Tuesday, July 19, 2016

{Gardening Journal} All about... Planting Tomatoes!


Finally, my very first post of my gardening journal - sharing my experience on planting tomatoes in tropical weather. I used to think its impossible for the plant to survive low land as I've only seen it being planted in Cameron Highlands, but decided to give it a try when I came across some seeds from the nursery.

I'm glad I did as it was really satisfying to watch the plant bear fruits and transformed from pale green to bright red. It's such a pretty sight! 

However, the biggest reward from homegrown tomatoes (apart from the harvest) is that my elder, who used to dislike tomatoes, wanted to try out the tomatoes and decided he actually likes them. So now cherry tomato is one of his favorite snacks in the lunchbox. *success!*



Disclaimer..
Please take note that I am not a seasoned gardener, in fact you may call me amatuer as I only started planting about 9 months back & only have time to care for my garden in the weekends. I've been learning through numerous trial and failure, info exchange from the Malaysian Gardeners groups and new gardening friends that I've met along the journey. I hope this post would be useful for whoever new to planting tomatoes like me.. but please do share your suggestion if there are any better methods. 🙂 


Growing Tomatoes Must-Know
 
Germinating  
• Typically tomatoes should take about 90 days from seedling to harvest, but it took about 3.5 months for mine to grow up to the height of 4ft tall before they started flowering, and subsequently grew to about 5ft tall. 

• I grew my plant from seeds (you could germinate using the store bought tomatoes too) and they took about 3-4 days to germinate and  another 6-8 weeks for the seedling to grow to a stable size of about 1ft tall. Until that, best to keep the seedling in a sheltered area.


Planting Condition
• Avoid overcrowding the plants, you should need a deep pot (mine is about 8" deep) and keep the plants about 2m apart from each other. In my case, I had 2 seedlings in the same round pot and one is obviously overshadowed by the stronger one. It does bear fruits but much lesser. So ideally, I would suggest limit to 1 plant per pot.

• Tomatoes love sun and I notice my plants reached optimum growth when placed them under full sun with daily water (sprout upward really fast). Get ready trellis to provide the support for the stem and branches before they break.

• I used 6-in-1 organic soil with added perlite and risk husk to improve the drainage. No other special "ingredeints" except periodic fertilizer. 

Fertilizing 
• I fertilize my tomatoes weekly with non-chemical fertilizer and organic kitchen waste - rotating between organic fertilizer, crushed egg shells, fish amino acids (FAA- a type of homemade fish emulsions which I bought from a local gardener), Epsom salt and banana peels. Read on more to find out why I fed kitchen waste to my plant and what are the benefits. :)

• I noticed some leaves turn yellow during fruiting, it's probably due to the nutritions are channeled to produce fruits hence there won't be enough to supply to the whole plant. I just trim off the brown leaves once a week and add them to the top of the soil as mulching.
 
Pollination
• I pollinated my plant by hand using cotton bud to exchange the pollen, and slightly shake the plant as suggested by other fellow gardeners. I left it to pollinate naturally at first without any luck (despite my garden is frequently patron by bees and butterflies), hence I decided to intervene and the success rate was 100%!

Note: I hand pollinated my pumpkin and eggplant too.


Fruiting & Harvesting 
• Once the flower is pollinated, the babies stay green on vine for about 3 weeks, I continued to fertilize weekly and they started turning red - which takes another 1 week time to be completely red.

• I was advised to cover the tomatoes with plastic bags to prevent fruit flies, but the tomatoes were alright despite I left them in the open.

• How to know its time to harvest? The fruit is all red (unless yours is non-red variety) and has a shiny outer layer. Cut with a scissors instead of plucking to preserve the freshness. We did the wrong way as my kiddos could not wait for me to fetch the scissors...



Important Tips 
Tips you ought to know if you are seriously considering to grow tomatoes... 

• With our unpredictable tropical weather, I would suggest avoid placing the plant in the open as excessive rain water could cause the tomatoes to crack open. I kept my plant in pot, indoor but under full sun. I find that this is an ideal condition for tomatoes to grow. This keeps it away from the snails too.

Companion planting with marigold helps to deter pest like white flies and mealy bugs. However it does not works for pests like spider mites and leaf miner, so would still have to check the plant frequently and combat with sprays - I don't use any commercial pesticides as that defeat the purpose of homegrown. Instead I made my own spray and a special herbal pesticide purchased from a friend. Read on more about the homemade spray..
 
