How to Grow Your Own Balcony Veggie Garden

Expats Thorben Linneberg and Nadine Keller created the Aerospring gardening system, so they could grow vegetables on their balcony. Their urban gardening hobby has become a booming business. Nadine talks to ANZA about how gardening helps condo dwellers relax, relieve stress and grow their own produce.

How does Aerospring work?
The Aerospring is a standalone vertical aeroponic gardening system. There’s a bucket at the base and a submersible pump which feeds the water up through connected pipe. Hydroponic nutrients are added into the bucket containing the water which provides everything the plant needs to grow healthy and strong. This method uses less than 10% of the water that a conventional garden does and the plants grow 30% quicker, so your harvest is a lot more productive.

How much space do you need to install a garden?
The bucket is about 50cm in diameter but we recommend allocating at least a square metre. You’ll need a little more space if you want to grow a vine like cucumbers, tomatoes, melons or passionfruit. We use the balcony grilles as a trellis to support them.

What can you grow in Singapore?
Contrary to popular belief, you can grow leafy greens, herbs, vegetables and even fruit in Singapore with a little effort and the right amount of sunshine. Our best performers are tuscan kale, chillis (we like to grow habaneros and jalapenos), basil, mint, cucumbers, eggplant, passionfruit, rosemary and tarragon. With a little effort and care, you can also grow tomatoes, more delicate herbs like parsley, dill and thyme, as well as lettuce, mustards and mizuna.

What maintenance is required?
We recommend spending five minutes, three times a week to check on your water and nutrient levels, to tend to the plants like clipping away damaged or dead leaves as well as to trim and harvest plants as they grow. Once every 8-12 weeks, you need to empty out the water in the bucket completely and refill with fresh water and nutrients. Edible plants have a life cycle so after 30 days, you’ll need to harvest and replant your lettuce.

What are some of the health benefits of a green space?
Being outdoors encourages some soaking up of vitamin D from the sun and helps your heart health as you work up a sweat tending to your garden. Gardening can relieve stress, something many city dwellers suffer from. There’s something very therapeutic and relaxing about tending to your plants: starting them from seed, watching them grow and having the satisfaction of growing some of your own food. Nature provides the best respite from a hectic and busy life.

Does it help bring families together?
Gardening is a fantastic family activity. It’s important for the next generation to understand where our food comes from, how plants grow and to be involved in starting a garden. Children have such inquisitive minds and showing them how a seed germinates, grows, flowers and fruits is a wonderful activity that will keep them engaged and connected to nature. It also encourages them to eat more greens, and puts them on a path to healthy eating, once they establish a connection to their food and where it comes from.

How does gardening contribute to our overall sense of wellbeing?
There’s a feel-good factor that happens when you are connected to nature. Being able to harvest the fruits of your labour from your very own garden is so satisfying and empowering. Gardening therapy programs now exist all over the world and are prescribed by doctors and therapists to help alleviate stress and low moods. Dedicated gardeners have been practicing mindfulness well before it being a ‘thing’. There’s really no disputing the fact that being outside, growing food, and tending to plants, contributes to a better state of mind, better health and a positive outlook on life!

3 health benefits of growing your own produce!

1. Store bought greens start losing their taste, freshness and nutrition within hours of being harvested, so by the time they’re transported all the way to Singapore, they’ve lost most of their nutrient density. A lot of the time, vegetables are picked and transported underripe, so that they’re just right by the time you buy them in store. That also means that anything bought at the store doesn’t last very long in the fridge.

2. You have complete control over how your veg is grown – you really have no idea what kind of pesticides or fungicides were used in the production of store-bought vegetables. Store bought greens without a single tear or hole in the foliage usually indicate that some form of pesticide was used.

3. Growing your own produce allows you to experiment with varieties you wouldn’t ordinarily find in the store: heirloom varieties of tomatoes, exotic chilis, hard to find leafy greens and herbs. Some specialty herbs like Summer Savory or sorrel are almost impossible to buy in Singapore so the only way
to include those in a recipe that calls for them, would be to grow your own!

Ready to nurture your green thumb? The Aerospring Indoor retails at $1499 and is available through aerospringgardens.com