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How could an average sized garden have an impact on the climate

 
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Hi Permies,

if have a very general question and I am aware, its difficult/impossible to find one answer.
But maybe you can help me to get a direction.

Since the average size of a garden ist quite different around the globe, I thought it could be good to picture the size with something we all know - like a handball field (800m²), tennis court (260m²) or something similar.
I go for the middle with 400m², even when the statistics I found in google differ allot for an averaged sized garden.

The question is:
How could a 400m² area have an impact on the climate/ecosystem.
Means, what could be done on a 400m² area, to activly intervent in the ecosystem to create better air, better soil, less bad pollution, water saving, food production, etc.
Actually, I want to create an idea, how 400m² can become a real green footprint.
And how not only one, but hundreds of that 400m² areas could have an impact on the climate/ecosystem.

Since there are so many way to improve the quality of the planet, I am super curious, what techniques could seriously help.

On http://sustainablefootprint.org/terra-preta-catching-carbon/ they say the following about adding biochar into the soil:

   Enhanced plant growth
   Suppressed methane emission
   Reduced nitrous oxide emission (estimate 50%)
   Reduced fertilizer requirement (estimate 10%)
   Reduced leaching of nutrients
   Stored carbon in a long term stable sink
   Reduces soil acidity: raises soil pH
   Reduces aluminum toxicity
   Increased soil aggregation due to increased fungal hyphae
   Improved soil water handling characteristics
   Increased soil levels of available Ca, Mg, P, and K
   Increased soil microbial respiration
   Increased soil microbial biomass
   Stimulated symbiotic nitrogen fixation in legumes
   Increased arbuscular mycorrhyzal fungi
   Increased cation exchange capacity

In that particular case it would be interesting to know, how statisticly 400m² (or parts of that area) could have an impact on the climate when biochar/terra preta is added.

There are so many fantastic ways to improve a little area and make a positiv impact for the planet.
Are there ressources that could help?

I want to use that data, to visualize in a 3D animation how one and how hundreds of gardens would have an impact.

Thank you very much and if you have questions, please let me know.

Markus
 
gardener
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Hi Markus!
With or without terra preta, a (relatively) small garden can make a big difference if designed well. A lot depends on the context, and where the garden is located. Is it surrounded by a desert, or a city, suburbs, industrial area, farms, other gardens? Will it have a lot of visitors and neighbours?

I think the best we can do with small gardens, is to create balanced ecosystems. Outside factors will have stronger effects than if you had a large farm, but if you look around, there are quite diverse and balanced ecosystems even in potholes.

 
master steward
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Flora said, "I think the best we can do with small gardens, is to create balanced ecosystems.



This is my thinking, too!

When there is good soil that produces high yields and by planting the most nutritious produce I believe that a small size garden can feed a family.

Markus said, "Are there ressources that could help?



I recommend Dr. Bryant Redhawk's Soil Series:

https://permies.com/wiki/redhawk-soil

I also suggest looking into growing using bio-intensive principles:

https://permies.com/f/231/biointensive
 
master pollinator
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I've been looking up articles like this one and sharing them for a while now,  when I get the chance.   To encourage folks to DO SOMETHING and that every yard matters.

https://www.resilience.org/stories/2015-09-02/why-not-start-today-backyard-carbon-sequestration-is-something-nearly-everyone-can-do/
 
master gardener
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Biochar helps to sequester carbon, and can be done on a backyard scale using branches/dried weeds/sawdust etc that might end up in the land fill instead.

However, let me bluntly state that the biggest benefit from a regenerative* garden the size you describe, is all the fossil fuels that *don't* get used fertilizing, tilling, transporting, etc. that the equivalent food would have required to get from the farm to the plate! Yes, as Heather's article states, much can be done in back yards to sequester carbon, particularly through no-till, low-till, and hugel type techniques (planting wood to hold water and decompose slowly), but avoiding all the fuel usage that is part of Big Ag is just as important to me.

