Way back at the beginning of lockdown, I was alerted to the fact that the Permaculture film ‘Inhabit’ was free to view at the moment. As I’m not great at watching things, I’d not got round to watching it till last night and I’m glad that I did.
One of the practitioners being interviewed in the film, Susanna, explained how she had learned a technique for sowing beans from the writing of Masanobu Fukuoka. In the video she was shown broadcast sowing the beans into a field where the previous crop had been harvested and its stalks left as mulch. This meant she could grow the beans without having to dig the soil.
Now, with my soil currently being very hard, well frankly impenetrable, the idea that I might be able to sow my own beans without digging sounded most appealing. However, I wasn’t so sure the beans would survive the interest of the resident birds without a more substantial covering than crop residue.
Thus, this morning, I started out with the following space near my daughter’s apple tree:
I’d already cleared the borage yesterday, not at that point being aware it could come in handy as mulch. In any case, as mentioned above, I didn’t think plant debris would afford sufficient protection, so my daughter and I cleared the area of the rest of the plants (onions and phacelia), scattered some runner beans and then covered them with manure.
In truth, this mulch is mostly straw, so isn’t too different from the plant debris we could have used instead. However, I am hoping that the horse manure will make all the difference in terms of holding the straw down as much as anything else. It is also a lot thicker and therefore better hides the beans.
So, now, it’s a case of watching and waiting. It will be a couple of weeks, probably, before we go back to collect more manure, by which point it may be possible to ascertain if this technique would be worth continuing.