gardening IN Japan!

madeira(kanto, JAPAN)July 25, 2004

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu! I`ve read a lot of threads here, and I know there`s a lot of knowledgeable people here.

I am starting/working on a garden in the Kanto area. It`s pretty big... about 35 tsubo. Right now, I`m almost finished weeding out the dogudame (sorry, I don`t know the English common name.)

The garden has elements of a Japanese garden already: bamboo, rocks, moss, ajisai(hydrangeas), a couple of sculpted `piney` trees, native irises... etc. (Also a beautiful weeping choke-cherry and a couple of huge, out-of place sago palms.)

I love Japanese gardens, but I can`t afford to/don`t want to be a purist. I want a lawn and I need to grow vegetables, fruit and herbs.

My question today is about lawn choice in Japan; does anyone have a recommendation for my area? I`d like something tough, green, but soft enough to sit on. The lawns I`ve seen look sickly and are mostly started from turf. I`ve looked at USDA charts but can`t decide what zone I`m in... (help!)

Otherwise, I`m going to have a lot of (stupid) questions in the next year or so... like how to make tomato plants look good in the rock garden, how to cut bamboo to make it look less like wilty celery... how and when to trim the pines...

(Probably lots of stuff like `ack! What is this bug`, too!)

I hope you can be patient with me, especially as I seem to be losing my English...

Arigatou gozaimashita!

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bambooo(6 CT USA)

If you know your area's winter lows you can guess a USDA zone.
Then you have to consider summer temps to determine whether you want a cool season grass or a warm season grass.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2004 at 9:50AM
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muskylounge(STL zone 6a)

As Bamboo stated find out what your winter low temperatures are, then figure out basically what type of soil you are working with. Sandy, clay or rocky. I see you want something soft to sit on. The other question that might be addressed is how often you will cut your grass and by what means. Fine bladed slower growing grasses will be nice if you plan to use a manual mower.

Drop us a line or just give us your cold seasons lows in Celcius and we can help with conversions if need be.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2004 at 4:58PM
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My guess is that the nearest N. American climate to Kanto's is that of North and South Carolina.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2004 at 5:31PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi you guys

This is my note to for posters who are tyring to help Madeira.

1) Kanto : Kanto is general area of Tokyo, Saitama ken, Tochigiken, Gunma ken, Kanagawa ken. coast of kanto is zone 9 to 8a, inland of Kanto is 7b few places in Kanto may be 7b

  1. 35 tsubo= tsubo is 3.3 square meter, about 6feet x 6feet.
    two tatami mats makes one tsubo. It is ilegal to use old measurement. hehehe .

3)dokudame: also called "dokudami" common name is Chameleon plant. botanical name is houttuynia cordata. sold In USA as ground cover in one gal pot, $6~7 . it is tough plants, use as herb, make dokudami tea for high blood pressur, atopy, heeling wound, constpation, light burn. when I have light head ack, crash leaf and stick into my nose, within few minuts, headack normanly gone.

now you can help Madiera . :) :) :)

Madeira :
some how word of Kathy, Nora, west coast of Cannda, English teacher,Yokosuka pup up in back of my head.
enjoy gardeing in Japan................mike

    Bookmark   July 27, 2004 at 6:42AM
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madeira(kanto, JAPAN)

Hello Yama-san. Yes, that`s me! My Mom must have been in contact with you. I`m on the coast in Yokosuka, so that should be zone 9.

I`d heard about some of the benefits of dokudame... but it smells terrible! It`s all over the place, too. People BUY this stuff? Please tell them to come to my house; they can have all they want for free!

Sorry for using old illegal measuring system; for some reason, it`s all I understand right now. It`s still used in real estate.

Domo arigatou gozaimashita!

Or, Thank You Very Much!


    Bookmark   July 27, 2004 at 11:42PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi Nora
your mom is warry about you . she contacted me number of times already.:):):). even you become grand mother some day and your mom will be still your mom. you know what I mean .

about dokudami
a old man told that he made wine with dokudami and he calim his spring come back . young people do not need it . hehehe

during winter you can dig under ground stem and young leaf can make dokudami tempura.

trust me . when you have light headack , crash leaf and insert into nose. it does not look prety, but it works.
Japanese health department reconizeing dokudami as medecian
plants and has hundreds years of history.

you will find many good, knowlegeble friendly peoples in Japanese garden forum. you can ask anything and recieve answers.

I have friends in nusery business in Japan . I can locate plants in Japan even from Georgia.

