Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Grow yer own dang biomass inadvertently

July 16, 2006

Kitchen garden, May 2006
Occitanian kitchen garden in May, as neat as you please

Way back in January, and then again in March, and again in April and May, I had big plans for my kitchen garden. Big and neat. Knowing that I would have to return from Occitania to the Polar Circle for two months of gainful employment, I alphabetized my seed beds and planted sticks for beans and gourds to climb up and a trellis for what I hoped would be groves of tomato plants, dripping with 4 sorts of fat tomatoes. I made a shockingly Dutch-looking irrigation system, so that when it came time to water, my neighbour, Sidi ElGouche could throw open the sluices and let er rip. And Sidi ElGouche being the sweetheart that he is, was not shy about making sure that in my absence, my kitchen garden got a goodly amount of water.

When I returned to my garden on the 14th of July, I encountered a solid plot of homegrown biomass.

My kitchen garden after two months of neglect (July 2006).
Occitanian kitchen garden in July 2006, a little less neat, but inadvertently producing what will become a thick mat of biomass
In some places it is impossible to walk, the weeds are so thick. My garden neighbours welcomed me back with a pat on the back and sarky, Bon Courage and I’ve set to work pulling the undesireables to give the happy few some space. Shocking and amazing, underneath all the tangle I am finding my plants. It turns out that the weed layer kept the baby plants in suspended animation after they got to be about 20 cm high. Everyone is still there and doing fine, thank you.

This is all very far from being a disaster (I keep assuring myself), and although it looks dramatic, I try to focus on the fact that I wanted to increase the organic material in my soil and experiment with no-till agriculture anyway. Although I’m sure the practioners of no-till agriculture, a form of farming popularised by soil scientist Masanobu Fukuoka in which seeds are cast into undergrowth and the soil is disturbed as little as possible, are a wee bit more intentional, it will probably only take me a week to give ‘my weeds’ the home-court advantage and lay down a massive layer of mulch to boot. If I had been here the past two months, I probably wouldn’t have been able to give myself this opportunity. Occitania is bringing out the ‘life is giving me lemonade’ side of my personality, as you can tell. But I also hope to heq that I can find some courgette, cukes, luffah, pumpkin, spaghetti squash, gourds, galia melon, cantaloup, watermelon, poblano pepper, marconi pepper, corn, chick peas, adzuki, kidney beans, sunflowers and soy somewhere in the teeming vegetation that has become my lower garden.

Lower kitchen garden in May 2006
Neat in May

Lower kitchen garden, July 2006
Less neat in July

Check it (ripped and edited from the Wikipedia article on Fukuoka):

Masanobu Fukuoka on the cover of a German-edition book, from Wikipedia, used entirely without permission

Culiblog till / no-till links:

debra at 15:54 | | post to


  1. Dear Debra,
    I just started reading your blog and happened across this gem. I’m living in Beijing right now (hence the blog moniker, Stoveless–check out the kitchens here and you’ll understand–but once I return to California this fall I plan to do some major uprooting and re-planning of my little garden.
    I’ve been reading Fukuoka’s One-Straw Revolution and it is truly inspiring. So is your garden! Hoping for an excellent harvest this summer.
    Joanna Swan

    Comment by Joanna Swan — February 26, 2011 @ 14:10

  2. Hi Joanna,

    Thanks for the harvest wishes! You too - I’m going to the garden (the Amsterdam one which I call Slim Pickins) right now.

    Planting fava, dahlias (in the adjacent garden since I don’t have room). Very excited about this year in the gardenS!.


    Warm regards,


    Comment by debra — February 26, 2011 @ 14:32

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