Most of us don’t have big spaces that allow us to do serious gardening but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring a bit of green into our homes. Urban gardening has been gaining popularity and the great thing is that you don’t have have a green thumb to start nurturing plants. It can be learned!
You must be thinking, where do I begin? Don’t worry, we get into the nitty-gritty of the process here, to help you kickstart this journey!
What you need to start urban gardening?
1. Potting Mix
Potting mix plays an essential role in ensuring the growth of your new plant. They are usually a combination of materials such as peat, perlite, vermiculite, bark, sand, compost, and topsoil, ideal for newly potted plants or repotting. These are loose blends that will not compact around the plant roots and dry out too quickly. It aids in aeration and the absorption of water and moisture from its surroundings. Take note of your plant’s pH level, porosity, and water-holding capacity before you purchase a potting mix that best suits its needs!
You can get an All Purpose Potting Mix from The Garden Store, starting from S$3.90.
Think of fertilisers as vitamins for your plants. They promote healthy growth and root health by replenishing with vital nutrients that have been absorbed or flushed out of the potting mix. When selecting fertilisers, know your NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) values. These elements are macronutrients that should be in your fertiliser.
Usually, fertilisers contain one or all of these macronutrients. They play a part in plant enzymatic, cellular, and developmental functions. Fertilisers are available organic or inorganic and come in various mediums such as liquid, powder, and granular. So, which one do you get? It really boils down to your preferences and what works best for your plant.
You can get an Organic Vermicast Fertiliser from GreenSpade for S$6.
3. Moisture level
Unsure if you are watering your plants enough? If you are under watering or over-watering your plants, it will eventually cause detrimental damages.
Each plant has its own watering frequency. Most of the time, outdoor plants have a higher frequency compared to indoor plants. Other variables, such as the plant’s location, the surrounding temperature, and humidity, can directly affect the watering frequency.
It is recommended that you check the first two inches of your potting mix accordingly, to know when is the best time to water your plants. If it feels moist, you can skip the watering. Ensure that the potting mix is not completely dry too!
You can also use gardening tools like the 3-in-1 Meter Tester, which measures the potting mix’s moisture level at root level.
You can get a 3-in-1 Meter Tester from Tbox Labs for S$7.90.
Every plant has different ideal temperatures. It’s important to understand the type of plant that you’re nurturing. Plants usually fall under these categories: hardy, delicate, and tender. Most of them grow well within the temperature range of 18°C to 25°C.
If the temperature falls below or above the range, it can significantly affect a plant’s growth. In a day, a difference in temperature is unavoidable. A temperature difference of 3°C is ideally accepted. Anything drastic will hinder its growth and cause potential damage. Unsure if your plants are victims of poor temperature? If it shows signs of stunted growth and edges are turning brown, looking almost wilt, it is time to direct your attention before it’s too late. To combat these, you can work around the temperature of your home by altering other variables. This can mean, misting your plants frequently when there is an increase in temperature and a drop in humidity or playing around with your plant’s location.
Humidity greatly affects a plant’s transpiration rate. With high levels of humidity, there is a decrease in the amount of water lost via transpiration and vice versa for lower levels of humidity. The ideal humidity level for most indoor plants is between 40% to 60%. Anything that falls below that is very dry and can be stressful for plants that have adapted to a humid environment.
In Singapore, where most homes are temperature-controlled environments (e.g. air condition), it is crucial that you provide extra care for your plants to compensate for the high rate of transpiration. You can increase its water intake or work on the surrounding humidity level.
To increase the surrounding humidity, you can mist your plants daily, place your plants in a cluster, or place a humidity tray filled with pebbles and water underneath your plants.
You can get Dark Grey Pebbles from The Garden Store for S$22.
Plants use energy from sunlight to photosynthesise. Before you invest in a new plant, It’s wise to look into its light preferences. Of course, this will require close monitoring and a couple of trial and error.
Check if your plant falls under any of these categories: high-light, medium-light, or low-light. High-light plants require direct or strong sunlight for most of the day. Medium-light plants should stay out of direct sunlight but remain in a bright room. Low-light plants should be away from the window or preferably placed under indoor lighting.
If you find a lack of natural light in your home, you can opt for LED or compact fluorescent bulbs! It is also recommended that you let your plants rest after it has been exposed to light for a prolonged time.
You can get a 30W LED Grow Light Plant Lamp from Shopee, starting from S$17.99.
