“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.”
Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass
Regenerative gardening means improving environmental conditions so that biodiversity can flourish
Reciprocity is the act of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.
In gardening, this can be practiced by doing things to improve the health and diversity of the land and ecosystem. Taking care and consideration to foster environments for natural flora and fauna to thrive.
One teaspoon of good garden soil contains several yards of fungal hyphae, several thousand protozoa, a few dozen nematodes, and a billion invisible bacteria. The more life in your soil the better! Not only do these invisible members of the soil food web interact and communicate with your plants, they produce nutrients and food for them too. In turn, your happy plants put out root exudates (basically plant sweat), which attract and feed more fungi, bacteria, nematodes, and protozoa... and a healthy symbiotic relationship is formed.
Things you can do today to start fostering a healthy soil food web
The following are your friends! These beneficial creatures will hunt & destroy unwanted pests or improve conditions in your garden to make it less attractive to the bad bugs
In order to attract the above, care needs to be taken to ensure the environment is healthy and diverse. This means using less or preferably no chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. When I started gardening and I saw a bad bug, my first instinct was to grab some pesticide and take care of the problem. Little did I know, this was setting my garden up for a cycle of pests. Many pesticides are broad-spectrum and non-selective, meaning they are just as harmful to beneficial species, as they are to the pests. Once natural predators are eliminated, the pest populations can't be kept in check and re-surge quicker. If populations can be kept in a healthy balance, pests rarely get to a point where they start taking out entire crops or get unmanageable via picking the pests off or spraying with a blast of cold water.
Introducing a wide range of plants to your garden will help attract a diverse group of insects or animals. Mono-culture gardens are like an unlimited buffets for garden pests. Using native plants is best, taking care to not introduce anything invasive. Plant a mix of flowers and foliage. Annuals and perennials. Early bloomers and late. Provide a water source for those summer hot days.
Lacewing eggs on a lovage branch
An ichneumon wasp on a tomato leaf. These beneficial predators hunt out cutworms & other garden pests to use as hosts for their offspring
This is our go-to recipe for boosting and maintaining beneficial bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes in our soil. ACT can be used every two week and applied as a foliar feed or soil drench.
Brewing Time: 24-36 hours
1 x Air Pump (see important notes below)
2x Air Tubing
2x Air Stone
Cheesecloth, pantyhose, organza bag, or other material with at least 400 micrometers mesh
4.5 Gallons De-chlorinated Water
4-5 Cups Worm Castings (or compost)
2 Tablespoons Unsulphured Molasses (or cane syrup, maple syrup, and fruit juice)
The following are optional and can be tailored to suit your soil and plant needs. For a more fungal-dominated tea, add 2-3 teaspoons of kelp, humic acid, fulvic acid, phosphate rock dust, aloe vera extract, fish hydrolysate, yucca, zeolites, or blueberry, apple, and orange pulp.
Steps: Assemble tubes and airstones. Place tubing withthe air stones attached into the bottom of your bucket. (When air bubbles from the aerator are smaller than 1 millimeter, they can cup up microbes. Using an air stone will ensure that the air bubbles are the appropriate size.)
Place your worm castings into your 'tea bag'. Tie and place into bucket. This can be weighed down with a rock if needed.
Add molasses and any optional ingredients.
Fill buckets with dechlorinated water. Leave some space at the top, as sometimes the proteins from worm bodies can cause foaming. We like to place cardboard under our brews to catch any splashes and drips
Aerate for 24-36 hours. The tea should NOT smell, but rather have an earthy and sweet aroma. If the tea smells bad at all, that means it is anaerobic, and can NOT be used, as it may contain harmful bacteria such as E coli.
After brew time is complete, the fluid is poured into a sprayer (see tips below) or used as a soil drench
Clean your buckets, tubes, and air stone immediately! The biofilm that coats these items can be very difficult to remove if left to dry. Adding some baking soda into water and rinsing well with pressure should do the trick.
Tips & Notes:
Always wear gloves and protect yourself from splashes. Getting a splash of worm tea in the face is not recommended at all.
In order to keep your tea from becoming anaerobic and from becoming contaminated with E. coli, a small aquarium pump will not be sufficient. Pumps with at least two outlets are best and should cycle at least 0.05 cubic feet (0.0014 cubic meters) of air per minute, per gallon of water.
If using as a soil drench, we use a small cup to remove fluid from the 5-gallon bucket and pour the ACT directly near the stem of the plant to ensure roots are drenched.
Apply tea in the early morning or evening. UV rays kill microbes. Apply at least 30 minutes before it rains, as the bacteria and fungal hyphae need about 15 to 30 minutes to attach to leaf surfaces, and about
When used as a foliar spray, ensure at least 70% of plant foliage is covered. Cover both sides of leaves. Use a pressure pump that does not exceed 70 PSi.
Don't worry about using too much - there is no such thing when using ACT.
*Always do your own research before starting a new garden practice to ensure that it is right for your garden or yard
You can make your own plant-based organic fertilizer using common weeds and perennials!
The below are some common weeds that can be used to make fertilizer tailored to the needs of your soil:
Collect any of the above and chop or break up and add to a jar or bucket. Add distilled or rain water to the container, ensuring all the plant matter is covered. A rock can be used to weigh down the plants. A pillowcase can also be used like a teabag to make removing plant matter at the end easier.
I like to add a few tablespoons of cane sugar to the mix as well. Stir a couple times a day if possible.
Let sit out for 3-5 days. It's best to do this outside as it can be quite smelly when the plants ferment and break down.
When completed, strain out the decomposed plant matter and throw into your compost bin. Keep the liquid in a sealed container. Use 1 part 'weed tea' to 10 parts water. I use as a soil drench or foliar feed on houseplants and out in the garden. Mature outdoors plants can tolerate a stronger dilution of 1 part 'weed tea' to 4 parts water.