Banana peels are good source of potassium. Just cut them into small chunks and burry next to the plant. Indeed I feed that frequently to all my edibles and roses too. Absolutely free and reduce wastage too.

Eggshells is a rich source of calcium, which is essential for the growth of a healthy tomato plant. You may grind the dried egg shells into powdery form for better absorption, but the lazy me just crushed the shells with the edge of a bottle and buried them directly into the soil. 

Epsom salt is a good source of magnesium and can be easily obtained from pharmacy (ask for medicine grade) for about RM5.90 - RM8.90 a pack. From my research, Magnesium is important to promote healthy growth of the tomato plant and it also improves sweetness of the fruits, so I make it a practice to sprinkle some Epsom salt to my tomatoes and chills periodically.

Note: Epson Salt is NOT normal kitchen salt, don't offer the wrong salt! ;-) 


• Homemade Chili Spray 
This is the homemade spray I have been making to protect my plants, my garden was once under heavy infestation of white flies and mealy bugs, but I finally managed to battle them off. 

This is what you need for homemade spray:
- 4 clove crushed garlic
- 4 dried chilies (cut) 
- 2 puff dish washing liquid 
- mix with 350ml water 
- Filter and add into spray bottle

Spray directly onto the leaves (top & reverse of leaf) in the morning or evening but avoid using under hot sun. I used the spray for 3 consecutive days when pests are spotted, it works really well for me. However, avoid using it on fragile plants with tiny leaf as it's quite a spicy spray.

Warning: REMEMBER not to touch your eyes after mixing the spray, it burns!


The Harvest and the Progress 
First harvest was the sweetest, these baby tomatoes weigh a total of 75g, almost equivalent to the weight of an M size egg each! (The double blue pea flowers are one of my favorite plants that gives me frequent harvest, but that shall be sharing for another day)


Tomatoes on vine. My love 💕

A week before the harvest.

3 weeks before harvesting.


The full tree - about 4-5ft tall and supported by few trellis. It would be ideal to provide support on the top instead.


The flowers, which i hand pollinated using cotton bud to transfer the pollen from one flower to anther. 


The seedling at 3 weeks old. 


That's it folks, hope you find this useful. I welcome any tips as it is really fun to watch the plant grow and stay fruitful. 

Happy gardening!


Xoxo
PH

Friday, June 17, 2016

Art Attack time.. Super Hero Family Standees


Father's Day is approaching, we don't usually have grand celebrating, but would like the little ones to show appreciation to their daddy. He's like a hero to them - the one who fears nothing, who always protects them, who knows almost everything, and the one who fixes any broken things at home. 
Hence, he deserves a "Super Dad" standee! (and a Super Mom made by C too, hehe)


I printed some super Hero drawings and let them choose which design they liked. Both chose their favorite and started coloring right away. They kept telling me, "I love this mommy!". Afterall, who wouldn't like making their own super hero? ;-)





Ta-da.. The artwork made by E, C and myself.




Here's the making:
1. First, find a super hero drawing and attach it on top a large rectangular shape (refer to pic above).
2. Color as you wish, then cut it out. 
3. Attach an ice cream stick on the reverse of the drawing as support, carefully bend the bottom of the stick (about 2") to form an L shape to help it stands.
4. Fold the base and glue onto the base of ice cream stick to form a triangular shape (see middle right picture on possible ways to make the stand)

The standee is done. ;-)


Happy Father's Day to all the super daddies out there!



Xoxo
pH




Copyrights © Pui Hua and Fun With Little Ones, 2012 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any materials/photos within this website without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pui Hua and Fun With Little Ones with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Friday, June 10, 2016

{Travel Special} Summer Retreat at Khao Yai


It's mid year school holiday, after the 4 days holiday programme E practically has nothing else to do at home (we are both working parents), so we decided to go for a short family retreat. 

Due to the busy work schedule, Big Guy and I could only spare about 4 days for the trip, that would rules out long distance travel. Since we had done quite some cuti-cuti Malaysia trips last year - PenangLangkawi, Cameron Highlands . This time round we decided to venture slightly further to our neighboring country, Thailand.

No, not Bangkok, but Khao Yai!


Khao Yai is located north of bangkok, about 180km or 3 hours by car. The name "Khao Yai" actually stands for grand mountain in Thai, it is well known for its national park, lush mountainscape and many Tucson structures which were built as tourism attractions for local and foreigners alike. Since we wanted a back to nature trip to relax and rewind, this sound like an ideal place.. (and indeed it is!)


