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Vegetable Gardening in Japan


Hiroyuki
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Haven't been teaching at the university for several years now, and being an urban university, the focus was less on food plants and more on eco-this and that, landscaping, and park and wildlife reserve management.

Actually, talking of gin and tonics, a gardener once told me to give my pine tree a 1.8 liter bottle of sake every year just to give the roots a little tickle :smile: .

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No doubt related to the distillers near H-san's home!! But do see if the offsprings can request their science teachers for some of the 2 potassium phosphate salts as part of a home science experiment; their school labs must be well supplied. They would need some few tens of grams of each type. For all the great cooking they have had, the least they can do!

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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On July 8, my vegetable garden looks like this.

My biggest concern is how to protect the watermelons from bird damage. I have spread Paopao (unwoven fabric) over the watermelons, but I wonder if this serves the purpose.

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Well I tried my hand at a bit of gardening over the past two summers and have come to appreciate the old "learn by your mistakes" method and the resources in this forum!

I started out with sunflowers and since they didn't die, I became rather ambitious. I decided I wanted to grow some japanese vegetables. After some internet searching I found Kitazawa's website (I think it was already mentioned here in this thread) and purchased Kabocha ("sweet mama" variety), Kyoto Kujo Negi, Kyoto Red carrots, Kamo nasubi and Hakurei turnips.

I built raised garden beds but made some big mistakes: not putting weed blocking at the bottom of the bed and using a commercial "gardening soil" without mixing it with some kind of perlite or vermiculite. The only things that did well in that effort were the turnips and the eggplant seedlings.

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I was surprised with the kamo eggplant. Despite warnings from mom that eggplants were "a pain in the neck" I found this plant to be very, very tough. After a summer of not producing a single flower, I left the plant to die while we went through our second summer of drought conditions. By fall, the plant was still alive, but bearing the most viscous thorns. I took it as a message to give the plant a second chance and started to water it daily and fed it some generic garden vegetable fertilizer. By December, the plant started to produce flowers and I was rewarded with three deformed, but indescribably delicious eggplant.

Following my experience with the raised garden beds, I decided to try the eggplant and the kabocha in large pots out on my linai (the sun is better there during the fall, and the area is screened in and away from large pests). I switched over to organic potting soil and added vermiculite to the mix. I started using a seaweed and fish emulsion as fertilzer. The eggplant did much better in these conditions and produced 3 beautiful looking eggplants. After that I went out of town for two weeks and my husband forgot to water the plant. It was really sad because the plant had quite a few fruits waiting to ripen.

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The kabocha did extremely well until it produced its first fruit. Despite several efforts to fight powdery mildew, the plant said its farewell and I was left with two tiny little pumpkins.

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Right now, I'm trying out a few self-watering containers that have root/soil channels and a reservoir of water underneath the plant. The Kyoto Red carrots are loving it so far as is the varieties of lettuce I threw into the planter. I have yet to open up the fancy Earthbox I purchased in March partially because I can't decide on pak choi or more eggplant. Guess its time to by another planter!

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Dear C-san,

If you would not mind a few suggestions: your Earthbox may turn out to be more suited for watery and water-loving vegetables like watercress, salads, komatsuna etc. There are some fundamental flaws in its conceptual understanding of plant physiology etc. which we dare not write about but when you try to grow tomatoes etc. you will get fruit, but whether they are worth the trouble and expense of the heavily publicized little plastic device, only you can be the judge.

OTOH, Dr. Bernard Krautky, U. Hawaii, has many designs on PASSIVE Hydroponics that will get you superb cucumbers & watermelons in a 33 gallon garbage can style [you may purchase guaranteed non-reactive human safe 55 gallon plastic barrels as well ]. You add water, fertilizer & seed ONCE, lock down and walk away. Period. That quantity will furnish the entire crop! If you use PARTHENOCARPIC cucumbers like COOL BREEZE & DIVA [tiny & slicer size respectively] you will not have to depend on pollinators. With watermelons, the PETITE series, e.g. Petite PERFECTION from http://www.zeraim.com/zeraim_en_watermelon.aspx will be a good choice; these are mini melons; or, the Yellow Doll etc. from Japan will, too.

