I have just finished reading “One Straw Revolution” by Mansanobu Fukuoka. I have found it fascinating and very liberating when it comes to gardening.
Mansanobu Fukuoka (1913 – 2008) was a scientist and later farmer. After a near death experience when he was very ill at just 25, he quit his job as a scientist and wandered Japan for many years. Later he was involved in research and in finding ways to improve Japan’s production of food during the war. Many years later, after marrying, he settled down on just a few acres and started to learn what Nature could teach him. This was the beginning of a new way of farming and a man, who despite some fairly severe opposition, did not waver from what he believed in. Further more with his “radical” way of farming he was producing rice (that was not grown in paddy’s constantly filled with water) and citrus crops that were equal to or above average compared to crops grown with the “western” method of farming ie chemicals etc and in paddy’s full of water.
Fukuoka practiced four principles of farming.
1 .The earth will cultivate itself. Earthworms, micro organisms and roots can do a far more effective job of cultivating the soil than man can. Plowing is therefore not needed.
2. In nature the natural growth and decay of living plants will fertilize the earth much more naturally and efficiently than man can. In short he used no chemical fertilizers or compost. Instead straw and chicken manure were spread over the fields and plants such as clover were used as ground cover.
3. No chemical pesticides and no plowing. Mansanobu found that with plowing long buried weed seeds were given the chance to germinate and therefore take over a field. With no plowing those seeds weren’t given the chance to grow and he found that the weed population diminished. By not using chemical pesticides Fukuoka allowed pests to eat the weaker plants (something they tend to do naturally) which in turn allowed the stronger plants to grow bigger, as there was more room, and produce more.
4. By allowing the orchard, vegetable garden and field grow as nature intended the numbers of pests and diseases declined markedly as nature found her own balance in the ecology of that area.
Now having said all that does that mean that I’m going to allow my garden to return to a jungle like state???? NO. Sorry but I need order but I am going to allow plants to grow more naturally and as nature intended rather than try to train them to what I think is the correct way to grow. I don’t use pesticides anyway – hate them. I don’t use chemicals except for a small amount of weed killer which I loathe but unfortunately sometimes is a necessary evil. I don’t really even use compost as I can never get my compost bin to work properly. Instead I tend to put the mulch from pruning straight onto the beds and let it do it’s thing.
I have experimented with the vegie garden in the past couple of days. Normally at this time I year I let it lie fallow. Anything still growing can stay there but I generally don’t plant anything else until Autumn arrives as it is too hot and keeping the water up to the beds can be difficult. This year I’m trying something different. I had cleaned out the vegie garden the other week and mulched it – all before I read this book I might add. Yesterday I pulled back the mulch from one bed, grabbed several handfuls of carrot seeds (from my garden) and scattered the seed liberally onto the bed. No rows. Just scattered it. I loosely spread the mulch back over the top of the seed, gave it a quick water and now I’m going to leave it. If it’s super hot and dry for a period of time I might give it more water but that’s it.
Tonight I mixed up seeds of two kinds of lettuce (one of which I had collected myself), spring onions, rocket, silver beet, marigolds (dwarf ones) and more carrots (a purple carrot this time). In another bed I pulled back the mulch again, spread these seeds liberally and covered them up again. A quick water and I was done. I’m hoping that nature will take over and one plant will shade another and they will all grow happily. At the back of that bed I put in some luffa seeds. So far I have had no luck with them but I’m hoping with the heat and humidity we are having they may decide they like my garden and will grow.
Will it work? Honestly I don’t know. It is exciting though wondering what will happen and if the worst happens and nothing grows then I have wasted very little seed and not much time. I might add if it doesn’t work this time I shall try again later in the year and see how I go.
Even if you aren’t into a radical change of your gardening technique do try to get a copy of One Straw Revolution and have a read. It’s beautifully written and very enlightening on not only the growing of food and crops but also just what we eat and why we should take a more simplified approach to our eating habits.
I shall leave you with this thought that really struck a chord with me after reading the book.
Is it better to eat tomatoes in season and only when they are in season or pay exorbitant prices for tomatoes out of season, so you can eat them all year round ,which are grown with the use of chemicals and pesticides and are not really as nature intended? For that matter are the out of season tomatoes as full of nutrients than those that are grown in season?