Story by Mei Kuan
Pics by Gisele Soo
Established in May 2021, the Muallim Hortigard & Nursery at Slim River is a homegrown nursery specialising in the cultivation of figs and grapes.
The figs are grown for commercial purposes while the grapes for agrotourism. Presently, its multi-hued grapes of 28 variants are ripening, creating a sight to behold and attracting people from all walks of life.
Ipoh Echo spoke to Ir. Hishamuddin Othman, one of the owners of the 0.4-hectare nursery to learn more.
“This place is all three: hortigard which is a combination of horticulture and garden as well as a nursery. Horticulture refers to the art or practice of garden cultivation and management,” the amiable Hishamuddin explained.
“The growth of figs and grapes requires full sunlight but not the humidity like rain. Thus, we make use of greenhouse and fertigation (fertilisation via irrigation). Currently we have 144 fig trees of the yellow and red ones as well as 54 grape trees of 28 variants,” he continued.
“We plan it such that the grapes bear fruits twice a year. When we plant it from stem cuttings using fertilisers blended with in-house formula, it takes 6 months for it to bear fruit. The best part is we get to plan the cycle. Same goes for the figs which take about 2 months to start fruiting when planted from stem cuttings. Each fig will weigh from 80 to 100 grams while each fig plant can produce about 100 fruits,” the 57-year-old Gombak boy said.
According to him, the grape seeds are imported from Ukraine due to its many varieties and sweeter taste. The current 28 variants include Krasothka, Baikonur, Velez, Carnival, Lorano, Faith (which emerges the sweetest of them all) and Jupiter (which most will find to taste like lychee).
“For the growth of grapes, it is all about pruning to enable new shoots to appear after harvesting. This increases the size of fruit, number of bunch and quality of fruit over time. The same goes for figs,” he highlighted.
Set to be the only grape farm in the state, the premises are well-loved by many as it is visitor-friendly. With a fee of only RM5 per person, one will be taken on a guided tour then given a taste of the prized fruit (children below 12 years old get to enter for free). Meanwhile, the figs are available for sale when in season. There is always something to look forward to at the nursery as the grapes and figs are arranged to ripen at different times.
“In a year after establishment, the response has been overwhelming. We have received visitors from all over Malaysia and just last week, the Ukrainian ambassador to Malaysia, Olexander Nechytaylo. The place is also elderly-friendly and OKU-friendly. I especially welcome collaborations with universities and colleges for educational purposes,” he enthused, adding that the locals are employed in order to provide job opportunities to the community.
More exciting plans are in the pipeline. For instance, al-fresco dining at the vineyard which could easily double as a venue for wedding photography or private events.
The practising civil engineer with a consultant firm based in Kuala Lumpur shared with Ipoh Echo on how he juggles it all, “Half of my time is spent at the nursery. Luckily, Slim River is just one-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur.”
His knowledge in engineering comes in handy for the setting up of piping system and construction of structures for the climbing plants among others. He received his diploma in engineering from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Shah Alam followed by a degree in the same field from University of Brighton in the United Kingdom.
“Gardening has been a hobby of mine since I was young. My parents also enjoy gardening. When I stayed in Shah Alam, there was not much space for my hobby. Once I moved to Muallim, I started with figs followed by grapes as I wanted to do something different. By the end of 2020, I obtained the space here by rental,” Hishamuddin recalled.
Besides grapes and figs, the nursery also offers various types of flowering plants, non-flowering plants, cacti, flower pots and fertilisers.
The Muallim Hortigard & Nursery opens everyday including public holidays from 8am till 5pm except on Friday. It is located at Lot 10936, Jalan Persekutuan, 35800 Slim River, Perak. Parking is ample. Readers who are interested to visit or collaborate can contact Hafiz (Manager) at 019 506 8903. For more updates, check out its Facebook page by the same name.