After we finished preparing the fields on Wednesday I planted the first of my winter vegetables. A certain urgency prevailed as the forecast for Thursday included lots of rain, and it looked like the following days would be wet as well. Summer's heat and drought creeping into the early weeks of fall delayed planting in general, and my travels to Hokkaido, Hakuba, and parts between also meant little time in the garden. (Except to drop off the compost, of course!)
The optimal planting time for daikon, hakusai (Chinese cabbage), broccoli, and cabbage was also coming to an end or had just passed. The shortening days mean less light and heat for seeds to germinate and establish before the chilly days of winter arrive. Leafy crops like komatsuna, karashina, and mizuna will get planted around the middle of October. Takashi-san advised waiting to plant those out as the bugs that like to snack on them are still around and would prove pesky.
The planting process is simple. Place two seeds in each hole, press down about two centimeters with thumb, and cover with dirt. Pat firmly in place with the back of your fingers to ensure soil contact with the seeds, and to shape the top of the hole like a bowl. This way it holds moisture without washing the seeds away. (Thanks to the farmers for that handy tip!) When the seeds sprout and get to be about six centimeters in height (give or take), thin each hole to one. Eat the seedling leaves in salad or miso: mottainai.
I am using the black plastic mulch for winter. It keeps the soil warm and retains moisture between rainfalls. Since I'm planting more than one kind of crop in each bed I had to punch my own holes in the plastic using the handy tool pictured at the top of this post. The farmers use a plastic mulch that comes pre-punched depending on the crop in question. Daikon, broccoli, cabbage, and chinese cabbage require about 40 centimeters (18 inches) between each plant. Leafy greens, on the other hand, require about 10 centimeters (6 inches) only.
The west bed of the main garden (not the wall bed) is almost all daikon. The farmer's most generously gave me some seed for the big fatties they grow and seeds for some cute little round ones. I also planted out some red daikon seeds I'd purchased up in Hokkaido. I threw in some Chinese cabbage at the end of the row interspersed with regular radishes. If all goes well we'll be mixing up a good batch of kimchi again and serving up piping hot bowls of oden over the winter.