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Home garden in Japan

 
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Posts: 922
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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Chayote vines are producing despite disease. I'm harvesting them early this year so that they're easier to cook with. I'm sure I'll miss enough of them that cure on the vines for using later anyway.
chayote-everywhere.jpg
[Thumbnail for chayote-everywhere.jpg]
chayote-first-harvest.jpg
[Thumbnail for chayote-first-harvest.jpg]
 
L. Johnson
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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A few more photo updates.

I've switched from composting cut grass to chop and dropping to mulch and suppress growth in my pathways and around my raised beds so that I don't get discouraged from getting out and working in the garden. My compost is now switching to a mix of kitchen waste, leaf drop, tree prunings.

I've confirmed one of the vines growing on my trees that I had been pulling until this year is yamaimo. It's putting out edible propagules called mukago.

A friend also identified another plant growing in my garden as myoga, or Japanese ginger. We eat the shoots... I'm not sure if I'd be able to spot the shoots among the other grass, but they'd be easy enough to cultivate in a raised bed if I wanted to.

chop-and-drop.jpg
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choppity-droppity.jpg
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mukago-maybe.jpg
Yamaimo propagules
Yamaimo propagules
myoga.jpg
Japanese ginger
Japanese ginger
 
L. Johnson
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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Still working on getting my winter plantings in. It's amazing that we can grow year-round here. I'm very much still trying to get my head around what can grow when though. I look forward to future me that knows that V vegetable will do well starting in A month or B month and needs X days to get there for A and Y days for B. There are so many variables to planting that I eventually gave up trying to plan it and just did it to see what would happen...

I'm going to try two fully mixed polyculture beds this season. One bed is the most shaded in my already low-sun garden. I failed at growing lettuce transplants in the summer, but I'm letting them grow to seed anyway because one of the things I'm planting in the mix is lettuce. First I planted fava beans down the middle next to some stakes. I wet the soil and lightly raked the top, then broadcast my mix throughout the entire bed. I didn't mix it with any soil before broadcasting. We'll see what happens!

The other polyculture bed I'm trying I currently have mulched with the weeds I cut there. I just broadcast into the mulch. The only thing growing there are some more weeds and garlic at the end where I'm trying to establish a perennial garlic patch (currently in it's second growing season).

My entire garden is basically a giant experimental playground right now. I don't get too attached and am happy whenever I can harvest vegetables. I get to harvest lessons even when the vegetables don't grow, so I'm always in a glut of something even if it isn't edible.

I've been actively hunting cabbage caterpillars and komatsuna shield bugs recently, because I see them completely devastating all of my mustards, brassicas and beets. One of the purposes of the polyculture experiments is to see if it dissuades or confuses the pests.
seed-mix.jpg
The varieties of plants I'm mixing.
The varieties of plants I'm mixing.
mixed-bed-one.jpg
Future polyculture broadcast with favas down the middle
Future polyculture broadcast with favas down the middle
mixed-bed-two.jpg
Future polyculture broadcast with garlic at the end.
Future polyculture broadcast with garlic at the end.
 
L. Johnson
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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Some of the seeds from the seed mix I broadcast are germinating in both beds. It will be interesting to see what thrives.

When doing this style of sowing do people cull for spacing or just leave them to compete?
IMG_20211028_094737343_HDR.jpg
polyculture seedlings germinating
polyculture seedlings germinating
IMG_20211028_094753410_HDR.jpg
polyculture seedlings germinating
polyculture seedlings germinating
 
L. Johnson
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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I harvested seeds from my failed lettuce bed today. I wonder if any of them crossed... There were about 4 or 5 varieties. It will be interesting to see what comes out.
IMG_20211102_130903695.jpg
Lettuce seed pods
Lettuce seed pods
 
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L. Johnson wrote:
When doing this style of sowing do people cull for spacing or just leave them to compete?


I think that the idea is to do a mixture of both. I would let all the little seedlings start, then when they begin to cover the bed, thin to the strongest seedlings and eat the thinnings. If you thin too early, a critter may come and graze so you have none left. if you do leave it longer, some will just get crowded out, but that may also starve the better plants slightly too. One difficulty is not disturbing the soil and the remaining plants as you thin. I guess cutting at the base might be one way, that would leave the roots to augment the soil in situ.
 
L. Johnson
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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Now that the weather is very agreeable to me I've been getting a few minutes in here and there.

