Jom play-play with mobile gardening
Published on: Sunday, February 28, 2021
By: Eskay Ong
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THE proverb that says that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” may be old talk but in reality, it still applies to this day. Taking it out of context, “Jack” may mean anybody including either Ah Li, Ah Long or Ah Nand, and they may encompass male or female sexes only. 

The gist of the story is that the course of one’s life is determined by himself only and that working all day without rest or recreation may end up making life not only dull but also stressful.  

Everybody wants an easy and well-endowed life but who is going to pay for progress and advancement? One cannot forever be on the gravy train seeking out dedak and alms without working hard for it. To strike a balance would mean having to earn, learn and have some fun too.

During this challenging season of global pandemic, it is fair to say that many, many people have lots more time to squander away, especially for the lucky few million who are showered with plenty of largesse such as full-pay stay-at-home, work-from-home, lepak-at-home schemes with all the accompanying perks and rewards unaffected, plus an annual bonus too.

But there are many more millions out there who may be on half or no-pay leave, VSS, early retirement or outright termination. These are the folks who truly may have their hands full of time but with stomachs nearly empty.  

As such, many have maximised on their brain power by seeking to find one or more other sources of income to put food on the table by leveraging on their personal or family contacts, social media such as WhatsApp, messenger, Instagram, TikTok etc.  

These channels are remarkable aids to enterprising folks who are able make good contacts to market some home-made stuffs including hand-stitched items such as purses, tudungs, shawls, paper and cloth bags or bean bags that can conveniently be made indoors in the sitting room, bedroom, balcony etc.  

On the other hand, cakes and cookies, fried or roasted chicken and turkey, barbecued lamb or fish, or sinalau bakas must be prepared in the kitchen, sometimes with orders piling up.

Surprisingly, there are many young and middle-aged people who are able to come up with good products with fairly good demand through the various channels of contacts.  

This is a good sign that shows that are lots of hidden talent within the state which, if properly trained and honed, should be able to improve intra state commerce and alleviate poverty.

Apart from the time spent on creating the goodies to be sold, the little daylight time left should not be allowed to fade away but should instead be used in another easily-done, home activity that can come up with products right in the backyard, or perhaps, even in the front yard.      

Mobile gardening

Mobile gardening literally means gardening on the move. This may sound incredible but it is already being done in the backyards and front yards of many households. How this is so is commonly seen in many gardens that use boxes, clay or plastic pots to do the cultivation.

Apart from the three common kinds of containers, there are a large assortment of planting containers that can be seen being used everywhere by very creative and enterprising gardening enthusiasts.  

This may include unwanted kitchen pots, kettles, pans and jars, plastic bottles especially the cut-outs of the 6-litre type, wooden and polystyrene boxes, old coconut husks, discarded tins, plastic bags etc.  

There are also many instances where the hardworking guy, who may also be penny as well as pound wise, is able to produce his own concrete or cement planting containers.  

Depending on the size of the pots desired, at least 15-20 pots can easily be made with a bag or two of cement plus some sand, stones or pebbles and wire mesh.  

The savings can by no means be insignificant, which means some new tools and garden items can be bought in furtherance of his activity.  Plus a roasted chicken or duck for dinner as well.

Gardening on the move is no big deal as it only involves moving or shifting the existing pots that are full of plants.  

Trying to impress a few charming neighbours by acting busy or gainfully engaged by moving empty or broken pots do not count as mobile gardening.  

Just make sure the potted plants are all sited on locations that are not prone to flooding or waterlogging, or else the plants may soon be faced with rotten roots and then sayonara.

In fact, there are examples where people who are impacted by need, have stood up not with outstretched hands for dedak, but with hands deep in toil and struggle, juggling many pots of nicely cultivated ornamental plants and vegetables and then placing them on trolleys to be moved around either for sale or else for rotating the plants in his employer’s home garden.  

They know that mobility is key to grabbing a good market share, which may lead to improved income levels, and naturally, a few lobsters, a roasted lamb or several pomfrets on the dining table is fair reward for the extra hard work.

