Friday, 17 March 2017

My plant choices: Flowering Shrub Plants

At the heart of it all, every plant that I plant has to have some practical use from being a basic edible plant to plants with a therapeutic benefit.  I also love flowers so I combine the two criteria and found many plants that fit them.  My additional criteria was that as far as possible it has to be local and fit in our great tropical climate.  Of course I cannot plant them all and had to make the difficult choice of narrowing them down.  All the choices I list below can be planted either in the ground or in containers.  By regular pruning, the plants can be shaped and kept productive as the pruning encourages new shoots to appear.

My favourites are:
Misai Kuching (Cat's whiskers)
There is basically 2 varieties: 1 with white flowers and the other with lilac flowers.  I have a preference for lilac so I elected to choose this variety.  They are easy to care for and to propagate.  They produce lovely showy flowers and have pretty leaves.  It gives me the added benefit of being able to make organic misai kucing tea which has many therapeutic benefits but the one I love most is as a blood cleanser.  This is my go-to tea who I am eating high sugar content foods and these include fruits like durians and mangosteens apart from those lovely desserts.  These a perennial plants that requires minimal car although with periodic fertilising, it produces more flowers and more leaves.

Roselle (Asam Belanda)
This plant is in the hibiscus family and best propagated from seeds although it can be propagated from stem cuttings.  It produces showy pink flowers with a maroon or deep red centre.  The flowers turn into calyces and these can be transformed to a drink rich in vitamins especially vitamin C.  The seed pods are within the calyx and good quality seeds are produced from fully matured calyces.  The leaves are green with a red tinge to it and can be dried and converted to tea.  Even the leaf stem can be used in making a drink.  Be forewarned, the leave, stem and calyx all taste sour so you might want to sweeten your drinks with honey or brown sugar.  Because of its sourness, the leaves are also used in cooking to flavour dishes.  The calyces can also be turned into preserves and conserves.  These are perennial plants.

Okra (Bendi)
Although this plant is an annual, it is easy to propagate from seeds and easy to grow.  It produced bright yellow flowers with a dark red centre.  The pollinated flowers turn into the fruit, okra, which has many health benefits apart from being tasty.   This plant is prone to some pests that will attack the leaves and fruit but this can be controlled with the use of enzyme fertiliser with pest control that will provide fertiliser for the plant whilst keeping the pest away.

Eggplant/Brinjals (Terung)
There are so many varieties with the fruit being green (bright yellow when "ripe), white and purple.  The flowers tend to be either purple petals with yellow centre or white petals with yellow centre.  Planting these plants give you the added benefit of harvesting for your dinner table.  The purple eggplant is especially beneficial with the nasurin content in the purple skin which is provides beneficial nutrient to our brain.  Regular fertilisation with fertilisers that also contain magnesium and calcium can help in increasing the flowers produced leading to more fruits.

Friday, 10 March 2017

My plant choices - herb staples

Although I have quite a big space to plant at the farm, it seems like the space gets eaten up so fast so I do have to be selective in order to produce sustainable quantities for my purposes.  I select them based on the following:

  1. High value multi-purpose which translates to they can be used for various reasons and have therapeutic benefits
  2. Suitability to the land as depending on the plant, the soil has to be suitable
  3. Ease of propagating so that I can continue to have new seedlings
  4. Ease of maintenance and care as with many plants and my hectic schedule, I need to ensure that I can care for them properly.
It is hard to narrow down choices as they are all fantastic plants but I have managed to narrow them down and grouped them into what I grow a lot of and what falls in my herbal collection.  I enjoy being able to harvest them for my use and know that it is clean - free from chemical pesticides and herbicides - and that it is available when I want them.

The staples that I consider every garden should have is and is my 5 basics :
It has a high value due to their therapeutic values as well as can be used is in many ways.  It can be used in making drinks as well as in cooking.  They are easy to care although they are "voracious eaters" so ensuing plantings will have to be moved to a different area.  They can be planted in almost any soil type except for heavy clay.  Propagating them is by using the whole stalk.  They can be planted in pots or in the ground so if you have a small space, just plant them in pots. and requires minimal fertilisation.  Although you can harvest them on as needed basis, it is best to replant them every 6 months to maintain the quality in either a different soil or area.

The benefits of turmeric are well known and is also one of the condiments often used in cooking.
The whole plant has uses, from the leaves to the rhizome and the flower.  They require minimal care and if planted in good soil, doesn't need fertilisation or minimal fertilisation.  It can be planted in pots or in the ground.  Propagation is via the rhizome.   It can be harvested on an as-needed-basis so it works well in creating a long-term edible garden.

