Emilia Hazelip’s Synergistic Gardening

Emilia Hazelip Synergistic garden bedsI’ve taken procrastination to whole new levels on this one and for that I apologise. We showed the Synergistic Garden video by Emilia Hazelip at the May Seedy Sunday.  Finally, I manage to get the notes up and a couple of links for your edification.

I have to admit, I’ve become a little obsessed by these beautiful beds, all curved and mounded in sweeping lines. I also love the very way they are constructed, in sort of gentle sweeping movements. Due to my terrain I’m not able to do them at my house, so I’ve been eyeing up other people’s gardens to work on.

Anyway, here are notes on the video including links to some other pieces on Emilia…

Emilia Hazelip – Synergistic Gardening

Based on work of Masanobu Fukuoka, The One Straw Revolution. 1978. Rodale.

Need to modify systems to our own location. Want to get high-yields whiile maintaining the soil’s own fertility.

  • No cultivation

  • No chemical or organic fertilisers

  • No chemical treatments

  • No compaction of the soil

Set out beds with sticks and then clear paths for your feet, mounding the soil into beds. Mounds should be 4 feet wide with 20 inches for the path. 10 – 30 inches for the beds deeper the beds the more room for the roots. Give them any shape you wish but make sure you can reach the centre of the beds easily.

Sheet mulch – cover the ground with cardboard. A good way to clear ground and you can grow potatoes at the same time.

Plants synthesise from light. Plants only take 2.5% of their mass from the soil. The rest comes from air and light. Plants give back much more to the soil then they take out.

Use marigolds all through the garden.

Beans and peas are legumes and fix nitrogen into the soil. You can use ash, which contains potash, to help grow your beans. This provides free fertiliser for your soil, the bacteria providing many benefits to your plants. These plants will also provide a living mulch between your plants. After harvest, the plants can simply be cut off, leaving the roots in the soil. the plant matter can simply be left on top of the beds. providing further mulch.

Synergistic gardening uses compost in the greenhouse or flats to start the plants – it doesn’t ‘force feed’ your soil with it.

Onions, garlic and leeks can be planted on the side of the garden beds. They function as pests controllers as well as being nutritious. They can be intermixed with other plants like lettuce or swiss chard.

Many plants reseed themselves – an advantage of letting plants finish their life cycle.

Mulching the mounds – Newspaper, cardboard, straw, leaves, 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 soill will be eating the mulch but as the organic contents in the soil improves, the amount of mulch needed will reduce. You will still need to weed, but it will gradually reduce – it’s all part of the evolving cycle.

Ducks (Indian Runner ducks), some birds, hedgehogs, lizards all eat slugs. Copper cuffs, or ones made from coke cans can protect plants from 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.

Don’t stand on your beds! this will damage and compact the soil.

Flowers are very important as they may attract beneficial insects, secrete chemicals to protect other plants (eg marigolds), or have edible, medicinal, or economic benefits as well as looking very attractive.

Diversity = a healthy, rich soil. Plants lots of plants with different root structures and leave those root structures in the soil when you harvest. Emilia says that force feeding your soil will create an imbalance or indigestion – let things work naturally – synergistically.

In nature, nothing happens in exactly the same way twice in the same spot. Diversify.

More information

The Synergistic Agriculture of Emilia Hazelip at the Fukoka Farming website

Watch Emilia Hazelip’s video on Synergistic Gardening


9 Responses to “Emilia Hazelip’s Synergistic Gardening”

  1. August 1, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. 2 Saeid
    February 18, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Just read a small part ina book about the Synergetics gardening and it’s inspired me to learn more about it.
    Of course dear Emilia read some stuf about your projects and your videos on Youtube,very helpful.
    I would like to ask you if it is possible for you to introduce me some books about this(Synergistic Gardening) subject or any other sources is welcome too.

    Thank you,

  3. May 22, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Dear Annamanuka,

    Thank you so much for sharing your great notes on Emilia’s video! I just watched it for the first time, and was blown by the simplicity and naturalness of her method, merging Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution insights with permacultural gardening. You have saved me the work of trying to understand Emilia’s Catalan-flavored English and taking notes – probably a day’s worth. Thank you!

    Frank Michael

  4. May 22, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    My pleasure :)

    Thanks so much for the lovely note.

    Warm regards,
    ~ Anna

  5. 5 Constant Gardener
    June 27, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Have you ever tried to build one of these gardens? They look so beautiful

    Thanks for the notes!

  6. 6 rebeca
    June 28, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Does anyone know the titles and authors of the books she mentions at the end. I had trouble figuring out the names and I can’t seem to find them. Thanks!

  7. July 16, 2010 at 2:16 am

    I watched Elilia Hazelip’s video last night with my husband and I was ready to run outside immediately and start digging the beds. I went bakc this morning to get clearer instructions, but as I was watching more closely I became confused because after she laid out the four basic rules, the first being no cultivation, she said “after the last tilling we set out sticks for the beds and the paths”. This was very disappointing to me and I did not understand why the land had to be tilled if the first principle was no cultivation. Couold you answer these concerns because I would really like to follow this model as an experiement, but I do not want to till. Is it possible that I can stake out the beds and paths, and then dig out the paths without tilling. The land that I am using is covered in long grass right now, but won’t the digging, relaying the soil on top of the beds, covering it with cardboard, and layering the straw mulch do the trick? Please help. I am fascinated by her method and want to put it into practice ASAP.


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