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Olivia

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Summertime at Moondance!

I’ve been quite quiet of late, that’s because I have been busy with work and I had some internet bandwidth restrictions since I arrived in Australia. As we live in a relatively remote area, we use satellite internet and we have a very low peak-hour quota, so I need to blog during off-peak hours, which means after 11pm up to noon the following day. And we usually max out on that quota too.

It’s officially summer in Australia, which means it’s time to sow lots of tomatoes and yummy vegetables, and it also means beach time! There’s lots to do at this time of the year, although it is getting quite hot, and unfortunately it’s been quite dry too, even in the rainforest. The soil is cracking on parts of the property, and the creek is low. We are awaiting the big rains with eager anticipation, our land needs it.

In the two months that I had been away in Singapore, my boyfriend, Dan had been sending me lovely photos of our potato, tomato and zucchini crops. Upon my return, I realised that our other garden beds had become overgrown with weeds, and some of my beloved plants had died – claimed by the elements, he tells me. Hmmm…

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City

Rambutan season is here!

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It’s rambutan season, something that my family and I have been looking forward to, but it’s not just us that have been anticipating harvest day for this subtle flavoured fruit. My garden has been getting all kinds of feather-cloaked visitors, and our 60-year old tree recently attracted a flock of colourful birds, which my friend has identified as moustached parakeets. I’d not seen them before, and they brought vibrancy to the property with their bird calls.

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It’s not unusual to find rambutan shells littered on the ground, and once in a while, we find a seedlings growing in different parts of the garden, even in our compost bin! Evidently, the birds and bats are doing a good job of dispersing seeds.

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Ants are enjoying them also…

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This year’s harvest wasn’t our best though. Because we didn’t prune the tree this year, plus there has been more wet weather than usual of late, most rambutans developed powdery mildew on the outer skin, which is unfortunate. It was still enough to share with some friends and family, so we are grateful that we had a fair bit to go around.

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Not so long ago, we had two of these trees, but the second one was a target of termites, and wasn’t doing too well, so we removed it. Since then, our remaining tree has grown to become more luscious and looks healthier than ever. It also helped that we fertilised it with chicken poo at the roots.

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Our garden certainly needs more fruit plants. Most of our trees are either pine trees or of the flowering variety, which are my parent’s preferred kind of low maintenance plants. When my grandma was around, we had lots more fruit and vegetable plants, we even had geese. It’s time to grow this garden to its full potential.

We have some new plants, courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law, who have had some success growing papaya plants from seed on their apartment balcony. They brought over four healthy looking plants and transplanted two in the ground, and two into pots. If all goes well, we will have some juicy papayas by summer!

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City

Me in my city garden

Here are some photos of me in my garden, in Singapore. These were taken last month by little red ants creative studio for promotional use in a brochure by the National Environment Agency. I recently received them and feel pleased enough to show them off.

Not much of my plants can be seen, but the highlight would certainly the bantam chickens. They were rather afraid of the cameras but dropped almost all of their defences once they saw me holding half an ear of sweet corn.

Corporate photography for Ecofriend AwardCorporate photography for Ecofriend Award

Through these pictures, I also realise that I have a bit of a hostile gardening face. The photographer kept telling me to smile, and now I know why. I think I need a “Go away, I’m gardening” t-shirt to complete my wardrobe of gardening attire – pyjamas, really. My boyfriend calls me the pyjama gardener. I could even possibly make my own by up-cycling an old t-shirt, with some handy hints from Agatha.

Corporate photography for Ecofriend Award Corporate photography for Ecofriend Award

In a couple of months, I hope I’ll have a lot more to show for in my city garden. At the moment I have some of the usual herbs, such as curry leaf, rosemary, mint, lemongrass and basil, and I am growing organic seedlings that include kale, mibuna, coriander, tomatoes, winged beans, okra, eggplant, and rosella. But for now, it’s time to play the waiting game.

City

Ten green places to check out in Singapore

If you’re looking for a place in nature to sit or wander through, or if you have overseas guests and wish to bedazzle them with our greenery, here are ten places to consider.