Trimming the dead leaves, stems, and flowers off your plants helps to prevent pests and lower the risk of plant-borne diseases. Apart from that, it ensures that plants are of the ideal size and shape to grow in its space.
Trimming should be carried out with a sterilised scissors or pruning shears. For most plants, it is best done at the beginning of its growing season and for flowering plants, after its flowering cycle. In one session, you should carefully follow the natural leaf shape and trim no more than 1/4 of a plant’s foliage. Some plants require regular trimming, but some can live by a few sessions within a year. It is best that you gauge the need for a trim by observing the physical condition of your plant.
You can get a Pruning Shear from The Garden Store for S$6.90.
Repotting does not necessarily equate to moving your plants into a new space. It could also mean replacing the old soil with a fresh one.
Of course, this is the case if you want to maintain the current plant size. As plants grow, it uses up the soil’s nutrients and organic materials, which means it will affect the soil’s function of retaining water and nutrients.
If you start noticing slow growth, roots growing out of the pot’s drainage hole, and the soil feels dry at touch even with frequent watering, it’s likely time for one. Don’t forget to use repotting tools to ease the process!
You can get the 3 Tools Garden Household Kit from Shopee for S$1.10.
9. Automated System
Ever dreamt of having a personal garden at the comfort of your own home? It is now possible with an automated system.
One such system is The Smart Garden. which comes with an automated watering function, an energy-efficient LED lighting system, and Smart Soil, which is a pH-balanced soil that releases nutrients in sync with a plant’s life cycle.
The Smart Garden 3 is similar to a coffee capsule machine, but instead of coffee, you get seeds in biodegradable plant pods. Offering more than 50 plant varieties, you will be spoiled for choices. Don’t see anything you fancy? Don’t worry, you can always use your own seeds.
You can get The Smart Garden 3 from asia.clickandgrow for US$99.95.
10. Planting Kits
Planting kits make urban gardening a lot easier, whether you’re an expert who wants a plug-and-play option or someone looking to pick up a fuss-free hobby.
The Urban Farming Kits are one us such kits that you can try. These kits come with a bag of organic soil, two simple-to-grow seed sticks, and a guide. With all these readily prepared, all you have to do is shower the seeds with tender loving care!
You can get Urban Farming Kits from Super Farmers, starting from S$19.90.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, you can start choosing the plant of your selection. Here are some plant varieties you can consider for your home!
Plant types great for urban gardening
1. Haworthia (Succulents)
Haworthias are popular succulents from Southern Africa that will make a nice addition to your home. These small, rosette-shaped plants have distinctive white patterns on its green leaves. There are about more than 80 variations of Haworthias, but they are generally easy to raise as they all have similar requirements!
Water: With succulents, you want to avoid overwatering, but don’t let it completely dry either. In any circumstances where the Haworthia is sitting in water for a prolonged time, you should opt for a container or pot that has adequate drainage. This will help prevent root rot.
Light: Haworthias are categorised under medium-light and low-light plants. They thrive best under bright light but not direct sunlight.
Temperature & Humidity: They grow best in a temperature range of 24°C to 32°C and can survive as low as 4°C, provided that other variables such as water supply and ventilation are well taken care of.
You can get Haworthias from Shopee, starting from S$6.
2. Crassula (Succulents)
With at least 350 species to its name, Crassula is an extensive category of the succulent plants, native to Southern Africa. Also known as the Jade plant, the leaves of a Crassula plant grows along its thin stem, similar to that of a shrub. They are also low maintenance plants, a popular choice of houseplant amongst many.
Water: Succulents like Crassula plants do not require frequent watering. They go dormant in warmer temperatures, requiring little water. If they are left to sit in wet soil for very long, their roots will rot.
Light: Crassula plants are categorised under medium and low-light plants. They require bright light to maintain their vibrant colours.
Temperature & Humidity: Most succulents grow best in a temperature range of 24°C to 32°C, and can survive as low as 4°C, provided that other variables such as water supply and ventilation are well taken care of.
You can get Crassulas from Shopee for S$3.99.
3. Ionantha (Air Plant)
The Ionantha is a genus of the Tillandsia family, native to Mexico, Costa Rica, and certain areas of Southern America. The striking visuals of the Ionantha plant make it a popular choice amongst homeowners—deep green and silver-hued leaves contrasting against the reds which will appear during its bloom cycle. It really brightens up any space it is in. Compared to other air plants, they require minimal attention, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to be done. Take note of these conditions!
