Almost the last part of the overview
- What's that saying... "If only I knew then what I know now..." When
you read this part, if you think back to the descriptions of my futile
attempt to use Fukuoka's method you will undestand why I say that.
This is the next to the last section of the Overview (unless someone
comes up with a good idea for another part). The last will probably
be a brief page about seedballs with a link to seedballs.com and
the suggestion to go there before messing with this technique.
One last request. If you reply to any of these messages PLEASE don't
include the entire message in your reply. These are REALLY big email
files. Normally I would never send an email this big but under the
circumstances it seems necessary in order to get some "peer review"
and editing review before going public.
In reviewing the archives of the Fukuoka_Farming mailing list, it
became obvious that trying to grow vegetables using Fukuoka's method
is the most frequently discussed topic. It also became obvious that
most of us, including myself, were woefully ignorant of all that
Fukuoka had to say on the subject. This is due primarily to the unavailability
of his "how-to" book, "The Natural Way of Farming: The Theory and
Practice of Green Philosophy". The book has been out of print for
years, can only be found occasionally in public libraries, and on
those rare moments when someone offers to sell a used copy it usually
commands an exorbitantly high price.
That seems to be slowly changing now as English translation reprints
become available at reasonable prices from a publisher in India (see
the links section on this website for sources that offer them for
sale). But in the meantime many long-time list participants are actively
trying to apply his method to their vegetable gardens using only
the bits and pieces of information available while new list participants
frequently ask "how do I get started". To help fill that that information
void, the following excepts from "The Natural Way of Farming" are
offered. They are, in no way, an exhaustive treatment of the subject.
For that you really need to "read the book".
Fukuoka on Vegetable Gardening
"By sowing a mixture of many field crops, allowing them to grow naturally,
and observing which thrive and which do not, one finds that, when
grown in the hands of nature, crops superior to what would normally
be imagined can be obtained.
"For instance, when the seeds of different grains and vegetables
are mixed together and scattered over growing weeds and clover, some
vanish and some survive. A few even flourish. These crops flower
and set seed; the seed drops to the ground and is buried in the soil
where the seed casing decomposes and the seed germinates. The seedling
grows, competing with or being assisted by other plants. This process
of growth is an amazing natural drama that appears at first disordered,
but is eminently rational and orderly."
"Although this method of mixed, semi-wild cultivation may appear
reckless at first, it more than suffices for the small family garden
or for vegetable gardening on barren land by those who seek to live
"What I mean by the 'semi-wild' cultivation of vegetables is a method
of simply scattering vegetable seed in a field, orchard, on earthen
levees, or on any open, unused land. For most vegetables, mixed sowing
with ladino clover gradually gives a vegetable garden with a cover
of clover. The idea is to pick a good time during the sowing season
and either scatter or drill a seed mixture of clover and many vegetables
among the weeds. This will yield surprisingly large vegetables."
"Semi-wild vegetables have a pungent aroma and good body. Because
they have been produced in a healthy soil containing all the necessary
micronutrients, they are without question the most healthy and nutritious
food man can eat."
"Vegetables grown for home consumption are most likely to be raised
for a five- or six-member family on a small plot of perhaps 100 square
yards next to the house, or in a larger field. When grown in a small
garden plot, all that is involved is growing the right crop at the
right time in rich soil built up by the addition of manure and other
"However, for permanent cultivation on large acreages, this type
of natural cultivation must be carried a step further. Systematic
rotation schemes must be set up and cultivation planned and carried
out in accordance with these."
Fukuoka discusses rotation schemes, with diagrams, in great detail.
Too great to reproduce here, and providing excepts from it would
probably be more confusing and misleading than helpful.
The Four Principles Applied to Vegetable Gardening
"No tilling: This consists typically of ridging the field at intervals
of 3 to 6 feet or digging drainage channels every 13 to 16 feet the
first year, then either not plowing the next year or, at most, shallow
plowing followed by seeding and rotary tillage."
"No fertilizer: Leguminous green manure is grown as a basic crop
each year and a mixture of coated crop seeds sown. If direct sowing
is not possible, seedlings are transplanted. In addition, the land
is enriched without plowing or tilling by planting root crops throughout.
"No weeding: The second crop is either seeded over the maturing first
crop or transplanted prior to harvest so as to minimize the period
during which the field is left fallow. The straw and leaves from
the crops just harvested are used as a mulch to retard weed emergence
while the second crop in the rotation is still very young."