Some time ago I submitted a similar article which was carried by PARKROYAL on Pickering as part of their local guides special. This is an updated version which features only green spaces, here’s my pick of the bunch!

Green Corridor

1. Rail Corridor: A former railway route between Singapore and Malaysia, these tracks have since been removed and what remains is a 26 km stretch of continuous greenery from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands. Rich in biodiversity, it is not uncommon to spot several butterflies and birds during your visit. To find out more, visit http://www.ura.gov.sg/railcorridor/index.html.

Botanical Gardens

2. Singapore Botanic Gardens: A green lung in the city, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is a graceful, sprawling garden containing a collection of plants native to the tropics, as well as heritage trees. It’s the perfect place for a picnic with friends, family and even the dog, and a great setting for recreational activities such playing frisbee, or taking a walk. Visit their website for more details.

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3. Bukit Brown: Home to more than 100,000 traditional Chinese tombs, Bukit Brown is a charming cemetery off Lornie Road which holds a lot of historic value. Unfortunately it might not be around by 2030, as the Singapore government has plans to develop the land for transport and housing, even though it was recently placed on the 2014 World Monuments Watch list. Brimming with wildlife, Bukit Brown has a magical feel about it, and a sense of serenity pervades the premises. A must visit before construction works begin, there are regular tours, usually every weekend. Do check out Post-Museum’s Facebook page or http://bukitbrown.com/ for details on upcoming walking tours.

Sungei Buloh

4. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve: Gazetted by the government as a nature reserve, and regarded as an place of importance for migratory birds, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve features mangroves, plenty of plant life, insects, and animals including crocodiles. It is located in the Kranji countryside, tours are available and there are educational activities held there from time to time. To find out more, visit http://www.sbwr.org.sg.

5. Central Catchment Nature Reserve: Spanning 2880 hectares, this gazetted nature reserve is rich in biodiversity. Wonderful animals such as the Sunda Pangolin, Crab-eating macaque and banded leaf monkeys reside here, as well as a wide variety of birds and butterflies. Be sure to walk the trails and do the treetop walk. If you wish to find out more, visit NParks here. Also Green Drinks Singapore has organised a talk centred around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve for 23 October, details here.

Gardens by the Bay

6. Gardens By the Bay: This is a scenic 101-hectare plot of land which includes the Bay Central Gardens, Bay South Gardens, and Bay East Gardens. Visit The Flower Dome, which houses plants from all over the world, and the Supertree Grove, and  if you don’t mind heights, you could take a walk on the Skyway. For more details, visit their website.

Bollywood Veggies

7. Bollywood Veggies: Located in Kranji, this organic farm is a restful space that promotes the importance of greenery, with witty slogans on signage posts positioned around the premises. Visitors should dine at Poison Ivy, where the food is affordable and tasty, and the restaurant sources its ingredients locally where possible. Plants are also available for purchase near the entrance to the farm. View their website for more details.

Sustainable Living Kampung

8. Sustainable Living Kampung:  Situated in Bottle Tree Park in Yishun, the Sustainable Living Kampung is run by non-profit group Ground-Up Initiative. Each weekend from 9am to around noon, the public is welcome to join their community in various activities, such as yoga and gardening. Make sure to also pop by the Sustainable Living Lab (SL2) to view their innovative products. For updates, visit their Facebook page.

 Southern Ridges

9. Southern Ridges: The Southern Ridges consists of HortPark, Telok Blangah Hill Park, Mount Faber Park, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve, spanning a total distance of 10km. My favourite parts are the Forest Walk and Canopy Walk. Download the DIY guides or join a tour, see this NParks webpage for more information.

10. Chek Jawa Wetlands:  A short boat ride away, these wetlands span 100 hectares and can be found at the far eastern end of Pulau Ubin. Make your way to the intertidal flats at low tide to experience its rich marine life such as mudskippers, sea cucumbers and starfish, also take the boardwalk through the mangrove forest to view its extraordinary range of plant and marine life. For November and December walking schedules on the 1.1km boardwalk, see this blog post by Naked Hermit Crabs. To find out how to get to Chek Jawa, and more details, check out this NParks web page. wildsingapore.com is also a wonderful resource of information, with lots of great photos.