Sustainable growing

In the world of sustainable gardening and farming, there are lots of different terms and techniques. We’re here to help you understand the difference.

Organic growing 🔗

The essence of organic gardening is to work within natural systems and cycles. Organic growing doesn’t just mean avoiding using chemical weed killers and pesticides, it is using natural ways to promote a complete, healthy, productive and sustainable growing environment.

Organic growing involves feeding the soil, encouraging wildlife, maintaining a healthy growing environment, and working with the natural pest/predator balance.

For food, ‘organic’ is a protected term which means it must be certified by an approved UK organic control body. The official certification schemes to look out for include The Soil Association and Organic Farmers and Growers which offer certification in the UK, along with the EU Euro-leaf mark, but there are another 6 across the UK.

Biodynamic growing 🔗

Biodynamic growers practice organic methods and share very similar certification standards and ideals, but biodynamics has metaphysical and spiritual roots that organics doesn’t. One such example is the biodynamic astronomical calendar. This tool is often consulted by biodynamic growers to help assess optimum times for carrying out key tasks such as sowing and planting.

The Biodynamic Association is a great source of information on this method of growing.

Regenerative Farming 🔗

Regenerative is one of the newer terms. According to Groundswell, ‘Regenerative agriculture is any form of farming which at the same time improves the environment. This primarily means regenerating the soil.’

Groundswell lists five principles of regenerative farming: don’t disturb the soil; keep the soil surface covered; keep living roots in the soil; grow a diverse range of crops; bring grazing animals back to the land.

Within an agricultural setting, unlike organic and biodynamic, there is no set certification model to classify regenerative farms, instead it’s considered a ‘direction of travel’, showing the intentions of the growers to farm more sustainably.

Permaculture 🔗

The Permaculture Association is an excellent source of information on this growing approach. They define permaculture as a framework that helps people take action, focusing on the three pillars: ethics, lessons from nature and a design approach.

Permaculture strives to use land, resources, people and the environment in a way that doesn’t produce any waste – and encourages the use of closed loop systems seen in nature.

Permaculture encourages individuals to think carefully about the way they use resources such as food and shelter, and non-material needs. The aim is to get more out of life by using less.

The Permaculture Association states that ‘A permaculture project will incorporate a wide range of solutions ranging from forest gardening and renewable energy to mulches and community lunches.’

The Permaculture magazine is also a great resource for this approach.

Agroforestry 🔗

According to the Agroforestry Research Trust, agroforestry “is the growing of both trees and agricultural / horticultural crops on the same piece of land. Agroforestry differs from traditional forestry and agriculture by its focus on the interactions amongst components rather than just on the individual components themselves.”

Forest gardens are a popular form of agroforestry. These gardens are designed with a mix of trees, shrubs and perennial plants, planted to mimic a natural forest.