As interest in gardening pursuits grows among the residents of Jurong-Clementi, several new community gardens have come up in the neighbourhood. However, these are not just traditional gardens – many use cutting-edge techniques such as aquaponics and hydroponics. We take you on a tour of two that are leading the way.
Say hello to hydroponics in Bukit Batok
In Blocks 106 and 107 Bukit Batok West Avenue 6, a sprawling vegetable community garden spanning 10,000sqft is brimming with salad greens, fruit trees and koi ponds. There is a small hydroponics farming section in the corner, which the volunteers have built. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. This type of farming can be done throughout the year, and uses less water than traditional soil-based systems, making it a more resource-efficient way of farming.
The garden was first constructed in 2012. “With the help of a volunteer, who had prior experience in hydroponics farming, we bought the necessary equipment, including piping and water. The volunteer taught us how to do hydroponics farming,” shares community gardener Mr Richard Ashworth, 68.
Mr Ashworth said community gardens help to promote social bonds between the gardeners and residents. It’s also an excellent way to teach people about farming and being self-sufficient. “The teachers from the kindergarten nearby bring the kids here, and we show them how they can do some simple gardening,” he adds.
Community gardener Mdm Lee May La, 64, is keen to share her passion as well as her produce with fellow residents. She also organises monthly birthday parties and volunteer potlucks. Today, about 20 to 30 volunteers and 10 active gardeners are working on the plots. And the hydroponics garden now features a wide variety of vegetables and fruit such as cauliflower, asparagus, grapes, watermelon and kale.
The awesome aquaponic garden in Jurong East
A hydroponics farming concept for a community garden in Yuhua, started by Mr Koh Boon Chye, 70, proved to be such a success that the Bukit Batok resident was tasked by the Zone 4 residents’ committee chairman to implement a similar concept for the community garden located at Block 223A Jurong East Street 21.
But Mr Koh decided to introduce the aquaponics farming concept after noticing a koi pond in the garden. Aquaponics farming uses the waste secreted from the fish as a natural fertiliser for the plants. “We decided to add pink tilapia, as the waste from the koi is not enough to provide sufficient fertiliser for the plants,” he explains.
Converting fish waste into fertiliser for plants is no mean feat. “Fish waste contains ammonia, which is poisonous for the plants. So the waste has to be properly converted into nitrates, which the plants can absorb,” says Mr Koh. To get the proper conversion process, he found a cost-efficient method and managed to get it right after conducting four trials.
Today, the two aquaponics farming beds can grow 50 vegetables in each plot. And leafy ones such as xiao bai cai and cai xin have been grown there. In addition, one section of the 22m x 3m garden houses a soil-based farming bed.
Successful aquaponics farming requires a lot of dedication and hard work. One of the two active volunteers, Mr Yap Yong Kuan, 81, feeds the fish daily and cleans the filter pump every other day. “We need to filter the solid waste from the fish before the plants can use it. The aquaponics beds need to be properly cleaned after each harvest,” he says.
Meanwhile, Mr Koh hopes to promote the aquaponics farming concept to more community gardens in Yuhua. “A lot of the elderly find it difficult to squat and do soil-based farming. The soil can also easily become contaminated with bacteria if the gardeners do not wash their hands properly,” he says.
According to him, aquaponics farming generates a higher crop yield using less space than soil-based farming. Thus it is suitable for an urban city-state like Singapore, which has limited space for agriculture.