Urban Gardening: Interview 2

Karina Yong has a flourishing vegetable and ulam garden in the backyard of her city home. She harvests what she grows to make lemuni rice, masak lemak (with moringa leaves), herbal drinks and other dishes without having to buy the plant ingredients from the market.

All together she has cultivated 4 plots of various plants in her garden. One plot is filled with herbs such as basil, dill, hempedu bumi (King of Bitters), a type of turmeric, vegetable humming bird, lemongrass, lemuni, and black sugar cane. She also grows vegetables such as okra, peppers and green capsicum. And she is a proud owner of 2 types of Indian borage plants, and Javanese ginseng.

Karina particularly loves the ulam plot – these medicinal herbs can be eaten raw and are easy to grow in tropical weather. If you are new to gardening, she recommends that you start with these first, as they grow wild and don’t require much tending; some of their seeds are carried by birds so they propagate easily.

Karina in her garden.
A haven of biodiversity in Karina’s garden.
Nasi lemuni.
Ingredients for morning tea from Karina’s garden.
Ginger harvest.
Harvest from the garden – for pet bunny and meals at home.

“Green leafy ulam taste good and are rich in nutrients like calcium, magnesium and potassium. You can easily prepare dishes with them – just stir-fry with garlic and onions; or just chop up some and throw into soups for a wholesome meal,” Karina said.

Indian borage is very good for coughs. Just steep them in hot water and take this to help clear phlegm, she added.

“I started gardening only during the pandemic lockdown in October 2020. It was an activity that my two sons, aged 9 and 12, have also picked up and now enjoy. They help to water the plants, do weeding, or plant seeds. It is nice to spend time as a family in our garden,” she shared.

Breakfast in the garden.
Assisting Mum in the garden. 
Karina’s son in the garden.
Learning gardening. 
Bonding with his pet in the garden.

“I have another plot with a sitting area, where I sometimes eat breakfast with my family. My garden is natural and wild, partly because I haven’t had time to structure it much, and mainly because I want to promote biodiversity, I want to encourage the pollinators to come and visit. Therefore in this particular plot you will find more flowering plants.”

It is possible to have a natural, sustainable and idyllic garden even if you live in the city, as in Karina’s case.

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