Scaling communal gardens for success


Kebun Komuniti Laman Hijau Pangsapuri Permai Putera members with MPAJ Landscape Department personnel showing off padi plants at their community garden in Taman Dato Ahmad Razali. — Photos: LOW LAY PHON and LOW BOON TAT/The Star

WHAT began as a hobby for residents in Ampang Jaya, Selangor, to putter around in their backyards has blossomed into thriving community gardens where the produce extends well beyond individual kitchens.

Of the 47 community gardens supported by Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ), several are leveraging their collective experience and knowledge to achieve sustainability on a larger scale.

StarMetro spoke to the heads of three community gardens who shared insights into their journey from small plots to thriving communal projects.

Members emphasised that proceeds from any surplus produce were reinvested into their allotments, ensuring continuous improvement of their green spaces.

These gardens not only provide fresh produce but also foster a strong sense of community and environmental stewardship among participants.

A variety of vegetables and herbs growing at Kebun Komuniti Pegaga including birds-eye chilli, coriander, Brazil spinach, pineapple and cucumber.A variety of vegetables and herbs growing at Kebun Komuniti Pegaga including birds-eye chilli, coriander, Brazil spinach, pineapple and cucumber.

Technology driven

At Kebun Komuniti Pegaga in Okid Apartment, Taman Bukit Indah, the goal is to eventually turn the community garden into a fully automated one.

Its chairman Datuk Mohammad Aziz Sitam said they were working towards using Internet of Things (IoT) technology to enhance traditional gardening practices.

The garden was established in 2015 using conventional methods and started incorporating technology in 2018.

He said the 46.5sq m garden was semi-automated to manage its hydroponic and fertigation methods to grow vegetables, as well as a fully automated greenhouse for mushrooms.

Mohammad Aziz said they used IoT for irrigation and temperature monitoring.

Mohammad Aziz at Kebun Komuniti Pegaga’s greenhouse producing white oyster mushrooms.Mohammad Aziz at Kebun Komuniti Pegaga’s greenhouse producing white oyster mushrooms.

“By using IoT technology, we have been able to grow produce that is equivalent to a 0.4ha farm.

“It also means that we won’t need people to constantly look after the garden as it can be monitored via our phones.

“We are trying to come up with additional budget to upgrade the systems to make it fully automated,” he said.

They grow some 15 types of vegetables and herbs, including birds-eye chilli, coriander, Brazilian spinach, pineapple and cucumber.

The committee started growing white oyster mushrooms last July.

At its peak, it yielded 15kg of mushrooms per day, according to Mohammad Aziz.

White oyster mushrooms.White oyster mushrooms.

“We currently have about 5,000 mushroom bricks (or blocks) in the fully automated greenhouse, which we can monitor remotely.

“We can expand the operations to fit 15,000 bricks.”

Surplus produce not bought by apartment residents is sold to other communities.

“At one point, we sold to small sundry shops and markets but this proved tricky as they wanted a consistent supply.

“We were not able to accommodate this as we fitted in gardening activities in between our regular work schedules.

“Any extra cash we make is pumped back into maintenance and improvement of the garden,” said Mohammad Aziz.

He said the group had about 15 to 17 active members who took turns to maintain the garden.

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, as the group has won numerous awards and accolades.

As Pertubuhan Kebun Komuniti Pegaga, they emerged champions of the Selangor Strata Green Space Award 2023, winning the first prize and the innovation special award.

Mohammad Aziz said the idea behind the garden was to create a space for the community to gather.

“This has become a place for people to lend a helping hand or meet others.

“It has also helped to create a sense of community and belonging among residents,” he added.

Masani Man is one of those tasked with rearing catfish at Kebun Komuniti Ukay Indah.Masani Man is one of those tasked with rearing catfish at Kebun Komuniti Ukay Indah.

Turning to aquaculture

It has been eight years since residents at Pangsapuri Ukay Indah, Taman Ukay Indah, started their garden plots.

The enterprise has since expanded to include aquaculture and beekeeping.

In 2016, the joint management body (JMB) along with interested residents started several garden plots around the apartment blocks.

Every bit of space was used, with each small plot managed by individual residents to plant herbs, flowers and vegetables.

