It’s safe to say that spring has (fingers crossed) arrived yet again. The reminders are all around us – flowers are blooming, road construction is underway (did it ever stop?) and 10 of your friends just sent you a Facebook invite to a cherry blossom festival.
Yet despite all the clichés associated with spring in Korea, one thing stands out above all else: the older generation is hard at work in the fields.
After a winter of eating mostly kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew) and gamjatang (pork bone soup), nothing gets me more excited than the thought of a salad made with fresh spring greens. As an avid cook, I relish the idea of having new ingredients to incorporate into meals. What better way to celebrate the changing season than by starting a patio garden?
Step 1: Collect the right containers
As you might have noticed, fresh greens and herbs can be grown on any surface and inside any container. My neighbor’s garden bed is simply a collection of re-purposed Styrofoam crates. I purchased plastic tubs from a hardware shop for about 5,000 won each. Depending on what you want to grow, you can also use large coffee cans or milk crates lined with plastic.
Step 2: Acquire dirt
Most greenhouses will sell potting soil in 10kg or 20kg bags. I simply asked a friend if I could excavate some soil from the corner of his garden.
Step 3: Plant
The nights are warm enough now that you can direct seed almost any plant variety directly into your garden bed. If you can’t read the Korean planting instructions on your seed packages, simply do a quick search online. As a general rule, planting depth and seed spacing increases in proportion to the seed’s size (the bigger the seed, the deeper you should plant).
Choosing the proper container in which to plant is also important. Perennial herbs, such as Rosemary and Peppermint, should be planted in their own separate pots. Plants such as radishes, lettuce, and shallots ought to be planted in the larger garden beds, making harvest and replanting easier.
Try to take into consideration where the shaded and sunny areas of your patio are, as different plants need different amounts of each. If you have an indoor patio, consider opening the windows later this summer to allow pollinating insects the opportunity to work their magic in your garden.
Step 4: Water
In Jeju’s humid climate, water evaporates quickly from the soil. If possible, water your plants in the evening, as the cooler night temperatures will limit water loss.
You don’t need to own a 1,000-pyeong plot of land to enjoy the benefits of growing your own vegetables. A few garden beds are a welcome addition to any patio, and fresh herbs compliment every meal.