In regenerative farming and gardening, we use practices designed to get our ecosystems functioning again, thereby realising the potential for our land to provide more support with growing food. Soil carbon, organic matter, water infiltration, and biodiversity are valuable measures to track our progress. But they are the products of functioning ecosystems. We need ecosystems that work for these to improve.[1]

In most farms and gardens, our ecosystems haven’t worked well for so long, we’ve largely forgotten about the services they naturally provide. Our input costs have gone up as underlying problems have mounted up, and we are more likely to get problems from droughts, flooding rains, extreme heat, unusual pests, and disease outbreaks.[1]

Getting our ecosystems functioning again, we:

  1. Grow nutritious food less reliant on fertiliser, pest control and other inputs
  2. Make the practical act of growing food a solution rather than a cause of climate change, and
  3. Have the joy of bringing Nature back into our farms and gardens again.

Currently, the emphasis in the regenerative movement is on using a practice-based approach.[2] In deciding what to do, we look at the range of different practices available and choose the ones we think will best help us solve the issues holding us back. Using this approach we can improve the functioning of our ecosystems, but are unlikely to get the best outcomes for the time, effort and money we put in.

A more targeted approach (detailed in the Eco-logical Farming and Gardening Handbooks), that works whatever our growing conditions, is applying eco-logical principles to:

  1. Repair the ecological functions driving most of the action in our farms and gardens – our nutrient cycles, water cycles and capture of solar energy through photosynthesis, and
  2. Build connections to create beneficial relationships between plants, other living organisms, and the non-living parts of our environment, to improve these functions and efficiently use the resources they make available.[3] [4]

The Eco-logic

Ecosystems are complex, but fortunately, there are three key functions that drive a large percentage of the action. [5]  Virtually all of the natural resource issues holding us back are resolved by repairing these ecological functions.

Icon illustrating nutrient cycle - part of what is regenerative farming and gardening

Nutrient Cycles

Repairing our nutrient recycling systems, soil organisms recycle the nutrients in plant and animal waste materials, unlock nutrients from mineral particles, and make the nutrients available for plants to reuse.Icon illustrating water cycle - part of what is regenerative farming and gardening

Water Cycles

Water cycles are enormous, but we can improve them by increasing water infiltration and storage in our soil and reducing water loss through evaporation. Done on a regional scale, cloud cover increases, and we get more rain.

Icon illustrating Capture of Solar Energy - part of what is regenerative farming and gardening

Capture of Solar Energy

Why do we only think of fertilisers when we want to grow more food? Plants capture and store solar energy using their photosynthetic panels. Growing more solar panels, we increase energy supplies for the ecosystems in our farms and gardens.

Take, for example, Gabe Brown, a world-renown regenerative farmer from North Dakota in the United States. He repairs his nutrient and water cycles and captures more solar energy by mimicking the Prairie temperate grasslands and the grazing behaviour of Bison native to his land. He maintains a continuous diverse cover of vegetation and maximises the recycling of this vegetation in his soil by mob grazing cattle. 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 deep roots.

On our farm, in northern Australia, we are developing production systems mimicking the architecture of the forest communities that would naturally grow on our land. We’re co-creating with succession creating multi-layered production systems focusing on perennial plants producing carbohydrates and 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 400 million years of research and development, carried out in every climate and soil type on the planet, including our own! We gain the skills to develop practical solutions that work well for our unique circumstances, build our capacity to trial techniques, learn and share our experiences, and can respond constructively to emerging issues and threats.

There are many other regenerative practices you can use to apply these eco-logical principles. 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

1. What is Regenerative Farming and Gardening

2. What Practices should I use?

3. Library of videos on the supporting science and stories from leading farmers and gardeners on the Learning from Nature YouTube Channel

4. Publications from Learning from Nature – Get help with growing from your strengths creating a GrowMap for your land, fixing your nutrient cycling with Feed your Plants without Fertilisers, and your water cycle with Drought-Proof your farm or garden. Or better still the Eco-logical Farming and Gardening Handbooks.

References for How to do Regenerative Farming and Gardening

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

[2] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, What Practices should I use? Learning from Nature

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

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

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

Featured image Tom Fisk

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