Guide to Natural Gardening

These natural gardening methods will improve your gardening experience and increase food production.

| Summer 2012

Natural process” agriculture may strike you as a different, yet common-sense approach to gardening.

Rushing along a hedgerow, Bob Cannard is demonstrating what makes his soils cake-plush. “We need plants to be wonderfully strong, focused youngsters, so they’ll grow to become productive, useful adults!” 

He’s explaining why he doesn’t turn in cover crop before it goes to seed. “It’s infanticide!” he’d say about the practice.  

Part of Bob’s success as a farmer is his art of training weeds to become cover crops. You won’t see galinsoga or witch grass anywhere at Cannard Farms in Sonoma County, California. In place of weeds: a sea of field peas, lavender purple and pale pink, undulate, woven into a shocking green blanket of mature fava beans. Bright yellows of calendula, and the twiny bramble of hairy vetch also patchwork the landscape, among citrus and olive trees. How to maximize soil health is the most important aspect of growing food in a “natural process” system—something I learned as an apprentice last year through the Green String Institute, an education farm and garden in Petaluma, California, for students of natural process agriculture. 

Intro to Natural Process Gardening 

Natural process gardening or farming is a principle of reciprocity: Give 50 percent of your care to growing good food for you, and 50 percent adding back nutrients to feed the soil. It’s predominately the growing of soil and the study of plants—watching plants through each stage of their development and observing how environmental factors can help or hinder them.  

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