To achieve biodiversity in the garden, we should first of all avoid monoculture, i.e. growing the same plants on one field or a fragment of the garden especially on a larger area. Why? Because every horticultural monoculture, whether conventional or organic, is foreign to nature, contrary to the laws of nature, contrary to the principle of biodiversity.
Organic horticulturalists and organic farmers integrate nature’s diversity into their system and make full use of it. We grow a wide variety of plants, we use crop rotation, changing plants every year on different areas…”. Robert Rodale
In nature, plants of one species rarely grow in large numbers close to each other. Usually the abundance of plants in a given space is enormous. An example is any environment that is close to nature, such as wild meadows, primeval forests or even wastelands. Such diversity ensures the biodiversity of all life, both above and below ground, including insect and microbiological life in the soil. This in turn translates into to maintain the ecological balance in the whole environment which is the best protection against pests and diseases.
Since one of the assumptions of traditional organic horticulture is to manage as much as possible in accordance with the laws of nature, observing the rule of biodiversity should always be the basis for it. Biodiversity should apply to all crops – from vegetables, ornamental plants, fruit trees and bushes, to herbal and berry plantations, green fertilizers and after crops.
Avoid Excessive Cleanliness to Remain Biodiversity in the Garden
The classic row of vegetables, herbs, flowers or other crops on chemically treated or solidly soil, found in most gardens, is ideal for feeding pests. Why? Because plants growing in this way are found by various pests that are bypassing gardens very easily. Then they feed on them and lay eggs.
If we remember about biodiversity in the garden and sow around vegetables or ornamental plants other plants or just leave weeds, the chance of attack is lower. It is important that there is no bare ground, but always something green, because, as scientific research has shown, insects mainly react to this colour. We also know that aphids react even more strongly, even to the shade of green.
Plants that are greener, as happens with nitrogen over-fertilization, are more likely to be sitted by insects. Adhering to this, principle of biodiversity is the simplest ecological protection, the simplest way to mislead insects. Sowing other plants in between rows, or leaving weeds in them, especially when they are not in excess, also protects against attacks by soil pests, such as grubs. This has been confirmed to me by many organic gardeners and farmers. When weeds remain on the bed, then grubs also feed on them. This indirectly reduces damage to the main crop.
When the soil is thoroughly cleaned of weeds, e.g. the row of vegetables grows on clean soil. Such an effect is given by methods of weed control with chemicals, but also with some methods considered organic, such as burning or manual weeding. Then the grubs attack more intensively the only available food for them, which are the roots of vegetables and other cultivated plants.
Strip Cropping Systems
Strip cropping systems are very popular in organic gardens. Why? Because they are one of the very simple methods of exploiting the beneficial vicinity of plants and thus become an effective form of plant protection against pests and diseases orclimatic factors such as wind. Strip crops are also the easiest way to respect the principle of biodiversity in the garden. Another advantage is that the plants use the nutrients very well. However, this popular system is not a great novelty. The principles of strip cultivation are commonly practiced in home gardens or orchards where, the plants of one species are often planted in rows alongside other plants.
It was common to plant cucumber plantations with corn to protect them from the wind and create a favourable microclimate for this plant. Fruit bushes, e.g. raspberries, currant bushes are planted in strips in the same way. When visiting numerous organic farms, especially those specializing in vegetable cultivation, I found out that striped cultivation is something normal for them and has been used for years in their everyday life. Among other things, this also facilitates the mechanical treatment of the plantation.
7 Benefits of Strip Crops
- The correct spacing and selection of the plants guarantees a mutually beneficial effect on each other and biodiversity.
- Long strip crops facilitates cultivation and harvesting.
- Strip tillage usually produces a higher yield per plant. This is due to several factors. Firstly, the so-called boundary effect works here. The plants on the edges of the fields or beds are usually larger, more mature, healthier than those growing inside the field, beds or plantations from the same area. Secondly, the root systems of plants make better use of both soil components and climatic factors such as light.
- Better aeration and drying of the fields. This protects crops from fungal infections. Fungal diseases become less dangerous especially during weather anomalies, heavy rainfall, poor air movement, etc. A suitable crop rotation that introduces crop diversity reduces losses due to pest infestation. Their development is usually less intense.
- Weather protection, e.g. strips of taller plants such as corn, is a good protection against drying winds for trench or legume plants strips.
- The susceptibility of plants to drought is reduced as more dew settles in the strips.
- Easier introduction of legumes, which enriches the soil with nitrogen and organic matter. It also protects the soil after harvest from erosion.
When choosing a set of plants for strip tillage ensure that the plants planted next to each other support each other more than disturb, so that the benefits are greatest.