too.

I think the mentality for alot of families is that they could afford to pay for their water & electricity bills so they see no need in engaging in such practices. But this is not the point anymore. Like Christina from A Thinking Stomach mentioned before, we are part of the problem and part of the solution.

Are you contributing to the problem or doing your bit? I feel sad sometimes when I think about how some can be oblivious and ignorant to the problems of this dying earth.

Gardening books are a great help for beginners gardeners like me. Am going through this book recently – The Complete Book of Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit cos I thought it’ll be great to know more about what I am growing.

These are the interesting tidbits about Lemon Balm that I felt useful:

Species: Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm). Hardy perennial. Height 75cm, spread 45cm or more (oops, I think my pot is too small as usual).

History: This ancient herb was dedicated to the goddess, Diana, and used medicinally by the Greeks some 2,000 years ago. The generic name, Melissa, comes from the Greek word for bee and the Greek belief that if you put sprigs of balm in an empty hive, it would attract a swarm.

In the Middle Ages, lemon balm was used to soothe tension, to dress wounds, as a cure for toothache, mad dog bites, skin eruptions, crooked necks, and sickness during pregnancy. It was even said to prevent baldness, and ladies made linen or silk amulets filled with lemon balm as a lucky love charm. It has been acclaimed the world over for promoting long life.

Germination: Common lemon balm can be grown from seeds. Germination takes about 10-14 days.

Pests & Dieases: The only problem likely to affect lemon balm is a form of the rust virus, cut the plant back to the ground and dispose of all infected leaves.

Garden Cultivation: Lemon Balm will grow in almost any soil and in any position, but it does prefer a rich, moist soil in sunny position with some midday shade.

Culinary: Lemon balm is one of those herbs that smells delicious but tastes like school-boiled cabbage water when cooked. Add fresh leaves to vinegar. Add leaves to wine cups, teas and beers, or use chopped with fish and mushroom dishes. Mix freshly chopped with soft cheeses.

Medicinal: Lemon balm tea is said to relieve headches and tension and to restore memory. It is also good to drink after meals to ease digestion, flatulence and colic.

Other uses: This is a most useful plant to keep bees happy. The flower may look boring to you but it is sheer heaven to them. So plant lemon balm around beehives or orchards to attract pollinating bees.

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My Lemon Balm Plant at 4 weeks old

* The Complete Book of Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit – The Definitive Sourcebook To Growing, Harvesting & Cooking

After setting my mind to use only recycled containers to grow my plants in, I was delighted to find this blog, Container Gardening, by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem. There are alot of useful links about container gardening that I could refer to and I’m going to try making a self-watering container with a plastic bottle after reading his blog. 

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Container Gardening is later merged with his other blog, Desertification, about desertification and poverty, agriculture and horticulture in the drylands.

The snake beans plants have started to creep around their bamboo trellis about 5 days ago. I am so amazed at their instinctive ability to seek out the support and slowly creep its way upwards. For a city raised person who hasn’t grown anything before, this is a very interesting thing to observe. Pardon my gushing as this is such a trivial, common sight for gardeners. I promise to get a grip on myself.

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My snake beans are almost touching the top of the balcony railings. The yellow arrows mark the height of each plant now. The blue line marks their average height 2 weeks ago.

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The lone lemon balm seedling was joined by 6 other seedlings about 5 days ago. Guess it wasn’t a lone ranger like I thought, just an early starter.

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Dill is coming along nicely, but looks abit overcrowded, doesn’t it? But I have no heart to pull any out. Could I just leave it as it is? Or will they be able to stand being transplanted to another container? Maybe I’ll try transplanting some.

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Parsley is coming along nicely too.

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Chives are a half-hearted dismal affair. Could it be the soil that I am using?

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Out of the original 10 cherry tomato seedlings that sprouted, I have kept 5 of them. Transplanted 2 into their individual plastic bottle containers and kept 3 in the original pot for now. They are coming along nicely too.

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After the mouldy Okra seed incident, one wonderful Okra seedling managed to germinate out of a batch of 8 seeds that I tried to sow again. I will try to germinate some again so that I could have at least 2 Okra plants. I love steamed Okra.

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I give up on Coriander. There seems to be no sucess whatsoever, no matter how I try to germinate them. Will listen to advice and get new fresh seeds.  My mom seems to be mocking me silently with the way she continues to grow her coriander that she bought from the market.

