8 March – Mini Harvest

More from Dennis and Lydia!

Today we had a mini harvest session. We harvested quite a load of sweet potato leaves!

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Mr Teo explaining how to harvest and prepare sweet potato leaves

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More explaining by Mr Teo, with the other neighbors listening intently.

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Ricky harvesting some sweet potato leaves.

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Ricky, through the guidance of Mr Teo, harvesting potato leaves.

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Steven and Mr Teo harvesting sweet potato leaves.

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Dennis picking leaves from the lettuce.

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Cuifen and Dennis harvesting sweet potato leaves and lettuce.

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Load of harvest!

After the harvest was done, we prepared the vegetables for delivery to neighbors who could not make it.

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Lettuce leaves!

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Sweet potato leaves!

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Vegetables ready to distribute to the neighbors, with drying Cai Xin seed pods.

We also cut the pods from the Cai Xin that flowered to save some seeds.

The Golden Berry plant that sprouted through the gravel footpath is fruiting!

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Unripe golden berry.

And we now have a place to start doing open composting .

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Composting area.

8 Feb – update

It’s the weekend after the 1st day of Chinese New Year. We don’t have many neighbours turning up at the garden for this session. It’s really still the Chinese New Year season, so it’s quite expected! Decided to have a group session anyway, as we would like to complete garden creation in Mar, and the plants would appreciate a weekly “check-up” from us. :)

Pit garden:

Wanted to start creating bio-swales this weekend but our volunteer designer, Debbie, was not feeling well. Three contract workers have been assigned to help us this morning, so we got them to continuing digging the pit garden. The pit garden is designed to be of about 2m in diameter, and of 70cm depth. It will connect a pond (to be created), to bioswales leading to the lower parts of the garden.

More info on the pit garden when it’s ready!

 

Black bean aphids:

We still have  quite a problem with the black bean aphids. A few neighbours had turned up with lemon rind spray and chilli spray to try to reduce the spread, but it was quite obvious that the aphids had spread from 1 end of the pergola to another. Without rain (we have currently experiencing a dry spell) and a water supply to jet the aphids, is there be a suitably ecologically-sound method to solve this problem? Steven and Cuifen discussed about removing the bean plants and starting again, but Dennis pointed out that the aphids will be back when we do so.

There is hope yet! We spotted a few ladybirds on the long bean plants. Not many, but definitely there are more now than previously. Debbie had advised us to buy a marigold plant to attract ladybirds, as they will feed on the aphids. Holding off the purchase for now as we think there may be some neighbours willing to donate marigold plants post-CNY.

Bag of trimmed long bean stems with numerous black bean aphids

 

Herb spiral:

Dennis and Lydia are doing a really good job with the herb spiral! They were adding “cement” made from clay, sand, water to stabilise the brick structure. They also distributed more soil where it’s needed – it’s really an art I think, because the clay and soil mix various throughout the length of the herb spiral.

Clay "cement" being added to stabilise the herb spiral

Clay “cement” being added to stabilise the herb spiral

Almost complete! Aloe veras already in place :)

Almost complete! Aloe veras already in place :)

What a herb spiral is... the illustration on top of a nearly completed structure

What a herb spiral is… the illustration on top of a nearly completed structure

Some other new developments in the garden…

Some avid gardeners in our community feedbacked that they will take more ownership of the garden if only they had their own space to create and take responsibility in.

One of these neighbours is Mr. Teo. He is an active gardener in another community garden, and has been involved in setting up community gardens previously. We allocated him the space of one pergola and a wicking bed.

Here’s what came up within a few days; love how the garden seems to be growing organically!

  • Transformation of a rectangular wicking bed to a figure of 8.
  • Multiple plants in a small space - lettuce, sweet potato, winter melon, shallots, chilli, passion fruit
  • Extensions to the existing pergola
  • Re-making of the raised beds, with extensions of pathways
Wicking bed that has taken on a figure of 8.

Wicking bed that has taken on a figure of 8.

Extensions to the nearby pergola

Extensions to the nearby pergola

A long raised bed was modified to create a cute little raised bed

A long raised bed was modified to create a cute little raised bed

14 Jan – Tuesday Morning Impromptu Session

A first post from Dennis and Lydia! :D

So this morning we went over to the garden to see how the plants were progressing and also to work more on the spiral.

The Report:

Seems like the aphid problem is getting worse – We need a solution, fast. They’ve made themselves comfy on almost all of the long bean plants in Wicking Bed 2.

Aphids on Long Bean Plant

Aphids on Long Bean Plant

The long bean plants are also starting to outgrow their trellis. Some of them are starting to grasp onto the pergola that’s meant to house the passion fruit plant.

Long Bean Plants Overgrowing

Long bean plants overgrowing and climbing onto pergola

Long Bean Plants Overgrowing

More long bean plants that have outgrown their trellis

On the more positive end of things, the newly transplanted dill plants are no longer slouching over.

Dill Standing Tall

Stand tall, stand proud and bask in the sun dill!

The clitoria vine also seems to be settling nicely into its new home. It’s got multiple flowers and new growth.

Clitoria Vine Flower

Graceful clitoria vine flower

Clitoria Vine New Growth

New growth on clitoria vine

Herb Spiral Progress:

Toiled in the morning sun for a bit. We laid more bricks down to build the spiral. Now we need to decide how high we want the spiral to get before laying the rest of the bricks and pouring in more soil.

Spiral Timelapse

Spiral progress time lapse

Here’s to progress!