I'd pruned back the overgrown trees quite a lot in the past few years, so now I can give a haircut to 5-6 trees in the morning before anyone gets up!

The trees are way too closely planted to let them grow out to full size, so keeping up with the pruning really helps keep things from getting shaded out and letting air come through. The folks that planted them had a manicured Japanese garden in mind...

My main goals with pruning are to keep the trees healthy, so I cut out crossing branches, dead wood, and broken branches. I also need to let in as much light and air as possible, so I tend to prune a lot near the base of the trees, exposing trunks and keeping low growing ground cover from overcrowding them and sending up bindweed and ivy... I'm also trying to find and set a good "head" height for each tree or shrub.

I never feel very permie when I prune heavily, but I'd rather work with the mature trees that are already here than cut everything out and start over.

After previous prunings I've had some amazing discoveries... flowers I had never seen before blooming in the newfound sunlight, trees that never bloomed suddenly coming to life with a coat of red or white variegated blossoms (hello sazanqua and rhododendrons!)

The last three major trees that I haven't been able to prune yet are Podocarpus_macrophyllus or inumaki. They are going to be very difficult to prune... even with my 4m extending silky. I may just lop off the top 2 meters or so of growth.

 
L. Johnson
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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I think I have moles. They're not causing any major problems yet, unless they're nibbling at my root vegetables where I can't see them. There are semi feral cats around though, so I doubt the moles will last too long.
IMG_20211111_123304540_HDR.jpg
A series of holes in my raised beds
A series of holes in my raised beds
 
L. Johnson
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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Broadcast poly culture experiment

Both seem to be working. I think the mulched bed is growing a little faster more because it gets more sunlight than any other factor.

It may also just be related to seed dispersal discrepancy but the lettuces seem to like the grass mulched bed more than the brassicas.
IMG_20211127_084702469_HDR.jpg
Grass mulch
Grass mulch
IMG_20211127_084718911_HDR.jpg
No mulch
No mulch
 
L. Johnson
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Got some labor done today.

Turned a cedar log into stakes to keep my raised beds from falling apart.
First I cut the lengths with my silky.

Then I split them with an axe and some wedges when necessary.

Then I used my drawknife to smooth the sides to give fungus less surface area to grow on and shaved down to a point to make them easier to drive into the ground.

Then I staked them into the ground to support the sides of the beds.

And I use the shavings to mulch the aisles of the garden.


Gathered some leaf drop off of the concrete retaining wall and added it to the compost heap.



My compost is a bit anaerobic right now. I need to get in and turn the whole thing, but that is a lot of work I don't have time for right now, so it will be put off for another day.
 
L. Johnson
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New year pruning.

I'm still gradually pruning back all the trees in my garden. I just put in an hour clearing out twisted branches and light blockers.

I've decided to be a bit more aggressive recently, because if any of the decorative plants die from over pruning I can replace them with something edible.

I still have more work to do on the inumaki, a magnolia and the shrubs surrounding them.
 
L. Johnson
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Pushed by my son's interest, we planted a bunch of peach pits in a row beside each other.

We foraged the pits, so I have no idea what kind of peaches, but considering where they were I'm guessing they were decorative peach trees. I don't really need any decorative peach trees... but it will be interesting to see if they come up in the spring. We decided if we get more than one or two we would give them away as gifts.

It's my first attempt at doing tree nursery type gardening, so I think it will be a very good learning experience. Especially if I have partial success.

This might spur me to get some kiwis going too... They might work growing up our back porch.
 
Nancy Reading
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I didn't even know you could get decorative peaches! I suppose decorative cherries, crab apples so why not! You could always look into grafting onto them in furture I suppose.

I suppose you are aware of the potentially vigorous nature of the kiwi vine? I had to evict mine from the polytunnel. It did fruit, but small and sour, we don't really have the heat for it in autumn to ripen and it shaded too much - I did get into a routine to pruning it to maintain it but it didn't survive being transplanted outside. I have thought about other kiwi species (Actinidia arguta and A. kolomitka rather than A. deliciosa) and I may still try them. They are supposed to be less vigorous, earlier fruiting and without the hairy skins of the bigger kiwi fruit.
Just a warning (not my kiwi):


kiwi-smothering-a-tree.JPG
kiwi-smothering-a-tree
kiwi-smothering-a-tree
 
L. Johnson
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Nancy Reading wrote:
I suppose you are aware of the potentially vigorous nature of the kiwi vine?



