Sunday, June 9, 2013

Garden Update: Third Week of June 2013

For the past 3 years, the weather has been really messed up. Winter was much longer and cooler this year than usual. Like last year, we had a long winter, with only couple weeks of Spring-like weather, and then suddenly it was Summer. This month it's been like that, but with very cool nights. It's hard to know what to expect each week. But for now, this week will be sunny or cloudy, and I plan on logging as many hours of gardening as I can after work each day!

So here's what I have achieved over the past 4-5 weeks:

1) Weeded nearly a third the yard (by hand- pulling tall weeds up by the roots!)

2) Cast clover seeds all over the yard. Clover makes a great living mulch!

3) Cut the grass - the ENTIRE yard!

4) Planted: purple, yellow, and regular sweet potatoes, a variety of colored and regular potatoes, corn, edamame, pumpkins, Japanese cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, Italian Roma paste tomatoes, Italian cherry tomatoes, yellow/orange/red/black cherry tomatoes, sunflowers, basil, various lettuces, cauliflower and broccoli, sati-imo potatoes, green and yellow zucchini, spaghetti squash, okra, goya (bitter gourd), 2 sizes of hyoutan (bottle gourds) and hechima (sponge gourd), watermelons, green melons, yellow melons, red melons, ginger and myouga (not sure how to translate this one).

5) Built a new Hugelkultur flower bed, and started another Hugelkultur bed that needs to be topped with soil and planted.

6) Planted a flowering tree.

7) Starting laying out markers for raised flower beds at the foundation of the house. Measured some wood for cutting. Hoping this can be built this week!

Garden Update: Second Week of June 2013

Ok, I have not really blogged about this year's garden for a few reasons. 

One: By the time I think to take a snapshot of my work for the day, it's already dark.  This is the MAIN reason I have been updating Facebook about my garden accomplishments without any photo attachments. Normally I work way past dark. Meaning, I use every last bit of sunlight as the sun is going down to get my gardening done,often shoving plants into the ground while squinting to see, and then, as the light is waning and while I can JUST still see (usually the moon is already out and quite bright) I will be watering in the plants or seeds in the bed I just finished. The sun starts to go down around 7pm or so, and I am not "done" until around 8pm.

 Two: I often forget to go out the next day and get a snapshot, but I am getting better at remembering to do this. A couple of Facebook friends have been saying things like, "Show us photos or it didn't happen!" and "Blog it or it didn't happen." Just so you know, THIS POST IS FOR YOU,  J.C. and V.K.!! Now I just need to remember to update my blog!

Three: I am growing organic vegetables (mostly by experiment and on a learn-as-I-go basis) on too much land (about 400 tsubo, or around a 1/4 acre) all by myself (husband gave up helping long ago)  while working full time (and I am always frustrated that I don't have enough time for gardening). It is hard keeping up with everything. I wish I had a neater, prettier garden. Currently, it's a jungle out there!

"Mini" cucumber plants that I was lucky to find at the local home center are interplanted with green onions  (1 on each side of the cucumber plant) as well as nasturtiums (the red flowers you see here). The onion's smell confuses or wards off bugs that like to eat cucumbers. The nasturtiums serve to trap any beetles that like cucumber. Apparently they like to eat nasturtiums even more? 


I've tried growing onions for the past 3 years. They take up a lot of valuable space in the garden, and my soil is not rich enough to get big fat onions like the ones you buy at the store. I am thinking to give in and just buy onions form now on, as they are so cheap in late Spring. The down-side is, those store-bought onions are grown with petrochemical fertilizers. We eat a lot of onions at my house. Way more than I can grow myself. I always end up buy a lot (a couple of large boxes- kilos!) even when I grow my own. Sigh. 

On the bright side, here is a close-up of a mini-cucumber forming. I bought lots of plants because I will be making all of them into natural-fermented pickles. Yum! They are made using filtered water and  natural sea salt. The Lactobacillic Acid that forms makes them ferment and become sour. When they are ready to eat, they need to be kept in the refrigerator as there are no preservatives and they are not heated and canned (which would destroy the good bacteria) like store-bought  pickles. Does anyone want to try some?

 Here we have 3 small beds that, rather than till with the tiller and re-shape, I decided I could get away with just hand-pulling the weeds out and hoeing the beds for a "no-till" area of the yard. I've been moving more and more to "no-till" beds as I've read it's better for the living organisms in the soil and reduces weeds (more on why in a later post). I've planted "sati-imo" and ginger here. I won't need to bother with these beds for several months, unlike in the front yard where all the tomatoes and cucumbers are. I need to check those beds every day. 

From time to time I stop to catch my breath while weeding or planting, and have a chance to look around and appreciate my work. That's when I notice the plants have been putting on flowers are getting closer to bearing fruits (veggies). Can you guess what plant this flower is from? It's an eggplant blossom! It's interesting that the stems are purple, the flowers are purple, and the skin of the fruits are purple. That's me standing over the flower, trying to angle my iPhone in for a close-up.