Hello Larry and everyone following this thread. I've got to thank Larry for
referring me to those two pages as they very briefly express exactly the
reasons Emilia gave for making raised beds and, what's more, suggesting the
same type of rotational and successional planting scheme. I'd like to put
together some of the phrases from these pages to express what I mean.
"Soil movement being the greatest concern when establishing a garden...(a)
good method is to pile soil up to create high ridges. This can be done using
the soil brought up while digging (walkways)... Better aeration allows soil
in a pile of this sort to mature more quickly...Such methods soon activate
the latent fertility of even depleted, granular soil, rapidly preparing it
for fertilizer-free cultivation (from p141) Systematic rotation schemes must
be set up and cultivation planned and carried out in accordance with
these...The basic aim of such a system, which borrows some ideas from
natural cropping, is to permanently preserve nature...The
rotations...provide for soil enrichment with leguminous green manure plants,
and the replenishment of organic materials with gramineous plants, deep
working and conditioning of the soil with root vegetables and reduced
disease and pest damage as well as cooperative effects through the
segregation of key vegetables of the potato, gourd, and Mustard families,
and also the intermittent mixed planting of vegetables and herbs of the
Lily, Mint, Carrot and Composite families. This I have made the basis fro a
natural rotation system. (The)...rotation schemes...are designed to move
away from existing short-term rotation schemes that primarily benefit man
and toward systems that benefit the earth. Their ultimate aim is to do away
with tilling, fertilizers, pesticide application, and weeding.
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
plowing the next year or, at most, shallow plowing followed by seeding and
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,
are transplanted. In addition, the land is enriched without ploughing or
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 minimise the period during which
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
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
achieved when all types of insects and microorganisms are present.
An effective natural-crop rotation scheme therefore allows plants of all
kinds to coexist, enables the soil to enrich itself, and provides soil
microbes with a good environment in which to thrive.(p217-8)
That is Synergistic gardening plain and simple. I know from conversations
with Emilia that she came about her techniques via the hippy 'back to the
land' movement, Chadwick's work at Santa Cruz in the 60s and 70s using
raised beds, Ruth Stout's mulch gardening and the final piece of the jigsaw
fell into place with the use of green mulches and cover crops when she read
One-Straw in 78. Yet, it is all here in Natural Way first published in
English in 85. I know that Emilia wasn't aware of these passages by Fukuoka
because, when I asked about her use of raised beds, she dismissed irritably
the holier-than-thou Fukuoka disciples who dared not 'wound' the sacred
earth and told me that she had done what she had to: When she moved to her
150 acres in the foothills of the Pyrenees she did not have the luxury of
such purity, as she had to feed herself and her two daughters.
Yet, Fukuoka recommended the same techniques himself. Adaptation to
circumstances is everything. Sun, soil and seed make each garden different.
Experimentation and observation is essential, as is reading and re-reading.
I believe Natural farming is an attitude, an attitude in constant need of
refinement and one that is best honed by necessity. Labels, techniques,
systems and philosophies are useful to locate the framework but attitude
(attunement) is essential to development.