PETALING JAYA: The rise in the cost of living, soaring prices of essential goods and worries about food security have led many Malaysians to grow their own food. One of them is Aishah Rosli, a 52-year-old from Pandan Indah, who converted her little flower garden into a small vegetable patch about two years ago, during the height of the Movement Control Order.

She created a flower garden on the balcony of her seventh-floor apartment unit about six years ago. Now, instead of non-edible flowering plants, vegetables and herbs are grown there.

Needless to say, the mother of three is enjoying fresh organic greens and is able to reduce her grocery expenses significantly.

“It’s very cost-effective because when I cook our daily meals, I only need a handful of chillies, mint leaves or other herbs.

“I used to buy them but now, I just go out to my garden and pluck the fresh herbs and vegetables I need, without having any leftovers that may be wasted.”

Aishah is glad that she now only buys dry food items and produce she does not grow in her garden.

“I spent around RM150 to start growing vegetables and herbs, and maintaining my garden costs less than RM5 a month. The items I buy such as soil and pots can be reused many times. I use organic fertilisers such as homemade compost and eggshells.”

Aishah has a few neighbours and colleagues who grow vegetables and herbs on their balconies too, and they swap veggies to enjoy more variety.

“For example, when I plant spinach and water spinach, my friends will plant aubergines and okra and we will swap vegetables twice a week so that we can get to enjoy an array of vegetables.”

Ampang resident and retiree Rashidah Hassan, 64, who joined the same group after being introduced to it by friends and the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association, said she has been enjoying the sharing sessions.

“I have curry leaf plants, some chillies, ulam rajapegaga and mint in my garden. The women in the group always share tips and ideas about gardening. It is a good way to spend my day. I enjoy it.”

Rashidah, who lives with her son and daughter-in-law, said her grandchildren enjoy the produce from her garden more than store-bought ones.

“It’s because they see seedlings grow into plants, and I always involve them when picking the vegetables.”

The consumer association has advised Malaysians to grow vegetables to counter the effects of recent vegetable price increases.

Its urban farming activist Yan Razal said checks by the association revealed that the situation may continue concurrently with the economic crisis, well into the future.

The association has introduced a programme to help those interested in starting urban farms.

“We give advise on the types of vegetables to plant and the right farming techniques to suit condominiums or landed properties.”

The programme is aimed at getting more Malaysians to start urban gardens, which may enable those involved to earn a side income if they manage to produce more than they need.

Those interested in growing vegetables and herbs in their homes can contact Yan Razal at 013-351 9699.

Article by: The Sun Daily