Project Green Valley – Order Within The Mess

When we started work on Project Green Valley, it was but a barren piece of land with grass growing on hard sun-baked clay. I remember wondering where so many fist-sized stones came from. They were actually hardened and dried pieces of clay. The soil was in bad shape and there was a lot for us (and nature) to do before we restore fertility. After about a year, this is how it looks.

Green Valley

A food forest! See if you can spot sweet potatos (green, purple, yellow), kang kong, wild spinach, sweet leaf, papaya, banana, tapioca, bitter gourd, lemongrass, citronella, passion fruit, and more!

The way it is today, Project Green Valley requires almost no watering. Even if we had to water, we would draw from the pond and not rely on tapwater. There is little need for weeding because the soil is densely planted with no area of exposed soil. The strong sunlight grass needs would have been filtered by the other taller plants by the time it reaches the soil.

As I mentioned in my previous post, our job does not allow us to visit the plot frequently. When we are busy we do not even go to the garden once a week. The idea was to let mother nature do her own stuff. We merely facilitate. To kickstart the process, we planted a round of long beans as green manure to fix nitrogen. They fared well under the strong sun and poor soil, and we had a good harvest. We were lucky that the ants helped to pollinate the bean flowers because many other flying pollinators like bees would not be able to enter the polytunnel. We had less luck with other fruiting plants like our pumpkin.

All in all, mother nature did her job and rewarded us with abundance. In fact, she did the job so well that growth was rampant. Our plants grew so well that our main job was to harvest food and cut back on certain over-zealous varieties.


I once overheard some neighbours chatting about us. They thought that our plot was a mess and that we were not using the space to grow properly. They are probably of retirement age and attend to their plots everyday. They spend every morning collecting tapwater on a trolley, weeding, and sweeping dust from their concrete pathways. Our pathways are all covered with wood chips or sawdust to double up as composting space. I did not bother to reply. I do admit that our plot looks like a big mess, but only to those who do not understand the order within the chaos. Our plot does not produce any less than them but we use much less inputs like water, fertilizers, and labour. We are dancing and they thought that we are insane because they couldn’t hear the music.

This is the plot right next to ours. It is run by the management of Green Valley Farm which means that foreign workers are the ones doing all the manual labour. It has been in this stage for many months. The soil is parched and grass is rampant. They grow some vegetables for sale. The workers till the soil, weed, and water all the time. It’s a lot of hard work but the work is against the flow of nature. Maybe they should consider Lao Tzu’s wu-wei (无为; non-doing/non-action) approach like us!

2014-06-24 10.31.14

Back-breaking work fighting nature.

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3 thoughts on “Project Green Valley – Order Within The Mess

  1. Looks great very well done, and very interesting for us here. I am curious to know what plants did best and what type of kang kong you planted. Like the idea of the passion fruit growing up the frame also.

    • Hello Marco,
      In general the plants normally found in Malay or Indonesian cuisine were easy to grow over here. Sweet potato, bittergourd, beans, lemongrass, papaya, moringa, bananas, sweet leaf, etc. Kang Kong grew very well too but I’m not aware there is more than one variety. I believe it’s related to the sweet potato family because it looks similar and is under the ipomoea family. We try to plant more perennials as well because it’s very warm and wet throughout the year.

  2. Pingback: Companion Planting in the Tropics – Vertical Stacking | INTO THE ULU

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