Gardening in Malaysia

cultivating crepe ginger plants in Penang

Crepe Ginger grows really well here, in pots and in the ground, and produces sprouts you can eat.  If you cut off the head and take cuttings you can easily cultivate it.

Crepe ginger growing

cuttings about 18″ or 45cm long

cut the ends off the leaves and remove leaves near the bottom

get some pots and fill with soil

poke holes in the soil for the cuttings – don’t push holes in the soil with the cuttings

cut the bottom off for a fresh cut – then dip into rooting hormone

put the cutting into a ready-made hole – don’t push it further into the soil – and fill in the hole with soil and tamp down

we put four into each pot – keep moist and in the shade – may take two months to get new growth

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in September/October 2017

Well, it rained most days during September and the first half of October, with floods sometimes in parts of Penang. And then it stopped raining – except for once a week or so. Thus today, Sunday is the first sunny Sunday for a while.

Another quiet couple of months, then.

Not all that much happening in the back lane garden

This papaya almost died – when there is heavy rain one papaya sometimes dies. As I can’t get any seeds to germinate there at the moment, eventually, as has happened over the years, all papayas die. One smaller one did die. So only three left

Crepe Ginger very healthy

Crepe Ginger very healthy

the grape vine still OK

the grape vine even has a few grapes

pandan trees doing well

we can harvest some mini-eggplants every week – great in soups and curries and stews

the neem tree is getting huge

cuttings from crepe ginger to cultivate

these are so easy to cultivate and care for we’re cultivating more

rosemary gets attacked sometimes by a black bug or fungus

my attempt at cultivating crepe ginger is working out

papayas germinated from seed

basil is happy

papayas germinated from seed

my oldest papaya has had its trunk attacked so may not survive another year. Being in a pot it never fruited, but it looked nice

Passionfruit really need sun to ripen, and there has been so little for months due to rain.

So now some passion fruit are just dropping to the ground without the skin changing colour much if at all. But inside they are often ripe and yummy.

Some passion fruit seeds from different fruit to germinate next February

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