Chua Chu Kang Town Council

24 Hours Hotline


Call Centre

6569 0388


Gardening for Good

Gardening for Good: Harnessing HDB Rooftops for the Community

HDB rooftops have become cool and green spaces. Besides solar panels, community gardens have also sprouted up there too.

Residents of Sunshine Gardens will, no doubt, be familiar with the flourishing community garden (pictured above) that has taken over the rooftop of the multi-storey carpark at Block 489 Choa Chua Kang Avenue 5 in the last few years.

This plot is lovingly tended by eight residents who generously share the fruits of their labour with everyone in the neighbourhood. They take turns to look after the garden – some attend to the garden daily, while others do so once or twice a week.

One of the lead gardeners, 64-year-old Uncle Tey Ka Leong (pictured above harvesting a watermelon), a resident of Sunshine Gardens, said in Mandarin: “We like to experiment and grow all kinds of edibles. As long as we have the seeds, we will try cultivating them.”

Every few weeks, bushels of fresh produce, ranging from kailan, cabbage and spinach, would be brought to the nearby Residents’ Committee (RC) room to be distributed to residents.

Papayas, okras, Chinese radish and pomegranates are some of the delightful myriads of edible fruits and vegetables cultivated by the hardworking community gardeners.

Gardening as exercise

Uncle Tey started gardening as a way of getting fit. When he first moved into Sunshine Gardens seven years ago, his health wasn’t good.

Gardening would let him do something useful: grow something edible while getting the much-needed exercise recommended by his doctors.

He cleared a patch in front of his block for his first garden. His first crops were chilli, banana and sweet potato leaves.

As he knew nothing about gardening, he turned to YouTube. He said whatever he picked up on gardening came from those free online tutorials.

A Town Council staff who noticed Uncle Tey’s talent/ green thumbs encouraged him to pursue his gardening passion by balloting for a community gardening plot as part of the Community Improvement Projects for his estate.

Guava tree laden with fruit in the garden.

Challenges of growing edibles

Mr and Mrs Ye are among the volunteers seen daily pottering in the garden.

Uncle Tey takes turns tending the garden with four residents who come almost daily, while the remaining volunteers come once a week or every fortnight.

Laksa leaves, chilli and pandan leaves – the must-have Asian cooking ingredients that can be found in the rooftop garden.

These days, the challenging hot weather has made their efforts doubly hard. Last year, they could harvest about four to five baskets full of leafy green produce in three to four weeks. This year, they can barely fill a basket per harvest.

Yet another challenge they face is the presence of unwanted visitors who can’t resist helping themselves to the garden produce, and inadvertently kill the plants in the process. Uncle Tey said he hopes fellow residents can leave the harvesting to him and his fellow gardeners, as all the produce is shared with the community.

Gardening tips for good harvests

Pumpkin, xiao bai cai and white brinjal flourish in the lush garden.

The secret to Sunshine Gardens’ bountiful harvests: Daily and frequent monitoring of the plants’ health. According to Uncle Tey, one of their most important duties as resident gardeners is to check for pests as well as whether the plants have sufficient water.

He said that edible plants need frequent watering, especially given the recent intermittent hot and dry spells.

The resident gardeners water the plants twice a day. Uncle Tey said: “The trick is to ensure that the soil is sufficiently moist, but not wet, and not parched and cracking.”

Uncle Tey has to take extra care to water the plants nowadays, due to the hot weather.

They also make sure the right kinds of fertiliser are used. For example, dried chicken manure is good for leafy greens.

The passionate gardeners also keep a vigilant eye out for pests. For example, if slugs are found, they will clear the affected patch immediately. They then leave it to fallow for the next two weeks to allow the sun’s heat to kill any remaining pests (or their eggs).

Growing an edible garden is hard work, said Uncle Tey; they require much more effort than ornamental plants! But the reward of seeing their farm-to-table produce is well worth it!

*Residents who are keen on gardening can form a gardening interest group with their Residents Network and apply to ballot for a community garden plot through the People’s Association or NParks allotment gardens.