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.
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. Continue reading
One thing I really enjoy at a permaculture garden is that you can litter without feeling guilty. Growing up in spick-and-span Singapore we have been taught since young to put litter only in the rubbish bin. Any piece of trash left on the concrete floor is an eyesore and has to be cleaned up by someone else. This is why it felt so liberating when I could throw my organic waste anywhere in the farm. In fact, my act of littering will be adding to the fertility of the soil and if I was lucky it might even be seeding a tree!
The banana circle is a simple yet effective design for permaculture in the tropics. It is basically a circular trench with bananas planted at the rim of the trench. All kinds of organic waste can be thrown into the circle, including dead leaves, garden prunings, kitchen waste, hay, rice husks, even short logs. Anything that will rot can be thrown in. As the organic matter breaks down, the hungry banana trees will readily suck up the nutrients and turn the waste into yummy bananas. The depression into the ground helps to retain moisture that the bananas love and also speed up decomposition. Continue reading
Most of our time at Edible Gardens is spent building food gardens for other people. We design the gardens based on their aesthetics and we grow the plants that they like to eat. It’s still lots of fun but you feel different when it is your own garden. In this sense we are very lucky to have a small plot of land that we can do anything we want.
Barren land when we first took over. Polytunnel overhead.
Ok, our land is not really ours since it is adopted from Green Valley Farms, a commercial organic farm that has set aside part of their farm for recreational farmers/gardeners to adopt plots to grow edible plants.
Like most of the other plots, ours is about 100 sqm (~1000 sq ft) measuring 20m by 5m. It is within a polytunnel which means the plot is covered completely by a plastic sheet or net overhead. In Singapore and Malaysia, it is very common practice for commercial vegetable farmers, organic or not, to grow in a polytunnel. The polytunnel gives the farmer control over the rain and sunshine. It is supposed to keep pests and birds away from the vegetables as well. Continue reading