Plants for Vegetative Growth in KNF
PLANTS TO PROMOTE GREEN LEAFY GROWTH
For the pattern for green leafy growth, the Natural Farming Best Practice is to use FPJ Fermented Plant Juice made from mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and dropwort (Oenanthe javanica). This is what Master Cho uses and recommends.
While it is recommended that any plant can be used as long as it is non-toxic, fast growing, and locally abundant, there is more to the pattern than not poisonous. To understand the pattern we look at the recommendations of Master Cho, mugwort and dropwort.
Some people recommend using weeds because they are strong and hearty. Weeds can be great choices. But as your land becomes fertile and balanced many of those weeds will disappear.
You want to be able to have a readily available source of plant material for young plant and leaf growth. It makes sense to have a perennial source tucked away somewhere on your land. I would rather have a reliable source of naturalized herbs on my land than go somewhere else to forage, and hope I get lucky. When these herbs naturalize, they will grow hearty, just like weeds. They are not weeds only because you want them to grow on your land.
Both mugwort and dropwort are attractive, useful, and make great ground covers. It may take a while to get them established. It took me a couple of years to get these two herbs to establish and naturalize. On your land perhaps they will establish readily.
Once I got mugwort and dropwort established and naturalized I could see why they are recommended by Master Cho. Not only do they produce a good amount of material, one thrives in the spring while the other in the fall. This means you have plant material to ferment for young plant and leaf growth to carry you throughout the year. And both produce high yields.
If you want to use plants other than mugwort or dropwort. What should you be looking for? Keep in mind in this case we are looking for plants to promote vigorous, vegetative growth.
As stated before they should be fast growing, non-toxic, and locally abundant. Let’s take a closer look at the pattern so that you can understand what a good plant to try is.
Both mugwort and dropwort are herbs that are considered tonics, good for health and can be used daily. They are tender, fast growing and juicy. They are vigorous and produce high levels of biomass, growing wild once established. Because they are juicy the product yield after fermentation is high.
Many plants are highly desirable for plant growth juices, but because they produce such a low yield, they are not a great choice. Juiciness and yield should also be your criteria. Moringa is an example of a highly desirable plant material yet it has pathetically low yields.
Mugwort and dropwort are dicots, meaning seed sprouts emerge as two leaf like structures and typically grow by branching. They are not monocots, meaning seeds sprout as a single shoot, such as grasses, and these plants are likely killed if the center tip is removed. In contrast, dicots like mugwort and dropwort tend to branch and grow more vigorously wherever they are pinched off. And each of these branches sprouts a fresh new growth tip, the desired part of the plant for the purpose of young plant and leaf growth.
This means that not only are branching plants fast growing, producing lots of biomass, but they specifically can provide high levels of the desired plant part: fresh and tender, fast growing tips.
Bamboo is an exception to avoiding monocots. While bamboo is a grass, it is so large that the new shoots, bamboo shoots, make an excellent choice. Shoots emerge from the root mat so harvesting a bamboo shoot will not kill the bamboo. Not all bamboo are useful for a fermented juice. The shoots should be large, fleshy, juicy, and tender.
Keep in mind this input, FPJ for vegetative growth is one input you will use in quantity. And as mentioned before mugwort and dropwort make a great ground cover, working for you even when you are not nipping their tips for juice, by crowding out potential weeds.
Two important details in using plant material for vegetative growth is the time of day the plant is collected and the part of the plant we collect. In vegetative growth we want to avoid the biochemistry present during photosynthesis, when plants turn sunlight into energy.
We therefore, 1st we pick tender leaf tips before sunrise because this is the time of day the biochemistry for vegetative growth is at its peak, as it has been growing all night long. The moment sunlight hits the leaves the plant will change its biochemistry and start to photosynthesis.
And 2nd we pick only the fast-growing tender tips because that is where the growth biochemistry is concentrated.
When choosing plant material for green leafy growth, the Korean Natural Farming Best Practice is to use mugwort and dropwort grown on your land. Make substitutions as needed and add in wild herbs as you see fit. Follow the pattern of these two specifically recommended plants.