* According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term “regenerative,” means “relating to the improvement of a place or system, especially by making it more active or successful.” With respect to growing plants, regenerative refers to the conservation and rehabilitation of farming or gardening systems, with the focal point being building and maintaining soil health and vitality. Regenerative agriculture also focuses on increasing biodiversity, enhancing ecosystem services, building resilience to weather extremes, and improving the water cycle among other things. Regenerative agriculture is not exactly a specific practice but an umbrella term that utilizes a combination of other sustainable practices or techniques. Some techniques may include sheet mulching, employing crop rotation, using no-till, or reduced till practices, utilizing regenerative grazing management, recycling farm waste, building effective and permanent perennial pastures and grasslands, creating pollinator buffers around gardens and fields, adding compost to gardens, using permanent cover crops, building the soil food web and capturing and sequestering atmospheric carbon.
https://growercoach.com/blogs/news/the-new-field-of-regenerative-horticulture
 
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I believe this guy answers your question really well in this excellent presentation.  The presentation is only the first half of the video, the second half is Q& A. This is very information packed.  It's a study and exercise in how home gardening is more efficient than commercial agriculture.  When you look at all the factors that he did, you can see how a home garden impacts the earth.

A huge, huge portion of that is by providing your own food is a more efficient, earth friendly manner by taking out all the middle men and their costs, requirements, and by-products (i.e. fuel; more effective water and other resource use; use of big machinery; limiting pesticide use; food waste and garbage creation; energy used in transport, refrigeration, and other storage).  



See what you think!  The beauty of a home garden is it can be a relatively closed system, depending on your garden style and other factors.  It can certainly be a lower-input system.  Reducing those inputs, recycling all outputs, and using regenerative techniques that build habitat around your garden as one does in permaculture - these things have an impact well beyond what we may expect.
 
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as an urban gardener (on a much smaller plot, even) I would like to add: rainwater catchment. Flooding is a major problem, and keeping vegetation and not paving over yards represents an important way of controlling storm runoff. In my urban neighborhood, most yards are small and concreted over (patios) with maybe a tiny bit of grass. Trees and gardens, in yards as well as even on roofs, can help absorb excess water.
 
Jay Angler
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Tereza Okava wrote:as an urban gardener (on a much smaller plot, even) I would like to add: rainwater catchment. Flooding is a major problem, and keeping vegetation and not paving over yards represents an important way of controlling storm runoff.  Trees and gardens, in yards as well as even on roofs, can help absorb excess water.

Flooding is not the only issue. If you have small streams in your area, the more "hard scape" as the planners call it, the faster the water runs off, then there's no water hanging around in soil, mulch and plants to feed the streams when the rain stops for weeks or months. This is a major problem in my area. They're trying to rehabilitate the streams to support the wild salmon fishery, but every new patch of roof or pavement and to some extent the typical, non-permie version of "lawn", is less water storage in the soil. So if you need a little garden shed or carport, consider a green roof with a polyculture of plants. If you need a driveway, consider gravel with a grass area between the tire tracks. Research "rain gardens" that are specifically designed to slow and infiltrate rain water, rather than encouraging it to run off as quickly as possible to the storm drains. Yes - plan for a proper and safe "overflow" feature for really big storms, but see how much you can capture before it starts to run away!
 
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Climate is caused by the sun, the earth, the solar activity in the sun, the tilt of the earth, and the ever changing orbit of Earth as the solar system travels through the galaxy. Can't change that. You can however cover your house, sidewalk, and driveway with green to absorb solar rays that would otherwise just turn into heat hitting the concrete and siding.

Cattle panel trellises over walkways with grapes and/or beans. Put trellises all around the house so climbing plants can use that light before it hits your house. Idk about the roof. Regreening your area would help that energy be stored for later instead of turned into heat now.

I have a medium sized irrigation system that stores about 200 gallons of rain water. Helps keep the water in the ecosystem instead of in the river.
 
Markus Tanz
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Wow, that is allot of information, thank you so much!
Just working myself through all the links, than I probably gonna have more questions.

Like already mentioned in the comments, using a 400m² plot "only" for production may not have the best effect.
Means, parts of a plot should stay "wild" or untouched to get the best effect on the climate?

To come back to the video of David Fisher:
One topic is, that a single garden wouldnt change enough of course - so it needs thousands/millions of these plots to have an effect, right?
So, how to bring the idea of local food production and enviornment awareness to the "masses"?

Most of the people I know, love the idea of local, fresh, biological food - but depending where you live, they end buying industrial food because of lack of time, money and supply and demand mainly.
So the biggest "problem" I see is, how to make it available (to get involved in sustainable gardening and to buy products that are produced that way) for not only enthusiasts but for the neighbour next door.