11 Jan – Something new is being created…

11.01.2014. Our 10th garden session!

Dennis and Lydia were working hard when I walked in to the edible garden space, and I was impressed by what I saw!

Herb spiral. Dennis and Lydia hard at work :)

Herb spiral. Dennis and Lydia hard at work :)

Basically, they checked out our design plans for a herb spiral, worked out what we needed to do, and simply got down to work.

Here’s what they did over the past week:

  • Confirmed the dimensions for the herb spiral
  • Re-positioned a vertical bamboo to serve as the middle point of the spiral
  • Tied a string of 1m length to the bamboo, to draw out the circle
  • Add red bricks around the perimeter of the circle
  • Remove the grass within the perimeter and under the red bricks
  • Where the red bricks are, dig down so that the bricks are half-brick into the soil
  • For the inner circle, dig down so that the soil level is 1 brick below the red brick

They had almost completed digging half a circle, when I joined them. Wasn’t too sure how to help, because they have been doing such a great job! So, I figured they will lead in creation of this spiral, and I will help where I can.

Hanzhong and his mother also joined us to help in the garden creation. While they are not Pavilion residents, Hanzhong’s mum helps at a community garden in Woodlands area, and was keen to help. Both mother and son did a great job in digging the rest of the circle to the required depth – the large chang kuls, left for our use by another neighbour, are really useful!

Dennis, Lydia and I agreed that the herb spiral will provide a wide range of soil conditions for the herbs. Good quality soil is very important as it will help eliminate or minimise problems that can arise later. The brother-sister team decided it was best to dig, so that they could ensure good and sufficient depth of soil, and control the mix of soil throughout the spiral (e.g. more clayey and waterlogged below, and more dry and good drainage on top).

A lot of hard-work and heart-work put in. 佩服, 佩服!

As the spiral didn’t have enough space for all of us to work safely, I got Hanzhong and his mum to help me with transferring granite to create additional walkways. Hanzhong asked a few good questions which wasn’t easy to answer. Example, was it necessary to create the footpaths? The grass lawn is pretty easy to walk on. I explained that the walkways were part of the garden design, and are meant to invite people into the garden space. I had also noticed that more neighbours started exploring the space when we added the footpaths (they stopped where the paths stopped too). Hanzhong said we should encourage the garden visitors to tread beyond the footpaths, which I agree.

4 Jan – 1st garden session in 2014

With the new year 2014 ringing in, there was a lingering question – should we take a break from the weekly garden sessions? A reply from a neighbour put the thought to rest. A garden, however low maintenance, needs consistent care – and so, we should hold our weekly sessions, even if it’s the holiday and festive season!

Given that it IS the festive season, I was really thankful for the neighbours who did turn up for the session – Dennis and Lydia, a wonderful brother and sister team; Sharon and Annie, a great aunt and niece team (they look like sisters really!). And special thanks to Sharon for coming – it is her birthday, and she chose to spend the morning with us! :)

A quick check-in on the long beans (the first plants we planted at the garden). We had planted 2 neat rows at 4 wicking beds, with the most sun. The inner rows (nearer to the pergola) were to be kept for further growth to harvest the beans, and the outer rows (away from the pergolas) were to be cut and tilled back to the soil to add nitrogen back into the soil to improve its quality for growing vegetables.

Somehow, Sharon and I felt that the plants that were to be cut and tilled looked healthier and bigger than the plants we planned to keep. “So sayang!”, we felt. Dennis, who is more experienced with planting with vegetables, shared that actually, this was to be expected. We had not thinned the plants in the outer rows, so there were 3 seedlings growing at practically the same spot, and this encouraged the plants to compete for limited resources.  This, in turn, encouraged faster growth, hence, the “healthy” and bigger appearance. Dennis also shared that these same plants, if allowed to grow till they flower and fruit, will have less flowers and smaller fruits. The initial explanation on competition, I could understand; but the part on less flowers and fruits from a “healthy-looking” plant was a bit lost on me. I told Dennis, “I think that’s why the plants in my home garden seldom flower and fruit – they are too busy competing and growing new leaves!””

We had to “harden” our hearts a bit, to cut the plants in the outer rows and till them back into the soil. I wondered if they will taste good in a salad – somehow, still felt “sayang” that such good plants / food are being added back to the soil!

Documenting the growth of long beans. 14 to 28 days.

Documenting the growth of long beans. 14 to 28 days.

Sharon and Annie adding the cut bean plants back into the soil. Dennis and Lydia working on the trellis.

Sharon and Annie adding the cut bean plants back into the soil. Dennis and Lydia working on the trellis.

Check in on our other plants… The Cai Xin and Gu Cai seedlings were still very tiny. And so were the Heng Cai seedlings. I felt that the Cai Xin and Gu Cai were shaded by the tall long bean plants, and hoped that with the removal of the outer row plants, they have a chance to get good sunlight and grow. The soil may have too much compost though – some neighbours described it as too “salty”. Some neighbours felt that we had dispersed too many Heng Cai seeds into the small space, so there’s less hope for them doing well. The Kang Kong seedlings were the only ones that look happy!

Kang kong. 3 weeks old.

Kang kong. 3 weeks old.

Heng Cai. 3 weeks old.

Heng Cai. 3 weeks old.

We were also very happy to see that our transplanted Clitoria blue pea vine is flowering :)

Our transplanted Clitoria blue pea vine is flowering!

Our transplanted Clitoria blue pea vine is flowering!