By Peter Jackson, guest columnist
posted September 2, 2022
Nature Farming represents a myriad of styles of agriculture of East Asia, originating in Japan. A large focus is on not tilling or disturbing the soil, using mulch between harvests to build soil and suppress weeds, and an ethos that sees humans as part of Nature.
(For more information, see my website Cascadiannaturalfarming.org)
There are three main routes of creating these brews but I’ll discuss two here.
First, we have the putrefactive “let things rot in a bucket” Green Manure, a Fermented Plant Extract pioneered by the Effective Microbes Research Organization.
The making of a Green Manure Tea is simple. Place chopped-up plant material such as comfrey, horsetail, nettles, etc… into a bucket with water, using a mesh bag to fill with the greens if you want to run it through an irrigation setup. Or, if you’re like me and just haul buckets around, simply weight it down with a large rock and then cover with water.
This recipe isn’t as structured as the other two, however the volume of plant material rotting will determine its potency later. Keep in the shade, covered lightly with a cloth or a lid.
The advantages of the Green Manure Tea lies in its simplicity, the disadvantages lie in its smell, so make sure to wear gloves when applying as the smell is hard to wash off.
Variations on the general idea include adding forest soil as an inoculant, and making plant specific brews. If you’re growing crops such as strawberries, tomatoes or apples, make a liquid fertilizer from your crop residues to act as a biostimulant crafted to the plants’ specific nutritional profile. (Down in South America, Jairo Restrepo, will add fire ash, rock dusts, milk, molasses, along with the plant matter.) Dilution rates should be at least 1:100 to start, to avoid burning, with awareness that it will get more potent as it ages. If you think metrically, it will be easier to properly calculate ratios.
Image Source: www.naturalfarminghawaii.net
The second method, a Fermented Plant Extract (FPE), can be made using Lactic Acid Bacteria sources such as a salt brine or whey. The goal is capturing plant hormones and bioactive substances and a diversity of plants is encouraged.
Harvest early morning at first light to capture the most phytohormones, as they’re produced at night. Harvest abundant and vigorous fresh growing tips in the spring from plants or almost anything medicinal or edible. Fruits and flowers can be fermented for a late season blooming/budding fertilizer. Chop plant matter into 1/2 to 1/4 inch pieces.
Use two gallons plant matter, two gallons unchlorinated water, one quart molasses, one quart Lactic Acid Bacteria inoculant/ or commercial EM-1. Keep covered, stirring daily for a week and then strain through a cloth into sealed bottles for storage when pH is below 3.5 or the result tastes like a kombucha or vinegar.
Strongly flavored and medicinal values are encouraged, and a pest control variation is described in the APNAN literature called EM-5 in which garlic, hot pepper, and other spicy herbs are fermented and then stabilized with distilled alcohol and vinegar. FPE’s store for 90 days adequately in a cool dark place, but best use is fresh before that window closes (in temperate climates we probably have a longer window). 1:1000 soil drench or 1:500 foliar for application.
Image Source: www.cascadiannaturalfarming.org/files
Rule Zero of Nature Farming is to always use what you have available, so many arguments can be had about which recipe is best suited for which bioregion. In some places, access to fresh plant matter is more seasonal, in some places sugar may be more expensive. Both recipes can be used every third watering if necessary.
After eight years of making these different recipes I prefer to teach about the FPE’s, as they’re already more predigested, still edible and can be quite tasty if made with non-toxic plants. Both of these recipes can be useful in making healthier plants in soils that may be lacking, and over time you’ll find less and less of a need to inoculate microbes or spray nutritive solutions if proper soil mineral balancing is achieved alongside continual mulching or cover cropping. If you aren’t poisoning the soil or disrupting fungal networks continuously, Nature will provide everything you need for healthy foods and healthy humans.
Peter Jackson is a lifelong resident of Fidalgo Island, and has been Nature Farming for the past dozen years. He also finds inspiration from Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Ancestral Fermentation, Permaculture, Biodynamics, Agroecology, and Syntropic Agriculture, while blending it all together into what he calls Permadynamic Bioculture. Since 2017, through his organization Cascadian Natural Farming he has hosted speakers from S. Korea and Hawaii, taught at the NW Permaculture Convergence, the Regenerative Hemp and Agriculture Conference on Orcas, and the Global Earth Repair Conference, as well as organizing the online International Nature Farming Convergence. Home Garden Consultations are available.