Many people now growing their own food

The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.

– Gertrude Jekyll, garden designers and author

I visited a garden centre in Kuching recently. Both my friend and I wanted to buy some compost and soil for our gardens.

My friend picked me up in her car. When we arrived at the centre, we were surprised to find the parking lot in front of the factory almost full.

The usual standard operating procedures (SOPs) were in place and we had to scan the MySejahtera app as well as record our temperatures before entering the premises.

There is no doubt that many people are into gardening these days. While many are growing vegetables, others are growing flowers.

While it is good to have beautiful flowers in your garden, I think it is more practical, especially during this challenging time, to grow food.

The current Covid-19 pandemic has prompted many people to grow their own food. This is partly due to the increased prices for produce.

Garden centres sell many things people need for gardening, including vegetables seeds, flower pots, fertilisers and tools.

Besides visiting the garden centres, people are looking online for information on growing food.

Personally, I think we are blessed to live in this modern age where technology is at our fingertips. Never mind if you are growing vegetables for the first time ever in your life. You can get a lot of tips from the YouTube videos, online gardening blogs and even from talking with experienced gardeners among your friends.

Just recently, I was much inspired by a YouTube video about growing cabbages from seeds. The young gardener grew his cabbages just in plastic bags filled with soil and chicken manure. I guess when it comes to gardening, if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Some people say they cannot plant anything because they live in an apartment or they don’t have land. The guy in the video just placed his plastic bags of cabbage plants on the tiled floor of his yard.

I live in a neighbourhood where some housewives love to plant their own vegetables. One woman makes full use of the road verge in front of her house to grow lady’s fingers, yam and chillies. She has also covered the wide drain in front of the house to plant other vegetables and flowers,

Another woman in the neighbourhood plants tapioca and other vegetables on a road verge next to the old bus stop near her house. I think she is growing the tapioca more for the leaves rather than the fruits. Stir fried tapioca leaves are popular among Sarawakians. Tapioca leaves are also commonly used in local soups and stews with coconut milk.

If you are a novice gardener, which vegetables should you plant? I think it is better to plant the vegetables you want to eat. For instance, if you like kangkong (water spinach), then you plant it. You can grow kangkong by replanting the stems of the plants or from seeds. The cost of the seeds varies from shop to shop. Sometimes, you can get one small packet of seeds for just RM1.

In my small backyard, I have tapioca plants, cangkuk manis (star gooseberry or sweet leaf), Brazilian spinach, chillies and kunyit (turmeric). My nephews and nieces all love fried cangkuk manis with eggs; I cook this dish whenever they visit me. The kunyit in the garden is useful when it’s time to cook assam pedas fish (spicy tamarind fish).

A novice gardener needs time to find out which vegetables he or she grows best.

Some of my friends have problems growing chillies; the vegetables just refuse to flourish under their care. “I guess I have hot hands,” one of them confided in me.

One was so frustrated that she went on to buy a big pot of fully grown chilli plant with lots of fruits on it for RM100!

However, I think it’s more fun to grow your own chilli plant from seeds and watch it bear lots and lots of fruits. Seeing that living thing bloom and thrive can make you walk on air for days!

Do you know that Australian scientists have revealed that plants really do respond to the way you touch them?  Therefore, besides giving them enough light, oxygen and water and more soil as they grow, make sure you show your plants some tender loving care as well. Check on them once in a while and make sure they are thriving well.

To all my friends and novice gardeners who are reading this column, happy gardening!