Now, when I look at your raised beds I cannot derive from the photographs whether they are 2 x 6 inch or 2 x 4 inch. Anyway they have a lot of headroom left & you can still add 1 more tier of 2x6 to increase height. What you need to add now is SHREDDED SPHAGNUM PEAT MOSS, not HUMIC PEAT. Every 4 feet x 4 feet will easily take 4 cubic feet, 6 cu. feet is better; these are the compressed bales I am speaking of. You did well to create a substrate of garden soil & vermiculite, now please add this shredded sphagnum peat. DO NOT listen to salespeople who might tell you composted pine bark is the same & try to sell you some. In your case, that is too free draining. A benchmark price for 4 cu.ft. would be $6 but I doubt you will find it that cheap; please search the greenhouse supply companies near you and buy in bulk if need be.

Mix this in thoroughly with your soil-vermiculite mix. Even when you go away for vacation, if you place a thick mulch of composted pine bark, shredded newsprint, straw, underlain by any AGRIGEL e.g. Viterra® Gelscape® http://www.amereq.com/pages/6/index.htm lightly worked into the soil and watered. Then enjoy your vacation for a month!

Add some composted manure to your peat-garden soil bed, being careful of the salt content of the manure. Florida has a lot of limestone lying around, so some of this soil should be added too, to balance acidity, or some single superphosphate and Epsom salts or other magnesium salts. BTW, soybean meal for animal feed cost c$27/100 lbs, so does corn gluten. Both make great fertilizer, and the gluten is an excellent pre-emergence weed-killer sprinkled on the surface of the soil. This will kill certain types of weed seedlings that germinate following disturbance of soil.

Additional help with suppressing weeds that come up from deeply buried roots may be had from a thick mulch of straw or newsprint. Feed your plants well, then lay down the mulch. There are some grasses & bindweed that will come through. This type of organic mulch is useful because it prevents rain from impacting the soil and compressing it, and also moves the radiation exchange plane above the soil surface, cooling the soil.

[in Florida, if the eggplant is getting overheated in midsummer, which is possible in a raised bed, you can buy shadecloth in varying strengths, like 25%, which should be enough to give them the right amount of light for setting abundant fruit. Just screw 2x4 rods to the beds and mount the cloth over the plants.]

You can reduce weeds by planting seedling THROUGH a tight-fitted plastic mulch of a color suited to crop and climate. If you further overlay your mulch with newspaper clippings, the plastic is protected & can be reused much longer tan its stated lifetime. Use a soaker hose/drip irrigation underneath, for each raised bed and you save yourself a lot of hassle. [You can go away on vacations with a timer affixed & not worry bout watering.]

• White – Cools the soil allowing adaptability of a crop to a specific region. Normally produced as a white over black coex film to prevent weed growth. White mono films may act as a greenhouse and promote weed/plant growth under the film.

• Silver – Normally produced and a Silver/Black coex film. Prevents weed growth, as a function of the opacity of the black layer in the coex film. Cools the soil, though not to the extent of a white over black coex film and repels some aphids and thrips reducing damage to the crop.

If you have a specific question about performance, manufacture, crop production, etc., the American Society for Plasticulture can connect you with experts in Wavelength Selective and/or Colored Plastic Ag Films if you send your inquiry to info@plasticulture.org. Dr. Henry G. Taber, Iowa State University, is the manager for discussion related to this topic.

http://www.plasticulture.org/fg_wavelength.htm

Finally, if you have 2 or even 3 raised beds, each one every 2 years should get watered + sealed in found polyethylene [furniture, appliance or mattress stores throw this away] for 8 weeks during the hottest months to solarize/sterilize them. Even so, you should have this number of beds to rotate plant families, and plant certain types of Marigolds & sorghum-sudangrass once in a while in the beds and chop them in for their anti-nematode properties. Raised beds can give you 5-20 times the yield of field crops in rationally managed, so they are well worth fussing over, as also for the pleasure they bring.

