The Transformation of a Lifeless Terrace into the Gardens of Babylon

Travel in Close Quarters

In the recent lockdown months, eating at home was clearly the wiser choice for most, mainly to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But I have to admit my meal choices got a lot healthier too, and the fortnightly grocery shopping trip for cooking essentials was an opportunity to flex my rusty calves, even if just for a bit.

Gardens of Babylon, reaching delphi
Work In Progress ... the Gardens of Babylon

There was one problem with this arrangement, though. Me! My meal planning started when the greens begin to show signs of fall. That’s how I came up with a brilliant idea to try on a farmer’s hat and grow my own vegetables. This would be a start to an endless supply of handpicked, fresh capsicum, tomatoes, kale, and lettuce. Or so I thought …

Gardens of Babylon, reaching delphi
Becoming Gardens of Babylon 

Gardening was not new to me. I was 10 or 11 when I first handled a hedge shear and rake with a sun hat on. Looking back, perhaps the term “gardening” would be an exaggeration. Really, I was just trimming the overgrown fence. Was I paid? Yes, my first job was a handsomely paid one. My boss? My mom, of course. My mom’s passion is gardening, by the way. Honestly, I didn’t like gardening – it was a chore in the heat! But those few hours of roasting got me one monthly ais kacang treat (shaved ice dessert) and two Enid Blytons.

Transformation, Reaching Delphi
A potpourri of shots from Mom's patch

After a trip to Cameron Highlands and seeing acres of vegetable farms, I started imagining being a planter, stacking up plump cabbages amidst the morning fog to be sold at the local wet market for a considerable profit. My older sister would be the farm manager. I was eleven.

We moved to KL not too long after, far away from the highlands. My aunt, who lived a few miles away, had a beautiful garden of roses. I took one of her rose cuttings and planted it in ours. That cutting grew and would later produce the most beautiful and fragrant deep-pink blooms consistently for many decades. Sadly, that plant recently dried up and died. Luckily, I have pictures to remember it by. See how beautiful she is? I am in search of another beautiful rose plant again.

The lady stands elegantly

Eventually, over the years I outgrew any hope of owning a cabbage farm. However, looking at other people’s (family and friends) gardens, I could still deeply appreciate the joy flora brings to them. They have very beautiful flower and vegetable gardens. Below is a small collage I have put together of them.  

A peek view of gardens around the world

And so one day I woke up with a grand plan to transform my empty, lifeless balcony into a nurturing space ( a.k.a. a garden) just like theirs, but with a slightly different agenda – to stop eating almost rotten vegetables. 😊

Despite the travel restrictions, there was no stopping me from YouTubing into other people’s gardens for ideas. I Googled to see what I was getting myself into. [At this point I could hear Doc voice saying, “Here she goes again”]. I learned plenty of lessons and received advise from the internet and from family.  To begin, all I needed were a few pots and some good soil. I already had one massive pot in which I used to rear fish years ago. My friend, Angelina, recommended a bag of Baba’s soil that I could get easily. The idea of making fresh pasta sauce got stuck in my head while I continued with the after-office-hours research.

Pick wisely
Recognise any of these? 

Next, I needed seedling soil, fertilisers, and organic insect repellent. Online shopping, here I come!

Online Purchase
First purchase

If you, too, are considering putting your green thumb to the test, here are some beginner’s tips.

Be realistic

It’s important to grow what you enjoy watching flourish. I am hooked on the idea of vegetable planting so I can relive that eleven-year-old child’s fantasy. Will it work? I don’t know, but at least I have tried.

Speaking of being realistic, I just have a tiny balcony with a good amount of sunshine, so I must put this space to its best use.

seedling, reaching delphi
Cover me in sunshine

Know what grows well for your climate

I know for a fact that the apple tree inside my head won’t survive the tropical heat. I did a fair bit of research on what could be harvested successfully. The apple tree was not on the list! In the picture below, you can see what I have shortlisted.
flora, seedling
Hello, any apple tree here?

Plant what you enjoy looking at

I will mention this again. Plants bring out an immense amount of joy, peace, and happiness for a minimal cost. Select what you enjoy, and watch them grow. And, as crazy as it sounds, talk to your plants. They listen to your voice.
coffee, reaching delphi
Ready? Lets talk

Learn from fellow gardeners

I got overambitious and aimed to plant asparagus since they cost a lot of money at my local market. An exchange of texts with a fellow Redditor, however, proved this would not be the ideal thing to grow in my terrace. 

