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Vegetable Gardening in Japan


Hiroyuki
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Great! I've sometimes pondered renting a plot, but it's quite a commitment...

By the way, which direction does the slope face?

I don't know if you can do autumn plantings of broad beans (sora mame) or other beans, if you protect them (maybe straw? Ask your neighbors!), but if you can, they would help improve the soil for spring planting.

Good luck, and keep us posted!

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H-san,

Taking advantage of your kind nature, am appending a list of types and approximate prices of US agricultural fabrics /row covers to serve as a rough guide, should you ever consider extending the season at both ends. In your area you may pretty much have 4 season crops, yes even in January, NO HEAT. Red Lettuces and Winterbor kale in Ithaca in protected cultivation in low tunnels, in a climate colder than yours. Request details, if curious.

Even otherwise, the colder months make work pleasant and the harvest both worthwhile & profitable. I don't know what your views are on the use of plastic, but employed in a skilful and profesionnal manner, these materials have a very long lifespan, especially in a mini-garden. The benefits they confer re: increased yield, early maturity, disease & weed prevention etc. need to be seriously considered. Insects and weeds are great destroyers of enthusiasm and hope as the season wears on and the heat and humidity of summer take their toll. With weed barier and appropriate management in place, you can go on holidays without a worry, and the garden maintenance is reduced to less than an hour or two a week of enjoyable light activities. Gardening becomes a pleasure instead of a struggle.

For example, with woven black polypropylene weed barrier, a row cover plus an optional perforated cover to warm up soil and hasten the season, you could plant a PARTHENOCARPIC cucumber [e.g. "Cool Breeze"], eggplant or tomato. These will set fruit without pollination, and ripen or mature under row covers. So no dreaded beetles or wilt. Just sit and wait until the cucumbers are developed. In this case they are superb picklers & fantatic for fresh eating. At this stage the plant is somewhat more resistant to beetles/wilt.

Some tomatoes are parthenocarpic, but not necessarily the tastiest. But most are self-pollinating, needing a little mechanical agitation for maximum fruit set. Even so, there are dozens of exceptional short varieties like Highlander, Sheyenne etc. that will do well entirely under a low tunnel. Eggplants protected under a low tunnel from beetles until they begin to set fruit will make your life easier. In this way, with the help of the black weed barrier and the double row cover, one perforated, one spun, you can grow superb KAMONASU, excellent Charantais, honeydew, other long-season melons. Best of all, you can grow an abundance of small watermelons that I hear are very expensive in Japan. Grow tens of them easily, many of Japanese origin : Yellow Doll F1, Dwarf Asahi Yamato [an old open pollinated variety you should get free from universities], Sugar Bush [open poll. USA] Kengarden [OP, USA, from Asahi], Gypsy F1, Orchid F1.

Why not try some great potatoes under row covers, haricot beans, things that are really expensive but will do well in a garden: rakkyo, leeks, negi, scallions, shallots, okra, mitsuba, tetragonia, sweet potato, flowers for cutting like miniature roses & mini-gladiolus, calla lilies, lavender? Not all at once, but perhaps in the future.

All members of the mustard family will get chewed on, and insect barriers are the best recourse. I do not know if animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, field voles, slugs or birds become a nuisance in your area. Weed barrier and row covers help stop many of these. They help control/reduce frequency of watering, given certain conditions, i.e. mulh plaed over the barrier and drip tape or soaker hose. Thisisanother advantage, providd the proper slope, soil texture and several other factors.

For example beds may be prepared in a manner that leads the precipitation towards the roots so that the natural rainfall provides most of the water for the season. Thereafter, clever conservation via mulch and barrier seeks to reduce addtional irrigation [or flooding] to a minimum. Please do NOT confuse plastic mulch or wavelength selective mulches with WOVEN polypropylene barrier that lasts 10-12 years when overlain with organic mulch and subjected to very careful use. The former is a no-no in my book!!

I use 3 feet widths and cut NO HOLES, laying them in parallel strips, using fabric ground pins. This way, weighed down with mulch as simple as newsprint, shredded or not, or anything as nice as straw, leaves etc. [raw woodchips need to be composted first] this material is a keeper. It remains permanently on raised double-dug beds or can be moved as often as you want to shift beds around or add stuff to them.

