Grain Growing


High Yeild, Sustainable Method


1.      Zero or minimum tillage

2.      Step by step procedure

3.      Mulching and early weeding

4.      Plant thinning 

5.      Knee high booster composting

6.      Hand watering during dry spells

7.      Harvest and leave soil richer 

8.      Profit and give back


1.Zero or minimum tillage

The minimum tillage principle is that a hole is dug for each plant using a hoe. This hole is filled with worm compost, the displaced top soil and additional manure. The whole family and neighbours gather on planting days. While this method is labour intensive if it is done with joy and singing it can become an event to build community spirit. Each household benefits from a planting day.


Because soil is not inverted by ploughing as in conventional farming the saving in costs is enormous – no fuel bills and no maintenance of machinery.  Inverting soil wreaks havoc with soil micro-organisms. It buries aerobic, (oxygen-dependant), bacteria, which means that they suffocate for lack of oxygen.  It also exposes anaerobic, (non oxygen-dependant), bacteria to oxygen, which kills them. Minimum tillage keeps the soil alive by keeping the biological plant-food factory functioning properly. Plants and decomposing plant material capture precious rainwater and fix carbon. Nutrients in rich soil move into new plants, depleted soils produce less nutritious plant material. The nutritional quality of the plant is in direct proportion to the degree of nutrients in the soil. Fertilizer is a short term, quick fix method with no thought to proper sustainability of soils.


2. Step by Step Procedure - Maize, Sorghum and Wheat





       Land Preparation Diagram 


a) Tools required - Hoes, measuring strings, one for length with 75cm knots or markers along it and one for width with 60cm knots along it, measuring cups (use 500g tins), worm compost and manure, seed.


b) Land preparation - Do not plough or burn. Stump and leave, only clear if necessary. Plant across slope. While two people hold the width measuring string others must dig to 15cm with hoe at markers on string (all 60 cm apart). Then the people who hold the measuring string must move 75 cm down the length measuring string (already laid down, not necessary to hold) and again the people must hoe out the next line of holes at 60 cm apart, and so on to the end of your field.


On a slope heap hoed out top soil onto downslope.




 Fill holes with one 500g tin of compost, and one 500g tin of manure mixed with displaced top soil from hole.


c) Planting

Put 3 seeds in each hole a matchbox length deep and apart.(Thinned to 2 per hole.) Cover level to surrounding soil with no clods or stones over seed.


Plant in months before Nov 25 as daylight is lost for everyday after that and this affects the yeild.


Sorghum is the same but should be planted to a matchbox width.

Wheat planted to matchbox thickness.


3) Mulching and Early Weeding


All the land around the holes must be mulched with plant matter, leaves and grass. This not only smothers potential weeds but as it decomposes enriches the surrounding soil. It also ensures all water is not lost to evaporation. All good gardeners know the value of mulching. If weeds should spring up they should be hoed just below the surface of the soil and left, not pulled out as all organic material should stay on the land. Simple chopping and leaving should be done throughout but mulch thickly so as few weeds as possible are able to grow.


4) Plant Thinning


Thin weakest plant when hand high to 2 plants per hole. If a hole only has one plant leave adjacent hole with 3. Two plants per hole as an average.   Do not leave out this step, two per hole gives you optimum yeild per plant given space, food, light. Three will give you less yeild overall.


5) Knee High Booster


Goat or chicken manure is best. All plants appreciate an extra supply of food from on top. This will feed the worms and keep pathogenic baceria at bay. Feed at knee height, and again before plants tassle for best results.


6) Hand watering during dry spells.


This especially applies to drier areas. Take a 2 litre container to the base of each plant. Every two to three days. Only plant smaller areas that you can manage to water. Don't plant large areas knowing you are in a low rainfall area. It is better to do a small piece WELL than a big piece BADLY. ONLY DO WHAT YOU CAN MANAGE WELL.


7) Harvest and leave soil richer

Harvest cobs and leave rest of stumped plant on the land if possible. Always give back as much as you can. Using this method of planting the soil will be richer for having the compost, mulch and waste plant material on it. Each planting should further enrich your soil profile.


8. Profit and give back.


High yeilds enable us not only to make a profit which is what we must do, but also to give back some to the community. Be prepared also to share some of your harvest with birds and animals within reason. Animals do not usually take much. The Bible tells us also to leave the bits that drop and lie around so that the poor may come and collect them. Remember he is a God of great adundance and wants there to be enough for all of his creation.




This high yeild farming provides the 'engine' room that drives the food chain 'closed' system. The high yeild means chickens can be fed from grain and veges, their bedding can be fed to goats who are carefully moved from paddock to paddock so that they sustain rather than deplete the environment. The whole system is entirely sustainable with very low inputs.

Sustainable farming practises done properly will increase the fertility of the soil.


Holistic Land Management beyond farmed areas

On the rest of the land that is not farmed animals perform the dual function of clearing the land for new growth and, by defecating, urinating and trampling provide nourishment for the soil. These must be substantial groups of animals proportionate to covering the land with significant amounts of animal litter. While overgrazing is hazardous to the environment, timed and planned grazing is the only way to increase soil fertility ensuring nutrient rich plant growth.  Just as putting manure on the ground is good for the land so is putting herds of animals.  If animals are not part of the equation  grass is left to decay biologically on its own and this tends to lead to more oxidation promoting more woody vegetation with bare patches of ground.  Where ground is bared extremes of temperature cause microorganisms and other organisms to die off. Organic plant growth lessens the extremes of temperature on the ground guaranteing  sufficient  humidity  for microorganisms to live in the soil. It is these microorganisms that favour plant growth.  The presence of animals leads to more and more growth, creating a greater biomass. The absence of animals leads to more arid conditions, which will eventually lead to desertification. Arguably mixed woodland, i.e. a mixture of trees and significant grassland is an ideal biomass to not only fix water and carbon but support large numbers of browsers and grazers.







Growing biomass for compost.

Worm compost is a great fertiliser, but acquiring the materials to make compost can be a problem.  It is possible however to grow certain crops specifically for compost production.  These crops include grasses, legumes and other plants such as Russian comfrey.  The choice of plants grown will obviously depend upon the soils and climatic conditions, in which they are to be grown.  These are then harvested on a regular basis, and turned into a very high quality compost.  It has been estimated that the compost from one hectare of such a mixture will yield compost for some fifty hectares of crops.


Ox-driven or manual irrigation pumps.  A problem for a lot of small-scale farmers is the lack of electricity, or diesel driven machinery to pump water.  Now there are very reasonably priced ox-driven and manual hand- or foot-operated pumps available to small-scale farmers.


Water driven irrigation system.

Watering crops by hand has always been an arduous task.  It has meant either carrying water in containers from the nearest water source to the crop, or standing with a hose pipe for hours on end.  There is now available a simple watering device, that works purely on the pressure of water feeding the machine.  The machine walks along watering a bed efficiently and evenly with minimal losses to evaporation – particularly where a mulch is present.



This system provides a solid base for all agricultural development.  One can start with subsistence food crops, fruit trees and honey production. From there to protein production in the form chickens, and in Africa goats.  



With a well and an ox-driven pump and irrigation system, one can irrigate two hectares of land. On that  two hectares one can grow enough biomass to provide compost, (organic fertiliser), for a hundred hectares of crops.  The hundred hectares of crops would be grown in the natural growing season