Garden & Greenhouse


Chaos in the Garden and the Necessity of Biodiversity

Posted June 22nd, 2015 by Caron Wenzel in

While researching facts and interesting tidbits about the plants and the plant kingdom, searching for that spark of inspiration, my interest was piqued by the following:

University of South Florida (USF Health). “Biodiversity reduces human, wildlife diseases and crop pests: Study confirms ‘dilution effect hypothesis’ that suggests biodiversity loss in nature poses a public health threat by causing and exacerbating disease outbreaks.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 June 2015.

Whoa. After reading the article I felt completely vindicated in my rather unorthodox views of gardening and the natural world. I have been a practicing restoration specialist and closet Permaculture fan for the last 25 years. Nature has always inspired “what works” throughout human history. Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, Luther Burbank, Aldo Leopold and most recently, Australian “father of Permaculture Bill Mollison.

They all have one thing in common; let nature be your teacher. In this case, Nature is sending us a big heads up. Many plants included in previous posts do have a positive net effect on human health while others are detrimental. In fact, many of the new diseases are actually old diseases that were unknown. These maladies tend to come out of disturbed ecological systems, especially in the tropics. So, how do I garden for biodiversity? Over the years many aspects of “fixing” the lack of biodiversity and pollinators has come through the observations that tend to fit many ecological systems; yards, prairies, orchards, woods and more.

Here is a “Recipe” for putting back biodiversity:

1.      Plant or seed in at least 10 different species. A healthy native system np matter where it is will have hundreds of even thousands of species of plants, animals and insects. Do your homework because it will save you time and money when buying seeds and plants.

2.      Plants live with their friends. (They grow in symbiotic communities with grasses, nitrogen fixers, etc.)

3.      If you install it, they will come unless they are extinct in the region (the birds and bees will return.)

4.      Start with the local native species on the edges and add the exotic stuff cautiously.

5.      Weeds are natures’ band aids and they can tell you the history of previous land use and what is going on with the soil.

6.      Speaking of soil, beneficial fungi and microbes are essential to have healthy plants and animals.

7.      Nature hates monocultures.

8.      Don’t spray! Replace a weed with a better weed until biodiversity returns.

9.      Have patience! It takes a minimum of 3 years to restore something that looks like a prairie or longer for woods, etc.

Remember, the average plant has at least twice the DNA that we do and has solved many survival problems before we were even a species.

Caron Wenzel is an Environmental Educator, writer, and is the owner of Blazing Star Inc. a 25 year old native plant seed nursery and environmental consulting business.

Want more information? Read these articles:

Agro-forestry, Permaculture Design and Nut & Fruit Harvests from Wooded Areas

Cooking up a Lasagna Style Garden and Using Cold Frames to Extend the Growing Season

Healthier Plants are Key in Successful Gardening Endeavors

How to Select Locally Available Plants that will Dye Clothes & More

The Joy of Catnip

The Outrageous Osage Orange

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