How to Start Natural Farming

Zero Budget Gardening Guide

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1. What is Natural Farming?

 

How to start natural farming on a zero – minimal budget.  For your garden/yard – natures way of producing food, with minimal effort.

Natural farming is a way of ecological farming, established by a Japanese philosopher and farmer, Masanobu Fukuoka. This approach was first introduced in his book published in 1975, with a title- “The one-straw revolution.

To do Nothing

He also named it “to do nothing” farming, which doesn’t imply the lack of work, but rather than that, implies the absence of chemicals, machinery and other forms of human intervention. He believed that nature has the capacity to conserve and replenish itself, and it doesn’t require human intervention to maintain its balance. Therefore, this type of farming requires minimum work and minimum investment.

Nature’s Way

Natural farming encourages and embraces the biodiversity of the land where we farm (animals, plants, etc.). It uses what is already there, to promote healthy growth. This type of farming has been practiced for thousands of years, and it requires minimum human input and very low or zero cost. Natural farming also connects to the holistic philosophy of being in harmony with nature, and it’s more than just farming, it’s a way of life.

1.1 Principles of Natural Farming

 

There are a few main principles to natural farming;

  • Weeds and bugs are left alone, biodiversity takes care of them (not to reproduce too much)
  • The field is not plowed or tilled
  • There is zero or minimum human input
  • Nature does the necessary work and the process of natural selection

1.2 Natural Farming & Organic Farming – Differences

 

Natural farming is a form of organic farming, but it has some main differences;

  • Effort: – In organic farming, often compost and manure are used to enrich the soil.
  • Plowingtilting: is used to prepare the soil for gardening and farming.

The natural farming knows none of the above, as it lets nature do the work, with organisms in the soil (bacteria, earthworms), to naturally improve the soil, while maintaining harmony in the environment.

  • Cost – While natural farming requires almost no money (close to zero cost), ecological farming requires the use of organic pesticides, manure, and fertilizer.
  • Environment – Natural farming is in harmony with nature and does not impact the environment (minimal impact). The crops are hand-picked, no chemicals or machinery is used to alter the soil structure.

If you are not ready to fully transition to “radical”, natural farming, you can always include elements of ecological farming (natural fertilizers, natural pesticides, and some other options that we will mention later).

1.3 Advantages of Natural Farming

 

Supports the soil quality

The soil quality improves, because no artificial pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers are used in natural farming.

Supports pollinating insects

Insecticides and pesticides are the reason for the death of many pollinators, primarily bees. Up to 40 % of bee colonies have been killed off by chemicals, as opposed to other diseases and problems that bee colonies can endure. In natural farming, there is no use of harmful chemicals, and nature does its job, inviting pollinating insects, with no danger of chemical poisoning.

Reduced cost (can be close to 0 costs)

Since the main principle of natural farming is to let nature do her job, most of the time, no fertilizers and other additives are used, making it a minimum cost, to zero budget.

The eco-friendly way of farming

Supporting and embracing the ecosystem, natural farming, as the name tells us, is in harmony with nature. No chemicals, heavy machinery or other harmful intervention into nature. The areas farmed, don’t change much over time, and don’t get destroyed and exhausted, like in some other ways of farming.

Increased biodiversity suppresses weeds and pests, mulch can be also used to suppress weed growth.

Natural ways of improving soil structure and fertility

Earthworms, lactic bacteria, cow dung and urine, mulch, are used to improve soil’s structure and fertility. Other things native do different areas of the world can be used, such as fermented brown rice water (to deter pests and disease). Companion planting in general, or perennial companion planting can be used, to further deter pests and disease.

1.4 Disadvantages of Natural Farming

 

The weeds and pests are left alone

In unfavorable conditions, there is a chance that excess pests and weeds can destroy a part of our crop.

Smaller yields

In some cases, with no added fertilizers or other help, the yields can be smaller, especially in the first few years.

Takes time to reap full benefits

It might take 3 years or more, to enjoy full benefits of natural farming, due to prior soil and chemical abuse, the ecosystem has to re-establish.

