Bangkok Gardensby Patima Tha Hla
How Does Your Garden Grow
excerpts from an article in the Bangkok Post, August 20, 1994
About 50 vegetable lovers from all walks of life gathered at a seminar entitled Khrob Khrua Diao Kan (United Family), held at the Bangchak Petroleum Public Company's headquarters earlier this month. The seminar aimed to teach members of the public how to grow their own vegetables.
Most of those who attended the seminar have tried their hand at planting their own vegetables, whether they live in extravagant homes, small townhouses without much vacant space, or commercial buildings with no soil in sight.
They had all managed to find some small corner of their home for vegetable cultivation.
Asst. Prof. Thawat Lawapaoraya, one of the seminar's two speakers, assured his audience that the amount of space is not the main factor in growing healthy vegetables. With the right treatment, vegetables can flourish even in the most confined areas.
Vegetables do not need to be planted on land or in earthenware pots. They can be grown in gasoline containers, cement basins, plastic baskets, or even the hanging earthenware pots normally used for decorative plants," said the researcher for the Royal project on agriculture.
Thawat also introduced the "vegetable condominium" method for those who are pinched for space but still want to grow a variety of vegetables.
He said vegetables like khuenchai (celery), tang-o (galand-chrysanthemum), parsley, and lettuce can be planted in square plastic baskets lined with six to seven centimetres of prepared soil. The baskets can even be stacked on top of each other up to six or seven high. This method is suitable for certain types of vegetables which do not require strong sunlight.
"If you grow an assortment of vegetables with different harvesting periods, you will have ripe vegetables to pick all year round," ensured Thawat.
Based on his study, the ideal garden is one sized 36 square metres in which 32 kinds of vegetables can be planted. The vegetables should be a mixture of short-life and long-life types, he suggested.
Short-life vegetables are lettuce, phak khana, khuenchai, phak bung (morning glory), tang-o, scallions, cucumber, and cauliflower, while long-life vegetables include krachai (galangal), parsley, sweet basil, cha-om, and ginger.
Starting with the most basic requirements to produce good crops, Thawat revealed that soil preparation is the most important. He said the soil found in Bangkok markets is not fertile enough and its cost is unreasonably high.
Mixing your own fertile soil is the best way to ensure that seeds will sprout. Perfect soil consists of four components: sand, loose soil, chaff ash, and compost fertiliser, mixed together in equal amounts.
Fertile soil lies at the heart of planting success, but methods and technique are other major factors gardeners should not overlook.
Thawat suggested vegetable seeds should be nurtured temporarily in sand mixed with chaff ash until their first leaves sprout, when they can be transferred to prepared soil.
He added that vegetable seeds are best brought during the winter season, because they are newly picked and can be stored in the refrigerator until their planting seasons. Seeds that are sold during their planting seasons are usually old ones from the previous planting and are not likely to yield good results.
Planting TimesThe following are planting times for a variety of homegrown vegetables:
- November to January: for onions, garlic, tomatoes, celery, cauliflower, phakkat khao (white cabbage), and kuichai (Chinese leek).
- February to April: coriander, lettuce, cucumber, phak bung, thua yao (long beans), and phak khana.
- May to September: phak khana, kuichai, sweet corn, scallions, and buap (loofah or dishcloth gourd).
- August to October: Laotian coriander, lettuce, chili, kuichai, phakkat khao, and phak bung.
Pest ControlThawat offered some additional tips for creating optimum vegetable growing conditions:
- Place a black or blue neon light above containers which contain water mixed with sulphur powder to attract night insects, some types of which like to lay eggs on vegetable leaves. The insects will fall in the water.
- Spray water mixed with detergent or dish-washing liquid on vegetable leaves to prevent disturbances from insects.
- Vegetables which do not need the use of pesticides are lettuce, coriander, and parsley, because they are too bitter for insects.
- Sprinkle lime powder around each vegetable to prevent fungus.
- Water vegetables with the last water from clothes-washing, or any water containing a small amount of detergent, which contains the fertiliser phosphorus.
- Make sure that vegetables receive direct sunlight at least half the day, preferably all day. They should be planted or placed at the north or south end of the house to avoid its shadow.
- For houses with pets or other animals, fences should be installed around the garden to keep vegetables from harm.
- To avoid using chemicals, plant herbs like marigold, galangal, ginger, sweet basil, holy basil, lemongrass, sap suea (Eupatorium odoratum), boraphet (Tinospora tuberculata), cha ploo (wild betal leaf), and sadao (nim tree) among other vegetables to keep pests away.
Natural Ecology in the City"The urban environment is not really appropriate for growing vegetables," said speaker Asst. Prof. Charnchai Limpiyakorn of Chulalongkorn University's Engineering Faculty, who focused on reviving natural ecology in the city.
Many people give up trying to grow vegetables due to the many difficulties involved. Some lack the proper methods, while others find it difficult to overcome physical problems of the urban environment.
Charnchai, who grows vegetables at home and surveys vegetable gardens, shared common problems urban growers might encounter.
He said those who live in congested areas might find planting vegetables difficult. People who live in new housing estates may also have problems, as the soil may be infertile as the result of being dug up from too deep underground.
While outside physical factors are essential to planted vegetables' survival, biological factors also play an important role in nurturing vegetables.
"Successful planting requires a biological environment which includes various microbes and insects. But sadly, all of these have disappeared from Bangkok," he said. "This is nature."
To revive land successfully, three to five years are needed for organic matter to digest itself, according to Charnchai. "It's quite a long time to wait, but the results will last a long time."
For more details on growing your own vegetables in Bangkok, contact the Appropriate Technology Association on Baromratchonanee Road, tel. 434-3252-3