Saturday, 2 May 2009

Fukuoka and the no dig experiment numer one

I'm reading about the no-dig method and the more I come across it, the more I'm getting slowly convinced that maybe there's something in it.

The latest version I've come across is in Masanobu Fukuoka's book 'One Straw Revolution'. On his farm in Japan, Fukuoka has produced yields as high as or higher than those produced using chemicals, even though he hasn't ploughed the land for over twenty years.

His farming techniques have been developed though working closely with nature rather than battling against it. He follows a strong intuition that 'do nothing' farming is the best way to allow farmland to flourish and to avoid making the kind of mistakes that come from putting to use an inevitably incomplete understanding of how nature works. So he doesn't plough and just scatters the seed on top as would happen in nature. What's more - and I'm really liking the sound of this - he doesn't do any weeding. He sows white clover around his crops and/or mulches them with straw to keep the weeds down and by never disturbing the soil, weed seeds don't get such a chance to germinate. Using these methods, weeds just don't become a problem.

His approach to pushing his farming technique forward has been to ask what he can get away with not doing (rather than the usual technique of asking what extra things can be done to make things better). So applying this to our vegetable growing here at Oak House - something I would like not to do is to have to dig up turf from the patch of lawn I want to expand my vegetable bed into. So I've applied the no-dig mulching method:

I've covered the grass in cardboard and have watered it

then I've covered this with manure

and lastly I've covered this with grass cuttings. I'll be planting beans through the cardboard later in the year and the whole thing will eventually rot down into the soil, taking the buried lawn with it.

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