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Natural Farming (Clay pellets,Clover,Mulch and Chicken Pooh), is there anything else I should know.  RSS feed

 
Çhris Okelo
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Hello,
Ive just joined the forum, and have not had time to check out all the information that is on this site regarding “natural farming “, and the work of Fukuoka.
The reason for this post is that over X-mas I got into discussion with my father-in-law regarding modern agricultural practices, resource depletion, pollution, etc, etc.
Using permaculture as an example, I suggested that there are alternative models for food production that involve human ingenuity and working with nature, rather than the contemporary approach that advocates a dependence on fossil fuels, arsenals of chemicals, and relentlessly battling the natural order of things.
When I explained that you could simply let the land plough itself, sow seed encased in clay pellets, reduce water use by mulching, allow for indigenous weeds to co-exist with the crop, etc, etc it, was dismissed as complete nonsense.
As the discussion escalated, he challenged me to prove him wrong, and eventually offered me an acre of unused land, so I could implement what he called “your fantasy”.
I am aware that this is a slow process where fertility and productivity builds on itself, and that initially it would be naive to expect anything different. However, I have been waiting for a very, very long time to be given this opportunity, and what drives me is not so much to avoid the “I told you so” scenario, as it is to actually start cultivating a decent sized plot of land, according to the principles of natural farming.
I now have a few months to gather my thoughts, and figure out the best course of action, before spring arrives. If from the beginning, I could be steered away from the mayor potential mistakes that can be made, this would no doubt give me, and the plot, a fighting chance.
I hereby reach out to the members of this forum for their experiences and any conclusions they might have come when the transitioning to this kind farming, especially on the topics of seedballs and weeds.
Please note that, the field has remained fallow for many years, and is located in a part of the world that is subjected to hot summers, bitterly cold winters, and there is abundant rainfall in the spring and autumn.
Rgds
Chris
"I'd rather be a failure at something I enjoy than be a success at something I hate" - George Burns

 
Bill Bradbury
pollinator
Posts: 684
Location: Richmond, Utah
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It's hard to give too much advice without knowing your climate/soil, so here is what I do.

I make hugelbeds for a fruit forest and sheet mulch the veg patch. Grains, fruits, nuts and root veg lives in the food forest. Everything else goes in the flat sheet mulched area.

I don't really use seed balls; I overplant and broadcast for the food forest and hand seed the veg patch, but I incorporate Fukuoka's philosophy of do nothing. To get things started, I buy a couple bags of grain and birdseed. I mix these with all of the seed that I collect throughout the year from wherever I happen to see some that I like and broadcast the whole mess. Then I hand seed the fruit and nut trees or buy them bare root from the local conservation district.

Here are a couple of pictures of 1 acre lot in town that is in it's first year. We average 15" precip and have hot summers and cold winters; nothing here has been watered.
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millet
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leave 1st year carrots for seed
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gooseberry and currant
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
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Chris, you need to give us more to work with One acre plot, hot summers, cold winters, spring and autumn rains - with that, I would be shooting blind to make any kind of recommendations

How hot? When is your "last frost"? How much rain? How long is the summer dry spell, and how dry? What is the soil like? Clay, sand, organic matter?
What is the terrain? Sloping, flat, rocky? If it slopes does it slope toward the sun or away? What is growing on it now? What is around it? Open fields, woods, something else? Is it shaded? Is it exposed to the wind?

All of these impact your choices of what things to plant and how to plant them. Fukuoka-sama spent years learning what would work on his land

Plants for the future has a database that might be helpful in deciding what plants you want to grow in your situation.

If I had this project, I would get out on the land and just walk over it for awhile, even if it is the middle of winter. Walking the land will help you understand what slopes it has, how water moves on it and how you might want to manage that movement. It will give you a feel for the wind exposure and where the sun hits the land. Assuming it is frozen, you will not get a sense for the texture of the soil itself, but even so there are plenty of things to observe.

Has the land been conventionally farmed in the past? If so, you probably have some significant compaction to deal with. Fukuoka-sama would say use daikon to break up compacted soil - but you have a challenge that is expecting to see substantial results in one year (I am assuming) and really cannot wait for the slower processes of roots decompacting soil to work for you.

Thinking about how I would approach it, with the limited information I have: I would get a detailed outline of the parcel and then figure out the best way to divide it into four foot square beds with one foot wide walkways. I would get that pattern laid out on the site as soon as possible and start working the beds with a broadfork as soon as the ground allows. Get that compaction issue I am assuming is there addressed asap.
I would plan out seed mixes for the beds, looking for variety but not going too far with the variety. I would think in terms of growing in layers and in mutually beneficial combinations (three sisters is a classic, but only one of many), but also in terms of chronological succession.
Early plantings of peas and radishes might be followed by peppers and bush beans that like the heat. Herbs like basil and dill could be broadcast seeded to take up space where weeds might pop up.
I might look for plants that provided multiple products, like beets, where the greens and the roots are edible, or amaranth with edible leaves and seeds.

I might think about the possibility of making a few of my beds into small ponds, instead, to hold and infiltrate more water and to encourage beneficial creatures that will help manage my problem insects.

I would expect that as the garden grew, I would lose some of my pathways as plants spread and covered them. I am ok with that, I would just try to not walk in the beds proper and not worry too much about the squash overgrowing the fennel. All that rampant photosynthesis is a good thing and if the plants I want to grow are covering all the space preventing plants I did not choose from succeeding, that is great! Maybe in the process some plants I wanted to grow lose out, but that is ok too. Let the more successful plants win and don't mourn for those that could not make it.

By planting with multiple layers and planning to plant with succession over time, combined with choosing multi-crop plants, your one acre should be able to produce an amazing quantity of food.

And while it can be done with no inputs other than seeds and labor, I won't suggest that it can be done by "doing nothing". It will take some real work in planning and preparing the soil.
 
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