Your own herb garden
Ella Tan | On 30, Jan 2015
Basil, mint, dill, daun kesum (laksa leaves), curry leaves, kaffir lime leaves (daun limau perut) … it’s a joy to see your plants thrive, to use them in cooking and salads, to smell their fresh scent when you crush a leaf between your fingers…. Gardening is satisfying and relaxing, an inexpensive hobby and a great way to socialise if you join the neighbourhood gardening group or exchange cuttings and tips with other enthusiasts.
But let me warn you before you start, expect to get dirty hands and an aching back. Once you get the hang of it though, you’ll want to keep propagating plants and waiting for new shoots. What’s not to love about gardening? It’s calming, satisfying and here where it’s sunny all year round, we can keep on potting and adding to our green collection whether we live in landed property or high-rise apartments.
Sign up for a herb growing class at NParks – http://www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/docs/OutreachProgrammesHortParkAdultupdatedJul2014.pdf
To get you started, here are tips from Dr Wilson Wong, Assistant Director/Horticulture at the National Parks Board.
Recipe for potting mix
At least 2 parts of a coarse, gritty, porous material to improve the drainage of the growing mix e.g fine expanded clay aggregate (aka LECA, a much smaller version of the brown clay balls used in hydroculture), volcanic sand and pumice. These materials are sold at selected nurseries.
One part burnt earth
One part well-rotted compost
Hints for beginners
- To tell if the soil is ready for the next watering, stick a disposable chopstick into the soil. When you first water, a greater amount of the wet growing mix will stick onto the chopstick. For soil that has been allowed to dry out a little, a smaller amount of the mix will be seen instead.
How often to water depends on your growing conditions. A sunnier and windier growing environment will require more frequent watering compared to a place that is more sheltered from the elements. Although these herbs detest excessive water, you should never allow your plants to experience drought until they are parched and start to wilt. All herbs love the sun. To get aromatic and healthy herbs, grow them in a location where they can be exposed to four to six hours of direct sunlight. Suitable locations include an east-facing or west-facing patio balcony or corridor as these areas will have direct sunlight but protection from rain. Herbs that are not exposed to sufficient sunlight will not be as aromatic and will be weak and spindly. Avoid overfeeding your herbs with fertiliser. Many of these herbs are not very fast-growing in our climate and overfeeding will not only waste fertiliser, but also lead to pest problems. Tender growth which results from overfeeding is prone to pest attacks. Many cooking herbs can be grown from materials bought for cooking from the supermarkets. Tips of stems, when sold in the freshest state, can usually be used to propagate new plants. Stem tips used for propagation should be free from pests, diseases and blemishes. Place them in coarse gravel (available in aquarium shops) instead of directly into growing mx as the sensitive herbs will rot quickly even before producing any roots. Rooting powder can be used to hasten the production of stem cuttings.