I wasn't really aware of kiwis in particular, but I'm familiar with how many vining perennials can be overpowering.

That could be a benefit! The real problem is needing a male and female and finding space for both... we have a very small lot and it's already overfull. I'm beginning to consider replacements for edibles.
 
Nancy Reading
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There are some self fertile kiwis. Mine was 'Jenny'. It fruited well (took a few years to start flowering) the flowers are really pretty - like large pale apricot apple blossom- so would make a nice bower for a few weeks. I gather the fruit are slightly smaller in self fertile varieties - smaller than a  chicken egg.
Lots of other edible climbers for your climate. I've tried a few, but really need more warmth, even in the tunnel: passionflower, Akebia, five flavour berries. Diascorea might be another option for you - would grow in a large planter perhaps. Hablitizia has very nice edible leaves, doesn't want it too hot and dry.
 
L. Johnson
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Nancy Reading wrote:There are some self fertile kiwis. Mine was 'Jenny'. It fruited well (took a few years to start flowering) the flowers are really pretty - like large pale apricot apple blossom- so would make a nice bower for a few weeks. I gather the fruit are slightly smaller in self fertile varieties - smaller than a  chicken egg.
Lots of other edible climbers for your climate. I've tried a few, but really need more warmth, even in the tunnel: passionflower, Akebia, five flavour berries. Diascorea might be another option for you - would grow in a large planter perhaps. Hablitizia has very nice edible leaves, doesn't want it too hot and dry.



I need to go forage for some akebi so I can decide if I like them or not. I have Japanese yam volunteers, so if I go tuber hunting I could cultivate then.

Passion flower and hablitizia are new for me, I'll have to investigate...

I see. I didn't know passion fruit was a vine.

And I do hablitizia is Caucasian spinach, which I've heard of but not yet tried.

Another popular I've eaten one around here is malabar spinach. Which my wife and I like alright.
 
L. Johnson
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Spring winds are blowing in. The ume trees have been blooming for a couple weeks now. The cherry blossoms will come soon.

This year I'm determined to use our ume (Japanese apricots/plums) for SOMETHING. Last year I was waiting for them to turn yellow, as I assumed was their color of ripeness... but they all fell off the tree without turning yellow, so I now believe this variety does not turn yellow but more of a green/purple. I think they're not suited for pickled plums, but perhaps I can make ume juice. Plum wine is not exciting for me, but it's certainly the most suitable product from this tree's fruit.

My polyculture beds are growing nicely! It's fascinating seeing the different plants growing at different paces in different places. I think this method of broadcasting a wide diversity into a single bed has a lot to offer. We'll see how hard harvesting is, and if some of the lower growing plants get lost in the canopy of the faster growing foliage. Today I spot planted a few okra seeds around different spots of the polyculture, and broadcast another handful in the same bed. Okra seeds are super easy to save and very easy to grow too. Learning to like okra wasn't hard either! I'm not sure if I can distinguish all of the brassicas and mustards that I mixed, but I'm not sure that it really matters! You can eat broccoli leaves and cabbage stems right? If the taste is good it doesn't really matter what variety you're eating.

I'm having a little bit of trouble visualizing succession planting in the other beds. I don't know for example, how long the komatsuna is going to keep putting out leaves. It could stop next week, or it could keep leafing out through the spring. So until I know those aspects of growing in this garden I can't really plan when to sow the next generation of plants... Thus, my observations continue.

I'm finally... finally, getting some motivation back. I've been in a general slump for a month or so. Hopefully the upward trend continues through the spring.
 
L. Johnson
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Today I got some compost work done.

Sifted out my carefully selected compost (no seeds) and used it to fill up some modules and pots, and put the rest in an old store compost bag.



The remnants went back into the compost pile.



I then chopped down three banana stalks and chopped them up and re-filled the compost. I tried composting these in my big indiscriminate slow compost to wonderful success, so hopefully it will work as well here in the smaller scale. Huge amount of organic material.







The bananas are an example of The Problem is the Solution. These things are vigorous like crazy. I can't kill them, but they are pushing over our property rock border onto our neighbors, and expanding out to the neighbors property. I decided last year to try using them as a major source of compost material, and it works well. Yay for permaculture principles.
 
