Little by little the days become longer and longer, and even though my winter crops are still in the ground and still being harvested I'm beginning to turn a new season over in my mind. I'm thinking about some new things to grow, some new techniques to try, and things I hope to remember to do again.
Things to Grow
- Scarlet Runner Beans - I spotted their lovely red blooms and lanky vines last summer in Hokkaido. After we came down from the mountains, we spent some time roaming the byways and bike paths of Asahikawa and Higashikawa. Full of market stands and everyday gardens I took loads and loads of photos, and bought almost as many loads of fruit and vegetables that our friends at Square One graciously ate with us. To be perfectly honest, I've no idea how they taste, but for those beautiful flowers I'm willing to give them a go. I also suspect they might make an interesting green curtain option.
- Black Beans - Some things are a little tricky to get here in Japan, and most of the time I don't mind one way or the other. There's so much good food to eat here and so many interesting vegetables, that I don't miss much. But black beans are one of the things I crave. I've never grown dried beans before, and the idea of storing food for later as well as saving seeds appeals to me. I may also try my hand at growing a traditional variety of Japanese beans like those I met in Takayama.
- More Flowers and Herbs - Last year my garden felt way too utilitarian. I'm not the wildest woman to walk the earth, but I'm not the most regimented, either. And this last garden, while tidy and relatively productive, didn't do much for me. I found I wasn't overly inspired to visit, to walk among the plants and check on the action. It was dull, and that's exactly what a garden should not be. Plus, I felt a real absence of pollinators and predators, which I hope to remedy.
- Organic Mulch - This year I truly hope to not use plastic mulch. It just feels wrong to me, and it seems rather wasteful. I can't deny it's effectiveness in the garden, though. Weeds and drought surely would have done in my garden without some kind of mulch, and if this coming summer is anything like this last one the plants and I will both want a good amount of cover. I'm hoping to use old tatami mats that are biodegradable and locally available.
- Homemade Compost - The bin is in place and despite daily additions remains at the same height. I'm looking forward to turning it over in spring and scooping out whatever lovely bits are there for addition to the garden. I know it won't be much, but it's better than nothing. Along with the aforementioned mulch, I can't much longer bear the thought of hauling all those plastic bags of chicken and horse manure from the big box store down the road. (My bike can't take much more of that, either.) I'm eyeballing a site for a second one, although I'll lose some growing space in my lasagna bed if I do it.
- Seed-saving - I've done a tiny bit of this in the past, but it seems more than logical to me that I should learn how to do this well and with a wide variety of plants that I like to grow. Seeds are incredibly expensive here, and the plants I like usually have seeds sourced elsewhere. I am also a firm believer in the importance of open-pollinated varieties.
- Permaculture - While the garden is not on land that I own and I have no idea what will become of it if I ever have to leave Tokyo, I do want to incorporate some elements of permaculture. (I'm also toying with the idea of doing this in some way on our balconies, if that's possible.) It seems sensible to order my garden in some ways along the lines of natural systems to make it more sustainable, especially in light of the long hot summer that may well be coming. It also makes sense to me since I live in a very urban area. A little bit of sustainable nature means the wildlife in my neck of the woods will have a pleasant place to spend some time, have a snack, and perhaps eat an aphid or two. It also sounds quite challenging, and that's something that appeals as well.
Things to do Again
This section was surprisingly difficult to write. I couldn't think of much that I wanted to repeat from this last year's season in the garden. I loved being at the farm through heat and rain and sun, but my own garden left me feeling lackluster it seems except for...
- Popcorn - There is no doubt in my mind that I will grow this again. I saved back the prettiest cob of the Dakota Black, and I've got another variety in mind to plant with it. I've no idea how they'll turn out, but its bound to be fun.