Doing regenerative farming and gardening – eco-logically, we get our ecosystems functioning again. Thereby improving our growing conditions and realising the potential for our land to provide more support with growing food.[1]

Using eco-logical approaches to regenerative farming and gardening makes sense.

We need ecosystems that work to increase biodiversity, soil health, organic matter, water infiltration and storage in our soil. These and the other frequently listed goals of regenerative farming and gardening are products of functioning ecosystems.[1] Therefore, we get better outcomes focusing on improving ecological functions rather than on these indicators for our growing conditions. [5]

In most farms and gardens, our ecosystems haven’t worked well for so long, we’ve largely forgotten about the free ecological services they can naturally provide. As the underlying problems have mounted up, our fertiliser, pest control and other input costs have gone up. What’s more, our ability to supply food is more likely to break down when impacted by drought, floods, extreme heat, and unusual pest outbreaks.[1]

For example, most soils in gardens and farms may not show the customary signs of soil degradation – erosion and compaction, but no longer work well as eco-systems. They have lost the capacity to naturally feed plants by recycling sufficient nutrients from organic waste materials and the minerals in the soil. We apply fertilisers as substitutes for these ecological services.[2, 3]

Briefly, here are the steps to take to do Regenerative Farming and Gardening – Eco-logically. The steps are summarised from the Eco-logical Farming and Eco-logical Gardening Handbooks.[2,3]

Step 1 – What needs Regenerating

Ecosystems are complex, but deciding what to prioritise isn’t complicated. Nutrient cycles, water cycles and solar energy capture are the three key ecological functions that drive most of the action in our farms and gardens.[4]

Getting all these ecological functions working again, we tackle virtually all of our natural resource issues.[5] Repairing the main ecological function holding us back, we still solve many issues in one go. For example, getting our nutrient cycle working well, we naturally feed our plants, and at the same time, improve water infiltration and storage in our soil, reduce waterlogging and sequestrate more carbon!

Which ecological function is holding you back?

Step 2 – How to choose a Practical Solution

Having “what practices should I use?” as our leading question, we usually don’t achieve the best outcomes for the time, effort and money we invest.  Practices typically get treated as one-size-fits-all solutions when we need techniques suitable for our climate, other growing conditions and the food we grow. Our focus can also become “Are we using the methodology correctly?” rather than “Are we using the best methods to solve our problems effectively?”[5]

Applying well-designed and thought through regenerative principles, we draw on the collective experiences of food growers and the evolved wisdom embedded in Nature.[6]

Principles help us concentrate on what’s essential and can be applied regardless of our climate, other growing conditions, and the food we grow.[6]

Empowered to make informed decisions, we ask, “considering my circumstances, how can I apply regenerative principles to develop effective practices”. Established regenerative practices become the source and inspiration for ways to do this rather than recipes to follow.[5] We gain the know-how to trial techniques, learn and share our experiences, and respond constructively to uncertainty, emerging issues and threats.[5]

These are the eco-logical principles Learning from Nature has developed to help farmers and gardeners.[6]

Applying these principles, we employ plants, livestock, and other living organisms to build connections, creating beneficial relationships between our environment’s living and non-living parts, to restore the ecological functions holding us back.[6]

For example, suppose our goal is to improve our nutrient cycle. In that case, we increase the root exudate and organic waste material supply from our plants, livestock and other living organisms to feed our soil organisms.[9]

Gabe Brown, a world-renown regenerative farmer from North Dakota in the United States, uses ecological principles to repair his nutrient and water cycles and capture more solar energy.[10] He applies eco-logical principles by mimicking Nature using the Prairie grasslands and the behaviour of native Bison to design his crop production and grazing management. Like the Prairies, he maintains a continuous diverse cover of vegetation and maximises plant biomass recycling in his soil using mob grazing.

Photo showing bison to illustrate using cattle to Mimic Nature

For his multi-species cropping and diverse cover crops, he chooses plants that thrive in his growing conditions and provide beneficial relationships like fixing nitrogen and growing deep roots.

On our farm in northern Australia, we’re developing production systems mimicking the architecture of the forest communities that would naturally grow on our land. We’re co-creating with succession developing multi-layered production systems focusing on perennial plants producing carbohydrates like Breadfruit and Plaintain. We use ecological support plants to build connections.

Understanding what we need to regenerate and how to apply the principles, we Learn from Nature, combining our ingenuity with billions of years of research and development, carried out in every climate and soil type on the planet, including our own!

There are many regenerative practices available. A comprehensive inventory is included in the Eco-logical Farming and Gardening Handbooks.

Remember that when starting anything new, it’s generally not a good idea to try and change everything at once. Trial techniques and species, see what works best, and be aware that what you do may not work. That’s how we learn!

Image showing Action Learning Cycle for Regenerative Farming and Gardening

Additional Support from Learning from Nature

Suggested articles –

  1. What is Regenerative Farming and Gardening
  2. Principles of Regenerative Farming and Gardening
  3. How to choose Regenerative Practices – that Work!
  4. What is Healthy Soil?

Or get help with how to do regenerative farming and gardening – eco-logically using these resources from Learning from Nature –

  1. Grow from your strengths by creating a GrowMap
  2. Fix your nutrient cycling with Feed your Plants without Fertilisers, and your water cycle with Drought-Proof your farm or garden.
  3. Better still get virtually everything you need to know using our Eco-logical Farming and Gardening Handbooks.

Any questions? We’d love to hear from you – info[at]learningfromnature.com.auImage showing Learning from Nature Publications

References

[1] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, What is Regenerative Farming and Gardening. Learning from Nature

[2] Wendy Seabrook, 2019, Eco-logical Farming Handbook, Publ Learning from Nature

[3] Wendy Seabrook, 2019, Eco-logical Gardening Handbook, Publ Learning from Nature

[4] Eugine P. Odium, 1971, Fundamentals of Ecology. Publ W.B. Saunders Company

[5] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, How to choose Regenerative Practices – that Work, Learning from Nature

[6] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, Principles of Regenerative Farming and Gardening, Learning from Nature

[7] Michael W. I. Schmidt, Margaret S., et al., 2011, Persistence of soil organic matter as an ecosystem property, Nature 478

[8] Daniel P. Rasse, Cornelia Rumpel & Marie-France Dignac, 2005, Is soil carbon mostly root carbon? Mechanisms for a specific stabilisation, Plant and Soil (2005) 269: pp 341–356

[9] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, How to Build Healthy Soil – Eco-logically, Learning from Nature

[10] Gabe Brown, 2018, Dirt to Soil: One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture – Gabe Brown, Chelsea Green Publishing

Featured image Tom Fisk

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