We already know that gardening is good for us humans, but when we are mindful of our surroundings, aka ecosystem, we can employ gardening practices that benefit the other living creatures, soil, air, and water around us. Ecosystem gardening describes the practice of gardening that is sustainable, conserves resources, and fosters habitats for wildlife and other beneficial creatures. There’s far too much information regarding ecosystem gardening to do justice here, but maybe we can at least spark an interest in learning more about it.
According to Carol Sevilla Brown, creator of the ecosystem gardening concept, there are five core principles to be applied in ecosystem gardening:
- Sustainable Gardening
- Soil Health
- Wise Water Use
- Removal of Invasive Plants
- Addition of Native Plants
While not all five of these principles may be applicable to our particular garden(s), adhering to as many as we can will result in attracting beneficial birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals into the garden, while conserving resources and improving the quality of our soil AND gardening experiences.
Habitat loss due to human activity is the primary cause of wildlife decline. Since most wildlife is far more sensitive to environmental changes than humans are, declines in wildlife population sound the alarm that our own well-being is threatened. A habitat that’s unhealthy for wildlife is unhealthy for us as well.
If we’re gardening with an eye toward wildlife preservation, then we’ll choose plants that play specific roles in creating desirable habitats. For example, incorporating the right native plants will encourage birds, butterflies, pollinators, and predators to visit and perhaps set up housekeeping in the garden. By introducing biodiversity into our flower or vegetable garden, we’re still improving the odds that beneficial critters want to be there. Hopefully most of the predators will be focusing on the insect pests that view our flower and vegetable gardens as all-you-can-eat buffets.
One of the most devastating impacts on ecosystems around the world is known as monoculture farming. Monoculture farming involves the planting of only one type of crop, typically over a large ecosystem. Almond and fruit orchards are examples of this. When only one type of plant or tree is available, food for pollinators and prey is available only when that one type of plant is producing what those creatures eat. Monoculture farming has proven disastrous for insects, such as honey bees, which can starve after the blooming period for the single crop ends.
If you’re pondering the differences between organic gardening and ecosystem gardening, then you’re getting the point. It’s not a great leap between the two, and if you’re already an organic gardener, you’re nearly there anyway!
Check out the links below and search for other sources of information about why ecosystem gardening is important and how it benefits not only you, but everything around you. Conserving water, eliminating toxic chemicals, fertilizers, and improving soil quality makes for more sustainable, healthy gardening habitats.
Our header photo is of an old hedgerow bordering a wheat field in England. Farmers used hedgerows in their fields as partitions, barriers to farm animals, and sources of food and shelter for beneficial creatures. This somewhat mitigated the downside of monoculture farming. There are still old hedgerows here in the US, but they are becoming rare sights.
http://www.ecosystemgardening.com/ (There’s a wealth of information at this site.)
http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/ (This PBS series offers videos and all sorts of useful advice for all kinds of gardeners.)
Both of these websites have a Facebook presence, so you can receive all their postings by liking their pages.
Header Photo: © Chris Lofty – Fotolia.com