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Garden Stories: Verge Farmers Justine and Scott

With so many under-utilised little pockets of land available on Singapore’s street verges, why not grow some food and educate others in the process? The Farmers, Justine Ong-Farmer and Scott Farmer – decided to do just that. After trying their hand at growing edibles less than a year ago, they have come a long way in such a short period of time with their trial-and-error approach and some helpful advice from Justine’s mother.

With this knowledge of growing and cooking with local herbs and vegetables, they started offering workshops to connect Singapore residents to local plants and food. After realising that local ingredients are more readily available on sidewalks compared to supermarkets and wet markets, they wanted to communicate that there is a value to eating and growing plants native to Singapore.

As part of their regular workshop, A Seat at The Farmer’s Table, participants pick ingredients from their garden and get involved in making nasi ulam and chilli chukka, and savour some of their tasty nasi ulam – I’ve tried it, it’s really good!

To date, they have grown cabbage, rosella, ulam rajah, bittergourd, Thai basil, pear and cherry tomatoes, marigolds, turmeric, okra, papaya, and blue butterfly pea among others, on this newly reclaimed verge alone. At home and on another more established verge, there are edible plants like banana, neem, soursop, pandan, wild pepper, torch ginger, lettuce, cucamelons, bayam, and more.

I sat down with Justine and Scott to find our more about their urban farming journey and their verge garden situated at Yio Chu Kang.

1. When did you both discover that you loved growing plants?

Justine: I was never really interested in plants until Scott and I bought our first plant together for his place in the early days of our relationship. We call him Lazarus (nickname ‘Lazzy’) because he has looked dead and then come back to life several times over the last couple of years we’ve had him. He’s alive and kicking today.

2. You both use a lot of natural farming techniques, which makes use of the materials already available to you. Where did you learn to grow edible plants?

Justine: My mum has been growing fruit trees and vegetables in our home garden for many years now. She’s usually the first person I turn to when I have questions. She’s very crafty and super innovative, always encouraging us to come up with solutions using what nature has provided or what we can find around the house.

Scott: I think we’ve learnt most of our techniques as we’ve gone along. Back in the UK, we always had a vegetable garden when I was growing up but I was never actively involved – I guess I may have picked up some knowledge through occasional digging, picking and watching. But really, we just make sure we spend a bit of time every day fiddling and talking to the plants – I don’t think there is any real secret!

Using coconuts to form a border around their verge garden
Using egg cartons as mulch
Dried palm fronds used as mulch
Making sure nothing is wasted

Where to buy plant pots in Singapore

Garden pots in Singapore

New to gardening or urban farming, and wondering where to buy plant pots in Singapore? Whether you are seeking common or fancy plastic pots, rustic or painted terracotta pots, or stylish, perhaps quirky looking plant pots, there are lots of options locally. Here are some of my personal recommendations of where you can find pots to suit any space.

Plastic Pots

Lightweight, affordable and practical, plastic pots are also better at retaining moisture than terracotta pots. However the lower quality pots may not last more than a few years, depending on how much sunlight it is exposed to. This is due to photodegradation from UV rays.

One thing that bothers me about some types of plastic posts is how it can get powdery as it deteriorates, and that is when I throw them out because I don’t want this plastic dust getting into my soil, especially for my edible plants.

I tend to veer towards the larger, long planters, which I can use to grow a mix of plants in, although it ends up being harder to move around.

Here are some places where you can find plastic pots:

1.World Farm
Practically a one-stop shop for all things gardening, World Farm is pretty much the most affordable place to buy essential gardening items and they have a massive variety of ornamental, fruiting, flowering plants and edible herbs. The physical store stocks a variety of plastic pots and planters, and you can find the commonly used plastic pots in different sizes here, they also have colourful, small round ones. Find them at 15 Bah Soon Pah Road in Yishun.

Plant pots Singapore
Image taken from Noah Garden Centre

2. Noah Garden Centre
Online however, Noah Garden Centre has one of the widest range of attractive plant pots in various materials within Singapore. They also offer a good variety of garden essentials, and even nice plant stands. First time buyers get 10% off, how lovely.

3. Far East Flora
A household name, Far East Flora’s physical stores have a lot of good quality products and their online shop is hard to top. They offer a wide variety of plants and gardening items in their Thomson, Bedok and Queensway branches. Online shoppers get 10% off their first purchase and Singapore Gardening Society members are eligible for discounts in their physical stores, remember to flash your membership card.

The 2018 Gardener’s Gift Guide

Christmas is coming, and for those who celebrate it, here’s a guide on affordable gifts you can buy for gardeners, or treat yourself!

1.An Urban Farming Kit with a cause. Packed by underprivileged seniors, buying these kits mean that you have given employment opportunities to someone who needs the help.  Choose from three vegetable varieties – Chye Sim, Kang Kong and Kailan. Get yours from Super Farmers for $14.90 here.

2. This lovely Polygon Wood Planter looks great in the home or office. Order yours from Candy Floriculture, available here for $18.

3. This elho Aqua Care plant waterer is a considerate gift for the plantlover who travels and cannot find a plantsitter! Available at Far East Flora for $23.90, order yours online here.

4. If you’re shopping for something who loves all things cute and unique, The Misfit Pets is a great, affordable gift. Available at Tumbleweed for $15, get it here.

5. Seeking a smart looking desktop ceramic planter? Look no further, the Chloe Planter also comes in black with a wooden saucer. This is available at Noah Garden Centre for $30. Order yours here

6. Lovingly handmade in Singapore by Knoette, these Macrame Plant Hangers go for $38 – $42. Get in touch with Joette to own a piece of her artistry! Find her on Instagram here or email her at contact.knoette@gmail.com.

7. My Mushroom Garden grow kit is a fun gift for any age! Mushrooms grow very quickly, and these will sprout within 8 days. Available from Mushroom Kingdom for $17.90, buy it here.

8. This one’s for the zero waster who wants to avoid the use of plastic wrap for their produce and other food in their kitchen. This DIY Beeswax Wrap Kit comes with all the materials you need to make 6 beeswax wraps. This has been put together by Agy Textile Artist & The Tender Gardener (yes I’m plugging myself!), available at my Facebook shop for $49.

9. Looking for something easy to grow? Edible Garden City has just the thing! Here’s a microgreens kit that is manageable for even the most inexperienced grower. Get your Spicy Mix Microgreens Seed Kit here for $14.90.