A video that inspires me allot is the following:


They also talk about "community life" in the David Fisher video.
And I think, that could be the key to get more and more people involved into projects like that.

To not just create food production, but offering education, entertainment, art, environmental awareness, etc.

I am working on a project in Portugal that started with a garden 2 years ago.
It is an abandoned space from my neighbours and I was allowed to work on it (you can see in my other posts the question about the keyhole garden, its that space).
Since I was not able to handle that plot on my own, I asked friends and neighbours if they would like to help a little bit.
It was not just productive in form of making that place beautiful and produce veggies, but specially in creating deep, beautiful friendships with persons, I never talked or saw before.

And it created a chain reaction - suddenly friends of friends came to help and enjoy the "Garden next Door".
Not only working but also sitting together, building a little outside kittchen to make meals, creating an area for our kids to explore, encourage our older locals to join and enjoy, inviting "experts" in areas like gardening, building, energy, etc.

Thank you again for all the input!
Markus
 
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The impact small gardens can have? Go back in time. To exactly 1940-46, England, US. Dig up the old literature and government reports of the period. There are even old Pathe' films of the period  about small garden regenerative practices now on youtube. For England it was a matter of grow it or starve. In the US Victory gardens made it possible to stretch that ration book further.

For me personally it is a matter of being thrifty. It makes no sense to take yard waste off my land to a landfill only to then turn around and pay $$ for fertilizer to start the process all over again. So my first goal is always zero waste off the land, be it water, soil, biomatter, etc.  After that it is a matter of technique as to what I do with the resources.
 
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 There’s an excellent  new YouTube channel called “Garden like a Viking“. Nate, the creator of this channel has simplified and summarized so many regenerative gardening methods. An excellent resource for making your own fertilizers, plus planting, harvesting and storing the fruits of your labour. And every Saturday he hosts a 90 minute live Q&A session so you can get your answers when you need them. He has an excellent grasp of the SoilFoodWeb functions. In just a few months the channel now has over 36,000 subscribers from every corner of the globe.
 
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There's a lot of quantifiable benefits already described, carbon and water storage are at the top of my personal list.  Deep-rooted native plants (compass plant, lead plant, prairie clovers, etc) are able to pull nutrients from deeper in the soil profile, increase water retention, and provide more diverse nectar sources across a broader flowering season.  

I think one of the big values of small plots is as a teaching tool.  There's a local non-profit that's big on the "farm your yard" ethic- they develop community gardens, put in demonstration plots, offer classes on gardening and processing (Canning, pickling), bees, backyard chickens, troubleshooting pests organically.  They've demonstrated to the public you can grow produce as good, or better, than what you can get in the store, without trucking it in from southern California, or using a ton of herbicides and pesticides.  They've put small plots to use in terms of production as well as an educational resource, and it's really paid off around the community.  
 
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every square inch of our planet that is not covered over in asphalt, concrete or a building is a square inch where plants and natural living organisms can do what they are supposed to be doing.
 
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For me the biggest thing I could do with a small garden (mine's smaller than your 400m2) is affect my local climate. Like my yard. Shade trees will make a yard more comfortable. Trees or hedges between you and the road will reduce car pollution coming into your yard. I'm not worrying about sequestering carbon to combat global warming/cooling/change. I care about carbon because it makes my plants grow better. GIMMIE GIMMIE GIMMIE. And a lot of it is available for free in the form of leaves, kitchen scraps, and such for the work of collecting it. If I can get food that didn't have to be transported from the next continent over or fertilized with petroleum products it's a win. If my food has better nutrition than the chemical soup food then I'll be more healthy and it's a win.
People follow successful examples. If they see you doing your garden successfully some will eventually follow. With enough of that you will probably eventually have a positive effect of the climate. As fewer people import food the pollution of burning it or producing it will go away. As you take care of the soil the groundwater will rebuild. As more trees fill your neighborhood it will be more comfortable to live there.
But for the immediate future, the climate you most affect is your own and I think that's worth the effort.
 
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So the consensus seems to be it makes a large impact on your own environment, a small but important impact on the world environment and your example and enthusiasm tends to multiply the application with a ripple effect. Permies.com goal infect more minds.
 
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