I pseudo-inherited our current property here in Japan.
When I got here it was an overgrown mess of bonsai plants that had rooted through their pots into a gravel lot that had layers of grass trying to form a new soil layer on top. There were a lot of trees planted too closely for natural growth that had grown into each other, blocking light to others plants and trees. There were styrofoam boxes, plastic flower pots, plastic sheet mulch, various agro-containers, and all sorts of other junk in various states of decay. I still unearth steel tool heads and shards of plastic when I move dirt. There were three plastic tunnels, and two out buildings when I got here. The largest greenhouse reached the end of its lifespan and I found a taker who got it off my hands. Another I recently took down, but there is still a concrete slab poured there. The last green house I have left for the time being. I may use it for starting seed trays.
I have spent the last five years mostly just clearing the junk and trying to prune the trees back to the intended state. It has been an educational experience. So far the biggest impact has been the development of a serious hatred of plastic. Anyone who says plastic doesn't breakdown clearly hasn't cleaned up broken down plastic... because it is the most painstaking cleanup I have ever done, especially here where we have to sort our garbage. I have still not decided completely how to deal with the gravel situation, ultimately I want to clear it and replace it with low plants and groundcover, but that is easier said than done.
I now have a rough vegetable garden built mostly in raised beds built over piles of tree prunings (hugelkultur). The trees have been pruned enough to let light into the garden and we now have blooming and fruiting trees again. I've also cleared out one of the outbuildings that was full to the brim with ancient junk and am slowly preparing to turn it into a woodworking shop - I like working outside, but mosquitoes and heat make it impossible for 5 months out of the year.
My future plans are to complement the current fruit tree assortment and improve my vegetable growing game. I'm learning a lot about the native flora as a lot of it grows in my garden. Also learning about the bugs, fungi, and other critters that find there way in. I have a lot to learn still, but I got a nice vegetable harvest last year and hope to do a better and more nature friendly one every year from here on out.
I will post photos and details of various aspects of this garden project.
This is my vegetable garden with hugelkultur raised beds. I missed the last planting season, so things are more barren than I wish, I just finished planting the few things I still could and I'm only now getting to covering up the unused beds with mulch. I have some volunteer potatoes, nasturtiums, and watercress. Otherwise I've planted lettuce, carrots, spinach, bok choy, peas, and garlic. Many of the seeds were old, so this is kind of a throw-away season for growing, mostly just getting ready for the coming spring planting.
On the right side you can barely make out a couple apple saplings. Behind them are two local citrus trees that grow well here but produce very sour fruit like a lemon, not the go-to choice for a snack. On the left you can see a mature persimmon tree and chestnut tree. I'm doing my best to prune them back so they stop dropping leaves on the roof of that outbuilding and so that I can get more access to their produce. The greenhouse pictured here I am planning to use as a greenhouse in the future, but for now its just storage. The other building was just a storage building that I'm slowly getting ready to turn into a woodshop.
Here is a detail of the lanes between the raised beds. I use the small clippings from trees and wood shavings as a mulch, it is giving me mixed results. Really I need a thicker mulch of more finely chopped materials. But the labor involved in getting that is not worth it, so I get a lot of weeds growing through, especially on the margins. I should plant something I want, but I'm just not on top of it.
Here is an older picture from when I was putting the beds together, you can see the wood I buried under the raised beds.
This is the area where gravel was lain in an attempt to prevent weed growth... but was not maintained or weeded in anyway, creating a gravel/sod mixture that has been one of the biggest annoyances of this plot. Gravel is very popular as a ground cover in Japanese home gardens. This part of the garden is mostly ornamental flowering plants like azaleas, camellia, cherry, magnolia, and the like, and now they do blossom but the appearance is marred by the spotty gravel. The flower pots are my herbs with no home in the ground yet. Most of them I will plant out except the lemon balm and mint, which needs to stay in a pot.
I'll cover other detail areas in future posts. I've been studying the plants growing here for 5 years, and there are hundreds of varieties... Some natural, some introduced.
The first picture was originally a somei-ishino clone that died back to its root stock and grew out from there, so it produces reasonably sized sour cherries now, though very few because it hasn't been getting enough light, air, and wasn't developing horizontal branches until last year or so.
The second is our ume tree. This one makes large fruit that are suited towards liquor infusions such as umeshu or Japanese plum wine. I'm hoping to try doing umeboshi or pickled Japanese plums with them, even though they're not the typical variety.
The red flowering plant is a Japanese quince. It is mostly an ornamental, but it does produce fruit. I haven't yet tried doing anything with the quinces, they're inedible without processing.
More to come.
Location: Japan, zone 9a/b, annual rainfall 2550mm, avg temp 1.5-32 C
I have one probable volunteer, the fruits are the size of golf balls and mostly full of seeds. I may try pruning it back and using it as root stock for grafting. (edit: I have now cut it back to about 1 meter)
And of all we have only one non-astringent variety. Until that is, I graft some of it onto the one mentioned above.
more to come
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