A while back, my Mother-in-law was watching a Japanese program that highlighted the work of Masanobu Fukuoka, the author of The One Straw Revolution. His method of farming was remarkable. To till, no chemicals, no back breaking weeding are necessary. Only straw mulch and white clover are needed in lieu of soil. Seed balls are then cast into the “green manure” of the clover and straw. Very few times have I acted a a result of something I saw on TV, but I just had to try.
My wife and I got a few gardening supplies, a bale of hay from the feed store, and packets and packets of seeds.
With a little recruitment of labor from my 11 year old niece, we spread the straw in a brick enclosing right on top of my dry lawn in the backyard.
Then we made seed balls with a combinations of clay, soil, coffee grounds, seeds, pepper flakes (pest repellant) and fertilizer. We have 14 different types of seeds in these balls.
Then we tossed the seed balls hither and tither. Along with broadcasting white clover seeds. One of the most exiting things about this style of gardening is the sheer randomness.
I’ve had to water the straw a few times, but as rainy season in Hawai’i is now in full swing, I can just sit back and watch. I’m not going to call yet whether this is a successful method of gardening, but here are some of the results thus far:
Beets are sprouting out of this seed ball.
The one pitfall of this method is that you have to be well versed in what seedlings look like. I think this is one of my sunflowers, but it looks like it is next to a weed. Irregardless, you can see the bursting life underneath the soil.
And because no chemicals are used, there is balance to the natural ecosystem around the garden. This gecko is helping me control unwanted pests.
Masanobu Fukuoka reminds me a lot of BKS Iyengar in his views toward his craft, in that he is holistic and looks a the big picture. He said that one must become a philosopher before one decides to become a farmer, so the implications of using harmful chemicals to produce high crop yields could be understood. One must understand the whole system, not just how to grow specific crops. He had a brief career as a plant pathologist, but came to the realization that mankind has caused more harm than good in trying to innovate farming methods. He quit his job, went home and started to experiment on the theory that if one replicate nature on a farm, then all the back breaking work of traditional farming would be unnecessary. His aim was to do less, not more. As it turns out, he was correct. He died in 2008, but left a legacy of the permaculture movement. The book One Straw Revolution is linked above.
I will keep you updated on my garden as it continues to develop…