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Vegetable Gardening in Japan


Hiroyuki
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Just curious...the mint that you said grows wild near you, Hiroyuki...

Does it look like the mint in Torakris' photo? And what color are the stems? Green, reddish, or purplish-black?

No, it doesn't. Mine is Japanese mint.

The steams are green.

I'll take a photo of it and post it here to satisfy your curiosity. :biggrin:

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Between the cooler weather and busy schedule, I've gotten off to a late start with the garden. I'm currently trying to revive the little herb garden...a few hardy survivors from last year and reintroducing others like basil that didn't make it through the winter.

At this state, the main "herb" thriving in the garden are a number of ochi-no-ki cuttings that finally rooted with a vengance:

gallery_37846_3030_74761.jpg

and:

gallery_37846_3030_62454.jpg

So one of the things I was hoping to plant this year were different kinds of chilli. Does anyone know a source in Japan either for plants or seeds for other than the standard run-of-the-mill chilli's? Varieties from Mexico or the southwest / western US would be lovely to find!

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Thanks! Ill look forward to it!

Here it is.

gallery_16375_5_110277.jpg

Sorry, I'm not much of a photographer.

The stem is reddish as you suggested. I have bigger ones, and their stems are green in the upper part and reddish (or almost brown) in the lower part.

Here are some photos here:

http://aoki2.si.gunma-u.ac.jp/BotanicalGar...TMLs/hakka.html

http://www.hana300.com/nihonh.html

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So one of the things I was hoping to plant this year were different kinds of chilli.  Does anyone know a source in Japan either for plants or seeds for other than the standard run-of-the-mill chilli's?  Varieties from Mexico or the southwest / western US would be lovely to find!

All over the net. They're easy to find. I ordered some chilli seeds from a company in South Africa. If you're going the seed route though, by the time they arrive, you might be too late for good results this year.

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Shino Farm has habanero seedlings...don't know anything about the company, sorry.

Hiroyuki....hmmm. Your mint could be hakka (M. arvensis), with slight reddening because it's still cold, or because it's not the high-menthol green-stemmed cultivatar you can buy in shops. They don't look as red as the stems of m. gentilis or m. gracilis, which are the only reddish types I would expect to see in Japan.

I am a bit puzzled to see that the leaves don't appear to have many hairs though. The hairs help spread the scented oils onto the leaf surface, so m. arvensis has slightly hairy leaves. (You have to look closely though). Again, maybe they'll get hairier when it's warmer, and the plant is producing more oil.

By the way, when you crush the leaves, do they smell just like mint toothpaste, or do they smell fruity or lemony as well as minty?

I'm just curious, you don't have to hurry to answer my questions!

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By the way, when you crush the leaves, do they smell just like mint toothpaste, or do they smell fruity or lemony as well as minty?

I'm just curious, you don't have to hurry to answer my questions!

The leaves smell like mint toothpaste only. :biggrin: , and I'm not in a hurry. :biggrin:

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Of all days, my son picked up some hakka plants on his way from school today.

gallery_16375_5_39026.jpg

I asked him where he got them, and he said there were a lot of them growing in a field only one minute walk from our house. I didn't know that!

gallery_16375_5_114528.jpg

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Hmm...those really do have redder stems, don't they. I know that the commercial m. arvensis cultivars are green-stemmed, but I believe that some types are redder, and I don't know if ALL Japanese wild types are green-stemmed or not.

However, since the leaves of your plant are smoother rather than hairy, but the plant smells of peppermint, I can't help thinking that maybe you have a wild western peppermint (mentha x piperita) rather than a mentha arvensis...also, the leaves look to have shorter stems like m. x piperita, rather than longer stems like m. arvensis, but only the flowers would tell you for sure.

If they flower mostly in spikes at the end of the stems they are peppermint plants, if they flower in little balls all the way up the stem, they are m. arvensis.

m. arvensis in flower

peppermint plant and flowers - but not all peppermint varieties and cultivars have stems as dark as the photos on this page.

Edited by helenjp (log)
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Well, you could go and buy a Japanese mint at the store! :biggrin: Although I am afraid that garden stores very often name plants wrongly, so you might still not know what was in your garden :blink: .

If it's not western peppermint, it might just be mentha gentilis, ginger mint...usually ginger mint is sold as a yellow and green-leaved plant, but there is also a plain green type which is quite common in Japan and SE Asia. However, even though green ginger mint may not smell so gingery, it probably wouldn't have a straight peppermint scent, so I'm GUESSING peppermint.

And just to console you, there are so many types of mint that it's often hard to identify them; so if your mint grows well, smells good and tastes good, and insects don't destroy it, it's a GREAT MINT!!! Generally, types with reddish stems seem to be more resistant to insects than green-stemmed types, so you're in luck.

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The book, "ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING," arrived yesterday!

