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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Diary of Some Tomatoes

My tomato plants are so gu-niang that I don't see how they can survive on their own in the wild. One night of strong winds snapped the stems of 2 beautiful plants. I responded by staking them to my trellis. Another night of strong winds snapped a branch full of blossoms. This made me look at all the other branches and I decided that these silly plants had branches so weak that they would snap under the weight of their own fruits. So, I had to tie the fruiting branches with raffia string to the trellis roof.

I am not sure but I guess tomato plants have been domesticated so thoroughly that they really need human intervention to survive. Tomatoes are really a lot of work to grow!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

One Ninety at Four Seasons Hotel

The One Ninety Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel is under-rated. It doesn't serve items of grand luxe like The Line, Shangri-La (with its 4 types of foie gras, fresh oysters, whole legs of lamb etc...). However, it has a skilled chef and whatever foods are there are good. The prices are more reasonable than The Line where I found the roasted meats very photogenic but did not taste good. Very dry. In contrast, at the One Ninety, the main dish is cooked in the kitchen when you signal them that you are done with the appetiser buffet.

And what an appetiser buffet they have!

Few places serve burrata. It isn't very well known in Singapore but I have missed burrata so much that I tried making it (with precious little success). Of note are also its truffle dishes. I had no trouble finishing my eggs with truffle flakes because the rest of the family each took a bit.

I did not take pictures of all the appetiser dishes. The selection below contains dishes that I particularly enjoyed.

Gluten free toast
Baba ghanoush


Pork pâté

Pork terrine

Pumpkin salad




Smoked burrata


Truffle ricotta

Poached egg with truffle shavings

Pollinating a Tomato Plant

The tomato plants are doing well. There are 8 tomatoes. Oh dear! When they all fruit, I think I may have too many tomatoes to eat up, all on my own! You see, I now have 16 tomato plants. I had 7 of my own and Grandma gave me 9. They are ALL fruiting!

Oh well, I reckon it is a good problem. Extra tomatoes can be given away. There is no tomato sweeter than those ripened on the vine.

2 baby tomatoes

The thing is, tomato plants need some help to fruit. Unless you have bees, the tomatoes don't readily set fruit. I had to go over to Watson's to buy an electric toothbrush to mimic the vibration of bees' wings.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Oh Chin Huat Hydroponics Farm

Right across from Sembawang Air Base, there is a hydroponics farm. It is 5 minutes from our house. It took me till now to realise that I can buy pesticide free vegetables from them. It just got cheaper and easier to eat pesticide free now! Whenever I run out of vegetables from my garden, I will just pop in there to buy.

I love staying in the ulu part of Singapore. I can get farm fresh produce! Imagine that!

Vegetables being packed for sale.

Regular customers can go into their giant fridge to pick vegetables.

This is bayam (Chinese spinach).

This is kangkong (morning glory).

These are imported from Malaysia and so they may not be pesticide free.

They have lovely portobello mushrooms and button mushrooms at small prices.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pretty Bug

I found a pretty bug on my garlic chives this morning.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Setting Up the Worm Farm

Lately, I have not just been growing a garden. I have been growing neighbourly relationships too. It is amazing how when you plant seeds in dark soil, you also reap tendrils of warm friendships that reach out to curl about your heart.

A neighbour peered over my gate to ask, "What are you planting?" Proud gardener that I am, I showed off my vegetables. He appraised them with a knowing look. Then, he asked, "What fertiliser do you use?" So, I volunteered my various types of poopy pellets. Then he scoffed and said, "I use nothing but worm poop and worm pee." Now THAT was a huge pick up line.

Petunia said, "Can I come to your house now?"

Then, I rushed out my gate and accompanied a stranger home to his house. He showed me a lush garden with lemon trees, passionfruit vines, ciku tree, mulberry trees and then, in a shady corner, he pointed out 2 worm farms. We opened up the lid and there were hundreds of worms. He saw the look on my face and said, "If you prepare your containers, I will give you some worms."

Oh man! He didn't need to tell me twice. I was off to the shops to get 2 plastic tubs. I made Smelly Boy poke holes in one and lugged them over to the neighbour's house for another self-invited visit. The neighbour pronounced his verdict. The worms will not like your tubs. I was quite disappointed so HE came to my house to look over my gardening supplies. He picked out2 flower pots and disappeared with them. He came back with them filled with a generous clump of lively worms.

I placed the worm farm in what I thought was a shady part of the house. Oh well, the sun moved and almost cooked my sweethearts to death in their clay oven. The maid, who owns a farm back in Myanmar, clucked at me and said that worms don't like sun. She marched off with the worm farm and placed it in a corner that never gets sun.

I now have happy worms.

Since that day, I self-invite to my neighbour's house very often. His gate is always opened. I just walk in with my farm produce and give it to him. Today, I pruned my tarragon and offered him a bunch. Yesterday, I gave him some elderflower kefir. Last week, I offered him a bell pepper seedling, in return for a strange plant that cures sore throats.

Gardens predispose people to neighbourliness, and generosity because things grow and grow and very often you have too much to eat on your own.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Fertilising Plants for High Pest Resilience

An organic garden must have strong plants. In my early days of gardening, I would use only one type of fertiliser with high nitrogen. The plants grew lush and green but were soon overcome by pests. The, they died.

Since then, I have learnt to rotate my fertilisers and use those with less nitrogen.

Guanito is an organic fertiliser (probably made with bat shit) that has proportions 6 nitrogen: 15 phosphorus: 3 potassium. According to its manufacturer (see HERE), it also has calcium and magnesium. This is nutritious plant food. Its high levels of phosphorus encourages strong root growth. When growing plants from seed, this is important. A strong root system means that the plant can absorb nutrients well later in its life. Magnesium is important in the production of chlorophyll that the plant needs to convert sunlight into energy it can use. 

Calcium is important to build strong cell walls that are hard for plant pests to penetrate with their suckers. Plant pests like aphids and mealybugs suck plant sap. If their mouth parts find it hard to penetrate the leaves, they leave your edibles alone.

Phenix is an organic fertiliser that has proportions 6 nitrogen: 8 phosphorus: 15 potassium. According to its manufacturer (see HERE), it also has magnesium. This is also a nutritious plant food. Its high levels of potassium improves plant metabolism and thus encourages flowering and fruiting. 

Plants need sulphur too. So, I sprinkle sulphur flakes to the soil. Sulphur is an important nutrient that affects many different metabolic processes and contributes to production of chlorophyll. If you want sweet tomatoes and bell peppers, you need sulphur because only when chlorophyll is present, can the plant convert the sun's energy into sugars.

Epsom Salts = magnesium sulphate. I dissolve this into water and spray the plants daily when they are fruiting. This ensures that fruits are well-formed and sweet.

When plants are well fed with nutrients, they grow strong and then they will be naturally pest resistant.