Did you know that the asparagus takes up to three years to harvest? Well, now you do.

Gardening gadgets

There are all sorts of inexpensive quick fixes available for our gardening needs at DIY stores, dollar shops, and online. I found some of these interesting and useful. I also came across few peculiar items but bought them anyway.

  • Sword, a.k.a. the bamboo support

Does this remind you of Yoda’s lightsaber? Well, it’s not something used ward off the evil forces of nature but is a bamboo stick to support drooping plants. You can also use strong twigs from trees as support if available.


Coffee, reaching delphi saver

  • Hair clips, a.k.a. plant clips

These are not the ordinary hair clips my nieces use to tie up their hair, but a very cool gadget to hold a plant’s stem to its (bamboo) support. Isn’t this a clever idea? Of course, the traditional way is to tie them together with a string or wire.

Coffee, Reaching Delphi
New toys

  • Racks

Check out the two racks I got. I had so much fun assembling them. But watch your fingers while you are at it, as you can easily scrape off the skin while tightening the screws like I did.

 Two-rack shelf

This looked light, but trust me, lifting it got my poor back aching for days.


I regard this tricycle rack as one of the best online purchases I have ever made. I was so happy just looking at it! This purchase also came with a free gift set that included a hand trowel, transplant trowel, and cultivator hand rake.

Tricycle, racks
Best online purchase ever - Tricycle

  • Watering can

A watering can is not the only way to water your plants with, but I found watering from a can very pleasurable (as I am sure it is for my plants!), so I don’t regret this purchase at all.

  • Automated water dispenser

There are days when I’m not home to water my plants. During these days, my automated dispensers will provide them the water they need. Dear Automated Dispensers, please keep my plants watered and alive till I am back.

  • Fence for creepers

Snow peas, cucumbers, and gourds are good climbers. If you want bountiful, healthy, and a tasty harvest, be sure to provide them suitable terrain to creep up. Look what I have for my creepers.

reachingdelphi, garden, plants

  • Starter Seeds

Frankly speaking, you don’t spend money on “magic” seeds unless it is absolutely needed. When I started, I haphazardly ordered various vegetable seeds. I was surprised to find there were only a few seeds inside these large packs, and survival is not 100% guaranteed. Other experienced gardening mates later told me that for tomato planting, even a slice of a very ripe tomato will do the trick,  which is what I used at the end. My mini garden today is cultivated from both store seeds and fresh scraps.
seedling, reachingdelphi
Who Am I?

  • Seedling containers

While you can get these relatively cheap at dollar shops, you could opt to save the environment by using paper-based egg trays and unused cups. I have.

reachingdelphi, recycle, reuse
reuse and recycle

  •  Planting Pots

It is essential to know the habitat required for your plants because, just like us, they will not grow as expected without the proper space. For example, tomatoes need deep pots, while snow peas will be happy in a shallow pan. So, order the right size.

It’s not always merrier with more

Just because plants don’t speak a human language, it doesn’t mean they should be dumped in a pot anyway we want. Respect the plants. Try not to overcrowd them into one pot. Just get another container if needed.


What I called a chore in the heat at eleven is today a pleasure and catharsis. Every morning I look out eagerly to see how many inches my crops have grown through the night. Some mornings, especially on weekends, I just sit on the floor next to my plants with my coffee. Some days I take a couple of photos, and an exchange of good morning texts with close ones starts. I don’t know if this gardening experience is a fad or something long term, but I am enjoying every moment of it right now. Being in the company of plants is therapeutic.

Therapeutic...time well spent

Special shoutout to all my fellow gardeners for all the valuable advice and for allowing me to share photos of your beautiful flora with the rest. Thank you!

For me, travel is about searching within myself, learning something new, exploring new cultures, and meeting people who will stay on in my mind. Thanks to the advances in technology, I can still do that from my living room (and balcony). I look at gardening as a sign of many more travels to come. Counting stars, Reaching Delphi … counting the days to my harvest and to more learning opportunities. Reaching Delphi is about travelling within your means.

reachingdelphi, coffee
Thank you for visiting my garden 😃


  1. Sage words on gardening; rose may bloom soon; time will cast a kind eye on all. Thanks again for refreshing read, lady.

    1. Thank you for your kind and wise words YS. I can smell that rose from a distance. Time will cast a kind eye on all, I believe that time will be soon. Another simple yet impactful saying I came across --> To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. It leaves me thinking ...