Japanese gardening is a piece of living art. It is the perfect example of the unison of nature and its elements.
I have been growing vegetables at home for years. When I started, it was just a hobby but soon, it developed into a passion. And it was just a few years later that I came across the concept of Japanese vegetable gardens.
Maintaining a Japanese garden can be hard, daunting and confusing, and I am sure you have many questions, like I did previously. But don’t worry! To help you all out and make the process easier for you, I’ve put together this article. It will shed light on all the necessary information you need to get your own Japanese vegetable garden.
There are a total of eight elements that make up a Japanese vegetable garden. Let’s take a look at them.
Sand: One of the most important elements, sand has been used in the Japanese culture for centuries. In dry gardens, sand represents mythical or real lakes. You just have to rake the sand and it portrays the waves in flowing water.
Rocks: It’s common to use smooth rocks to make a path in the sand. The path leads through the garden and represents a free-flowing river. You can also use rocks to frame the garden plots. In a dry garden, rocks represent islands and mountains.
Water Bodies: You can include a number of water bodies, including ponds and waterfalls to complete the look. However, you can add this element later on. For a beginner’s garden, you don’t need to add water bodies. If you are going for a dry garden, sand or gravel will represent water.
Bridges: They are often elaborate wooden structures, however, you can reduce the size based on your garden needs. You can also forgo this element or use a miniature model only for show .
Plants: Japanese vegetable gardens use a number of trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetation. You must go for plants that offer seasonal appeal. Some common reoccurring themes in Japanese gardens are mosses, cherry trees, bamboo, pine trees and maple.
Islands: They are also an important component of Japanese gardens and are kept in really small vegetable gardens. They also represent real islands and are designed after symbols of health and longevity (source).
If you are a beginner, it’s best to go for leafy greens or root vegetables. These are popular ingredients but more than that, they are easy to grow. So, you can practice on them and then move onto bigger challenges.
The best thing about these gardens is that they are in business all year round. Before the winter months and snow covers the ground, you can plant daikon, onion, carrots, and garlic. This way, when spring comes, you can harvest the vegetables. Spring is the best season to plant the leafy greens, meanwhile summer is suited for planting and harvesting staple foods. At last, you get some fruits in fall (source).
Here is a list of some common Japanese vegetables that are easy to grow.
- Aubergines: They are Japanese eggplants and less bitter than the usual kind.
- Daikon: White radish that is crispy when eaten raw and soft when cooked.
- Kabocha: A type of a squash that is sweeter than a pumpkin, although the texture is almost the same.
- Kabu: It is commonly used to make miso soup and pickles. Kabu has a spicier taste than other turnips.
- Komatuna: It is the Japanese mustard spinach used in stews and soups. It is also served in salads or pickled.
- Naga-imo: The name translates to long-potato. It is Japanese mountain yam, which is usually served grated.
- Negi: They are used for garnishing or as a side ingredient for boiled dishes.
- Piman: They are quite like bell peppers but have thinner skin.
- Shiso: Is a mint-like herb that goes well in stews and soups. It has a powerful flavor and lots of nutritional benefits.
- Shishito: They are Japanese green pepper used in tempura.
- Takenoko: They are bamboo shoots and have to be harvested just before they sprout. They are savory and have a tender texture.
Other vegetables that’ll thrive well in your Japanese garden are ginger, goya (butter melon), edamame (soybean), jagaimo (potato), hakusai (Chinese cabbage) and komatsuna (sweet spinach like green vegetable).
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What vegetables grow in Japan?
A: Negi is a long green onion that resembles a leek and Welsh onion. Wasabi, famous all over the world is also grown in Japan. The green condiment is made with the grated stem of the plant. Daikon is a white radish that has a mild taste as compared to other species of the vegetable. Renkon is another vegetable that is used in many dishes in the Japanese culture (source).
Q: What are the elements of a Japanese garden?
A: Water, stones, plants, bridges, sand, trees, waterfalls, islands are the elements of a Japanese garden.
Q: Can you grow tomatoes in Japan?
A: Yes, you can. The tomatoes grown there are called the Japanese Momotaro tomatoes and they are hybrids. They have pink skin and the flesh is a few shades lighter.
Q: Are carrots native to Japan?
A: No, carrots are native to Southwestern Asia and Europe.
Final Thoughts on Japanese Vegetable Gardening
This was a brief introduction to a Japanese garden and the gardening instructions required to maintain it. With a bit of practice, you’ll get good at it. All you need to do is take inspiration from the Japanese culture and incorporate some elements of it in your garden.
Want to know more about designing and maintaining a Japanese garden? Want to know more about how to enhance your gardening skills? Ask away in the comments below and we will get right back to you with all the answers.
Good luck with your Japanese Garden.