The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Fukuoka's natural farming

Fukuoka's do-nothing farming, harvesting the grainsSo what did Masanobu Fukuoka's natural farming technique look like?  In the fall, he seeded white clover, a winter grain (rye or barley), and rice all at once into a field.  The seeds were rolled in balls of clay so that they could simply be dropped onto un-tilled soil rather than being pushed beneath the surface.

That autumn, the clovers and winter grains sprouted and grew while the rice seeds waited.  The clover formed a groundcover beneath the rye or barley, crowding out weeds and fixing nitrogen to enrich the soil.  By spring, the winter grains were ready to be harvested --- Fukuoka threshed the grains and tossed all of the straw back onto the fields, forming a thick mulch.  He added in a small amount of manure from his chickens, but no other compost or fertilizer.

Fukuoka's do-nothing farming, collageMeanwhile, the rice had already sprouted and started to grow.  The young rice plants were trampled down when the winter grains were harvested, but quickly sprang back to life, growing amid weeds and clover.

The traditional method of growing rice in most of Japan and China consisted of flooding the rice paddies for the entire growing season as a method of weed control, but Fukuoka realized that rice is actually healthier when growing in damp, but not sodden, soil.  So he opted to flood his fields for a mere week in the spring, long enough to drown out most of the weeds and weaken the clover, giving the rice a head start.  Then he dried the fields back out and the rice grew happily above its nitrogen-fixing groundcover.  In the fall, he harvested the rice and once again returned the straw to the field, along with seeds for next year.

Fukuoka noted that after 20 years of using his natural farming method, the soil on his farm was much richer than when he began.  He harvested just as much grain (or more) from his fields as the commercial farmers using chemicals nearby.  And the photos in his book look remarkably weed-free --- I'm jealous.

Check out our automatic chicken waterers, great in tractors!

This post is part of our One-Straw Revolution lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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