I don't know the aspect of your land, the way the beds will run. But just suppose that there are 5-6 beds, each nominally 1 meter wide; the 0.5 m will go towards boundary ditches/furrows. So each bed will have 2 furrow on either side, you will pull up soil on to a raised bed not more than 2.5 feet wide. This is a convenient width. You need plenty of space in-between to move around and tend to growing plants. You can then use 3 feet wide woven barrier, and you will need carefully to cut holes or use 2 slightly overlapping lengths so as to have flexible spacing in future rotations and no holes.

If finances permit, plastic lumber, tongue & groove, to line the 2 sides of these beds later might prove to be really helpful. HDPE, never PVC. If you can get the raised beds done, one at a time, you will be guaranteed a hugely joyful experience. I know people resent unsolicited advice, but i hope you may get some positive benefit out of many decades of experience and possibly avoid some growing pains!

Some US prices and dimensions are given below so that you may have a reference point for similar material in Japan. These are best purchased at farm supply stores, not garden centers.

Tunnel Coverings

Clear Perforated [must be removed when temperatures rise]

(1.0 mil, 45 holes/ft)

5' x 2000'.......................$93.60.........................Suntex (US)

6' x 2000'.....................$112.32.........................Suntex (US)

Gro-Therm (1.1 mil, 300 holes/yd)

5' x 2000'.....................$102.96.........................Suntex (US)

6' x 2000'.......................$95.00.........................Rain-Flo (US)

.....................................$112.32.........................Suntex (US)

B.

B.1. Row Covers for frost protection [use with perforated covers for extended harvest ]

Dewitt Deluxe row cover, 0.5 oz/yd, provides 4ºF frost protection

6’ x 250’........................$21.24.........................McConkey (US)

7’ x 100’........................$97.09.........................McConkey (US)

10’ x 500’......................$69.34.........................McConkey (US)

10’ x 1000’..................$138.64.........................McConkey (US)

13’ x 1000’..................$180.25.........................McConkey (US)

Grow Guard (GG)-17, 0.5oz/yd², 85% light transmission, up to 4°F frost protection

Made to order in widths up to 50'

100-1200 yd²...................$0.16/yd²..................MTC (US)

Grow Guard (GG)-20, 0.6oz/yd², 80% light transmission, up to 5°F frost protection

Made to order in widths up to 50'

100-1000 yd²...................$0.19/yd²..................MTC (US)

Grow Guard (GG)-34, 1.0oz/yd², 70% light transmission, up to 8°F frost protection

Made to order in widths up to 50'

100-1000 yd²...................$0.30/yd²..................MTC (US)

B.2. POLYVINYL ALCOHOL FABRIC

Tuffbell “Natural”, absorbs dew and frost and holds in more heat at night and

prevents overheating during the day, 93% light transmission

49” x 109’ .................................$79.80.........................G&M (US)

49” x 328’ ...............................$233.40.........................G&M (US)

B.3.Crop Covers (continued)

Spunbonded Polypropylene, insect barrier only

5.4' x 330'......................$53.46.........................Suntex (US)

5.4' x 820'....................$132.84.........................Suntex (US)

8.5' x 330'......................$84.15.........................Suntex (US)

8.5' x 820'....................$209.10.........................Suntex (US)

13.6' x 330'..................$134.64.........................Suntex (US)

13.6' x 820'..................$334.56.........................Suntex (US)

C. no.10 smooth galvanized steel wire, 100/bundle

76”.................................$45.60.........................

D. Clips

E. Pins

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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Helen:

West. The slope is part of the river bank. The farmland is very close to Uono River, which runs through Minami Uonuma city.

Sora mame are a very good idea. I'll think about growing them.

gautam:

Thanks for your very informative post!

Extending the season was a new idea that I learned from the square foot gardening book Helen mentioned. I think it's a novel idea, but I don't think it can be applied to my very snowy area. I do, however, consider using sheets of unwoven fabric like Paopao and Tekuteku (sp?) for pest control. Anyway, I copied and printed your post for future reference.

