If you are no stranger to gardening and homesteading, you already know that climate farming is a cutting-edge growing practice that uniquely combines permaculture, proven tenets of regenerative agriculture, and syntropic agroforestry.
Climate farming basics
- Climate farming practices include the following:
- Including livestock in farming operations.
- Using no-till practices to reduce soil disturbances.
- Planting companion
- Planting for succession.
- Natural erosion control.
- Careful and smart water management
Climate farming aims to produce delicious, nutritious fruits and vegetables while improving the health of topsoil health, reducing or eliminating harmful agricultural runoff, and sequestering greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Climate farming is a way to make a difference in the fight against climate change that goes beyond sharing a social media post or donating to a cause.
We can all start by planting our own gardens and asking for Climate-Farmed produce at the market.
Besides its global impact on climate change reversal, collective carbon sequestration in farming and home gardening will have an immediate impact in your area, leading to healthier rivers, streams, and lakes. And that’s something we can all agree on!
So, are you ready to join the fight against climate change?
We’ve put together a list of six things you can do right now to transform your farm, garden, or homestead into a carbon-free haven.
Compost is a living soil amendment that not only reduces waste but also releases beneficial nutrients that re-energize the soil.
One of the most common misconceptions about composting is that it requires a large amount of space to get started. With the right receptacle and approach, even city dwellers can make compost. The first step is to determine which setup will work best for your situation.
If you have a backyard, you can use almost any method you want, whether it’s starting a pile in an underutilized corner of the yard or building a wooden bin to keep it more contained.
Apartment and townhouse dwellers can get creative and create some unique bins. Several online specialty shops sell pre-made urban agrarian bins, and the DIY-inclined can get creative with recyclable materials. You can keep your bin at an ideal temperature by storing it under the sink, in a cabinet, or on a porch.
Can’t find a suitable receptacle?
Simply cover your pile with a tarp supported by bricks. Because it can be accessed from all sides and flipped with a pitchfork, this system is ideal for the home gardener.
To make a successful compost pile, combine high-carbon “brown” material like sawdust, straw, and leaves with nitrogen-rich “green” material like vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and grass clippings. Once a month, mix or turn your pile to help it break down faster and eliminate odors. If it becomes too dry, gently spray it with a hose (it should always be about the consistency of a wrung-out sponge).
When your compost is dark, crumbly, and smells like earth, it’s done!
Grow support species
Climate Farming relies heavily on support species. While crunchy vegetables and succulent fruits are always the end goal, harvesting a plentiful yield while naturally enriching the soil necessitates deliberate action.
In most natural ecosystems, there is a consortium of two or more different species growing around one plant. They can accomplish more as a group than they could individually. Here are five major advantages to incorporating support species into your farm or garden ecosystem:
Accumulation of biomass:
When support species are “chopped and dropped” onto the ground around a farm’s main productive crops, they provide biomass for soil production. They are then left to decompose and enrich the soil.
Fixation of nitrogen:
Because their roots exude simple sugars and other compounds that attract rhizobium bacteria, growers frequently use legumes as support species. These bacteria have a symbiotic relationship with the plant, capturing atmospheric nitrogen that would otherwise be unavailable to the plant and making it available in exchange for carbohydrates.
When young seedlings are newly transplanted in the field, many support species act as a living nursery, providing shade for sensitive young seedlings.
Support species can help keep soil and plants hydrated by reducing evapotranspiration (the movement of water from the earth’s surface into the atmosphere, as well as from plant surfaces).
Using a cover crop:
Many small herbaceous species can be used as rotational cover crops, reinvigorating soil that has been depleted by the previous crop’s nutrient demands.
Use the land and sun to your advantage
If you’re a first-time grower who hasn’t yet broken ground, you have a unique opportunity to design your garden to maximize its ecological potential. Many growers fail to consider the slope of their land when constructing planting rows. This results in poor irrigation, excess runoff, and water and nutrient leaching.
Plan your rows so that they are perpendicular to the slope of your land. This forces rainwater to travel the shortest distance possible, around each row of your crops, maximizing water exposure to the soil in terms of both time and surface area. This method of slowing, stopping, sinking, and storing water keeps nutrients on the crops and away from neighboring waterways.
