Saturday, August 6, 2022

What is regenerative gardening?

Integration of chickens in the garden to improve soil health
Saturday, August 6, 2022

There has been alot of talk of regenerative farming in the news lately.  Regenerative farming can return depleted soils to production and capture carbon to help mitigate global warming.  How does regenerative farming compare to organic gardening, permaculture, biodynamic or all natural gardening?  

 In a nutshell, the biggest difference of regenerative gardening is that its focus is on improving the soil- increasing the organic (carbon) content in the soil and the soil's biodiversity.  These improvements in the soil will provide more robust and nutritionally dense crops.  Increased carbon also improves the soil's ability to retain moisture, giving increased yields during drought conditions.  

Through regenerative farming, farmers increase carbon in the soil and slow down global warming.  Studies by Rodale have shown that if we did just 100% organic farming and used sustainable grazing this could stop or reverse climate change. 

A key strategy in regenerative farming is no till.  Natural processes can take 500 years to produce one inch of topsoil.  To minimize topsoil being blown or washed away, regenerative farming encourages no till and cover crop practices.  Cover crops do a double duty of protecting the soil from erosion when growing and then adding carbon (organic matter) when the cover crop dies back or when tilled in during the seeding of the main crop.

Increasing crop diversity, using compost and organic amendments, integrating livestock, adding trees are all part of regenerative farming as they each help to increase organic matter (topsoil) and biodiversity of the soil.

Biodynamic and permaculture are both forms of regenerative farming.  Both encourage no till, adding organic matter, no outside inputs, composting, using only organic amendments and sprays.  Biodynamic has the added requirement of specific amendments that can be accomplished by using biodynamic compost, farming by the phase of the moon, and certification to label food grown as biodynamic.  Permaculture does not require the special biodynamic amendments.  The additional focus of permaculture is to include food bearing trees and bushes in the landscape as well as leveraging plants to enrich the soil.

Organic farming is using only organic inputs in the garden and no GMO's (genetically modified organisms).   Organic practices include using compost to enrich the soil, no chemical fertilizers or sprays.  If done to the intent, organic will also build organic matter (carbon) in the soil, increasing the soil's ability to retain moisture, increasing biodiversity in the soil and improving the nutritional value of crops grown organically.  Food labelled as organic require extensive book keeping and certification.

All natural gardening would be very similar to organic gardening in its intent.  However, food labelled as natural or all natural can be grown using all kinds of chemicals and be from GMO's.  Food labelled as "natural" just cannot have chemicals added to it after it is picked.  There are no guidelines or certifications for labelling a food as "natural".

At a very high level, those are the differences between the terms.   

As someone who gardens organically, I research and do what I reasonably can to improve the health of the soil, including adding compost (chock full of microorganisms and natural nutrients), mulching the beds to eliminate run off and top soil erosion as well as increase carbon in the soil, and using only organic amendments and fertilizers.  The healthier the soil, the healthier and more nutrient dense the food we produce.  We get the added bonus of helping out the planet, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment