New festival to showcase fruits of local gardeners' labour

A 16kg winter melon harvested from a community garden in Bukit Batok was so huge that it was enough to feed 30 senior citizens.

"It just grew and grew and grew, and we were worried that the fence next to it would collapse," said Mr John Hou, 70, who maintains the garden with eight other residents.

"So we cut it down and made soup for everybody then," he said.

Avid gardeners such as Mr Hou will soon have a new platform to showcase their prized fruits and vegetables.

This September, a new Community Garden Festival will be held at HortPark in Alexandra to recognise the efforts of community gardeners.

As part of the festival, there will be a fruits and vegetables competition to award cash prizes to those who have grown, say, the longest bitter gourd or the heaviest watermelon. It is modelled after similar competitions overseas such as those organised by the Royal Horticultural Society, where British farmers vie to produce the biggest pumpkins.

"We hope to cultivate an interest among Singaporeans to grow edibles in their homes and community gardens," said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee at the launch of the competition at HortPark yesterday.

"How many of us who grew up when Singapore was already a Garden City can claim to know how to grow our own food?"

The country already holds the biennial Singapore Garden Festival, which is globally recognised and drew 200,000 visitors last year.

The new Community Garden Festival will take place annually at HortPark or alongside the Singapore Garden Festival at Gardens by the Bay.

Mr Lee said festivals such as the Singapore Garden Festival tend to focus more on expert horticulturalists exhibiting their best.

"This new festival will bring Singaporeans from all walks of life into the heart of the greening drive and add a people-oriented dimension to our garden festivals," he said. There are about 850 community gardens tended by 3,000 active volunteers here.

Besides the competition, the festival will feature a "Streets of Singapore" showcase of the 16 species of trees which roads here are named after. For instance, Sembawang, Kranji and Tampines roads got their names from the Sembawang, Keranji and Tempinis trees respectively.

For Mr Hou, plans to grow winter melon, cucumber and watermelon are already under way.

"We are all excited because this is the first such competition here, and my neighbours and I have started discussing which plot of land to use."

This article was first published on Apr 5, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.