An interview done by Mr Andrew Tan was published on Straits Times Life! section yesterday. As I flipped the papers yesterday and arrived at the page where the article was published, I was quite taken aback to see the article being spread over two facing pages, with my blown up personal picture staring at me right into my face! Before I go on, I would like to send my heartfelt thanks to those of my friends who have sent me their congratulations as well as Mr Andrew Tan for the interview.
The article essentially reported about the Community in Bloom (CIB) Ambassador Award which I was conferred in early November and my involvement and benefits that I have derived with the community gardening project which I started in Serangoon North. Besides that, there are also some small bits about me, my Gardening With Wilson garden blog and the Green Culture Singapore gardening website.
I am very honoured to be featured on Straits Times Life! section and I hope that the article will inspire more flat-dwelling individuals who are keen in gardening to take up community gardening like I did. Like what was being mentioned in the article, a high-rise flat dweller like me would not have any access near our homes to do outdoor gardening if the community gardening initiative was non-existent. Currently, gardening along common corridors and stair-wells is actually not encouraged because of obstructions that are created that will hinder fire escape.
Many of our modern high-rise flats do not have areas inside the home that are conducive for gardening. Direct sunshine lasting up to 6 hours which is essential for growing many flowering and edible plants that Singaporeans love to grow is very scarce nowadays because our windows are designed to face away from the sun so as to keep our homes cool.
Hence, I am also very thankful to the National Parks Board (NParks) for encouraging Singaporeans to take up community gardening. Now, with a community garden, we have access to proper garden plots near our homes where we can adopt to plant our favourite plants. In the past, we are not allowed even to dig the ground surrounding our high-rise flats to grow our plants! I still remember how lucky I was when my Science teacher gave me some plots in my primary school’s Science Garden to do some gardening.
Today, it is not unusual to see many community gardens scattered around the Singapore island that are teeming with mostly edible plants such as vegetables and medicinal herbs. Many of the participants in such gardens are the elderly and home-makers who prefer to have a functional garden. I can sort of understand why they do this because by growing vegetables they can take the opportunity to revive the good old days back in the rural villages. Some others want to grow their own vegetables because they know what goes into the growing of these plants and they get a chance to harvest their own organic produce. They grow various medicinal herbs which they use to treat various ailments as many of them are not available commercially.
A reason why many community gardeners do not really want to grow ornamental plants is probably due to the fact that these plants cannot be harvested and eaten. Perhaps some of them also think that why should they bother to grow non-edible, ornamental stuff when one can actually see them being grown in a big way in our Garden City? Being able to grow something edible may be perceived as the excellent way to make the best use of the small land area in the community garden. In addition, the growing edible plants is a great way to show and educate our younger generation how food is produced and proximity of most community gardens to our homes offers much convenience and saves one the trouble of having to go to far-fetched farming areas in Singapore and Malaysia.
Like fellow aunties and uncles in other community gardens, I also started community gardening with the growing of edible plants. Many of my friends know this quite well that Wilson Wong is one person who was initially keen only in vegetables and herbs and nothing else. But my interest started to change as I got introduced to ornamental plants by fellow members and friends from the Green Culture Singapore discussion forum. I realised my community garden can look even better with some perennial flowering plants around it as a pure vegetable and herb garden tend to look like a farm and is not aesthetically appealling. This has helped to set the stage that started the ornamental strip outside the main community garden and my ginger garden located nearby.
If community gardening was not allowed, I would not have the chance to grow various large ornamental plants like heliconias and various other gingers like I have done so now around my community garden. I chose to grow these plants because I wanted to bring these beautiful and often exotic tropical plants that can only be seen in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, HortPark, Jurong Bird Park and many private homes to the door-step of the Serangoon North neighbourhood. In the process of doing this, I get to learn more about the growing habits and requirements of these plants, as well as, picked up some skills in landscaping.
Besides NParks, I must thank Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, the Member of Parliament of Serangoon constituency, my Town Council and my Residents’ Committee (RC) for being so supportive with the community garden project since it started two years ago. A successful community garden actually needs a tremendous amount of support and understanding from the Town Council and RC.
My Town Council, the Serangoon North branch of the Aljunied Town Council, has been very helpful all this while in providing us with the dried leaves for use as mulch, an ingredient which we use for compost-making and soil texture improver and various forms of support for the physical infrastructure of the community garden. They are always there for the community garden when we needed help. Many thanks to Mr Joseph Wee and his team!
My Residents’ Committee has also shown much support and has helped on many occasions to explain to fellow Serangoon North residents about the projects that we are undertaking in the community garden. Many of our small projects take much longer to complete than usual and may have created some inconvenience to the residents. Our manpower is limited due to the small number of community gardneners present and we do not hire contractors to help us out. My RC has also helped financially whenever it can to fund some our supplies such as plants, fertilisers and compost. My heartfelt thanks go to my immediate past Chairman, Mr Lee Song Heng and the current Chairperson, Mdm Claire Ng.