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Re: A small natural farm experiment in south England

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  • thomcprestes
    Dear friends, I was recently given a small plot in which I ll be experimenting with Natural Farming. I have of course many doubts, quite a few questions, and I
    Message 1 of 6 , Feb 20, 2009
      Dear friends,

      I was recently given a small plot in which I'll be experimenting with
      Natural Farming.

      I have of course many doubts, quite a few questions, and I would
      really appreciate any suggestions, comments, etc.

      The plot is about 14 x 5 metres, it's south facing, and it's now full
      of weeds, some bare soil, plants and some grass.

      (Hopefully this link will lead you to a few pictures I took from it:
      http://picasaweb.google.com/thomasprestes Let me know if it does not

      I'm located in south England; it's usually quite wet and it never gets
      so very hot. We've had some frosts and quite a bit of snow this
      winter. Now it's actually warm, but I guess there are still chances of

      My plan is to divide the plot in two parts and plant:

      -Rye grain in a clover cover in one part;

      -Corn, beans and squashes in the second part.

      That would be for Spring\Summer.

      For Fall\Winter I thought about:

      Green manure with maybe Rye\Vetch, and probably try to grow some
      winter veggies in it.

      hmm.. how does this sound?!


      In the present moment I think I will follow Raju's suggestion and
      simply sow some clover in the empty spots (leaving the grass and weeds
      covering the other spots), and afterwards I'll try to dibble the corn,
      beans and squashes seeds in one part of the plot and the rye seeds in
      the other part of it.

      Oh, and one of the questions I have and that I would like to ask now
      is concerning the Three Sisters. I'm wondering about the time and
      right distance for planting. Would anyone have some good information
      on that?!

      Anyway, above all I just thought it would be a nice thing to share my
      plans and ideas with you all, and, well, I'd be glad to hear any
      comments, suggestions, etc.

