May 5, 2021

Planting Pasture the Fukuoka Way

One of our seasonal chores is planting pasture. I have a long list of blog posts about my attempts to establish sustainable pasture, and admit it's been a slow road. Like so many other things on our homestead, we had much to learn. 

Initially, we simply broadcast seed and hoped for the best. Birds ate quite a bit of it, which is expected and why seeding rates for broadcasting are so much higher than for seed drilling. Dan has wanted a seed drill for some time, but we haven't found one yet at a price we can pay. So I've experimented with other methods. 

One experiment that has worked pretty well is what I call my "modified Fukuoka method." This method covers the seed with dirty barn litter as mulch. It's worked well enough so that we've gradually made progress to the point where we no longer have huge patches of bare soil to plant. Now, planting is mostly seasonal spot seeding. 

Last month, I added another One-Straw Revolution inspired technique - seed pellets. This is similar to the seed bombs I showed you last fall. The difference is that they aren't formed into balls, but spread out to dry as pellets. The bombs were fun, but the pellets let me spread the seed more evenly, so I think I prefer this method for my purposes. (The "bombs" are great for lobbing into a hard to reach area.)

For spring planting, I made my pellets with two forage mixes and a pasture seed mix, plus whatever seed I had handy such as clover, turnips, echinacea, oregano, sunflowers, sugar beets, etc. 

Mr. Fukuoka simply mixed seed and clay to form his pellets.
I followed the idea for the seed bombs and added compost.

Mix by hand (adjusting ingredients) until the seed is covered.

Seed pellets. I think the technique is better suited to smaller seeds.

Drying in the sun. I stirred it occasionally for even drying.

To plant, I took a bucketful and looked for spots of bare soil.

I think the pellets disguise the seed pretty well!

Making the pellets is a pleasant afternoon job for shade. I think as long as they are thoroughly dried, they will keep. So a large quantity could be set by for the next season. 

I planted this batch a few days before rain was forecast. I'm curious as to whether the rain will wash the clay off, and how they'll grow. I'm hopeful that this will help fill in the bare spots in the pasture with increased plant diversity. It's fun to experiment like this!


Ed said...

I've always considered seed much cheaper than labor so have errored towards over seeding and feeding the local bird population a good meal. But back when my labor wasn't very valuable, I spent time on a harrow that we dragged over seeded patches to cover up the majority of the see or at least roll it around in the soil so it wasn't as appetizing.

wyomingheart said...

That looks like so much fun! Very curious how this performs, so please update when you can. We can borrow equipment from our local Ag dept, and I wondered if you have ever checked in your area. We found out about it from our County Extension office. Have a good week!

Leigh said...

Ed, harrowing would definitely help, especially for large areas. I probably wouldn't have tried this method if it wasn't for small areas of spot seeding; for that it works very well.

I think we each have to figure out what methods seem like acceptable labor. It's funny, but some activities are more preferable than others. If something is enjoyable, it doesn't seem like work.

Wyomingheart, that's wonderful! I don't think ours loans equipment, but we'll have to check. I visited our cooperative extension office when we first moved to the county, but they focus primarily on lawns, flower gardens, and ornamentals. They had very little to offer for even vegetable gardens. It would be work checking on though.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I am excited to see how it goes Leigh. As my clover did not take last year, I might try this.

Leigh said...

TB, I have found that it often takes several planting seasons before I can get an area to grow. I have a couple of stubborn spots in our pasture that either make a poor showing or no showing at all. Very discouraging. Yet, I've been stubborn too, believing that eventually the soil must respond. And eventually it does! I have no idea why it is this way; I suspect it has something to do with soil biology.

Chris said...

That's a great idea Leigh! Birds will always go for an easy meal. Now the seeds are disguised by dirt though, it will be more challenging. Thwarting the hungry hoards, means we get something back for our labour and ingenuity. 🙂