As I’m sure many green thumbs can attest, as new gardening concepts are introduced, we adapt our own gardening styles accordingly. I’m not referring to following the latest trend. I’m talking about learning something new and changing because of a love and respect for the environment. My gardening evolution over the years, as I learn new things, has included: planting for pollinators, drought, and heat tolerance; over-seeding with low-maintenance fescues and clovers in my lawn; adding more native plants to my gardens; not cleaning up and cutting back the entire garden in fall; etc. Regenerative gardening is one of those concepts that we are starting to hear a lot more about. There are elements of it I was already doing in my garden. However as I learn, I modify what I do.
At the heart of regenerative gardening is the soil. There is a whole web of activity happening below the surface. Roots and soil microbes form a complex network through which plants can access nutrients and water. Consequently, regenerative gardening requires a no-dig approach, one that does not disturb that web of activity, but that sequesters carbon dioxide in the soil so that it is not released into the atmosphere.
Regenerative gardening practices in a home garden
On a larger scale, regenerative agriculture is used by farmers to create more sustainable food systems. On a smaller scale, we can apply regenerative gardening concepts to our own gardens. If you’re already focused on building healthy soil using organic growing techniques and completely avoiding synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, taking a no-till approach, as well as planting to increase diversity, you’re already applying regenerative techniques.
I like to think the little microcosm I create in my own garden can make a difference. It’s my own way to help fight climate change, even if it’s a drop in the bucket. In her book, Grow Now, which I mention below, author Emily Murphy talks about “the power of our patchwork of gardens,” reinforcing that what I do in my garden, however small, is important.
Applying a layer of compost to your garden provides a host of benefits, including adding nutrients and increasing water retention, which will help your plants, especially in drought conditions. It also helps minimize soil erosion. Our garden “waste”—grass clippings, leaves, stems, etc.—all can be broken down and put back into our gardens. Jessica wrote an article that breaks down the science behind making good compost, and provides creative ideas in another for using your fall leaves in the garden.
Reuse materials in your yard
Instead of putting all your yard debris to the curb, or taking it to the dump, leave it in a backyard garden and get creative. If you have room, of course. I’ve seen some beautiful fences and garden borders created by using twigs and sticks. You can also stack logs from felled trees to create privacy areas, or use them as furniture. There are lots of possibilities. When we had to take down an elm tree, we used the wood to create stools around the fire pit. If you’re not using the wood to burn as fuel, you could also have it milled to build something else.