Relatedto gardening

growing some food and medicines at home in Penang

Being very near the sea, and growing plants mostly in pots it’s not so easy, but gradually we’ve been able to learn to grow food and some medicines at home.

There’s also aquaculture and vertical gardening to look into sometime, but the former costs more for the equipment, and both probably need more or less daily maintenance.

Here is what we’re growing at the moment:

tiny eggplants growing

tiny eggplants – great in curry – they taste a bit like bitter peas, but they are generally about 50% bigger

Pumpkin vine growing – no pumpkins yet this year,but we got quite a few previous years

crepe ginger sprouts growing

I collected a lot of sprouts this morning – good raw sprinkled on salads or curry

passion fruit on the vine – so far this season the squirrels haven’t attacked them, so I can let them ripen on the vine

a few ripe passion fruit

passion fruit growing

lime and neem



small limes

neem – to deter insects

pandan – use for wrapping food

a medium size lime

keffir lime – both the fruit and the leaves are useful. The leaves for mojitos and baths, the fruit for shower gels


roselle – jam etc.

lemon grass – tea, in baths etc.

basil – in pasta, stews

aloe vera – to drink and to put in home-made shower gel

rosemary – in stews, pasta etc.

more lemon grass


Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in August 2017

It’s rained often on consecutive days, and then not rained also for several days – but overall it’s quite cool and there hasn’t been so much sun.  The plants mostly soldier on.

At the moment what we can eat from the garden are the ginger poker sprouts – nice in salads or desserts; rosemary, basil, passion fruit, limes, mini eggplants, aloe vera, roselle… and I’m hoping for papaya reasonably soon, and lemons sometime. Pandan is growing well here and there, so we’ll be able to do something with that, too.

back garden

papaya growing

tree getting taller

citrus in the sun growing fast

a small papaya has come up – a lot of competition so it is growing slowly

the grape vine survives

the white Bougainvillea is particularly happy


Canna Lily having a bit of a rest

after repotting the citrus is growing a lot on the previously bare lower branches

I left the limes a bit too long on the tree – they are yellow

It’s supposed to be hot, but instead cool and wet – so we have flowers and many unripe fruit

passion fruit flower

I have to pick them green or the squirrels get them

some limes I picked

birdie breakfast

birdie breakfast

birdie breakfast in the compost

birdie breakfast in the compost

birdie breakfast in the compost

the bird comes every day for the open compost container

papaya earlier in the month

papaya in a pot – it won’t fruit, but it’s decoration

plumbago battle on

ginger poker propagation

one of the many ginger poker around our place



rosemary – after a battle with bugs

we eat the sprouts in salads

and we eat the little eggplants from this plant

the citrus in the sun grow quickly


the pumpkin vine is growing fast – often where I don’t want it to grow

the bird often leaves leftovers lying around after it’s eaten

Penang passion fruit picking

You can buy passion fruit in Penang.  You rarely see them in supermarkets, but more often in (wet) markets. However I grow my own.

I have quite a few vines – it’s impossible to count how many as they are kind of mixed up, and some may be dead, but their stems are used by other passion fruit vines to climb on.  Every year I germinate some seeds and plant several vines – or quite often the seedlings grow up in pots of other plants – as the seeds were in the compost  given to those plants, and thus they have germinated.

Those seeds in the compost weren’t there by chance. When I eat passion fruit I often save a few seeds to put in the compost.  If I find really big passion fruit in the markets I’ll buy some, and if they are tasty, or if ones I have grown at home are particularly nice, I’ll save some of the seeds and germinate them.  Either way, each year I put in some seedlings, as the vines only last for a few years before they die.  So some vines are descendents of previous vines, and some are new ones, from passion fruit from the markets.   The ones that die off always have replacements at different stages of growth.

To germinate the seeds I just wash any pulp off them and dry them.  Then leave them until around February.  That’s around when passion fruit starts to grow for the year.  In February or March I plant the seeds shallowly in some soil with some nutrition in a trough or pots, and put in some legume seeds – usually mung beans.  The legume seeds increase the germination rate from about 5% to maybe 80%.  Birds will watch me put the seeds in and come and eat some, but most will remain.  Most of the seeds will germinate. And when the seedlings are a few inches high I will replant the strongest ones.  They will grow well in a pot, but I’ve never got fruit from potted passion fruit.  You need to have them in a reasonable expanse 0f soil, or in the ground.

The growing season is from around February – March usually, but in the first year you probably won’t get any fruit from the new vines.  Perhaps in May and onwards they will flower and then later fruit.  And they will continue to do this until around October / November or so most years.  But one year the weather was such that they had a second spurt of growth and fruiting until February.  Usually around Christmas I prune them, but not as far back as the hard wood, leaving some green.  I’m not sure if that’s the best way, but it seems to work for me.

All through the year they lose leaves, and I dry them in the sun and when crunchy, scrunch them up into little pieces and put in other pots or on the passion fruit garden.  And after pruning I do the same, but it is a much bigger operation as there is so much foliage.


today’s passion fruit picking

I used to be able to wait until the passion fruit were ripe to pick them, but the last couple of years squirrels attacked more than half of them – I didn’t mind the occasional loss as everything has to eat – but they often just eat a little and waste the rest and all I can do with the rest is compost it.  We tried lots of ways to stop the squirrels, but nothing was particularly effective. So now I have to pick them green, once they feel heavy with fruit inside, and ripen them – which can be done by moistening them, putting them in a plastic bag, and burying this in compost.  Squirrels can tell better than me when they are ripe, so feeling the weight is the best I can do to tell if they are ready to ripen.  I just check sometimes to see progress, and when ripe bring them inside until I am ready to eat them.  This way I get to keep pretty well 100% of the fruit – only the hidden ones that I didn’t see and which ripened on the vine are squirrel food.

