Money does not grow on trees, as the old saying goes. Imagine, if it did, we could simply pluck RM 50 notes from them and pop them into our wallets! ?
Of course, the above scenario is pure fiction. But let’s think about whether money can grow on trees in a different sort of way.
How much is your weekly spend on vegetables? As well as on basic ingredients forming the base for most Malaysian dishes, ie. onions, garlic, ginger, chillies, lime, curry leaves, etc?
OK, so these items are not terribly expensive. Unlike fuel, they are not rising exponentially in price. Regardless…every little bit adds up and the overall cost of living is steadily increasing. A simple comparison of the prices of these items over the years will illustrate this.
So, let’s consider this – what if you could grow your own vegetables, and save on groceries while doing a little bit extra for the environment also? Wouldn’t this be a fun project in which the whole family could be involved, from elderly parents down to the little ones? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to share what you’ve grown with your neighbours, friends and family?
In fact – if this became a serious hobby – you might even sell some of your produce.
Even if you don’t end up selling any produce, it still makes better financial sense to grow your own vegetables. The few ringgit spent in investing in seeds and basic set-up, can provide you with an endless supply of vegetables month after month. The flavour and texture of home-grown vegetables is usually far superior to that of vegetables which have been bought, as well.
Before you say “Cannot lah…I’m no good at gardening!” Take heart – it is easier than you think. Read on for tips on how to get started.
What to Plant?
So, first things first – what to plant?
The experts say, start small and start easy. Don’t get too over-enthusiastic and embark on a wild plant-a-thon, before you have even tried out a few plants to gauge how you are doing. Go for the easiest – onions, garlic, chillies, curry leaves, ginger, etc. These are plants that have been growing easily in Malaysia for centuries.
You can start planting from seed, or buy seedlings. Planting from seed is cheaper of course, but the seeds need to be carefully cared for, or they will not sprout. They cannot be allowed to get too dry, but at the same time, they cannot be too wet. For your first few attempts, you might want to try out planting from seedlings first.
How and Where to Plant?
Ok, second question – how and where to plant?
This one is a no-brainer if you live in a landed property. In the garden of course! But what if you live in an apartment/condo and do not have access to a garden? Does this mean you are not eligible to compete for the title of gardener of the year? No, not at all! It just means that you need to be more creative. You will be planting in containers and pots instead of directly into the soil, and your plants will be indoors, on window sills or balconies.
Whether or not you are planting direct into the soil in your garden, or creating a container garden in an apartment setting, there are several basic requirements that you will need to consider.
Sunlight : If your plants don’t get enough light, they won’t be as productive and are more likely to be attacked by insects or infected with diseases. Make sure the area in which you are planting receives at least, 6 hours of sun a day. Having said this, excess heat is also not beneficial. If the area that you have planted your plants in is hit by direct afternoon sun, some shade during the extremely hot times might be useful.
Water : Your plants need to be watered regularly. However, do not over-water. The objective is to keep your soil moist but not soaking wet. If you are planting using containers, you must ensure that there is sufficient drainage at the bottom of the container so that excess water can drain out. Excess water damages roots and rots them. If you find drainage in your containers to be an issue, make a couple of extra holes.
Soil : The quality of soil should be as good as possible. Again, container gardeners may select from a range of good quality potting soil bags available for sale at hardware stores, hypermarkets, plant nurseries etc. One can even go organic here if one wishes – thereby increasing the likelihood of better taste, in addition to other health benefits.
Fertiliser : Some soil already has fertilizer mixed into it. If it doesn’t you should add your own. A range of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium based fertilisers are available from hardware stores, hypermarkets, plant nurseries etc. Many gardening enthusiasts even make their own fertilizer.
Happy Planting, Happy Harvesting and most importantly…Happy Saving! ?