Did you have tetanus shot and nihon noen shot ? if not please have those two shot soon. I lost my baby sister by Nihon noen years ago...
say hi to your mom. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> mike

    Bookmark   July 28, 2004 at 1:13AM
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madeira(kanto, JAPAN)

Yama-san, thank you again!

I`m checking into the shots now. There are a LOT of mosquitos where I am, so it`s probably a good idea. (Nihon no en is Japanese encephalitis, for those English-only speaking folks.)

I`m not sure I can whole-heartedly embrace the idea of my weed-ridden yard being a `dokudame farm`. I`m still going to try to get rid of it. I don`t think I`ll be 100% successful, so I should have enough left for home remedies...

I only get headaches when I have a cold. Do you think your idea would work then?

Anyways, no gardening tomorrow; typhoon moving in. I`ll be shopping around for lawn seeds/sod, plants and equipment. I`ll check into herbicides, too, although I really would prefer not to use them...

(Sumimasen, Yama-san, ima, Nihon de sunde imasu ka? Georgia de..? Shitsurei shimashita...)

Again, Thank You!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2004 at 12:53PM
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ktjo(z6 BC)

Well, kidlet and my Japanese gardening pal *finally* got together!!
I wondered how long it was going to take...:)

Sounds like your dokudame is a botanical 'prophet'..widely honoured
abroad, but not in *your* backyard. lol

The lawns that are 'yellow' are probably the grass you asked about a
couple of weeks ago (sorry, I've forgotten the name already). When I checked
into it, it's primary feature seemed to be 'ugly when
not green'. Go with a good mix of tough and softer grasses - a fescue
and something like Kentucky Blue or Green and a
little rye couldn't hurt.
The tougher, more rapidly growing grass will establish first and
provide shade for the softer one(s) coming behind.
You'll likely get a little clover in it, but that's ok.

When you first begin cutting it, keep the blades on a 'high' setting - don't
cut it too short. Give it a chance to get well

Once the 'jungle' is cleared, the moss should disappear and so will a
few million mosquitoes, but there'll always be those
who like where they live and refuse to get those shots!!

And now..I'll leave you to Mike and the friendly folks in Gardenweb.
I know you'll get excellent advice. Now..aren't you
glad you took my advice (finally!) and joined? lol

Stay well, hugs all round, one pat for one cat.


Hi Mike! Thanks for all your help!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2004 at 4:19PM
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muskylounge(STL zone 6a)


Zones 7,8, and 9 will probably be to hot for Kentucky Blue Grass AKA KBG. Will your 6'X6' turf be in the shade very much? If so I highly recomend a turf type fine fescue. It looks and feels just like KBG but is much more heat tolerant. It doesn'e wear very well under heavy traffic. That just means if you walk on it alot it will show signs of stress. If you want a nice low maintence turf in full or mostly sun I would go with a standard Turf Type Tall Fescue AKA TTTF. This is very drought tolerant and will take heavy traffic well once established. This grass is also easy to sow from seed. I would loosen up the soil and sow neww seed during the beginning of the Fall season. It will grow slowly and look its greenest the Fall and Winter. Keep the mower 3.5 -4.5 inches year round and you will also have very few weeds to pull. Watering scedules will be inportant during the first few months but once established you can back off watering to 1-4 times per month.

enjoy grass,

    Bookmark   July 28, 2004 at 6:31PM
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madeira(kanto, JAPAN)

Hmm.. You`re right about the heat. Most of my neighbors have KBG/Red Fescue mixes, and they look terrible.

(size note: I have 35 6`x6`pieces of land... about half will go for lawn.)

It`s mostly shade; there`s lots of trees. I`m going out price-comparing today. I`ll check out everything available! What about centipede grass?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2004 at 2:17AM
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madeira(kanto, JAPAN)

Oops, centipede grass likes full sun. How about Zoysia?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2004 at 5:24AM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi Nora
emerald zoysia= hime korai shiba is popular in Japan. since you have small turf are, fescue do not tolerate high trafic. zoysia come small sad about 15cm x 30 cm ( sorry I can not remember exact size.

Dokudami : kill it. kill, kill, untill all die. dokudami do not belong in garden. once it is spread , nothing but truables. (use round up.) even it is usefull . you can find dokudami else where . ;););) ,. if you left smallest peace of dokudami, you have to do it all over again after 3 years( after so much of work done to get rid of it.)

