The Gardener In Me - December 2017

Though small in size, I am most contented to own one. One where I could play getting my hands dirty with soil in exchange for the beautiful greens. What more if the greens are also deliciously edible.

Since coming back to my holiday ( vacation ) home days back, I have been out in the garden a number of times everyday. When I am not tending to the plants, I would be there admiring and watching them.

I was so happy the other day when I first saw my pumkin plant. I thought it has borne me fruits. Not one but many. A gardener friend ever warned me that it is not easy to get one. This is because the stamens and stigmas are in separate flowers. Unless pollination takes place, fruit will not come by. The process is a must. Either you make it happen with your hands or there are insects around to help you out. Pray hard that the insects would. The moment when I saw some yellow flowers with small fruits right below them, I thought real fruits have set. I felt just so lucky at that instance. However, when I searched the internet, I found that I was terribly wrong. Those were just normal unpollinated female flowers. (Sigh ) . What a disappointment!

Female flower

Male flower
However, despite the disappointment, I removed all the weeds from the planter. It was a real difficult task. I got my hands itched all over from contacts with the hairy pumpkin plant. Luckily, the itch went away soon. I wanted the pumpkin plant to grow at its best without having to compete with the weeds for nutrients, space and water. I still have high hopes that it will bear fruits somehow without my interference.

Heaps of weeds were removed. There were no signs of any Kailan plants ever germinated from the seeds which I had sown on the planter weeks back.

I planted some sweet potato cuttings inside the planter to fully utilise the empty space. Hopefully, there would be something for me to harvest the next time I come back.

After that I top-dressed the planter with coffee grounds ( crushed coffee fiber ) to add more nutrients to the soil. I even dilluted my homemade Eco-friendly Enzymes in water and applied it onto the soil and plants for better growth and more.

Coffee grounds used as fertilizer

Front yard planter after weeds removal and top-dressed with coffee grounds.

Having done all that were necessary at the front yard planter, I moved on to work at the backyard planter. I have harvested most of the vegetables and cooked them in my kitchen days before. I did not pull out the whole of the plants. Instead, I cut them low; leaving at least two nodes or more above the ground for them to continue growing. Unlike the front yard planter, weeds removal was much easier here as there were not too many of them. After the removal, I top-dressed the soil with coffee grounds and watered the plants with my dilluted, homemade Eco-friendly Enzymes .

Backyard planter top-dressed with coffee grounds

Backyard planter top-dressed with coffee grounds
A lepidoptera insect resting on my Gynura bicolor plant.

I have always wanted to add more planters to my garden. Having just two are definitely not enough to satisfy The Gardener In Me! Thus, I added 3 big pot planters to my backyard yesterday. I am hoping to plant some climbing edibles to beautify and screen-off the back neighbour's kitchen - for more privacy. However, I have yet to fill them up with soil. I guess I can only do so the next time I come back as I would be going for a 7-day retreat on the 23rd..

After the retreat, I would go back to Kuala Lumpur. Then, like always, I would have to leave my plants under the care of nature. All the best!

I Am Rather Happy With My Small Backyard Garden Right Now

After quite a long absence, I am finally back to my vacation home where My Small Backyard Garden is today. Soon after I got out from my sister's car, I took a quick look at the front yard planter. I knew I shouldn't have high expectation at all but I still felt very disappointed at the sight of the weeds having dominated almost the whole of the planter. The pumpkin plant managed to survive and bear flowers somehow but there was no sign of the kale plants at all. I have yet to take a closer look at it as it was already quite late when we arrived. I will have to pull out all the weeds tomorrow or day after to know the actual condition.

Here is the picture of the front yard planter which I had captured at that instance :

Beautiful greenery but unfortunately not my desired greens.

Having seen the unfavoured growths at the front yard planter, I quickly went to the backyard to see the other planter, but with much less optimism. A lot of times when you least expect the best to happen, you would be happy to see even the slightest good things or happenings. It was just the case for me right then. I was closed to jumping with joy at the sight of the beautifully grown vegetables ( except for the Ceylon Spinach ). They have grown just so well and beyond my expectation. There were some weeds here and there but they have not hindered the growth of the vegetables, or so it seemed.

See the pictures below :

The Sweet Potato plants have overgrown to the outside of the planter and are ready for harvest.

The Basil Leaf plants are flowering and ready for harvest.

The Red Amaranth plants are growing in abundance. They may be over-crowded but look healthy somehow.

The Gynura bicolor plants are at their most beautiful state. They are ready for harvest.

The Madeira Vine has already trailed up the fence and looks healthy though it is not ready for harvest yet.

Despite the disappointment that I have with my front yard planter, I am quite happy for at least the backyard planter is rather beautiful and productive. Thank goodness.

