To help transition Japan to a peace promoting post-carbon country while enjoying every step of the process.
僕のビジョンは、祖国日本で、平和文化を育みポストカーボン(Post-Carbon) 社会を促進してゆく事です。

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shizeno update 6/3 & Excess Fertility

Update from June 3rd.

After digging the paths (also functions as a ditch for water and weed barrier) and using the material to raise the beds, I tapped down the soil with a shovel and my hand. Etsuko (author of the book I am using to guide me CLICK) says to tap down with a shovel or a board with a handle to shape the bed. In all honesty, I'm not exactly sure why this is necessary and it seemed to go against my training in Biointensive gardening where preparing a fluffy bed was essential in order for the plant roots to penetrate the soil with ease and for increasing drainage. Perhaps it was unnecessary. It does help to create an even surface and the soil will probably dry slower which is important since less watering is another element of shizeno (natural farming) and stronger flavored veggies.

Finally, it came time to plant. I probably should have planted earlier in the season but it was quite cold in May and I was also busy preparing my Biointensive garden beds which will be relied on for our food during the year.

With my hori hori, I opened small pockets and wedged left over transplants in. The bed on the right has an assortment of onions. Tokyo long green onion, red bulbing onions, and maybe some other ones. The middle bed has bush beans, cabbage, chard, kale, spinach, etc. The bed on the left is a daikon raddish bed from seed. I also planted corn and amaranth from seed on the South end (toward the grass), buttercup squash transplants, sweet pepper, and an assortments of herbs here and there.

I love diverse non-production oriented beds! Woohoo.
I will be a happy starving gardener :)
My main purpose for having a variety is to see what works in this climate with my shizeno beds.

In addition to this experiment, I decided to plant some starts straight into the weeds outside of the prepared area. Maybe to appease the radical purist in me. I'm always pondering about what "natural" means and what kind of gardening inspires me the most.

Here maybe you can see the kale, bush bean, and shiso transplant.

I should have mulched it right away, maybe even before transplanting but too much going on. Recently, I mulched it with some of the tall grass I cut off this area, but some of the interns had used straw as mulch and their garden beds (mostly brassicas) got wiped out from slugs and snails. I also started late so much of the grass had seed heads, so I opted to use grass clippings after mowing the paths of the far far field (where we have the potato and squash plantings). The purist inside of me was not excited about it, but the majority of me decided this was the practical thing to do considering all the factors I was working with.

Eiyoukatou 栄養過当 (Excess Fertility)
No fertilizing is an essential element of natural farming, check out Fukuoka's book to learn more about why. Kawaguchi and Etsuko do mention that you might add rice bran or sake lees if your soil is particularly poor. Etsuko suggest doing this 2 months before Spring planting. Of course, this makes sense is you or maybe your neighbor produces these by-products. In the US you might use wheat bran if you live in an area of wheat production. One of the main ideas in shizeno is to not import material. Keeping it local.

One of the most striking things I heard from natural farmer Kawaguchi was about eiyoukato. He mentioned that a few times when we visited his rice paddies, garden, and his home. What surprised me in his garden was that he had corn growing in one bed and in the next bed he had beans growing. In organic farming circles growing corn and beans together is a common practice. The three sisters is often mentioned: corn, beans, and squash that North American indigenous peoples planted together (or 4 if you also throw in amaranth). The beans fix nitrogen which the corn feeds heavily on.

Anyways, I asked Kawaguchi why he didn't plant them together and he mentioned eiyoukato. He explained that the corn bed didn't need extra nitrogen from the beans. The corn was healthy just as it was and the soil was in balance. The main point is fertilizing, even organic methods, is unnecessary in most cases (unless your goal is abundance of production which is often the case). Also, when you fertilize, weeds also have access to that abundance of nutrients. It is an invitation for them to grow strong. Also, plants grow faster with access to more nutrients, sometimes too fast. Excessive growth can lead to big unhealthy plants, like people who overeat fats and sugars. Those plants will attract various pest and diseases.

Coming back to my shizeno garden beds, I did not add anything EXCEPT the grass clippings from the paths as mulch that I mentioned earlier. This will probably add some amount of nitrogen, but I also did remove the weeds that were growing on the beds initially. What I will do next time though, is use the weeds I actually cut from the beds and lay them on as mulch.

One final note, the area I'm working in looks like nice rich soil with good drainage. That makes things much easier, and I am not sure what I would do in less optimal conditions.

Now for a break!
Then I'm hoping to write a little about my struggles with Abundance and Balance/just enough.

1 comment:

  1. greetings Kai!
    I have enjoyed reading your thoughtful posts during my weekly internet time. The Japanese is automatically translated in sometimes funny and enlightening ways. I am learning to change the way I look at soil fertility as I work/play with San Diego native plants. Organic compost and summer water kills them! How opposite from my training in annual veggie gardening! Like you mentioned, the excess water and compost invites exotic opportunistic weeds that many people don't like (but I like to eat). The land I work on has been polluted and severely disturbed, and I'm practicing reminding myself that the best way to "fix it" is to let the plants keep doing what they do and build up a new "Elfin Forest".
    Thank you for continuing to share the wisdom!