Don’t believe that the “organic” food at the supermarket is really that clean? Sick of being part of the big capitalist machine and want to start living off the land? Unfortunately, in land-scarce Singapore, being able to grow enough vegetables to not have to buy food is impossible (or at least, no one has managed it yet) unless you live in a house with a sizeable garden.
On the other hand, it is possible to replace some supermarket-bought items on your grocery list by growing them yourself. Yes, even if you live in an HDB flat with limited space. Obviously we are not suggesting that the methods here will completely replace your need to buy vegetables for the rest of your life. But hey, every cent counts and if you could replace some if the costs and an easy and potentially fun way, why not right?!!
How to grow vegetables if you live in an HDB flat
If you live in an HDB flat, you have several options for growing plants.
The first is to grow your plants indoors. You might need artificial lighting if your home is too dim.
The nice thing is that there are quite a few solutions catering to indoor gardeners. For instance, AVA has come up with veggie home growing kits consisting of vertical pipes that can free up floor space. Other plant nurseries like Far East Flora also carry starter kits for certain types of plants.
Another alternative is to use the corridor outside your flat, attaching planter boxes to the ledge, like these people have done. Just be wary of accidentally breeding mosquitoes and giving your neighbours cause to complain.
If growing plants in your flat isn’t an option or you simply need more room, you can rent a plot of land, which should cost between $220 and $1,000 a month, depending on the size and location. Just like BTO flats, you can end up waiting years before you get off the waitlist, though. Here are some farms that rent out plots of land:
- Green Valley Farms, 1 Bah Soon Pah Road
- D’Kranji Farm Resort, 10 Neo Tiew Lane 2
- New Sky & Land Organic Agriculture, 3 Lim Chu Kang Lane 6
Tips to get you started
As a beginner, it’s best to pick up a starter kit from AVA or at a nursery, where you can get specific instructions on how to start growing your crops.
As you start becoming a more independent gardener, you will need to buy pots or planters, potting soil and seeds or seedlings. It is generally easier though more expensive to buy seedlings or small plants than to try to grow them from scratch with nothing but seeds and soil. Other tools you might need include a trowel and a watering can, although you can probably find substitutes around the house. Eventually, you might need to start thinking of getting fertilisers.
If you’re figuring things out on your own, don’t try to buy a huge variety of seeds in hopes that you’ll be able to feed yourself immediately. You can follow everything those Youtube videos say to a tee, but if the sunlight and temperature aren’t right, your plants just won’t grow.
Different plants will need different types of lighting conditions, and in the beginning it will take a while to figure out what works. What grows well in your corridor might shrivel up and die if you transfer it indoors. Furthermore, what works on your friend’s balcony might not work so well on yours.
Many types of leafy green vegetables take about 20 to 40 days to grow. This means that in order to completely replace your leafy green supermarket purchases you’ll need to make sure you plant enough to feed yourself in 20 to 40 days.
On the other hand, herbs like basil tend to grow much faster so you can easily quit buying them at the supermarket altogether. You will need to harvest them regularly in order for the herbs to survive, but you can freeze and dry them for future use.
What you can grow
Here’s a list of herbs and vegetables it’s possible to grow in Singapore’s climate.
- Chinese cabbage
- kai lan
- chye sim
- long beans
- lady fingers
Again, you may not be saving thousands every month, but a fun and cost saving hobby like growing food at home can shave off some precious dollars. It could also give you some much needed therapy from work, and a little more to talk about when you have bored guests over, pretending to like your cooking. 🙂
Have you ever tried growing your own vegetables or food at home? Share your experiences in the comments!