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H-San,

I live in an area with 110 inches of snow and 135 growing days, USDA zone 5a with 6 months of winter, the last day of frost being May 29 and cold soils well into June [and have lived much of my life in zone 4a with 300-400 inches of snow & -40F minimums]. Right now our nights are 38F! So please trust me when I assure you about something, be it specific strawberry cultivars for your garden or season extension or growing salad greens in January without heat :laugh:

This plasticulture and its associated ecophysiology is something we have to teach, so we understand its parameters somewhat better than a casual acquaintance might suggest. It is part of my professional duties and I successfully assist market gardeners in their economic ventures for winter cultivation; and can assuredly help you, who live in a very, very much warmer zone. If I am not mistaken you must be in the equivalent of an USDA Zone 7 or warmer with minimum winter temperatures no lower than -5 to -10F, possibly no lower than 0F. :shock:

Precisely for that reason I forwarded you the technical names [e.g. perforated 1.1 mil, 300 holes/yard]and exact specifications of the different agrofabrics so that the farm suppliers would be able to recognize thes internationally traded standards. Garden stores might not, and would be horribly expensive.

As the season wind down, mixed salads comprisg amix of various lettuces lke Simpson, Buttercrunch, Red Oakleaf, Red Deertongue, Red-purple Japanese Mustard, Red Kale, Mizuna, Winterbor kale can be sown moderately thickly an be harvesed by careful snipping, saing the terminal pices, takng the maturing smallleaves. This wil give many cuttings of what has become very popular in the US as baby greens or Mesclun, sold at high prices $7/lb.

You can become even more complicated and go for the really-cold hardy salad greens for the next instalment after these: mache, arugula cultivar "Adagio", wild "arugula or sylvetta, plantago etc. Spinach o certain varieties wil overwinter easil in your climate, so will certain types of chard and leek. You are living in a "banana belt" compared to me.

Yet even here, if one were to retrieve the clouded greenhouse film ready for disposal, and re-assemble it in 6 feet high x 8 feet wide hoophouses over over 1" or 1/2 inch PVC piping, most years we get our market gardeners to sow continuous trays of the reddest lettuces and winterbor kale and they harvest marketable organic crops even in mid-January, when outside temperatures do not climb above the single digits F during the day. Snow, winds and blizzards are everyday affairs.

The climate in the northern tier of the US is harsh. Come here once and you will lose forever your awe of the "snowiness" of your home! And we are 42 N, with a weaker sun than Niigata!!!

This year for the first time, one took on a new horticultural therapy class at an unfamiliar place. Using that same protected culture, one spoke of 60-75 lbs of tomatoes per plant and was laughed at. Well, they are not laughing now, when all the organic fields around have been wiped out by a pandemic of late blight this year, from Massachusetts to Ithaca, these young students are harvesting more tomatoes than they have ever imagined, with no end in sight. Sweet, tasty ones, too.

There is one mystery I cannot understand: people sigh about the high price of melon and watermelons in Japan. It is relatively easy to grow supremely delicious melons on 2of 5 rows 1 for melons 1 for watermelons and have a great surfeit. In your area, protected culture will give the best results:spun bonded insect barrier overlain by perforated row cover [300 holes/yard;early in the season onl, 72 inch hoops, woven blakpolpropylene weed barrier. Fantastic true kamonasu, even King Stropharia mushrooms.

It is easy to grow many cucurbits without soil at all, just on a bale of rice straw and get quality fruit. Watermelon can be grown in a 33-55 gallon non-circulating hydroponic culture: a plastic HDPE garbage can filled once only with water & nutrient, seed sown, cover closed. That is it. Cucumber and watermelon will grow as water drawn down, fruit will form, become sweet. Very little space needed.

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Your stories are simply amazing! Such terms as plasticulture and ecophysiology were new to me, and I had to google to learn what they actually meant.

In my snowy area, also known as Snow Country, the temperature seldom drops below -7C (19.4F), and the lowest temperature is usually in the range of -2C (28.4F) to -3C (26.6F).

The problem with me is that I still cannot devote myself to vegetable gardening as a hobby, but I hope I can follow your suggestions when I can take it up as a hobby.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Hiroyuki, I just looked at your blog site. What a beautiful little garden. It looks very neat and well tended.

Do you have problems with animals getting into it? I don't see any fences.

