Understanding Ag works with a significant number of gardening operations around the U.S. and has developed several helpful tips for regenerative gardening that you and your garden can benefit from, too.
I hope you’ll consider incorporating many of these regenerative principles and practices in your garden this year. When you do so on a planned, purposeful basis, I’m confident you’ll grow healthier soil, plants and vegetables in a garden that will be a haven for beneficial insects and for your gardening spirit.
Following is a list of principles, practices and plants that will help you grow your garden regeneratively…
- Incorporate the Six Principles of Soil Health as much as possible in order to optimize the Four Ecosystem Processes. The Ecosystem Processes are free to us each day. https://understandingag.com/resources/fact-sheets/
- Use the Confusion Principle to significantly lower fungal disease and pest insect pressure and susceptibility. This can be accomplished several ways:Make certain each planted area (including high tunnels) is rotated to a different cash crop at each planting. It is best to change crop species. Repeated planting of the same crop in the same high tunnel or block will encourage fungal disease development and pest activity.
- Make certain each planted area (including high tunnels) is rotated to a different cash crop at each planting. It is best to change crop species. Repeated planting of the same crop in the same high tunnel or block will encourage fungal disease development and pest activity.
- When possible, plant additional companion crops with each cash crop. For example, this can be rows of tomatoes with herbs planted on each side. To protect asparagus from asparagus beetles, plant them with tomatoes. The addition of companion crops builds significantly greater soil microbial activity and diversity that helps to confer immunity in the plants to fungal disease and discourages pests.
- Plant complex (diverse) cover crops in each area in between cash crops. Make certain the cover crop mix contains plant species from at least three functional plant class groups (brassicas, grasses, legumes, grasses, etc).
- Plant species that naturally repel pests. These include:
- Aster – Deters a host of pest insects that impact gardens. More than two dozen pest species are repelled by the scent of Aster.
- Basil – Deters flies, carrot fly, whitefly, asparagus beetle, and mosquitoes.
- Bay Leaf – Deters flies, ants.
- Borage – Deters tomato hornworms and cabbage worms. Excellent pollinator attractor.
- Calamint – Deters cabbage worms, cabbage loopers moth larvae.
- Calendula – Deters asparagus beetles and tomato hornworms and possesses powerful antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
- Castor Bean Plant – Deters moles, voles and armadillos.
- Catnip – Deters flea beetles and potato bugs.
- Chives – Deters Japanese beetles, aphids, mites, carrot flies, rabbits
- Chrysanthemums – Deters many pest insects such as aphids, fleas, ants, silverfish, Japanese beetles, spider mites and harmful nematodes. They contain natural pyrethrums that have been isolated for use in synthetic insecticides. Caution: Do not plant near lettuce plants.
- Dill – Deters spider mites, squash bugs, aphids. However, it will attract tomato hookworms, so do not plant near tomatoes.
- Fennel – Deters slugs, snails and aphids.
- Garlic – Deters Cabbage worms, cabbage moths, codling moths, aphids, slugs, stink bugs, spider mites, earwigs, caterpillars, carrot flies, and rabbits.
- Geraniums – Deters many harmful species of pest insects, especially leafhoppers and mosquitoes.
- Lavender – Deters caterpillars, moths, fleas, flies, rodents, no-see-ums, mosquitoes and spiders.
- Lemongrass – Acts as a deterrent for mosquitoes. Doubles as an herbal tea.
- Lemon Thyme – Deters mosquitoes and attracts pollinators.
- Marigolds – Deters aphids, mosquitoes, rabbits, as well as other pests.
- Mint – Deters many species of pest insects (aphids, cabbage moths, whiteflies, flea beetles, squash bugs, ants) and contain beneficial essential oils.
- Nasturtiums – They will deter, by trapping in their leaves, pests such as aphids, cabbage moths, squash bugs, white flies, striped pumpkin beetles and others. Particularly effective when planted near beans, cabbage, and cucumbers.
- Onions – Deters cucumber beetles, cabbage worms, flea beetles, carrot rust flies, aphids, potato beetle, rabbits.
- Oregano – Deters cabbage moths.
- Parsley – Deters several species of pest beetles, including asparagus beetles. When they flower ,they attract parasitic wasps.
- Peppermint – Deters flies, ants, rodents and earwigs
- Petunias – Tomato hornworms, aphids, asparagus beetles, squash bugs, leafhoppers, and a number of other pests. Great for protecting beans, squash and potatoes.
- Radish – Deters squash bugs, cucumber beetles, cabbage maggot. Plant 3-4 radish plants around each cucumber plant and let radishes mature.
- Rosemary – Deters mosquitoes, cabbage moths, fruit flies, carrot flies, Mexican bean beetles, slugs, snails, and many other pests.
- Savory – Deters Mexican Bean beetles.
- Tansy – Deters Japanese beetles, cucumber beetles, moths and potato beetles. Works well for protecting squash and potato plants. Do not plant near greens.
- Thyme – Deters corn earworms, whiteflies, tomato hornworms, cabbage loopers, stink bugs, cutworms.
- Wormwood – Deters ants, cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, codling moths, flea beetles, whiteflies. Plant in pots around gardens.
- Include actual soil from the gardens in the greenhouse starter soil. When you do this, you expose the germinating seed to the actual soil microbes that they will then be transplanted to. This helps significantly as plants adjust from the seeding beds to the gardens.
- Building soil health with frequent rotations of cash crops pay big dividends. As soil health increases, plants form more complete proteins and have fewer free amino acids. Pest insects are attracted to plants to have lots of free amino acids and are NOT attracted to plants that form complete proteins.
- Plants that are healthier have complete proteins that create an electromagnetic frequency that wards away pest insects. They also communicate through these frequencies to warn other plants of invading pest.
- Be very careful about over-applying any sources of nitrogen (even natural ones). Over-application of N results in a host of negative compounding factors:
- Lowering of soil pH
- Loss of soil aggregate and increasing soil compaction
- Release of N2O into the atmosphere
- Negative feedback mechanisms in plant-soil-soil microbe interactions and nutrient cycling.
- Plant species that attract free-living nitrogen fixing bacteria.
There are multiple strategies for successfully implementing regenerative principles and practices in market garden production. Combinations of the above practices typically result in significant improvement in soil health parameters, reduction in plant disease and pest issues, and enhanced profitability. Implementation of the Confusion Principle (based on the Three Rules of Adaptive Stewardship – Rule of Disruption) on a routine, planned basis has proven to be key in making progress in regenerative applications.
In addition to producing garden vegetables with few (or any) synthetic inputs, by gardening with regenerative farming principles, you’ll also be growing healthier and more nutrient-dense food for you and your family.