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Dear H-san,

I tried to ascertain your watermelon situation. My thoughts on this issue is this: most watermelons require pollination, which the unwoven fabric will hinder--flying pollinators, although there are other ground beetles of lesser efficacy which it will not. The bigger concern is the tradeoff between a sudden fungal outbreak due to the increased humidity around the plants caused by the row cover balanced against bacterial wilts transmitted by insects, the incidence of which varies from locale to locale, and must be judged by local experts. There are viral, mycoplasma & other diseases transferred by insect vectors that are eliminated by the row cover right up until the time for pollination arrives. At that point the plant is usually robust enough to produce at least a few fruit. However, there is the ANTHRACNOSE fungal disease which is the great spoiler in this balancing act, and this is the poker game on which local experts will best be able to advise.

As regards bird damage, my option would be the purchase a roll of GALVANIZED chicken wire. This would be more substantial, yet flexible, lightweight and an investment for many years, given that watermelon is beloved yet supposed to be expensive in Japan. Rather than protecting the whole row, as each fruit forms, a cylinder or suitable shape may be snipped from the roll of chicken wire. Then you will need a TILE or SLATE or something upon which the melon must mature REMOVED ABOVE THE SOIL. AROUND that, thoughtfully array your chicken wire, of a mesh size to exclude CHIPMUNKS [if they trouble you], GROUND VOLES, and BIRDs, to say nothing of other mammals that opportunistically may injure the ripening fruit. You may use clothespins or various fasteners to secure the cylinder or cone of wire, which will be accomoating enough for the melon's presumes SIZE/GIRTH & SHAPE [make very sure the wire will not cut into the skin].

Regading the tomato, MOMOTARO is a wordplay on the legend of the Peach Pit Boy, referring to the toughness of the skin of that variety. This is/was an important problem fr tomatoes tha genetically suffered from radial cracking & other types of cell expansion issues. However, it has been my experience that several types of predators, especilly in dry weaher that also encourage sweeter ripe fruit, begin to attack the ripening blushed areas well before the entire fruit has turned color. Rot speedily sets in . Chipmunks are a prime culprit in Ithaca, although Mus minimus and field voles occasionally share the spoils. It may be that your part of Japan is free of these or of little bird fond of pecking & investigating. Just be aware of possibilities & alert to first sign when loosely wraping clusters with pieces woven agrofabric would be fine.

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v. gautam: Thanks for all your suggestions. I know that watermelons require pollination (I do the hand pollination almost every day these days, preferably before 9 o'clock in the morning), and the area covered by the fabric already has four or six watermelons, some of which are already quite large. Galvanized chicken wire should be a good idea, and I will consider using it, because, as you have pointed out, I'm worried about the increases in humidity caused by the fabric.

As for Momotaro, there is more to the story: The chairman of Takii (seed company) has a grandchild named Taro, and Momo (peach) suggests the color of this variety. Thus, Momo + taro.

As for konasu, which you mentioned upthread, I don't think it's considered a kyoto vegetable. It simply means small (ko) + egglant (nasu).

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You are correct: the konasu was not included among their collection of special Kyoto vegetables. So the Great Man created a play on the words Peach Boy, a wonderful "horticultural conceit" (in the literature sense of the term)!

Sakata has EGGPLANT GREEN GODDESS & OKRA GREEN PENTA, older varieties but most deserving.

This group : Kaori Kikuchi, Ichiro Hondaa, Satoshi Matsuoa, Machiko Fukudaa and Takeo Saitoa

Molecular Genetics and Physiology Research Team, National Institute of Vegetable and Tea Science, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, 360 Kusawa, Ano, Tsu, Mie 514-2392, Japan

is developing PARTHENOCARPIC eggplant, that set fruit without pollination, give higher yield than similar European types and suit Japanese tastes. Without seeds, as in the oil-rich watermelon seed, more enegry can be partitioned to the "fruit", hence at least a third higher yield than seeded types. So i you were to write to them requesting a few experimental seeds of their AE-P03 line for your son to do a small science cum gardening project, they should oblige.

