ARE YOUR PLANTS FAT?

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ARE YOUR PLANTS FAT?

Master Cho likes to compare plants and plant growth to humans. For one thing it makes it easy to understand. He is known for saying “Don’t make your plants fat.” What does he mean?

Nitrogen is given to plants to encourage growth. It gives them a dark green color and great growth. Then we wonder how to get rid of the bugs. We like to give plants nitrogen because we like to nice green color and the fast growth, but it turns out too much nitrogen makes plants, in Master Chos words, ‘fat’. And just like humans, plants that are fat are not healthy.

A ‘fat’ plant will bring in bugs, aphids, scale, white fly, beetles, sucking and chewing insects that come calling because they detect a sick plant. The chemical companies have convinced us that the darker the green the better. We can see results and think the chemicals are working. Then the pests come in and the chemical companies can then sell us all kinds of more chemicals to kill the pests. They tell us that nutrient deficiencies make plants unhealthy so we buy more fertilizers. But these plants are already over-fed! They make a lot of money and we think we don’t have a green thumb.IMG_20170314_192158

In this picture are two roselle plants. The one on the right is healthy and properly fed. The one on the left was given some nitrogen (organic fish fertilizer) and is sick, weak, and full of chewing and sucking insects. Notice there are no chew marks on the healthy plant. These two plants were spaced about an arms-length apart so it wasn’t because the pests did not find the healthy plant. Soon after this picture was taken the sick plant was dead. The one on the right received no fertilizer and continued to grow and produce.

Keep  in mind that nature is perfectly capable of fixing nitrogen and getting it to plants. Look at a lush green forest or other natural landscape. It grows perfectly even though no one is going through the forest with fertilizer. How? The air all around us is 78% nitrogen. There is no shortage of nitrogen. You don’t really need to even be concerned with nitrogen fixing plants, usually legumes. If you have proper microbial ecology in your soil the nitrogen will get fixed and your plants will uptake what they need. Microbial ecology is the key.

This is a major difference between Master Cho Korean Natural Farming SYSTEM (KNF) and other methods of growing plants, even organically. KNF is a system approach that relies on two components.

  1. Soil Foundation: Make sure your soil has high levels of ecologically balanced microbes, a healthy and alive soil.
  2. Nutritive Cycle: Give plants inputs that encourage the plants life cycle stage. The focus is not on NPK, trace minerals etc. That comes from having vibrant healthy soil. KNF inputs are not used for nutrition. They provide chemical signals, hormones, enzymes, co-factors etc. that will tell the plant what to do, eg. grow or make fruit. The nutrition comes from the soil.

So stop overfeeding your plants, reduce your pests, and save money.

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300 Year Old Permaculture Garden

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This family garden is 300 years old. It literally contains tons of food: cassava, coconut, banana, watercress, taro, shellfish, roofing material, flowers, and much more. There is no tilling, no fertilising, just tons of food grown naturally. The garden is tended and harvested, but nature is left to do most of the work. Even if neglected for months at a time the garden will flourish.

There are no rows of a single crop type so pests do little damage. Flowers are grown here and there. Sometimes the flowers are harvested and sold at the Saturday market, but the rest of the time they provide beauty for the gardeners, and pollen and nectar for the beneficial insects. 

This garden is the perfect example of the goal of Natural Farming. Grow food in a natural environment, letting the naturally balanced ecosystem provide food without huge inputs of labor, chemicals, or money.  Natural Farming is not new.

However, science has made the process of mimicking nature easier and more effective. It is a systems approach to agriculture. It can be scaled from small backyard gardens to large commercial operations. It is ideal for a family farm with some chickens, pigs, a few head of livestock, orchards and gardens, tended by a single couple with or without children. It was developed in temperate South Korea, where it is used by an entire county. It is now practised in all climates in over 40 countries worldwide. It combines the wisdom of the old ways with modern science.

It uses no dangerous chemicals. In fact, all inputs are made from local ingredients and are edible directly by humans. Why would you give your plants or animals, food you plan to eat, dangerous and toxic inputs? We are all part of the same food system so we want to give our plants and animals food that is safe and edible. What kind of things do we use in Natural Farming? Things like fast growing herbs, fruits, eggshells, fish, bone. Everything is fermented, making it bio-available and fast acting, just like chemical fertilisers, but ultimately safe. Organic fertilisers need to be composted and under-go biological transformation to be available to plants. This takes labor, time, and is not very precise.  So you can see that Natural Farming is effective, like chemicals, yet safe, like organic. It is natural, safe, and effective. Stay tuned to learn more.