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Working with Nature in Synergistic Organic Farming

A synergy is a situation where individual elements come together to cause an enhanced effect as a collaborative effort of all aspect; that each individual elements cannot cause on alone. Synergistic Agriculture was a method of farming introduced in 1980s, by Emilia Hazelip. The method allows farming without the need for invasive process of digging or lightly scratching the soil; in short, there is no superficial disturbance of the soil. It has been termed as lazy farming in some circles of farming.

Emily believed that disturbing the soil by digging, scratching, weeding, or ploughing exposes the organic life in soil. Exposure of soil microorganisms will inevitably lead to their death with or without human intervention. Synergistic farming is organic farming that goes all the way; the farmers do not use any chemicals or even disturb the soil. It is an interesting way of looking at farming, normal organic farmers may use biological methods of control involving using a trap like a wasp trap, feed their pet rabbit, just invest in amazing rabbit hutch plans and even, build a bug hotels, but the bottom line is they disturb the soil by digging. The disturbance of the soil is believed to have adverse effects on soil life.

Synergistic farming is an interesting way of doing organic farming based on truly believing that nature is self-sustaining and only needs little or no human intervention.

Synergistic Agriculture is a method that has been developed since the 1980s by a Spanish woman called Emilia Hazelip. This method allows you to farm without digging or even scratching the soil, not even superficially. This protects the bacteria, fungi and all forms of invisible life allowing complex, subtle and beneficial interactions. Ploughing, or any other disturbance of the soil kills millions of underground and microscopic creatures and prevents organic matter accumulating in the soil. This destroys the living soils activity and all the resulting benefits to crops. In return, we have to reproduce the benefits of the natural activity with the “myth” of applied fertilizers. In the natural environment 95% of the nutrients, come from the sun and atmospheric gases.

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Synergistic farming follows a step of principles as introduced by Emilia Hazelip. The principles are as follows:

1. The continuous fertilization of the soil by a permanent organic cover (addition of humus)

2. The growing of vegetables (annuals) in association with a diverse range of other plants

3. No ploughing or any other type of disturbing soil because the soil “works” itself

4. No compaction

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Interested in synergistic organic farming? Well, you are in luck; here are some pointers into perfecting the practice.

1. The creation of a ‘Synergistic’ garden begins, as do all other gardens, with digging the soil. However, this digging is a one-off procedure allowing soil to as quickly as possible find its own equilibrium from which fertility can then arise.

2. The vegetable beds are created by digging the soil from walkways and piling the soil to make raised beds, ensuring that foot traffic is kept off the growing surfaces to avoid compaction; better aeration allows soil to mature more quickly, activating the latent fertility of even depleted, granular soil, rapidly preparing it for fertilizer-free cultivation. This should be done when the soil is not too wet, too dry or frozen. The creation of dedicated walkways is essential in SA because one of the worst forms of soil disturbance is compaction and foot and machine traffic must be kept separate.

3. Though, perhaps, it is better to look at the making of raised beds from the opposite direction, the point of the raised beds may not be to have raised beds, but to take the good soil from the pathways so as not to waste it.

4. There is no need for retaining walls in these types of beds, there can be some ‘slumping’ from the edges of the beds, but when properly organized with dense and continuous plantings, the soil quickly becomes stabilized with all the diverse roots.

5. All parts of the beds formed should be accessible to the gardener from standing on the walkways so there is no need to stand on the growing surface; it is recommended that the beds are about 1.20m wide and the walkways about 50cm wide, but this will depend upon your own reach and what you feel comfortable with.

6. The shape of your raised beds is only limited however by the reach of your imagination. However, it can be quite useful to create raised beds in an E-W orientation when possible, so that the edges face North-South, allowing for the creation of distinctive microclimates.

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