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.

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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.

7 days ago, I decided to germinate just one Okra (ladyfinger) seed so that I will not be faced with the painful decision of having to eliminate other healthy seedlings. So i sowed just one precious seed in a Jiffy Plant Starter. One which I thought looked the most robust and promising.

Staring at the Jiffy Plant Starter this morning, I wondered why there is still no seedling after 7 days and decided to check on the litte fella by digging my finger gingerly into the peat. When I found it and to my horror, there was this strange bluish green mould on the seed.

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Oh dear. What’s this? Where did I go wrong? 

Darn darn darn, all 7 days of waiting for nothing. That’s it.

To heck with just one seedling.  I am germinating 4 Okra seeds using cotton wool. 

Sometimes I’ll wake up, brush my teeth groggily and dash out abruptly to the balcony to see what popped up overnight. It’s like suddenly recalling that I have plants! Then I will squat by each pot excitedly and inspect each of them while still brushing my teeth.  

I guess this is the best part about waking up in the mornings now. Something new everyday. Guess it’s cos I’m growing stuff for the first time and seeing everything for the first time. Do gardeners get jaded with each batch of the same plant that they grow? I doubt so. We like watching our babies grow. (although I am hardly a gardener)

Lemon Balm has sprouted but strangely there’s only one sole survivor. The lone ranger. Just as well cos it saves me from the pain of deciding which seedling to pull out when overcrowding occurs. Nothing must happen to you.

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Chives sprouted with about 70% successful germination rate. Parsley sprouted with about 70% successful germination rate as well. But the best thing is that after needless worrying, I have 10 Cherry Tomatoes Seedlings! Which translated into 80% germination rate. Not bad at all. Guess I was too impatient previously.

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But as they grow, the dilemma would be which one to pull out in order to make space for sufficient growth. To me, it’s cruel to pull them out since they have been given life. But I can’t have 10 cherry tomato pots around in the balcony…. Sigh. It’s times like these when you envy those with gardens.

Note to self: Do not be greedy ever. Only germinate what you can grow.

Dill germinated on schedule 5 days ago and look at them now! I guess there will be overcrowding for sure right? But I’m damn happy to see a potful now so we’ll worry about it later.

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My snake beans have also sprouted more leaves other than their very first pair. My mom commented that snake beans will grow faster once they have support. Determined to recycle as much as possible rather than buy wooden sticks, she found broken off branches that were lying around the estate.

After the supports are in, I swear that the seedlings seem to grow even faster. They are  about 8 inches tall now, 5 inches taller in 5 days. Do they instinctively know that the supports are there to help them grow? Plants can feel right?

Maybe I am just imagining things. 

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Terribly pleased with the progress of the snake beans. They seem to be growing awfully fast. They’ve grown to be about 3 inches tall since their germination 2 mornings ago. Their speedy growth is a great assurance to me. At least something is growing.

Other seeds that germinated are the dill and the cherry tomato seeds. Wonderful.

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Dill – Germination Success Rate 50%

What I find particularly hard to germinate are the coriander and lemon balm seeds for some reason and have since attempted germination of a new batch on Jiffy Plant Starters.

Spotted lady finger seeds (okra) while purchasing the Jiffy Plant Starters and couldn’t resist buying them cos they are suppose to another easy to grow plant in our hot climate. After the lady fingers, I’m stopping with buying new seeds. Shall not be too greedy for now…

Guess what was the beautiful sight that greeted me this morning when I woke up?

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 Woohoo! Then guess what’s an even more beautiful sight than this?

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WooHooHoo! All five of my snake bean seeds have sprouted!

And 3 days ahead of their original germination dates! I’m so proud of them.

I didn’t expect all 5 to make it but I am damn glad that they did. Hello babies! Coincidentally, they are the biggest seeds amongst all the rest that I planted. Size does matter in this case?

Now I am wondering when to start fertilizing, whether the soil is suitable for their growth, will they be able to stand direct sun since they’re so young, etc, etc… I guess we’ll have to learn by trial and error along the way. But the problem is I can take the trials but I cannot take the errors (cross my fingers). Will check up more information on the internet.  

Meanwhile, I’m basking in happiness.

Other than what I’m currently trying to grow, we have 7 other plants in the balcony. 5 of them are purported to have medicinal effects and were “donations” from a cousin. My mom crushes the leaves from this 5 plants and mix them with chestnut juice for me to drink.

The remaining 2 are foliage plants which I had for 2 years. I bought them intially to brighten up my work cubicle and have share custody of them with another colleague. We take turns to water them and they help us to relax and bring greenery to what originally was a dull working area. They are our babies.

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Our babies are fighting a infestation of the mealy bugs and I now understand the worries that gardeners go through. Underwater, overwater, pests, bugs…. one can only worry so much.  

But it’s war now.

The mealy bugs started with my mom’s flowering plant which have since succumbed and are now feasting their way through the 7 plants. My poor babies now have yellowed leaves and I’m afraid it’s the end if I don’t do something soon.

I’ve been spraying them with Pyrethrum weekly for the past few months to no avail. After surfing the internet today, I have done the following – hosed all plants with water and rubbed all plants surfaces to get rid of any physical mealy bugs and then sprayed the plants with water mixed with crushed garlic.

The problem doesn’t end here. Looks like my plants have powdery mildew and little white ant-like bugs that crawl about in the soil.  I’ve read off the internet that there are such things as root mealy bugs and to get rid of them, one has to rid the plant of the soil, wash its roots and pot clean and replant in new soil. Oh please don’t let it come to that.

I hope they feel better tomorrow already.

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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)