Learning from NatureLearning from Nature

Grow food that virtually looks after itself using our Ecological Practices

Diverse connections in an eco-orchard - energy and nutrients used efficiently
Extra layers of vegetation capture more solar energy and improve microclimate at Hill Top Farm
Saving human energy - chickens making compost right where we need it at Hill Top Farm
Grow 'Living Mulch' instead of mulching. It's less work and better for our soils
Mimicking the original savanna vegetation and improving water harvesting by planting on contour - Mark Shepard's New Forest Farm in the American corn belt.              

Commercial Growers

Home Gardeners

Community Gardeners

Organic techniques are great for growing chemical-free food, but growing gets heaps easier by bringing Nature’s free ecological services back into our gardens and farms again. We’ll show you how with our toolkit of Ecological Practices.

Take a look at the native vegetation in your region. It doesn’t need anyone to spread mulch and fertilizers, control pests, weed or mow.

Using our Ecological Practices makes sense.

You’ll restore your ecological functions using the technology Nature has developed over billions of years to create ecosystems that are – Productive, using the energy and resources they have available – Self-maintaining – Quick to recover after extreme weather – Sustainable All the things we want for our gardens and farms.

Productive

Low maintenance

Resilient

Sustainable

How we help.

We’ve done the hard work. With our easy to use toolkit of Ecological Practices, you’ll use new knowledge to skillfully choose tools and techniques suitable for your growing conditions. You will improve your key ecological functions – your nutrient recycling and energy system, and the beneficial connections to use these resources efficiently. Restoring Nature’s free ecological services without getting worn out or going broke!

How gardeners and farmers benefit from using Ecological Practices

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Broadacre producers are farming in ‘nature’s image’

Gabe Brown and his family found the answer to their degraded soil was “to imitate a healthy, native rangeland ecosystem“. They changed from a production model of fixed grazing, tillage, monocultures, synthetic chemicals, to one of zero tillage, diversity of crops, soil primer plants and grazing animals to feed soil biology. “I needed to farm and ranch in nature’s image. I needed to work with nature instead of against it. Then we can get regeneration, and get back to supplying healthy foods.” “We average approximately 30% higher production  than the conventional farmers do in the county. We have more lbs of saleable products. Our products are more nutrient dense. We have a higher quality of life…. and we are storing a lot more carbon. Our profits are higher and most importantly we are regenerating the resource for future generations.”

North Dakota, USA

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Less mowing has benefits

Orchards infrequently mowed have more beneficial insects. Natural enemies of pest species. According to Dave Horton they are attracted to flowering plants in longer grass, and the abundant prey, such as aphids and thrips.

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No more mulching …

The orchard is one area of Dr. Wendy Seabrook’s farm that has been dramatically transformed using Ecological Practices. “After a few years of hot and dusty work mulching, and watching my trees struggling against the grass, I replaced the competitive grasses with Living Mulch. Choosing plants that also provide useful ecological functions, supporting the growth of my fruit and nut trees. “

 

Hill Top Farm, Cooktown, Australia

KneppCastle

Reversing degraded land and incomes through “nature teaching us”

For the owners of Knepp Castle in England, conventional agriculture had rapidly become a liability. Apart from its poor soil, Knepp had to contend with a further disadvantage – the size of its fields. The owners hadn’t removed the hedges, ditches and copses as so many other farmers  had done.  While this was advantageous for wildlife, it meant that they were unable to take advantage of the economies of scale provided by giant fields and big machinery. 14 years ago they embarked on a ‘rewilding’ project across the 3,500-acre estate, dramatically changing their land management. “We took on board the theory that grazing animals are key drivers of habitat generation and biodiversity, and introduced Red deer, Fallow deer, Longhorn cattle, Exmore ponies and Tamworth pigs. These animals are proxies of some of the fauna that would have been present in the landscape. Roaming freely with minimal interference they have brought back biodiversity and we are proud to have 2% of the UKs Nightingale population.” Culling the animals provides a new income stream. The meat is organic and they sell the ‘wild meat’ for top dollars.  Safaris and Glamping (glamorous camping), provide further income. Isabell Tree, one of the managers says “The joy of a project like Knepp is that Nature is teaching us, rather than us imposing our will on Nature and then wondering why it isn’t working”.

Sussex, England

Carol

Growing healthy food is easier with healthier soils

Have you ever visited a garden where the vegetables look extraordinarily healthy? Carol Laing’s veggies are like that. The wonderful thing is that her soil tests demonstrate why. On her 600m2 block in the suburbs of Cairns, Carol has transformed sandy soil into dark, rich soil. She has done it by getting rid of her grass and growing layers of biomass accumulating food plants instead. Composting all her household and garden waste and kick-starting her soil restoration process by adding rock minerals, blood and bone, and biochar. Carol’s recent soil test shows that her soil is now a loam soil with a pH 6.9, and organic matter 6.8%. By comparison most farmers aspire to have 4% organic matter!

Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Bell Family

Who said forest gardens don’t produce much food?

A forest garden on the cold edge of Europe produces over one tonne of food on one-fifth of an acre (0.08 ha), working less that two days a week. Graham Bell and his family started the garden 25 years ago, growing vertical layers, and over 150 food and ecological support plants. “We have one chest freezer full of soft fruit by July and in the freezer room we dry apple rings and store marrows and pumpkins, which keep until May,” Graham said. “Jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles and fruit cheeses go into jars. We feed visitors on open days and have provided for permaculture events feeding up to 100 people on a day, half a dozen times this year”. “We are reminded daily that it is not the number of species that make the garden as successful as it is, but the web of complex relationships between all the elements in the system”.

The Red Shed, Scotland

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