Saturday, January 29

Covid-19 pandemic sees more Malaysians getting into home gardening

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Google Trends statistics show top search queries in Malaysia since the start of movement controls in March last year have consistently been for information related to horticulture and home gardening. — Bernama photo

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 22): With Malaysians spending more time at home now in view of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, many people are taking to home gardening and horticultural activities as a pastime.

These activities are no longer restricted to those with spacious compounds as even urban dwellers are optimising their home space to create their own green corners in their front or backyards and balconies.

Whether they are growing edible greens for their own consumption or aesthetic plants for therapeutic reasons, the reality is gardening has become a trending hobby, according to Mahani Amat, an agricultural officer (Development) at the Agricultural Development Division at Universiti Putra Malaysia’s University Community Transformation Centre.

Pointing to Google Trends statistics on top search queries since the start of movement controls in March last year, she said Malaysians have been consistently searching for information related to horticulture and home gardening.

“It clearly shows that horticulture and home gardening are some of the activities that have found a place in the hearts of Malaysians.

“For example, at the beginning of the implementation of the MCO (Movement Control Order), the sansevieria plant (pokok lidah jin) became very popular and was sold at hundreds of ringgit each due to the rising demand for that plant. These days, the yam ornamental tree is growing in popularity,” she said.

Soon Choon Leng, 73, shows the variety of vegetables in her home garden in Penang. — Bernama photo

Mahani said Department of Agriculture statistics showed that a total of 124,988 people, including individuals and from schools, institutions and communities, in 5,065 locations nationwide have been involved in urban agriculture programmes since 2014.

She also noted a rising number of nursery operators and individuals selling plants online due to the good response from Malaysians.

Beneficial for all

Encouraging Malaysians to plant vegetables for their own consumption, Mahani said it has its economic benefits as it can help to reduce their food expenses, more so during the rainy season when vegetable prices shoot up.

“It can also help to cut down our country’s dependence on imported vegetables. Among the vegetables that Malaysia imports are spinach, mustard, okra (ladies’ fingers), long beans, eggplant, and cucumber.

“However, these plants are very suitable for planting in the home environment because they are easy to grow and care for. They don’t require a large area and can even be grown in a pot and are suited to our weather conditions,” she added.

Mahani said she grows her own lemongrass, pandan, kaffir lime and mint in her yard and saves up to RM200 a month on her kitchen expenses.

“From a social point of view, gardening is an activity that can strengthen the bond among family members and also among neighbours. If you have surplus crops, you can donate them to your neighbours, or sell them to generate a side income,” she said.

Sharing some tips on home gardening, Mahani recommends the ABCD treatment – namely, water (Air), fertiliser/nutrients (Baja), light (Cahaya) and prayer (Doa).

“Don’t be afraid to cultivate plants by yourself. You just need to have an interest in gardening and be confident.

“Furthermore, in gardening, there is no such thing as a standard procedure to follow because it depends on various factors, including the weather which also affects the crop’s growth. Therefore, experience will be your best teacher,” she added.

Nurul Ashikin Abdul Halim, 28, checks the aubergine she planted in her home garden in Kampung Tambak Sebelong, Melaka. — Bernama photo

Therapeutic pastime

Plant-based lifestyle advocate Davina Goh started home gardening on her balcony in 2017 and today she has mostly herbal plants such as moringa, rosemary, basil, Indian borage and mint growing there.

Currently taking an online healing diets diploma course at the United Kingdom-based School of Natural Medicine, she feels that it is an important life skill to learn how food grows and to experience growing it herself.

Goh, who views home gardening as a therapeutic pastime, said being in charge of what she puts into her body was the ultimate reason for starting her little garden.

“I’ve developed a greater appreciation for fresh produce, and I enjoy my own home-grown food as I know it is surely free from hormones and pesticides and grown with love too,” she added.

“Plus, it is also important to me that all the products and fertilisers I use are non-toxic. I also find that using plant-based fertiliser products can effectively keep pests away. They also encourage better growth and are easy to use as well.”

Eric Tan, the chief executive officer and founder of Plantonic, said his Singapore-based company produces an organic fertiliser that was launched in Malaysia recently.

He said the product also acts as a soil revitaliser, as well as a natural pest repellent that can fend off common pests like mealybugs and aphids. It can also prevent fungal infections and boost plant immunity.

“Owing to the growing interest in the horticulture and home gardening scene, we have seen an increasing demand for our product in recent times. It can be used safely on your edible greens. It’s also safe for indoor use around children and pets,” he said.

A key ingredient of the product is shilajit, said to be a curative substance formed from the decomposition of plants. It is touted to contain natural antibacterial properties and is commonly found in the Himalayan mountain range and is often used in ayurvedic medicine. — Bernama