My Edible Balcony in Kuala Lumpur

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Edible Balcony in Kuala Lumpur

I was never good with plants, especially flowering plants. I had no idea how to take care of the potted plants my parents brought to my apartment balcony years ago. The plants were there to beautify the big space. For 8 years, I never had any interest or bothered to learn how to take care of them. I was lazy to even water the plants. I did more bad to the plants (even cactus) than nurturing them.

Edible Balcony in Kuala Lumpur

Basil Sprouts, grew from the flowers of Tracy’s basil plant


It was when I started to enjoy cooking that had me curious about planting some herbs that would be useful when I just need 1-2 sprigs instead of buying a big bunch. And I had many empty pots lying around. Everything that you read here is from my own personal experiments in creating my edible balcony garden. I felt it’s easier to share here about my experience after some readers asked me when I post photos of my plants. Just like how I’ve always experimented with my recipes, gardening edible plants turn into an experiment that gave me immense joy. They became my “pets”. It’s not so much about getting harvest from plants, they were not enough to feed me proper meals. It’s more about learning and the joy of seeing food sprout from seed & kitchen scraps. I squeal with delight when I see them sprout. Unfortunately, I still have not found much appreciation for other plants. I’m so biased…

Edible Balcony in Kuala Lumpur

Growing mint from stem

I have a fairly huge balcony space that’s facing north, with indirect sunlight. When I first start, I did not know what I was doing. I just read up from websites, watch Youtube videos and asked a lot of questions.

My friend Tracy gave me some flowers from her sweet basil plant in July 2012 and that started my edible garden. I was able to harvest after 2 months, so the feeling of being able to trace my produce to my bowl was a bit overwhelming for me. It started growing wildly after a friend advised to keep it under sunlight but some measly bugs & aphids started attacking it.  Next, I planted mint, thai basil and kaduk (wild betelnut leave) by sticking the stems into soil after i used up the leaves. These are pretty hardy & easy plants however, my kaduk, too, was attacked by measly bugs.

Edible Balcony in Kuala Lumpur

{Left} I left a knob of tumeric in the soil and this is what turns up after 3 months. {Right} Pretty jewels

The proudest moment was when my cherry tomato plants started to fruit. I planted them from seeds without knowing anything about tomato plants. Learning from Norbert along the way, making corrections, observing closely and talking to them. Yes,I love talking to them 🙂  If you observe nature closely, you will learn a lot of wisdom. I found they love sun and lots of water, learning it through the hard way. I even found a babysitter for my plants when I was off to Europe for a month. Considering the plants had gone through drought, stunted growth, and measly bugs attacks; they produced pretty decent harvests. After a hard day of work, the pretty red jewels just perked me up immediately.

Edible Balcony in Kuala Lumpur

Savoy (Malabar Spinach), American Cress, Cherry Tomato & Mint

Then I experimented with turmeric, ginger, potato, green onion, and bokchoy. My latest pride is my kale plants. When I bought the seeds during my Netherlands trip, the seller laughed when I told him I want to grow them in tropical weather of 32C. Kale (boerenkool) is a winter dish there, and it tastes better when the plant gets frostbite. I’m proud to say that my 2 kale plants are very growing well and steadily in containers. I have given 3 other kale seedling to my friend’s yard, they will grow even faster on the ground.

Edible Balcony in Kuala Lumpur

Kale

More photos of my plants here and below is a little tour of my balcony taken in March 2014. Currently my balcony is pretty bare, only some herbs, sprouts and kale left. I’m doing some composting with the soil, to nourish back the soil nutrients, letting the soil rest for 2 months before I start again.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMfAfPwSKP4&w=480&h=360]

 

After a busy day, gardening helps me to de stress. I don’t wear gloves when gardening. Touching the sacred earth not only help boost our immune system, it ground our body from all the electrical charge we have accumulated in our modern lifestyle. So start gardening or play with soil.

After 2 years, there’s still much to learn. I can say I know a little better now about the plants I’ve grown. I know what to do and what not to do if I want to grow them again. Next on my list are more herbs and leafy greens.

Look out for the next post Itching to get started? Read my 5 tips on How To Start an Edible Garden in The Apartment and How to Grow Kale in The Tropics.

Do you grow any edible plants? Any tips to share?

47 Comments

  1. Hi Shannon. Your story is inspiring . I live in condo and have little garden at the balcony too. I get my regular supply of kangkung, thai basit, sweet basil & red spinach from the garden. I find growing tomatoes is challenging. Can you share some tips for it?

    • Hi Suraya. Good on you for your little garden. Tomatoes can be a bit tricky, they need at least 6 hours of sun and plenty of water and food with good soil drainage. To get it fruit more, keep only one main stem from the beginning and cut away branching stems. Hope this helps. good luck!

