Brian Minter: It’s time to return our soils to their original healthy structure and organic content – Vancouver Sun

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Author of the article: Brian Minter A maturing cover crop that will restore vital nutrients to the soil. jpg An important new movement is taking place in the world of farming and gardening. I noted this development about a year ago as one of the most significant new trends identified by the Garden Media Group. It’s called regenerative farming and gardening. For far too long, we’ve been taking so much “goodness” out of our soils and leaving them depleted of organic content, healthy bacteria and essential organisms, such as mycorrhizae. It’s time to return our soils to their original healthy structure and organic content. It isn’t going to happen overnight, but rather in stages. I had the pleasure of speaking with Kennedy Collins, who lives and works in southern Manitoba. He is one of the founders of ReWild Garden Seed. The parent company, Covers and Co., a cover crop and forage seed supplier, works with farmers to regenerate farmland. The company has now branded a special blend of seeds for the home garden market. Collins contacted me recently for help creating awareness of their cover crop seed blend that is successfully restoring the soils of both farms and home gardens. Advertisement This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. A jar of ReWild Garden Seed ‘Spring Fling Blend’. jpg Their ReWild Garden Seed mix has been scientifically blended to produce a crop of plants that work as green manure to feed the soil, restore nutrients, reduce weeds and help minimize or completely eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers. Their flagship product, Spring Fling Garden Cover Crop, contains 15 diverse plant species that will remediate soils to their original health. The farm soil restoration movement is gaining traction, especially on the Prairies. Recently, it was a featured storyline on CBC National News. I asked Collins approximately what percentage of farmers were actively engaged in soil restoration, and I was surprised to hear it was about five per cent. It’s mainly the younger generation of farmers who are most interested in restoring their soils to a condition more closely aligned with nature. It requires courage to take the steps necessary to bring about this change. Besides dealing with constant weather issues and the effects of ongoing climate change, to remain viable, farmers are always under pressure to increase productivity, and this regenerative process involves taking a section of land out of production for a good year. Using a cover crop to regenerate soil is a natural process, but it requires a level of patience. Kennedy Collins in his backyard garden. jpg Collins pointed out the five principles involved in soil restoration. First, there is the issue of soil disturbance. Minimizing soil cultivation of any kind is necessary for one year. The diversity of plant life is another consideration. This is not monoculture, but rather a scientific assessment of each plant seed and its contribution to the full regenerative process. Next is establishing a living root system, allowing the plants time to do their natural work and to connect with the soil’s organisms and beneficial insect life. This process also requires the creation of carbon traps in the soil that sequester carbon. It involves using your own feet to stomp down the foliage as a way of replicating ancient buffalo migrations, and then letting it regrow. Advertisement This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. It’s amazing to think that a one-year cycle of growing carefully selected grasses can help reverse years of stress on our soils. There are, of course, some challenges. The seeds and plants need to withstand no care or attention for four seasons that may include heat, drought, cold and wet. It is also important that the plants grow sufficiently to form a low canopy. In scientific terms, Covers & Co.’s specially chosen seed species ideally provide a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 24 to 1. Soil bacteria have a carbon-nitrogen makeup of 8:1 in their bodies, and a preferred diet of 16:1, adding up to the 24:1 target. This ratio is important for feeding sugars to soil microbes, both while the plants are alive and when dead. A section of farm land planted with a regenerative cover crop that will be rotavated back into the soil. jpg In addition to broadleaves and annual grasses, there are four different legumes in the Spring Fling mix that ‘fix’ nitrogen to the soil via bacteria colonies on their root nodules. Regenerative farming principles also apply to the gardening community and that is why Covers & Co. are now turning their attention in that direction with ReWild Garden Seed. It’s all about creating nature’s original soil balance, and once that has been achieved, the soil can look after itself, meaning less or little use of synthetic fertilizers. In urban areas, where small space gardening is today’s reality, Collins recommends dedicating, each year, one-quarter of your garden to regeneration by rotating a cover crop of ‘Spring Fling’ to a new section. This approach also works for raised garden beds. ReWild Garden Seed is adding other seeds to the mix so that the remediation area looks even more attractive to pollinators and to the neighbours. Advertisement This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. I asked about the importance of worms in the soil. According to Collins, he has seen a four to five times increase in the number of worms in soil remediated with Spring Fling — and that’s a good thing. This equates to about 20 worms per cubic foot of soil. When using cover crops, the one issue we all face is preparing our soils for early planting. Collins said that once the ReWild Garden Seed blend has completed its cycle, it can be rotovated in well to allow for natural decomposition. In small spaces, it can be double dug deep into the soil where all the goodness in the roots and leaves will add greater green manure value. This should be done well in advance of your regular spring planting schedule. It’s wonderful to see new opportunities for soil restoration. Currently, ReWild Garden Seed is available in retail stores in Manitoba and online at T&T Seeds. Collins expects their garden seed mixes will be available soon in B.C. The approximate cost is $19.95 per 400 square feet. For more information, visit their website: rewildgardenseed.com and coversandco.ca. Their handle on Facebook and Instagram is @rewildgardenseed and @covercropcompany. Each year, if you dedicate a portion of your garden for remediation, you will reap the rewards in more ways than one. Kennedy Collins is a co-founder of ReWild Garden Seed. jpg Vancouver Sun Headline News Sign up to receive daily headline news from the Vancouver Sun, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. By clicking on the sign up button you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You may unsubscribe any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300 We encountered an issue signing you up. Please try again
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