No, I don't. I haven't heard of any stories of animals doing something wrong to crops around here.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I was just wondering how your garden was! Everything looks so healthy, congratulations.

When did you plant the broad beans? And what else are you planning to grow over winter?

I just pulled down my snake-bean vine and kept the dried beans to use for seki-han, since snake beans are "sasage", not "azuki".

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I was just wondering how your garden was! Everything looks so healthy, congratulations.

When did you plant the broad beans? And what else are you planning to grow over winter?

I just pulled down my snake-bean vine and kept the dried beans to use for seki-han, since snake beans are "sasage", not "azuki".

Sep. 15, the same day I planted other seeds.

None, broad beans only. That worries me a little, because of all the snow that will fall on them.

To tell you the truth, I was stupid enough to think that I could harvest broad beans before winter, and my son told me that I was wrong.

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  • 1 month later...

The Kale cultivar WINTERBOR survives well without protection from a late June sowing in Ithaca until January. So, in your climate, an August- September sowing will take it right through winter with plenty of leaves for cutting. It is type of Scotch curled kale, if that is something that is liked by the family.

As you know, Japanese bunching scallions are winter-proof; cv. Ishikura and other types of negi and leeks are also available, if you feel like devoting your space to a winter garden. Small-seeded Mache [as opposed to the large seeded] would be a November crop for you, perhaps. I don't know the price of seed.

In much colder Ithaca, strawberry MARA des BOIS kept ripening fruit past killing frost into late October, as it was low to the ground in a special spot. I was very impressed with this variety that we trialled for the first time. Great foil to the June bearers. Excellent constitution, excellent winter hardiness in a drier i.e. non-waterlogged [in winter] situation. Morioka Station may have starts.

The perennial climber, HABLITZIA, makes a spinach-like crop for very early greens. Worth experimenting near the house.

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  • 5 months later...

My grandfather always used poison to kill snails and slugs, but his was a flower garden rather than a kitchen garden.

My mother used to trap slugs and snails by putting out cans of flat beer.

See if you can find copper tape. It's commonly used in electronics, but is also marketed here in the US as "slug tape".

Cheryl

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What do you do about those little worm-like bugs that eat squiggly lines through basil leaves?

I think I've removed most of the affected leaves and squished all the offenders, but I want to be prepared if they return! It's just one little plant, but I need it for my pizza!

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Are you sure that it's slugs and not woodlice? (Except that these are not exactly dango-mushi, which don't really cause much damage - these blighters are bigger and they don't roll into a ball when you poke them.

My "garden" is very shady, and I lose almost all the strawberries to either slugs or woodlice. At least I can use the leaves to make strawberry-leaf tea!

Have you considered getting chickens? They may damage the vegetables too, but they are very fond of a nice slug or other bug!

I harvested our first TWO eggplants today! They grow on our upstairs balcony, the only place that gets any sun until midsummer. Nothing else except greens and sprouting broccoli are ready to eat yet, but the kabocha that sprouted out of the compost is flowering, and the unbelievably healthy and disease-resistant "shima kabocha" (Okinawan squash) looks to be close to flowering.

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prasantrin:  I had the same problem when I grew some basil plants two years ago.  I don't know of any immediate remedy, though.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaf_miner

Thanks Hiroyuki. Armed with the name you gave, I found the only solution is to pick off the damaged leaves and try to destroy all the bugs (unless you want to use a strong pesticide, but I only had one little plant). I think I managed to get rid of all the bugs, but then I forgot to water it for several days and it died! :sad:

I definitely don't have a green thumb!

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Are you sure that it's slugs and not woodlice? (Except that these are not exactly dango-mushi, which don't really cause much damage - these blighters are bigger and they don't roll into a ball when you poke them.

My "garden" is very shady, and I lose almost all the strawberries to either slugs or woodlice. At least I can use the leaves to make strawberry-leaf tea!

Have you considered getting chickens? They may damage the vegetables too, but they are very fond of a nice slug or other bug!

I harvested our first TWO eggplants today! They grow on our upstairs balcony, the only place that gets any sun until midsummer. Nothing else except greens and sprouting broccoli are ready to eat yet, but the kabocha that sprouted out of the compost is flowering, and the unbelievably healthy and disease-resistant "shima kabocha" (Okinawan squash) looks to be close to flowering.

