Spring Garden for my Ancestors

Finding space in my life again for gardening after grad school (I graduated in June 2020) has been many things. Like with my sewing practice, it’s been a slow build towards having a spring & summer garden this season. I gathered my supplies months in advance: ordering seeds two months ago from Kitazawa Seed Co., purchasing compost & amendments for the soil & small fencing to discourage my agile dog from getting involved. It’s felt nice to have my hands in the dirt, no need to rush or move quickly, just trying to sync to my own life and the season. 

This past Saturday was all sun — so, I started weeding two seasons of neglect; mostly grass and false dandelion but other friends like bittercress, too. I piled on and turned in 3 inches of compost and fish meal (again, Tepals was very interested), and then I looked at all the growing charts for the seeds I had and planted.

I always make a garden map because that’s how I learned working in community gardens — and because I forget where I planted what and when. I included harvest dates and reseeding dates for myself. My raised bed is small and it is easy to capture on paper since I planted all of six plants. I did manage to plant some garlic in the fall, so it’ll come out soon to be replaced by summer squash.

The last piece was labelling in the garden. More or less unnecessary but paper and plastic tags never seem to last through to harvest. And as a designer and a non-Korean speaking person, it felt like a fun project and good use for a collection of rocks. I retrieved rocks from my friends’ backyard, plus a couple I had from who knows where or why. 

It was satisfying to paint a blue blob that roughly followed the shape of the rock itself. I forget easily and often that painting is a simple way for me to get into a flow state. I wasn’t sure if a white acrylic paint marker would work, but it did and it was perfect! Not knowing Korean, only that each Hangul syllable is designed as block or inside a grid made drawing the words effortless. I always hope that if I have enough reminders scattered through out my life and day, that they’ll help me finally learn the alphabet and language. Who knows — but I’m certainly happy with the end results & I’m excited to send a photo to my halmoni so she can read & see what I planted.

WHAT I'M GROWING

SPRING GREENS

Okay, I like greens. Kale and change are the only true constants in life, well my life. I wanted to have a spring garden that could accommodate my frequent salad cravings.

  • 적갓 Jeok Gat (Brassica juncea) is a red leaf mustard green. I’m looking forward to having spicy greens in my breakfast salads. It can be harvested at any stage (micro to baby to full grown).
  • 겨자과 Gyeojagwa (Eruca sativa) is mustard, but referring to arugula or rocket. More spicy, peppery greens!
  • 곰취 Gom Chwi (Ligularia fischeri) is a mountain herb, apparently popular with bears (“gom” means bear in Korean). This is my first time trying to grow and hopefully, eat this plant. Bburi Kitchen has a nice write up about this plant. I’m planning to use it fresh in salads, as ssam, and for namul. 
  • Mizuna (Brassica rapa Japonica) is a Japanese spring green, also a mustard family green. I’ve grown it for the past two summers and it thrives w/o fail! It’s flavor is mild, a little sweet, and a little peppery. I put it in soups, like cup of noodles, and fresh in salads.
  • 쑥 Ssuk (Artemisia princeps) is also known as mugwort. I remember my halmoni growing this in her backyard in Denver. She showed me all the plants in her garden one morning when I asked to help. This was before I had taken herbalism classes, and I was unfamiliar with the magic of mugwort. It’s very aromatic, like many plants of the artemisia genus. I’ve never cooked with ssuk before, so I might try ssuk jeon or ssuk-guk or tteok. Bburi Kitchen has an interesting write up on this plants use in Korean culture, too!
  • I also planted L완두 green pea. I’m growing a dwarf grey sweet pea varietal. Adding the perfect crunch to any salad!

INDOOR SPROUTS

I started a few plants indoors to transplant to the garden later in May.

  • 풋호박 Teot Bat Put is a summer squash, affectionately called ‘avocado squash’ because of its cute size and color. This squash can be used in all the same ways other summer squashes are
  • Momotaro tomato is a Japanese variety. It’s packaging says it’s one of the sweetest & most attractive tomatoes – oh la la. It’s an early vining variety that is resistant to cracking (my cherry tomatoes always seem to crack) and has a long shelf life once picked.