I left Japan 30 years ago when I was 26. now I live in USA longer than I lived in Japan. I am in Georgia. I am planing to move to Boston area.

you should have "joren" and "teita" for light grading. also you may needed small bamboo skewer.
sad is much smaller than usa and less soil. to secure sad you may needed bamboo skwers. since no one selling teita and takegushi=bamboo skwers you have to make it your self. it is very easy to make it.
please send me your mailing address, I will make drawing and sent it to you. sorry I do not have scanner.

Kathy : Hi :):):) It took for a while Nora visit Japanese garden forum. yes I am for sure that Nora is happy to have a mother like you. she will have many garden friends now on. .............................mike

    Bookmark   July 29, 2004 at 8:12AM
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madeira(kanto, JAPAN)

Sorry about the delay in posting... I found Roundup and have applied it to the dokudame. (With a paintbrush.) I`m waiting to see it die now...

I haven`t found a good sod supplier yet.

I understand `joren`, and I have 2 rakes now. I`m not sure about `teita`.

I THINK I understand takeguchi... If we can`t rent a sod-roller, I guess you`re suggesting we pin the sod down? Maybe the bamboo skewers we use for BBQ-ing would work?

Sumimasen, Yama-san, I`m very grateful for your help! I just don`t want you to spend any money on me!

This weekend I`m going to my husband`s hometown, and can ask about teita and takeguchi. There are lots of older farmers/gardeners there. I`ll report back.

(Hopefully someone there will know how to repair Kyoto clay walls, too... )

Thank you again!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2004 at 1:45AM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Maybe this will be useful to some:

35 tsubo x (3.31 sq. m per tsubo) = 116 sq. m
116 sq. m x (10.76 sq. ft per sq. meter) = 1247 sq. ft.

Best of luck with the new garden, Nora!

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   August 4, 2004 at 3:02AM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

I just want to let you know that Yama/Mike gave me a big pot of dokudame to put in the garden. ;) It really depends on what your reasons are for having it. If it's to cover a large, barren slope, I can't think of a better, more permanent groundcover.

On the other hand, if you ever want to see other plants growing in the garden again, KILL the dokudame. ;)

    Bookmark   August 4, 2004 at 9:50AM
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muskylounge(STL zone 6a)


Your size is about 1200 sqare feet. You will use half for grass? 600 sqare feet will be close to 25'x25'. There are many species of fescue. Red,creeping and fine fescues will do good but poor in direct sunlight. They will not take much traffic. These are more like a ornamental lawns. There are new species I will call them Turf Type Tall Fescue. They do great in sunlight. Great in heat and drought. Will take a good amount of traffic. If you can find a sod farm ask about this type of fescue.

As far a zoysia goes. It likes sunlight alot. It will take some shade but not 70% or more. Meaning 70% of a full shade per day. It is not very comfortable on the bare foot. It is a very coarse bladed grass. It will also spread like wild. It will spread faster in more sun. If I were to put this grass/sod in my front yard, in ten years my neighbors would also have zoysia covering 25-60% of there front yard. If you want a self contained soft or comfortable grass to sit on TTTF is the best. Most of the warm season grasses like bermuda will also have the spreading characteristics.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2004 at 12:18PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi Nora
teita = is size of business size envelpe wood board. 20~25 cm long ( 8~9 inch long) 10 cm wide( 4inch).

right side top, make marking about at 10 cm from corner. this marking to right side bottom corner . you cut off. use shape pointed side to dig or remove small stone, remove small hump. it is most inexpenvive gardening tool. and works every time. if you have 40~ 50cm long board and cut in half . when placeing sad, it is a "must have" tool. flower bed ,palnting shurbs, large trees I always use it.

sad fertilizer, other materials:
try to find near " nokyo" farmer's coop. sad do not have big demand as in usa. you can ask to gardeners if they can sell it to you. if you see yellowed sad, don't warry . it will be ok.

before place sad: scrape top soil and save it side. make several mound , so that you don't have to carry distance. if you can buy sad enough to called "Mekura bari" no space between sad , or buy half of area you need . fill soil between then. soil is expensive too. you scraped top soil shoud save untill all sads are placed.