"No pesticides: Of course, one can also make use of plants that prevent
or inhibit the emergence of diseases and insect pests, but true non-
control can be achieved when all types of insects and microorganisms
"The best time to sow vegetables in the autumn is when weeds such
as crabgrass, green foxtail, wheatgrass, and cogon have matured and
started to fade, but before the winter weeds have begun to germinate.
Spring-sown vegetables should be seeded in late March and April
after the winter weeds have passed their prime but before the germination
of summer weeds."
"Sowing a good quantity of fall vegetables such as daikon, turnip,
and other crucifers will hold back the emergence of winter and spring
weeds. When left in the orchard until the following spring, however,
these flower and age, becoming something of a nuisance in gardening
work. If a few of these vegetables are left to grow here and there,
they will flower and drop seed. Come June or July, the seeds will
germinate, giving many first-generation hybrids close by the original
plants. These hybrids are semi-wild vegetables that, in addition
to having a taste and appearance quite different from that of the
original vegetable, generally grow to absurdly large proportions:
great big daikon, turnips too large for children to pull up, giant
Chinese cabbages, crosses between black mustard and Indian mustard,
a garden of surprises. As food, they are likely to overwhelm and
many people may be hesitant about sampling, but depending on how
they are prepared, these vegetables can make for very flavorful and
"Leguminous vegetables should be included in the seeds sown among
the weeds in spring to early summer. Of these, vegetables such as
asparagus bean, cowpea, and mung bean are especially good choices
because they are inexpensive and high-yielding. Birds will feed on
the seeds for garden peas, soybeans, adzuki beans, and kidney beans,
so these must be encouraged to germinate very quickly. The best
way to get around this is to sow the seed in clay pellets." [Editor's
emphasis. The creation and use of the clay pellets, usually called
"seedballs", will be discussed in another document.]
About Specific Vegetables
"Once planted, hardy vegetables such as garlic, scallion, leek, honewort,
dropwort, and shepherd's-purse take hold and continue producing
year after year."
"Weak vegetables such as tomatoes and eggplants tend to become overwhelmed
at first by weeds. The safest way to grow these is to raise young
plants from seed and transplant them into a cover of clover and weeds.
Rather than training tomatoes and eggplants into single-stem plants,
after transplantation they should be left alone and allowed to grow
as bushes. If, instead of supporting the plant upright with a pole,
the stem is allowed to creep along the ground, this will drop roots
along its entire length from which many new stems will emerge and
"As for potatoes, once these are planted in the orchard, they will
grow each year from the same spot, crawling vigorously along the
ground to lengths of five feet or more and never giving in to weeds.
If just small potatoes are dug up for food and some tubers always
left behind, there will never be any want of seed potatoes."
"Cucumber should be of varieties that trail well along the ground.
The same is true for melons, squash, and watermelons. These latter
have to be protected from weeds at the seedling stage, but once they
get a little larger, they are strong crops. If there is nothing around
for them to climb, scattering bamboo stalks with the tops remaining
or even firewood will give the vines something to grasp onto and
climb; this benefits both plant growth and fruit production."
"Yam and sweet potato grow well at the foot of the orchard shelterbelt.
These are especially enjoyable because the vines climb the trees
and produce fairly large tubers."
"With vegetables such as spinach, carrot, and burdock, seed germination
is often a problem. A simple and effective solution is to coat the
seeds with a mixture of clay and wood ashes or to sow them enclosed
in clay pellets." [Editor's emphasis]
"Things to Watch Out for: One must be prepared for the possibility
of failure if the goal is large yields per unit area. Growing one
type of vegetable in a field is unnatural and invites disease and
pest attack. When vegetables are companion-planted and made to grow
together with weeds, damage becomes minimal and there is no need
to spray pesticides."
"Even where growth is poor, this can generally be improved by seeding
clover together with the vegetables, and applying chicken droppings,
manure, and well-rotted human waste."
On Diseases, Pests, and Pesticides:
" I am convinced that by reviving the pest control measures of the
not-so-distant past and practicing semi-wild cultivation, people
can easily grow more than enough vegetables for their own consumption.
"Because hardy varieties are used, the right crop is grown at the
right time in healthy soil, and plants of the same type are not grown
together. Companion-planting vegetables of many different types in
place of weeds in an orchard or on idle land is an eminently reasonable
method of cultivation.
