Bangkok Balcony update July

Bangkok Balcony update July

It has been very very hot here in Bangkok. However occasional rain is cooling the city down. A nice cool breeze in the evenings makes it pleasant to have dinner on our balcony once in a while. Meanwhile, my veggies are having heat strokes.

My tomato plants were more than 2 meters tall with not many tomatoes and my eggplants refuse to produce any fruit so I finally decide to let go of them today. No matter how much I read about growing eggplants and try different experiments, the eggplants were just getting taller and bushier but there were no eggplants in sight. It’s just too hot and humid. My tomatoes produced only a handful of cherry tomatoes, again it was just too hot. However, the thai basil, Italian basil, rosemary, cucumbers, melons and beans all seem to be doing well.

I’ve had a quite few cucumbers. Enough to add to my salads and despite the heat, they seem to be resistant to any pests or diseases so far.

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My favorite fruit to grow is melon. They are just so sweet. The best thing about is you can keep all the seeds and grow them again straight away! The fruit itself is very small (about the size of my little hand) but when you bite into the flesh, it’s just heavenly.

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I have scooped out the seeds from the melon and washed the pulp and dried the seeds to sow for more Melon plants. I now have 3 more plants growing.

One of my readers  sent me some Perilla seeds from Japan. They are growing really well!!!! I didn’t have much luck in Singapore but it seems to be doing okay so far here. These are not as flavorsome as the ones you find in Korea but certainly good enough to wrap around BBQ meat for dinner.

 

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I just asked a friend visiting Bangkok for some Kale seeds from Sydney. If I can grow that, I will be over the moon. Happy gardening!

 

 

 

 

 

Bangkok Balcony gardening update – harvest time!

Bangkok Balcony gardening update – harvest time!

It has been the nicest weather in Bangkok for last few months but looks like someone switched off the cool weather last week.  As of last week, it’s hot and humid. Before I complain about the crappy weather and my wilted garden, here are the results of my hard work and vegetables that were harvested.

All the radishes were harvested and we just ate them raw. They were so fresh and tangy. I was hoping to cook the leaves but there were too bitter. Some were a little soft which meant I left them in the soil too long.

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radishes

 

I had about 11 long beans harvested and lightly cooked them with garlic, oyster sauce and fish sauce. It was so different to the beans bought from the store. I remember reading somewhere that fruit and vegetables have it’s best nutrients if they are eaten within 4 hours of harvesting. My balcony to the kitchen and to our dinner table took less than 2 hours and I am so looking forward to more of these beans.

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long beans cooked

 

 

My latest creation  – There is  a man selling coconut juice in front of our condo every morning. My husband and I asked if we could have some of the empty coconut shells. He told us to take as many as we could because he doesn’t need them after the juice. I decided to use them to grow seedlings for sweet basil. Unfortunately, the shell is not too deep so I need to transfer them when they are big but for now it’s fantastic for my little seedlings. Best of all, it’s free and biodegradable!

 

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My updates on my babies…. Well, they have grown so tall it was starting to worry me. They were supposed to be only 50 cm tall but now 1.8m!. I googled to see what I was doing wrong and  found out that it was a combination of the  hot weather and too much water. I stopped watering them every day and now only water them every 2nd or 3rd day. Also I have pinched all the side shoots to stop any more branches growing so  all the energy can go to flowers which then turn into tomatoes.

 

tomato bushes

 

As of today, there are 19 little cherry tomatoes growing and slowly ripening… It’s like watching wet paint dry, soooo slow! So far, we picked two little ones and had a taste test. They are sweet but the skin was too thick.

 

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Here are some photos sent by one my readers. I can’t believe how heathy the plants are.  The seeds were grown from store bought Jalapeno peppers.

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Thank you all for sharing your Balcony gardening problems with me. It inspires me more to grow varieties of things and it really makes me happy seeing your photos. Happy Gardening everyone and next post will be on my visit to Korea. Yes, I am about to visit friends families and pig out and get cultured!

 

 

 

 

 

Bangkok Balcony gardening update 2

Bangkok Balcony gardening update 2

Finally it’s the rainy season here in Bangkok and so far it’s the best part of the year. It hasn’t rained too much and mostly we are experiencing very pleasant weather. That means it’s time for me to plant and grow more veggies on my balcony!