  2. i tanam cactus kat mini balkoni pun mati,,sobss..sobbss.. :'(

    • haha dulu cactus I pun mati, because I did not have the information what the cactus need – water/sun/type of soil. now there’s many information on the internet, youtube videos, etc. so read up, be observant to your plant. try and try again 🙂

  3. Hi, I’m a student from Taylor’s University currently undertaking Degree in Architecture. We have a module that requires us to construct a herb garden for the orphans. We were wondering what type of herbs are easy to grow and maintain. Can you give us some tips? Thankyou!

    • Choose tropical herbs that thrives and can grow wild in our tropical weather, such as mint, thai basil (daun selasih), turmeric, ginger, daun kaduk, lemongrass. look at what the houses in small town/kampung grow, that’s the best reference. good luck!

  4. Yes , when you are a beginner in planting this what happens to you , you are absolutely right we should learn to plant and play with soil , it will help us in removing our stress 🙂 thanks for sharing very nice post Shannon 🙂

  5. my balcony is facing north and is hardly to reach by sunlight. any remedies on it?

  6. Did you know what type of cherry tomatoes did you use?

  7. Do you know where in kuala lumpur I can buy the cutty leaf seeds?

  8. Did your potato grow? I tried but died off. It had tiny buds sprout when i put the potato in the water container for 2weeks. After that i transfer them to a pot of soil covering about 1cm but it rote

  9. Hello Shannon, happy to have come across your blog. Planning to have some pots in my balcony for growing coriander, chilli, and curry leaves as we find it quite pointless to have a big bunch or too much lying in our fridge and seeing most going to waste. We live in the heart of KL close to the twin tower and do not have our own vehicle to travel so far to Sungai Buloh. Can you recommend anywhere close to proper KL where we can get some seeds and maybe a few flowering plants? Once again thank you for ur useful blog 🙂

  10. Hi Shannon. This is naim from the new straits times. I’m doing an ‘smart sense’ article on those who are living in terrace houses, apartments and flats who took the initiative to grow vegetables or fruits in their limited spaces to save cost. Is it possible for me to interview you regarding this matter.

  11. Hi Shannon!

    Do you know where to get cherry tomato seedlings/cuttings?
    Would be much easier than starting it from seeds..

    • It is definitely easier to grow from seedlings. However I have not come across any tomato seedlings at the nurseries. I have seen capsicum. You can try looking for them at the rows of nurseries along Sungai Buloh

      • Thanks for the reply!
        I’m having 30 seeds in seedling tray for last couple of days,will see how it turns out.
        As i am in Cheras,without a car,going to SB would be quite of adventure! 😀

          • Cheers!
            Going ok for now.Keeping them in shade,Malaysian Sun would kill them in no time.Seems i will end up with 10 or so plants.Anyone needs a plant?
            Better to give away than to kill them,if all of them survive it will be too much for me.

          • Best to keep the seedling under the shade. but my big tomato plants need a few hours of direct sunlight and lots of water (twice a day). I had 2 cherry tomato plant, wasn’t enough to feed me because they only fruit about 20 a time. Will let you know if anyone needs a plant. You can offer your seedlings on Malaysian Gardeners FB group

  12. Hi Shannon, I am from KL, I was searching about vegetable stuff and came across ur blog, i do not have much space to grow but i have build own system to solve the space problem, I have sweet potato( leaves is edible ), chili, cucumber, mint, and basil. Can i know whr u get ur kale and american cress seeds ? Was searching for sometime but cant find.

    • Hi Jaan, That’s great that you have build your own system to grow many awesome edible plants. I got my kale & american cress seeds when I was in Europe. Most nurseries & gardening shops in KL sell local veggie seeds. I have posted the link to buy other types of seeds in my replies to the same question earlier, please check the comment section of this post.

  13. Hi Shannon, I share the same interest of gardening with you. Since I resigned from banking job a year ago, I have grown more than 10 types of veggies and herbs around my small garden. I love my tomatoes, bittergoard, rosemary, sweet basil, Thai basil, tarragon, mint, chillies, cili padi, kaduk, ginger, lemongrass, tumerIc, galangal and more. It feels so good to pluck the herbs and veggies for meals. I am starting to grow green leafy veggies in the unused fish tank since I find that the plants are less healthy growing in the shallow planter box. Growing own veggies saves money and definitely gives that satisfaction of eating organic food from own garden.

    • Hi Rose, it’s great to be connected with another food grower! What a range of vegetables and herbs you have grown! It’s true that deep containers work best. Have you tried using the 20lit pail, they are awesome and can them for free from used paint pails

  14. Hi

    I just came across your blog, I am in Kuala on holodays and I wish to take some seeds to Spain. Do you know where could I buy them? I really would like some plants which are impossible to get in Spain.

    Thank you

  15. Dear Shannon, thanks for sharing everything in this amazing blog of yours! I just moved to KL from the much colder climes of the UK and have found an apartment with balconies facing West, South and South-West. It is on the 8th floor, but because the lower floors are used for parking it’s more like the 14th. Do you have any recommendations for things that definitely do and don’t work? I was thinking of chillies, basil, lemongrass, hardy Asian greens (spinach, kale, chard, bok choi??). Id also like to grow some bougainvillea and I wonder if it’s possible to buy miniature banana plants (we have indoor dwarf ones in UK)? I’m surprised you could grow tomatoes as I didn’t think they liked the humidity. Have you had any success with mint or softer herbs? Do you have a recommendation for a garden centre in KL where I can buy plants, herbs, seeds, pots and soil?

