After I moved out of our kampong, I stayed in an HDB (Housing & Development Board) apartment for about 12 years. Then in 1986, I moved to my present home, a terrace house in the Bukit Timah Sixth Avenue vicinity. One night it rained, and I realized that one of the things I missed most about living in a kampong was the sound of rain drops falling on the roof.
In my present house, we too have a guava tree in our backyard. But because we are too lazy to wrap plastic bags around the fruits (yes my kids did not inherit my tree climbing skills), they tended to be infested by insects. My neighbour also complained about the mealy bugs that made him itch. He liked to relax bare body in his backyard which faced ours.
Photo of our guava tree taken from my bedroom window. Just a few months ago, we trimmed it bare.
That of course is the problem with land-scarce Singapore today. Even if you are fortunate enough to own a landed property, your home is likely to have very small compound; and if you wanted to plant fruit trees, you would not have much space left for other gardening activities. That was exactly what happened in my case.
One of the things that attracted me to my present house was this mango tree in the front garden, with huge fruits dangling at face level. For a several years, we enjoyed the huge tasty mangoes, which were so abundant that we used to give the extras to our relatives and friends. But about 5 years ago we had to chop it down because it grew too big and became quite impossible to maintain. Let me explain.
You see, for mangos, you have to spray pesticide when the tree is flowering. Otherwise, the insects will lay their eggs on the flowers and the insects will grow inside the fruit. So by the time you harvest the fruit, it may look very nice outside, but when you cut up the fruit, you will be startled by the crawling insects (weevil bugs) that emerge. Thus when our tree became too big, every time we sprayed pesticide on it, the wind would carry the poison into our neighbours’ homes. After a few seasons of harvesting fruits that were nice to look at but impossible to eat, we decided to chop it down.
Our mango tree also attracted pests. I am not referring to the fruit bats, but the two legged kind. Often, we had taxi drivers who parked their vehicles outside our house and helped themselves to our fruits when my wife and I were at work. It’s very strange. Most of the fruits seemed to be found on the side facing the road. Maybe it’s the morning sun. We even had one filial man who came in his van one Sunday afternoon, equipped with poles and nets. I know he is filial because when I yelled at him from my balcony, he replied that his mother loved mangos. In the face of such unabashed filial piety, what could it do but desist. Anyway, I doubt he would believe me if I told him that, his mother was going to be treated to quite a sight when she cut open the fruits and see some crawling insects.
At first we planted these banana trees in our backyard. But as the kids got bigger and we ran out of space, we decided to plant them across the road from my house. The Bangladeshi workers from the nearby construction sites (all year round there are upgrading/renovation works in my neighbourhood) would certainly agree with our decision.
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