Needless to say, every location that has potted plants can be regarded as a form of mobile garden.  The fact remains that potted plants occasionally need to be rotated out to have a period of rest and recuperation, or the owner may want a change of formation or colour, or the plants may have grown too tall in a particular location.  

All these contribute to the need to move the potted plants around to a different location, or to be trimmed and spruced up, to be fed some plant nutrients, or simply to allow them to enjoy some shade for a richer green foliage.  

It usually does not take much to move ten or so pots, but if the pots are big and are of the clay or concrete types, then it may be a back-breaking job indeed.  So care is required when handling such heavies.

Preparing pots and planting

Before any preparatory work can be carried out, make sure that all the elements involved in potting work is ready.  This means having to secure the availability of the desired plants and pots, as well as the right planting medium, which is usually a good topsoil.

Good topsoil means soil from the top 15cm layer of undisturbed jungle land, but normally, this is not recommended as it may be against the law to go poking and digging around armed with a cangkul or spade. 

The best way is to look for development sites that are just commencing work and then asking for permission from the project manager or any senior authority at the site. Once the go-ahead is given, it should be easy to scrape around for a few bags of very good and real topsoil for all your pots.  

My experience tells me that nearly all site managers are very kind and helpful, and thus the effort to collect some good topsoil should be very fruitful.

An easy way out would be to go somewhere to buy the soil needed for the potting exercise.  But make sure that the soil is of the right type, as many vendors in the city actually sell low quality black-coloured soil.  

This is something that has been used to fool many naïve people in the past as the dark coloured soil may actually be dug out from alluvial swamps or soggy lands.  

The good news is that there are many honest guys in the kampungs who can sell really good topsoil without costing a bundle.

Once the pots and soil are ready, it is now time to work on filling the pot with the soil. By itself, there should not be any worry about the matter of drainage and aeration in the pot after filling up.  

Normally, a good quality topsoil with the correct mix of organic matter, sand, silt and clay, are friable and porous enough to provide good drainage and aeration for the plant roots.  

But it is advisable to add and mix in a large handful of compost so that the planting medium may withstand better the compaction and settlement later on.  

Also, it is advantageous to place a layer of small stones preferably of the three quarters type or broken bricks at the bottom of the pot. This is aimed mainly to provide aeration and drainage within the root environment, as well as to reduce soil loss through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. 

With planting containers that are made of wooden boxes, plastic or aluminium tubs and basins, and polystyrene boxes, drainage and aeration holes need to be created at the base.  

It is also possible to use large glazed clay jars that people usually use to store rice, water or some fermentation products, but these are really hard stuffs to handle.  

A hand drill with a half-inch drill bit should do the job neatly and quickly by punching several holes at the bottom of each container. In the absence of a drill, a hammer and large nail should be able to do the same but it is more tedious and time-consuming.

Once the planting container is ready with stones and holes all done, a layer of topsoil should be spread over the stones in order to be ready to receive the plant to be set into the pot.

Plants usually come in polybagged form, while others are already grown in smaller pots that are ready for use. Sometimes, such pots have to be broken in order to access the rootball of the plant before transplanting. 

There are some plants that are taken from abandoned lands where a soil block is carefully cut out and lifted before quickly wrapping it while taking care that the block is not crushed.

These planting materials should then be placed centrally in the new planting container before filling up with more topsoil. The latter must then be firmed to allow for good soil-root contact as well as to steady the plant. 

This is done by pressing down the soil around the plant by using medium pressure.

After planting, water thoroughly, and place the plant initially under light shade for up to a week. The plant is then finally moved it to its selected location when everything is okay.


Plastic bottles can be reused in a different way. Very mobile.


A discarded coconut husk can be profitably used to grow something beneficial. Light and easy to move around. Good coconut husk planters can be bought in the kampung without costing a pile.


Only three stones are required to fill three holes.


A layer of stones to fill the base of the pot.

A plastic tub can be used as a planting container but a few holes need to be made at the base.

It can sit in the same pot for many years.


A large concrete planting container which is the biggest in Sabah, is able to grow a wrightia in bonsai form for a hundred years. Unfortunately, even this massive thing was stolen.

These young plants in pots are easy to move around.

It can sit in the same pot for many years.

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