"As an additional precaution, I would also recommend that pyrethrum
and derris root be planted at the edge of the garden. Pyrethrum flowers
and derris root must be dried and stored as powders. Pyrethrum is
effective against aphids and caterpillars, while derris root works
well against cabbage sawflies and leaf beetles. However, these may
be used against all insect pests, including melon flies, by dissolving
the agent in water and sprinkling the solution onto the vegetable
plants with a watering can. Both agents are harmless to man and garden
" although from ten to twenty types of pests and diseases generally
attack any one kind of vegetable, the only ones that are really major
pests are cutworms, borers, leaf beetles, certain types of ladybugs,
seed-corm maggots, and aphids."
"Farmers a while back never used pesticides on vegetables in their
kitchen gardens. All they did was to catch insects in the morning
and evening on some gummy earth at the end of a piece of split bamboo.
This worked well for caterpillars feeding on cabbage and other leaf
vegetables, melon flies on watermelon and cucumbers, and ladybugs
on the eggplant and potatoes. Disease and pest damage to vegetables
can usually be prevented by being familiar with the nature and features
of such damage rather than attempts at control, and most problems
can be taken care of by practicing a method of natural farming that
gives some thought as to what a healthy vegetable is."
"Try raising vegetables as the undergrowth in an orchard and let
native fowl loose in the orchard. The birds will feed on the insects
and their droppings will nourish the fruit trees. This is one perfect
example of natural farming at work."
Fukuoka writes that the following vegetables have a strong resistance
to disease and pest damage:
Chinese and Japanese yam, taro, spinach, chard, Chinese cabbage,
carrot, honewort, celery, parsley, burdock, butterbur, lettuce, garland
chrysanthemum, perilla, Japanese mint, udo, ginseng, Japanese angelica
tree, ginger, Japanese ginger, sweet potato, Chinese leek, garlic,
scallion, Nanking shallot, Welsh onion, onion, dogtooth violet,
asparagus, lily, and tulip.
The following have only moderate resistance:
Garden pea, broad bean, adzuki bean, soybean, peanut, kidney bean,
asparagus bean, Egyptian kidney bean, sword bean, Chinese cabbage,
cabbage, daikon, turnip, Indian mustard, rapeseed, leaf mustard,
potherb mustard, sea-kale, and black mustard.
The following have low resistance:
Watermelon, cucumber, Oriental melon, pickling melon, squash, white
gourd, chayote, bottle gourd, tomato, eggplant, potato, red pepper,
END OF DRAFT
- The lists of plants grouped according to their resistance to
disease and pest damage, at the end of the segment, is worthy of a
subheading & click box elsewhere in the site.
This specific reference to crabgrass has given our project strong
backing. It is the first time that it has been specified in my,
admittedly limited, Fukuoka reading. We had been challenged here, "So
he didn't weed the rice fields. What is the rice field's equivalent
to crabgrass?" It may have been...crabgrass. The greatest danger to
our existence, as a Fukuokaesque park for another year, is the belief
that we should not be indulged to continue because all is powerless
before the crabgrass that has covered our chip berms at the boundary
of the park. The other weeds listed may be as strong in their
environments as c.g. is here, but it is the crabgrass that the park
officials use against this project. A copy of this passage will
definitely go into our district supervisor's folder.
Someone once posted on this group a thought about priorities of
various gardeners, whether they included creating a "tidy" look. City
officials may fear complaints of neighbors about an unkempt city
flower bed along the alley. They may fear wild gardens make wild
An information sheet listing this developing web site as a
reference, & probably a copy of the Emilia or Bullfrog video, might be
the way that the city can pass our park as a legitimate municipal
project, or at least give the Parks Department staff, who might be
charged with stopping us, an excuse to look the other way while we all
learn from observation. (A lot of observation in teaching is
accomplished by "looking the other way".)
Crabgrass took over this message, which is our end-of-summer
report in brief, but not in full. Crabgrass may have been repeated
more often just now than any other single word in any single post.
Sorry. The spring garden? Vedremo. (Is that how is spelled "We shall
see," in Italia?)
Larry Haftl wrote:
> On Sowing[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> "The best time to sow vegetables in the autumn is when weeds such
> as crabgrass, green foxtail, wheatgrass, and cogon have matured and
> started to fade, but before the winter weeds have begun to
> Spring-sown vegetables should be seeded in late March and April
> after the winter weeds have passed their prime but before the
> of summer weeds."
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