I went to the local 'home center' the other day, and found:

15-liter bag of vermiculite: 498 yen

15-liter bag of peat moss: 398 yen

170-liter bag of peat moss: 2,680 yen

If I were to make a 1.2 m x 1.2 m frame, I would need 72 liters of vermiculite (120 cm x 120 cm x 15 cm divided by 3 = 72 liters), which means that I would need five 15-liter bags (5 x 15 = 75 liters), which cost 2,490 yen.

(I'm thinking of making a 1.8 m x 0.9 m frame rather than the conventional 4-foot square frame.)

I still cannot decide what to do with the last ingredient: compost!

Any suggestions?

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compost = taihi

You can usually buy it at garden centers, or you could just try leaf mold (fuyoudo), though it won't have as much organic nutrition.

I live near a shiitake farm, so I often buy the old shiitake "logs" and crumble them up.

I don't think it matters what size your bed is, except that *you should be able to reach the center without stepping on the soil, and * if it's really small, it might dry out faster.

Good luck!

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compost = taihi

You can usually buy it at garden centers, or you could just try leaf mold (fuyoudo), though it won't have as much organic nutrition.

I live near a shiitake farm, so I often buy the old shiitake "logs" and crumble them up.

I don't think it matters what size your bed is, except that *you should be able to reach the center without stepping on the soil, and * if it's really small, it might dry out faster.

Good luck!

Thanks, Helen.

The problem with compost (taihi) is that I still can't decide which types to buy. Here's what the author writes about compost on page 97 of the book:

If You Decide to Buy Compost

Don't buy all of one kind of compost if you decide to not make it yourself...

All commercial compost is a byproduct from one industry...

What's the solution? Buy a variety of composts and mix them together. Now, you are more likely to get a better mixture.

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Well, that's true, but it may too idealistic! Also, Japan doesn't usually sell compost, so there just aren't as many types available as in western garden centers. I see Japanese famers using old rotted tatami, or rice husks etc on their vegetable

Home center page advertising compost products - you can see that they have some which include animal manure. I don't think you need bark if you already have peat moss, but as peat moss has no nutritional value, you do need something to provide nutrition and organic material.

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Well, that's true, but it may too idealistic! Also, Japan doesn't usually sell compost, so there just aren't as many types available as in western garden centers. I see Japanese famers using old rotted tatami, or rice husks etc on their vegetable

Home center page advertising compost products - you can see that they have some which include animal manure. I don't think you need bark if you already have peat moss, but as peat moss has no nutritional value, you do need something to provide nutrition and organic material.

I can't tell if it is too idealistic or not :sad: , but I think it's part of SFG. With SFG, you don't use fertilizer, so the soil mix has to be perfect.

Yes, tatami and rice husks. My father used to use them.

Thanks for the link.

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Hmm...if you make more than one bed, why don't you use bought compost on one bed, for immediate use. In your second bed, put some chicken manure or other animal manure (or fish waste or washed seaweed, if you lived closer to the sea), or spread out your own kitchen garbage, and cover it thickly with peat moss and vermiculite, and plant some short-term leaf crop with very shallow roots (lettuce, radish, green shiso, nira??). When that crop is ready, the manure and vegetable waste should have decomposed into compost, and you can mix all the soil up when you harvest the crop.

If the roots of this first crop are too deep, they will be damaged by direct contact with the fermenting manure and compost. If you plant a crop such as soybeans or eggplants in peat/vermiculite only, there won't be enough nutrition for the fruit to develop.

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Hmm...if you make more than one bed, why don't you use bought compost on one bed, for immediate use. In your second bed, put some chicken manure or other animal manure (or fish waste or washed seaweed, if you lived closer to the sea), or spread out your own kitchen garbage, and cover it thickly with peat moss and vermiculite, and plant some short-term leaf crop with very shallow roots (lettuce, radish, green shiso, nira??). When that crop is ready, the manure and vegetable waste should have decomposed into compost, and you can mix all the soil up when you harvest the crop.

If the roots of this first crop are too deep, they will be damaged by direct contact with the fermenting manure and compost. If you plant a crop such as soybeans or eggplants in peat/vermiculite only, there won't be enough nutrition for the fruit to develop.

I ended up buying six different taihi:

gallery_16375_5_2743.jpg

The lower three are chicken manure, the upper left and middle are cattle manure, and the upper right pig manure.

The peat moss is made in Russia!

gallery_16375_5_13333.jpg

I also bought six 15-liter bags of vermiculate, as well as all necessary wood to make two 90-cm square frames.

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Saints preserve us! Plant leaf or fruit crops first - root crops might go crazy with all that nutrition (seriously, they tend not to grow straight if there is a lot of fresh nutrition).

Actually, I haven't seen so many types of animal manure at urban garden centers, so I was really interested to see your photo, thank you!

