We like science and research here at Kellogg Garden, because when you’re dealing with things like organic gardening and soil health, science and research go a long way to helping gardeners make sound choices not only for their own home gardens, but for their community and the world around them. The problem is, sometimes the words and phrases are really science-y and research-y.
Take carbon sequestration, for example. I’m pretty sure none of my regular Joe garden friends have heard about it, but it’s a critically important concept in soil health. You can read more about what carbon sequestration is and why you should be aware of it, but in a nutshell, carbon sequestration is the process of returning valuable carbon to the soil to enrich it and make it more resistant to drought and floods.
Carbon sequestration is a part of what’s called “regenerative gardening” — gardening practices that heal the soil and the land. From climate change to unsustainable farming practices, our land has seen better days, but there are a number of things the home gardener can do to be a part of this global land regeneration.
In part one of our What is Carbon Sequestration? series we discussed no-till gardening, cover crops, composting, plant diversity, and organics; in this segment, we are adding a few more garden practices that you can use to heal your soil, waterways, and help your community.
You know how at the end of the garden season, you pull out all of your spent plants? This year, consider leaving some of the roots in place. Simply cut off the above-ground portion of the plant, toss it into the compost pile, and leave the roots to decompose in the soil. This practice helps the development of healthy soil structure and texture that holds moisture and has more active soil biology. Plus, it’s a lot less labor-intensive, and I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.
Biochar is a fine-grained charcoal that, when added to the soil, improves water retention, creates a diverse microbial population, and sequesters carbon (there’s that phrase again). And all of that leads to healthier soil and more vigorous plant growth. So the next time you’re out stocking up on bagged soils and potting mixes, look for biochar in the ingredients.
While most of us probably don’t own and operate a full-on farm or ranch, many of us do have small urban farms with livestock. Small numbers of goats, sheep, and even cows are becoming increasingly popular on larger urban lots, but the question remains — how do you manage grazing so that the soil is not negatively impacted? The answer: holistic planned grazing, where the amount of livestock and recovery time needed for the plants in that area are taken into consideration when creating grazing plans.
Bare Soil Coverage
Ever seen large areas of bare soil? Yeah, that’s not good. Bare soil easily erodes and compacts, so that is something to avoid in your own garden. Consider practices like sheet composting, cover crops, and covered pathways to provide extra protection for vulnerable soil.