Given that we were left with a sad what-could-have-been-a-nice-planting-area by the previous occupant of our home, and given that my Mother-in-Law suggested she would like to grow chillis and spices in our backyard, I figured, why not try to salvage this little patch, and turn in into a vibrant herb garden. Having had the garden for almost 5 months now, I am proud to say that none of our herbs have died (whew!), and that herbs are truly gifts that keep on giving.
Herbs To Buy & Where To Buy Them
My dad works in facilities management, so naturally, he has friends in the landscaping industry. We visited one of his landscaper friends, Rasel, at his nursery (Lovely Landscape at 32 Punggol East) and he helped suggest herbs to grow in our backyard.
Correction, he chose the herbs for us – like a seasoned uncle who has seen one too many failed herb gardens attempts by first-time gardeners like myself, I chased after him around the nursery as he went “this is good for Singapore, this is not good, that one dies easily, your Mother-in-Law will like this for her Malay dishes, etc”. Grabbing pots, shovels, soil and benches as we walked every 10 steps or so, I momentarily harboured the thought of working in a nursery.
ANYWAY more importantly, Rasel chose the following plants:
Tip: Instead of buying seeds and struggling to grow these herbs from scratch, many nurseries like Lovely’s (or Far East Flora at 555 Thomson Road, and Island Landscape & Nursery at 3 Joan Road) sell these already-grown herbs in small pots. All you need to do when you head home is to re-pot the plants and to re-pot them well so they do not wilt after a few weeks.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s been 5 months and my herbs are… thankfully thriving, healthy and well. My in-laws come by and harvest their spoils every 6 weeks or so, and it’s just been amazing to know that something so small, so affordable (it’s $4 – 8 a pot), can give you so much in return. I even invited my friends over one time for a “Herb Garden Picking Party”, with woven baskets, straw hats, gardening scissors, all prepped and laid out for them. It was as if we organised a launch party just for my garden. But if I already designed a logo and packaging sleeve for my Banana Muffins, what’s a herb garden party you say.
After our run-around the nursery, Rasel spent about 30 minutes teaching me how to re-pot the herbs. Take it from the guy who landscaped for Raffles Hotel for YEARS. Your hands will get dirty though – so make sure you are okay with getting dirt in your fingernails, otherwise, use a pair of gloves!
Here are the steps:
1. Once you purchase your small pot of herbs from the nursery, get a larger pot so your plant has space to grow.
The pot should not too big, a pot that’s 20-30% bigger in size is good enough.
Note: Choose a pot with holes at the bottom so excess water can be drained away. If you have multiple herbs, you can do what I did, which is to get a long-ish potting tray, and plant 2 – 3 herbs at one go:
2. Fill about 20% – 30% of the pot with potting soil, ensure the soil is pat down well.
Note: A good gauge when it comes to deciding how much soil to fill initially, is to match the bottom-most leaves with the height of the pot.
3. If you have a fertilizing solution, spritz a layer on top of the soil.
I use this plant-based environmentally friendly fertilizer called Plantonic (you can get it from selected Fairprice outlets, or Potta Planta – a must-go for your planting needs!). Plantonic is an organic fertiliser than helps to revitalise soil, cure viruses & diseases in plants, repels pest, and improves the plant’s health. I used it during Chinese New Year to repel away all the insects that came with my Mandarin Orange shrub – and it worked! Major plus point is that it’s founded and made in Singapore.
4. Remove the herbs from the smaller pot in its entirety. Do not remove the soil or roots from the smaller pot, keep the previously-potted plant intact.
5. Transfer the herbs to the bigger pot, and fill its surrounding sides with soil. Make sure all the gaps are filled and your plant is firmly held together with soil, no gaps should exist around the herb.
6. Once the herb(s) is securely in place, water your plant and leave it out in the sun!
Before-and-After: From Sad Patch, to Vibrant Herb Garden!
Caring For Your Herbs
Potting is easy, the post-care however… that’s the tough part.
While giving your herbs ample sunlight and water is essential, sometimes, as the Spice Girls put it, “too much of something is bad enough”. Over-watering or exposing the herb to too much sunlight may cause it to dry up and wither. Do check on the care instructions of your chosen herb online.
Our herb garden is only exposed to harsh sunlight in the early afternoon, during the rainy season we are careful not to water the herbs at all as they are already sufficiently watered from the rain.
Another way to care for your plant is to also spritz the undersides of the leaves with fertilizer solution every 2-3 days, you can use the Plantonic solution I recommended earlier! The good thing about Plantonic is you can not only use it for herbs, but for all types of plants, trees, shrubs, lawns too.
I hope you guys enjoyed this little “tour” round my herb garden – it’s a garden that’s a constant work in progress and needs tender care, but it gives us so much in return. I love how I can just grab a handful of Rosemary for my Focaccia Bread, Basil leaves for Bruschetta, or some Pandan for my Snow Fungus Dessert.
More than that, I love how it brings family and friends over for our occasional herb-picking parties – you plant life, and it gives you life back.