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SHS Garden Journal Blog

Permaculture Principle: Use and Value Diversity

Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Diversity is all around us – nature, gardens, communities, families and schools. The growth and potential of these networks depends on shared interactions, relationships and how diversity is valued. 
A combination of skills, talents and attributes leads to productive, resilient and thriving ecosystems. Diversity enriches life when used in positive ways.

Diversity in the Garden

Acknowledging the many functions of individual elements within a network means we can make the most of their participation in an ecosystem. For example, think of our amazing worms that decompose food scraps and garden waste, provide and transport nutrients to soil through vermicast and secretions, aerate soil, while educating children about life cycles and ecology. Then we have the Comfrey plant - a nutrient rich garden mulch, compost activator, resilient garden edge barrier, liquid tea fertiliser, nitrogen fixing soil regeneration, dynamic accumulator, beneficial insect attracting flowers, the list goes on…

Within our backyard garden exists a thriving community. Interactions take place between living things and their environment every second of the day. Have you ever stopped to observe creatures hard at work acting with a sense of purpose in their environment?
 
Ants are always busy at work, lifting, moving or carrying their discoveries from one place to another, or leading an expedition for food. They are fantastic at aerating soil and even better at seed dispersal. They make up one of the many elements of our food web.
 
Our garden health and vitality depends upon a variety of plants and creatures to support its functioning. Diversity builds strength and stability = life balance.

A monoculture garden where rows of single type vegetable plants are grown together competing for the same resource, is susceptible to attack of pest and disease.
 
Our aim is to create a polyculture model, featuring patterns of support and interaction in the garden. The elements within a polyculture garden all work together in synergy to enhance life of soil, microorganisms, insects, plants, and wildlife. While a little competition is natural and important for growth, balance promotes wellbeing and quality which leads to life abundance.

How can you use and value diversity in your garden?

How can you strengthen the connections, and support multiple functions so that one species doesn’t dominate all others?

Some ideas for enhancing balance and biodiversity within your garden:

  • Interplant your herb and vegetable plants with colourful beneficial insect attracting edible flowers, such as marigold, calendula, nasturtium, chrysanthemums, lavender and borage.
  • Design and plan for guilds, companion planting, growing a combination of perennial and annual food plants to integrate the benefits and adaptations of different plants that will in turn support the common goal of each plant, while increasing the overall health of the garden ecosystem.
  • Encourage native bees to enhance pollination – bees require food for forage and materials for nest building. A garden abundant with a diversity of flowering plants, trees and herbs will provide bees with nectar, pollen and resources for habitat.

Author: Michelle Carrick
Seed Harvest Spoon Co-Founder and Program Director
Copyright 2014 Seed Harvest Spoon Education Foundation Ltd.

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