Within two years, Kebun Komuniti Pangsapuri Ukay Indah Club began rearing catfish within its main plot.

This was mainly possible thanks to the natural water source (air bukit) behind the garden, said JMB chairman Mohd Yusof Che Mansor.

“With the fresh water supply, we are able to maintain a healthy environment for the catfish.

“It was not without challenges but we learned to problem-solve besides engaging with MPAJ and others to gain more knowledge.

“We now have about 600 to 700 fish. When there is an order, the fish is cleaned and sold,” he said, adding that this had developed into a small income stream.

The operation now also includes smoked catfish, which has proven to be popular.

“We are hoping to expand the project to have 10 to 12 large containers for the catfish, from the current three.

“Once we have the manpower, we want to engage with the Fisheries Department to get its input,” said Mohd Yusof.

To sustain the garden and minimise maintenance costs, they implemented a rainwater-harvesting, zero-waste management system.

Most recently, the community garden members have been roped into trying stingless bee (kelulut) honey production that was suggested by the Gombak/Petaling District Agriculture Office. They started off with 10 hives.

Norliza (left) and Mohd Yusof showing the Pandan Bonsai they have planted at Kebun Komuniti Pangsapuri Ukay Indah.Norliza (left) and Mohd Yusof showing the Pandan Bonsai they have planted at Kebun Komuniti Pangsapuri Ukay Indah.

Community garden club head Norliza Bohari said, “We had initially sought the department’s input for the location of a new vegetable garden.

“But during a site visit, officers said the location was not suitable as there was not enough sunlight.

“Instead, they suggested that we try producing honey.”

The first colony of bees arrived in early March and it will take about six months before they can harvest up to 15kg of honey.

Norliza, who is also the residents association chairman, said the project was made possible with an allocation of RM10,000 from Selangor Housing and Property Board (LPHS).

The apiculture project is part of LPHS’ “Rejuvinasi Komuniti Selangor Laman Hijau Strata 2.0” (Score 2.0) initiative.

Growing padi in the city

The padi beds at Kebun Komuniti Laman Hijau Pangsapuri Permai Putera in Taman Dato Ahmad Razali are an unusual sight.

Chairman Muniza Mohd Zaini said they started padi cultivation last March, beginning with 2kg of seeds from Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi).

“We planted the MR269 variety, which does not need much water and is well-suited to urban farming conditions.

“It will take about six months before our first harvest, but it is looking promising,” she said.

Kebun Komuniti Laman Hijau Pangsapuri Permai Putera advisor Mohd Fuad Eusof working the shredder to make coco peat.Kebun Komuniti Laman Hijau Pangsapuri Permai Putera advisor Mohd Fuad Eusof working the shredder to make coco peat.

Muniza said they took on padi planting on MPAJ’s suggestion.

The community garden was set up in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, initially with traditional herbs and vegetables.

The 0.41ha garden is located outside the apartment complex on rented land.

Over the past six months, the community gardeners have started producing coco peat, which can be used as compost and a growing medium.

It is made by putting a coconut husk pith through a shredding machine.

The group sources discarded coconuts from vendors around the area.

MPAJ through its contractors also helps by dropping off spent coconuts at the community garden to be processed.

Brinjal plants growing at Kebun Komuniti Laman Hijau Pangsapuri Permai Putera.Brinjal plants growing at Kebun Komuniti Laman Hijau Pangsapuri Permai Putera.

The coco peat is then sold to other community gardens and individuals.

Muniza said they had so far been able to produce about 300 bags.

“We did not expect it to be this big an operation but it has been possible with the support of the team and the local community.

“Our long-term plan is to produce and market our own brand of coco peat,” she said.

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!
   

Next In Metro News

Residents welcome Cabinet’s decision on Taman Rimba Kiara
Step up monitoring to regulate vape sales, says Dr Zaliha
Putrajaya annual garden festival to return from Aug 22 to Sept 1
Special fund to help JMB, MC collect overdue maintenance fees in Subang Jaya
Old Edwardian 55th reunion dinner, annual school sports this Saturday
DBKL to repair five playgrounds
New fare of RM7 for people with disability and companion
Senior folk chase away the blues with song
Funds uplift schools
Households earning below RM5,000 can now apply for aid in Selangor

Others Also Read