1.5 Start Natural Farming

 

People who are new to natural farming should try it on a limited piece of their land first. Especially if the soil was previously heavily treated, it might take longer for natural farming to kick off. It might take 3 years or more, to reap the full benefits of natural farming.

To start with natural farming, input has to be chosen, to start growing. The most common input is soil. Eliminate chemicals and intervention in your soil, such as plowing and tilling. Learn about microorganisms in the soil, the surrounding fauna and flora, and how to plant in harmony with those. Natural and ecological farming are similar.

Liquid fertilizers, proper use of mulch, natural insecticides and farming animals (chickens, goats, pigs) are all welcome parts of natural farming.

There is a list of small items you will need to start your journey in natural farming;
  • Glass jars
  • Rubber bands
  • Regular alcohol
  • Brown sugar
  • Clay jars
  • Basic tools
  • Seeds

There are quite a few natural solutions you can use in your ecological garden experience (radical natural gardens do not use them), but they are allowed.

  • Liquid lactic acid bacteria – promotes growth for all plants, neutralizes livestock smell- Fermented brown rice water – repels insects and prevents disease
  • Fish oil – a good source of nitrogen, repelling insects and working as a fertilizer
  • Microorganisms and animals that are naturally present in your soil (bacteria, earthworms, etc.)

Natural farming is one of the simplest and one of the most environmentally friendly farming approaches. For those who are not ready to fully embrace natural farming, they can try with a natural/ecological farming hybrid, to see just how far they can go, depending on their climate, soil, etc.

2. What are perennial plants?

 

Perennial plants are those plants, which usually live longer than two years. They will rest over the fall and winter, but their root systems remain alive, and if the plant survives, it will continue to grow next year.

Most of the perennials live from 2-3 years, but in this period a lot of them reseed themselves, so it appears that they live much longer. In most cases, your perennials will be healthy if you water them regularly, especially in the first year, even if you are dealing with more drought-tolerant perennials.

The soil has to be moist, but not soaked, and most perennials (especially herbs, will require well-drained soil).

2.1 Perennial Vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Leek
  • Sweet potatoes (in zones 8 and up)
  • Radicchio
  • Rhubarb
  • Collard and mustard greens
  • Kale
  • Watercress
  • Okra
  • Arugula
  • Chicory
  • Sea kale
  • Horseradish
  • Stinging nettle
  • Some types of onion and garlic

2.2 Perennial Fruits

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Plums
  • Cherries
  • kiwi, kaki
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Black and red currant
  • Cranberries

2.3 Perennial Herbs

  • Chives
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • horseradish
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Lemon balm
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Valerian
  • Yarrow
  • Fennel
  • Basil
  • Black pepper
  • Borage
  • Roman chamomile

Most of the herbs will do well in full sun, well-drained soil and if possible, in raised beds. Most herbs can tolerate slightly acid soil, but they prefer neutral to alkaline soil.

Rosemary, thyme, lavender, and sage grow well in coastal gardens. Herbs that can grow in partial shade are; parsley, mint, chives, oregano, and lemon balm.

2.4 Perennial Flowers

  • Geraniums
  • Cornflowers
  • Verbena
  • Dahlia
  • Hibiscus
  • Echinacea
  • Bearded Iris and many more

2.5 Perennial Companion Plants

 

  • Asparagus can be planted close to leek, yams, radicchio, collard, and mustard greens, kale, arugula, chicory, horseradish, okra, basil, mint, lavender, sage, rosemary, thyme and more. Avoid planting them with garlic and onion.
  • Kale will grow well with yams, horseradish, mint, lavender, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, valerian, fennel and basil
  • Leek grows well with strawberries
  • Sweet potatoes will grow well with thyme
  • Rhubarb will grow well with onion and garlic
  • Arugula will grow well with mint, rosemary, and thyme
  • Chicory will grow well with mustard greens- Horseradish will grow very well with sweet potatoes, strawberries, asparagus, and rhubarb
  • Strawberries will grow well with horseradish, leek, mint, sage, garlic, onion, borage and thyme
  • Blackberries will grow well with borage, lemon balm, mint, and chives
  • Blueberries will grow well with basil and thyme- Raspberries will grow well with yarrow, chamomile, garlic and onion, leeks and chives
Companion Plants Chart

3. Perennial Planting Calendar Schedule 

 

January

Different herbs and microgreens can be grown indoors. Basil, lemongrass, watercress, radicchio, etc.