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Inspired with other gardening bloggers who use egg shells, toilet roll innersnewspapers and plastic bottles to start seeds, I have been using recycled drinking bottles* to grow my 2 other snake bean seedlings and that’s about how far the recycling effort went in my balcony. (oh, and I use water recycled from washing rice, which my mom helps to save in a bottle, to water my plants)

Somehow, I kept thinking that items could be recycled into small pots to start seeds but I would still need to buy much bigger pots from the nursery. And was just about planning to do so as this 2 snake bean seedlings have gotten too big for their current plastic bottles.

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Other items that I am leaving out to dry for later use were ice-cream cups, tetra packs from packet drinks and containers from my Lunar New Year Yu-Sheng pack.

But that thought changed when I saw Gardening With Wilson’s blog post about this article that he wrote on the Recycling Garden found inside HortPark, where even recycled cisterns and suitcases are used to grow plants!

I made a decision there and then after reading the article. 

I will not buy pots for use in my balcony. I will use whatever recycled materials that I can get my hands on.  

Looking back, I am proud to say that in my balcony, the 2 Ikea shoe racks were given by an old neighbour before he moved and felt that they were too good to throw away. 3 large discarded ceramic pots were salvaged by  my mom and to think that I chided her then for bringing junk back. She thought that they were too good to throw away too. 

The problem with being a increasingly affluent society than our parents’ generation is that we tend to buy whatever we want simply because we can afford it and throw out whatever that we regard as old. But that is not the point. 

Wilson’s article opened my eyes to what is possible. Do not restrict yourself to the norm. With an opened mind, there were alot of “potentials” as I looked around my home. And top on my list is this…

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The detergent should be used up soon and then the 5 litre bottle is mine! Muahahaha… I just need to saw the top off and make holes at the bottom for drainage. I love the handle part too! My homeless snake beans seedlings will just have to wait till then.

And I am keeping my eyes opened for a recycled container suitable for use as a compost bin. Been surfing on composting and I definitely want to recycle our kitchen scraps.

What other recycled materials do you use for your garden? Pray tell. It’s exciting to hear about the endless possibilities.

Now I regret throwing away the old rice cooker pot when we moved. Ouch.

* Recycling is good but it’ll be even greater if we can avoid buying bottled water altogether. Avoid buying products with excessive packaging as well.

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There is a new full grown addition to my plant family.  

After much persuasion, I’ve finally convinced my mom that we should get a Lunar New Year plant since this is the first Lunar New Year that we are spending in our new place. And Lunar New Year plants have auspicious sounding names and are thus, good to have during this festive period. Find out more about the various Lunar New Year Plants at this informative article on Green Culture Singapore.

So after dinner last Saturday, we drove to a nursery in Jurong West and joisted with many other families in selecting the ideal plant. We settled on a citrus plant from the “kumquat” family called 龙胆 which literally translates into “Dragon Gall”. Not sure about its official plant name though.

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Pretty pleased with our selection as it has lush young buds, looks healthy, PLUS we spotted it before the other families did.  We happily drove the new addition home and gave it a thorough inspection for mealy bugs and aphids.

Every morning, my mom will water the plant lovingly and give it the daily once-over to make sure that no pests are making a comeback. It is now Her plant. (Mom, I just knew that you wanted one too.) 

We hope that with her care, our “Dragon Gall” will continue to flower and grow fruits yearly.

I’ll be going to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow to join my in-laws and family for the festivities over the next few days and can’t wait to see how my other babies are when I get back.  

Happy Lunar New Year everyone! May this year of the Rat bring happiness and prosperity to you and your loved ones!

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It occured to me that I should “document” the aesthetical progress of my balcony too.

What’s a blog about my balcony without pictures of my balcony? 

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Yup, this is it. All 9 x 1 metres of it (29 x 3 feet).

You know when you read other gardening blogs where pictures of beautiful gardens, backyards, allotments, etc, are posted? (for the record, I am VERY envious)

Here I am, posting pictures of my balcony. Pathetic, I know. LOL.

I definitely hope to add a shelf or two to have more growing space and maybe plant boxes for the railings. Will add on as I grow along.

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About Me

Limited apartment space is not a deterrent to my garden dreams. I’m no green-thumb but always have alot of hope and optimism.

I’m located in Singapore, a tropical Asian country.

Comments, especially gardening tips, are greatly welcomed. Thanks for dropping by! Teresa

Stuff That I Am Attempting To Grow

Cherry Tomato
Chives
Coriander
Curled Parsley
Dill
Lemon Balm
Okra (lady's finger)
Snake Bean (yardlong bean)