Diversity is one of the great universal principals – a fundamental truth of nature that serves as a foundation that should help govern how and what you do in your garden.
The more you use this principle the more successful you can be in gardening. And the healthier your garden will be.
That’s one of the reasons I’m more excited about what’s happening in my garden this year than ever before.
A little bit of Background
For years I’ve read that if a garden is totally healthy — there will be NO problems with pests. I’ve always believed that to a degree. But I only thought that was 100% possible in the North where you don’t get the hot and humid weather and the long growing season that we get in the South.
Although information on soil life and microbes can get a bit too complicated for my taste, I’ve scoured many scientific agricultural studies of late (which can be rather boring). But I found the information I wanted.
An Exciting Bit of Information!
The more variety (diversity) of organic material you use to make humus (totally decayed organic material that could be called organic matter or compost) for your soil —- the greater variety of microorganisms will live and be active in your soil.
Why is that important?
Because if you have enough diversity — the variety of microorganisms will be there that literally protect your plants from pests and disease. The humus that results from using a greater variety of organic material bestows on your plants what amounts to immunity from disease and pests.
How’s that for exciting?!
With Limited Diversity
My pest problems (mainly squash bugs and sometimes cucumber beetles) are minor compared to what I hear others experiencing. If my garden can be as healthy as it is with the limited amount of variety I’ve had access to in the past— and right in the middle of conventionally farmed fields — there is no reason my garden can’t be even healthier with increased diversity.
For 35 years I’ve applied the principle to the best of my ability, but in the past year I’ve been able to broaden the range of diversity in my garden and I can hardly wait to see the results.
Currently my organic material that is returned to the soil consists of:
- The residue (dead vegetation) of a great variety of perennials and annuals
- Residue from a variety of vegetable crops
- Small limbs of shrubs (If I had a shredder I would return it all to the soil.)
- Cover crops consist of buckwheat, oats, clovers, winter rye, and oil seed radish.
- I’m adding yellow blossom clover and fava beans this year.
- Leaves, straw and pine tags (Sometimes I can’t get pine tags)
What I’m Missing
The only thing that I don’t have is some good manure free of antibiotics and residual herbicides. That would be excellent to complete my diversity of plant and animal material — but I’ll just go with what I have until I can do otherwise.
Proving Conventional Agriculture Wrong
I have over the past weeks really enjoyed reading of the brilliant research by Sir Albert Howard. He totally proved wrong the idea still carried forward in today’s conventional agriculture of treating the symptoms of disease and pests —- rather than their cause. (Modern conventional medicine does the same thing.)
Sir Howard believed in treating the cause. Thus, preventing the disease or pests in the first place.
He was in India at the time (early 1900s) and watched the natives who never used artificial fertilizer or poison sprays. They returned all animal and plant residues to the soil. He applied their methods to his farm and was not surprised to observe a gradual lessening of disease with each passing year. Crops resisted pests and the resistance was passed on to the livestock that fed on the crops.
How unfortunate that as time passed India too succumbed to the lie of conventional agriculture.
Practiced and Proved Again by Others
Louis Bromfield, an American author and conservationist who gained international recognition, was another who practiced Sir Howard’s agricultural philosophy.
Working with brilliant soil scientist, Dr. William A. Albrecht in the mid-1900s, Bromfield purchased several worn out farms in Ohio and produced abundant crops with organic techniques. The farms were proof that insects and disease could be controlled with good organic management of soil.
I hope you find this information as encouraging as I’ve found it. By introducing as much variety as possible into making humus for our gardens we will be helping diversify the soil life and thereby helping our gardens resist pest and disease.
The more we learn to work with nature — our gardens will be healthier. I’m looking forward to having that better health passed along to me when I eat what is produced.
More about Diversity:
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