How I built my edible garden under RM 1000? #3: Populate & Maintain garden

How I built my edible garden under RM 1000? #3: Populate & Maintain garden
We’ve covered how to research, and plan my edible garden and how I built two raised beds and a nursery
Now that my edible garden is set up, it’s a matter of planting and maintaining it!

1. What to plant and where

The only rule that my family imposed on me is that I cannot turn my home garden into a messy farm. So I need to make sure that my edible garden is organised. That requires some planning.
I decided to plant herbs on one bed, and vegetables on another. The general rule is planting similar plants together. Since I already have a list of what I want to plant, it’s a matter of thinking about their position.
I started with planting frequently used and difficult to care for plants at the front row (e.g chilli plant which is susceptible to pests like aphids). Less used plants or those that grows tall should be at the back. Basils are best planted with tomatoes as it is believed that they help each other repel insects.
With these requirements, I came up with a general plan:

2. Collect all the plants that I can get for free

I have a lot of existing plants in my garden before embarking on this project. With two raised beds, I will have space for more edible plants.
So the next step is to collect plants that I can get for free. I’ve gotten many of them (e.g kaduk, pandan, chives) from my neighbours.
If you don’t have friendly neighbours and friends with an edible garden, you get them from:

Starbucks’ drive through at Kota Kemuning has a community garden. Patrons are encourage to harvest edible plants from the garden. I got my lemongrass, panda, and turmeric from there.

Free Tree Society is a non-profit organisation which giveaway free plants on environmental days. Just follow them on Facebook and Instagram to be alerted on the next giveaway.

I have gotten some plants from both of these gardens.

3. Buy plants from the nursery and supermarket

There are plants that I want that are rare and cannot be plant through stem cuttings. So, I went to my favourite nursery, Ben Choo, at Sungai Buluh to get these plants like Kedondong, Ginseng Jawa, Ulam Raja, and Belimbing Buluh. This is also where I get my soil for RM 6.50 for a big packet.
I also got two huge galangal (lengkuas) at the supermarket for less than RM 4 per kg.

4. Plant

Now that I’ve collected all my plants, I just dig holes and start planting! I divide my raised beds into sections using wood from unwanted pallets. The first section is for chili while the second is for basil, and so on.
I also made use of the land outside of my house and planted belimbing buluh (my brother’s favourite sour fruit).

5. Label plants for easy identification

As I planted so many things, sometimes I don’t remember that the particular plot is already occupied with seeds/roots. Other times, I cannot recognise a sprouting plant or a new species (e.g Sessile Joyweed).
So I label some of my plants with ice-cream sticks and Tombow waterproof calligraphy pen. Its the easiest and prettiest way to do it.

6. Maintain: water, weed, and removing pests

Everyday, I try to spend at least 30 minutes in my garden. To me, it’s not a chore. It’s a break from the work, where I can relax my mind and eyes. It’s also part of my daily exercise. I will:
  • Water plants
  • Pluck out weeds
  • Trim plants
  • Hunt for caterpillars and snails

7. Fertilise

As I want my garden to be organic, I don’t use pesticide or chemical fertilisers. I’m lucky that the soil in my garden is already fertile so I don’t need to buy much fertilisers. Everytime I go to Starbucks, I get coffee grounds and just pour them into my raised bed and potted plants.

8. Save the seeds

I also save seeds from my plants for future propagating and for sharing with my friends. Below are seeds from my Ulam Raja plant. The flower withers and turn into slender seeds. I saved some of them, and placed the rest in the nursery. Now they are growing again. This is how I ensure that I have perpetual supply for this local vegetable.

9. Harvest

I didn’t expect that harvest will be bountiful that we will have more than we need! For example, as my spear mint and laksa leaves grew very quickly. So I needed to trim them to ensure better growth and left with more herbs that I needed. So I use them to make asam laksa. Check out my Asam Laksa Recipe at New Malaysian Kitchen.  I even have extra plants to give away to my neighbours!

IN A NUTSHELL

This project is one of the most laborious and time consuming personal project I’ve undertaken, but one that taught me a lot and most satisfying. It’s a wonderful feeling to see your hardwork grow into food that you and your family enjoy.

I believe this is something that anybody can do; just make do of what you have and be creative. It doesn’t have to be expensive either; I merely spend about RM 1000 to set up a garden with two raised beds and 50+ species of plants.

It has just been about a month or two, but I’m already eating food I grow such as ladies fingers, spring onions, sweet potato leaves, kangkung, and mulberries. If you are considering growing food, I suggest that you don’t wait too long. Just do it and in a matter of weeks you’ll be rewarded with fresh and organic food from your own garden!

“HOW I BUILT MY EDIBLE GARDEN UNDER RM 1000” SERIES

  1. Part 1: Research & Plan
  2. Part 2: Building Two Raised Beds & a Nursery
  3. Part 3: Populate & Maintain