It took me a while to figure out how hot and windy my main balcony was  during the hot season. My test basil and mint from my previous blog all dried up like twigs and the only thing that seemed to be doing okay is the lemongrass.

So, it was time to say good bye to this basil. Once the basil’s stems turn brown as seen in the picture below, it’s no longer any good to use  for cooking. To prevent this, you need to keep picking the top of the stem to stop from flowering! Once they are hard and woody, they are only good for harvesting the seeds from the dried flowers!

 

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This lemongrass was grown from what I bought in the supermarket for cooking. I leave a whole lemongrass clump in a cup with some water covering 1/3 of the stem. When the roots start to grow from the bottom it’s time to plant them in a pot as shown below.  I am about to move this lemongrass into a rectangular pot to use as a sun block and protect some of my more sensitive plants. I also bought some organic lemongrass from the Bangkok Farmers market and I’m looking forward to plant those in a week or so once the roots start to come out.

 

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Here is a snap shot of my hard work for the last few months. I have moved all my veggies and herbs from the main balcony to my master bedroom balcony. It’s much more protected from the wind but still provides enough sun for these fragile little ones to grow.

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So here are some updates on my garden. First of all, my mint which originally shrivelled up, revived beautifully after I trimmed them down completely. Mint is hard to kill so I was very surprised that  mine was all dried up. But now I know, all you need is a bit of patience and loving care. Aren’t they beautiful? I have been adding a sprig or two to my home made juice every morning. They tingle tip of my tongue.

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Sadly, my rosemary plant dried up completely and I had to get new rosemary plants. I think either it was too hot on my main balcony or not enough water or perhaps even too much water or the pot was too small. To find out what went wrong, I have divided three plants into different pots and have located them into various spots around my balcony. Wish me luck!

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My favourite… Yes, I am trying tomatoes again! I have grown them from seeds that hopefully will do better in Bangkok. This particular one is supposed to only grow up to 30cm high and is ready for harvest in 6-8 weeks. Tomatoes love sun and dry weather. I cross my fingers that it will be perfect for these little ones.

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One of them has already flowers growing on top. You know what that means…. TOMATOES!!!

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There is a plant market every wednesdays at Chatuchuk in Bangkok and I was hoping to find lots of local herbs but like Singapore, not many people in Bangkok seem to be growing their own in their home. So I had to grow these thai sacred basils from seedlings. You can never have enough of basil…

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I planted some French radish seeds in May and they have grown so much. They seemed to be big enough to harvest but I can never tell…

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So, I plucked two of them out and did a little taste test. The slightly longer radish was like wasabi, full of zing in the mouth. My husband much preferred the smaller one which had a traditional radish taste. I can’t wait to harvest all of them and add them to a salad.

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A new project.  I found these micro herb growing kits  and within 5 days, these little seeds have turn into beautiful kale sprouts for my salad.

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Finally, I was in Singapore for some cooking classes last week and had a chance to convert my girlfriend’s balcony into a fully fledged herbs garden. We headed down to the gardening shops on Upper Thomson road and picked up rosemary, basil, mint and thyme. I guess my years of previous failures and successes taught me how to look for the best herbs and veggies.

Some tips when you buy herbs and looking after them when you bring them home.

  • Always check the bottom of the pots to see if there are too many roots hanging out of the pots. If roots are hanging out, it means the plant has outgrown the pot and it’s been sitting around the shop too long. Not good!
  • Always buy herbs that are not too big. It’s better to grow from little ones. If it’s grown too big, it’s harder to move to a bigger pot. Too much shock to the plants and won’t survive.
  • If there are more than one plant in a pot, always split them into few pots so they have lots of room to grow. We bought a pot of sweet basil and there must have been at least 8 little seedlings so we have divided them into two big pots so they have more room to grow.

 

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After 5 days…. The basil has grown so much!

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It’s not always happy house in Nicky’s garden. I have already spotted tiny little bugs munching away my basil and bean leaves. Every morning and evening, I am looking at the back of the leaves making sure my babies are protected.  Happy gardening everyone!!

 

 

 

 

Tomato harvest

Tomato harvest

For those of you who followed my gardening journal will know that I have been trying to grow tomatoes for a long time. I had some success in growing cherry tomatoes but nothing to brag about. It’s impossible to grow tomatoes in Singapore but I have finally had some success. I harvest three tomatoes which are are as big as my palm.

