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DIY: How to Make Kokedama

Have you been wondering what a kokedama is and how to make your own kokedama? Kokedama is a type of Japanese bonsai, which literally translates to “moss ball”. It is a plant that is continually growing in popularity due to its unique and minimalist appearance.

Also known as ‘moss ball’ and ‘string garden’, kokedama is a variant of bonsai cultivation, where plant roots are wrapped with soil and moss. It can be suspended using string, or left to sit on a piece of pottery, to be admired.

If you’re interested in making your own kokedama, do read on for easy to understand step-by-step instructions.

kokedama plants
Kokedama made by participants during one of my workshops

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City, Country, Guides

How to Grow Bananas: Tips for Beginners

If you are wondering how to grow bananas at home or at a community plot, in-ground or in pots, here a guide to help you get started.

In this blog post, I will discuss the basics of banana cultivation and provide tips for beginners who want to start growing their own bananas.

First, some fun trivia about bananas!

Did you know there are more than 1000 banana varieties in the world? This includes edible and ornamental plants which come in different shapes and sizes and in colours other than yellow.

For instance, there is Musa ornata ‘Royal Purple‘, an ornamental variety, or the edible Blue Java banana, also known as ice cream banana or Musa acuminata × balbisiana.

One popular variety that is an absolute showstopper is the variegated banana Musa × paradisiaca ‘Ae Ae’ (below). It’s young fruit features green and white stripes, and matures into yellow and white stripes when ready for consumption.

variegated banana musa x paradisiaca Ae Ae
Ripe variegated banana Musa × paradisiaca ‘Ae Ae’. photo: Any Lane

Another beautiful banana to grow is the Musa ‘Thousand Fingers’ which, as you may have guessed, has up to a thousand fruits.

All banana plants have only one peduncle of bananas with the exception of Musa ‘Double Mahoi’, a dwarf Cavendish type which has two heads of fruit.

There have been sightings of banana plants with more than two banana flowers, but it is considered a rare event.

Although it resembles the form of a tree, did you know banana plants are not true trees? Nor is it a palm. Instead, it is classified as a herbaceous plant as it does not have woody tissue.

Bananas in Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, where bananas are said to have been domesticated around 7000 years ago, we are spoilt for choice.

While the Cavendish is an internationally renown variety originally cultivated in England to much commercial success, many Southeast Asians favour local varieties like Pisang Raja Udang (which is red), Pisang Raja, Pisang Emas, Pisang Lemak Manis and many others. These can be prepared in different ways, such as deep fried, simmered in coconut milk or even curry.

How to grow bananas
My neighbour’s red bananas

Read on to find out how to grow bananas!

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how to control root knot nematodes organically
City, Country

How to get rid of Root knot nematodes organically

If your plants look stunted and its leaves exhibit chlorosis and lack vigour, yet you’ve done everything right and you can’t figure out why, it’s time to check the roots of your plants. If the roots are knobbly and have galls, you have a case of root knot nematodes in your soil. I have experienced this on a few occasions, fortunately in my planters and not in-ground. Read on to find out how to control root knot nematodes organically.

What are they? These plant parasites are microscopic roundworms that damage plant roots and feed on its vascular system. This causes growths to form, affecting the plant’s capacity to absorb water and nutrients.

Shrubs, trees and herbaceous plants are susceptible to root knot nematodes. These include begonia, azalea, hibiscus, gloxinia, hydrangea, impatiens, cyclamen, coleus, some cacti, rose, and edible plants like tomato, capsicum, chilli, eggplant, rosella, okra, cucumber, pumpkin, melons, Malabar spinach, passionfruit, banana, pineapple, sweet potato among others.  

What are your natural options? Here’s how to get rid of root knot nematodes organically, you can consider using a mix of methods to improve efficacy rates.

Grow biofumigant crops for root knot nematode control

how to get rid of root knot nematodes organically
(Photo by Eva Elijas from Pexels)

Brassicas such as Brassica rapa (field mustard) and Brassica juncea (mustard greens) have bio-fumigation properties and are effective at root knot nematode control when grown as a cover crop, however there are some other plants, like Tagetes patula (French marigolds), Tagetes erecta  (Mexican Marigold) and oats, which are highly capable too.

How it works is it releases compounds to suppress pests and pathogens in the soil. It is effective when in its early flowering stages, plants are chopped or pulped and incorporated into the soil and watered. The soil needs to remain moist for a few weeks, and isocyanate gases are released by the plants as it breaks down.

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how to get rid of snails
City, Country

How to get rid of slugs and snails

Many gardeners who have community garden plots or home gardens on the ground floor would have encountered slugs and snails gnawing at their plants, or worse, denuding them. The presence of these gastropods is a recurring event in my garden and I’ve looked at different ways on how to get rid of slugs and snails from my property in Singapore. The snails I usually find are the African Land Snail, Luminescent Land Snail,  Humphrey’s Land Snail and Allopeas Snail but we do have a diverse number of snails in Singapore.

My former flock of chickens would eat the smaller snails and slugs but my current resident flock turn their beaks up at them. So I’ve had to explore other ways of dealing with them that don’t involve slug or snail pellets, something which I’m not terribly fond of because I don’t like the use of poisons in my garden or the likelihood of making my chickens or any wildlife sick.

So which is the best way to get rid of slugs and snails?

Aside from pellets, other tactics that gardeners swear by include copper tape, beer traps/pub, wool pellets, diatomaceous earth, coffee grounds, brambles, and using a plank as a lure, where they can be found and dealt with later. This is a good time to mention that crushed egg shells are not as effective as once thought, because gardeners have found that snails and slugs just crawl over it.

There are however, non-chemical, humane strategies that you can consider, either through preventing or by baiting/trapping, and then relocating. They may come across as the enemy but they are ecologically beneficial. Their diet consists of fungi and rotting leaves and other vegetation, and as detritivores and some say decomposers, they help in breaking down plant waste, cycling nutrients back to the soil. While they are not particularly welcome to our vegetable garden especially, we don’t need to use a take no prisoners approach.

Allopeas snails Singapore
Allopeas snails, or Awl snails, on my chive plants

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