The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

Growing Vegetables Like Wild PLants

The past few weeks have been very chaotic, and the garden has been sadly neglected. Such things happen but tomorrow will be a long hard day bringing the garden back to a semblence of sanity. There have been losses; squash and cukes are long gone, victims of exanding schedules and unexpected calamities (and squash bugs, mildew and cucumber beetles). The tomatoes got so heavy they pulled down the stakes and sprawled everywhere...

And yet the tomato crop is unrivaled this year. They simply keep coming, wave after wave, and sweet as candy, juicy and ripe. Wife found a tomato horn worm, "What are the white things growing out of it's back?". Those are wasp eggs, layed by the mother wasp, waiting to hatch. We return it to the garden; it can hardly move, let alone eat. The beans are rampant; still flowering in scarlet profusion. We will be harvesting for months. The asparagus flowered amongst the lambsquarters, the peppers are ripening among the flowers on the old lettuce we let bolt. Those will be back next year now...

This experiment was not entirely of my choosing but as F-san says, natural farming is not do-nothing farming. A more steady hand and regular hours would go a long way towards keeping those cukes and squash alive; perhaps next year I try Sensei's branches to let them climb around on. His tomato advice is spot on, I can tell you for sure, as is his beans recommendations. I may have tried this a bit more than I meant to, but with better management it seems likely we could increase food production drastically, doubling pounds per acre and length of harvest.

HG
Scott Reil

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Well, I pay most attention to the foot note that says this method works for him in his mild climate with lots of rain; we each have to find our own way.

To start with he says "it is best to wait for a rain which will last several days." We have not had one of those this season at all, ever. It's not a common event in the growing season here anyway. My fall crop seeds didn't germinate, even though I planted not scattered them, because I couldn't water every day and we were then having heat indices over 100 degrees and no rain ever at all. My rain barrels have been dry most of the season. Temps have cooled down now, but still no rain....

You said "with better management it seems likely we could increase food production drastically, " but Fukuoka specifically warns "if you try to use improved technique or to get bigger yields, the attempt will end in failure."

As I read it, this is not about getting the land to be very productive. It is about getting some vegetables out of land that otherwise would not be used, with very little effort, so that your effort can go into the farm and kitchen garden. He specifies the "land which would otherwise be unused"

Like a lot of this it doesn't really seem to apply to my situation, since I have no land sitting around unused. Well not exactly true... I haven't gotten to the bottom of my hillside yet. But even if I cleared that from the honeysuckle and trash, it is steep, rocky and very shady.

But I'm taking what I can from it, about letting things reseed themselves naturally (I'm letting some of my basil go to seed as we speak), diversity of plants and weeds. I'm loving my velvet leaf "weeds" popping up all over working as trap crops for the leaf miners.... Generally I'm being more tolerant of weeds and the ones I do cut down, leave more of them in place (vs composting -- but I still need some for the compost pile).
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27736
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

You know, I think it also has to do with our expectations from our gardens.

I'm certainly not looking for production and harvest after harvest pumping out of the garden. I'm not really trying to feed the family from the garden, but for us to enjoy that our favorite food actually grows in our own back yard (or front yard as the case may be 8) ), and that all these are "safe" -- grown without chemicals -- and far superior tasting than the insipid quality store bought produce. I marvel at the marvel expressed by people who don't garden because this is becoming the norm for us that we can pick strawberries and raspberries, that we have apples ripening on the trees and bright (multiple) colored tomatoes shining among the green, and oddly shaped cucurbits nestled or hiding in the leaves.

Yet this year's experiments tucking in a small bed here, expanding another area there, have yielded greater quantity of produce. Planting tomatoes and squash among wildflowers, growing peppers under the apple tree, letting melons scramble among the tomatoes and cucumbers climb with the honeysuckle, planting sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes along the fence and gourd and beans climbing on the fence.... :D

On a small suburban property, what is actually "unused land" -- or "space" -- can be deceptive. And I'm not saying this necessarily applies to your garden, rainbowgardener, since I know a large portion of yours is steep wooded hillside. (but remember, so was some of Fukuoka's where the orchard is in the hills :wink:)

But the point I'm getting at is lawn, for example, looks like the land is being "used" rather than being "useLESS" which is it's true state. :roll: Foundation beds of mulch and a few scraggly shrubs -- or well manicured hedges, a tree with a circle of bare mulch dotted by annual bedding flowers.... No, I think there ARE unused land if you really look.