There are expensive land-surveying tools that can be used to precisely measure your slope, but for a home grower, simple tools like an A-frame or a bunyip level will suffice and are easily made.
Similarly, it is important to pay attention to how much sunlight your plot receives and plan your planting accordingly.
Use trees to shade crops that require less sunlight, and pay attention to how the sun moves so that you can maximize your growing area by designing your garden to allow the appropriate amount of sunlight for each crop.
How about using the no-till or minimal-till techniques?
Finding a plant that does the work for you is an easy way for home gardeners and small farmers to adopt no-till soil practices.
The daikon radish, which grows a long, thick, cylindrical taproot with many lateral roots, is one of the most promising options. These roots not only help break up compacted soils, but when left to decompose, they also fill all those pathways with nutrients that the plant captured over its life span.
Because of the aeration and increased water capacity along the vertical fractures created by the daikon radish’s roots, this creates a softer soil profile, ultimately leading to more nutrient-dense soils that support beneficial microorganisms and fungi.
Feeding the microorganisms promotes an ancient symbiotic relationship in which the microorganisms feed on plant root sugars and then produce four times more sugars (a carbon source) through their residues than their plant counterparts.
So, while you’re tilling your daikon fields, you’re also helping to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Of course, daikon radish isn’t the only minimal-till cover crop. Sunn hemp, oats, pigeon pea, millet, sorghum, and buckwheat can all fill this role with proper organic matter management strategies.
How about green mulching?
The chop-and-drop green mulching method, which is quite popular, is exactly what it sounds like: you “chop” (or cut) mature plant organic material and then “drop” it on the ground, mimicking what plants would do in nature.
When plants die (or die back), their old material falls to the ground, decomposes, and provides food for soil organisms (fungi, bacteria, and animals) while also forming a beautiful compost-like humic layer.
This method also keeps the roots in the soil, where they prevent erosion, aid in aeration, and maintain nutrient networks until they decompose and become another source of nutrients. While the concept makes sense and appears simple, it’s like anything else: there are times when using this regenerative farming method is appropriate, and times when it isn’t.
Plants with deep taproot systems, a lot of leafy material, and the ability to fix nitrogen are ideal candidates for this practice.
Those deep-reaching roots can outcompete some of your garden vegetables’ smaller, more fibrous roots. By leaving them in the ground, you allow other plants to benefit from the nutrients that have accumulated.
A few recommended plants for chop and drop green mulching
The pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) – This fast-growing legume is a chop-and-drop favorite. Many gardeners grow pigeon pea specifically for this purpose because it produces a large amount of biomass (leafy material) in a short period of time. It’s also a legume, which means its roots store nitrogen that will last long after the plant has died.
Moringa (Moringa oleifera) – It’s all over the place these days, and for good reason! Moringa not only has numerous health benefits, but it also grows quickly, leaving you with an abundance of leafy material to harvest.
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum spp) – When it comes to green mulch, nasturtiums are particularly appealing. When planted with taller plants, they act as a natural barrier while alive and provide excellent biomass when they die out during hot months.
Lupine (Lupinus spp) – Another legume that attracts pollinators, this one is a particularly attractive addition to the garden. Lupine, like the pigeon pea, fixes nitrogen at the root level, and that nitrogen is available even after the plant dies back. It should be noted that lupine is toxic to livestock.
Sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea) – This soil friend is valued for its exceptional productivity and has the unique ability to suppress nematodes. Sunn hemp can accumulate more than 130 pounds of nitrogen per acre in 90 days! Note: While this is ideal for tropical climates, it may not be suitable for northern climates.
Use worms in your garden
Vermicomposting, or the cultivation of a worm garden, is a method of animal integration that can be done in a container on a terrace, a plot in your backyard, or a small farm. Vermicomposters frequently refer to worm castings and worm tea as “black gold for plants.”
Many gardeners raise a few pounds of red wiggler worms by feeding them kitchen scraps and collecting the digested and deposited castings to feed to their plants. A worm home will serve as both a garbage disposal and a fertilizer producer. Raising a few pounds of worms is surprisingly cheap and simple, and it’s not nearly as messy as you might think.
There is no doubt that our climate is changing, and we are all responsible for its effect on our homes and gardens and, ultimately, our lives. When you make the conscious decision to work with the land rather than against it, you’ll discover that nature actually wants to help you grow.