Archive for March, 2010


Start of a new square foot garden

I moved in to my new office (or should is say “workspace”) that came with about 100 m2 of land last week. The soil was sandy; I understand that many years ago this space was occupied by a river.

This is what it looked like when I just moved in:

Bare land

Bare land

Persimmon trees surround the space where I intend planting my vegetables. However, there’s plenty of sunlight even in winter (at least 6 hours) and the space seems ideal to grow lots of vegetables (space is pretty hard to come by in Japan!).

Dug up to a foot

Four beds dug up to a foot

I marked out four beds each 2.4 m x 1.2 m (to accommodate 8 x 4 squares) with adequate space to walk around between the beds and dug up the soil to about 1 foot. Removed weeds and stones, and generally got clean, workable soil. I also added about 25 liters of compost and mixed it thoroughly, and some magnesium lime to make it alkaline.

Next, I ordered for timber from the local forestry association; the official was most cooperative and cut the lumber according to my specs. Here is the photo showing one assembled frame and other frames in place, surrounding the soil that I had dug up and prepared.

Frames in place

Frames in place – one assembled and others in the process of being assembled

I collected a bag of dried leaves and dumped it into one of the beds as the lowermost layer. I also collected some ash and spread it all over the surface. Ash restricts rotting of the leaves, and I figured it would help. I then dug up the soil around the frame and filled it in the frame to build up the depth to about 200 mm (8 inches approx.) That would give the roots a clear space of 200 mm + 300 mm = 500 mm to spread.

Here’s one of the finished beds with fertilizer (white granules):

Ready for planting

Bed ready for planting

My experience with square foot beds in the last two years showed that the grid that gives the squares is useful only when planting seeds of saplings. So I prefer to mark out the squares on the surface before sowing seeds rather than install grids. I prefer this method for the ease of maintenance. Here is the bed with the squares marked on it:

Squares drawn on surface

Squares drawn on the surface

I checked the pH value of the soil at about four locations and it consistently gave a reading of about 6.5. This is just about right, and I decided that no more soil adjustments are needed.

I plan to have flowers at the four corners (squares). With this in mind, I marked out the four depressions in each square of the first longitudinal row of squares and sowed carrot seeds.


Depressions made using a circular piece of wood

In each depression, I sowed three seeds (carrots 65% success rate). Finally, I plant to have one plant per depression, which will make it four carrot plants per square.

Similarly, I planted spinach in another longitudinal row (of eight squares) . In the other two rows, I planted potatoes after cutting the potato seeds in half, drying them in the sun for few hours and for extra protection, applying ash on the exposed surface to prevent rotting. In the last row, I  planted Chinese cabbage. So my first bed contains:

Seeds sowed

Seeds sowed

First long. row: Carrot   Second long. row: Potato   Third long. row: Spinach   Fourth long. row: Chinese cabbage or “hakusai”

I will probably grow companion flowers at the four corners.

Until the next post, have a great day!

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Signs of spring

The temperature today was 20 degrees Celsius and buds have started sprouting all over the place beckoning spring. The plants that I had grown before winter have woken up touched by sun in the mornings. All through winter these plants had very little sunlight; but they have made it through winter. Here’s what my veggie patch looked like last week. 

veggie patch

Veggie patch with lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, peas, onions (covered with straw),  Brassica napus and fava beans

The lettuce and Brassica napus form part of my morning breakfast. The Brasicca napus (thanks to seedlings given by my friend Utiyama-san) also called Norabouna here, have large leaves and makes a fine salad component.  I also harvested broccoli and a cauliflower a few days ago cutting off a nice huge ball at the center. Needless to say, the harvested vegetables were delicious.

In a small adjacent patch, I had planted many small seedlings, covered them with a net and forgotten all about them throughout winter. Last week I removed the net and found that they had successfully negotiated the winter and were growing with gay abandon.

salad patch

Salad patch – Ruccola, sunny lettuce, and shungiku

The Ruccola and sunny lettuce seedlings were again given by Utiyama-san. Ruccola leaves have a spicy tang and together with sunny lettuce, green lettuce and Brasicca napus, make up a delicious green salad for my morning breakfast everyday. These plants are easy to grow and hardly need any care. They are likely to become a permanent feature of my vegetable garden every year.

What else is on in my garden? Daffodils are coming up and so are the clover and Brassica rapa (nanohana).

Daffodils Clover and nanohana

Daffodils                                                                          Clover and nanohana

I sowed the seeds of clover and nanohana in autumn last year dividing the patch in approximate half, the boundary in the shape of an “S”. I’m hoping a spectacular display of red clover and yellow nanohana around April/May this year.

Here are some closeups of the veggies:

Cabbage Broccoli
Cabbage Broccoli


And here are some plants I propagated from seed:

chikoo Grape fruit
Chikoo or Sapodilla Grape fruit

The Sapodilla is a popular fruit in India. I picked up  a few seeds and planted them after arriving in Japan. I have no idea whether this plant will grow to bear fruits. I also saved grape fruit seeds after eating the fruit in Japan and planted them.

In the meanwhile, full-fledged preparations are on at another site. I have planned 4 square-foot beds (each with 4×8 = 32 squares) and hope to start with a lot more veggies and at least 8 hours of sunlight every day. This is a topic for the next post. Have a great day!

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