Regenerative Market Gardening
As with all types of agriculture the main thing with a Regenerative Market Garden is to try and follow the 5 principles of regenerative farming. These principles are all designed to promote the biology in your soil and enable you to produce nutrient dense foods organically while minimising external inputs. It all comes down to housing and feeding your soil biology. Below are the principles and then some videos to explain further.
1. No-dig - turning the soil kills soil biology and oxidizes soil organic matter (carbon goes from your soil into the atmosphere). It also creates the ideal environment for weeds so a major upside of no-dig gardening and mulching is much less weeding. When starting out use a tarpaulin or cardboard boxes to kill old plants rather than digging.
2. Keep the ground covered as much as possible - you need to keep your soil covered from direct impact from rain, sun and wind. While plants can do a good job of this once they are fully grown for most of the year this is not the case and mulch is very good here. Once again this helps surpress weeds.
3. Living root - if there is no plant growing the soil biology is not being fed so try to replant your bed on the day you remove your old plants. Bare ground is a cardinal sin.
4. Crop rotation - Plant different plants in the same bed and practice a crop rotation including a green manure cover crop. For example in one bed go lettuce, gem squash and then green manure, then start the cycle again. Include legumes in your green manure.
5. Incorporate animal manure into your compost. While you can't have cows graze your cover crop if you can access some animal dung / chicken litter to add to your compost this helps boost your soil biology.
A practical application of the above:
When a plant is finished producing don't pull out the roots, cut it off at ground level. Why? Firstly you don't disturb the soil biology and secondly you leave the roots in the ground to become soil organic matter. Then plant the replacement crop as soon as possible so there is a living root in the soil feeding carbon to your soil biology. As the old roots die and become soil organic matter the new roots will grow down the paths they created through the soil.
There are some great YouTube videos on these various aspects of regenerative market gardening. Here are a few links:
Video: Richard Perkins - Legendary regenerative farmer and educator - No-Dig Gardening
Video: Singing Frog Farms - A top regenerative market garden
Video: Singing Frog Farms - Carbon and Compost
Video: Singing Frog Farms - No-till presentation at a Conference (51 mins)
Video: Josh Sattin on No-Till Gardening
Video: Charles Dowding - No-Dig gardening