Pruning is to cut away overgrown branches, to encourage new growth. As I was learning how to prune and tend to the garden, it felt significant for this new journey that is asking me to slow down a little, be more caring, pay attention and observe nature and to start small.
This 2018, I have the pleasure of joining the Cultivate Central team as their programs assistant, working with Nova and Gita on building garden installations, creating content and community engagement. What a pleasurable position to be learning first hand on sustainable systems as a way of life through tending and caring for plants, permaculture principles and bridging art and ecology within the urban web of Singapore. Working in the arts, I know at heart that we have much to learn from nature. I am grateful to be starting this journey and taking you with me. Here is how my first week went:
Bakhita’s Patch is a beautiful and bountiful garden installation that transformed this once dormant space into a lively and interactive garden for the ecology of students and teachers at Canosaville Preschool. They now have space where they can integrate nature into their curriculum and classes, they can harvest and bring home a wide variety of herbs, spices and vegetables to make tea, salads or plants that help you fight the flu.
Tending to the garden teaches us about the local vegetation, where food actually comes from and how to truly appreciate it and essentially the patience and persistence of care. These lessons are better learned through experience and interaction, beyond the classroom and desk.
The intention of the teachers training was to help them integrate urban gardening programming to sustain Bakhita’s Patch as well as provide an introduction to Permaculture. We discussed and broke down the principles of permaculture and conducted a hands-on session on the basics of urban gardening. And, bridging creativity and ecology through programming in the near future. We really liked this video that helped communicate to teachers the essence and application of permaculture.
Without people tending to gardens, it will be neglected and eventually return to becoming a dormant space. For an urban space to be vibrant, it needs proper management, engagement and programming. A big part of what makes Cultivate Central unique is our inter-disciplinary programming. We use it as a way of learning and teaching.
Cultivate Central works with a foundation of ethics and design based on the principles of permaculture, working with nature, efficient use of energy, sustainable habits, healthy habits and a resilient and positive ecology that will transform the quality of our lives for the better. Get to know more about urban permaculture by visiting our gardens or coming to our upcoming workshops for children and their communities.
Collectively, we assembled a planter using affordable drainage cells to build a box. To create the soil, we added layers of organic material: brown leaves, green leaves, cardboard, coffee grounds – materials that can be found in an urban setting. The bottom part of the planter was filled with 2/3rd of organic materials and the top 1/3rd was filled with a soil mix which we created with cocopeat, compost and potting mix. For this project, we tried the potting mix and compost from Green Spade. The idea is to mimic aspects of soil and humus creation in the rainforest. Creating layers of organic waste - brown and greens and then creating soil together, the teachers enjoyed an experience which they too can pass on to their students, teaching children about how a garden flourishes with living and breathing soil.
Bakhita’s Patch brings to the community an encouragement of a healthier life – growing your own tomatoes, okra, mint and basil, you can cut down on grocery expenses and enjoy your meals that are organically grown. This is just a start to the continuity of our journey on cultivating a more hands-on lifestyle for the children and teachers at Canossian School through Bakhita’s Patch. We have yet to allow the garden to evolve, grow, change and for the kids to come around and get their hands dirty! We will be engaging them all of 2018.
Every other Saturday, Cultivate Central hosts the Little Green Thumbs Sessions at The Good Garden for The Artground in Goodman Arts Centre. The Artground is a Children’s Art Centre that hosts spontaneous and unique workshops on a multi-disciplinary level. You can often find us at the Good Garden, brewing ideas on our upcoming workshops, meeting potential collaborators or tending to the garden.
The garden installation Preschool for Multiple Intelligence was built around April 2017. We returned for a visit to witness how it has grown and flourished since. We were pleased to find that the children planted their own seeds, put name tags and continued to take care of the plants because the garden was flourishing! There was an overflow of basil and borage – we were able to bundle them up for the kids to sell as that very day, they were able to have a thrill and earn some money to buy seeds.
Spending time caring for living beings felt therapeutic. You are continuously moving, cutting, designing and problem-solving. We look forward to the next time we visit in a few months to see how the garden will evolve. A space that is continuously growing and changing keeps you on your toes and interested!