I planted a few seeds in May and it was as tall as me by September. It survied a few storms along the way and after four and half months later, I get to finally taste the tomatoes. Not just any tomatoes, Florentine tomatoes from Italy. Talk about being patient!!

 

 

I have already harvested the first one and two waiting to be picked.

 

 

 

Doesn’t it look luscious?

 

I was waiting for one more day for them to ripe but I was a few seconds too late. Dam birds got to one of the tomatoes first and chewed up half of my tomato. 🙁

 

 

 

In September, I wrote a blog about some pumpkins growing among my compost. It’s now taken over the entire plot!! Lots of male flowers but no female flowers. You need female flowers in order to have pumpkins, just like cucumbers and zucchinis.

 

 

 

 

 

The leaves are so huge and I feel like using them for an umbrella. Hopely lots of yummy pumpkins to harvest soon!

 

I have just planted some basil and various types of tomato seeds. I would like to share these with balcony garden enthusiasts. I will let you know when they are ready for adoption. Happy gardening!! 🙂

Balcony garden journal 4

Balcony garden journal 4

My last balcony garden journal was in June. I guess everyone’s been wondering what’s happened in the last 3 months?

So since June, nothing much survived except a few plants because May to August is the hottest time of the year here in Singapore. After almost 8years(OMG!!) in Singapore, I should be more tuned with the different seasons in Singapore, right? Most people don’t realise that Singapore does in fact have seasons (although you would be hard pressed to recognise them!).  During November – January it is hot during the day but amazingly pleasant in the evening. For the rest of the year it is simply hot, hot, hot with the worst months being May to August. So for those of you like me trying to grow a variety of vegetables during the hottest months, try hardy plants such as different basils and mint. Remember to keep them in a shaded area and water regularly!

Some of the plants that survived well in the heat are Italian parsley and thyme. I am amazed that they made it through the extreme heat and humidity. I succeeded in growing them from the seeds for the first time! Now when I need some for my pasta, I just walk out to my balcony a grab a few handfuls of fresh herbs. It’s heaven….

 

 

And then here is my Florentine tomato which has gone wild! You might remember the little seedlings from my last blog in June. It’s about 1.2metre high and its stems are thick and healthy.  What’s interesting is the top part of the stems are all joined together as you can see below. There are 4 tomato flowers and hopefully a lot more to come. I am hoping to pick some juicy tomatoes in a month or so. Cross my fingers and toes!! Sadly the Italian Roma tomatoes are not doing so well. They are looking pale green and the leaves are turning purple.

The basil growing in the same pot is also from Italy and I have been giving these as gifts to friends to grow themselves. Unlike the ones from the supermarket, it has fantastic aroma. I have been using a lot of this basil to make bruschetta. All I need is some big juicy home-grown tomatoes and it will be an authentic Italian bruschetta!

 

 

 

 

Here are the photos of my real garden plot. Some of you have seen a glimpse or two in my previous blogs. Again, I gave up due to the heat but amazingly everything is doing well. I have picked at least 8 eggplants. A few pumpkin plants have also cropped up in a pile of compost and the basil has flowered attracting a lot of butterflies and bees.

The only one sad thing about this garden is that it is now shadowed by a construction site and not very pleasant to potter around.  Men at work next door…

 

 

My crops always look huge in the photographs. This eggplant is actually only the size of my palm. If I can harvest three, it’s good enough for my dinner as stir fry vegetables.

 

 

Now this is remarkable. I have a little compost bin which I put all my food scrap. When the bin is full, I dig a hole in my garden and fill it with the compost for the worms to eat. Among the food scrap, there must have been some pumpkin seeds. After a month of being buried in the garden, these little baby plants appeared out of the food scrap!

 

 

No matter what I do, these basil continue to flourish. All the basil flowers attract a lot of little flying creatures which are very good for my vegetables. If you look closely, you can see a bee collecting honey.

 

Finally a new addition to my garden is Malabar spinach from a Farm Tour organised by the Vegetarian Society of Singapore a few weeks ago.  Since it’s so hard to grow lettuce in the heat, I can use this Malabar spinach as a replacement in salads. The Australian Malabar spinach that I grew previously from the seeds were growing very well initially and then just started to flower before I had a chance to pick any leaves for my salad!! Hopefully, these local ones will supply lots of leaves.

