Planting the seeds of a Japanese spring garden

February 21, 2011 | By | Comments (0)

Margo gave me her list of crops she’d like to grow for a spring Japanese garden. I asked that all the crops be relatively quick, as we’ll be planting soon for summer and Celebration Weekend. She did a great job! I only had to nix a few things — no, we can’t do rice in the test garden (rumor has it that this was only a half-serious request), and a few crops (edamame, burdock, wasabi) wouldn’t be ready for a spring harvest. More on wasabi in another post.

I rushed over to Soko Hardware in San Francisco’s Japantown. They carry all sorts of Japanese goodies for the kitchen and garden, including a huge selection of Kitazawa seeds. I wanted to get everything sown before this big storm and didn’t want to wait for mail order.

Margo documented the seed-sowing, and I thought I’d post the pics corresponding the the questions that Margo asked while we planted the garden last week. Enjoy!

Q: Why are you choosing to broadcast the seeds (shake them over the bed) rather than plant them in rows?

A: For me, it depends on a few things. If I’m planting a smaller area with a crop that requires a lot of seeds (say, many turnips instead of one melon), I’m more likely to just scatter the seeds all over. I’ll get more of a bounty than planting in rows. And aesthetically, it’ll give a much more lush look.

Broadcasting seeds

Q: How do you bury the seeds?

A: The truth is that I probably didn’t have to at all! These little seeds (daikon, mustard, scallion) needn’t be buried very deeply, and this rain storm would’ve done the trick. Nevertheless, I showed Margo two methods.

One is that I grab some soil from nearby and sift it through my hands to delicately cover the seeds.

covering seeds

I learned the second method from Kelsey Siegal (he ran the Edible Schoolyard‘s garden for almost a decade and I had the great pleasure of gardening with him for a season at the SF Victory Garden). I watched him take a rake and gently jump it across the bed in small increments to cover the seeds.

Rake method
Editorial Assistant/General Rockstar Sophie Egan watches the planting

Q: What’s the right way to water after you plant seeds?

A: I turn the watering apparatus onto a shower — not too hard, not too soft. And then I use a lesson from my garden teacher at Slide Ranch — keep moving. Keep your hand in motion, as well as your body. I walk back and forth and sprinkle the bed until it’s wet an inch down. Your finger is the best indicator for that one.

Watering

Q: That covering part has always scared me. What is that white stuff and why do you use it?

A: This part is so not scary! I use floating row cover to prevent the birds from eating all my freshly sown seeds. I also like it because it keeps moisture in and bugs out, so I worry less about my babies over the weekend. I buy mine from Common Ground in Palo Alto. Google “Reemay” or “floating row cover,” and I’m sure you can find a supplier near you.

Reemay
That’s right, Sophie! Lend a girl a hand.

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