Take gushi: skew will not work . it is too smooth.
cut bamboo 5~6 inch long with node. split it about 1/4 ~3/8 wide . smooth end, make it point. end with node now have rough end, rough end will prevent sad shift and hold sad well.

when you split bamboo, node is up. to spilt bamboo we use "Take nata" a hachet 6~8 inch long 1 1/2 inch wide with handle. 4~5,000 yen . do not arraid to ask for bamboo. most of owner let's you cut bamboo. specialy for "prety young gaijin" swap with Canadian candy or cocky. you can go back for bambooshoots or some other projectwhen you need bamboos.

please do not delay tetunas shot and nihon noen shot. :):):)
I have three mothers. mother who gave me birth. a Jewish lady who is looking after me and going to have real Jewish mother soon. it is worth more than diamonds. hehehe
I become friend of Thai restaurant owner's family. I baby sit 9 year old girl, 6 year old girl 4year old boy.
when I say something to do to 6 years old girl, she say " your are not my father. I am not going to listen to you " then I told her that I am older than your father, when you father is not here , I will act like your father. she now know she is not get anything from me while she is crying.
4 years old boy sleeps in my arm some time . It is geat feeling.

.............................. mike

    Bookmark   August 4, 2004 at 1:16PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)


One of my local nurseries has developed some lawn mixes the might be of interest. I hope they donÂt mind me quoting from their NicholÂs Garden Nursery online catalog:

"Ecology Lawn Mixes. We love soft green patches for children and adults to sit and play upon, but are reluctant to get involved with intensive mowing, spraying, fertilizing and irrigating schedules. We believe our Ecology Lawn Mixes are the answers to this continuing dilemma. These are carefully blended turf mixtures, combining grass, sweet clovers, wildflowers and herbs. You will find the Northern and Dryland Ecology Lawn Mixes to be reminiscent of the old English mixed herbal lawns for which many of our customers have inquired. The Southland Ecology Lawn Mix is designed to retain that quality with varieties suited for drier climates. The advantages of these lawns over a conventional grass lawn are many. They present an attractive appearance between mowings, the quality of the turf is such that it will not be subject to thatch buildup, and it is both drought and shade tolerant. Suitable for either spring or fall planting in most areas. Sold in amounts for 1,000 and 5,000 square feet.-----SOUTHLAND ECOLOGY LAWN MIX: Suited for Regions 4 and 6; Improved Turf Type Tall Fescue, Strawberry and Dutch White Clovers, Yarrow, California Poppy, Pimpernel, Baby Blue Eyes, Creeping Thymes.----Region 4 Â Transitional Mixture of temperate/semitropical - mild to cold winters, hot humid summers.----Region 6 Â Warm arid/semi arid - mild winter, hot dry summers: Southland Ecology Lawn Mix."

They do ship internationally (I have no idea how Japanese customs feels about seeds: I know some countries donÂt like them at all). Perhaps you could write to them and ask about borrowing parts of their idea (then, later, send them a thank you note including pictures of your gorgeous lawn :)

[BTW, I do not work for them, I just think theyÂre a really great nursery, and should you ever happen to be in Albany, Oregon, theyÂve got an acre or so of herb garden that will Knock Your Socks Off.]

So as not to shill for a commercial venture (nor to bring down the Wrath Of Spike), I will e-mail you with the web link. Others may e-mail me, or google for "NicholÂs Garden Nursery".


    Bookmark   August 4, 2004 at 7:49PM
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mossy(z8 GA)

I wonder, Madeira, if you couldn't use dicondria - at least in part - instead of grass. We can grow it here in Georgia but it gets just a little too cold in winter to use it extensively. That is only some of it comes back each year. When we lived in Arizona it comprised our whole front lawn. It is a short, dense ground cover with tiny, heart shaped leaves and grows only about 3-4 inches high. It spreads both by runners and seed. Hopefully others on this forum can tell you more about it and where you might get the seeds. Also I wonder why anyone in Japan (or anywhere) would want to get rid of moss. That country has beautiful moss gardens! Blessings, mossy

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 9:15PM
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Hi madeira

I am in Chiba ken. I have a fairly large lawn by Japanese standards. It's easily stressed in hot humid weather and its not easy to control the water amount when it rains for weeks at a time. So, I find that it requires a great deal of my time to keep it looking nice and sometimes it doesn't look so nice.

Having said that, I LOVE my western lawn in Japan. I grow a tall fescue, Kentucky blue grass mix. The fescue by far fairs better, but I really prefer the bluegrass because its much softer to the touch. Many of my neighbors have Japanese grass ( I don't know the variety, but its the same at most parks here) and I don't like the feel of it, its quite course and it pokes :(

Kentucky is doable here in Kanto, it fairs much better in spring and fall when the weather cools down. In the summer if you can control the water it does OK as well. On the west side of my place where it is shady in the morning it does quite well.

This post was edited by seric on Fri, Aug 30, 13 at 3:58

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 3:34AM
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