Your honored father or his worthy grandson may one day be pleased with a surprise: I am sure horticulture depts. in Japan will have received and trialled these varieties

Heukgoosul :a black table grape with improved KYOHO-like qualities

National Horticultural Research Institute, Suwon 440-706, Korea Republic

'Heukboseok' ('Beniizu' x 'Kyoho'): It is recommended that it be pruned to 6 to 12-node canes, 2 to 4 nodes shorter than 'Kyoho' in winter season, because it is not as vigorous. This is great for smaller properties and along wires, not a huge pergola. [my notes added to theirs]

Hyeon-Cheol Cha

Email: hccha@anseo.dankook.ac.kr

Department of Biology, Dankook University, 330-714 Cheonan, Korea

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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I posted in the wrong topic - apologies - I meant to post in "Growing Japanese food plants & herbs" :unsure:

Gautam-san;

thank you for all the information and advice. I'll dedicate the unopened earthbox for more lettuce and stick to traditional pots for the fall vegetables.

The raised garden beds are now housing marigolds and a peanut plant (a thank you present from the squirrels that are fed by my housemate). Will follow through with the chop and sanitize and try them again next summer.

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  • 4 weeks later...
How are the watermelons doing? Are they ripe yet? !!

Thanks for reminding me. Our first melon is here.

I thought about your chicken wire idea for days, but I thought I could never cut it, shape it, and place it properly (I don't have the necessary tools). So, I just kept the unwoven fabric sheet over the watermelons. Fortunately, the crows have not yet detected our watermelons.

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I suspect that 10 deg C might be OK if the plants were already established. But it might be best to sow some in the fall specially for your indoor crop!

The only thing I can think of is to keep them well away from windows, or if that's not practical, stick a cardboard (or better, polystyrene foam) box over them at night, or at least between the plants and the window.

Japanese window insulation is not the greatest...I have to keep my breadmaker away from the window in the winter.

Hiroyuki, it's possible that your watermelons might improve in flavor if you leave them inside for a few days (less than a week) at room temperature after cutting them off the vine.

I am lucky to have several friends who either have small families or who don't like fruit, and they keep giving us watermelons. :smile: . We had one that must have been approaching 3 weeks since harvest the other day, and the color and sweetness were remarkably good...the aroma may have faded a little.

Those small "ko-dama" watermelons are definitely the right size for an urban household.

Do you think that nectarines have become cheaper and more available recently? I used to avoid buying them in Japan, as they tended to be shipped too early, and were very expensive, but this year they've been quite cheap here.

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I suspect that 10 deg C might be OK if the plants were already established. But it might be best to sow some in the fall specially for your indoor crop!

The only thing I can think of is to keep them well away from windows, or if that's not practical, stick a cardboard (or better, polystyrene foam) box over them at night, or at least between the plants and the window.

Japanese window insulation is not the greatest...I have to keep my breadmaker away from the window in the winter.

You're too kind; I'd have said insulation in general is not the greatest. :biggrin:

I'm going to start my basil after I return, so it'll be the beginning of September. Hopefully it'll be warm but not overwhelmingly hot by then. (wishful thinking?)

I'm thinking of starting a few plants a week for a month. That way they'll last me through the winter and hopefully until I leave. (except my absence during the three-week Christmas break might be the death of them)

I'll prepare some kind of shelter (I've got lots of foam things saved up for my move) for them to help keep them warm.

Thanks for the advice!

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Hiroyuki, it's possible that your watermelons might improve in flavor if you leave them inside for a few days (less than a week) at room temperature after cutting them off the vine.

Thanks, Helen. I didn't know about this, but my son did. He knows more about growing vegetables than I do, and he wants to give me lectures (that I don't want to get).

One of the amazing things that I have learned over the years is that children nowadays don't care for watermelons! My children are probably among the few exceptions.

