Crystal Castle has an incredible cluster of gardens which Dan and I love to visit, and recently they began growing their own organic produce, and created the Shambhala Organic Food Gardens. In the above photo, part of the food gardens can be seen on the left, and towards the middle of the photo is their banana plantation. Yes, that’s Dan admiring the colossal clear quartz crystal.
These inspiring food gardens have plants which include herbs, vegetables, fruits and beneficial flowers. The gardens are attractive and well designed, and inspired me to put more effort into Dan’s edible garden. Some vegetables that I’d spotted here include potatoes, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, collard greens, zucchini.
A few weekends ago, I paid a visit to my dear friend, Bhavani Prakash, who lives in the West Coast, and I was looking forward to seeing her inspiring rooftop and balcony gardens again. Bhavani hosted Ginny Giovanni (pictured above) and I for tea that rainy afternoon, and gave us an unforgettable experience of not just lovely treats, but also a tour of her garden spaces, and the condominium’s community garden, which she helped initiate.
I met Bhavani years ago through work in the sustainability field, where she is very active in creating and inspiring change. She is a strong advocate for green living, connecting to nature, and mindfulness, she raises awareness of these meaningful topics at corporate and individual levels through speaking at conferences, and by providing coaching and training. Bhavani is well known for her environmental advocacy website, Eco WALK the Talk, and sustainability and thought leadership platform Green Collar Asia. More recently, she has been conducting Mindfulness at Work training with The Potential Project. As busy as she is, she manages to be a hands-on, nurturing mother and gardener, and does well at both.
She has been able to grow a variety of fruit, herbs, vegetables and ornamentals on her balconies, including sugarcane, bananas, sweet potatoes, peanuts, winged beans, purple beans, mustard greens, watermelon, custard apple, mulberry, moringa trees, frangipanni, among others. Bhavani also makes her own compost which she uses for her plants.
Calendula Officinalis, or Pot Marigold is an incredible medicinal plant with healing properties, good for treating eczema and skin inflammations, and also a beneficial plant in the garden. In Dan’s garden in Australia, it has been so easy to grow, and has self-seeded from one plant to a whole cluster, adding vibrancy to an otherwise uniform sea of green.
There is a range of marigolds, and it is important to note that if you are after Calendula Officinalis for a homemade recipe, that you do not purchase or use the wrong type of marigold. Also, it is advised that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid ingesting calendula infusions, as it could cause a miscarriage for the former, as for the latter, its effects on babies are not yet known and it is more of a precautionary measure.
If you’re not keen on growing your own, you can find dried calendula flowers at Herbs 4 Life at 722 North Bridge Road, or prefer to order online, Abundant Earth stocks 30g-120g packs, starting from $14.50.
Personally, I use the infusion as a rinse for my face, on insect bites and wounds, and even as a mouth gargle. There are lots of uses, including treatment of ulcers in the mouth or digestive tract, and so it is good to have some in the pantry. I would choose this over any pharmaceutical product any day.
If you’re looking for ready made Calendula products, consider Four Cow Farm‘s Organic Calendula, Oat & Chickweed Bath Soaks, and Calendula Remedy. Their range is really natural and lovely, and I’m a fan of their baby wash too. Do check it out!
Here are Tuscan Kale and Curly Kale plants, grown from organic seed. I have grown them in pots in the past but I have found that I had greater success growing kale in my vegepod, more so because of its placement, and the shade cover helps too.
While kale will always taste better after experiencing frost in cooler climates, it is still tasty when grown locally. It is important that you provide optimal growing conditions so that your plant can thrive and taste good.
How to grow kale in Singapore?
After you have germinated your kale seeds in a good seed raising mix, make sure you place the seedlings in a location where it gets a very bright light or a very small amount of morning sun (make sure the soil does not dry out) for a few weeks.
At this stage, if there is not enough sun, your plants will grow leggy, as young plants it cannot be exposed to too much sun or it will wilt and die.
After the first few weeks, it is time to “harden off” your plants. You do this by introducing it to a greater amount of sun in the course of one week.
Around this time, I usually transplant the seedling into a soil mix that retains some moisture but is free draining, my preferred soil recipe includes compost, horticultural sand, and worm castings.
Kale does best in morning sun or late afternoon sun in Singapore. This is because it is just too hot around mid day and the early afternoon and your kale won’t make for good eating afterwards. The leaves will be tough and taste bitter.
However, if afternoon sun is what you have to work with, invest in shade cloth which is available at garden nurseries. It is especially useful in cutting out sun and the heat that comes with it.
As a cut-and-come-again plant, like many green leafy vegetables, harvest when the leaves are still tender and green, because once it gets thicker, the texture will feel a bit tough when you chew it. Not very pleasant at all.
Some pests to look out for include cabbage white butterfly caterpillars, and spider mites. It pays to check the undersides of leaves regularly. I have had plants that were so badly eaten that it looked like it could never recover from the damage.
Which Kale to Grow?
There are different varieties available locally, and you should pick a variety that you prefer eating. I am more partial towards curly kale because I like the taste and texture, but also, it grows very quickly and doesn’t need much space to grow. It can be used in a smoothie or made into kale chips.
I still enjoy growing Tuscan Kale but because it grows to be rather tall, I prefer not to give up important real estate to growing it, and one plant is more than enough for me.
If you’re juicing with kale every day, you’ll probably need at least 4 plants. The leaves grow pretty quick, just make sure that the plant is well watered.
It likes seaweed solution, so please give it a foliar feed once in a while. For more specific instructions on the frequency of application, refer to the directions on the bottle. Personally if I am disciplined enough, I feed my plants every two weeks. Fertilising is also a good idea once in a while.
And if you’re wondering where to get Tuscan Kale or Curly Kale seeds, you can buy them through my Carousell page.
It’s not too difficult to grow, so please try your hand at it if you love kale!