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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Interest in growing veggies on rise


By NORIKO HAMAMOTO
Kyodo News

More people are growing vegetables on balconies and rooftop gardens, even at a train station, to feel more at ease about what they are eating and to take advantage of their supposed healing powers.

There are now vegetable cultivation sets that come with a pot, seeds and culture soil.

On top of JR Ebisu Station in Shibuya Ward overlooking Tokyo Tower and Roppongi Hills, there is a 500-sq.-meter vegetable garden for rent in a corner of the roof, where a lawn and flower beds spread.

Called Soradofarm, it was opened by East Japan Railway Co. last fall. The annual fee to rent the garden is ¥93,000 for a 3-sq.-meter plot and ¥117,000 for 5 sq. meters.

Half of all applicants are successful.

"I came here to sow seeds as it is getting warm," said a 75-year-old widow whose husband underwent rehabilitation therapy on the railway station's rooftop before his death. By touching the soil, the woman said she feels as if she is talking to him.

She said the broccoli and potatoes she grew from fall to spring were "so tasty."

"Why don't you grow mint next time?" 31-year-old resident staffer Nao Sato of Soradofarm garden asked her.

The membership fee covers seeding, vegetable seeds, fertilizers and rental tools.

Because of the convenient location, the rooftop garden attracts everyone from residents in the neighborhood to commuters.

Garden Island Tamagawa Store, run by Protoleaf Corp., a culture soil manufacturer in Tokyo, is also crowded with people interested in vegetable gardening.

Protoleaf spokeswoman Tomoko Nishiyama said interest is strong.

"While flower sales are dropping slightly, seed and seeding companies are increasing the variety of vegetable seeds and seeding," Nishiyama said.

A package of culture soil suitable for each vegetable, such as tomatoes or "goya" (bitter gourd), and seeding can be planted there directly to save space. When the vegetables are harvested after a year, the package can be disposed of.

The store is preparing a kit for beginners containing a planter, soil and fertilizer and gives advice to customers about seeding suitable for cultivation on balconies.

Indoor minicultivation sets are also handy. The Shinjuku branch of Tokyu Hands in Shibuya Ward had a special display corner for the sets until mid-April.



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