Title: Growing Good Food, A Citizen’s Guide To Backyard Carbon Farming
Author: Acadia Tucker
Publisher: Stone Pier Press

Sell your rototiller and ditch the synthetic fertilizers. Plant a climate victory garden and enjoy a bounty of food with less work.

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Backyard carbon farming and regenerative practices sound like big ideas – and they are. But author and regenerative farmer Acadia Tucker wants every gardener to know that they’re actually pretty simple ideas. If every gardener embraced them and planted a climate victory garden, we’d make a significant contribution to reducing atmospheric carbon and slowing climate change. Plus, everyone would eat a whole lot healthier. The beauty of the idea is that the quality of the food you grow is inextricably linked to improving the climate. And that’s a win/win for everybody.

Tucker has a unique perspective on the climate crisis. Working as a farmer from Washington State to New Hampshire, she has seen radical, unpredicted shifts in climate which decimated sensitive annual crops but spared perennials. She has also seen the difference it makes to those crops when soil contains an abundance of organic material vs traditionally farmed soil which doesn’t. It’s fascinating to read about the strategies she and her partners employed to rehab an old plant nursery and how some traditional methods failed miserably. Experience is indeed the best teacher.

What is a climate victory garden?

Think about the deep forest. If you’ve ever hiked into deep woods you know how remarkable it is – and that’s because no humans interfered with the natural cycle of growth or more importantly, the soil. Years of carbon-rich material have fallen and decayed and are trapped there, and will remain so for thousands of years, unless and until it’s deforested. Plants grow perpetually, creating a rich ecosystem, undisturbed and unaided by human hands.

The idea of a climate victory garden is “rooted” in the deep forest example. Perennial food crops return year after year – those with a woody structure like fruit trees and raspberries store carbon, those that grow close to the ground like strawberries act as a groundcover. If gardeners grow mostly perennial crops like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, fruit trees, asparagus, rhubarb, spinach, potatoes, garlic, kales, lettuces, a variety of herbs, and similar crops, more carbon will be stored in the plants and the soil. Planting perennials means that soil remains relatively undisturbed for years after planting, building organic matter in the soil, which feeds plants, stores carbon, and manages water.

You may not realize that all of the crops mentioned above can actually be grown as perennials. Pieces of potatoes can be left in the ground after harvest, as can garlic cloves to grow the following year. Certain varieties of onions will return year after year. One spinach plant, kale or lettuce left to go to seed creates many plants the following spring (just make sure you plant an heirloom, not a hybrid variety). Even peppers can be grown perennially if the plant is brought indoors over the winter in areas that receive frost.

Around half of the carbon released into the atmosphere every year is absorbed by oceans, plants, and soil. Soil does most of the heavy lifting, storing four times more carbon than plants. We interrupt this cycle by plowing it, stripping it of forests, spreading chemicals on it, and leaving it bare, and this has terrible consequences. When soil degrades, the molecules that bind carbon break down, realeasing it back into the air. Instead of absorbing carbon, depleted soil further contributes to global warming.
Regenerative practices grow food in a way that returns atmospheric carbon back to the soil, a process called sequestration. And it all starts with plants.Acadia Tucker, Growing Good Food

In Growing Good Food: A Citizen’s Guide to Backyard Carbon Farming, Tucker lays out the basic plan for building a climate victory garden that anyone can follow: mapping your site, where the best spot on your property is to start your garden, building raised beds, grooming your soil, sheet mulching, the basics of composting, how to start plants indoors, which plants to grow, and much more.

By following Tucker’s advice, you can contribute to carbon capture in your garden, regardless of its size, and enjoy a bountiful feast of fruits, herbs, and vegetables every year. The irony is, once your perennial crops are established, you’ll do less work than if you grew annual crops that had to be replaced every year and weeded and watered judiciously. That’s a pretty good deal from any viewpoint. As a lifelong gardener, I came to this conclusion years ago – I wasn’t thinking about the carbon capture, just about doing less in my garden (with age comes wisdom).

Growing Good Food also includes calls to action and insights from leaders in the regenerative movement, including David Montgomery, Gabe Brown, and Tim LaSalle.  Growing Good Food: A citizen’s guide to backyard carbon farming is a companion to Growing Perennial Foods: A field guide to raising resilient herbs, fruits, and vegetables, also written by Acadia Tucker.