One of the best things about running a small business - all the amazing creatives you get to meet and connect with! Marayke from Bloomsday is one of those rad humans we have grown to know through small business-ing, and over the years we have worked together in different capacities. Marayke is a talented florist and artist who is also passionate about sustainability, permaculture and beekeeping! We are super lucky to have Marayke share some of her knowledge on Permaculture, in particular regenerative gardening in a blog for us all today.
If you are looking to brighten someones day with blooms, have an event you would like some florals for, on the search for some awesome art + illustration prints, or after permaculture design services... then pop over to www.bloomsday.co.nz
Regenerative Gardening with Marayke from Bloomsday
#cottagecore is raging through Instagram and Pinterest these days. Idyllic wildflower meadows and luscious veggie gardens, riverstone pathways and sun-soaked baskets of rainbow produce. Yep, pretty dreamy. Aside from gram-worthy snaps, there are SO many reasons why you should be gardening. If it’s not the aesthetic that gets you motivated, maybe it will be the promise of fresh flowers on your kitchen bench, an unusual chilli pepper for that meal you’re planning, or fresh mint for your gin and tonic. Once you’ve got a foot in the door, it’s hard not to get hooked.
Regenerative gardening is taking all this good stuff to the next level. An environmental buzz-word, ‘regenerative’ means we’re growing new, vigorous life, especially after loss or damage. In the big picture, this means doughnut economics and circular product cycles, “think global, act local”, and climate justice. But in your own backyard, regenerative can mean no-dig gardening. It can mean a diverse range of plants, and no bare soil. Regenerative gardening uses locally-made fertilisers, no synthetic additives, and no chemical pesticides. It means composting, fostering a more plant-based diet, and reducing food waste. In short: utilising nature’s innate systems to let it look after itself.
In other words, if you’re not growing some food, you should be. And here’s why:
Firstly, it’s INCREDIBLE for the planet.
Regenerative agriculture is one of Project Drawdown’s solutions for the climate emergency. All those good simple practices draw carbon down into the soil, via increases in vital soil microbes, deeper roots, improved nutrient uptake, better water retention, and increased pest-resistance. Building healthy soil is a surprisingly effective way to sequester carbon (while also benefiting farmers with improved profits when done on a commercial scale!). For more info on this, read Soil by Matthew Evans, or watch Kiss the Ground on Netflix.
Growing a biodiverse range of plants is also important for the environment - and your stomach. While providing a habitat for beneficial insects, it also can help to reduce pest insects. For example, in my garden this week I’ve spotted a native carnivorous flatworm, jumping spiders, and a praying mantis - these all prey on pest insects. My nasturtium is being eaten by aphids, distracting them from other plants that I’d prefer they stayed away from. And by planting flowers amongst my veggies, we’re supporting pollinators like bees and butterflies. Oh, and don’t forget the inherent value of each species’ existence! You have no shortage of excuses when ordering a treasure trove worth of seeds.
Mass-grown monoculture is the opposite to all this: rows and rows of corn or lettuce or broccoli require more pest control and can actually degrade the soil. Aside from all the natural benefits of side-stepping this system, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint too. The distance your food travels from the farm to your plate is called food mileage, and can equate to hundreds or thousands of kilometres of fossil-fuelled transport (hello bananas from Ecuador!!). Another way to avoid these perils, if you can’t grow your own, is to support local market gardens or small scale farms. Look for a veggie box subscription in your local area. (For example, Ooooby, Clevedon Herbs + Produce, a CSA (community supported agriculture), or a farmer’s market).
Gardening also has immense benefits for your mental health. You’ve heard of forest bathing in Japan, doctors giving out “green prescriptions”, or the benefits of wild swimming - this is yet another version of that theory. Nature is therapy, and there is genuine science behind it. Going barefoot on some grass or having your hands in some soil for even a few minutes each day can improve your wellbeing.
Gardening in particular has a way of connecting you with nature that I think is really powerful. By coming back to tend your garden, even just every few weeks, you’re noticing the changes in the seasons and what is existing in the present moment. You’ve heard all about the benefits of mindfulness. Gardening connects us with the here and now, like a plant-powered meditation - and you happen to learn new things along the way. On top of this, seeing something that you’ve planted literally grow and bloom brings a sense of achievement; a dopamine-inducing reward cycle.
There are obvious physical benefits too; whether you’re lugging around a watering can or walking to your local community garden, and of course eating fresh, healthy produce. But taking action has more (yes, more!!) mental benefits as well. With constant news of natural disasters caused by the climate emergency, emissions still on the rise, and a lack of meaningful government action, it can be pretty easy to get bogged down in the negatives. Taking some physical action to not only reduce your personal carbon footprint, but also sequester carbon, can be truly empowering and dissolve some of your climate anxiety. As Audrey Hepburn said “To plant a seed is to believe in tomorrow.”
Let me stop you now before you start jumping on that green-thumbed self-sufficiency bandwagon. Growing your own food also has huge benefits to your community.
“Self-sufficiency” is another big buzzword. But being able to survive alone is not the goal here. The goal is a thriving, resilient community. If you have even a little spare produce or seeds, consider contributing them to a local ‘free food’ or ‘food swap’ stall, or gifting them to your neighbour. Being able to share food, knowledge, or even friendship in times of need can go a long way (shout out to the neighbours sharing toilet paper during COVID). Community gardens are also a great way to go if you don’t have space of your own. You’ll be getting to know your neighbours, creating connections, improving community resilience, and making low-cost healthy options more accessible. Win-win-win.
Plus, gardening has that epic intergenerational aspect to it. Everyone always has and always will need food, and access to it is an intersectional issue. Your Nana can probably teach you a lot about growing food (and preserving it!), and she will likely be stoked if you ask her questions. On the other end, kids love getting dirty and picking fresh cherry tomatoes too - get them involved ASAP.
So where to begin?
- Start small - maybe one or two plants if you like. I’d recommend your favourite herb (thyme and mint are hardy ones), or something versatile, awesome and colourful like rainbow chard.
- If you’re renting and need something less permanent, try a pot and a bag of potting mix as your first garden. Easy to take with you!
- No time to grow? Find a locally-grown veggie subscription in your area and order a box.
So many benefits - what have you got to lose?
- Words from Marayke Bouma