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May Kanagawa Garden Update

Garden at twilight.

Let's just say the first week of May was madness. We moved house, which meant a great deal of excitement, fun, stress, and trying to remember where things might be located. Life has settled down for the most part, and we are very happy in our new home. The only downside is that our new place is further from my garden. Even more than usual, resiliency is going to be the name of the game for my little patch.

The red onions in their wara mulch are doing well, and I inter-planted them with arugula, kale, swiss chard, and violas. While it may appear to be madness to many, I abhor bare soil in my garden. Hence, plants like vetch, dokudame, clover, fleabane daisy, poppy, and dandelion are more than welcome. It creates a pleasant sort of chaos, but these plants also serve other purposes. They attract pollinators, predator insects, and offer shelter to the frogs, salamanders, spiders and praying mantises that live in my garden.

They also play other roles. In the case of dandelion, the plant's deep taproot draws nutrients up from deep underground that go right back into the soil when I pull them and lay them on top of the soil again to protect it from erosion. (Hat tip to Michael Phillips for that piece of advice.) In the case of vetch, it is far preferred by aphids than anything else the little vampires devour. Vetch, also known in Japanese as kurasunoendou, is also a member of the bean family. As such, it is a natural gatherer and depositor of nitrogen. The tiny flowers, too, are a favorite of bees of all sizes, shapes, and types.

The bees are also enjoying the flowers on the kale and norabo plants. About a quarter of my garden space is dedicated to those plants, and others pop up here and there among the potatoes, strawberries, and along the sides where seeds landed last year and decided to sprout. I don't fight any of it as we get plenty to eat and share. The fragrance of those blossoms, too, is heavenly. I can see why they are drawn to them like moths to a flame.

Moths, too, do arrive, but I also don't fight them much. They also help pollinate while they snack and use my plants as a nursery. If I see their fat green caterpillars, I remove them from the leaf and place them in the path. I don't have too many so far, as I'm assuming the birds and various arthropods living in my garden give them a reasonable run for their money. Plus, any that do come home with me get washed off and placed in the compost.

The potatoes are going great guns as are the strawberries. (I've always thought it odd that strawberries are a fruit associated with Christmas and the New Year here, but that just shows the power of marketing. In order to make that happen, they must be grown in hot houses or shipped long distances from warmer climes. I can never eat them at that time of year without feeling uneasy.) The latter will finish soon, but the former are still a few weeks from being ready for harvest. Both plants are beautiful, and their flowers stunning additions to the menagerie of colors and shapes filling my beds.

The popcorn is planted, three rows of it, and I'm eagerly awaiting the first sprouts. There is something particularly satisfying for me about growing this crop. Maybe it is the memory of shelling the cobs with my mother in the kitchen and then watching the kernels burst in the popper. Maybe it is the joy of this particular variety, Smoke Signals, which I could gaze at all day for the myriad colors laid out in rows along each cob. Maybe it is the nutty taste of the popcorn that is so much more satisfying than standard popcorn that is more reminiscent of Styrofoam in terms of taste and texture. Maybe it is the novelty of growing something that most people don't know much about beyond movie theaters and microwaves.

The tomato seedlings are in and doing their best to settle into their new surroundings. I may have started them a bit too early, but I am hopeful that their legginess will not prove to be too much of a detriment. My concern for their well-being is one drawback of being so far away now. I'd like to be able to go daily and fuss over them, but maybe it is best that I don't. I do have a bundle of basil seedlings to plant near them, so we shall see how it goes in a couple days when the rain stops. I'll have more photos to post then, too.


Hi Joan - I recently found your blog and look forward to checking out the farmers markets you suggest (my normal go to is UNU). I started a balcony garden and am enjoying it, however, the space is very tiny and I think next year I’d like to rent a garden plot. I live in Shibuya — any idea where I might be able to find something? Thanks so much!
Hi Tara,

Thanks for reading and checking in with me. I'm glad to hear you are a regular at the UNU market. It is a great one. I think you'll enjoy the others, too.

As for finding a space of your own, see if this post of mine is helpful:

There are some great opportunities out there, and if you're already thinking about next year, then you should find success. Keep me posted! I truly want to know how it all goes. I'm also happy to help if I can, too, so don't hesitate to ask.

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