Two weeks ago in our newsletter, we wrote about a conference we attended on Climate change, and we shared some of the key takeaways: we still have time, we need to regenerate, not just sustain, and everybody can help. We said we would share some practical projects in forthcoming newsletters, many of you will already have employed these practices in your home. We encourage you to share the newsletter with a friend or neighbor, or perhaps implement one of these initiatives within your community: school, church, community garden etc.
This week, we tackle garden diversity as a project. “Biological diversity, an abundance of plants and creatures great and small, provides ecological insurance. A stable, more resilient environment allows more life to flourish. Increased biodiversity, in turn, results in yet greater ecosystem stability and a more hopeful future for all life, including humans.” Excerpt from Bio4Climate.org. The truth of the matter is, everything works together, the more diverse our environment is, the stronger and more resilient it is genetically speaking. Think of the Great Famine of Ireland of 1740, wherein farmers lost most of their potato crop to blight, causing the population of an entire country to shrink by half as people either starved, or left their birthplace in search of food. One crop, planted over thousands of acres, ravaged by one disease. That was nearly 300 years ago, and we are much smarter now! Or, are we? Now think of how many acres are under corn crop in the U.S. – and take it one step further, since 90% of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, think of how many millions of acres we have under just one genetic strain of corn.
I always like to bring it home for you too, and last week we spoke about grass in your gardens, and why, whilst some open grass space is invaluable for our families, it is important to reduce our lawn foot print as much as possible. With as many acres in residential gardens and parks as there is farmland under production in the U.S., we should be doing our bit to preserve genetic and biological diversity in our gardens as far as possible, and creating safe havens where life, insects who are our pollinators and soil rehabilitators, perennial plants with deep tap root systems, mushrooms, and our children and families, can thrive.
That means, not using any pesticides her herbicides, or at the very least, limiting use as far as possible and using sustainable, environmentally friendly products whenever possible. It also means nurturing our soil, composting our waste, and celebrating the value of weeds. We need a perception shift of what is beautiful. One of the most diverse and productive gardening systems out there is permaculture. The definition of permaculture is ‘a system of perennial planting emphasizing the use of renewable natural resources and the enrichment of local ecosystems’. You can take this philosophy to any level, whether it’s a container garden you have, or two acres, or fifty. Here are some basic principles that you can easily implement this summer:
- Create a composting system
- Implement a low-waste watering system (rain barrels, grey water from the house, or drip irrigation)
- Familiarize yourself with the sunlight, rain, and wind patterns of your garden, and use those to to plant efficiently – get into the observing frame of mind
- Create food ‘mini-forests’ that yield seasonal fruits, nuts, berries, and other foods, and pick native perennials whenever possible. Plant as many different kinds of plants as possible.
- Companion plant: plant garlic near your fruit trees, marigolds near your tomatoes, and anything that has similar resource needs – clump them together putting the most high maintenance plants closest to the house
- It’s all in the design. Google ‘permaculture design’ and then be prepared to get lost down the rabbit hole for HOURS.
- Don’t leave soil bare, cover it with a mulch – and try to avoid chemically treated and dyed mulches. There are many, very attractive mulches available that are also ecologically safe