You don't have to turn it into a vegetable bed either. there IS no distinction. Flowers, fruits, leaves. All you have to do is match their growing conditions: Growing Vegetables Like Wild Ornamental Plants. :wink: :D

Rainbowgardener, have you considered sowing shade tolerant crops along the open edges and glades of the woods? Maybe not with real expectation of harvesting them, but just to seed the area? Radish, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, blackberries, elderberries, bush beans, cucumbers..., etc. -- all the crops that we recommend when someone asks about growing in less sun. :wink:

I'm deviating way away from what would be considered "normal" expectations from this property. Satellite mapping my house, it sticks out like a sore thumb among the other cookie cutter properties in the subdivision. :roll: :wink: :()

muland
Full Member
Posts: 49
Joined: Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:56 pm
Location: Ashland, Oregon

Yes we do face challenges in small urban yards and in climates where it doesn't rain reliably during the summer. In California it is not unusual for not a drop to fall for 7 months at a stretch. So we have to adapt the technique. By using all those water conserving methods, like increasing organic matter in the soil by using a continuous soil building ground cover, mulching, shading the beds with plants and trees and so forth the water situation should improve quite a bit. Eventually you may be able to get by without watering at all. Using clay pellets for direct seeding helps survival a lot. :wink:

Sensei's method of growing vegetables like wild plants is mainly for home consumption. The yields increase dramatically over time. But even he acknowledged that using the wild vegetable approach for market gardening would be a challenge.
"There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song" --Masanobu Fukuoka
onestrawrevolution.net

User avatar
gixxerific
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 5889
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:42 pm
Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

I am down with the erratic plantings. I am getting more into year after year. My garden is anything but normal though this year didn't fare very well in many categories. some things did well.

With basil, onions, garlic, nasturtiums, marigolds, lettuce scattered here and there it is pretty wild out there. I also tried to grow peas up my mator cages but it was too late for them. It tried with cucurbits under the willows but they so far haven't done much. I did have good pumpkins under them last year with very little sun. With lettuce, chard and more basil growing in the flower beds up front that was another bonus as far as production goes. Garlic, onions, chard growing among the rose's yet another bonus. If I have the time and resources I would like to get both sides of my house planted in this and that. I already have roses and etc on the one side but there is more room. The other side is bare as of now. I would like maybe a sunflower based garden there with intercroppings of lettuce and other smaller crops maybe beans t climb the sunflowers. That would be great as well. Shade garden in the back is in the thought process as well it is full shade 75% of the day.

So many ideas no enough time.

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

Gixx, you are on it there; it is experimentation, like Ruth Stout, or F-san, mixed with adaptation to place, like Hazelip or Mollison. There are techniques like key line plowing and water collection that help adapt arid conditions, that could not be called natural farming; but is Hazelips garden that same one Sensei would have made? No, but both work on the same principles...

There have been successes in gardening and farming to make them more sustainable, and there have been failures in agriculture still being promulgated as best management practices. The big difference is in the yardsticks being used to measure.

When we stop looking at production as being about pounds per acre versus nutrient densities per acre, when we start measuring soil fertility not in electrical conductivity but in biological nitrogen and carbon sinks, and when we finally determine the overall health of an ecosystem to be biodiversity versus biomass, then we will make good decisions about how we farm and garden. At that time, natural gardening will come into it's own.

HG
Scott Reil

muland
Full Member
Posts: 49
Joined: Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:56 pm
Location: Ashland, Oregon

I remember one afternoon at Fukuoka's farm when an ag. researcher returned to show him the results of studies and lab tests he had done on the soil in Fukuoka's fields. He was all in a lather about how the soil desparately needed more potassium, or was it magnesium. This made Sensei's day. He asked the professor to look at the condition of his super healthy rice crop and tell him again what the studies showed. Sensei's studies we done with observation, tuition and asking nature for feedback. Not all of us are Fukuokas however. It's like asking Picasso how he made such beautiful paintings. It was easy...for him.
"There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song" --Masanobu Fukuoka
onestrawrevolution.net

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Thanks for the nice post, AS! I'm listening and thinking. I do think because I feel so confined in this space and really wishing I had a bit more land (even 1/4 acre of flat garden space would be really nice), I think I have taken its constraints as givens. While I think I've done a lot with what I have and the list of what I grow on this little city lot is pretty long, I agree that I could get more creative yet. I have done some things like growing squash in the flower beds, but I'm sure I could do more. I like the idea of the woods edges....

Thanks for the encouragement.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

re-reading

I was re-reading this thread, because it popped up when I was searching something.

(As always) I really like Applestar's post from August, above:

"Yet this year's experiments tucking in a small bed here, expanding another area there, have yielded greater quantity of produce. Planting tomatoes and squash among wildflowers, growing peppers under the apple tree, letting melons scramble among the tomatoes and cucumbers climb with the honeysuckle, planting sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes along the fence and gourd and beans climbing on the fence...."

I do have trumpet honeysuckle climbing an arch trellis. It occurs to me to wonder how zucchini would do mixed in with it. (I don't grow cucumbers, because I don't like to eat them). I wonder if it would help keep the vine borers that I have so much trouble with, away from them. I may try it this spring as an experiment... prune the honeysuckle back a good bit to make some space for the zucc's ..
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Return to “One Straw Revolution - Masanobu Fukuoka”