Synergistic Agriculture – Emilia Hazelip

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Emilia Hazelip – Synergistic Agriculture

“Taking care of the Earth by taking care of the soil so that it can take care of itself.”

Emilia Hazelip was a Catalan organic gardener and pioneer of the concept of synergistic gardening. Her farming methods were inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka after reading his book The One Straw Revolution.

Synergistic Agriculture Permaculture


Emilia Hazelip methods are similar to what we would see in a forest, where nature continuously grows and dies and returns everything back to the soil.

It is the micro organisms in the soil that feed the plants and destroy pathogenic bacteria.

In one gram of undisturbed soil there can be up to four billion bacteria. The dead bodies of the bacteria can be up to 80 thousand kilos in one hectare of protected soil in one year. But in a cultivated soil this number falls to just 5 thousand to 6 thousand kilos.

In Synergistic Agriculture Emilia Hazelip gives four principals

  • No cultivation
  • No chemical or organic fertilizers
  • No chemical treatments
  • No compaction of the soil

Synergistic Agriculture utilizes the natural fertility of the soil and maintains that fertility permanently, through natural processes rather than human intervention.

Since the soil has its own dynamic, the adding of compensatory fertilizers: compost, ashes or other materials, is not necessary.

Since 1937 the Japanese microbiologist and farmer, Masanobu Fukuoka, has worked toward a new agriculture, based on ecological principles, which he has named Natural Agriculture.

It is the cultural and climatic adaptations which Emilia Hazelip has developed during her years of research into Fukuokas non-labour agriculture, which have resulted in the system which she calls Synergistic Agriculture, since this method utilizes the law of synergy in growing vegetables.

Emilia Hazelip Video

This video shows Emilia Hazelip creating a 1 acre synergistic garden. This is the no-till system which she christened Synergistic Agriculture. Also see: Permaculture Gardening Videos

I have included the main points from the videos below it.

Main Notes from the Emilia Hazelip Permaculture Video

  • After the final tilling, set out beds with sticks and then clear paths between the beds, mounding the soil from the pathways to build the beds. Mounds should be 4 feet wide with 20 inches for the paths. The beds should be 10 to 30 inches high, the beds deeper the beds the more room for the roots.
  • The beds can be built in what ever shape you like but make sure that you can easily reach the center of the bed.
  • Raised beds will help to prevent your garden becoming waterlogged after heavy rains.
  • Sheet mulch – cover the ground with and biodegradable material like cardboard, straw or even old carpets. A sheet mulch will clear ground of existing vegetation and you can grow potatoes at the same time.
  • It is not the crop that is grown that uses up the fertility of the soil, it is the cultivation that destroys the essential, fertility producing microbes in the soil.
  • Growing with these raised beds stops compaction of the soil because they are never walked on and the mulch covering stops the rain from forming a hard crust on the soil.
  • Plants synthesize matter from light and are capable of doing biological transmutations. Plants only take 2.5% of their mass from the soil. The rest comes from light and gasses. By leaving in the ground, the parts of the plant that we don’t use, the plant will give back more elements to the soil that it took out during it’s life.
  • The constant activity of the soil organisms further increase the soil fertility.
  • Open up the mulch a few days before planting in the Spring to allow the soil to warm up.
  • Compost is not used in the garden, but it is used as a planting medium to start the plants in the greenhouse. It is not used to unnaturally force feed the plants in the garden.
  • Use marigolds and other flowers throughout the garden.

Companion Planting

More about using flowers to help the vegetables in your garden:

  • Beans and peas are legumes and fix nitrogen into the soil. One hectare of beans or other legumes can fix up to 550 kilos of nitrogen in to the soil You can use ash, which contains potash, to help grow your beans. This provides free fertilizer for your soil.
  • The microbes in the soil need air to breathe but only small amounts of filtered air. Cultivation exposes the microbes to huge amounts of air and they die.
  • After harvest the plants are cut off leaving the roots in the soil. The plant material can simply be left on top of the beds, providing further mulch.
  • Onions, garlic and leeks can be planted on the side of the garden beds. They function as pests controllers as well as being food crops. They can be intermixed with other plants like lettuce or swiss chard.
  • The microbial hummus needed for soil fertility form very quickly.
  • Many plants reseed themselves – an advantage of letting plants finish their life cycle. You can transplant these plants to where ever you want them to continue growing.
  • Mulching the beds with newspaper, cardboard, straw, leaves, sawdust, shredded branches or sheep’s wool. You can use grass clippings as mulch, but make sure you cut it and let it dry before it starts to seed.
  • The first year the soil will be eating the mulch but as the organic content in the soil improves, the amount of mulch needed will reduce.
  • You will still need to weed, but it will gradually reduce as time goes on. This is an evolving system.
  • Indian Runner ducks, some birds, hedgehogs, lizards, snakes and some types of beetles all eat slugs. Copper strips made into cylinders will protect new plants from slugs, when they are most vulnerable to slugs.
  • When harvesting plants like lettuce, cut above the ground allowing the plant a chance to regrow, or providing dead matter for the soil to feed on.
  • Earthworms are an important inhabitant of the soil. Each day the earthworm makes it’s own weight in castings. One hectare (2 .5 acres) of non cultivated soil can produce ten thousand kilos of worm castings in one year. This is about 5% of the total volume of the soil. The earthworms can aerate the soil up to a depth of 5 meters.
  • In sandy soil the castings improve the soils ability to hold moisture.
  • Flowers are very important as they may attract beneficial insects, secrete chemicals to protect other plants or have edible, medicinal, or economic benefits as well as looking very attractive.
  • Diversity means a healthy, rich soil. Plants lots of plants with different root structures and leave those root structures in the soil when you harvest.Force feeding your soil will create an imbalance or indigestion – let things work naturally – synergistically.
  • Everything grown in the garden can be used as mulch, be sure to let the plant roots die before using as a mulch.
  • In nature, nothing happens in exactly the same way twice in the same spot. Diversify.

Author: This article was written for Self Sufficiency HQ by Caroline Taylor of Klamath Falls, Oregon.

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