Water: It is recommended to soak air plants once or twice a week depending on the environment and to regularly mist depending on the plant’s condition. The best time to water air plants is in the morning. Before you set them out to dry, ensure that there is no excess water!
Light: Ionantha varieties are categorised under medium-light plants. You can place them in areas where adequate light can still shine through.
Temperature & Humidity: Ionantha prefers warmer, humid conditions, but even in a dry environment, it can survive with regular misting. They can withstand a temperature range of 10°C to 32°C. They also depend on good air circulation for a longer life cycle.
You can get Ionanthas from atillyaday for S$4.
4. Okra (Mallow)
Okras, also known as Ladies’ Fingers, makes a wonderful addition to your home and your diet. They are flowering plants in the mallow family and have a 60-day to 70-day growth cycle. Before you plant an Okra seed, it is recommended that you soak them overnight in tepid water to help speed up germination. Once that is done, you can plant the seeds 12 to 18 inches apart in a row. Generally, they grow quickly in height, and their leaves get bigger with time. It is advisable to pick pods at its early stages, usually about 7-10 days after its flowering cycle, to ensure good crops.
Water: Okra loves the heat and can withstand a dry spell, but it is ideal to water them deeply, about 1 inch, weekly. Feel free to increase the watering frequency during hotter seasons. Ensure that water doesn’t stand in the soil because it will cause the roots to die!
Light: Okra is categorised under high-light plants, and it appreciates direct sunlight.
Temperature & Humidity: Okra seedlings can handle heat better than the cold. They grow best in an air temperature range of 21°C to 29°C and a soil temperature of 18°C.
You can get Okra seeds from GreenSpade for S$3.90.
5. Mint leaves (Herb)
Mint is a multi-purpose ingredient known for its health benefits, and also, a great kitchen accompaniment. It is definitely convenient to have around at home. Mint is a perennial recognised for its fragrance, toothed leaves, and tiny, purplish-white flowers. If you’re planning on growing some, it is advisable to place them in containers as they are quite a spreader. Frequent picking and harvesting is also the key to keeping mint plants at its best condition!
Water: Mint plants grow ideally in moist soil with adequate drainage, so remember to water it regularly. The watering frequency is also dependent on how much light it receives in a day.
Light: They prefer direct sunlight but will grow just fine in partial shade.
Temperature & humidity: Mint plants thrive well in a temperature range of 13ºC to 21ºC.
You can get Mint cuttings from aerospringgardens for S$3.50.
6. Butterfly Pea (Herbs/Flower)
Butterfly Pea is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows in vines. Did you know that its seed pods are edible? Its vivid deep blue flower is well-known for its health properties and often used for food colourings and teas. Make sure to nick or file its seeds, then soak it overnight in room temperature water before planting. This helps to speed up germination. Space seeds out by 3 to 4 inches if you are planning to plant more than 1. Once it germinates, you can move it into a bigger pot and place it next to a trellis or fence for it to creep.
Light: Butterfly Pea plants can survive any lighting condition, including full sunlight, in semi-shade, or shade.
Water: Although it is tolerant to dry conditions, Butterfly Pea plants should be watered regularly for best results. Remember not to over-water! Good drainage is critical as it cannot tolerate soggy conditions.
Temperature & Humidity: It thrives well at a temperature of 27ºC onwards. It can also tolerate an average daily temperature as low as 15ºC.
You can get a Butterfly Blue Pea grow kit from Citizenfarm for S$29.
7. Speckled Pea (Microgreens)
Speckled pea has a lot of health benefits and makes a nice addition to your dishes. Anyone can start their own microgreen garden, it is that easy! Here is how you do it. Soak your seeds in water for at least an hour before you pat it dry and plant it in a potting mix. Cover them from light until it starts to germinate. Once it has, you can expose it to light and start watering regularly. Once it reaches 2-4 inches in height, you can start harvesting!
Water: Pea shoots thrive well in moist conditions. Remember to lightly water regularly, rinse thoroughly, and drain as much water as possible.
Light: Keep it out of light in its early stages. Once leaves have sprouted, you can move it to a well-lit location.
Temperature & Humidity: Generally, pea shoots grow well in a temperature range of 25°C to 30°C.
You can get Speckled Pea Microgreens seeds from Everything Green, starting from S$9.