Archive for April, 2009


Vegetables of the month

Unarguably, three of the vegetables I harvested in my small garden in April have given me immense pleasure – radish, fava beans (broad beans), and potherb mustard – and  I select them as the vegetables of the month. For March, I have selected green peas (planted green peas in autumn last year and harvested this year). The taste of the green peas was just out of this world. I planted radish and fava beans last year; so I learnt from the errors I made last year! Pot herb mustard (called “mizuna” in Japan) was a first for me this year.

Radish - just picked

Radish – just picked and ready for breakfast


Radish - ready to eat

This year I made it a point to lightly dig around the radish plants and to cover the root completely with earth so as not to expose it at any time. This helped to maintain the shape and the size of the vegetable. The entire period from the planting of seeds to the harvest was 40 days! Radish will be a permanent feature of my garden. The taste of the raw radish is “zimbly zuperb” as some of my countrymen in a certain southern state in India would say.

Next, I harvested the pot herb mustard likewise in just about a month’s time, although I did not start it with seeds. It makes a great salad together with radish and lettuce, especially with a dash of lemon and olive oil as dressing.


Pot herb mustard  

Pot herb mustard – quick harvest!

The fava beans (broad beans) are called “sora mame” (literally “sky beans) in Japan. The beans on the plant point to the sky; when they stop pointing and drop down, they are ready for harvest. After  I picked the fava beans from my planter, boiled them for about two minutes and peeled the skin, I was astonished. The ones sold in the market tend to be large, hard and you usually eat them with salt after boiling them. The ones I picked from planter were tender, soft and sweet. I wish had grown fava beans in six planters instead of two in autumn. I planted these in summer last year and had a tough time with pests that ate them up voraciously. I found planting them in autumn and harvesting them in spring is the way to go!

Fava beans


Fava bean – looking down, ready for harvest?


The flowers just about to bloom or already blooming this month are:

Reeves Spiraea

The resplendent Reeves Spiraea (Japanese name Kodemari)


Gymnaster savatieri

The Gymnaster savatieri (Japanese name Miyako wasure) in a verdant background



Elegant and erect clover



The bright and colorful Abutilon



Cluster of white flowers – Lantana


Have a great day!

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Cherry blossoms – here today, gone tomorrow!

My Japanese friends love cherry blossoms that come up on us suddenly in a burst of pink and white and disappear as suddenly as they came, to make their appearance the next year. Here is a scene from a small park on top of a hill near my house – check the pink and white in flowers in the background too. They are all over the town and last for less than a week.

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossoms – here today, gone tomorrow!

The green peas in my planter gave me immense pleasure. The peas were delicious and I made it a point to eat them raw at breakfast. Next year, I’m going to have several planters full of green pea plants!

Green peas in planter

Green peas - click to expand








Green peas in planter                                   Harvested for breakfast!

This week, we had a bit of rain and then bright sunshine. This seems to have worked wonders – I found significant growth in all the plants the next day. Here is what my square-foot garden looks like today (you should be able to see a large photo if you click on it):

Veggie patch today - click to expand

My veggie patch today


I have already harvested Potherb Mustard (Mizuna), which is great for salads. See photo below (left) of Mizuna. The photo on the right is the status of one of my flower beds.

Potherb Mustard (Mizuna)

Flower bed












My sprout project seems to be on course. The radish sprouts have come out well, and I have removed the covering on the plastic containers. The alfalfa sprouts seem however, to have stopped growth. Maybe time to eat ’em? Let me know what you think after seeing the photo below.


Sprouts - click to expand

Incidentally, I visited my friend, Utiyama-san last week and was astounded at the varieties of plants he has in his garden. In addition to space around the house, he has a large plot on which he grows various vegetables. His plot must be at least 10 times the size of my patch! His wife was kind enough to give me the Japanese kerria (yamabuki), which I promptly planted in my garden and also cuttings.  Here are the Utiyamas and their garden:


The Utiyamas

The Utiyamas – friends and avid gardeners from whom I’m learning a lot about Japanese flowers and vegetables


The Utiyama Garden

Here is their large plot in which they grow various kinds of vegetables including onions, beans, corn, ginger and so on.

See these Japanese kerria in all its glory here. Thanks, Utiyama-san.

