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City, Garden Stories, Stories

Community rooftop garden tour with compost master Ong Chun Yeow

Ong Chun Yeow is an avid composter, with two compost set ups at home – an aerobic one in his HDB corridor and an anaerobic one in his kitchen – plus a vermicompost bin situated at his rooftop community garden allotment. Also, when he was working part-time at the Funan Urban Farm, he set up a large aerobic compost bin on their rooftop garden which is still active. All his compost goes back into the different gardens where the compost set ups are situated, creating a closed loop where nothing is wasted. If you are looking into composting at home in Singapore, you should definitely check out his approaches.

Chun Yeow believes in space efficient gardening, and having a wide selection of plants to encourage biodiversity. With a limited space of 4×1 metres, he experiments with bio-intensive growing, cramping as many plants as he can while sustaining soil fertility. Through this method he has succeeded in having a high yield with minimal inputs. He had his soil tested not too long ago and it was found to be very fertile with a high level of nitrogen. To find out more, watch the interview I did with him below.

This is an update from my last interview with him 5 years ago, to see how his garden has evolved over time, read the interview here.

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Marcus Koe Singapore
City, Garden Stories

Garden Stories: Marcus Koe of Habitat Collective

When Marcus Koe joined the neighbourhood Jalan Senang Community Garden in Kembangan, Singapore, he was looking to grow vegetables in-ground. He was surprised to find that nobody was keen to take on a large plot of land near the entrance of the garden, which was filled with grass and weeds. He requested for this spot and started to implement permaculture methods on it.

Situated on a slope, rainfall makes its way into this part of the garden first. As the soil was compacted, this area was waterlogged on rainy days, and on sunny days it was hard. It was a challenge for him to grow vegetables here and he found that plants would not thrive in the beginning.

He decided to use a banana circle as a solution. He planted a cluster of bananas in the formation of a circle, with a 50cm deep ditch in the middle, and filled it with leaves and other organic materials, including compost that he makes together with others in the community garden.

This ditch also functions as a convenient place for him to compost his bulky garden waste. It also allows water to collect in there, meaning there is no stagnant water. In addition the ditch functions like a sponge, releasing water to the plants around it when required. As the organic matter breaks down, it feeds the plant and improves the soil.

The bananas started to do well and he grew other plants around it, and designed the garden around the bananas, using materials such as logs and leaves from the immediate vicinity of the garden. He also planted leguminous plants like pigeon pea as a nitrogen fixer, and as It matured, he would also prune the branches and leave it on the ground to add fertility to the soil. To find out more, watch this interview!

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City, Garden Stories

Journey Through Paradise: Russel’s amazing backyard

Russel is a plant collector that I got to know through Instagram. His user name is @journeythroughparadise and it’s easy to see why this description is apt. His account showcases his exceptionally wide range of plants. From bromeliads to cycads to palms, gingers, and aroids, this is one of the most amazing private gardens in Singapore that I have viewed.

In this garden plant tour and interview, he shares how he designed and built his garden from scratch. Also, meet his four friendly dogs, who get along well with his plants.

aroids singapore
Bromeliad garden Singapore

For the full garden tour and interview, please watch the videos below.

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City, Garden Stories, Stories

Garden Stories: Fizzicle’s Melissa Mak

Melissa Mak has the magic touch when it comes to ferments. For a few years now, I have been drinking her kombucha at her home, affectionately known as Simei Sanctuary, and at cafes. It never fails to settle my stomach on days when it’s feeling dodgy. This happens frequently, which is why fermented products appeal to me. Melissa runs Fizzicle, which specialises in kombucha in Singapore.

In her HDB corridor garden, Melissa grows a variety of edible and non-edible plants for fermentation purposes or to suit her curiosities. These include Ylang ylang, Eau de Cologne mint, Moroccan mint, chin chow, Brazilian spinach, sand ginger, mani cai, sweet potato, butterfly pea, pumpkin, among others. One of her current experiments is making perfume using Eau de Cologne mint.

She gives us a peek into what a fermenter’s garden looks like.

What got you into fermentation, and what made you start Fizzicle?

Bad health. I got into fermentation when I had really bad IBS. Travelling and street food did not do very much for my stomach so I had very bad IBS for a very prolonged period. I discovered that fermentation would help me out and it did, it lifted me out of the doldrums.

My family surname is “Mak”, it is a young surname, you will not see a lot of us out there, our Chinese surname is 麦 (mai). Before it was called “mai” it was “qu”, for fermentation starter. So fermenting is like respecting my family heritage We thought we were farmers in the past, but it turns out that we were fermenters in the past. So I am doing my family job, so to speak.

Other than kombucha, what else do you ferment?

I’ve made koji, so I have made my own miso at home, and sugar ferments. I take inspiration from the garden, there was one time when I had too much kale, I made kimchi kale. So whatever inspires me, whatever’s in season or in the garden, I just go ahead and do it.

There was a salted egg episode which hasn’t been repeated yet, it is very hard to get fresh eggs here. That was pretty good though, and it was a fun experiment.

make salted egg Singapore
Salted egg experiment


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