If you are looking to grow something different in your vegetable garden, why not try Japanese vegetables? Japanese vegetables are just as easy to grow as our domestic varieties, and they bring zip and zing to your diet. Selecting varieties that grow well in your zone will ensure success. Providing good sunlight, a trellis and lots of compost makes growing Japanese varieties easy. And there are online seed companies that specialize in Japanese and Asian vegetables.
Purchase seeds. Many Japanese and other Asian varieties can be found on your local gardening-center seed racks. Look for varieties such as bok choy, pak choy, edamame soybeans, daikon radish, komatsuna (greens), tatsoi (greens), okami (spinach) and misome (cucumber). Some varieties grow better in heat and high humidity, while others do well in cooler weather. Choose varieties according to your zone and growing requirements listed on the seed packet. Refer to online Asian seed companies for more selections.
Select your gardening site. Spend the middle part of the day in your garden and make sure that it receives at least six hours of sunlight per day. Most Japanese vegetable plants love full sun, but a few--such as greens or lettuce--will thrive in partial shade. Japanese vegetables require the same growing conditions by type as our domestic varieties. If you are growing a daikon radish or gobo (burdock root), make sure your soil is sandy and free of stones and has adequate potassium for strong root development. If you're growing an Asian cabbage or leafy greens such as perilla, provide plenty of nitrogen and compost to ensure healthy leaf growth.
Plant the seeds. Use the tip of your finger to make depressions in the soil at the proper spacing listed on the seed packet for each variety. A good rule of thumb for depth of planting is to double the size of the seed. Place the seed in the depression, sprinkle on some soil and use a fine-mist spray to moisten newly planted seeds. Seeds will sprout in about three days to two weeks, depending on the variety.
Provide trellising for crops that need it. Pound T-posts into ground at both ends of planting bed and one at the center point. Attach trellis netting, found at your local garden center, using four tie straps per post. The tie strap will circle around the post and through the netting. Secure the netting at the top and bottom and two places in between. As the vining plants grow, tie them to the netting using twine. Yard long beans and Japanese cucumbers require trellising to keep vegetables off the ground, so they will grow long and straight.
Provide adequate water and good drainage. Make sure you have a nearby garden hose with a shower-type wand, which applies water gently and won't wash away the seeds. Enriching the soil with compost in raised beds will ensure a good moisture content and will allow excess water to drain. Add a shovel full of compost around the base of each plant three times during the growing season. Christine Kelly-Begazo, Indian River County Agriculture Extension Agent, recommends testing soil for proper pH. She says, "Improper pH levels will lock soil nutrients, making them unavailable to your plants."