Japanese kerria (yamabuki)

Japanese kerria


I also spotted the the first bloom of the Gymnaster savatieri (miyako wasure), a kind of Aster in my garden.


Gymnaster savatieri

I planted some flower seeds that I had brought over from India last February, and am happy to report that the seedlings have sprouted. The seeds I planted were Aster, Balsam and Marigold. Aster seems to have sprung up profusely, while had success with only four of the marigold seeds.

Aster, Balsam and Marigold

Aster, Balsam and Marigold seedlings

Finally, I moved two of my curry leaf cuttings into the open and have taken off the plastic covers on the pots. I intend to experiment by spraying these two pots with a fine mist of water everyday. Still keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that the curry leaf plants will make it up to summer in July!

Curry leaf cuttings

Three of the surviving curry leaf cuttings out in the open!

Finally, here is an early morning view of my square-foot veggie patch.



Early morning view of my patch

The tomato and cucumber plants are just below the net on the left side.

Have a great day!


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Daffodils, violas, camelias, peaches, beans, curry leaf plants and potatoes

The title just about sums up the topics I’m going to cover in this post.

Isn’t spring wonderful? New leaves and buds seem to be sprouting up everywhere, flowers bloom and there’s a nip in the air! Here’s a camelia that bloomed and gladdened my heart!


Camelia – as perfect as perfect can be!


The peach tree I planted last autumn rewarded me with lovely pink flowers.

Here’s one of them:


The peach flower in all its glory!


And then of course the daffodils. They stand tall, erect and elegant. The first ones bloomed last week. Here’s one:


Daffodil – pretty enough to make you reach for the Wordsworth poem!

And the violas too, which were slightly dull in winter have suddenly perked up in a rash. Take a look:


A rash of violas!

I still have clover, rapeseed and geraniums waiting to bloom in the next few days. My cup of joy filleth over!

On the veggie front too, I started a new sprout project. Made use of plastic bottles – cut them in the middle and used the lower halves to grow sprouts and the upper halves to cover seeds in the garden, give some warmth and prevent birds from eating them.


Tools for sprouts

Tools used for planting sprouts

I immersed alfafa and radish seeds in water overnight. In the morning, I spread vermiculite to cover the base of the recycled plastic containers, wetted the vermiculite by mist, and evenly spread out the seeds on top of the vermiculite.

Covered sprout containers

Next, I covered the containers with aluminum foil – I had hoped to use aluminum foil on all three containers but our kitchen ran out of foil, so I used pamphlets (junk mail) that came inserted in the newspaper. I hope to keep these seeds covered for 3 to 4 days until they grow to a reasonable height and then open them up to the sunlight, naturally after spraying them with water everyday.

I was also happy to see potato seedlings finally making their appearance! This is the first time I have planted potatoes. However I found the seedlings coming out of unexpected locations in the squares of my square foot garden!


 Cabbages, broccoli, lettuce

Potato seedlings                             Cabbages, broccoli – healthy growth

The other veggies such as cabbages, broccoli, lettuce are also doing well. The warm weather makes all the difference, I guess.

I planted beans (the climbing variety) in another bed and marked out the location where I planted the seeds with sticks. Soon as I have enough recycled plastic bottles, I’ll remove the sticks and cover the seeds with the necks of the plastic bottles.

Beans and edamame


Bed with 5 x 2 squares

Four squares with climbing beans and one square containing the leftover radish seedlings can be seen in the left row of squares. To the right, I planted edamame (soya beans) and covered them with the top half of a plastic bottle, which will serve to keep the soil around the seeds moist and warm, as well as protect the seeds from being eaten by birds. I have also put up nets along the wall to take up the beans as they creep up.



Finally, here is a photo showing two rows of radish seedlings per square. These are the fastest growing vegetables, and I should be able to harvest them in about a month from now.


And lastly, the curry leaf cuttings that I had brought with me from India are still fighting to keep alive! When I brought them, it was midwinter here in Japan. Spring has finally come and most are still alive as far as I can see. I am desperately hoping that at least a few will make it up to summer and hot weather in which these plants thrive. Here is a photo of a surviving curry leaf cutting (plastic cover removed – keeping my fingers crossed!):


Until the next post, happy gardening and have a great day!

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April 2009