Today I picked ten passion fruit, last week the same number, and I can see at least 30 that are still on the vine, but not yet heavy enough with fruit inside. There are a few flowers too, from which we’ll later get fruit.  I see the bees buzzing around – other plants attract them too, so there are usually bees.  The bees get the nectar, the birds get some seeds and a second chance by dining off the compost when it’s open, and we get the fruit.  Now everything is happy except the squirrels.

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in June-July 2017

Over these two months it’s rained a lot and every day sometimes, and otherwise just once every few days.  Recently the latter.

at last a lemon is growing

so many little eggplants


another citrus and others


mother-in-law’s tongue

aloe vera

this mock orange first appeared in another pot, and now is happily growing bigger

this was the original ginger poker, which our neighbour kindly gave us. Now we have propagated it and have lots growing in all our gardens

this was the original ginger poker, which our neighbour kindly gave us. Now we have propagated it and have lots growing in all our gardens

this was the original ginger poker, which our neighbour kindly gave us. Now we have propagated it and have lots growing in all our gardens



another ginger poker




cultivating ginger poker

you can see the babies coming up

Canna Lily – always one blooming



a papaya

passion fruit growing

this citrus needs repotting as it’s grown big

leaves are drying before composting

a tiny mock orange that appeared in the garden

aloe vera

the back garden –  on the right a papaya has appeared

one of the cultivated ginger pokers – now it’s big


roselle plants grew quickly

hibiscus – the only surviving one at the back


this papaya has really grown = mealy bugs are their enemies, and I have to clean them off sometimes

tiny papaya fruit on the way

the citrus support the papaya until the papaya grow bigger, and then the papaya support the citrus

a couple of citrus

passion fruit flower


Birdie breakfast buffet

A bit hard to see as I had to use my mobile phone to photograph.

the bird knows I am nearby

If we open the compost birds come to eat the fruit peels. Usually one stands guard while the other hops in and eats. And usually if one points any photographic device in their direction they immediately take off.

This bird was alone and kept watch for itself, but stayed even though I took a couple of very quick photos.

Amongst the compost are mango and papaya peels, which seem to be the favourite.

easy watering

When it hasn’t rained, unsurprisingly I have to water the plants.  Using the hose takes 10 minutes at least.

This is the quick and easy way.  Put a big bin in a place convenient to the plants, put the hose in and turn it on.  Water pressure is not great, so filling it takes a while – so I come back later when it’s full, and use a scoop to water the plants.  It only takes two or three minutes to water the whole garden.

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in May 2017

I have written 888 blogs so far. This is the 889th.

This month it has rained every second or third day, sometimes only a little, but sometimes heavily.

There appears to be some water works being done somewhere, and the water pressure at home has often been very poor, making it hard to water the garden when I have no rain water left.  So the best way has been to fill a big bin with water and come back five or ten minutes later when it has finally become full, and then use a ladle and or bucket to water.  This is actually a very quick way.

Our neighbour created a garden at the back, and we have filled it with plants.  This has been the main gardening activity this month. It’s so much easier for plants to survive in the ground, and much less work to maintain them.

grasshopper – only one, so I left him alone – he didn’t eat too much

grasshopper – only one, so I left him alone – he didn’t eat too much

part of the new back garden – just starting to fill it with plants

part of the new back garden – just starting to fill it with plants

part of the new back garden – just starting to fill it with plants

part of the new back garden – just starting to fill it with plants

more plants

more plants – there are mock orange, mother-in-law tongues, aloe vera, Canna Lily, ginger poker, citrus (planted after photo) and a couple more plants I can’t name

I planted a tiny citrus plant – the next day it had totally disappeared.

I planted a tiny passion fruit plant – the next day it had totally disappeared.


We moved the grape vine to where it could grow more – and in a bigger pot

passion fruit are growing

growing new papaya trees

the lime tree has a lot of limes, now – it took a few years before it fruited well

duranta is happy so long as it has water

rosemary – not too much water – but it doesn;t want to be too dry either

mini egg plants – growing in a pot

aloe vera growing

aloe vera picked for juicing


aloe vera growing

Bougainvillea has kept blooming through everything

ginger poker are so nice

this plant is easy to propagate, has shallow roots and survives easily with little maintenance


Canna lily keeps on blooming


basil – have to water every day

papaya getting bigger

Plumbago seem to like semi-shade and water. They are very happy in their present position

A neighbour gave us some pandan. We’d been hoping to get some for a long time.

the egg plant plant – had to cut off the top half as something decimated its leaves

This citrus wasn’t happy upstairs, with yellow leaves, so I transplanted it into the back garden

papaya growing strongly – some have flower buds already

lemon grass was attacked by something – this was where the little passion fruit plant disappeared from

I put in a lot of blue pea flower seeds. Some have germinated now and have started growing.

Borapet plant?

something attacked this plant

I got a few cherry tomatoes from this plant, but it was riddled with mealy bugs and I had to pull it out, sadly

So it’s been a busy month, and what with rain and sunshine plants are generally growing well.