 

 

I just planted a few more parsley, thyme and basil seeds yesterday to keep the supply going throughout the year as well as a few more variety of tomatoes for the cooler months ahead.

If you have any questions on growing vegetables in Singapore, drop me a line! I’d be happy to hear from you 🙂

 

Balcony Garden journal 2 – baby plants

Balcony Garden journal 2 – baby plants

There have been a lot of activities in the balcony garden last two weeks. More seeds arrived from Korea and I have been busy planting. Now I have baby chicory, broccoli, kale,  Chinese cabbage,  red cabbage, and raddish. It should only take 2-3weeks to grow and I can add them to my salad.

They are really simple to grow. All you need is a piece of kitchen towel, a bowl and some water.  In the instruction packet, it said to water them 2-3 times a day with water spray. I started off with baby radish first. Only a few more days to go and these little baby sprouts are going into my salad!

Next one is baby Chinese cabbage, like the ones used in kimchi. Instead of growing in a bowl, I am growing them in soil to see how big they get. I am curious to see how they will  look in 3 weeks.

Now some updates on the ones I planted in the beginning of February.

  • My Thai cucumbers are growing really well. It’s ready to be transplanted to bigger pots. I just need to find some space on my balcony.

  • The Korean perilla plants are looking really healthy. The outer leaves are almost ready to be picked  but I am going to resist and wait for them to grow a little taller. A little creepy crawly got to one of my leaves already which taught me to check the back of the leaves more frequently. I thought I was only one eying the perilla leaves…

  • The most exciting result this week is my cucumber. I harvested one cucumber  already a few days ago. When I cut it in half, the skin looked and felt really thick but they were sweet and refreshing. According to my research, you need to pick the first vegetable early, so there will be many more. The name tags keep falling off  so I not sure which cucumber this is exactly but from memory  I think  it’s the seeds I bought from Malaysia.

  • My information appears to be correct because after I picked my first cucumber, a few more started to appear.  In the past, I haven’t had a lot of success with cucumbers in Singapore. I thought it was just the weather but now I think I found the secret. Cucumbers need lots water and calcium.  I learnt that crushed egg shells are a great source of calcium. All you need to do wash and  dry them and put them through a  spice grinder to turn them into powders.

  • Cucumbers have both male and female flowers. The cucumbers grow from the female flowers. To help them along, I have artificially hand pollinated the female flowers by cutting back the surrounding petals of male flowers and dabbing it inside female flower.  The picture above is two days after the female flower has been hand pollinated. Today I had a look at  the cucumber and it’s now half the size of my hand.

  • Finally, I have been picking lots of cherry tomatoes from my garden. It’s not enough to have a salad with but it keep us smiling everytime we get to taste a real tomato straight off the vine.  🙂

Anyone want to adopt my little tomatoes?

Anyone want to adopt my little tomatoes?

 

Growing tomatoes has been a big passion of mine since I arrived in Singapore 6 years ago. Some soil, planter boxes and few other little gadgets cost me over $200.

Tomatoes you buy in Singapore are either from Malaysia or Thailand and not quite like the ones that I used to buy in Sydney. Roma tomatoes and Vine ripened tomatoes are just amazingly delicious and cheap. Here in Singapore, it costs a bomb to buy a small punnet. So I decided to have a go at growing my own. What was I thinking!!  After nurturing day and night, finally I had my first harvest…. 4 little tomatoes were dangling from the plants and I sat and waited for  them to ripen so I could collect my first harvest. It was like watching paint dry…. zzzz

I wasn’t the only who were eyeing the tomatoes. One afternoon, I walked by my balcony and there was a little bird munching away one of my tomatoes! GET LOST!!!!!!!!  Gosh, was I angry and upset – I even went and bought a slingshot to chase them away!!  My initial investment of $200 divided by 3 tomatoes…. hmm… thats more than $60 per tomato!! It might have been cheaper to buy them from the supermarkets  in the first place. But of course not as much fun!!

Now, I have a wide variety of tomatoes flourishing on my balcony all safely protected from those nasty birds! Its great to taste all the different types and reminds me of being back in Australia. My next harvest is due soon, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Bring it on birdies – I dare you!! 🙂

I have 3 little baby tomato plants to give away. Anyone want to adopt one?  It takes 3-4 months to get nice red  juicy tomatoes. All they need is a small sunny patch, and regular water. Occassional conversations with them also seem to help!

Drop me a line!