Urban farming in Singapore is taking off in a big way — and about time too. After all, urban farming brings about plenty of benefits, such as increased green space, community bonding and the availability of nutritious food. It also teaches people to be appreciative of their food sources.
It’s heartening to see increased awareness and an emphasis on not only what we consume and use, but also the effects of our actions and choices on the health of the environment. Because we all share this Earth, we are collectively responsible for what happens now and in the future. Which means everyone’s got a part to play, and every little bit counts.
Now, living in high-rise Singapore needn’t stop you from taking up the urban farming movement in your own way. You can grow your own crops wherever you are, as long as you have a bit of space, some sunlight, and motivation (as well as perseverance).
Here are three ways you can start urban farming — even if you live in an HDB flat — giving you the chance to help your family lead healthier, more ecologically responsible lives.
1. Join a Community Garden
Photo: Kampung Sembawang‘s Facebook
As their name suggests, community gardens are a government-supported initiative that offers green-fingered HDB residents the opportunity to get together and garden. As you’d expect, these gardens are located within the neighbourhood estates, and tended to by volunteer gardeners.
Due to their popularity and usefulness in building social cohesiveness, (there’re few things more humbling and relaxing than gardening, after all) community gardens are one of the easiest ways for eco-conscious Singaporeans to start urban farming. You’ll also get an opportunity to make some like-minded new friends with which to share your hobby.
You get to do some some good too; part of the harvest from community gardens may be sold to raise funds for the needy during grassroots events. Other community gardens allow needy residents to take what they need. And the harvest isn’t anything to sneeze at either — Sembawang GRC once harvested over 700kg of vegetables for the needy.
Get started by enquiring at your local Residents’ Committee to see if there are any planting plots available at gardens near you. If there are, you may apply for membership and you’’ll be raking and hoeing with your new garden buddies in no time.
Even if there are no plots open, you may still get your wish. NParks allows new community gardens to be created, provided you gather enough like-minded residents, and subject to fulfilment of conditions, including suitability and safety.
2. Plant in Your Corridor
Another popular option involves planting an urban garden right at your doorstep. Examples abound of talented HDB dwellers who have been successfully growing and harvesting their own fruits and vegetables in their very own corridors.
Raising a garden in your corridor requires some luck. For starters, you need an appropriate amount of sunlight and rain in your corridor. Also, hopefully your neighbours aren’t the paranoid type who think hordes of mosquitoes are waiting behind every leaf to give their precious children dengue fever. You should also look out for stray cats, who might just decide to turn your fledgling nursery into an exciting new toilet.
Bear in mind HDB corridors are designated common areas, so you’ll have very little ground (haha) to negotiate if your gardening somehow attract complaints. Make sure you’re not obstructing the way, keep at least 1.2m width for passage, pack away your tools neatly and safely, keep your gardening area clean, and maintain cordial ties with your neighbours — perhaps by offering them first pick when harvest time rolls around.
Other than the above, having a knack for DIY craftwork will prove handy, as you may need to jury-rig your nursery to create the ideal conditions for your plants to thrive. Especially if you’re looking to supplement your family’s vegetable needs beyond the occasional sprig of hand-picked mint.
3. Set up Indoor Planting Systems
If corridor-planting is not a viable option (especially likely with some newer, more claustrophobic HDB estates), you can try to have your urban garden indoors. All you need is a balcony or a fairly open space with good sunlight — and a vertical garden system that allows you to stack rows of vegetable and herb crops and grow them on top of each other.
How? Through the magic (well, science really) of aeroponics, which is a system of using nutrient-rich water to cultivate healthy plants. All told, aeroponic systems need only 10 per cent of the water and space compared to conventional soil farming methods. This makes it an ideal (and clean) choice for urban farming.
Check out Aerospring, which sells full-sized aeroponic garden kits capable of growing 27 or 36 edible plants at a go with minimum fuss. Prices start from $580 per set. Aerospring is also raising a Kickstarter for their Indoor Kit. Complete with lights, this versatile kit is capable of growing you a full salad right next to your dinner table.
But maybe you aren’t ready to commit to such large-scale bohemia. Well in that case, the Click and Grow kit may be more to your taste. Touted as a counter-top, indoor mini garden growing system, you can grow up to 45 different crops, including leafy greens, herbs and flowering plants.
Just it set up wherever you want, plug it in (lamps are included) and watch as fresh seeds germinate and sprout right before your very eyes. Ideal for whatever you’re in the mood for.