      Best regards,


      --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, "thomcprestes"
      <thomcprestes@...> wrote:
      > > I don't remember any Natural Farmers from Italy posting on this
      > list, if you visit any of them, please let us know what they are
      > doing. What they grow and how and what their soil is like, etc.
      > So, I managed to visit one place in Italy where Natural Farming
      > methods are being implemented.
      > The farm is located in a hilly area about 40 km from Rome, and is more
      > or less 23.000 squares metres, half of it being woodlands. The soil
      > there varies a lot in each different spot, being quite rich in humus
      > in some places, and quite 'heavy clay' in others. So far there are a
      > couple veggie gardens, where Barbara (the owner) has been
      > experimenting with different crops and methods (mainly NF, but a bit
      > of BD). There are many fruit trees and some nut trees that where there
      > before, but apparently they have been brutally prunned by the previous
      > owner, and some young ones are being planted by Barbara. In the moment
      > she has a job that she does from home, meaning she is not making her
      > living from farming. She was in fact having a bit of a hard time with
      > the lack of sun in some areas (due to the hills), and was planning to
      > move with a few farmer-friends to a different place in northeast
      > Italy. She also told me she spent one year in Panos' farm in Greece,
      > before starting her farm.
      > There are a couple more natural farms that I know in Italy, but I was
      > not able to visit them. There is information (in italian) here:
      > http://www.agricolturanaturale.info/
      > ...
      > I was wondering,
      > do we have a list of Natural Farms around the world?
      > If we don't, I think it would be a nice thing to have...
      > ...
      > About the experiment I was going to start,
      > it ended up that the spot I was claiming was claimed by the garder in
      > charge for growing pumpkins for the school (btw, to do so he has
      > covered the rye grass with phormosol...), so I guess I'll have to find
      > another plot.
      > Thomas
      > Brockwood Park, Hampshire, England
      > --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, "Dieter Brand"
      > <brand.dieter@> wrote:
      > >
      > > Thomas,
      > >
      > > Thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself.
      > >
      > > There are two types of rye grass: annual rye grass also called Italian
      > > rye grass (Lolium multiflorum) and perennial rye grass also called
      > > English rye grass (Lolium perenne L.). For our purpose the annual
      > > type would be more practical, you could cut it when seeds start to
      > > form (about May where I live) then use the straw for mulching and
      > > either direct seed or transplant your summer vegetable through the
      > > mulch.
      > >
      > > But you probably have the perennial type, which may mean that you have
      > > to turn the soil once since it is difficult to grow vegetables in a
      > > grass cover, always supposing you want to grow vegetables. If you do
      > > turn the soil, better cut the grass beforehand and rake it aside for
      > > mulching the area later. Alternately (if you have a lot of mulching
      > > material) you could try to kill it by applying a deep mulch (2 to 3
      > > inches) without turning it under, but there is no guarantee that it
      > > won't grow through the mulch. There is also the possibility of using
      > > a weed barrier of newspaper etc. under the mulch. I tried that once
      > > and didn't much like it. If you try mulching, don't cut the rye
      > > grass, just trample it down and put the mulch on top of it. You could
      > > also try to mulch or turn the soil in strips for transplanting your
      > > summer vegetables, leaving strips or areas of rye grass between your
      > > vegetables for weed control and to continually provide mulching
      > > material. But your area is probably too small for strip cropping.
      > >
      > > If your winters are mild, what you can do right now is sowing broad
      > > beans, but don't wait too long. We have discussed this recently, but
      > > here is a short summary: Don't turn the soil, they will grow in
      > > existing vegetation. If you have enough humidity and no rodents, worms
      > > or birds to take the beans, you can simply put them on the soil
      > > surface and cover with a little mulch. I have to punch 2 to 3 inch
      > > deep holes, or else the black birds will pull them from the ground
      > > when they start to germinate. Instead of individual holes, you can
      > > also make furrows with a hoe and sow them in rows. As a cover crop
      > > you can space as close as 1 foot apart in all directions. For
      > > harvesting the beans it's better to have wider spacing. Cut the rye
      > > grass not later than a week after sowing. Broad beans have stronger
      > > growth during the winter than any other cold season annual I know of.
      > > As cover crop the broad beans will provide N for next years summer
      > > vegetables and the rye grass will provide mulch material and biomass.
      > >
      > > I don't remember any Natural Farmers from Italy posting on this list,
      > > if you visit any of them, please let us know what they are doing.
      > > What they grow and how and what their soil is like, etc.
      > >
      > > Dieter Brand
      > > Portugal
      > >
      > > PS: Instead of broad beans you could also use lupines, but they don't
      > > grow quite as quickly. It is probably too cold by now to sow clover
      > > into the rye grass, but the possibilities are infinite.
      > >
      > > PPS: You can also sow cool season small grains such as rye or oats
      > > into the rye grass now.
      > >
      > >
      > > On 12/10/08, thomcprestes <thomcprestes@> wrote:
      > > > Dear friends,
      > > >
      > > > I've got two questions I'd like to ask:
      > > >
      > > > -First and a bit more complicated is related to an experiment with
      > > > Natural Farming I'm about to start;
      > > >
      > > > -Second, and simpler, is about Natural Farms in Italy.
      > > >
      > > > Anyway, first of all, since it's my first time writing to the
      > > > I feel I should try to introduce myself...
      > > >
      > > > So, I'm Thomas, I'm brazilian (also italian citzen..) and, well,
      > > > I've been living in Hampshire, England, since last June, in a
      > > > beautiful school called Brockwood Park.
      > > > Since I've got here I've been working 20 hours a week in the
      > > > school's organic vegetable garden, and so far that's all the
      > > > experience I've got with gardening.
      > > > Last July I found out about Fukuoka, which was really an inspiring
      > > > discovery, and for the last 4 or 5 months I've been following the
      > > > messages in this list (while also reading things here and there)
      > > > trying to clarify and organize my little understanding about
      > > > farming... So, since a little while ago I've been listening to
      > > > Raju, Kostas, Bob, Gunther, Ben, Nandan, Robin, Laurie, Srinath,
      > > > Anders, Steven, Hank, Rob, Linda among others, and I'd like to
      say I'm
      > > > really very grateful to you all - to the whole group, the whole
      > > > list. I don't mean to be too full of compliments and so on,
      > > > but I do think it's really great what you are doing here, and,
      if you
      > > > want to know, it has actually changed things a lot to me, and in a
      > > > very good way, I believe.
      > > >
      > > > Anyway, I'm sorry if I'm writing too much: I'll try to be more
      > brief.
      > > >
      > > > It happens I'm now beginning to research about crops I could grow
      > > > here, probably in a very tiny piece of land (perhaps 15 meters
      > > > for a start, but still not sure: I might be able to get a bit more
      > > > than that...), in a walled vegetable garden, as an experiment. If
      > > > things go well, I would maybe have enough credibility to ask for
      > > > space.
      > > > In the moment I'm trying to find out which would be natives
      and more
      > > > adapted crops, the most natural ones, as well as a good system of
      > > > rotation and companion planting.
      > > > About the crops I would grow, as I said, I haven't really decided
      > > > anything, but I thought it would be nice and useful to have at least
      > > > one grain, apart from vegetables, legumes, some herbs and flowers. I
      > > > just don't know how doable it will be, since my space might be quite
      > > > small (I wonder if this idea of a "miniature natural farm" would
      > > > actually work).
      > > > The plot I would use has some rye grass on it, and it has very
      > > > (I guess 'loamy' would be the word) soil. It was used for growing
      > > > carrots among other crops in the past, but it's been on rye
      grass for
      > > > 3 years. There is lime stone bed rock underneath the whole vegetable
      > > > garden, which probably makes the soil alkaline and -as it is- quite
      > > > full of worms. My space would be on the corner of the walled
      > > > garden, about 5 meters from the west and south walls, with farly
      > > > amount of sun throughout the year. I mean, it's south England,
      > > > not a lot of sun specially in winter time, and we've got a lot
      of rain
      > > > and humidity, some frosts during autumn\winter (we've actually had
      > > > very few this year, and it hasn't been so cold), and there is a
      bit of
      > > > a rabbit problem in the garden, even if it has walls around it.
      > > > Hm, what else... I know (concerning 'grains') that amaranth and
      > > > quinoa were already grown quite sucessfully in this veggie
      garden, but
      > > > still I wonder what would be the more natural, native and\or more
      > > > adapted things to the area, and which ones would grow and
      produce good
      > > > amount of food harmoniously together.
      > > >
      > > > Well... if anyone could help me out with any suggestions on how to
      > > > start or anything else, I would be very glad.
      > > >
      > > > ...
      > > >
      > > > Then, apart from all that, my second question is: I'm going to
      > > > for about 4 weeks, and I'm going to travel around a bit, so was
      > > > wondering about any Natural Farms down there. I would be very
      > > > interested in visiting and finally meeting at least one natural
      > > > farmer. I've actually already found three places on the net, but I
      > > > thought it would be a good idea to ask here in the group.
      > > >
      > > > So, that's it for now.
      > > >
      > > > Thank you again !
      > > >
      > > > Kind regards,
      > > >
      > > > Thomas
      > > >
      > > >
      > >
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