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3 Steps to Regenerative Plant-Based Soil Production


June 24, 2024 by Hope Gardens

Let’s talk about how to create a healthy carbon-storing soil at home using plants.

Regenerative agriculture is defined as a holistic approach to farming designed to protect, sustain and enhance natural resources. 

One of the main missions of regenerative is to “lock” carbon in soil rather than allowing it to release into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

One of the best ways to lock carbon in the ground is to have a healthy soil, full of networks of microbes in the form of fungi, bacteria and other soil organisms. The carbon present in alive soil resists rapid biological decomposition and that’s how it “locks” in carbon. This is the function of a balanced soil biome. 

Most gardeners and urban farmers are starting with a depleted native soil or a sterile potting mix. Creating a healthy soil biome under these conditions is as easy as 1-2-3…and you can do it at your home or community JUST USING PLANTS. This is the basis of veganic regenerative agriculture.

First, you’re going to grow your own source plants for MULCH. We all know the best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago so get those trees in the ground. Surround your ecosystem with trees and shrubs that once mature can be harvested again and again as mulch materials.

These plants aren’t only valuable after harvest. While growing, these source plants can naturally pull toxins from the ground, feed the soil they grow in, and provide shade and transpiration to your plants. Then once cut back and dropped on the ground, the plant materials offer great fertility to the soil.

Here, in plant-based regenerative, manure is being replaced with plants. Plants can serve multiple functions in this system just by being plants. They come back year after year and even produce their own seeds for new plants. In animal-based regenerative, animals must be bred, reared, fed, moved and housed. All of this takes a lot of resources and in the end, these animals produce methane which is what we are working so hard to prevent. 

Every part of animal rearing take a large toll on the environment. Animals don’t regenerate as plants do. In animal-based regenerative you will always need to rear new animals and slaughter the old ones. Plants on the other hand self-regenerate and are a boon to the environment. Trees and shrubs provide habitat for nature increasing the environment’s natural biodiversity.

So now you have grown your mulch to help build your soil, clean your soil and protect your soil. Let’s move onto step two.

New soils, or soils we want to reclaim, need some life and food as well as mulch. For the life, we are going to add COMPOST. Compost is like your soil’s fire starter. While mulch is a slow burn, compost breaks down fast. It fires up the decomposition with a concentrated amount of microbes, worms and other organisms. Compost kicks your soil into high gear providing life, nutrients and tilth. In this beautiful closed-loop system, your mulch materials along with other plant or food waste can be used to create your own compost. There are more than enough microbes in plant-based compost. No animals needed.

Last, but not least, you need FERTILIZER. Fertilizer delivers tailored and concentrated nutrients to your plants. This is will be in the form of a granulated powder or a liquid made from plants and minerals. Again, in our truly closed-loop system, plant materials you grow can be made into fertilizers. 

When starting with a depleted or unworked soil, or a sterile potting mix, you will need to acquire fertilizer to get the wheel turning. Lucky for you, you have a plant-based connection! Fertilizer is applied several times throughout the season both directly to the soil and as a root drench or foliar feeding. Picking the right fertilizer depends on what you’re growing and in what season. Soil testing can help determine any specific deficiencies to address as well.

Over years, in a well maintained environment, you will find yourself not needing so many fertilizers or even that much compost as the chop-and-drop mulch will keep feeding the system itself. No animals needed.

Healthy soil sequesters carbon but also grows more nutritive fruits and vegetables. In addition the process of plant-based gardening or farming creates a functional self-sustaining ecosystem that benefits all the players in the game.

Please let me know your experiences with these practices and if you have any questions. Support plant-based gardening however you can. This is a truly regenerative and organic gardening and farming practice. No farmed animals needed. Happy gardening!