Singapore climate suitable for growing
Singapore’s tropical climate is perfect for growing a plethora of vegetables and plants to cater to your all year round culinary/ festive needs. Our local conditions consisting of abundant rainfall, high and uniform temperatures (ranging approximately between 22℃ to 34℃), as well as high humidity consistently throughout the year are some of the best conditions for vegetables to thrive in.
Finding a suitable pot for growing
“It is all in finding the right pot!”, says Ah Ma.
Growing vegetables that will sufficiently feed you and your family is not as difficult as it seems. Many complain that home-grown quantities never quite feed the family; they just fascinate the ones who eat them. However, with a little planning and a couple of try-outs, you will be well on your way to growing vegetables for feeding the family!
To select a suitable pot, you will want to consider primarily if the vegetables that you will be growing are varieties with shallow or deep roots. This will give you an indication as to the depth of the pot that you will have to use. The secondary point for consideration would be how many in the household you would be feeding.
If you have a large family, then you could either get a big rectangular sized planter (approximately 685mm x 245mm), or several smaller planters that you can easily position side by side – that will make watering the plants lesser of a hassle.
For singles or smaller families, you can consider using the round pots which are way more commonly found as compared to the rectangular planters.
Preparing the soil/ getting the right soil mix
Just like how different personalities thrive in different environments, so do different plants thrive in different planting mediums/ soil mix. Some like it muddy, some like it sandy, some prefer more mud than sand, and vice versa. Hence, getting the right mix of soil is key to keeping the spirits of your plants high and healthy!
Most leafy vegetables (post-germination) require good soil drainage in order to have healthy root growth – and healthy root growth means effective transmission of nutrients towards the plant and/or fruit. For high drainage, you would be looking to fill your soil mix with quite a bit of sandy/rocky type of soil. The larger the rocks, the more uneven they would sit amongst one another, creating holes whereby water can flow and drain through easily. Contrarily, smaller rocks/ finer sediments (such as mud) would close up the gaps between particles, preventing the flow of water – this means high water content in the soil surrounding the roots. Though most plants thrive in well-drained soil, there are plants who enjoy and require the high water content.
The other very important consideration when it comes to soil mixing is whether or not your soil mix will provide sufficient structural support/ hold on the roots to keep your vegetable/plant upright as it matures and grows taller. While sandy soil provides good water drainage, muddy/ clay-like soil helps to provide structural support for your plants. The tightness that muddy soil creates helps to hold your plant in place as it grows taller (making it more susceptible to having its balance thrown off amidst weather conditions like rain or strong winds).
A good rule of thumb for mixing soil for growing vegetables would be to make a composition of: 1 part sandy/rocky soil, and 2 parts finer/mud-like soil; add another 1 part nutrient-filled compost to the mix. However, if you do not quite have the time to prepare a soil mix, there are varieties of soil mixes pre-mixed (just like baking) ready for open-and-use!
Sowing seeds for germination
Depending on the variety and size of the seeds, some may require pre-soaking prior to sowing. The step to pre-soak (typically for the larger seeds) reintroduces moisture into the seeds which is a key step to kick start germination for the seeds. 4-6 hours of soaking should suffice for smaller seeds, while larger seeds may require overnight soaking.
Either in a germinating tray or planting plot, lay some moistened germinating soil (different from the soil mix that you have prepared to grow the plant in post-germination stage) – typically loose and fluffy soil to cradle the seed while it germinates (e.g. peat moss – a very soft and fluffy soil which retains quite a bit of moisture creating a moist environment perfect for germination). Afterwhich, scatter the seeds evenly across the tray or planting plot, sprinkle a thin layer of fresh soil over top to bury the freshly sowed seeds. Continue watering if the soil is not moist enough. Then, expose the sowed seeds to at least 4 hrs of direct sunlight daily and protect it from rain. As these seeds are fairly small and light-weighted, falling rain or too much water in the plot can easily dislodge the seeds from their sowed spots. Therefore, in the first 2 weeks of germination, it is critical to protect the seeds from too much external motion. If your seeds are planted directly into a planting plot, you may want to get some fine gardening mesh / netting to lay overtop your sowed seeds or build a mini tent over the plot to protect the sowed seeds from potential harsh weather.
PRO-TIP: Don’t forget to label your pots annotating what seeds and when the seeds were sowed. Many of us, including experienced growers all forget. This is good to help you keep track on how long it took for your plants to get to each of the growing stages.
Transplanting to larger pot as seedlings mature
If you have begun planting your seeds in a germination tray, you will need to transplant the seedlings to a larger planting pot or plot as soon as the seedlings have grown their 2nd or 3rd leaf. By this time, the seedlings should be stable enough to withstand a transplant. Nevertheless, handle with extreme care and gentleness as the roots of these fresh germinates are still thin and fine.
As the plant progresses into its next stage of growth, you will want your seedlings to grow in a more nutrient rich soil to facilitate healthy root growth and proper development of the seedling. Therefore, it is now time to place the germinated seedlings into the prepared soil mix. Gently remove seedling and its surrounding soil from the germination tray and insert into the larger pot lined with the prepared soil mix. To hold seedling in place, fill more soil mix over top. Last but not least, water generously to help settle seedling into place and to hydrate the plant.
General plant care tips
Most vegetables need plenty of direct sun exposure post germination stage – 6 hours at the very least is an average across vegetables.
Besides providing good sunlight, occasionally adding fertilisers to the plants (~once every 2 weeks) is also key to healthy plant growth.
Most plants like to be placed in positions where it receives good air ventilation; but do note, areas where it may be overly windy could result in excessive evaporation of moisture from the soil. Therefore, do test your plants in different positions and monitor as you go.