Garden time with the kids
A mother gives her children her best present: the skills to be independent and self-sustaining when it comes to what they eat.
WHEN Su Yen Pang tried her her hand at growing orchids, it didn’t go ve very well – after the first round of beautiful flowe ers, she couldn’t revive the plants...
But the disappointing experience didn’t stop her when she decided to begin an edible garden. Pang, 34, a finance manager at an oil palm management company was determined in feed her three young daughters-Mya Emma, and Isla, aged seven, four, and two respectively – as healthly as possible.
She began working with urban edible gardening social enterprise Eats, Shoots & Roots in June last year and now has a thriving garden. Here, she shares a little bit of her gardening journey.
What inspired you to start this garden?
I started with wanting to rear some chickens for our own consumption, as I was worried that the chicken sold in supermarkets could have been injected with hormones and antibiotics been injected ed a better option for my kids.
I wanted to have my own chicken coop at home but my husband was worried the house would be “drowned" in the smell of chicken manure!
From there, I moved to the idea of having my own organic vegetable patch. And when I came cross Eats, Shoots & Roots in a magazine, I explored the idea of consuming vegeta. bles from my own garden.
What is the main objective for you of having an edible garden?
For my kids to eat clean and healthy vegetables, and also to educated them about the importance of knowing where their food comes from. I’d prefer if our vegetables are organic with no pesticides because my children have eczema and it’s important they eat as clean as they can.
Tell us a little bit about your garden.
The garden grows all sorts of get a never o bles and herbs. Some I’ve never heard of before! When I look at it from stage zero (before it was established) to the stage it is now, I can take pride in what I’ve done because the garden is thrivlt ing.
I’m happy with the result of this garden, which turned out way better than my orchids!
What has it been like taking care of the garden?
I send the kids to school in the morne. ing, then I go into the office. So I only have time when I come back from work. But I don’t find it difficult because it grows so well. It’s thriving.
I try to spend about an hour a day in the garden. When I am busy, I don’t get to visit the garden for a day or two but it’ s at the stage nowwhei twill still grow well. I try my best to go out because I enjoy watching my kids runoor ning around – it’s an outdoor family activity for us, so we’re not just cooped up indoors all day.
Has starting the garden changed your lifestyle?
No, not really. Well, the only thing that has changed is that I now have something to look forward to when I come home from work becauseIgetto be among the greens after a long stressful day in the office.
What challenges have you faced in taking care of the garden?
When it first started growing out a lot, I panicked. Everything was growing at the same time – it was like a forest! I was, like, “Oh my god, what’s happened
to my garden?” We couldn’t consume the vegetables, especially the kangkung, fast enough!
It’s fortunate that I had my gardener, Mr Rene. I spoke to him and he told me, “It’s OK, don’t panic, you just need to trim them (the plants).”
I also received great advice from the Eats, Shoots & Roots team that gave me assurance.
You can get a little lost not knowing what to do ....
What do you do with the produce?
We mostly harvest the leafy veggies and cook them up in dishes. Some of the plants, we didn’t know how to put them to good use. For example, we didn’t know what to do with the Indian borage. We did a lot of Googling and found out that it’s good for coughs.
Also, I never knew that one can just pluck the fruit of the roselle plant and consume the petals just like that. I boil the roselle with pandan leaves from my garden to make a drink, and my kids love it. They call it Ribena!
What is your go-to pesticides or pest control method?
We do not use any pesticides at all. So we just leave it as it is. Right now we don’t really have any issues, so there’s no need for any pest repellent.
What do you enjoy most about gardening or growing your own food?
I eat what I grow, and I know that it is all safe and clean to eat, and at the same time, I get to spend time with my kids in the garden.
It’s not just about work, work, work anymore – you come back home and there’s something that you can look forward to after a stressful day in the office.
Why do you think urban gardening is important?
I think it’s really important because in cities like Kuala Lumpur, you don’t get much space. More people live in highrise buildings, in condominiums, and apartments where there isn’t a lot of space to plant and grow their own vegetables.
We’re very lucky to have a big garden space. I appreciate the space I have for my own garden because in KL it’s considered a luxury. In Kota Kinabalu, where my husband is from, it’s more laidback and not as congested, so I still see lots of greens.
Back there, I enjoyed being in nature – I enjoyed being in the forests. So having my own garden is ideal. I feel very calm and peaceful near nature. I feel blessed to have a garden on my doorstep that I can go to for a little retreat.
D o you have any advice for someone who’s just getting started with gardening?
Don’t be afraid to try. I had zero knowledge about starting my own edible garden, and I contacted Eats, Shoots & Roots to guide me.
If you don’t take the first step, it will forever be “I will never make it”, “It will never happen”, “it’s really tough/difficult”, “it’s not that easy”.
I took that first step, I reached out, and to be honest, it’s not really that hard once you get going!
All you need is some initiative and passion. I had no knowledge and yet my garden is thriving now, so I’m sure anyone can do it. I don’t consider myself as a person with green hands but I learn new things all the time.
Anything else you’d like to add?
In my humble opinion, it’s very important to educate people about eating healthy, organic vegetables and growing them yourself.
There’s a food shortage in the world what with the growing global population, and I think people living in cities are pampered with convenience. They go to the supermarket if they want vegetables and ingredients to cook, everything is within arm’s reach.
In this modern world, and for the next generation, the problem of food shortage will only intensify. Therefore it’s very important to equip people with the knowledge of how to plant and grow their own food, and for the working class like us, it’s good to learn.
You never know when that day will come when there’s a catastrophe and food is scarce. You can’t go out to buy it when it’s simply unavailable. Then the skill and knowledge of planting will come in handy.
When I go back to Sabah on holiday, life is very simple there. A lot of people grow their own food. It’s a skill which is essential today. That’s why I want to teach my kids to know how to plant and grow their own food, to be independent, and not just buy everything from the supermarket when they want to cook.
Every family should encourage their children to do this – to be self-sustainable should anything happen.
For all I know, it could be the best present I could give to my children.
Eats, Shoots & Roots is a social enterprise that champions urban edible gardening. For more information, goto eats shoot sand roots. com or facebook.com/ eats shoot sand root sore-mail email@example.com.
Pang with her three daughters (from left) Emma, Isla, and Mya. — Photos: JAVAD TIZMAGHZ/Eats, Shoots & Roots
Pang’s is a ‘no dig’ garden using containers to form raised beds.
Hardy perennial leafy greens, Brazilian spinach, growing easily in Pang’s garden.
Healthy mint leaves.
Pang boils roselle with pandan leaves to make a drink her kids love.