Part 2: On Seed Selection

24 February 2013

Reflecting on the seed bombs made not too long ago, they were made with the primal pretext of survival and growth. Seed choices needed to be hardy and fast in growth as the urban jungle was a tough place to be. But plants can really do more than that. So this time, we rigorously worked on our seed choices with the nice people at Eats, Shoots and Roots, engaging a deeper set of obstacles in the urban environment.

We realized that plant choices could be used to tailor the urban environment we see every day. There were some plants that are good at attracting wildlife; some at rehabilitating the soil and other that are edible.

On choosing seeds

(photo credit: Sze Ying Goh)


Beneficial weeds are extremely hardy and are commonly found among wastelands. They have the ability to nurse the wasteland for slower growing species to succeed them. Although there are many beneficial weeds, we have chosen the Globe Amaranth because of their downright beauty.

Globe Amaranth

(photo credit: Yuichi Sakuraba)

The Globe Amaranth or locally known as ‘bunga butang’ is a naturalized hardy flowering plant that grows well in our wastelands. It is a great companion plant that takes care of its smaller and more delicate plants. And since it flowers, it will look great!

Flowering plants are an extremely important part of the urban ecosystem. Flowers attract bees and are especially important when we note that bees pollinate every third bite you eat. With no bees in the city, there will be fewer flowers and fruits in town and urban farmers will have to pollinate their crops by hand. This quality will benefit the papaya plant in our seed lineup once it is ready to flower or fruit.


Diversity in urban environments

Diversity of wildlife in urban environments is exceptionally important. Having oversight in this such as mono-landscaping or single tree types can be devastating especially with plant disease outbreaks and the overpopulation of urban pests such as crows. Problems like these waste valuable resources and the lowers of the quality of life for many.

We must note that everywhere, plants and animals live together. Some feed on the plants they live with; others eat other animals they live with. If it were not for some of them, many plant eating insects and animals will end up eating entire plants. With no food or shelter for natural enemies, pests will take over the area. While nature usually finds way to reach equilibrium and heal itself, urban settings changes too quickly for nature to keep up. It therefore falls to the humans to come in and help nature out a little. This is the mantra of the urban gardener.

Fruits and Edibles

Fruits and edibles grown in neglected spaces can supplement diets and easily offset weekly grocery shopping bills (or turn you a profit at the ‘pasar malam’). If left unharvested, the fruits will attract squirrels and birds.

Here we have chosen mung beans and papayas.

Green beans, like most legumes are nitrogen-fixing plants and very fast growing. When cut before flowering, mung beans will release nitrogen into the soil. Unlike other beans, green beans are able to grow on their own and do not require supports. Almost every part of the plant can be used in cooking, leaves, beans and sprouts… yes bean sprouts or ‘tauge’.

'Daogeh' - Beansprouts

(photo credit: Angelina Koh)

Lastly there is the papaya, a great tasting fast fruiting plant that has a lot of uses from its non-edible use to prop up roadside kenduri decorations (i.e. the ‘Bunga Manggar’) to the use of the green fruit in meat tenderizing. Make pickles out of it or just eat it fresh. Papayas also attract birds that love to feed on the ripe fruit.

A fun fact about the papaya is that only the female plants bear fruit. Hitting a male plant or injuring it sufficiently will cause the male plant to switch to a female and start fruiting. This odd phenomenon is a natural defense response of the plant to ensure the survival of its species.

The Seed Bank project is part of the While We Wait series supported by The Embassy of Finland, Malaysia. The Seed Bank project is focused on raising awareness to the growing urban gardening movement in Kuala Lumpur. The project will see its implementation at the bus stop in front of Restoran HSBC along Lorong  Maarof in Bangsar and at the Palm Court bus stop along Jalan Sultan Abdul Samad, Brickfields from February 1, 2013 and hopes to see a better urban environment for everyone in the city.

Alex Lee is an urban explorer, DIY dude & greenie. He is constantly exploring, observing and apply interventions to cities to create conversations. Alex Lee believes the city is a living thing.