Here's the detail of our 4D3N itinerary..


Day 1 (Saturday)
• Palio Italian Village
• The Witches Brew Restaurants @ Venitto Piazza
• The Pig House Gallery @ Khao Yai

We arrived in Bangkok DMK airport on a morning flight via AirAsia, greeted by our friendly Thai driver, Mr Green, who brought us for a simple lunch at the local food court on the way to Khao Yai. It is really where the local go, hardly anyone that speak English, so we had to use a lot of sign language to order our food (imagine I was struggling to say No Prawn and Non spicy when ordering for the kids, lol)


Palio Italian Village
It was a long 3 hour drive, we fell asleep soon after entering the highway and when we woke up, we were overlooking some beautiful Tuscan buildings!

The village is not that big but I had to say it's very well planned and well maintained, they really tried to replicate the Europe villages experience, the entire place reminded me of the French villages we visited 2 years ago. 

Palio is a picturesque townville, with luscious plants that climb over walls and buildings, colorful flora and bushes in ever corner, pebbles path and steps, classical music on the play and live music performance in the evening... Despite many stores were not in operations (there were some fashion, handmade stores and one ice cream shop), it is still an interesting place to visit.













Remember to go up the tower thru the spiral steps for an unobstructed view of the village.




The kiddos were excited to discover the maze garden, it's not magnificent like the Royal Botanica garden of Melbourne or the Trick Garden in Austria, but it is petite and beautiful.




Visitor Information:
- Entrance fee: Free (parking THB20)
- Visiting hours:  9:00am – 8:00pm daily
  • - Location: Mitrapab - Thanarat Intersection, 5km from Chokchai Farm
    - Tips: best to visit on weekends as I've read that some shops are closed on weekdays.


    • The Witches Brew Restaurant @ Vinetto Piazza
    The restaurant is located within 5 minutes walking distance from Palio, serving Thai and western cuisines. Very reasonably priced and thumbs up for their warm hospitality. The best experience I had with green curry - to eat with crispy roti canai, never would have thought of it. 

    The kind lady (who is also the chef and the owner's wife) brought the duo a big bag of ultraman figurines, they literally went hysterical as they never had so many ultramans figurines before. Lol. 

    We ordered 3 main courses and 2 pints of Singha beers, only cost us THB990. Very reasonable, as I said earlier. Perhaps because it's the ONLY restaurant in the entire area, the rest of the shops are still unoccupied (some under construction)















    The biggest surprise was the Princess carriage located in the center of the piazza, C couldn't wait to snap photos after photos... Any little girls' dream I would say :)



    We then return to our holiday home, The Pig House Gallery. Read more about our wonderful experience here.


    Day 2 Sunday
    • PB Valley Vineyard tour & Wine Tasting 
    • Chokchai Farm
    • Khao Yai Premium Outlet 
    • Dinner @ Krua Khai Yai

    Breakfast was generous & healthy kind, we had our coffee overlooking the pond, surrounded by chirping birds, tiny butterflies and listening to the sound of flowing water.. while kiddos enjoy themselves at the swing nearby.

    I even took C for a bicycle ride while admiring the flowers around, they planted a lot of roses, ixora and other colorful flowers around the area. Simply refreshing!


    PB Valley Vineyard & Winery Tour




    PB Valley vineyard was founded in 1989 and is one of the most well known wineries in the region. There is a total of 500 hectares of land and with over 60 varieties of grapes which was sourced from France, Australia, Spain and Italy. They have their own vineyard, winery and restaurants called the Horn Bill restaurants serving local and western cuisines.

    We arrived at the PB Valley vineyard around 10:15am, just in time for the vineyard tour. The carriage can accommodate about 24 passengers and there was an English speaking guide that introduced us around the vineyard.

    We've been to the Moët Chandoney and other winery in Melbourne couples of years ago. The setup of this winery is pretty impressive but when it comes to wine tasting, there is really a significant different in the taste of the wines and the wine tasting experience. However, considering the amount we paid (the fee included 3 glasses of wines), this was a worthy  visit and I would think it is a good experience for anyone visiting Khao Yai.








    We attempted to hijack the truck :)

    The table grapes


    At the vineyards & wine tasting.







    The duo's first time in a winery, so amazed by the giant wine chiller where the wines are chilled at 24°c between 12 months (white wines) to 24months (red wines). These are for the white wines while the reds are stored in oak barrels.


