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Re: [fukuoka_farming] Re: Fukuoka Farming Tip #1: How to Grow a Clover Cover Crop

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  • Robert Monie
    Hi Jason, I appreciate the compliment and am happy that you like the little essay I wrote on trying to establish white clover, but as Bertrand Russell used to
    Message 1 of 5 , Dec 14, 2007
      Hi Jason,

      I appreciate the compliment and am happy that you like the little essay I wrote on trying to establish white clover, but as Bertrand Russell used to say, the (slightly) older me tends to disagree a bit with the younger me. I now believe that white clover is a pretty frail reed to start a natural garden with, no matter how much luck the talented and inspired Mr. Fukuoka may have had with it. White clover is pretty much surface cultivation, and many fields need much more aggressive and deeper rooted plants to condition them before they will perform well with such surface cultivation.

      I now think that fields are best prepared with the highest biomass, most deeply-rooted cover crops you can find, along with the most dynamic plant accumulators. I would advise beginners to try such crops as Juan triticale (which produces fairly deep, tangled and massive roots), oilseed radish, mammoth red clover (which in many soils will fill up with aggressive roots quickly), and intersperse them with chicory, stinging nettle (I buy a 120 plug trays of them from Richter's in Canada), and yarrow (which doesn't look like much to start with but sneaks around under the ground and after a year of so really gets "biological").
      Try some Russian comfrey and yacons too, if they grow in your area. Yacon roots and chicory roots are loaded with inulin, which may have its own biological mechanism for producing humus. You may want to line parts of your future garden with deep rooted perennial grass like Vetiver and experiment with a perennial like intermediate wheatgrass.
      If you have enough Vetiver, you can trim it and mulch with the stems. you can also trim the comfrey and the stinging nettle and mulch with it (or use it to make compost/compost tea).

      If you can keep a "ley" like this covering the ground for say 4 to 8 seasons (2 to 4 years), you can them cut some of it down (mow it), and plant directly into it. Then, if the results are good, you might try a nice carpet of white clover a la Fukuoka. The ground will be prepared for it. I respect very much the work that is reported on this list from India (Titus) and Greece (Panos and Karoubas), but I can't say that their seedball approach works well for me.

      My current inspiration is a reworking of ley farmers' approach (such as Robert Ellis,
      Hugh Corley, Newman Turner, and most recently Jenny Hall and Ian Tolhurst) to use grasses and forbes to make humus and then plant over it. (Of course the ley farmers, with the exception of Hall and Tolhurst, grazed the land with animals and I, as a vegan grower, do not). If clover works for you, never mind my eccentricities, and go for it! It is all natural farming, whether you do it with trees and canopy layers like Robert Hart's forest garden approach, or with seedballs, straw, and clover like Fukuoka, or with grasses and forbs. Nature offers many paths, including the "mycelium running" one of Paul Stammets.

      Best wishes,

      Bob Monie
      Zone 8
      New Orleans, LA

      "jason.bijl" <jason.bijl@...> wrote:
      --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, Robert Monie <bobm20001@...>

      I thought that there might be some others on the board who might
      benefit from this older post.

      I've found this board to contain much information, but finding
      relevant article to what I'm looking for is rather hard.

      If anyone knows about other topics that would be helpful to those of
      us who are looking begin "experimenting"... please bump them up.



      > Hi,
      > Fundamental to the development of Fukuoka culture is the living
      mulch or cover crop of short white clover that Fukuoka likes to sow
      seeds and seedballs into. The clover cover crop softens the soil,
      fixes nitrogen, attracts beneficial insects, and diminishes unwanted
      weeds. What more could one ask for?
      > Often, gardeners find it difficult to establish a living mulch of
      white clover. They sow the seeds on the bare ground and water it, but
      receive only a scraggly, patchwork of clover instead of a nice smooth
      carpet in exchange for thier efforts.
      > There are at least two ways to avoid this common problem. One is
      to first establish a
      > cover crop of buckwheat and then, while the buckwheat grass
      sprouts are still very short, sow the white clover seeds into them.
      If you are lucky, the incipient buckwheat will "nurse" the clovers
      into a more even, luxuriant growth. If you are unlucky, the buckwheat
      will not let the clovers grow much at all, and you are back to square
      > There is a better way. Don't sow the clover seeds on the bare
      ground. Mix them first thoroughly with some fine humus or well-aged
      compost (preferably vegan) and then apply the mix evently to the
      ground, taking care to rake it gently flat. The humus or compost will
      cradle the clover seeds just right to make a smooth clover carpet that
      you can--like Fukuoka--plant veggie and other seed into.
      > There is an excellent website on how to do this:
      > For best results be sure to innoculate the short white clover
      before mixing it with the humus/compost. For very stubborn soils, mix
      in quantities of the darkest beet or sugar molasses you can find.
      Sometimes Nature needs a gentle nudge to get rolling.
      > Fukuoka used either the very short, white Dutch clover [one US
      supplier is
      > http://www.outsidepride.com ; click on seeds, clover, white
      clover] or the slightly taller New Zealand white clover [available
      from Territorial Seeds and John Jeavons'
      > Bountiful Gardens].
      > Bob Monie
      > Zone 8
      > River Ridge, New Orleans
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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