Regenerative Gardening

Some argue that the future of gardening is regenerative rather than sustainable. But isn’t that where SGA has been all these years? We’ve been teaching you how to enhance your soil, increase the production of your garden, care for the environment, and grow food that will keep you healthy. We’re not altering our organization’s name to reflect this popular phrase, but let’s look at what regenerative garden enthusiasts mean by it and how it connects to what SGA encourages gardeners to do.

What is it?

The notion of “regenerative gardening” originated from a blend of sustainable/regenerative agriculture, agroecology, agroforestry, and sustainable gardening, with a dash of permaculture thrown in. It is unknown, however, where it originated, i.e., cultivating plants, feeding people, using the natural qualities of the land, water, and nature in general to increase production, limiting damage to the environment, and even positively contributing to it. Indeed, many of these movements have been inspired by observations of old, traditional agricultural practices of indigenous peoples all over the globe.

Regenerative agriculture

According to the WA Landcare Network, farmers that use regenerative farming “have practised a holistic approach to land management that keeps water in the landscape, improves soil health, stores carbon, and increases biodiversity.” It tries to increase the quality of food cultivated on the land. Increasing the carbon content of the soil is an essential method of enhancing it, which is also referred to as “carbon farming”. Soil biota and water-holding capacity will both increase as soil quality improves. Such soil will yield more and higher-quality food, giving rise to the notion of “food forests”.

A small but growing number of farmers are turning to regenerative agriculture in response to falling productivity and landscape damage caused by traditional farming practices.

Regenerative Gardening, Urban Agriculture, and Food Forests
There have been several incentives for urban inhabitants to create local food production rather than relying on commercially manufactured goods. Urban food production takes place on a variety of land sizes, ranging from balconies and rooftops to normal home blocks and several hectares of public or private property. Among the rewards are:

Higher quality, fresher fruits, nuts, and veggies.

Concern about the environmental implications on soil and water in traditional systems.

A desire to decrease food miles.

Increasing interest in plant-based diets rather than those based on animal protein – spurred by measures to minimize carbon dioxide emissions, wasteful use of land and water resources, and minimizing cruelty to animals.

Concerns about chemicals used in agriculture that are increasingly being found in people.
Features of Regenerative Gardening and Farming
In the paragraphs below, we’ve included links to sections on the SGA website that address these traits.

Learning from natural systems.

If left alone, forests, grasslands, and other ecological communities will sustain themselves via changes in their physical components or human involvement. In such ecosystems, the physical components (landform, soil, water, and air) interact to define the living species (plants, animals, and microbiota), as well as energy fluxes and nutrient cycles. Although regenerative gardening or farming involves cultivating plants that are not indigenous to the region, all other components are included, resulting in a more holistic approach rather than merely focusing on recurrent production of a certain crop.

Minimal soil disturbance.

This implies avoiding tilling or excavating the soil to retain its structure, which includes gaps for air and water movement as well as root penetration. This may be accomplished using no-dig garden beds or no-till techniques. The growth media in no-dig garden beds is formed by layering soil, organic plant material, and animal manure. No-till farming implies that once crops are harvested, the land is not plowed or excavated, roots are left in place, and weeds may be eliminated via solarization (see below). Another approach, soil aeration with aerators (tools with prongs that punch holes), is still less harmful than plowing or digging.

Sheet mulching.

Mulches, either organic or non-organic, are used between planted crops to prevent weed development and conserve moisture. They are also used to destroy weeds and create soil on previously uncultivated land. Typically, the materials used include cardboard, newspaper, wood chips, straw, or a mix of these. These all benefit the soil by providing carbon and fostering microbial development. In tiny areas where perennials, not annuals, are produced, inorganic material, like as stones, may be utilized, although they have little nutritional value.

Crop Rotation

Plants that will be harvested, or those from the same plant family, are not cultivated in the same place the following season. This reduces the danger of host-specific pests and diseases, as well as excessive depletion of some important nutrients. There are several rotation systems, some with four cycles, one of which includes a legume to supply nitrogen to the soil. In some systems, it may take several years before the same crop is planted in the same location again.

Cover crops

Cover crops or green manures are often used in conjunction with crop rotation. As in nature, soil is never left naked, limiting weed invasion and erosion. These crops are generally grasses or legumes. Because the root systems are maintained intact, both provide organic materials to the soil. They also minimize water flow, which reduces erosion, boost biodiversity by drawing insects and bacteria from the preceding crop, and disrupt host-specific disease cycles. Crops with deeply penetrating roots may help loosen compacted soil.

Legumes, or green manures, offer the added benefit of nourishing the soil due to their nitrogen-fixing ability.

Cover crops are harvested or mowed shortly before maturity and then left as surface mulch or gently plowed in.

Solarization of Weeds

Rather of uprooting or killing weed-infested grassy areas before planting crops, regenerative/sustainable gardeners wrap the soil with black or transparent plastic, securing the edges securely in place. Weeds grow and roast in the heat trapped behind transparent plastic. Black plastic reduces growth by blocking sunlight, yet the plants still cook. As long as seed production has not happened, the residual organic matter may be kept in situ to improve soil quality or removed and composted.

Compost

Artificial fertilizers are not utilized, and manure imports is kept to a minimum. Rather, all organic waste generated by pruning, mowing, or plant remains after fruit/seed harvest is composted. Manure from on-site animals is a fantastic addition to compost piles. Mature compost not only reduces waste, but also enhances soil quality, fertility, and structure.

Perennials

Shifting the emphasis from annual to perennial crops ensures that live roots are always present in the soil, minimizing compaction and erosion while also providing host material and sustenance for soil microbes. Trees not only provide fruit and nuts, but they also serve as reliable carbon storage sites. Other such stores include vegetables that are perennial in the correct environment, such as rhubarb, artichokes, asparagus, seakale, sorrel, breadfruit, sweet potato, and many more. Kernza, a novel perennial cousin of wheat, has been produced and might be a viable alternative to annual wheat.

Natural Pest and Disease Control Instead of Chemicals
It is becoming known that chemical usage in plant systems often harms beneficial species and promotes the development of resistance, necessitating the employment of progressively harsher chemicals. Regenerative agriculture and gardening depend on the natural environment to keep pests and illnesses at bay. Natural systems are intricate arrangements of plants and animals that coexist in harmony. While such systems are difficult to establish and harvest in gardens or farms, it is possible to promote biodiversity by using plants that benefit each other through complementary nutrient requirements, the production of beneficial chemicals, or the attraction of a variety of beneficial insects and organisms that keep pests and disease at bay. Such methods use companion planting.

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