Setting up a garden

Published 13-05-2015

We’ve just moved into our new home, and now that the snow and ice have melted, the kind of property that we have has revealed itself. Basically, in the last couple of years, the former owner didn’t do much with the garden. So our first step is to perform a major garden cleanup. This will be followed by planning and organisation of tasks.

  1. The first step is to observe.

Draw a rough sketch or birdseye view plan of your property / land. Add the fence or boundary, as well as the topography, location of trees, plants and bushes, any swampy low lying areas, any natural ponds or rivers, any existing fruit trees, bushes and veggie garden. Include the cardinal points, where bad weather mostly comes from, e.g. wind, rain, storms, hail, and also the movement of the sun in every season (if possible).

Where are the sunniest, warmest spots on your land? Where are the frost pockets, snow holes and places that don’t receive much light? What about your neighbourhood - who is surrounding you, what activities do they carry out which may affect your land, etc.? Are there any powerlines, mobile phone towers, main roads, etc., that pass nearby? Where is your house, garage, workshed, etc., positioned on the land?

Once you have this kind of plan in place, then you can move onto the next step.

  1. The next step is to understand nature in your area.

If you’re someone who has lived most of their life in the city, or who is actually an outdoorsy type, you may approach the notion of understanding nature in two totally different ways. In his One Straw Revolution book, Japanese farmer, Masanobu Fukuoka spent 65 years trying to understand nature. He refined his observations and knowledge into a simple farming practice that anyone could apply anywhere around the world. The main principle behind the One Straw Revolution is to understand what nature looks like and how it behaves in an unadulterated state. Not such an easy feat considering man has dominated and shaped nature to its liking over centuries.

Fukuoka’s natural farming technique is balanced on the do-nothing approach. Which doesn’t mean sitting back and relaxing; it simply means not reinventing the wheel. Why try to do something ourselves and expend unnecessary energy, when nature already does the same thing, and much better.

The idea is to observe and see how nature exists without man’s intervention, and then to imitate and maintain that approach. It also involves correcting what man has done so that nature can revert back to its unadulterated state.

The do-nothing approach is built on four main core principles: a) use no chemicals, b) don’t weed by tillage, c) avoid cultivating or plowing the soil, and d) add no fertiliser or compost.

So what is the normal, natural, unadulterated state of the nature in your local area and on your farm / block of land? Do you know? Furthermore, what naturally grows in your environment, without you adding anything to it?

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