Note : This blog post is a continuity from an earlier blog post. Click HERE to read the earlier blog post.

About Lemon Grass And How To Sun-dry Its Leaves To Make Tea

Lemon grass ( Cymbopogon citratus ), is a species of grass native to parts of Asia and Africa although it has been well-known for many generations by various indigenous peoples of Central and North America. It is a perennial grass that thrives in warm weather and it can grow up to four feet tall in ideal climates. You can find lemon grass planted in many Malaysians' home gardens.

Its Uses =>

Lemon grass is most commonly consumed as a fresh herb (in curries and soups), oil and tea. The tea is also sometimes applied to the skin as a toner and cleaner. Boiled lemon grass leaves or stalks (dried or fresh) water is very good for bathing especially for women who have given births as it is said to be able to expel excessive 'winds' from their bodies.  Lemon grass tea has a slightly spicy taste and may provide a wide variety of health benefits.

Its Benefits =>

Lemon grass promotes healthy digestion, calms nervous disorders, relieves insomnia, normalizes blood pressure and removes toxins from the body. Lemon grass may be an effective colon cancer fighter. Researchers discovered that lemon grass contains citral, a substance that kills cancer cells, but does not harm healthy cells in any way. Lemon grass also displays strong antioxidant properties and is a mild antimicrobial. The toxicity of lemon grass is very low, so it is safe to be consumed as tea on a regular basis, unless you’re pregnant.

Propagation And Growing Conditions =>

Lemon grass is a fast growing and easy to grow plant. It can be propagated via division from its mother plant. However, you may also plant one using store bought stalk that has a few roots in sight. You can either plant it direct into the soil or leave it to root a little bit more in the water before planting. Lemon grass grows well under full sun with plenty of water. It prefers a rich and well-draining soil. If it is grown in containers, you may want to top-dress it with compost or organic fertilizers every couple of weeks so as to ensure it gets enough nutrients.

My mum especially loved lemon grass for its delicate hint of lemon. She also cherished it for its many health benefits. She used to make tea from its fresh leaves or stalks for us to drink every now and then. While it is best to use fresh leaves or stalks to make the tea, it would be good to have the dried ones at hand, especially when you don't feel like going out to the garden to do the harvest.

Here is how to sun-dry lemon grass leaves to make tea :

1) Harvest some lemon grass leaves or stalks on a clear-weathered morning. Wash them clean and cut them into small pieces.

2) Spread them evenly and thinly on a tray and bring them out to dry under the hot sun.

3. The drying time may take one to three days depending on the heat of the sun. They should be completely dried when they turn golden brown in colour. You can also use your clean hands to feel it.

4. After that you may store them in an air tight glass bottle for future use.

To prepare the tea, you may use about 2 tablespoons of dried lemon grass leaves to make one glass of tea. Pour hot boiling water onto the leaves in a mug or drinking glass and let it stand for at least 10 minutes. Then strain and serve.

Small Space, Budget Balinese Garden Made Possible

Bali Island is a favourite holiday destination for many people from around the world. It is a wonderful place popular for its arts, beaches, cultures, nature and nightlife. Bali has its own arts and practices one could never find elsewhere in the world. The Balinese are Hindus. They hold very strongly to their beliefs. They practise them in their everyday life. If you ever visited Bali, you will be impressed by these influences in their dances and handicrafts. You will also notice that they love and respect nature so much so that it is reflected in their gardens.  

Let's take a look at these essentials that make a typical Balinese Garden :-

1) Tropical plants such as fern trees, frangipanis, palm trees, pandanus, hibiscus, peacock plants, petunias, cordylines, bamboos, cycads, money plants and many more are usually used to give the garden a natural and tropical feel. 
2) Structures such as timber gazebos and furnishings such as cushions and curtains, rattan or timber furniture, hammocks and garden umbrellas are used to add functionality to the garden. 
3) Water features and sometimes, wind chimes are added to achieve the feeling of calm and peace. 
4) Carved statues and lanterns are used as focal points in the garden. 
5) Spotlights are used to highlight certain elements to enhance the overall landscape at night. 
6) Stone pathways are installed to connect places.

It is not difficult to create a full function Balinese feel garden if you have enough space and budget. However, even if you lack them both, or whether you want it indoor or outdoor, you can still create one that is much simpler ( omitting the bigger items ) that gives you similar feel. You do not need an expert to do it for you. Nowadays, creating a small Balinese garden on a budget is made possible by the availability of the materials at many garden nurseries or on the internet.

Here are some sample pictures of small, budget, 'simplified' and possible ' Do It Yourself ' Balinese gardens for your reference:

Before you decide what to buy, you may want to draft out a plan on a piece of paper to see how you would want to position your water feature, plants and other elements on the intended space. You may also generate an outcome view of it if you want to.

