What Is Regenerative Agriculture? Can I Apply The Principles In An Allotment Or Garden? Yes, Let Me Explain How To Garden Regeneratively.
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I read a lot about regenerative agriculture and know several people practising it. And the numbers starting to go down the regenerative farming route are increasing. But what is regenerative agriculture and can the basic principles be used in the garden or an an allotment?
The video below explains what regenerative agriculture in a very generic way, but to go into the subtleties would take much longer than a few minutes explanation. So after the video I suggest a few ways in which the principles can be applied in a smaller garden scale.
The regenerative farming concept follows some very basic principles with the objective of improving the soil. And it is done on the understanding that a healthy soil can grow healthy crops without the input of “chemical fertilisers” by which I mean factory made fertilisers. The aim is encompassed in the four basic practices which include cover cropping, mixed crop rotations, rotations grazing and no till crop growing.
We can’t always follow these practices in the same way in a garden, especially if we don’t have livestock to graze. But many gardeners do keep a few chicken or ducks, and poultry can carry out many of the same crop clearing practices. Alternatively we can cut crops and remove the “waste” to a compost heap for it to decompose before returning it to the soil. It’s an alternative to grazing with farms animals and is practiced when we take veg waste, compost it and then return it to the soil. In a sense we become the grazing animal.
No Dig is the perfect way to practice no till and is probably more effective than what farmers can do.
Cover crops can be grown in gardens either over winter or between other crops. In both cases they provide much the same benefits as does the way regenerative farmers grow cover crops.
Cover crops can be further augmented to improve the soil by growing other techniques such as inter-row cropping, crop succession and planting density.
As for crop rotations, here we are lucky. Crop rotation are a medieval practice that was “perfected” in the Norfolk Four Course ration by people like “Turnip” Townsend. They had to do it because they didn’t have the science, understanding and expertise we now have. What is now known is that crop rotations are not usually necessary. Provided we have no pests or diseases we can grow the same crops on the same land for many years with no ill effects. BUT, only if we have healthy soil. And the best way I know of getting healthy soil is to practice these techniques AND that means using No Dig.
Regenerative Gardening’s objective is to create a better environment, and that starts with the soil and biodiversity. It seeks to promote a ripple effect that starts in the soil and then ripples out into the wider environment.