Organic Gardening Goal 9 : To ensure biological diversity within urban landscapes.
The conservation of plants and animals and microorganisms is vital in organic gardening. Biological diversity refers to having different species of plants, animals, bacteria, fungi and protists in the garden.
The more species we have, the more diversity we have.
And actually, this goal should probably be changed to biological "complexity", which not only refers to the number of species, but to the relationships between those species. Biological diversity is important, but when you think about it, it's how much all of these different species are interacting that is more important. That is biological complexity. Makes sense, right?
So, what are the benefits of the conservation of plants and animals and microorganisms? Ultimately, a much healthier, more abundant landscape. If you don't have complexity, you have a garden that naturally wants to move towards a simpler ecosystem, such as a desert. The higher the complexity you achieve when organic gardening, the more you get of each of the following:
- Nutrient Cycling And Retention. Each species plays a different role in harvesting, manufacturing, transporting and retaining nutrients, so the more species we have in our organic gardens, the better. Without biological complexity, nutrients seep into the groundwater and volatize into the air, or even more, they stay inaccessible in the soil and air without anyone around to use their specialized skills to make use of them.
- Soil Quality. Most underground critters and plant roots play various important roles in making soil quality better. They make areas for air and water, break down organic matter and integrate it into the soil, and so on. Without them, the soil is dead and not much use.
- Controlling disease. In a complex ecosystem, no disease organism can become a problem because there are multiple things eating it.
- Breaking Down Toxins And Pollutants. There are many species that specialize in purifying water and breaking down toxins.
What does this mean for you? It means if you want to have a healthy lawn and garden instead of a yard that is more naturally going to be a desert, you need to encourage more biological complexity. You need to not only practice the conservation of plants and animals and microorganisms in your organic garden, but you also need to bring in many different plants, animals and microbes. How?
- Plants. When organic gardening, don't plant monocultures. If you're planting a lawn, use many different species of grass and even some clover. For a hedge, create a windrow of several different species of plants rather than just using a row of cedars. Plant things that grow low, medium, tall, climbing and underground. More about plants.
- Animals. Plant things to invite birds, bees, butterflies, insects and other animals. Give them water. Allow them to have homes. Have a pile of rocks over here and a bunch of leaves over there and grasses and tall trees and so on. They all want different homes and they all have a role to play.
- Microbes. These are all the tiny little soil food web species that are vital to the health of the garden. Bring them in with compost, compost tea, effective microorganisms and other inoculants.
My goal with this organic gardening website is to show you how to do that. Some of the ideas for this article came from an amazing little book called Soil Biology Primer.