Author’s Blurb: I’ve since accepted that I may never get started on my edible garden, and that it’s just something I’ll keep thinking about doing but never get around to actually doing it. To me, caring for edible greens is tough work, and I’m not ready to face the disappointment of having them die on me.
Shao-Lyn of Eats, Shoots & Roots totally gets me and other urbanites who think the same way.
“With work and family, most still find having a garden or taking care of plants a challenge as it’s like having to nurture a pet,” she said.
But unlike me, more people are now willing to try and learn. This is a good thing to her, as one learns the most through hands-on, practical experience after all.
At Eats, Shoots & Roots, they’re always trying to bridge the intimidating gap by encouraging people to grow hardier plants that are fast-growing, more convenient, and less energy-consuming.
“This allows higher rates of success which then gives people confidence to try other plants,” Shao-Lyn explained.
Some of the popular plants people enjoy growing today are microgreens, which can be grown on your balcony or in your kitchen and be harvested in 7 days.
Built From The Ground Up
In 2012, Shao-Lyn and her co-founders started their business in a small kampung backyard, at a time when growing your own edible garden wasn’t common culture amongst urbanites.
Over the past 8 years, Eats, Shoots & Roots grew and began putting out products and services aimed to help urban folks get started on their edible gardens in the easiest way possible.
To achieve this, they offer garden kits which range from simple seed packs that people can buy as gifts, to large garden beds, and they’re always trying to make the experience a guided interactive project.
They’ve even opened up a hotline for any plant questions people may have, and recently created a Plant Love Doctor segment to help people who have relationship issues with their plants.
“In this ‘stay home’ climate we’ve gone one step further to push for the #stayhomeandgarden campaign and offer garden workshops online as well so that people can still garden despite the lockdown,” Shao-Lyn shared.
“We’re constantly creating content on social media to share the highs as well as the lows of edible gardening, so that people understand gardening as a whole and also not feel so dejected if and when their plants die.”
Most importantly, they do what they do so that people don’t feel alone in their gardening journeys.
Aside from adults, Eats, Shoots & Roots also teaches kids as they try to inculcate environmental conscientiousness from an early age.
They help families set up edible gardens in their spaces where children can get involved, and they run school holiday programmes for children too.
What they’ve definitely noticed over the years is that people are now more conscious about their food choices and how well exposed to the environment their children are.
Edible gardening has been a slow but growing trend, and some developers have begun allocating gardens in their communities. Families can then have their own small patches in the gardens to grow their own food.
“More recently, COVID-19 has also caused people to rethink their resilience at home, and we’ve seen an increase in interest for gardening, also because people are at home more,” Shao-Lyn noted.
Nature Is Full Of Surprises
With Eats, Shoots & Roots having taught people how to grow their own edible gardens for the past 8 years, I wondered if the process ever got repetitive or mundane.
Apparently not at all, as Shao-Lyn shared that there’s no one solution and no right or wrong when it comes to gardening, just different methods and what works for you.
Since each person or community learns differently, it’s always a new experience for the team when teaching them too.
“For example, our student community at YWCA, they learn through their farm and each season brings different challenges. They understand that plants have different characters and needs, and when the environment changes, so do the plants,” Shao-Lyn said.
“The cycle repeats, but never with the same set of challenges. That way it never gets mundane. You’ll also be amazed at the different pests that come your way—we’ve done this for 8 years and are still seeing different insects pop up now and then!”
Nowadays, there are also many ways to grow an edible garden outside of dirt, like hydroponics or aquaponics, and other businesses have capitalised on this too.
Shao-Lyn acknowledged that each technique has its own strengths and challenges, and that at the end of the day, the intention is still to grow food.
While they don’t discourage other techniques, Eats, Shoots & Roots is sticking with dirt at the moment as growing from the earth brings them the most joy and helps them feel the most connected to nature.
“Also, it’s the most basic technique to grow which can be executed in the most basic of spaces,” she concluded.
Bottom Line: I imagine being able to grow, harvest and consume your own greens must be a very satisfying thing to do. It’s like, “Wow, I grew this and it survived and now I’m eating it!”. Microgreens are probably the way I’d start my own edible garden journey too, because it seems more low-maintenance than other greens for a beginner like me.
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