Making Your Own Garden in the City
BY: Patrick Lo
Patrick Lo heard about the vegetarian diet from a liver/ gall badder flush naturopathic practice eight years ago and became a vegetarian with no turning back. During his vegetarian days, he participated in many different vegetarian promotional events in order to learn the latest information and easy-to-make home recipes so that he could share them with others. He believes a global climate crisis can be mitigated by everyone taking a small step with their diet.
At the beginning of 2020, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, we had to stay home and keep social distancing. People have been creative in figuring out ways to kill time. One of my friends, Amy Wong, who is a gardening tutor, introduced me to a new hobby: home gardening. I asked her some questions about gardening in Hong Kong. Amy is an Environmental Protection Officer and an arborist. She also teaches gardening in schools part-time.
Patrick: Property prices in Hong Kong are so high, people are living in small apartments. Are they suitable for home gardening?
Amy: There are already a few families trying the “family farm” concept. There are also supplies available in local markets. I would like to share with you tips to implement home gardening.
There are three elements needed for home gardening: water, sunlight and air. For better yield, you can choose different means according to your apartment’s environment.
Sunlight: If sunlight time is insufficient, you can use an LED lamp as a supplement.
Air: Plants need good ventilation
Water: This should be okay for most families
You can grow from soil or water. For health and eco-friendly concerns, the farming should be organic. You can choose to grow edible plants like veggies and herbs, or decorative plants, or even plants that can repel insects.
There are different pots to choose from: table pots, hanging pots, stackable pots (movable), pergola pots, climbing pots etc. Even if you only have limited windowsill or terrace spaces, you can still grow enough organic food for your family.
You should choose to plant veggies, fruits or flowers according to the seasons and weather. For example, it is more suitable to choose veggies for harvesting in the spring-summer time now. For home gardening, there are mini versions of some plant varieties like pepper, cucumber, water spinach, pigweed, lettuce, salad greens, Chinese globeflower, different beans, cherry tomato, spring onion, cilantro and herbs.
Herbs are edible and have fragrances. Some herbs can even repel insects. You can grow lemongrass, lemon balm, peppermint, rosemary, basil, Chinese globeflower or thyme. They are handy when you cook spaghetti and western meals at home.
You can build your confidence by starting to grow plants with a short harvest period, like mustard sprouts, carrot sprouts and sweet potato leaves. These take only one to two weeks for harvest. When you are confident, you can challenge yourself by growing strawberries or rice in a pot.
Home gardening choices:
1. Buy seeds, grow your own seedlings, dividing them and pot them when ready.
2. Buying vegetable shoots can increase the yield. You can buy them locally from Kadoorie Farm
3. Regrow plants from leftovers, like green onion heads, garlic, onion, bokchoy, lettuce hearts and pineapple crowns. Cut the bottom off the plants and put the top part into water or soil. They will regrow themselves. It is fun and economical.
4. Seeds from fruits, such as melons, lime and tangerine, can also be used for gardening.
5. You can also buy fruit sprouts from local farm stores or Kadoorie Farm
You need not compromise your organic gardening at home since you are the consumer of the products. So it is not advisable to use chemical pesticides on your plants. No matter whether you are growing in water or soil, insects are inevitable. You can use natural pesticides like osthole or home-made enzymes, or pepper/garlic water, to repel insects. For natural fertilizers, fruit peel, coffee residue etc. are suitable options whether you are growing plants in water or soil. They are healthy and eco-friendly.
Now that we know that having our own garden in the city is very easy, we can all get creative and start growing some food!