With over 90 per cent of the food imported, it is no secret that Singapore struggles to feed itself, relying on food producers from over 160 countries. While diversifying food sources helps alleviate some of these issues, it also creates an unsustainable reliance on ships, planes and other carbon-emitting, expensive transportation methods.
The Agri-food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has promised to raise Singapore’s self-sufficiency levels for eggs, fish and leafy vegetables to 30, 15 and 10 per cent respectively. While technology may play a part in this, perhaps the better solution lies closer to home.
It is possible for individuals to grow their own vegetable produce at home in an urban apartment setting, such as in front/back yards, apartment balconies, and even rooftops.
Growing vegetables in Singapore’s high-rise apartments sounds daunting, but it actually isn’t. Permaculture consultant and designer Debbie Han, shares 5 vegetables you can grow in your own balcony. The main consideration is space and hence the best medium to grow a variety of produce would then be pots.
1. Lady’s finger (okra): This member of the hibiscus family is typically grown for their pods (which are used a lot in Southeast Asian cuisine) and they happen to have beautiful edible flowers as well. If your balcony receives a lot of sun, this plant will typically thrive and yield great results.
2. Brinjal (eggplant): While a variety of pots are employed in growing vegetables at home, a clay pot is recommended for brinjal as clay absorbs and retains heat better. This boosts the growth process significantly. Remember to clean and disinfect the pot before planting. Leaving it out in the sun for a day should be sufficient to ensure optimum sanitary standards.
3. Sweet potato leaves: Sweet potatoes are a hardy plant that are known to grow well even in poor soil. Hence, when grown in optimal conditions, this plant will flourish amazingly well. Ensure there is sufficient aeration in the soil and water, and Singapore’s hot tropical weather will do the rest.
4. Spring onions: Spring onions are a perennial vegetable that hails from the onion family. The great thing about spring onions is that when mature, you can actually harvest the seeds from the plant to prepare for the next batch.
5. Kai lan (Chinese kale): This plant grows well in warm temperatures and can be harvested multiple times. Leave the main stalk in the pot and harvest the leaves when fully grown. The leaves will grow back quickly and you will have a fresh supply of kai lan ready for your next meal in no time.
Growing your own food needs a little time and effort at the beginning to get the process started. Once that happens it boils down to careful monitoring and observation.