27 Sep – This morning @ the garden

We had our 1st peanut harvesting this morning. Apart from 5 of our regular gardener-neighbours, a mother and daughter came to join us as they found the idea of peanut harvesting interesting. The turn-out is not the medium-large group of interested neighbours that we would like to have, but it’s still a joy to see them because it’s their 1st time joining a group activity at the edible garden. :)

Learning to harvest the peanuts

Learning to harvest the peanuts

The freshly harvested peanut pods and leaves:

Peanuts!

Peanuts!

The peanut plants have beautiful orange-coloured flowers, which wither after self-pollination. The stalk at the base of the flower elongates and turns down to bury the fruits in the ground. Neighbour Mr Teo shared that when the leaves turn yellow, it is time to remove the entire plant, including the roots, during harvesting. He also said that the plants grow best in well drained soil.

Mr. Teo also shared that making a soup using the peanut plant roots to the lower half of the leaves can help in detoxification. He also said the soup is good for children, they can drink 2-3 times a week.

***

Moving on to other parts of the garden…

Dennis & Lydia brought seeds!! Lots and lots of them. Corn, soy bean, bell pepper (red and yellow), fennugreek, red amaranth. Now that we have irrigation in the garden, we want to up its productivity. Starting first with seeds.

Seeds

Seeds!

In one wicking bed, Dennis guided us in raking the soil and making it level before dividing the bed into 6 rows with a centre line. He explained that normally, when we plant a few plants only, we would make mounds and trenches in the raised bed. However, this time round, we wanted to plant as many plants as possible, so we keep the soil level even to ensure equal watering for the entire bed. In the middle row, we added the bell pepper seeds (with 3 finger spacing). Red amaranth seeds and soy bean seeds were added on the sides.

At another bed, we added okra seeds. For this one, we mentally divided the bed into a square grid using the bricks as a guide. A seed was added in the middle of each square and at the edge.

Putting in the seeds

Putting in the seeds

At the 3 Sisters’ bed, the soil was raked, and corn seeds freshly harvested from a corn cob were placed near the soil surface in concentric circles.

Adding corn seeds in concentric circles

Adding corn seeds in concentric circles

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Still at the 3 Sisters’ bed…

Somehow we have a rather nice “landscape” area! The plant with red flowers is a Celosia (凤尾). The Chinese name translates as Phoenix Tail. It is commonly seen in homes during the Chinese New Year period as the Chinese consider the phoenix to be an auspicious creature, and hence believe that potted Celosias can bring good fortune home. We had discovered the plant growing beside the maize plant, and thought that the seeds may have came with the soil (previously used to grow CNY plants).

The lower growing plants surrounding it are the Golden Berry or Chinese Lantern plants. The berries, which are protected by papery husks resembling lanterns, are edible, and are used as edible decoration in desserts (e.g. cakes). The taste is on the sour side, and may not be everyone’s idea of a nice tasting fruit. However, it’s known to be highly concentrated with nutrients and bioactive compounds. We have quite a number of these Golden Berry plants in the edible garden. All came in naturally (not planted)!

A nice "landscaped" portion of the garden

A nice “landscaped” portion of the garden

13 Sep – Celebrating biodiversity at the garden

Our garden is one of the community gardens selected by NParks to plant butterfly-attracting plants, to help extend the reach of Tengah Nature Way.

Tengah Nature Way is an initiative by NParks and the South West Community Development Council (CDC) to bring biodiversity closer to the neighbourhood, while hopefully also provide a green corridor for birds and butterflies to travel between the forest areas of the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment nature reserves and the Western Water catchment.

We must be doing something right for we encountered butterflies, lady birds and even a tortoise beetle at the garden!

Here are some photos:

Plain Tiger butterfly on dill

Plain Tiger butterfly on dill. Neighbour Steven said we are blessed to see this and other butterfly species in our garden because of our crown flower plant (host plant)

Mottled Emigrant butterfly on plant Cassia alata

Mottled Emigrant butterfly on plant Cassia alata. In this photo, the egg, caterpillar and butterfly of the same species. (ID credit: neighbour Steven)

Contiguous Swift skipper butterfly (ID credit: neighbour Steven)

Contiguous Swift skipper butterfly (ID credit: neighbour Steven)

Green mottled tortoise beetle

Green mottled tortoise beetle (Photo credit: neighbour Steven; ID credit: neighbour Dennis). A first sighting! We initially thought it was a ‘bad’ lady bird, and was rather relieved to know that it was not. But it does feed on leaves, so we will need to monitor what it feeds on!

13 Sep – Learning about our new irrigation system

In just 3 days, HKS Engineering installed a fully sponsored automatic irrigation system at Pavilion’s edible garden in the park. They did so as they are partnering Nature Company, which selected our garden to share technical knowledge and tools, etc for 6 months to help build the community spirit & sustainability of the community garden.

Jack and team came to share about the system they designed, and patiently listened to our questions and feedback.

They shared that they plan to come down every 2 to 3 weeks during this 6 month period, to guide the neighbours to maintain & troubleshoot the system.

Neighbours listening intently to Jack of HKS Engineering

Some of the neighbours listening intently to Jack of HKS Engineering

Reflections that stemmed from the garden’s launch.

It’s been nearly a week since “Pavilion Celebrates”, an event that seemed like the appropriate culmination for all the reasons the garden is there. Sure, it is a little strange to think of the garden as “award-winning” even before it’s launched, but that’s how it happened. Now that it’s launched, It is amazing to think back and realize just how much our garden has grown.

Having diverse views about everything under the sun is a part of human nature. It makes for healthy debates and compromises. In this peculiar way, the garden has brought us closer as a community. As the day of the event drew nearer, neighbors from all over the estate came together, faces and names now more familiar and friendlier than they were before. They took time out of their busy lives to chip in to the preparation efforts. On the day of the carnival, they brought their hands, willingness, eagerness, stories, dreams, laughter, and hearty foods of all sorts to share – some of which included harvests from the garden in their recipes! Memories of the delightfully simple fare from when the CIB judges came down surely created anticipation in some of the neighbors.

Moreover, we’ve managed to expand our circle beyond the estate, by reaching out to other community gardens, commercial farms, landscape companies, and other interesting communities that were willing to help us in their own ways. There is always something to learn, and something to share. Everybody knows, that knowledge is power.

Putting aside the temporal loss of ladybird bugs (read: temporal), the garden is now green(er), providing, and provided for. What was once a flat piece of grass land is now a thriving, ever-changing mini-ecosystem that was built upon the principles of biodiversity, permaculture, and sustainability. It provides a home to all the plants that we’ve planted, as well as the insects and animals that have been attracted to the area. It provides delicious harvests that we are always grateful for. This is only possible because of what we’ve sown. Neighbors are always helping in their own ways to keep the garden healthy. Everyone who has ever been involved in the garden’s growth, how ever seemingly small the input may be, should be proud of what we have achieved thus far.

Thank you neighbors, and thank you Garden, for the memories we’ve created together. Let’s look forward to growing and learning even more, from one another.

(Originally posted on Lydia’s personal blog.)