Singapore has long been known as the “Garden City”, thanks to the vision of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. In the early 1960s when Singapore was establishing itself — a country newly independent from Malaysia — he formulated a long-term plan to create a country full of green spaces, with trees and tropical vegetation to counter balance the dense population that would increase over time.
Today, Lee Kuan Yew’s vision endures on a large scale all over Singapore. The Heritage Tree Scheme, the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay are all examples of Singapore’s commitment to not only preserving green spaces, but creating new ones for everyone to enjoy and learn from. Even driving to and from the airport offers a vibrant view of tropical vegetation and mature trees, both of which create jobs with the meticulous grooming required to keep everything looking tip top.
So, how does this large-scale vision trickle down to the average resident of Singapore? Many residents, myself included, tend to a few plants on their balcony or spend the day having a picnic at the botanic gardens every now and then. But with Singapore’s urban highrise lifestyle, most residents simply lack the space to tend a garden and cultivate an interest in growing fruits or vegetables.
Thanks to the Edible “Garden City” Project, and their vision for “fertile concrete”, this is starting to change. The Edible “Garden City” Project cultivates gardens on unused rooftop spaces around the city. If you’ve been to Singapore and know the climate, this makes perfect sense. Sunshine is abundant, rain is frequent, and the heat is so scorching there could hardly be a better use for these exposed areas of the city. Today I visited the EGCP’s garden at the top level of the People’s Park Complex car park. No one EVER parks a car there because it’s hotter than a habañero. It’s the perfect place for a garden.
The People’s Park Complex is a pillar of Singapore history, built in 1970 at the cutting edge of retail/residential construction (the first shopping mall in Southeast Asia!). Far more historic than picturesque, it’s now host to the fertile concrete of Singapore’s urban farming movement. The Edible “Garden City” Project cultivates a mish-mash of edible plants in pots, beds and burlap sacks. Solar power, irrigation and shade structures all help to keep the garden happy. Several people tend to the garden, including Andy — busy at work inside planting cilantro seedlings.
The Garden City is getting hip to local organic farming. Edible gardens are sprouting up all over Singapore as people understand more and more the value of growing food locally, putting unused spaces to work, harvesting the free natural resources around us and building community through shared effort. Not to mention the simple joy of digging in the dirt! The organic end results — basil, carrots, lettuce, sweet potatoes and chili peppers to name a few — are given away to gardeners and also used by local restaurants. Hmmm … maybe I can try to grow tomatillo plants to make salsa verde! Or start another pineapple plant like the one that’s overtaking my balcony.
You can read more about the Edible “Garden City” Project and its founders at their website: www.ediblegardencity.com.