I read today about "green curtain" window boxes with climbing plants trained up over the window, to cut down sunlight and heat - I've seen it done before, but the article recommended using goya, as it is super-easy to grow (not as prone to insects and fungus/virus as cucumber), and it uses more water (and therefore cools the air more) than morning glories. So I'm planning to try this on son1's room. If it keeps the local louts from throwing stones in his window as well, so much the better! :smile:

Edited by helenjp (log)
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Saints preserve us! Plant leaf or fruit crops first - root crops might go crazy with all that nutrition (seriously, they tend not to grow straight if there is a lot of fresh nutrition).

Actually, I haven't seen so many types of animal manure at urban garden centers, so I was really interested to see your photo, thank you!

I read today about "green curtain" window boxes with climbing plants trained up over the window, to cut down sunlight and heat - I've seen it done before, but the article recommended using goya, as it is super-easy to grow (not as prone to insects and fungus/virus as cucumber), and it uses more water (and therefore cools the air more) than morning glories. So I'm planning to try this on son1's room. If it keeps the local louts from throwing stones in his window as well, so much the better! :smile:

Thanks for the suggestions. :smile:

We generally followed your suggestions, but we planted some carrots. :biggrin:

Process:

I have no idea whether this vermiculite is coarse or not. This is the only brand sold at the home center.

gallery_16375_5_80197.jpg

We used snow shovels to mix the manures, vermiculite, and peat moss.

gallery_16375_5_9904.jpg

We are now proud owners of two square foot gardens! This one is on the west side.

gallery_16375_5_52965.jpg

We have the other one on the east wide.

We will call them "han-jo" nouen 半畳農園 from now on! :biggrin:

Han-jo = a half "jo" = approx. 90-cm square

nouen = farm

Edited to add:

I'm beginning to think that my son and I are the first Japanese who have tried to practice square foot gardening, considering the fact that there is hardly any information on it in Japanese. :cool:

Edited by Hiroyuki (log)
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Comments:

I'm really glad that I made smaller 3-foot square frames instead of the conventional 4-foot square because they are both easy to access from one or two sides only. I'm also glad that I made a bottom for for both of them so that they could be moved around the house.

Making the soil mix was a major hassle, i.e., mixing different types of manure together, adding and mixing vermiculate, and finally adding and mixing peat moss, and it's something you can't do unless you have fairly a large yard. I can tell from the book that that soil mix is important, but I never can tell just how important it is for success. Maybe premade soil mix mixed with some kind of manure is sufficient, but I can never be sure. Helen or someone, do you have any idea?

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Hmm. Impossible to tell! Probably he wants to make a soil which retains moisture a little bit better than most container-garden mixes (which need to drain very well).

However, I think that every season, you will want to add some more organic matter (leaf mold or manure) to replace what has rotted completely away, and what the plants have absorbed). You can just use it as mulch though, don't need to dig it in in most cases.

I think that in the end, you may regret making bottoms for your boxes - the idea is that gradually, plant roots break up the ground underneath the boxes, and you get a deep layer of rich, soft soil that doesn't dry out or get waterlogged.

Let us know how your garden grows! When I get my plum trees cut back (to about half their present height :biggrin: ), the sunlight will finally reach my garden, so next year I plan to plant vegetables. For this year, I'm concentrating on shade-loving flowers such as hydrangeas.

Edited by helenjp (log)
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Hmm. Impossible to tell! Probably he wants to make a soil which retains moisture a little bit better than most container-garden mixes (which need to drain very well).

However, I think that every season, you will want to add some more organic matter (leaf mold or manure) to replace what has rotted completely away,  and what the plants have absorbed). You can just use it as mulch though, don't need to dig it in in most cases.

I think that in the end, you may regret making bottoms for your boxes - the idea is that gradually, plant roots break up the ground underneath the boxes, and you get a deep layer of rich,  soft woil that doesn't dry out or get waterlogged.

Thanks. There is no detailed description of bottoms in the book - only two paragraphs under the title Plywood Bottom on page 58, and there is no mention of the possible problems with bottoms that you mentioned.

But, anyway, if I ever decide to remove the bottoms from the frames, it's not hard to do. For now, I think it better to keep them movable until I can find the right places for them.

Let us know how your garden grows! When I get my plum trees cut back (to about half their present height  :biggrin: ), the sunlight will finally reach my garden, so next year I plan to plant vegetables. For this year, I'm concentrating on shade-loving flowers such as hydrangeas.

Of course, I will. That's what this thread is for. You share your experiences, and I share my experiences. So far, on the narrow piece of land that I posted a picture of upthread, four cherry tomato plants have been the most successful. I hope I can post a picture of them when they become ripe.

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I'm looking for information on rensaku shougai (replant failures) specific to SFG, but I can't find any. I know I can find all sorts of information on rensaku shougai in general in Japanese. So, my problem is, How do you actually call rensaku shougai in English. :sad:

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