Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Starting an orchard - from Masanobu Fukuoka's Natural way of farming

Lot of people think that natural farming is about just cut and mulch with the grass growing in your farm and fertility of the land will improve. I was also doing that but as the fertility was not improving fast and also discussions with many people led me to the conclusion that, natural farming is not just cutting and mulching what naturally grows. I have the habit of referring 'One straw revolution' and 'The natural way of farming' again and again, and I get more clear picture.

Here are some details from page 114 of 'The Natural Way of farming' written by Masanobu Fukuoka.

"When starting an orchard, the main goals initially should be prevention of weed emergence and maturation of soil. These can be accomplished by growing buckwheat during first summer, and sowing rapeseed and Indian mustard that same winter. The following summer, one may plant adzuki bean and mung bean and in winter hairy vetch and other hardy leguminous plants that grow well without fertilizers. The only problem with these is that they tend to inundate the young fruit tree saplings. As the garden matures, it will support any type of crop."

Page 158 - Establishing an Orchard talks about -

"Rather than carting the trunks, branches, and leaves of felled trees off a contour-cleared orchard site, it makes more sense to arrange this material along contour lines and wait for it to decompose naturally. The branches, leaves, and roots of the trees decompose after several years, becoming a source of organic fertilizer that supplies nutrients to the growing fruit trees. At the same time, a cover of organic matter helps to curb weed growth, prevents soil washout, stimulates the proliferation of microorganisms, and serves to enrich and otherwise improve the soil."

"After preparing the orchard soil, the next concern is planting. Fruit saplings should be planted at equal intervals along hill contours. Dig a fairly deep hole, fill it with coarse organic matter, and plant the sapling over this."
"Upto ten of black wattle leguminous trees should be planted per quarter acre among fruit trees. After five or six years of growth, I felled these and buried trunks and tops in trenches within the orchard"

Fukuoka san also talks about growing a permanent ground cover in the orchard, and he was growing clover which reseeds and is leguminous. So all these things are required as part of natural farming.

Along with growing cover crops, I started early on to dig trenches and fill them with organic matter to speed up the process of soil enrichment. I tried using a variety of organic materials such as straw,hay,twigs and small branches,ferns,wood and bark chips and lumber. After comparing the results, I found that hay,straw and ferns, which I would have expected to be least expensive,were in fact costly, while wood chips were not.The only problem was hauling this material in. As it turned out, the best material was lumber,which was relatively inexpensive but this too was at times, difficult to carry in. That is when I decided to produce lumber right there in my orchard. Figuring that the easiest and most beneficial way was to return the orchard what had been growing there, I tied planting various types of trees and found black watlle to be the best for the purpose.


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Nandakumar said...

Hi Simon,

Thanks for the comments. Being a natural farmer, I go with nature's methods so don't use any preparations as of now. I think even though it takes some time to improve the fertility of the land, once it is done, no need of any external inputs.


Madhu Reddy said...

I have been growing Stylo Haemata as ground cover. Being dry lands it needs water to establish but after the summer its green again. Seeds well too over the winter which I have collected and spread again or I just spread the cut grass.

Good to see your blog. If you on FB do come and join in the conversations in a group called Seed to Soil - Back to Basics.

Nandakumar said...

Dear Madhu,

That is a news for me..have heard of the cover crop Stylo Haemata, but never seen anyone using this. Where are you located? What is the typical height of this? Also how long it take to mature?

Will see the FB group.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about the natural farming in your blog. It has been 7-8 years since you published this post. What is you thought on natural farming now? Could you master it in 7-8 years? Please share your thought and experience as part 2 of this post.


Nandakumar said...


Natural farming works well, I can see improvement in soil health and plant health, but still not a master,but it does not matter, the journey has been interesting and enjoying.