Nectarines! You may be right. If I remember correctly, they were more expensive last year, and I think they keep showing up on supermarket shelves for a longer period of time this year.

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Hiroyuki, it's possible that your watermelons might improve in flavor if you leave them inside for a few days (less than a week) at room temperature after cutting them off the vine.

One of the amazing things that I have learned over the years is that children nowadays don't care for watermelons! My children are probably among the few exceptions.

As my 10 year old son would say, "Just leaves more watermelon for me!". He can easily finish off a whole "personal" sized watermelon in one sitting.

Cheryl

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H-san,

The watermelon is beautiful and absolutely perfect, like all you undertake, including your kids!! Sweetness comes from the memories associated with growing it. I am certain that your children will treasure the time they spent with their father, growing and eating this and other produce, just as you treasure such memories you share with your own parents.

You too will remember these times with as you age, remembering all the happiness and the loss, [and maybe compose waka!!]. Thus this melon is the sweetest on the earth.

I have read waka only in translation, and can only surmise how exquisite they must be in the original. They often speak of perfection qualified by some slight flaw, the moon seen through wisps of cloud, your watermelon slightly less than perfectly sweet.

So here is one for you, not quite a waka, but do not read it when you are feeling sad: [i may have forgotten important bits in the decades since I tried to study such things, so please forgive the mistakes!!] This one is for the golden rice fields of your home in the months to come.

kokoro naki

minimono aware wa

shigi tatsu sawa no

aki no yu_gure

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So here is one for you, not quite a waka, but do not read it when you are feeling sad: [i may have forgotten important bits in the decades since I tried to study such things, so please forgive the mistakes!!] This one is for the golden rice fields of your home in the months to come.

kokoro naki

minimono aware wa

shigi tatsu sawa no

aki no yu_gure

Thanks for the poem written by Saigyo. Unfortunately, I'm no poet, but I can appreciate poems. :biggrin:

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Knew I had forgotten something, things did not scan, : after aware wa: shirare keri (?)

But here is a melon-specific one that reflects what one expressed upthread; please complete the poem .....!!

Uri hameba

Kodomo omohoyu

Kuri hameba

Mashite omowayu

Izuko yori

Kitarishi monoso

.. ..

.. ..

.. ..

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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Knew I had forgotten something, things did not scan, : after aware wa: shirare keri (?)

But here is a melon-specific one that reflects what one expressed upthread; please complete the poem .....!!

Uri hameba

Kodomo omohoyu

Kuri hameba

Mashite omowayu

Izuko yori

Kitarishi monoso

.. ..

.. ..

.. ..

You are correct: after "aware wa" comes "shirare keri".

The next poem is by Yamanoue No Okura.

It goes as follows:

うりはめば

こどもおもほゆ

くりはめば

ましてしのばゆ

いづくよりきたりしものそ

まなかひに

もとなかかりて

やすいしなさぬ

Like I said, I'm no poet, and I had to rely on Google to identify that poem. :raz:

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  • 8 months later...

Our rented farmland now looks like this.

My son and I will grow a lot of tomato and cherry tomato seedlings of different varieties this year because we really like them.

I bought two Tochiotome (strawberry variety) seedlings last year. So, we now have three different varieties (Akihime, Tochiotome, and unknown variety).

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So what types of tomato are you going to grow this year? I'm really interested. So far, only "Home Momotaro" on sale locally.

Last year the same shop happened to have some "Black from Tula", which I really enjoyed...tends to split, but it's easy to keep an eye on that with just a couple of plants. This year I'm working full-time, and wondering just what I dare plant.

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10 Home Momotaro seedlings

2 "fruit tomato" seedlings

4 red cherry tomato seedlings

2 orange cherry tomamo seedlings

2 yellow cherry tomato seedlings

My son and I will double the number of each variety by growing wakime (offshoots) to have 40 tomato plants in total.

As for watermelons,

2 odama (big)

1 kuro kawa (black skin)

1 yellow odama (big)

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