    Lunch at the Horn Bill restaurant was a relaxing one; soft ambience, prompt services and splendid view of the vineyard. The ribs were delicious but I found my beef steak a bit too old and hard to chew.







     

    Wondering around the restaurant ..














    Important Info

    Tour & Wine Tasting: THB400(adult) | THB200(children)
    Green Season Package: 
    - THB590 (local main course) or THB990 (western main course)
    - includes main course, a glass of wine and fresh sorbet.
    - Visit their Facebook page here
    - Tip: February is as a good time to visit, as it's the harvesting month and the weather is cooling ;-)


    Chokchai Farm

    Chokchai farm is located about 30minutes away from the PB Valley vineyard, and I pre-booked the tour knowing that the kiddos will like this place - cows, milks and ice cream. 

    After getting our entrance ticket, we proceed with our first activity - milk the cow! You can opt to milk the cow by hands or just stand aside to watch, like us :) 


    Machine milking (reminded me of my breast pumping session, lol). The kiddos were seriously amazed to see the amount of milk abstracted!


    We then proceed to milk factory & ice cream tasting. Kind of disappointed as they only explained how it works (half the time in Thai) while we were expecting an actual demo. Anyway, the milk ice cream was creamy and rich.

    We then boarded the truck that took us around the farm.



    The kiddos enjoying some shooting games before the cowboy show began.




    Important Info
    Entrance + Tour Fee: THB300(adult) | THB150(children above 90cm)
    Tour hour: Visit their website for more info,  make sure you arrived at least 30 minutes before the tour.


    Khao Yai Premium Outlet
    Initially I wanted to bring the kids to the zoo, but after reading some disappointing review of the zoo, Idecided to visit the premium outlet instead.

    It houses about 50 different brands; some sports brands (adidas, Nike), some female wear (can't recall any particular brand), and men's wear (Lacoste, Timerland), but nothing much that excites me... No branded bags as I can recall. 



    We spent about an hour here and decided to leave early. Sorry but this is just not quite my kind of place.


    Dinner @ Krua Khao Hai
    This is a popular Thai restaurant serving the most authentic dishes at amazingly reasonable price. How we know it's authentic? Its almost full house and we were the only foreigners around, everyone else were speaking in Thai. Lol.

    The food was surprisingly delicious. If you are a tomyam lover like me, you would love their tomyam soup - hot and sour and full of flavor! Their green curry chicken, sty fried sunflower sprouts and the salt fish egg Omelete (which is their speciality) all deserved thumbs up too!


    All these, plus a large bottle of Shinga beer for only THB795!


    Super satisfied with my tomyam khai (chicken), not a single drop of soup left!


    With that, we returned to our hotel with a very satisfied stomach. 


    Day 3 Monday
    • Khao Yai National Park
    • Huew Suwat Waterfall
    • Thimgsomnoon Club
    • the Bloom Flora park
    • Vienticco restaurant @ Granmonte Winery 


    Khao Yai National Park spans over 2,000 hecters and is an UNESCO world heritage site. Many wild life enthusiastics were seen busy capturing pictures of the wild life and birds that were roaming free in the park.


    Haew Suat Waterfall
    The waterfall is located some 26km away from the park entrance, took us a good 25 minutes to reach by car. It is quite a winding route, but a scenic one passing thru reservoir, lush woods, open fields and mountain top.







    But, we finally arrived at the haew Suwat waterfall only to find there isn't any waterfall now as there has not been enough rain.. What?!!! But despite the disappointment,  we explored the quiet stream and discovered a spot full of butterflies..





    Love the Mystical view with the messy branches and their turquoise green reflection. If only we had our Nikon SLRs with us.





    Important Info
    Entrance Fee: THB400 (adult foreigner) | THB200 (children above 4yo) | Vehicle + driver THB100
    Visiting hour: please check the website


    The Chocolate Factory
    We stopped by this modern cafe for lunch, I was expecting a chocolate factory, but it's really just a chocolate shop and fusion restaurant, selling hand crafted chocolate, local and western cuisine. Haha, what a mistake. Anyway the ambience was nice, but the pork tenderloin I had was rather dry and the portion of the pasta was rather small (for the price they charged)







    If you would like a nice place to chill out and fulfill your sweet tooth, this may be the right place. Their almond dark chocolate was actually pretty nice.


