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.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Spa­ces -

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 hello@eatsshoot­san­d­roots.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.

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