Nova Ceceliana Nelson is a permaculture designer who wants to help people grow food regardless of how small their space is. At the Goodman Community Farm in Singapore, she uses the garden to showcase what urban permaculture looks like, where upcycled materials are used, and how one can create closed loop systems to turn waste into valuable resources.
At this space where food growers, artists and the community converge, she organises workshops for children and adults to connect them to nature and growing food.
The Goodman Community Farm consists of a forager’s garden and community microfarm. At the forager’s garden, there is a herb spiral, mandala garden, pond, three-bay leaf compost area and wormery, while the community microfarm is a place to test out different methods of growing food.
Nova sees waste as a resource and collects landscape waste, cardboard, logs, coffee grounds and food waste from a café on the premises and uses it around the garden. Nothing goes to waste here. Find out more from this video interview I conducted with her!
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 Musaornata‘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.
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.
For those in the know, there is a Seletar Farmway nursery that is popular with those looking for exotic plants. Located within Chwee Nursery at 9 Seletar West Farmway 7, you will find a cluster of plant fanciers who rent plots to house as well as sell their exotic plant collections. These consist of orchids and epiphytic plants, aroids as well as succulents.
Some plots are larger than others, with a fine variety of plants on display. While not everything is for sale, admiring these plant collections make for a wonderful experience in itself. If you wish to pay these plots a visit, it is advisable to check with them in advance before heading down.
3. Mashud Forestation – This extra-large plot is lush and beautifully decked out in a wide variety of foliage plants that include aroids, epiphytes. begonias, ferns, and many more. Lalii manages this plot and keeps it open Mondays to Saturdays from 3pm-7pm, while opening hours on Sundays and public holidays are announced beforehand on his Instagram page, where he is easily contactable.
4. The Botanical Assembly – They retail aroids, cacti, succulents, platycerium, caudiciform and other foliage plants. Shop their collection at their website or to visit their plot, reach them via their website contact form or through Instagram.
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.