A Garden for our Great Grandchildren

May 19th, 2017


The Key is to Cycle Nutrients


Here is the question. Do you want your great grandchildren to be living in a biological desert?

That is the direction we are heading. Or, do you want your great grandchildren to be living in a

beautiful garden?  That may be easier than you think.

Most of my readers will understand the first part. We have all heard the dire predictions of species

loss and resource depletion. We are just in denial because we all still have to make a living in the

economy we have created. But, do you believe that the second is doable? Let me explain why healing

nature is something we can do in addition to all the things we are doing now.


In a natural system plant processes feed into animal processes, animal processes feed into fungal

and bacterial processes and fungal and bacterial processes provide the basis for plant growth. It is a

cycling of nutrients that builds on itself. A system that is cycling nutrients can continue indefinitely.

Such a system is sustainable. A natural system builds resources into itself cycle over cycle becoming

healthier and more beautiful.

Traditional human agricultural systems break that cycle. Because nutrients do not cycle in an

agricultural field the contained resources in the living system on this planet have run down. Humans

will learn to sustain our existence on this earth when we have learned this lesson of cycling. Without

cycling of nutrients none of our other systems can be sustained. With cycling of nutrients all of our other

systems can continue.


Pole Beans

If we add cycling of nutrients to what we do now, all the other things we do now can be sustained.



There are steps being taken in the direction of cycling nutrients. Organic farming is such a step.

However, most organic products are still produced in monocultures (a single crop over a large area)

using toxins (organically approved pesticides). Most organic farms require inputs year after year, instead

of building nutrients into the system, because they lack fungal and bacterial processes to provide

the basis for plant growth. Our traditional farming and gardening techniques rely on chemical fertilizers

or imported composted materials to provide the basis for plant growth.


I am not advocating an end to industrial agriculture. Such a rash act would surely cause starvation.

I am in favor of supporting organic agriculture. Buying organic means substantially reduced toxicity

in our environment over the chemicals used in industrial farming. I am in favor of buying locally grown

foods because you can know what processes the farmer is using and your food can have higher

nutrients value because it is fresher. I am in favor of community gardens and growing your own

foods. However, any system that requires annual inputs is unsustainable.

Greenhouse lettuce

I am also in favor of individual humans learning to cycle nutrients where they live.

It is easy to incorporate these natural processes into what we are already doing. I often hear that

not everyone wants to garden. I wouldn't want to spend my time at traditional gardening either. You

may not want to garden but you would love to live in my garden. You would love to live in a polyculture

that combined plant, animal, fungal and bacterial processes. They are beautiful. They are productive.

Based on our experience this planet can support much more life than it does now. If we begin to

implement that choice now we will create a beautiful garden for our great grandchildren.

On the night before I am writing this in mid May I went out into my garden to pick a salad. I found

some lamb's quarter, baby lettuce and orach volunteers, some radishes and chard and I thinned out

some new kale. My bowl quickly filled and I took my treasures in to wash. That salad was beautiful,

delicious, and full of nutrients.

The only thing that I contributed to that salad was building the original bed and spreading a few seeds.

The pile of wood and the manure used for the beds creates a habitat for fungi and bacteria that are

producing plant nutrients on a continuous basis. These beds allow nutrients to cycle because they host

plant, animal, fungal and bacterial processes that, in combination, do the cycling. All other gardening

techniques break that cycle.

None of us have to change anything else to begin the regeneration of biological systems where we

live. We only need to begin to cooperate in the cycling of nutrients within those spaces where we have

influence. The more cycling we can accomplish the more quickly we will create the world that we

want for our great grandchildren. We need the help of everyone. See how easy it is to become an

Agent of Habitat with the series of lessons at this link.

Contact Us

  • David Braden IV, Executive Director, Living Systems Institute
  • (303) 549-9787

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