Meet Tatiana from Singapore

“I am a nature lover who believes that our planet is in dire need for greater care, and each of us can play our role in creating a more sustainable world. If more people learn how to grow their own food, the positive ripple effect is enormous in reducing waste, improving overall health, and limiting carbon footprint. I am determined to encourage others who like me live in a place with limited space, have no experience in gardening but not afraid to try, fail, learn, and improve and set an example for future generations.

My journey started about 2 years ago when my son was turning 5 years old and asked for an unusual birthday gift – a tomato growing kit for kids he saw in a toy shop. It was an amazing family experience to sow the seeds, care for our beloved plant and see it growing. Unfortunately, the tomato grew tall, no tomatoes were produced, and it eventually died. However, the eagerness to plant more never went away. We then decided to explore other edibles and were lucky enough to get a head start when a friend donated several seedlings to us. Now we are more confident to grow different plants from seeds.

It is simply magical to see nature developing before our own eyes. We have been trying to live a low-tox life in many ways, so growing our own organic food highly contributes to this goal. When you know how to grow your own food, you gain a sense of independence, security, and freedom.

I live in a high-rise building (35 levels) in Singapore and have a small balcony that is approximately 8 meters long and 1.5 meter wide. I grow basil, sweet potatoes, kale, kailan , amaranth, okra, rosemary, parsley, coriander, sage, thyme, lettuce, bokchoy, mint, Kang Kong, mustard and micro greens.

All our plants grow in pots therefore we have been using organic soil mix for veggies and we regularly add organic fertilizer (chicken manure), homemade compost, vermicast to amend the soil and seaweed liquid as a foliar fertilizer.

The lack of space is a big hurdle for me as I have a strong desire to grow a lot more than we currently do. Dealing with pests in an organic way is another hurdle we are learning to overcome. We do not use pesticides given we will be eating the food we plant. We struggle with mealy bugs and aphids. We have been using mostly neem oil and soapy water, but results are not 100% satisfactory. I end up spending a lot of time checking individual leaves and manually removing the pests.

Getting my kids involved in planting and harvesting their own food is very satisfying, in spite of all the hurdles. Little birds and bees visit us daily in this concrete jungle and in general gardening has made me more appreciative of life.

I have recently started to share some gardening tips on Instagram and Facebook after several people asked me how I keep a healthy edible garden in a balcony under the hot Singapore weather. I feel lucky to live in a country where you can plant almost everything throughout the year as there are no defined seasons here – It is like summer all year round.

It can be a bit time-consuming or sometimes even frustrating to cultivate a garden when things do not go according to plan. On the upside, remember your garden ends up looking after you more than you look after your garden:

It gives you organic food.

It keeps you healthy.

It brings peace and calm.

It helps the environment.

It creates a reason for you to smile every day.

It becomes a positive addiction.

Planting an edible garden at home warms our hearts, but not the planet. It is a wonderful journey to embark on!”