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Vegetable Gardening in Japan


Hiroyuki
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Hiroyuki, just in a bit of a rush at present, but do you mean "transplanting" (moving seedling from container into larger container or garden), or do you mean the problems which develop from growing the same crop many times in the same garden?

The latter, of course! 連作障害 in Kanji. I don't think that "rensaku shougai" can mean the former, but I'm not sure... Can "replant failure" mean the former??

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I checked all the titles of the threads on the 16 pages of this webpage

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/sqfoot/

Still no luck. :sad:

I had assumed that rensaku shougai would be one of the first things that every gardener should know. Maybe rensaku shougai is a problem specific to Japan... :sad:

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Hiroyuki, we do call it "continuous cropping" in English, but we usually don't talk about avoiding continuous cropping. Instead we talk about "crop rotation" to avoid or cure problems.

Nice site on crop rotation contains a lot of advice that you can use for SFG.

Two more points for SFG that I found on the net:

* Keep a bag of compost. When you remove a plant, take out a trowel-ful of soil and mix 1 trowel-ful of compost into the soil.

* Write down your crop rotation plan - because you need to plant tall plants on the north side of your square, to gain maximum sunlight for your intensively-planted patch, crop rotation needs just a little more thought than in a big garden.

The golden rule of crop rotation is to grow a nitrogen-fixing "green manure" crop before you grow root vegetables. YOu could give yourself a holiday by using a wildflower instead of legume vegetables - you could grow renge-sou (astragalus sinicus, chinese milk vetch) one season, then just dig it all under the soil before you plant root vegetables.

Edited by helenjp (log)
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Thanks a lot, Helen! It's good to know that I always count on you when I have a problem. :biggrin: You are a great asset of my scheme to spread SFG throughout Japan. :biggrin:

Joking aside, :biggrin: I had NO IDEA that rensaku shougai is buried in another concept-crop rotation! No wonder that I came up with nothing relevant when I searched for replant failure. Oh yes, I have heard about rotation. What a positive word! Rensaku shougai is such negative wording...

Anyway, I have to write down my rotation plan together with my son!!

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  • 2 weeks later...
Thanks for those photos - I've been wondering how it was coming on! What are the very small seedlings, by the way?

I can't tell what you mean by "very small seedlings". You mean the carrots in the upper middle square of the box in the second photo?

For clarification,

Box 1:

Basil, cherry tomato (ct), ct

vacant, okra, ct

Mulukhiya, okra, ct

Box 2:

ct, carrot, ct

mulukhiya, komatsuna, edamame

okra, vacant, vacant

The vacant squares are the ones in which we planted corn seeds, some of which didn't sprout at all and the others of which did sprout but later turned brown and rotted, probably because one or some of the manures we used to make Mel's mix were not good, well-rotten ones. :angry:

We made the SFG boxes and immediately planted seeds and seedlings on June 17, but only a few of the seeds sprouted in almost two weeks, so we decided to try "indoor seed sprouting", described in the SFG book, on June 30. To our surprise, mulukhiya, komatsuna, and edamame seeds put forth roots the next day. Carrot seeds took five days or so to put forth roots. As for corn, only 4 out of 12 seeds sprouted. :angry: I didn't want to let them turn brown in the SFG boxes, so I dug part of the yard where the soil was soft to dig, and planted them there.

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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.

After carefully reading the book again, I found that that even if you select not to create a bottom for your SFG box, you must cover the location with weed cloth before placing the box there, which means that Mel's mix in the box is isolated from the ground underneath, right?

I also found that there is a description of crop rotation in the book, under the title, "Rotation Not Critical" on page 144. Mel says that with Mel's mix, crop rotation is not critical although it is still a good idea. Well, I will practice crop rotation, but I feel kind of relieved when I read that paragraph.

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While searching for information on aeroponics, I found this incredible device: Tame Taro Aero. Sorry the webpage is in Japanese only. Lots of interesting information there!

According to this webpage, one single unit, which measures 42 (W) x 39 (D) x 35 (H), is capable of providing crops equivalent to those that can be harvested in a 3.3 m^2 space (i.e., one 1.8-m square), and is priced at 21,000 yen (including 5% consumption tax), which is about half the price of equivalent devices sold in the United States and Europe.

Hmmmmm... I might buy one...

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Looking good! I guess the melokhia will take off as the weather warms up.

I meant to ask you, has the wild mint near you flowered yet? If it has, I'd be interested to know whether it flowers in a spike at the end of each stem, or in little balls dotted along the stem with gaps in between. Just curious...

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Looking good! I guess the melokhia will take off as the weather warms up.

I meant to ask you, has the wild mint near you flowered yet? If it has, I'd be interested to know whether it flowers in a spike at the end of each stem, or in little balls dotted along the stem with gaps in between. Just curious...

Thanks for the compliment.

No, it hasn't yet. I'll let you know as soon as it does and tell you whether it is hakka or not. :biggrin:

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I made two other 90-cm square SFG boxes and made Mel's mix to fill these boxes.

You should be able to make the boxes for around 1,500 yen and Mel's mix for about 3,000 to 3,500 yen, thus 4,500 to 5,000 yen in total.

No photos here, I uploaded some photo in my SFG blog.