L. Johnson
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Working on my plant IDs again this spring.

Looks like in my raised beds I've got the following volunteers:

henbit deadnettle - seems largely harmless, apparently good early nectar plant for bees
veronica persica - spreads and covers quite a lot of surface, might hedge out some vegetable seeds/seedlings, but has a really pretty little blue flower.
some kind of wild geranium - mostly harmless
oxalis - mostly harmless but can get big
narrow leaved vetch - nice legume nitrogen fixer, can get big enough to outcrowd and tangle some crop plants though, so best to keep an eye on it.

a few others I can't identify for sure.

The bindweed hasn't made much of a comeback yet, though I expect it will later in the year.

Some of the annoying grasses and bulb-grown perennials are trying to get established again. I am selecting them out.
 
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Hey L, (sorry, I couldn't find your fuller name!)

It's super helpful and interesting hearing people's growing stories from different parts of the world, thanks!

I'm really curious about permaculture and growing in Japan, and especially the colder climates, like Hokkaido. A lot of cooler weather Japanese plants seem to do well for us in Latvia.

Do you have contacts in Hokkaido, or perhaps know of Japanese growing forums where I could share information and ask some questions?

Thanks so much, I intend to publish information on growing in different climates based on my research within the next year!

Charlie
forestgardenplants.blogspot.com

 
L. Johnson
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Kārlis Taurenis wrote:Hey L, (sorry, I couldn't find your fuller name!)


L is fine.

Kārlis Taurenis wrote:It's super helpful and interesting hearing people's growing stories from different parts of the world, thanks!



I'm happy to share. Writing things down helps me to remember. It's also pretty easy to search my own posts to organize my own endeavors here.

Kārlis Taurenis wrote:I'm really curious about permaculture and growing in Japan, and especially the colder climates, like Hokkaido. A lot of cooler weather Japanese plants seem to do well for us in Latvia.



Fascinating. Apparently parts of Japan and parts of the UK are also similar. Where I am is much warmer than the average in Japan. Our seasons happen a month or so earlier than in Tokyo. We can grow lots of citrus here and it barely dips below freezing. Our coldest temperatures were -2 or -3 celsius this past winter.

Kārlis Taurenis wrote:Do you have contacts in Hokkaido, or perhaps know of Japanese growing forums where I could share information and ask some questions?



There are some folks in northern Japan on this forum. An interesting thread focused on building a rocket mass heater was started by one member: https://permies.com/t/560/122458/Advice-RMH-build-Hokkaido-Japan

You can browse through the Asia forum and see what comes up too: https://permies.com/f/34/asia

Kārlis Taurenis wrote:Thanks so much, I intend to publish information on growing in different climates based on my research within the next year!



Good luck with your research. Start a thread with a good title and share with us here if you don't mind!
 
L. Johnson
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I'm starting to get the hang of this gardening thing...

I sowed edamame between my komatsuna while I was still harvesting the greens. Now the komatsuna are flowering and the edamame are sprouting! The timing is starting to make sense.

I have a few different Br. Rapa plants flowering (chinese cabbage, komatsuna, bok choy) and I expect they will cross somewhat. But I'm going to save the seeds and use them and see what happens... because I got lucky with some pretty pest resistant plants among those, and I want those genes.

My beets are slowly coming back for their second season... They didn't make big tubers, so I didn't even try harvesting them. But I'm going to see them through their lifecycle and maybe grab some seeds from them too. The same was true of my burdock.

A lot of things bolted. I think part of it was a sudden heat wave in late February or early March. Some of it is probably because I didn't water them enough in the dry season. But I'm interested in the long-game, so I culled a lot of the bolting plants and let the better thriving ones continue.

Lettuce is slowly coming in where I broadcast it.

The hirsute raspberry canes that I left alone have begun flowering. More or less each flower turns into a berry, so I'm glad I waited a year and let them all grow. Looks like I will have at least a hundred berries this year, which is a great improvement on the 5 from last year.

I also have some extremely old seeds successfully germinating in the greenhouse. I think I got 4 eggplants to sprout from 12 year old seed. I also got some tomatoes from similarly old seeds. If I manage to grow them to fruit and save some seeds those are good genes for seed longevity.

Eggplant and Green pepper are germinating for me for the first time, and I'm really happy about both. We'll see what comes up and what thrives.
 
Ever since I found this suit I've felt strange new needs. And a tiny ad:
Rocket Mass Heater Manual - now free for a while
https://permies.com/goodies/8/rmhman
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