So you just finished reading one of Masanobu’s books such as The One Straw Revolution or you just found out about natural farming and you can’t wait to get started.
You have a garden or perhaps a small land and you want to get out there to work with nature to grow your own food.
Read on because this guide is for you.
I am assuming that your garden or land is quite degraded with very little to no diverse vegetation. Or maybe your garden is just a field of lawn grass or stone tiles.
Before even starting it is better to let go of all your expectations and plans and abandon whatever you think you may know about nature and farming. This way you will be open to nature’s lessons and follow the path it shows you.
Look For Seeds
After you have set your determination. The very first thing I would recommend doing is to go around looking for seeds and planting materials.
I recommend to first start planting staple foods such as Sweet Potato, Cassava, Yam, Singkamas, Taro, Canna, Squash, Potato, Peanut, Mung bean, or Pigeon Pea; including grains such as Corn, Millet, Wheat, Rice, Sorghum, Barley, Quinea, and so on. Altho grains can be difficult to grow.
Do note that the mentioned plants are listed in no particular order and that not all the plants are suited for every climate.
You have to find out which plants work best for your local climate.
At the same time, one should also plant lots of fruit trees, nut trees, and nitrogen-fixing trees, as well berries and of of course vegetables and leafy greens.
If one has the option try to go for perennial plants (That is plants with a lifespan over 1 to 2 years) rather than annuals (Plants with a lifespan of less than 1 year), because perennials take less maintenance to grow than annuals which saves up more free time, however, do not discount the power of annuals.
Annuals are easier to get started; grow fast, and can overgrow weeds and quickly fill up a space. Some annuals can be very weak tho.
Perrenials need more care to get started in the beginning and grow slower, but in the long term when they are established require less maintenance than annuals.
Whatever seeds and planting materials you choose try to start out with a wide selection of varieties and species so you can not only increase biodiversity, but also so you can figure out what works best for your specific situation, climate, and soil conditions.
Plow The Soil (One Last Time)
Once you have all your planting materials the next thing I recommend doing is to plow the soil.
You may wonder why plow the soil if in natural farming there is no plowing, to understand more read my other blog. (Will be published soon)
In short, we plow the soil only once in the beginning to create a disturbance in the system. Kinda like a factory reset on your phone or computer. This will make it easier to get our plants started at the beginning.
If you have a small space you can plow the soil by hand soil hoe or dutch hoe and a shovel or spade.
If you have a bigger space you could hire a walk-behind gas-powered plower for one day or you could hire a tractor or cow for a day to plow.
Since you will be plowing only once there is no need to buy expensive plowing machines or animals.
Just before plowing you want to spread animal manures over the soil so that it gets mixed with the soil. This will provide the initial boost of fertility for your plants, like a starter pack.
If you do not have access to animal manures, do not worry. You will have to depend on the natural fertility of your soil which is perfectly alright.
Apply Organic Matter
Immediately after plowing, you want to cover the soil with organic matter to protect the soil. It is best to use leaves, straw, or hay for this. If you do not have any organic matter on hand it’s best to dedicate a portion of your space to growing organic matter. Planting a fast-growing perennial grass is the best option for producing organic matter, but you can also grow weeds.
This layer of organic matter on the soil is also called mulch.
It is most important to always keep the soil covered and do not leave it exposed to the sun.
After applying the mulch on top of the soil you want to start planting your seeds through the layer of mulch. Make sure your seeds and plants are not entirely covered and choked out by mulch or else they will not grow.
Depending on how degraded your land is, you might have severe crop losses for the first 2 years. This is because it will take several years for the soil fertility and biodiversity to increase to the point that the ecosystem becomes more balanced and stable.
Despite the initial crops losses at the beginning, year after year the harvests will become better and better, so please do not give up too soon.
You will be rewarded in the end.
If you want to read more practical advice on natural farming, you can read my other blogs.