February

  • End of February (beginning of march) if the soil can be worked on, we plant Asparagus. Once established it can grow up to 20 years.
  • It might take from 2-3 years to fully produce. Asparagus likes full sun exposure and more sandy soil.
  • It’s advised not to harvest asparagus in its first 2 years of growth, so it has the time to develop strong and healthy roots.
  • After 2 years, asparagus can be harvested from early spring to the end of June.
  • Seeding kale

March

  • Plant Asparagus
  • Leeks can be sown directly into the soil
  • The possibility of planting rhubarb, well-drained soil, full sun, use a one-year crown (March to June)- Planting kale (early spring and summer)
  • Sowing arugula in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil (will also grow in poorer conditions), you can also sow it in late summer, for fall and early winter
  • Plant horseradish in spring or fall, from plant or root cuttings (available at farmer’s market, nurseries)
  • Seed chives- Planting strawberries (when the soil is warm enough), avoid wet and cold soil
  • End of March lemon balm and borage can be sown- Seeding collard greens
  • Planting or replanting lavender

April

Harvesting asparagus- Leeks can be sown directly into the soil- End of April, or in May ( 1 month after the last frost), we can plant sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes will need a minimum of 4 months of warmer temperatures.

  • Plant rhubarb, well-drained soil, full sun, use a one-year crown
  • Plant kale
  • Sow arugula- Plant horseradish
  • Seed chives in rich well-drained soil, full sun or partial sun- Planting strawberries
  • Plant or replanting lavender
  • Sow chamomile
  • Sow mint
  • Lemon balm and borage can be sown

 May

  • Harvest asparagus

End of April, or in May (1 month after the last frost)

  • Plant sweet potatoes
  • Plant or replanting lavender
  • Plant rhubarb
  • Plant kale
  • Sow mint
  • Harvest mint
  • Harvest rhubarb

June

  • Beginning of June – plant Kale
  • Harvest asparagus
  • Plant rhubarb
  • Sow oregano
  • Sow mint
  • Sow or plant Radicchio
  • Harvest kale
  • Harvest mint
  • Harvest rhubarb
  • Plant or replant lavender

 July

  • Plant or replant lavender
  • Sow basil
  • Harvest kale
  • Harvesting mint
  • Harvesting rhubarb

August

  • Harvesting leeks
  • End of August- Possibly harvest first sweet potatoes
  • Sowing arugula, end of August
  • Planting or replanting lavender
  • Plant horseradish
  • End of August, planting strawberries
  • Harvesting mint
  • Harvesting rhubarb

 September

  • Harvest leeks
  • Harvest sweet potatoes
  • Sowing arugula beginning of September
  • Plant or replant lavender
  • Beginning of September, plant horseradish
  • Planting strawberries
  • Harvesting Radicchio

 October

Beginning of October (if it’s not too cold)

  • Strawberries can still be planted
  • Harvesting Radicchio
  • Harvesting collard greens
  • Harvesting horseradish
  • Plant or replant lavender

November

  • Harvest Radicchio
  • Plant or replant lavender
  • Harvest collard greens

 December

  • Harvest Radicchio
  • Harvest collard greens
We wish you well in planting your natural garden, that will be rewarding for many years. Let us know how you get on, we would love to see pictures of what you have achieved on a minimal budget.

 

For more information to make your garden a success, click to read these articles;

Companion Planting 

Polytunnels 

Crop Rotation

Planting Zones

 

 

 

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For more information about natural farming and perennials visit;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perennial_vegetable

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_farming

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