It was time to plant the peanuts/groundnut - and I had read so much about wood chip farming. Specially watching the film Back to Eden really inspired me to experiment with wood chip farming, just the way its done in the movie. I decided to run a large scale (and expensive) experiment to demonstrate to the farm help that crops can be grown this way. We already had a large stash of wood chips which had been ordered to mulch the tree saplings. All we needed was old newspapers and some vermi compost. I guess any manure would have done, but we had access to good vermi compost, so decided to order that instead.
On the field where we were planning to plant the groundnut, we spread out the newspaper first. A couple of sheets and immediately poured vermi compost onto it, so that the newspapers won't fly away. With a rake we spread the compost all over, making a fine layer.
Then we added the wood chips on top of this compost. Again with a rake, we spread it evenly all over the surface. About 4-5 inches in thickness.
Took us 2-3 days to complete the entire patch - which was about 1000 square yards in size.
In the photo below, you can see the contrast between the bare soil, and the wood chip field we had now built. It was almost like applying a band aid on the surface of the exposed damaged soil.
With the help of a rope, we marked out a straight line, and with a rake made furrows on the wood chips.
Into this furrow we dropped the seeds of groundnuts. And then covered them up with the wood chips.
Then we gently watered the field. Okay so the advantage of planting like this is as follows:
1. No tilling is required. This ensures that the soil is not upturned and exposed to the harsh sun which destroys all organic matter, and oxidises the soil.
2. The earthworms and other life within the soil are not disturbed. They continue to live peacefully while we grow food on the surface.
3. Putting the newspaper keeps the weeds out. In the photo below, we still see some grasses growing out, but these can simply be pulled out by hand. They do not require serious de-weeding.
4. We added the compost because our soils were depleted. The process can be followed without any vermi compost
5. The mulch ensures the soil remains moist through the entire crop cycle.
6. Pulling out the groundnut was really simply - didn't require flooding the field and manual labour. Even the kids could do it.
7. Lastly the productivity of the crop was something no one in the village had ever seen before!
See photos below of how the crop finally turned out to be.
Update 2020 : Wood chips farming is a way of life at Aanandaa. We make our own chips, and cover all our beds and fields with this beautiful mulch. See these videos to learn more!