I've been tracking the progress of my little tambo (rice field) from purchase through seed-sprouting to potting up in a little plastic cup. Inspired almost as much as I was by my rice planting trip last year with One Life Japan, I even managed to write a haiku about it for the Blogathon.
Recently, the tambo moved to its next stage. Roots visibly filled the cup (check out the photo below!) and it consumed water almost as fast as I poured it in. After Shee-chan and I transplanted hers just before planting the sweet potatoes (giving me a much needed demonstration and translation) I was ready.
First, I filled the larger pot with a pre-measured bag of dirt. (The kit comes with absolutely everything pre-prepared except for the water.) To this I added water until the dirt was absolutely saturated and the water stood about two or three centimeters above the soil line. This, of course, mimics the rice field when it's ready for planting. The height of the water helps support the leggy stems as well as keeping competing weeds down.
The rice seedlings are then tipped out as a whole, and gently separated into one or two stem bunches(see photo below). The original rice grain or seed is still visible where the green leaves emerge and the roots descend. (If you look closely at the photo above the grain is just visible next to my thumbnail.) The clumps are inserted into the soil to a depth of roughly two or three centimeters so they stand (relatively) straight by themselves.
The whole process, with the exception of filling the pot, almost exactly mimicked the process of planting a real rice field by hand. From the slight tearing sound as the seedlings were separated to the near oily feel of the soil under my fingers, I could have been out planting next to a mountain river once again. Instead, I was crouched on my balcony in the late afternoon in Tokyo. And now my rice field sits greenly and peacefully on my window sill soaking up the June sunshine and growing, growing.