What kind of bush does tea come from?
The tea plant is related to the camellia plant, and it’s an evergreen which keeps its leaves through the winter.
That’s why it can also be used as an ikebana plant. In spring, the season for Shincha, the light green buds begin to grow, Fall, sometime around October, white chabana flowers similar to a small version of the camellia’s begin to bloom.
Planting a Tea Bush
The best time for planting a tea plant is between the beginning of March and the end of May, but as long as you aren’t in a period of cold weather (which will depend on your area) the bush can be planted. Planting in the fall is best done between late September and late November (*however, this is only possible in warm areas). Tea plants don’t grow well in areas where water tends to pool, so make sure to choose an area with proper drainage.
Places which are always a bit damp may allow the plant to grow well for a year or two, but after that the plant will stop growing.
When tea bushes grow larger, the roots will stretch down a meter in depth. Tea bushes do well in well drained, acidic soil, which is why well draining soil such as sandy mountain soil mixed with peat moss or well fermented cattle manure compost mixed together is ideal. On the other hand, poultry manure can easily lean toward the alkaline, which is why they're best avoided.
The place where they’re planted should be about 20 cm higher than the surrounding ground, and a hole should be dug slightly deeper than the length of the plant’s roots.
Place the plant in the hole, and fill with dirt while holding the plant’s roots with a hand so that they won’t be bent.
Plants should be placed at 30 cm intervals, and hay placed at the base of the plant to prevent over-drying in the summer heat.
From the Second Year On
From the second year on, reduce the amount of water given to the plant, and give it water only when it’s become dry.
When you’ve transplanted a plant, give it lots of water. This water helps the roots and soil stick together.
For fertilizer, applying compost directly before planting is enough, and leaving the plants for a year without new fertilizer isn’t an issue.
From the second year on, apply about a fist full of oil cake fertilizer to the base of the plant in March and September.
If you’re raising tea at home, you’ll be picking your crop by hand, which is why it’s okay to leave the branches without pruning them into shape, but having a plant where most of the branches are wide spread will make it easier to pick more new buds. When transplanting, cut the tip of the branches, and repeat this again every two to four years in June to allow new branches to grow out to the side. If you don’t prune the bush, it will become a tall tree.
It will take about four to five years before you can get a full crop of tea, but in the third year a small amount of Ichibancha should be pick-able sometime around May (depending on your region).
In fall of the third year, around the middle of October, cut the year’s new branches from below, leaving about 3 leaves on each branch in order to prepare for the next year’s Shincha.