Green space for rent

Avid gar­den­ers with lim­ited space in their homes are rent­ing plots of land in ur­ban farms and com­mu­nity gar­dens to cul­ti­vate herbs and veg­eta­bles.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Spaces - By LEA WEE

MORE and more Sin­ga­pore­ans are be­com­ing in­ter­ested in gar­den­ing, but with so many liv­ing in apart­ments and flats that might not have enough space or sun­light, or with com­mu­nity gar­dens al­ready full, it can be dif­fi­cult to ex­er­cise green thumbs.

Luck­ily, there’s now a new way for peo­ple to gar­den: they can rent a piece of land to grow their own greens.

Sev­eral pri­vate and gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions in the is­land state are of­fer­ing plots of land for lease to avid gar­den­ers. Un­der a new scheme launched by the coun­try’s Na­tional Parks Board, 80 plots were of­fered for rent by in­di­vid­u­als on three-year leases. It costs S$57 (RM177) to rent a 2.5sq m plot for a year; at that low price, it’s no sur­prise that all the units were snapped up and there is a wait­ing list.

Among the pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tions, there is D’Kranji Farm Re­sort, which usu­ally of­fers farm stay­ca­tions; it is now also leas­ing out part of its land to hob­by­ist gar­den­ers and com­mer­cial op­er­a­tors who sup­ply greens to su­per­mar­kets.

Twenty-one of its 22 plots have been taken up un­der one- to 10-year leases. Each plot ranges from 700sq m to 10,000sq m, with a fee of be­tween S$500 and S$10,000 (RM1,500 and RM31,000) a month.

Busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager Ni­cholas Lai, 27, says the am­a­teur farm­ers who bought their plots tend to be health-con­scious peo­ple.

“They want to know where their food comes from and that it is 100% chem­i­cal­free,” he says.

Pocket Greens, an ur­ban farm in Bukit Pan­jang, has been rent­ing out racks for peo­ple to grow mi­cro­greens un­der its rental rack adop­tion pro­gramme since 2014. Mi­cro­greens are tiny young greens such as broc­coli and kale which are har­vested when they are still ju­ve­nile plants.

Each rack comes with four lev­els, and each level can hold five trays. About 75% of its 70 racks have been taken up.

Pocket Greens co-founder Eng Ting Ting, who is in her late 40s, says that while some of her tenants are hob­by­ist gar­den­ers, most are par­ents who want their chil­dren to learn to grow ed­i­bles and not to take their food for granted. They also take their kids to the site to grow veg­eta­bles as a fam­ily ac­tiv­ity.

Some com­mu­nity gar­dens also rent out some plots for a fee.

One of them is Eng Kong Cheng Soon com­mu­nity gar­den near Toh Tuck Road. At 2,500sq m, it is the largest of its kind on a pri­vate es­tate. All 90 plots there, each about 3m by 2m, have been taken up. Gar­den­ers, mostly res­i­dents liv­ing in the pri­vate es­tates, con­do­mini­ums and Sin­ga­pore Hous­ing Board blocks nearby, pay about S$50 (RM155) a year for each plot.

A herb gar­den of her own

Re­tiree Kathy Chua, 65, re­lies on her herb gar­den to man­age all kinds of ail­ments.

When she has a toothache, she pops the blooms and leaves of the pan­ic­u­late spot flower plant into her mouth for tem­po­rary pain re­lief. The herb pro­duces a numb­ing and tin­gling sen­sa­tion.

She also makes tea out of the leaves of the moringa plant and cat’s whiskers plant to try to lower her high blood pres­sure and high choles­terol level re­spec­tively.

In­stead of sun­block, she ap­plies the in­ner leaf gel from her aloe vera plant on her skin.

Chua’s herb gar­den grows on a plot of land she rented from D’Kranji Farm Re­sort in Lim Chu Kang. For the past nine years, she has been shar­ing the 700sq m space with her two brothers, both in their 50s. The older one is re­tired while the younger one is work­ing as a fac­tory su­per­vi­sor.

The brothers grow ade­nium, or “fu gui hua” in Chi­nese, which is ap­pre­ci­ated for its colour­ful flow­ers and un­usual thick stems.

Chua’s knowl­edge of herbs comes from her days grow­ing up in a kam­pung and, in re­cent years, from other hob­by­ist farm­ers and visi­tors at D’Kranji.

She lives in an ex­ec­u­tive Hous­ing Board flat in Wood­lands with her hus­band and daugh­ter, but the space out­side her flat was not enough to sup­port her gar­den­ing en­thu­si­asm. There is a com­mu­nity gar­den near her home, but she did not man­age to get a plot there.

The herbs she grows at D’Kranji in­clude com­mon ones such as lemon­grass, mint, and basil, as well as rarer ones such as le­mon myr­tle and le­mon ver­bena, which are more com­monly found in cooler cli­mates.

She and her sib­lings sell some of their plants, but the in­come is not enough to cover the S$1,500 (RM4,600) monthly rent. It is largely paid for by her fac­tory su­per­vi­sor brother.

She has eight other sib­lings, but like her im­me­di­ate fam­ily, they are not in­volved in her gar­den.

In the past few years, she has started to share her knowl­edge with school­child­ren and com­pa­nies. The re­sort pays her to con­duct ed­u­ca­tional tours.

She and her re­tiree brother are at their plot al­most ev­ery day for four to six hours, rest­ing oc­ca­sion­ally un­der a me­tal and wood kiosk that they con­structed to shel­ter them from the el­e­ments.

She says: “If I don’t go there, I feel like some­thing is miss­ing from my life. I worry about how my plants are do­ing.”

Or­chid fan takes on veg­gies

Joseph Yeo’s or­chid ob­ses­sion is such that his con­do­minium has more than 300 pots of the plant on his bal­cony and the cor­ri­dor out­side. If space was not an is­sue, he would have grown much more.

Then last year, the 62-year-old avid gar­dener passed by a new com­mu­nity gar­den near his home and saw a ban­ner that said it was rent­ing out plots at only S$50 (RM155) a year. He bal­loted for a spot im­me­di­ately and got one.

Un­for­tu­nately, he soon learnt that the rules at Eng Kong Cheng Soon gar­den do not al­low or­chids to be grown, only fruit and veg­eta­bles.

Since Yeo just loves gar­den­ing in gen­eral, he was happy to abide by the rules.

On his plot, he grows leafy veg­eta­bles and herbs com­monly used in his fam­ily’s meals. They in­clude let­tuce, chye sim, xiao bai cai, and kai lan as well as herbs such as Thai basil and mint.

He lives with his wife in a con­do­minium about an eight-minute walk from the gar­den.

He is semi-re­tired and works part-time in the petro­chem­i­cal in­dus­try.

Such is his en­thu­si­asm for gar­dens that he vol­un­teers at Gar­dens by the Bay, the 101ha na­ture park sited on re­claimed land, where he helps with weed­ing, prun­ing, and plant­ing.

He vis­its his plot at Eng Kong Cheng Soon al­most ev­ery day for at least an hour each time to wa­ter the plants.

On week­ends, he can spend up to five hours there, pot­ting, re­plant­ing, and pre­par­ing the beds. His wife joins him some­times.

Hav­ing a plot in the com­mu­nity gar­den also al­lows him to in­ter­act with other gar­den­ers – all the gar­den­ers share their har­vests with one an­other.

When some of them are busy, he helps to “babysit” their plots.

He says: “It’s about re­viv­ing the kam­pung spirit and learn­ing to care, share, and live with one an­other.”

— Pho­tos: ST

Chua on her plot of land where she has planted a large va­ri­ety of herbs, plants, and fruits.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.