What do you think? Too pricey or worth giving it a try?

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gallery_16375_5_20194.jpg

Tsuru murasaki in Japanese; malabar spinach in English.

My family have developed quite a liking for this particular vegetable ever since the old lady who rents us part of her farmland introduced it to us by giving us some seeds.

We didn't know that such a vegetable existed. :blink:

We usually just boil it for a few minutes and eat it with ponzu and bonito flakes. My son likes it shredded and mixed with natto.

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Looks delicious! The stuff they sell in the supermarkets seems to be picked when it's old and tough - my family have started enjoying it since we found younger shoots on sale at a little kiosk attached to a vege field. As it's right next to the station, the owner cunningly doesn't stick to the basics which could be bought at any supermarket, but grows a number of unusual vegetables such as sunset hibiscus flowers, oka-nori (mallow leaves), your tsuru-murasaki, and tsuruna (tetragonia tetragonioides), and a few western herbs.

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gallery_16375_5_20194.jpg

Tsuru murasaki in Japanese; malabar spinach in English.

How is the taste compared with regular spinach, and is it a prolific producer? I may have to ask my wife to pick up some seeds for me.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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How is the taste compared with regular spinach, and is it a prolific producer? I may have to ask my wife to pick up some seeds for me.

According to some sources, it is supposed to have a strong taste (stronger than regular spinach?; I don't know), but we just pick its young stems and leaves as instructed by the old lady, and they don't have such a strong taste. But they do have a distinctive earthy flavor. The lady says you can continue to pick young leaves throughout the fall.

I do recommend planting some..., next spring :biggrin: .

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^^^Thanks, Hiroyuki.

Helen and Hiroyuki, do you have any recommendations for Japanese leaf greens (not lettuces) that are prolific producers? I'm think along the lines of spinach and other greens for ohitashi. This would be for a mild coastal climate (west coast of Canada).

Thanks in advance!

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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^^^Thanks, Hiroyuki.

Helen and Hiroyuki, do you have any recommendations for Japanese leaf greens (not lettuces) that are prolific producers? I'm think along the lines of spinach and other greens for ohitashi. This would be for a mild coastal climate (west coast of Canada).

Thanks in advance!

The first one that comes into my head is komatsuna, which can be planted anytime except in winter and can be harvested in one month.

I hope that Helen comes up with a complete list.

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Are we talking "mild climate, tenderly cared for", or "mild climate, take-that-if-you-can standards of care"?

In the first case, komatsuna is a good choice because you can eat it at various stages from seedling up to flowering shoots (nothing special, but edible).

GardenWeb Vegetables forum under Asian Vegetables may be more useful to you.

Shungiku (edible chrysanthemum is easy to grow - strong smell keeps many pests away), but it does tend to bolt easily, and the flavor is coarser once it flowers. I can tell you from experience that it can grow shoulder-high!).

Mizuna is another relative of komatsuna, with very small leaves, slightly bitter, good in salads, soups, or "nabe" dishes

Mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica) and Seri (Oenanthe javanica) are stronger-tasting herbs a little reminiscent of parsley - they will grow in damp conditions. Not prolific, but reassuringly persistent!

Okinawan greens such as:

Suizenji-na (Gynura bicolor)

If you want things that are next door to weeds, try tsuruna (New Zealand spinach/warrigal greens, tetragonia tetragonioides), tsuru-murasaki, or shiro-za

(lambs' quarters, chenopodium album - there is also a red variety, and this wild plant is used throughout Europe and Asia).

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MINT: I pulled a stem of mint out of the horticulture department garden on my way home the other week ("garden" is really overstating it, there are tangles of plants in various places, that's about all!). I'll post a photo shortly, looks a bit sad as the plant came home in my handbag on a hot day and has since been busy growing new roots at the expense of the leaves it came home with. However, it's quite different from the mint that Hiroyuki has.

The leaves are hairy, they look almost grey in sunlight. They've been indoors quite a while now, so the leaves are greener, but they feel quite velvety. The leaves are heavily serrated, and there is no sign of red on the stems. The plant tastes strongly of menthol - more like mothballs than toothpaste, even! It might be m. arvensis, but I haven't seen it flower yet...

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Thanks Helen and Hiroyuki.

We're talking "mild climate, good sun, sow-and-leave-it care."

For my intended uses (ohitashi, etc.) I gather my best bets are: mizuna, komatsuna, mizuna, suizenjina, tsuruna, tsuru murasaki, and shiroza. I can't recall having shungiku as ohitashi.

Aside from the mizuna, are any of the others in this list fairly bitter? If it's too bitter, my kids won't eat it and we're back to square one (boring old spinach). It's been a long time since I had any of these greens, including some I've never tried. Except for shungiku, none are available to me locally.

EDITED TO ADD: For anybody else that is interested, here's a Canadian link on growing edible greens including a few Japanese greens (shungiku and tsuruna/New Zealand spinach).

http://www.eap.mcgill.ca/CPLV_3.htm

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Shungiku - it's fine in hitashi.

Mizuna - not bitter when very young, good in salads.

Bitterness: grow plants fast in soft soil with plenty of nutrients, and above all lots of water, and harvest young. Most greens will get bitter or acidic as they mature - it's their way of protecting themselves as they flower and reproduce.

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