There’s more room to garden in Hong Kong than it appears on the surface. Sure, some of us live in Sai Kung, where actual gardens exist, and then there are the rambling fields of the New Territories. “Rambling” may be a stretch but still. Increasingly, however, roofs, balconies, terraces and even windowsills have become locations for herb gardens, fresh flowers and occasionally a tomato or two.
“If you have a balcony, terrace or roof top available it’s possible to start growing fresh food in containers. The containers themselves can act as a nursery area, as long as there’s access to good, fertile growing media. Seasonal seeds, grow media and organic treatments are all available in Hong Kong, either from us or other outlets,” explains David Sanders of The Green Patch in Discovery Bay, and co-author of Growing Food in the City. Microgardening: A Practical Guide. “Even if there’s no space at home it’s still possible to cultivate micro greens that grow well in smaller pots on window sills, as a cut-and-come-again treat,” he says.
Aside from The Green Patch, Hong Kong has a few resources for novices to turn to. Though the actual gardening isn’t that complicated, a bit of planning is required. Knowing the amount of space you’ve got, where it is and how much time you can dedicate to it are crucial starting points. Mongkok’s flower market is more than just flowers now, and a great start is the Brighten Garden Centre or Happy City Farmer Limited. Both stock the dirt, planter boxes and seeds — regular and organic, from all over the world — that can get you started. The staff are helpful and best of all, enthusiastic. Sanders’ Green Patch and the stalwart Kadoorie Farm are good places to start for more detailed information or for seasoned gardeners.
However, it is possible to bring your garden inside too. Most interior designers working now try to incorporate greenery into the home, be it for aesthetic or practical reasons. When it comes to indoor plants and microgardens, very often the biggest issues are mess and care. Small, low-maintenance plants that can handle a move or long absences are ideal. “One very easy way to incorporate natural greenery into your home without mess or dirt is to choose large plants or trees, like maybe a banana plant or a variety of palm tree,” explains Natasha Grays of Natasha Grays Interiors. If you want specific plants, invest in hardware that makes life easier. “If you are not naturally green-fingered and don’t always know when to water your plants, invest in the clever concept of plant pots with water reservoirs and gauges. You can water it and it won’t need any more for as much as two weeks in the winter.”
Above all, as the old commercial goes, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. “It’s important not to try growing food crops out of their season — planting carrots or beetroot after February. They will sprout and grow, but when hot, humid weather hits in May it ruins the plants,” Sanders cautions. Some herbs are sturdier than others (like rosemary) but making sure any plant is in season will help, with your own confidence if nothing else. And whether you’re playing in the dirt outside or relaxing in the living room, there’s something therapeutic about greenery. “I’m a big believer that every room in the house should have some fresh greenery,” says Grays. “It enhances the look and atmosphere of a room and are proven to have amazing health benefits.”