GREEN AM­BI­TION

More than a leisure pur­suit, ur­ban gardening of­fers home­own­ers the op­por­tu­nity to grow their own fresh pro­duce. Here are some help­ful tips on what veg­eta­bles to grow and how to tend to your greens.

Home & Decor (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS -

Help­ful tips on grow­ing your own ur­ban gar­den and how to tend to the veg­eta­bles.

Be­fore you be­gin, think about whether it is bet­ter to pur­chase your crops as seeds or trans­plants. Buy­ing seeds al­lows you to se­lect from a wider range of plants and is eas­ier on the pocket. On the other hand, trans­plants are easy, im­me­di­ate and good for small gar­dens. A trans­plant with a healthy root sys­tem is also more likely to sur­vive.

If you have the lux­ury of space, a raised bed with about

20cm of soil is one of the best places to grow your crops. Al­ter­na­tively, you can buy a deep rec­tan­gu­lar trough or pot of the same depth, with drainage holes. Mix pot­ting soil and com­post mix in equal parts and you are ready to go.

WHAT TO GROW

LONG BEANS

Fans of sam­bal long beans will be pleased to know that this is a vegetable that even be­gin­ners

can grow quite eas­ily. Sow the seeds and pro­vide a trel­lis for the plant to climb as it grows.

BRIN­JAL

Another easy crop to start with, brin­jals or eggplants are best grown in clay pots. Make sure to clean and dry your pot in the sun be­fore plant­ing.

SWEET POTATO LEAVES

Se­lect a spot that gets full sun­light and plant the seeds in sandy, well-drained soil. Sweet potato leaves are hardy and re­quire lit­tle care.

SPRING ONIONS

Con­trary to pop­u­lar con­cep­tion, spring onions are not the same as the leafy green tops of onion bulbs. Grown from seeds, they can be har­vested in eight to 10 weeks. When the plant ma­tures, you can har­vest the seeds to pre­pare for the next batch of crops.

Other herbs and veg­eta­bles that are pop­u­lar among ur­ban farm­ers in­clude pan­dan, Thai basil, curry leaves, lemon­grass, cherry toma­toes, lady’s fin­ger, caixin, kangkong and kailan.

CAR­ING FOR YOUR FARM

Keep­ing your ur­ban farm healthy is the best pro­tec­tion against gar­den pests. Set up your first line of de­fence by adopt­ing a holis­tic ap­proach of hav­ing a di­verse mix of ed­i­ble greens and flow­ers, grow­ing the right crop in the right place, and ton­ing down on ni­tro­gen-rich fer­tilis­ers.

Did you know that beneficial in­sects such as la­dy­birds and lacewings can help com­bat com­mon pests? By grow­ing herbs such as pars­ley and cilantro, and veg­eta­bles such as chives, you can at­tract these lit­tle helpers to ward off aphids, mites and scales. In time, your army of beneficial in­sects will out­grow the nasty pests and your ur­ban farm will thrive. The key is to main­tain a healthy ecosys­tem with min­i­mal hu­man in­ter­ven­tion and pes­ti­cides.

COM­MON PESTS

ANTS

Ants are quite harm­less and help to move or­ganic ma­te­ri­als around. How­ever, their pres­ence can be a nui­sance and their bor­ing may cause plant roots to dry out. Use ant bait such as a com­mer­cial sugar and bo­rax so­lu­tion.

APHIDS

These small, soft-bod­ied in­sects come in green, red and black. They gather on the un­der­side of leaves and buds to suck plant juices. Aphids pro­duce a sticky sap called hon­ey­dew when they feed. Aphid in­fes­ta­tions can stunt a plant’s growth and cause yel­low leaves. Avoid ap­ply­ing too much ni­tro­gen fer­tilis­ers. Use a strong jet of water to blast aphids off your plants. For se­ri­ous in­fes­ta­tions, spray with an in­sec­ti­ci­dal soap.

BORERS

These are the lar­vae of bee­tles or cater­pil­lars that lit­er­ally bore holes into the stems, roots and trunks of your plants. Fruit trees and veg­eta­bles such as squash are sus­cep­ti­ble to these lit­tle guys. To pre­vent at­tacks, cover your veg­eta­bles with a float­ing row cover to pre­vent the in­sects from lay­ing eggs.

CATER­PIL­LARS

There are many species of cater­pil­lars. Some at­tack trees, while oth­ers tar­get veg­eta­bles. Or­ganic spray Bacil­lus thuringien­sis (Bt) tar­gets these pests safely and ef­fec­tively.

LEAF MINERS

These look like cater­pil­lars but tun­nel within leaves, leav­ing wind­ing trails. This makes it dif­fi­cult to get rid of them as once in­side the leaves, they are pro­tected from pes­ti­cide sprays. Cover your veg­eta­bles with a float­ing row cover to pre­vent the in­sects from lay­ing eggs.

ROOT MAG­GOTS

Root mag­gots cause dam­age to the roots of car­rots, cab­bage, onions and radishes. The adult fly lays eggs on the roots at the top of the soil and the mag­gots tun­nel into the root to feed. Cover your crops with a float­ing row cover.

SNAILS

If you are grow­ing leafy veg­eta­bles, be­ware of these slimy gas­tropods that feed at night. Space plants farther apart so that they have fewer hid­ing places. Trap them with beer traps (pour beer on a saucer) and when they’ve con­gre­gated there, toss them into a pail of soapy water and use them as com­post.

BUY­ING SEEDS AL­LOWS YOU TO SE­LECT FROM A WIDER RANGE OF PLANTS AND IS EAS­IER ON THE POCKET. ON THE OTHER HAND, TRANS­PLANTS ARE EASY, IM­ME­DI­ATE AND GOOD FOR SMALL GAR­DENS.

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