Continuous mono-crop planting practices are one of the causes of the depletion of our soils by about 1% per year. “Soil erosion is second only to population growth as the biggest environmental problem the world faces. Yet, the problem, which is growing ever more critical, is being ignored because who gets excited about dirt?” D. Pimentel, “Soil Erosion: A Food and Environmental Threat,” Environ. Devel. Sustain. 8, 119, (2006). The loss of topsoil in the U.S. and Canada is alarming, and the rebuilding of soil through regenerative practices can turn this soil loss around, and within eighteen months, the soil health begins to return. Mother Nature is very forgiving.
Regenerative gardening is beyond organics; it is about practices that rebuild soil health and sequestering carbon into the soil, reducing greenhouse gases. To enrich your soil naturally, use compost, mine soil nutrients with taproot plant, mulch, low till, use permanent beds with walkways. These are the simple practices of regenerative gardening; diversity, cover crops, crop rotation, liming (sweet agricultural lime), companion planting and mineralizing with rock dust.
Diversity in our planting and building gardens is such a critical part of this cycle of health. A garden with lots of different kinds of vegetables and herbs creates a healthy and productive garden. It becomes full of colour and sizes, making your garden an inviting place. When we plant with multiple varieties of plants, we see a natural increase in the abundance of beneficial insects. Diversity in the garden and crop rotations naturally reduces the need for pest control because it limits the pests from getting a hold in the garden.
Tilling practices release carbon into the air and speed the loss of rich humus, adding to soil loss and greenhouse gases. No-till helps store carbon in the soil, pulling it from the air helps reduce of greenhouse gases.
In gardening, rotating to grass covering as part of the rotation cycle is a little tricky. Planting cover crops helps sequester more carbon, and it nurtures the soil microbes between different plants. The tiny root hairs create a suitable environment for microbe diversity and building soil in the process. Crop rotation gives the land a rest; some vegetables are heavy feeders, some are light feeders, also crop rotation practices help minimize the soil pests that try to take up residence.
The use of taproots in the garden becomes a simple natural way to increase mineralization. Taproot perennials are dandelions, comfrey, horseradish, rhubarb, to name a few. Annual taproots include; carrots, parsnips, beets, daikon radish, and parsley, to name a few. Taproots mine minerals and water deep in the soil, and then they draw up nutrients to the surface to the benefit of other plants.
There are many sources to determine which plant benefits from companion planting. It has shown that companion planting can be mutually beneficial, often plants sharing root system connections. The work of mycorrhiza in transferring nutrients between plants is part of the understanding of companion planting.
The use of glacial rock dust in the compost and placing compost into the garden at least annually- a minimum of 1/4” can be sufficient for soil building. Compost will nourish the plants, balance the soil’s PH, and discourage disease and help maintain moisture in the soil. Rock dust is a slow release of minerals, making them available as the plants require them. Compost teas and extracts are also another way to increase soil building.