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We often get asked for gardening tips, so have decided to do a weekly post describing things we do to keep our garden going well with very little effort.
Here’s this week’s…
This week’s tip is straight out of most organic gardening manuals and you can certainly find it in every permaculture tome and publication. Be diverse in your garden, in your friends, your pets and most importantly, your plantings.
Often in a very diverse garden, the amount harvested will be lower than in a garden with fewer choices but I reckon that that is more than made up for by the variety. A wider range of nutrients could mean a healthier diet than one composed of lots of the same stuff. A variety of choices certainly is more entertaining to the palate.
A well planned, diverse, garden can equal the production of gardens with less range by doubling up on plants that have similar nutritional profiles. I know I’d be happier in a garden with Spinach, Goosefoot and Silver Beet than in one with several beds of Spinach.
Allowing some weeds to flourish is an easy way to foster diversity. Wild Amaranths, Goosefoot and Chickweed can give you a selection of greens that you probably won’t have to care for besides the occasional watering.
Diversity can save work. You can plant species that attract beneficial insects and [pollinators in among the plants that need protecting and pollinating. It can attract a wider range of predatory insects too as each type has its own needs for living.
To me a diverse garden is more far more visually appealing than blocks of the same thing. Why have one colour of Silver Beet when you can have pink, yellow, red and white stemmed varieties.
Diversity encourages interplanting, one of the cornerstones of organic pest control. A range of plants of various shapes and colours, even different heights makes it harder for insect pests to find their favourite snacks than an organised block of the same plant. Munch munch! Even mixing plants with different root systems can make it trickier for critters that make a living below ground find their way around.
It can save space too. If you have several different plants of different shapes, heights and sizes, you can arrange them so that the differences allow them to squeeze together in a smaller space than a selection of similar plants could. Taller or broader plants can shade others in Summer or protect them from extremes in Winter, while broader, shorter plants can shade and protect the soil around the taller plants. Vines can reach nooks and crannies in your garden ecosystem that ground dwellers only dream of.
Diversity mines the soil over a wider spectrum of nutrients, composting with a diverse range of plants can return this. Deep rooted plants bring up nutrients and moisture from deep down which can be shared with nearby shallow rooted plants through leaf fall or chop and drop composting.
Utilising a range of needs is another tried and true aspect of gardening. By this, I mean the practice of crop rotation. For example, you put a root crop into a bed, then a leafy green crop, then a seed or fruit bearing crop in a sequence called a rotation. Each of those plant types has different nutritional needs so will not extract exactly the same range of nutrients as the next type will. That allows for more efficient use of soil fertility and and also reduces pest and pathogen build up while it’s at it.
Diversity can also be spread over time. Having early, mid and late season cropping apples in your garden for example provides you with a yield over a much longer period of time. With a bit of skill and a little luck, all of these can be grafted onto the one tree. Then you can have another tree with a different range of fruits or seasons and increase the range of your diet enormously.
There are so many benefits to diversity that it shouldn’t be a concept restricted to gardening. Vive la différence!