I'm not 100% sure but I think it's slugs and snails, not woodlice. It's interesting that you mentioned them, because the neighbor who gave us the strawberry seedlings said he had a lot of woodlice in his strawberry patch, and his patch is NOT 20 meters apart from ours!

Your FIRST two eggplants? I hope you succeed!

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  • 4 weeks later...

This is the first year I am experimenting with some "traditional Kyoto vegetables":

Kamo-nasu & Kyoto Kujo Negi + Ko-nasu [1-bite eggplant] (not Kyoto?).We had another Shimonita Negi but did not get around to planting it this year.

Since I share a garden plot with a friend in a strictly organic community garden, and this year has been too rainy for row covers, we have been battling the usual infestation of flea beetles with indifferent success.

I am extremely curious to see the famous Kamonasu at long last but will have to settle for 1 or 2 fruit, it seems. Apparently, for many years, the true strain was forbidden to be removed from the Kyoto area, so I do not know what type has been sold by the nursery.

Plus, I have ODORIKO & SUNGOLD tomatoes, both from Japan. In the past, MOMOTARO has done very well; Odoriko is supposed to ripen a few days later, a big issue in our cool climate. Since it has been raining almost every day, the growt has been lush. It will be difficult to predict the flavor of the tomatoes, since none has flowered yet.

P.S. Since snails, both terrestrial & aquatic, have been utilized by farming communities over the world as food, I wonder if there is any evidence of slugs having been adopted for food by such communities? Or has the absence of a shell led slug(species) to evolve factors that make them unpalatable? Banana slugs are sold in Washington state in cans & bottles for food, but more as a tourist gag, one is told. I would be grateful if anyone can point me in the right directions. Thanks.

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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I'll be interested to hear how you get on with Odoriko - it's supposed to be the home gardener's answer to Momotaro - meaty tomato without too much splitting.

Kujo negi is my favorite of the small onions. However I lost almost all mine this year, as my husband didn't realize where I'd sowed them, and came along and dumped a whole lot of dirt on top!

My eggplants seem to have almost stopped flowering...I am wondering if it's the very rainy and cloudy weather recently, or lack of appropriate nutrition, or whether they are just about ready to shut down until fall.

We ate our first "Black from Tula" tomato...not all that black, very fleshy and hardly any pulp, flavor only middling, but possibly that was because it ripened in bad weather. It may have wanted another few days on the vine, but it was starting to split.

Green shiso is doing very well in this weather

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You could try nudging your eggplants with a tiny dose of high analysis phosphate & potassium fertilizer, minus nitrogen. Since you have some college students to heed your call, and they have access to chemistry labs, potassium dihydrogen phosphate and potassium monohydrogen phosphate are two common buffer salts easily found in labs and cheap enough that tiny amounts nipped for a small experiment for Sensei -san is morally perfectly ok. These are not silver salts [expensive] nor explosives nor toxic!!

One has a ph of 2, the second 9, in solution, so the 2 together make up a neutral buffer. Extremely good for eggplants & peppers!! Or, any hydroponic fertilizer shop will have these but at the exorbitant prices of everything in Japan. Since this is only an experiment, it is not worth buying such.

So give your plants the equivalent of a stiff gin & tonic each, and see what they do. The rain has done two things: starved the roots of oxygen & slowed their extension growth. Since only the newer parts of the roots are the more effective gleaners of minerals , older root hairs have exhausted the easily available P & K fractions near them. The K also may have moved with the water farther away. With the decreased aerobic environment, any mycorrhizae plus specialized root chemistry to extract bound P also is at its lowest ebb. Thus, these 2 elements most essential for flower development are found limiting by the eggplants: Not because your soil lacks them, but because conditions are impeding access.

If you cut furrows on either side of your eggplants, and mound up ridges as we do in rainy Bengal during the monsoons to drain off the excess rainwater, you may notice some improvement. Of course, then you need somewhere to lead that water to, another problem in a suburban setting.

Nitrogen may or may not be limiting, but given your applications of compost, probably not. In any case, applying inorganic N now may invite many types of problems. Plants take up a wider variety of organic N compounds including small amino acids, as we are discovering, and UTILIZE many of them for N nutrition, unlike what was previously believed.

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