    • Hi Bill, welcome to KL. If your west facing balcony gets direct sunlight in the afternoon, I think it can be pretty harsh in the hot months. Plants like chili, italian basil, thai basil, can endure the direct sun. Most western herbs grow well in the heat but need to be in the shade. Lemongrass needs big space and grows into a wild bush, not very pretty on a balcony I think 😀 Asian greens will grow well, I’ve grown a few. I usually go to the nurseries along Green Lane Sungai Buloh for pots and plants, there’s many nurseries along that stretch. For soft herbs, it is easier to buy the small potted herbs in supermarket and repot them. seedandothersforsale.blogspot.com/ is a good place for seeds.

  16. Hi Shannon,

    I am in fact going thru’ the internet trying to locate a shop that sells Cherry Tomato seeds.

    Just to let you and the rest know – I am playing around with an ‘Aquaponic System’ in a dusun in Janda Baik (its not my dusun though). I have succesfully run a few rounds with some other vegetables including Sawi putih and now going for a more succulent vege. Could you or anyone out there help me.

    Hj Hambal

  17. Thank you, Shannon. Such an inspiration! I live in an apartment with a small balcony, also facing North. I used to grow ornamental plants (unfortunately some of them had a short ‘life span’ because I was too lazy to maintain them..My bad) But since I live cooking, I think want to start an edible garden like yours. It would save me money. I just wonder, what kind of soil do you use to grow your herbs? I hate the type of soil which eventually will turn hard and fibery like dried grass.

    • Hi Hamzah, I’m glad to inspire you to start planting again. I use organic pre-mixed soil with coconut fibre, so the soil is more moist. I’m not sure how/why soil turns hard, I think it’s stripped off all nutrients. make compost with the hardened soil. maybe mulching the pot will help

  18. Hi, where to get the seeds in order to plant the Savoy (Malabar Spinach) or how to plant these please?

    Thanks,
    Angeline 🙂

  19. Heya good on you! What do u do about the aphids? I tried garlic and tomato leaves water and I’m not sure if it worked or if the aphid season has finished. Tomatoes can go quite high before fruiting so don’t worry about it. I find what helps is I cut the unnecessary leaves away so the plant can put more effort into its fruits. Hvt had any luck with broccoli they look pathetic but my spinach tomatoes kale salad and herbs r all doing well. Just put in celery hopefully that will turn out right but it doesn’t look like it’s growing

    • Hey Jolene, good to see you here. wow you have so many edible plants.. yay. Aphids attacked my sweet basil and tomato leaves. Sweet basil died. the white fly also attacked my tomato plant, spraying the underside of the leaves at least once a day seems to keep the bugs under control and stop spreading. but it’s a lot of work. I’ve dug out the meat tomato plants, they have grown higher than 6ft, out of control and not fruiting after 6 months. I’ll start cherry tomato again. Do you know celery can regrow from scraps? stick the bottom part that will root into soil and they will regrow.

  20. Hi Shannon, thanks for all the info and tips on your plants.
    Although I am blessed to have a big garden, with lots of trees and large potted plants, the three edible plants that are in my ground are Curry Leaves(this is now a tree!) serai and pandan.
    Anything else gets eaten by aphids and caterpillars. So my mint and green chillies are also in long ceramic planters where I can control any crawlies by plucking off diseased leaves easily.
    Looking for Thai Basil, rosemary and dill now.

    Anyone in Ipoh got cuttings to share:-)

    • Hi Mrs Singh, glad my plant tips help. Curry leaves, serai and pandan is always a must have in the garden here, and pretty hardy too. My tomato and sweet basil are also attacked by aphids 🙁 Thai basil grow easily from the stems that I buy from market. for other cuttings, you can join Facebook gardening groups – My Nice Garden Chat and Malaysia Gardeners, maybe there are members in Ipoh that could share with you

  21. Hello Shannon!
    I’m so glad that you’ve created this blog!!! I am so going to try to create an edible garden. Congratulations!

    • Hello Denise! Thanks for dropping by my little blog. Glad you find my article informative and all the best in your edible garden. most important is to enjoy the journey 😀 Good Luck!

  22. Hi Shannon! I am so impressed! Pretty neat to have these potted edibles on your balcony. And I do agree that it is very convenient to just go out to the garden/balcony and snip whatever you need. I have started replanting mint and basil. My last batch died while I was away 🙁 I find gardening very fulfilling too. And like you, I do it barehanded 🙂
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    • Thank you Phong Hong, my little project looks neat in the video, sometimes it’s pretty chaotic when I am repotting half way and just leave the mess there to be clean up 1-2 days later.. lol. The best thing about herbs is they are easy to replant, just stick the stems. Doesn’t it gives you much joy?

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