Ili on Urban Gardening at kebun Gangchaos

This month I’ve been interviewed by Cultivate Central and have shared experiances on urban gardening. Reblog interview from cultivate central

Where is your urban garden and can you describe it?

Our garden is located in Serdang. We’ve been renting, for almost 1 year. We fell in love with this house at first sight, not because of the interior but the exterior, the garden. When we first moved in, there was a rambutan and mango tree at the side of the garden and a nice lepak area just below the tree. A small step led to a path to the back of the garden, where there was a huge empty area with only a banana circle in the middle of backyard.

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A Banana Circle at the back of the garden.

There was a flowerbed near the brick wall with local native herbs such as pandan, sireh, misai kucing. Now, we have a mix of everything from local herbs to mat salleh herbs! – mints, oregano, temu lawak, kunyit, halia, papaya, tomatoes, variety of chilies such as bhut jolokia, habanero, trinidad scorpio, red chilies. We also have kangkung, bayam, marigold, roses, zinna, daun kaduk, ulam raja, daum kesum, bunga khantan.

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Herbs and Vegetables from the Kebun GangChaos.

Everything that we grow we can either eat or is beneficial for the eco-system in the garden. In Permaculture, you will work collaboratively with nature, understanding the wild energies around you and build within mother nature’s “system”.

Why start a food garden at home?

Our concept for this garden is simple; to grow food and share. We follow 3 permaculture ethics; Care for earth, Care for the people and Reinvest towards those ends. These are very basic concepts that we used in our 1st garden in Petaling Jaya.

It is also a means to support our family financially. Food prices are going up, and also lifestyles too. I guess I was personally tired of complaining about prices of food and living costs. Yes, true we have to demand change and a better living from the government and political parties, but we could do more ourselves while demanding for change. In our case, we choose to grow food because we can grow our own food, educate the children and share at the same time.

I think as an individual, this is a bold stand and demand. To say we can take charge of our lives and show that we can be independent. But it still is an idealistic dream, especially if it is only a few of us trying to do this… For us, growing our own food is a political act and there is always a philosophical value behind a garden.

It is about self-governing and the spirit of DIY. For us, growing our own food, gardening and eco living is not a lifestyle, but a way of life.

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GangChaos_DIY

We named our garden Kebun GangChaos, after our 3 kids. And we garden because we also want our kids to know where food comes from, we want them to have an attachment with nature and play with dirt! It is important, as a parent and adult to teach kids about where food comes from, how to grow their own food, the importance of each plant in the garden, the importance of eating good and healthy food and the value and role humans play in Mother Nature.

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Preparing a raisedbed with kids and Gardening with Kids

Who do you share your food garden with?

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Even though we’ve not fully perfected all permaculture principles in our gardens, but it is a process. Anything we grow, we share with family, neighbours and friends. We share either through what we harvest, seed swaps or knowledge.

For us, to have a sustainable future, it needs to go beyond profit making, and the first key is sharing. When we talk about sustainability it is not just about knowing how to cultivate the land, from poor soil into fertile soil and then to grow our own food that we can eat. It is more than that. It is the act of sharing and “barter-trading” or giving that is beyond the concept of profit making.

What we grow we share our food with our neighbours, family, friends, because mother nature always gave us more than what we need. For example, while sharing we gained the opportunity to know our neighbours better and also got to talk to them about gardening and stuff. It is all process, you just need to be consistent in doing it.

We are all strapped for time, how do you manage your garden?

It is not time consuming. More than time you need to be consistent, disciplined and patient. We felt home was a perfect place for us to start something good. Our home garden is where we can explore our passion in urban gardening and also to learn about growing food organically.

When we first started gardening, it was not easy to grow food direct from seeds, so what did we do? We either bought plants or asked friends for plant cuttings and we took care of it. That is how we learnt. Easy plants to start on are kangkung, spinach, tomatoes and herbs such as thai basil or basil and oregano. Learn to take care of them first and slowly develop from there.

How do you keep a sustainable garden?

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Permaculture in Action_GangChaos

We refer to Permaculture methods to gardening. Permaculture has taught us not just about design but to develop problem solving skills towards gardening. Each garden is special, and has its own character. The approach is to observe your land or area, identify the current wild energies (direction of sun, rain, wind etc) identify the problem in that area and design to solve issues.

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Reusing materials

You will become analytical when solving your problems in the garden. Gardening makes us critical in observing and understanding things around you. We manage by learning about natural ways of controlling pests without using chemical pesticides, the importance of companion plants, importance of using the principles of permaculture, developing skills in making DIY fertilizer, recycling and reusing waste etc. As much as possible we get nature to do the work for us.

What would your advice be to urban food garden novices?

Learn as you do, and learn by making mistakes. You can read all the tips and theory and have the best books about gardening, but if you don’t get your hands dirty and be on the ground with your plants, you won’t have a garden.

We’ve also researched on the internet, there are a lot of PDF ebooks that you can download for free on techniques about growing a garden the natural way. Talk to people in your area when you see them gardening. Participate in Facebook groups with people sharing their skills. Some do give insightful tips, some just “like”your posts!. Learn to interact with people. Share and engage.

Setting up is dependent on where you live. Some people have lawns, some an apartment, some have a small area that is fully tiled! And some people share their garden, some reclaim public spaces to garden together and some just Guerrilla Garden. It is all about initiative. You don’t need a proper land or space to grow food. There are many ways of growing food, you can grow food on your balcony in a pot for example. There are many examples on youtube too, good and bad examples, but the key here is to learn, research and start.

What has your food garden taught you?

For us our garden has made us understand life more. It is therapeutic and it has given us food and love🙂

All photographs from this article must be credited to Ili Farhana and the Kebun GangChaos.

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