We are once again in the position where we, as everyday citizens, have the opportunity to use our gardens as a force for change. Shifting garden practices towards principles of regenerative agriculture can be a meaningful part of reversing climate change, sequestering carbon, and growing healthy, organic foods for our friends and families.
Your small home garden can integrate regenerative farming practices like keeping the soil covered, supporting strong soil structure, encouraging biodiversity, using compost, avoiding the use of chemicals, and creating onsite fertility (including compost!)—reducing your environmental footprint and and producing amazing fruits, vegetables, and herbs just two steps from your kitchen door.
Of course, we know that starting a garden can sometimes be intimidating. Here are a few of the basic first steps you can consider when getting your garden started:
Get Your Soil Tested
It’s helpful to get your soil tested (especially if you live in an urban area) so you can make sure that the ground is safe to grow in, and that it’s not lacking any major nutrients. If for some reason you do detect minimal amounts of heavy metals in your soil, one way to remove them is to grow sunflowers! Sunflowers naturally pull heavy metals out of the soil. Once you harvest the sunflowers, throw them in the garbage (do NOT put them in your compost). Another option is to build raised beds, and bring in or buy new organic soil.
In addition to problems like heavy metals, soil tests can provide important information about the nutrient and pH levels in your soil. Soil testing will give you a baseline of information regarding your soil’s health, and will help inform the practices you should use, what you might need to augment your soil with, and what type of plants you should grow in order to maximize soil health. Remember that improving soil health does not happen over one growing season, it is a long-term process and investment. Get your soil tested everyone 1-2 years so that you can track your progress!
Create a game plan
The second step in building your garden is figuring out where in your garden you’re going to plant certain species, and at what time of the year. Your plan will help you determine when you need to start new seeds, and when you can expect your perennials to regrow and populate certain areas. Rotating plant species is also important in making sure that your soil stays healthy and balanced. Make sure that there are ample nitrogen-fixing crops in your mix.
Buy Your Seeds
Once you have your garden plan, it’s time to go out and buy your seeds! Check your local garden or hardware store for organic seeds, or hop online to find some colorful heritage varieties!
Start Your Seedlings
If you live in a cold area, it might be important to start your seedlings inside where it’s a bit warmer—allowing them to grow and mature before they head outside and face the elements. Lots of animals like to eat seeds, so starting them inside will set them up for a greater chance of success. There are some great indoor germinating kits that you can buy, and LED lamps can speed up the growing process.
Build Your Beds
If you’re building raised beds, it’s important to think about depth, width, and materials. Make sure the width and height (depth) of your beds is accessible, so that you can easily plant, weed, and harvest. It is also important to avoid the use of pressure treated woods. Many treated woods contain chemicals or fungicides that you won’t want your vegetables and herbs exposed to.
Make sure to follow each plant’s instructions for planting, including how much water and sunlight they need, as well as how much soil (these types of instructions are almost always listed on the back of seed packets). Seedlings and seeds are extremely sensitive to new environments, so make sure you’re as attentive as you can be when they’re just starting out!
Gardening can be frustrating at times, and some things (weather, animals, etc.) are just out of your control. Keep practicing and experimenting, and don’t give up. Ask neighbors and local gardening experts for advice, share resources, and tap into your community. Together, we can do this!
We can’t wait to see everything that you create!
In the Spring of 2013, Ryland Engelhart, Co-Owner of Cafe Gratitude, heard about soil as a solution to climate change from Graeme Sait, a farming educator, at a conference in New Zealand. Ryland learned that building healthy soil has the miraculous ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and knew in his heart it was a story that had to be shared with the world. And it’s not just carbon storage; the ways that soil stands to positively impact lives of billions worldwide are tangible and immediate: replenished water cycles, restored fertility, regenerated ecosystems. Ryland told Finian Makepeace, childhood friend and professional musician, and together they began telling others about the power of healthy soil. They inspired a group of friends: filmmakers, marketing experts, restaurant owners, gardeners, designers, soil geeks, and activists who began to meet once a week in Ryland’s living room, and Kiss the Ground was born. Learn about the amazing activities of Kiss the Ground today.