Here are the examples :

Layout Plan

Perspective View

After that you can list out and calculate the materials you need to buy. 

Here is a sample Checklist of the materials needed :

A. Water Feature:
1) Water tank ( eg.: Fiberglass Tank )
2) Water spouting urn or carved statues
3) Underwater spotlight.
4) Water pump
5) Water filter
6) Potted Water plants
7) Granite or Lava Stone to surround the water tank

B. Balinese Lantern

Important Element : Balinese Lantern

C. Tropical Plants or Potted plants ( Different heights and colours ) to suit your outdoor or indoor garden. 

D. Pebbles

E. Stepping Stones 

F. Carved Statues

Carved Statue

Carved Statue

Carved Statue

Carved Statue

Carved Statue

G. Matching Chairs and Table ( optional )

When you are done, you can start sourcing, buying and finally, installing them according to the plan. Note : You may still need to do some adjustments here and there to achieve your desired Balinese garden. 

After that you can sit back and relax!

I Miss My Small Backyard Garden

Yes! December is the month. Yeah! The vacation month of the year is here again! This means that I can go back to my vacation home where My Small Backyard Garden is. The date is still undecided yet. But, it has got to be before the seventeenth. This is because I may be joining the Pureland Retreat Camp after this date for two weeks. I am ready to go back anytime now. My online handmade business can be brought to a halt. But, I have to wait for my Fourth Sister and her daughter. We have agreed to go back together in her car. I am waiting for their notice to set out. Usually, it would be last minute one. Patience is all that I have got from my father. So, it is alright to wait. 

Now, it has been a few weeks since I last set my foot on My Small Backyard Garden. How I miss it! I wonder how the vegetables are doing now. I am not worried about them lacking of water cos it has been raining very often nowadays. Nor am I worried about the Madeira Vine that should have made its way up the fence and enjoy the whole space. My main concern is that the other vegetables could be competing with each other for space now. I was reluctant to pull away or sacrifice any of them the last time I worked on the garden. The pumpkin plant could have overgrown and covered up the whole front yard planter leaving no space for the Kale plants ( Kailan ) to grow if ever they did germinate.  ( Read the post HERE to know what I have grown ). Moreover, there could be intrusion from weeds and some pests that could make things worse. Wish me luck! That somehow, I would still be greeted by lavishly grown, ' happy ' vegetables in My Small Backyard Garden on this coming vacation.

Arachis Pintoi - The Groundcover Plant

Arachis pintoi is orginated from South America; Brazil to be exact. It is found growing under open forests in its native range. Today, this plant has been distributed and cultivated as animal feed and erosion-control or ornamental or soil-improving groundcover in many countries like the tropical and sub-tropical countries. It grows well both on lowlands and highlands up to an altitude of 1,400 meter above sea level. Arachis pintoi has a few common names like Kacang-kacangan, Kacang Pintoi or Kacang Hias in Indonesia, Pinto Peanut in Australia and England, Yellow Peanut Plant in England, Mani Forrajero Perenne or Mani Perenne in Spain, Amendoim Forrageiro in Portuguese and Thua Lisong Tao in Thailand. However, despite the plant's common names, it does not produce peanuts.

Arachis pintoi is a low, herbaceous, leguminous and perennial shrub that can grow to a maximum height of 50 cm. It bears free-blooming, pretty flowers on short axillary racemes that are bright yellow and pea-shaped. Arachis pintoi can be propagated by stem cuttings or seeds (if available). Plants grown from seeds tend to establish its root system more quickly. However, in countries like Malaysia and Singapore, seeds are seldom used though. 

Arachis pintoi is a fast spreading plant with rhizomes and creeping stolons that root at nodes to form dense ground-hugging mat. In landscape planting, Arachis pintoi took around 2 to 5 months to cover up the whole ground, depending on the area size and planting distance. During the establishment period, it is prone to weed intrusion and therefore, needs weeding every now and then. 

Arachis pintoi is not a ' fussy ' type of plant. It can grow well in open space under direct sunlight though it prefers 70 to 80 percent of sunlight best. Arachis pintoi grows well on fertile loamy soils and well-drained sites. However, it can also withstand short periods of seasonal flooding, but not permanently waterlogged clay soils. Arachis pintoi is a very tough plant that can survive up to 4 months of drought. Other than that, it can tolerate infertile and acidic soils as well as high levels of aluminium and manganese soils. It can also survive well in shallow media of about 8 to 10 cm deep. 

Having mentioned all that, it is no wonder that I love to include it in my designs when I worked as a Landscape Designer years back. It just never disappoints. Do take a look at the pictures below :

My Most Popular Posts