    Address: Thanon Thanarath, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand
    Contact: 0924438881


    Thongsomboon Club
    Mr Green recommended us to the Thongsoomboon club, an adventour theme park which boosts to have the largest luge in the south east Asia. The kids insisted of going upon seeing the booklet, as they still remember the previous luge rides in Queenstown up till today.


    Upon arriving at the entrance, we though the place looked overly quiet as we were the only visitors around. However, later only we found out that the crowd were at the park located 5 minutes away, which can only be reached by the carriage.

    The park offered loads of fun and was well worth the ticket price. It cost us a fraction of what we paid at the Queenstown Luge ride, but the major drawback was the weather - it's hot. It would be much more ideal if we come in the winter season.

    The sky lift that took us back to the station after the luge ride.



    The ATV ride, E and my favorite!



    Our ATV broke down... Opps.


    So we tried the luge, ATV and mini go-kart (E only, as the minimum height limit is 130cm). There were other plays such as BB gun, flying fox and laser tag, but we decided to move on as I have made plans for other places to visit. 


    They offered a wide range of accommodation at the park too, from teepee, caravan, cowboy suite to cart suite, looked interesting but it's important to take note the club is quite a distance away fro other places of interest.


    Important Info
    Entrance Fee: 
    - THB50/pax (child 4yo and below FOC) for returned carriage ride
    - THB150/pax/activities (buy 5 free 1 ride)
    - Winter donut only available in winter season
    Visiting hour: check their website here


    The Blooms
    It was 33°c but we could not resist to visit the Bloom.. It houses over over 1,000 roses, plumbago, lavender and has a very interesting giant guards tunnel.

    February  would probably be a better time to visit as it is not as hot as now..









    The Giant Guard Tunnel. These guards were HUGE! They had winter guards, bitter guards, lufa, swan guards.. Most of which we would not normally see in the market.












    Vincotto @ Granmonte Vineyard

    From Blooms, it's only 20 minutes away to the Granmonte Vineyard. I've read good review about this vineyard for the restaurant and their wines. So i insisted to come by this place for our last dinner in Khao Yai.

    It was the right decision. The food was fantastic, the vineyard was spectacular and the wine was really smooth and flavorful.









    They sure had good chef here. The salmon was cook to perfection and it paired well with the spinach, the Tomka Kai (Tomyam chicken with coconut milk) had a really nice fragrance and Big Guy really enjoyed his rosemary lambshank, which went really well with The Orient Syrah.

    But what truly amazed me was their homemade olive spread.. it was so rich and fresh, I could not stop eating my bruschetta topped with the olive spread! and did I forgot to mentioned, it's on the house? ;-)



    Peaceful family time...

    If we were to visit Khao Yai again, I would sure re-visit Granmonte again!


    Important Information:
    Address: 52, Moo 9 Phayayen, Pakchong, Nakornachasima, 30320 Thailand.
    Vineyard Tour: Weekend @ 10:30 am, 13:30 pm and 15:30 pm. 
    Tickets Price: Adult|under 20 (THB 300| THB220THB with complimentary bottle of grape juice)' free for children under 5 years old.
    For more info, visit their website here or their Facebook page here



    Day 4 Tuesday
    • Shopping @ Bangkok 
    • back to KL!

    After the big breakfast at The Pig House, we departed back for Bangkok at around 9am and managed to do some last minute shopping in Bangkok, at a Mall nearby to the Dong Mueng airport (which is about 25 minutes away). 

    Within that 1.5 hours we managed to shop a good 2 boxes full of goods. Some new wooden and porcelain ware for my kitchen and bathroom, and a lot more others. Never underestimate a woman' ability to shop. Lol. 

    Look at the piles of plates....




    Unboxing our loads at home was so satisfying...


    My new cooking collection.. Yippee!


    With that, we ended our wonderful trip to the Land of Smiles, we will most certainly return for more....

    Thanks for reading.. Feel free to post your questions in the comment below, and I shall attemp my best to reply soonest possible (except during working hour.. ;)



    Love,
    PH


    The very limited Thai that I've learnt, may come useful for you..
    Sawadeeka - hello
    Koh Khun Ka - thank you
    Lot noi de mai - discount a little please
    Mai Yao Gung - no prawn
    Mai piet- no spicy 



    Copyrights © Pui Hua and Fun With Little Ones, 2012 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any materials/photos within this website without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pui Hua and Fun With Little Ones with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.