Gardening

Forum: Issues to look at for initiative to bloom

NParks made more plots available to cater to the growing interest of avid gardeners in Singapore.
NParks made more plots available to cater to the growing interest of avid gardeners in Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

The building and opening of more allotment gardens is nicely timed to meet the rising interest in urban farming and gardening (NParks releasing over 280 gardening plots in 4 parks, Nov 14).

The Gardening With Edibles initiative launched in June by the National Parks Board (NParks) had such overwhelming response that the number of seed packets distributed was increased from 150,000 to 400,000.

This blooming interest in gardening and growing edible plants is a good sign, as Singapore works towards its "30 by 30" goal - producing 30 per cent of the nation's nutritional needs locally by 2030.

However, steps to ensure that Singaporeans are responsible gardeners may be necessary. Otherwise, it is possible that these spaces may open a Pandora's box of complications for the community.

I raise three concerns and suggestions to mitigate them.

First, there is the possible increase in mosquito breeding sites in the allotment gardens.

There have been a staggering 31,338 dengue cases reported in the first 41 weeks of this year, surpassing the previous high of 22,170 reported for the whole of 2013 (Dengue death toll in 2020 hits record high of 28, Oct 15).

Compared with community gardens near flats, these allotment gardens are not as easily accessible, making it harder for owners to check regularly for mosquito breeding in their plots. I propose that routine checks and mosquito extermination processes be carried out in these areas, curtailing possible outbreaks.

Second, the use of harmful chemical pesticides and fertilisers needs to be controlled, as the chemicals may kill vital insects such as bees.

The chemicals may also spread to other plots and cause other gardeners or visitors to have adverse reactions. Hence, more education and encouragement to use natural methods in plant cultivation are needed. For a start, I suggest installing composting bins in these allotment gardens and having workshops to introduce gardeners to such methods.

Third, plots are leased on a three-year basis, which means new gardeners will have to make a long-term commitment. Tending to a plot for three years may be too big a responsibility for new gardeners. It could be just a budding hobby for them and they may struggle to keep it up.

NParks could perhaps offer group applications, or start a gardening buddy system, pairing up new and veteran gardeners to help share the burden and sustain the interest.

Charlotte Ho Xiaole

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2020, with the headline 'Issues to look at for initiative to bloom'. Print Edition | Subscribe