Sand ginger (Cekur or Kencur)
Similar to turmeric, the whole plant can be used.  The leaves and rhizomes have therapeutic values and used as condiments in cooking.  They can be planted in containers or in the ground and does best in rich, organic soil with some sand content.  Propagation is via the rhizome.  You can harvest the leaves on as-needed-basis but to harvest the rhizome, it is best to harvest the whole plant.

Ginger - Bentong (Halia Bentong)
This is one of my favourites with its therapeutic values and multi-uses.  It can be turned into a drink, used as a condiment, made into a pickle and used in combination with other herbs to create an organic pest control.  It also produces a flower, similar in shape to the turmeric, but in red color.  It does best in soil with a good content of sand and doesn't tolerate water-logged soil.  Propagation is via its rhizome.  I choose this over the regular ginger due to its therapeutic values and beautiful flower.  You can harvest them on a as-needed-basis but it is best to replant after 1 year to continue to have quality ginger.

Small Galangal (Lengkuas kecil)
Amongst the various herbs, I consider this plant to produce the prettiest flower.  It has therapeutic values which makes it a plus when used in cooking.  It does best planted in the ground although it can also be planted in pots. It loves a rich, organic soil.  Propagation is via its rhizome.  I choose this over the regular galangal due to its more "potent" flavour and beautiful flower.  I tend to replant these every 2 years to maintain continuity and quality.

These basic 5 can add beauty to your garden and you can arrange them in such a way that it becomes a floral arrangement in your landscape.  If you have limited space, all you need is five pots and a few more pots a few months later for continuity of supply. :)

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Growing Food: There is always a way

I advocate everyone growing some of their food, whether it be in their gardens or in their apartment balconies.  You can even grow beautiful flowering edibles.  Somehow, some people have the idea that edibles don't have pretty flowers.  There is so many options to chose from.  You will also get the added benefit of relaxing with your plants on top of getting something good to eat.  Just imagine yourself harvesting a lemon to make a drink, some turmeric and ginger to seasons your food or some vegetables for dinner - it feels great to be able to do so.  I rate the food growing options as below:

  1. organically grown 
  2. hydrophonic
  3. grown with chemical fertiliser and pesticide
  4. GMO (avoid at all cost)
There is a plant for everyone depending on the time and effort you want to put in.  Listed below are some examples and in no means an exhaustive list.  There are many others but it is presented to give you an idea.

If you can only plant in pots and want to have flowers, try:

  1. Aubergine or brinjal - purple flowers with a yellow centre which when pollinated forms a purple fruit
  2. Okra (Lady's finger or bendi) - yellow flower with a red centre which when pollinated turns into green okra
  3. Cosmos dianthus (ulam raja) - pink flowers with yellow center
  4. Roselle (Asam belanda) - pink flower with a maroon center which turns into dark red calyces
  5. Turmeric - light green flower with the added benefit you can harvest the turmeric once it matures as you want them
  6. Ginger - pink/purple flower with the added benefit you can harvest the ginger once it is mature as you want them.
  7. Small galangal - spray of white/red small flowers
  8. Varieties of chillies - white flowers and when the fruit forms, various colours.
  9. Misai kucing - purple or white flowers
  10. Calamansi - white flowers with the added benefit of green calamansi fruits
  11. Lime - white flowers with the added benefit of green lime fruits
  12. Lemon - white flowers with the added benefit of bright, yellow lemons when they mature
  13. Varieties of tomatoes - yellow flowers and looks even better when the tomatoes have formed and ripened
If you want to plant in pots but want leaves only, try:
  1. Cabbage
  2. Cauliflower
  3. Spinach - there are so many varieties from green, red/green and red color leaves in various shapes
  4. Choy sum
  5. Kailan
  6. Kale - many varieties with different leaf shapes
  7. Sambung nyawa batik
  8. Aloe vera
If you want to have flowering on a trellis say your balcony railing or fence, try:
  1. various varieties of cucumber - yellow flowers
  2. mini pumpkins - yellow flowers
  3. bitter gourd - yellow flowers
  4. varieties of gourd - yellow or white flowers
  5. long beans - white or purple flowers
  6. french beans - pink flowers
  7. Blue sweet pea (bunga telang) - blue flowers
All the above can be grown organically - using organic fertilisers and pest control.  If you have lots of space, and have options, then you can grow them all.  Happy gardening and producing great food :).