Conventional gardening is often an extractive activity—we harvest the plants that we want, and remove the weeds that we don’t. We deplete the soil of nutrients and try to supplement with synthetic fertilizers.
Regenerative Gardening is about changing how we grow things. It’s about returning what we take from the soil and from the Earth, replenishing and nurturing it.Regenerative Gardening is about finding ways to grow things by working with the environment, and possibly even regenerating the Earth.
Principles of Regenerative Gardening
Compost whenever and wherever we can.
We want to keep all this life and energy circulating within our garden. So we must be careful what we remove from the garden, and try to keep as much of it within as possible. We must compost.
Thistles are deep rooted, we all know how difficult to remove they are. But they are also pulling minerals from deep in the soil, up into their leaves. We can pull them out, but we don’t discard them. We set them out to dry so their seeds can’t propagate. Then we can compost them, turning their beautiful leaves into rich soil.
We must take care of the things that take care of us.
A core tenet of indigenous practices is the honourable harvest. When we take things from the garden during harvest, we must remember that the garden is feeding and providing for us, so we must take care of it in return.
In order to sustain our relationship with the Earth, we must treat it as more than just a resource for taking. Replenishing nutrients to the soil through compost, reducing food waste, and minimizing disturbance to the soil’s expansive network of organisms are just some of the ways we can honour the land that is providing us with food.
Diversity creates strength in all environments, and gardens are no exception.
A biodiverse garden gives each plant a chance to play to their strengths, whether it is attracting beneficial insects, or improving the growth of nearby plants. Within the soil, plant roots actually form relationships with the fungi and bacteria in the soil, exchanging sugars, minerals, and energy much farther than the tips of the roots that we see. Insects and earthworms aerate the soil with their movements and consume decaying matter in order to produce organic fertilizers to feed the soil.
We must be mindful of the relationships that exist in the garden, and re-establish our own relationship with the land
We can reconnect with our oldest teachers to nourish the soil as best as we can.
We must remember that these plants have existed for much longer than we have. It stands that we can learn a lot from them. We had a group of tomato plants growing, and among them, some spiky thistles and thick stalked wild spinach started growing. Instead of pulling them out, we watched them and saw how they interacted with each other. Some of the tomatoes flopped on the ground, while some started growing along the stalks of the wild spinach, climbing with it and supporting one another. The thistles actually protected the tomatoes from getting eaten away by other animals, allowing them to grow and fully ripen on the vine.
Our current industrial agricultural system has forgotten this, where decades of growing and harvesting on the same piece of land have stripped the soil, releasing all its trapped carbon, and left lands barren. Something that once took care of communities for thousands of years, ruined because of years of misguided practices. By looking at what the Earth has to offer and can teach us, we can reconnect with our oldest teachers to nourish the soil as best as we can.